Sunday, August 31, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Amicare Ponchielli (1834-1886)
Alma Mahler (1879-1964)
Ifor James (1931-2004)
Wieland Kuijken (1938)
Itzak Perlman (1945)
Daniel Harding (1975)

and

William Saroyan (1908-1981)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Buddy Rich (1917-1987)
Regina Resnik (1922)
Simon Bainbridge (1952)
Dimitris Sgouros (1969)

and

Jacques-Louis David (1748-18250

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Helge Rosvaenge (1897-1972)
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Charlie Parker (1920-1955)
Gilbert Amy (1936)
Anne Collins (1943)
Lucia Valentini Terrani (1946-1998)

and

John Locke (1632-1704)
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Outdoor concerts by the Oregon Symphony and the Vancouver Symphony

Tonight you have your choice of two outdoor concerts, the Oregon Symphony concert at Waterfront Park in Portland or the Vancouver Symphony concert at Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington. The musical extravaganza in Portland starts earlier than the event in Vancouver, because the Portland Youth Philharmonic under its new conductor David Hattner takes the stage at 5pm. The Oregon Symphony's concert begins at 7 pm and will feature guest artists from Portland Opera and the Oregon Ballet Theatre, plus Michael Allen Harrison, a local celebrity pianist. You can read the programs for both the PYP concert and the OSO concert here.

I wrote a preview of the Vancouver Symphony concert for The Columbian newspaper. Two young singers, ChristyAnne Hamilton and Amy Cole, who received a lot of their training at Portland State University are featured with Stacey Murdock and Brennen Guillory in this concert of light opera numbers.

Both concerts are a great way to enjoy classical music under the setting sun. And they are free!

Today's Birthdays

Umberto Giordano (1867-1948)
Ivor Burney (1890-1937)
Karl Böhm (1894-1981)
Paul Henry Lang (1901-1991)
Richard Tucker (1913-1975)
John Shirley-Quirk (1931)
Imogen Cooper (1949)

and

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
John Betjeman (1906-1984)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)
Eric Coates (1886-1957)
Lester Young (1909-1959)
Ann Murray (1949)
Sian Edwards (1959)

and

Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cantores in Ecclesia closes out William Byrd Fest

Sunday, August 24 marked the end of the 11th annual William Byrd Festival here in Portland. For this event Cantores in Ecclesia, under the direction of Richard Marlow of Trinity College, Cambridge, presented a concert consisting of selections from Byrd's Gradualia (1607), as well as the motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer. The concert took place at St. Stephen's Church in southeast Portland. I should note that I currently sing and have sung in the past with several members of Cantores in Ecclesia.

Beginning with music composed for Pentecost Sunday, Cantores in Ecclesia sang the Introit jubilantly, and throughout the evening Marlow and this talented group shaped each work with a deep understanding of how to bring out the appropriate emotion for each segment of this constantly shifting palette. Whether it was a tender invocation of the phrase O lux beatissima (O blessed light) or a thundering, perfectly tuned chord on reple cordis intima (fill the innermost recesses of the hearts), sounding like some immense organ with all the stops suddenly pulled, Cantores delivered a program that was powerful and full of meaning.

They sang purely, nearly absent any vibrato. This enhanced their excellent diction, a necessary quality in music of this type. The densely textured music was sometimes a cascade of syllables hastening one after the other, and the members of Cantores artfully avoiding tripping over each other textually. Initially the bass section seemed to stick out a bit, but through the course of the evening the balance smoothed out entirely.

The second part of the program was comprised of music for Christmas Day from the Gradualia. Organist Mark Williams performed a Pavan and Galliard and a Fantasia respectively toward the end of each half of the concert, forming a nice interjection before the choir returned to sing its final piece. (The opening concert of the festival featured Williams playing a number of Byrd's keyboard works.)

The concert closed with a much earlier work, the eight-part motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer. This was a very different piece from those selected from the Gradualia. Hearkening back to the pinnacle of the high Renaissance, this motet was a fantastically complicated web of polyphony that would come together briefly in block chords to illustrate a textual point and then race off again in all directions. The intensity of the whole evening seemed to build toward this highly emotive work, and Marlow and Cantores were especially brilliant during the closer.

Byrd was an amazing, prolific and inventive composer, and the different aspects of his music highlighted by this festival should prove delightful for anyone who loves early music. I look forward to attending next year.

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Loesser (1894-1969)
Wolfgang Sawallisch (1923)
Nicholas Braithwaite (1939)
Sally Beamish (1956)
Branford Marslis (1960)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gregory Vajda reflects on conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at Salzburg

I caught up with Gregory Vajda, the resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony, to get his thoughts about conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival. Vajda had been under contract as the cover conductor Peter Eötvös for in case he became ill. Well, did become ill after traveling back and forth between Salzburg and Glyndebourne. So, Vajda got the call to conduct on Saturday evening.

I talked with Vajda at the Black Rooster Cafe; so there's some noisy coffee making going on in the background.

video

Here's the Béla Bartók program that Vajda conducted:

Bluebeard's Castle
Four Pieces for Orchestra op. 12.
Cantata profana – The Nine Enchanted Stags for tenor, baritone, double chorus and orchestra.

Click here to go to the Salzburg Festival site (where Vajda's is listed as the conductor for August 23).

Anna Song takes interim position at Linfield College

Anna Song has accepted an interim position as the director of choirs at Linfield College. Consequently, Song is resigning from her assistant conductor position with the Portland Symphonic Choir. In her letter to her fellow singers, Song stated that her decision wasn't easy, but such opportunities don't come up very often and she just couldn't pass it up.

PSC's artistic director and conductor Steven Zopfi will be looking for a new assistant conductor asap.

Today's Birthdays

Robert Stolz (1880-1975)
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
José Van Dam (1940)
Keith Tippett (1947)
Elvis Costello (1954)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Marcello (1669-1747)
Théodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Richard Meade (1932)
Stephen Paulus (1949)
Carlo Curley (1952)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925)
Ernst Krenek (1900-1991)
William Primrose (1903-1982)
Constant Lambert (1905-1951)
Carl Dolmetsch (1911-1977)
Mark Russell (1932)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gregory Vajda conducts the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival

Gregory Vajda, resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony will be conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival’s performance of Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” tomorrow night (Saturday, the 23rd) at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg. The cast includes Michelle DeYoung, Falk Struckmann, Lance Ryan, André Jung, and the Vienna State Opera Chorus.

Back on April 3rd, I interviewed Vajda, because he has been short-listed for three conducting positions. During our talk, Vajda mentioned that he would be conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg for "Bluebeard's Castle," because the scheduled conductor Peter Eötvös is a composer and his latest opera, "Love and Other Demons" is being given its world premiere at Glyndebourne. So Eötvös asked Gregory to take over the conducting at Salzburg while he is away.

In any case, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic has got to be one of the greatest thrills that any conductor can experience. Vajda will be back in town next week to join batons with Carlos Kalmar in conducting the Oregon Symphony at the Waterfront concert (August 28th). Tomorrow night the OSO gets a tune up at Mt. Scott Park at 7 pm. Brett Mitchell, assistant conductor at the Houston Symphony, will lead the OSO in this concert. Also, at 5 pm at the Waterfront concert, you can hear the Portland Youth Philharmonic under its new conductor David Hattner.

Today's Birthdays

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Ivry Gitlis (1922)
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928)

and

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
Count (William) Basie (1904-1984)
Tommy Reilly (1919-2000)
Dame Janet Baker (1933)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Murry Sidlin brings Defiant Requiem back to Terezín

Murry Sidlin, former resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony, will conduct a multi-media concert of Verdi's Requiem at the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezín, Czech. This will undoubtedly be similar to the special Oregon Symphony concert that he created and directed back in 2002 (and was broadcast on PBS).

Sidlin and the Berkshire Choral Festival (which is tied to this effort) are looking for singers who would be willing to do this concert. Here's the blurb from the web site:

The Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, a Concert Drama
In a concentration camp called Terezín (or Theresienstadt), one hour outside of Prague, there were sixteen performances of the Verdi Requiem during the years 1943-1944. Determined not to allow the Nazis to crush their spirit, the inmates there used music, poetry, and art to survive their circumstances. Although the Requiem successfully bolstered the spirits of singers and listeners at Terezín, the tragic reality of their final doom was felt. Of the 140,000 inmates, including 17,000 children, most did not survive.

Conductor Murry Sidlin has created a brilliant multi-media concert drama with actors, chorus, soloists, orchestra and video projections which tells the story of the conductor Raphael Schaechter and his choruses who learned this great work by rote from a single vocal score. The performance will take place in an old factory building in Terezín, on the afternoon of the Terezín Commemorative Day, following morning ceremonies.

The performance, on Sunday May 17, 2009, is the afternoon featured event of a day long commemorative celebration of Terezín.

For more go to: http://www.chorus.org/prague.php

Thanks to Ralph Nelson and Mark Petersen of the Portland Symphonic Choir for pointing out this opportunity.

Today's Birthdays

Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
Mario Bernardi (1930)
Dame Anne Evans (1941)
Maxim Vengerov (1974)

and

Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950)
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Georges Enescu (1881-1955)
Allan Monk (1942)
Gerard Schwarz (1947)
Rebecca Evans (1963)

and

Samuel Richardson (1689–1761)
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Saleri (1750-1825)
Basil Cameron (1884-1975)
Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973)
Dame Moura Lympany (1916-2005)
Goff Richards (1944)

and

Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oregon Symphony concert update

Last week I talked with John Kroninger, the Oregon Symphony's director of customer services (and a former professional tuba player), who said that tickets are selling very well for the opening night series that features Beethoven's 9th Symphony and Vaughan Williams'"Serenade to Music." He mentioned that available seats for the Saturday evening performance are become scarce, but there are some good seats to be had for the Sunday and Monday performance.

I'll be singing with the Portland Symphonic Choir in both works and am looking forward to it. Featured soloists in the Beethoven include two of the very best Portland Opera Studio singers tenor Brendan Tuohy and mezzo-soprano Hannah Penn. Also, Kelly Nassief, a Portland State University-trained soprano will also be front and center. Back in 1995 Nassief won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions - the whole enchilada. She has since sung several times with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, and with many opera companies, including Chicago Lyric and Portland Opera.

Kroninger also said that the special Lang Lang concert on October 3rd is selling well, but there are good seats still available. Lang Lang recently helped to open the Olympics and he is featured in a New Yorker article (page 52 in the August 4th issue), which was written by David Remnick. The article is still available on The New Yorker's web site here.

Today's Birthdays

Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)
George Melly (1926)
Edward Cowie (1943)
Jean-Bernard Pommier (1944)
Heiner Goebbels (1952)
Artur Pizarro (1968)

and

V. S. Naipaul (1932)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861)
Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937)
Jacinto Guerrero (1895-1951)
Ralph Downes (1904-1993)
Bill Evans (1929-1980)
Sarah Brightman (1959)
Franz Welser-Möst (1960)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Portland Opera announces new director of arts administration

Portland Opera just announced that Clare Burovac is its director of arts administration. According to the press release, Burovac's duties include "the oversight of the Portland Opera Studio program, negotiating artists’ contracts, researching and recommending artists, acting as primary liaison between the Company and its chorus and orchestra, negotiating performance rights, among many other activities."

Burovac has extensive experience in opera management and production, and she has played a big part at Seattle Opera since 1994.

Again from the press release:

"Ms. Burovac, who has 19 years of experience producing and managing opera, received her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Bowling Green State University. As a violinist she performed with the Toledo Symphony, Ohio Light Opera Orchestra, and other groups in the Cleveland area, in addition to teaching violin and viola. A recipient of an OPERA America Fellowship in Opera Production in 1993, she has been a guest stage manager for San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera, among many others. She joined Seattle Opera in 1994 as an Assistant Stage Manager, taking on a variety of increasingly demanding positions. Most recently she has been Seattle Opera’s Production Stage Manager and Ring Production Coordinator. She is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists."

Here's a the press release. Click on it to enlarge.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Jaques Ibert (1890-1952)
Leon Theremin (1896-1993)
Lukas Foss (1922)
Aldo Ciccolini (1925)
Oscar Peterson (1925)
Rita Hunter (1933-2001)
Anne Marie Owens (1955)
James O'Donnell (1961)

and

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
Julia Child (1912-2004)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New York Times article critiques the tricky French horn

Ron Quiring, a good friend of mine and former French horn player, brought my attention to this New York Times article, which points out how difficult this instrument is -- even for players in the best orchestras.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)
Ferruccio Tagliavini (1913-1995)
Georges Prêtre (1924)
Yuri Kholopov (1932-2003)
Cecilia Gasdia (1960)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kalmar teams up with Lisitsa to wow Chicago

These reviews of a recent concert at Grant Park contain high praise for Kalmar who chose an intriguing program that contained Bohuslav Martinu's "Memorial to Lidice," Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 ("The Inextinguishable"), Edvard Grieg's Concerto in A Minor with pianist Valentina Lisitsa. (The normally reliable Wynne Delacomma in the Sun-Times wrongly attributes the Nielson to Sibelius.)

For the review in the Chicago Tribune, click here.

For the review in the Chicago Sun-Times, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Sir George Grove (1820-1900)
John Ireland (1879-1962)
George Shearing (1919)
Louis Frémaux (1921)
Don Ho (1930-2007)
Sheila Armstrong (1942)
Kathleen Battle (1948)

and

Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Marzena - Bob Priest - presents concert series dedicated to Messiaen

Composer Bob Priest and his ensemble Marzena will present three evenings of music in September. Priest studied under Messiaen in Paris.

Here are the details from the press release:

Songs of Heaven and Earth: Celebrating the music of Olivier Messiaen
on the occasion of his 100th birthday

The weekend of 19-21 September 2008 in Portland, Oregon
Free Admission (donations welcome)

Concert I - Friday, 19 September (8 pm)
Free Marz String Trio - Anniversaries
Music by former Messiaen students; George Benjamin,
Bob Priest, Thomas Daniel Schlee and Fabian Watkinson
Other works by Canetti, Gorecki, Lutoslawski and Penderecki
Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St.

Concert II – Saturday, 20 September (8 pm)
Tamara Still (organ) – Heroes of France
A complete performance of Messiaen’s monumental
9 meditations for organ, La Nativite du Seigneur
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave.

Concert III – Sunday, 21 September (8 pm)
Fear No Music – Fear No Messiaen
Program includes excerpts from Messiaen’s piano masterpiece,
Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jesus, Quartet for the End of Time
and Joan Tower’s tribute to Messiaen for cello and piano
Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St.

Festival performers include Ines Voglar (violin), Joel Belgique (viola),
Justin Kagan (cello), Jeff Payne (piano), Charles Noble (viola), Jun Iwasaki (violin), Molly Barth (flute), and Jean Sherrard (actor).

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)
Buck Owens (1929-2006)
Huguette Tourangeau (1940)
David Munrow (1942-1976)
Pat Metheny (1954)
Stuart MacRae (1976)

and

Robert Southey (1773-1843)
William Goldman (1931)

Monday, August 11, 2008

General Manager - job opportunity - Portland Chamber Orchestra

The Portland Chamber Orchestra would like to hire a general manager - as a part-time position. The pay starts at $22 per hour. The application process is easy and straightforward - basically a resume and letter of interest, submitted by hard copy or e-mail. Click here, if you are interested.

Today's Birthdays

Ginette Neveu (1919-1949)
Raymond Leppard (1927)
Alun Hoddinott (1929)
Tamás Vásáry (1933)

William Byrd Festival shifts focus on opening night

Sunday, August 10th marked the opening night of the 11th annual William Byrd Festival at St. Stephens Church in southeast Portland. A prolific composer whose career straddled the high Renaissance and early Baroque, Byrd (1540-1623) is known for his voluminous choral repertoire, as well as for being an accomplished keyboardist who wrote reams of music for organ and clavier. This concert was entitled "A merry noyse: An Illustrated Recital of the Keyboard Music of William Byrd." Renowned British keyboard player Mark Williams teamed up with Duke University musicologist (and Cantores in Ecclesia alum) Kerry McCarthy to present a program that traced the stations of Byrd's life through a concert and analysis of his keyboard literature.

The concert began without much fanfare: I thought it telling (and fitting) that it began by letting the music speak for itself. Williams sat at the harpsichord and played a Pavan and Galliard, the first of several examples of this pairing, with no introduction to the actual music. It was only after we heard the melliflous strains of Byrd's work that McCarthy took the stage to begin talking about the man and his life.

She quoted a contemporary of Byrd, who described him as "unequaled both with fingers and with pen," and cited this as one of the reasons the festival chose to open this year with a presentation of his keyboard music rather than a choral concert. Throughout the evening, McCarthy presented an engaging, sometimes light-hearted historiography that helped illuminate the music Williams played. She would speak for a few moments about Byrd's life and the career circumstances surrounding a set of pieces, and then step aside as Williams demonstrated.

McCarthy noted that Byrd "stood with one foot in the Middle Ages and one in the Baroque," and the music bore this out. As Byrd was Music Director at the Chapel Royal, some pieces were composed specifically for Queen Elizabeth I, who was a capable claveciniste herself. The Queen's Alman was based upon an antiquated modality that seemed to call to us from the shadowy mists of Old Europe, and yet the forward-looking Pavan for the Earl of Salisbury had all the baroque gravitas of a Purcell Almand from almost a century later. As an example of McCarthy's first 'foot' in the Middle Ages, Williams switched to the portative and played 2 Misereres of Gregorian origin from very early in Byrd's career, and from then on the program progressed chronologically.

Williams' technique was nothing short of brilliant. In playing baroque keyboard instruments on which the potential for dynamic variation from one note to the next is slim to nil, phrasing and articulation are everything, and it was a pleasure to hear an artist of his caliber bring such vivid character to Byrd's music. He played at turns on a beautiful double-manual Flemish harpsichord by Byron John Will, patterned after a 1616 instrument, and a positive organ by Bond Organ Builders. Both instruments were marvelous, and Williams displayed a clear mastery of both.

Byrd's keyboard work is quite often given to lengthy expositions of dizzying, florid brilliance, and Williams took these pieces at daring tempos, considering the sheer number of notes to be sounded per measure. He played with an expressive physicality that helped lend meaning to the music, and adroitly switched stops on both instruments in between sections in a manner that showed an understanding of the sonic potential available on each. By employing crisp, direct articulation he elicited a warm, reedy, flutter-tongue effect on the positive during a Qui Passe from 'Lady Nevell's Book.' His phraseology on the clavier during The Bells (based upon a two-note major 2nd pattern repeated 138 times according to McCarthy) lent a sanguine, almost longing quality to this reflection of the two church bells Byrd heard outside his home, and Williams never allowed the sometimes cleverly disguised ostinato to become stale.

The acoustics at St. Stephens are phenomenal, and so Williams' every intimation rang throughout the hall. These acoustics actually had the effect of making it sound as though the harpsichord had a sustain pedal like a piano, and this sometimes blurred the phrasing during the more rapidly florid passages on the harpsichord, although not to any overall detrimental effect. These same acoustics worked magic for the organ, and it was thrilling to hear the last echoes die off a second or more after the termination of a sustained final chord on the portative.

In all, Williams and McCarthy presented an engaging, scholarly exposition of the fantastic keyboard music of this hard-to-pigeonhole composer, at once accessible to the neophyte and yet a feast for the early music aficionado. The William Byrd Festival continues until August 24th; information can be found at the Festival and Cantores in Ecclesia websites.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Concert Review: Love 4 Ways

By Bob Kingston

Why are there so few solo vocal recitals in Portland? It’s certainly not as if the Rose City is facing a shortage of outstanding singers, any one of whom could be enlisted to put on a compelling concert. Might it have something to do with the lack of institutional support for anyone not connected with a major performing organization? Is it the case that the return on investment for the musicians just isn’t enough to warrant the time and money needed to plan, advertise, and present what would in all likelihood be a one-off event? Or are we to believe that in an urban environment that supports opera, symphonic and chamber music, and a major piano series, there simply isn’t much of a market for this kind of repertoire? Whatever the reasons, it’s unfortunate, since the solo vocal recital can be one of the most rewarding kinds of musical experiences any music lover can have.

Luckily, a few enterprising musicians have decided to take things into their own hands. On Saturday afternoon (August 9), two musicians who are very active locally, alto Tuesday Rupp and tenor Stephen Marc Beaudoin showed that with hard work and the able assistance of some talented colleagues, it is possible to mount a highly engaging program of solo vocal music. Their concert at the Community Music Center of Portland, “Love: 4 Ways,” featured pieces by Brahms, two of Robert Schumann’s major song cycles, and selections by Kurt Weill; judging from the audience reaction afterwards, it was quite a success.

After starting with a trio of Brahms lieder, Rupp launched into the first Schumann work of the afternoon, Frauenliebe und –leben, written over a period of just two days in the summer of 1840. These eight pieces, with poems by Adalbert von Chamisso, trace, from a woman’s point of view, the joys and sorrows of love lived and love lost. We follow her as she sees her beloved for the very first time, through romance, wedded bliss, motherhood, and, finally, as she stands gazing at the body of her recently deceased husband. Rupp provided a nice amount of contrast between each number to suggest this trajectory, and she refrained from employing vocal mannerisms to express emotional extremes. She was most effective in those sections that focused on straightforward lyricism and depth of feeling. Nowhere was this more evident than in the fourth song of the cycle, “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” where her rich (but not heavy) middle and low registers and fine legato phrasing conveyed perfectly the sense of devotion outlined in the text. Pianist Janet Coleman was a very thoughtful and responsive partner throughout the performance, though there were times when, perhaps due to the hall’s live acoustics, the piano seemed a bit overpowering.

For Dichterliebe, also written in 1840, Schumann chose sixteen poems by the famed German romantic poet, Heinrich Heine, to tell the story of a young poet whose lover has betrayed him. With Heine, love is rarely, if ever, a partnership, nor is it ever a shared, fulfilling and mutually enriching experience; rather, he seems to suggest that love ultimately results in nothing more than isolation and alienation. It is the man who is endowed with a passionate heart, while the object of his desire and the cause of his ongoing grief and frustration is the distant, cruel, and unattainable beauty. Sarcasm and irony are part of Heine’s emotional toolkit, and this may have been one of the reasons Schumann—whose own criticism displays a marked preference for the witty and sardonic—was attracted repeatedly to his poetry.

Right from the beginning, Beaudoin seemed to sense the themes of isolation and alienation in Heine’s texts and Schumann’s music, and he utilized subtle facial and body gestures to draw these out in performance. The poet here is an outsider, a highly sensitive soul who has no doubt spent many sleepless hours wandering the streets and pondering the inscrutability of love. (In a handwritten note on the piece handed out before the concert, Beaudoin mentioned that he decided not to shave for the recital, as he felt the protagonist hadn’t the “presence of mind to keep up with appearances.”) At the same time, we are also witnessing someone who on some level remains open to the power of love, and who will most likely undergo these sorts of ordeals again in order to experience it.

Beaudoin was not afraid to modulate his voice to create dramatic effect. Every so often, he pulled the sound back almost to the point of inaudibility, turning what were already private moments into striking internal monologues. He also demonstrated that he could move in the opposite direction vocally by delivering top notes with just the right amount of ring to them. His pianist, Adam Whiting, carefully brought out the lean, almost impressionistic melodic and harmonic sound world of Schumann’s accompaniments, further adding to the stark and barren atmosphere implicit in these pieces.

The last portion of the concert was given over to Kurt Weill. It was fun to watch Rupp and Beaudoin cut loose on the selections from Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera). Beaudoin injected just the right amount of pathos into his English-language rendition of “Salomonsong” (“Salomon’s Song,” though translated by Jeremy Sams as “Song of Socrates”), and the duet version of “My Ship” from Weill and Ira Gershwin’s 1941 Broadway show, Lady in the Dark, was a wonderful closer.

I enjoyed hearing Rupp, Beaudoin, and all of the musicians who participated on Saturday afternoon, in a program entirely of their own making, and I’m sure I’ll hear more from them in the future. Artists have long realized that drive and motivation are what get things done, and perhaps a concert like this is a worthwhile model to emulate. Portland has no shortage of first-rate singers, and it’s about time audiences had the chance to find that out for themselves.

Bob Kingston is a Portland-based musicologist who writes and lectures frequently about classical music.

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
Leo Fender (1909-1991)
Marie-Claire Alain (1926)
Edwin Carr (1926-2003)
John Aldis (1929)
Alexander Goehr (1932)
Giya Kancheli (1935)
Bobby Hatfield (1940-2003)
Dmitri Alexeev (1947)
Eliot Fisk (1958)

Reivew of Portland Opera's Albert Herring in Opera magazine

My review of Portland Opera's production of Albert Herring (March 14) is in this month's issue of Opera magazine.

This issue contains Bernard Jacobson's interview with Speight Jenkins, who is beginning his 25th season as general director of Seattle Opera. Jenkins brings up the fact that American audience prefer traditional costumes for most operas, and that increases the cost of producing operas. If he could have a little more leeway in costumes (modern vs. period), then that would help the bottom line.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
Solomon Cutner (1902-1988)

and

Izaak Walton (1593-1683)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Corporate sponsorship - three cheers for Daimler

It seems unlikely that a company that builds trucks would support the arts in Portland, but it so happens that Daimler Trucks North America (which bought Freightliner not too long ago) has given the Portland Parks Bureau a 6-figure amount of money to sponsor all of the concerts (from August 2nd to August 16th) in Washington Park. This is the fourth year in a row that Daimler has underwritten the Washington Park Summer Festival, and consequently all of the concerts are free to the public. The performances include the Portland Festival Symphony with 3 Leg Torso on August 10th and Portland SummerFest: Opera in the Park "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Donizetti on August 15th. I'm very proud to know that Daimler is doing its part as a corporation to make this concert series a reality. Over the past year I've been working as a contract technical writer at Daimler, so it's support of the arts is a real plus for me.

Today's Birthdays

Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
Adolf Busch (1891-1952)
André Jolivet (1905-1974)
Benny Carter (1907-2003)
Josef Suk (1929)
Jacques Hétu (1938)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Portland Opera Chorus member - research scientist blogs from China

Jim Diamond, who has sung with the Portland Opera Chorus for the past few years is currently in Beijing, China. Dr. Diamond, who teaches chemistry at Linfield College, received a fellowship to do research at the national center for nanotechnology and science in Beijing. Jim and I sang together for many years with the Portland Symphonic Choir, and he contacted me from China with his new blog. You can learn all sorts of interesting things about what it is really like to live there as a Westerner. For example, scalpers at the Olympics are asking $7,000 per ticket to the opening ceremony. Just click here to bring up Jim's blog.

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946)
Karel Husa (1921)
Felice Bryant (1925-2003)
Garrison Keillor (1942)
Ian Hobson (1952)
Christian Altenburger (1957)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Seattle Opera presents glorious Aida

(Rozarii Lynch photo)

Terrific artistry at all ends of the spectrum helped to create a stellar “Aida” for Seattle Opera on opening night (August 2) at McCaw Hall. The principals, chorus, and orchestra brought a palpable sense of urgency and intimacy to the music and made the tragic love story become vibrant and meaningful. The traditional costumes and scenery placed the action firmly in ancient Egypt and gave a sense of grandeur that made this production a hit from start to finish.

An exceptional cast of principals, led by Lisa Daltirus in the title role, sang with ardor and conviction throughout. Whether soaring to high Cs or diving into the mezzo range, Daltirus blended grace and power wonderfully. Combining her singing with an amazing grasp of facial and body movement, Daltirus became the devoted Ethiopian princess/slave who stood by her man until they were sealed in a tomb and awaiting their last breath.

As the Egyptian princess Amneris, Stephanie Blythe, was a commanding presence who possessed such a powerful and beautiful voice that it felt as if she were singing just a few feet away. Particularly mesmerizing was how she could descend into the basement of her mezzo tessitura, because it retained so much resonance while gaining depth. Blythe wisely held back her volume a bit when singing with the other principals. With outstanding acting, she created the complex persona of a woman who held power over everything except the man she wanted most. The scene in which Amneris relaxed while considering which wreath to place on Radames’ head was one of the many highlights that Blythe, because she effortlessly floated her entrances on “Ah! Vieni, amor mio” (“Ah, come, my love”).

Antonello Palombi sang the role of Radames, the leader of the Egyptian forces and the lover of Aida, outstandingly. His opening aria “Celeste Aida” had passion to burn, and his voice throughout the opera was clear, present, and resilient. Palombi also had a natural presence on stage that shifted well between the warrior-type and the daring lover of a woman whose countrymen were his adversaries.
Charles Taylor created a vigorous Amonasro, King of Ethiopia, with a voice that could instantly change from warm and tender to fiery and flinty. Luiz-Ottavio Faria as Ramfis, the Egyptian high-priest, sang forcefully and with convincingly.

The chorus, coached by Beth Kirchhoff, added a lot to this production by adding volume in the big, celebratory scenes like the triumphal march, but also with a smooth, almost ghostly sound at the end of the opera during the entombment of Aida and Radames. The orchestra was paced well by guest conductor Riccaro Frizza, and there were many moments when their sound shimmered gloriously.

The scenery, from San Diego Opera, was exceptional for the way it evoked ancient Egypt and for its flexibility. Columns and massive beams that extended across the stage were covered with hieroglyphs, but they could be extended to depict a different scene. The first scene opened with Radames looking at a mocked up battlefield of cardboard soldiers who faced each other from opposing banks of the Nile. In the next scene this battlefield was tipped vertically so that each soldier became a gravestone. Kudos to lighting designer Robert Wierzel for getting that just right. Another highlight was his dramatic blue lighting for the evening scene when Aida secretly meets with Radames.

The colorful, traditional costumes, designed by Peter J. Hall for Dallas Opera, were also outstanding, giving the production even more texture. The King of Egypt, sung very well by Joseph Rawley, had a full headdress that couldn’t be tipped very far when he took his bows during the curtain call. The dancers in the ballet section had the most the least colorful garb, and their energetic movement would’ve had problems with any elaborate clothing. Choreographer Donald Byrd used symbolism expertly to depict the battle between the Egyptians and the Ethiopians. Stage director Robin Guarino kept the movement of the principals and chorus interesting and well-focused so that the story came across with clarity.

All in all, this is an outstanding “Aida” that you shouldn't miss.

Today's Birthdays

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
Mary Carr Moore (1873-1957)
Karl Ulrich Schnabel (1909-2001)

and

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Portland Opera's season finishes big-time in the black

According to its most recent press release, Portland Opera's 2007-2008 season may have ended with a surplus of $1 million! According to the release, this success was due in part to "attracting building gifts" that substantially reduced the costs associated with The Hampton Opera Center.

To quote from the press release: "As a result of those gifts, the $4.1 million in financing associated with the 2003 purchase of The Hampton Opera Center was substantially reduced to below $1.5 million, thereby enhancing the balance sheet and reducing the future interest payments associated with the mortgage."

The press release also stated that its new Sunday matinées have been a resounding success and overall ticket sales increased 5%, so that, for the first time in Portland Opera's history, over $3 million in tickets were sold.

The press release just came out this evening and has not yet been posted on the Portland Opera web site. I will link to it when it is posted. In the meantime, you can read it for yourself. Just click on the document below:

Today's Birthdays

Leonardo Leo (1694-1744)
Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896)
Hans Gál (1890-1987)
Erich Kleiber (1890-1956)
Stoika Milanova (1945)

and

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Albert W. Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901-1971)
William Schuman (1910-1992)
Arthur Butterworth (1923)
Jess Thomas (1927-1993)
David Bedford (1937)
Simon Preston (1938)
Deborah Voigt (1960)
Olga Neuwirth (1968)

and

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Raoul Wallenberg (1912-1947?)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Three music festivals that you can catch for free - over the Internet

Today's Washington Post has an article about how you can hear - gratis - live web-casts of music from three prestigious music festivals: Aix-en-Provence, Aspen and Verbier. Many concerts from these festivals are being broadcast by Medici.tv.

A special thanks to Fred Mosedale who brought this to my attention.

Today's Birthdays

Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964)
Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)
James Tyler (1940)
Simon Keenlyside (1959)

and

P. D. James (1920)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975)
Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963)
Marvin David Levy (1932)
Anthony Payne (1936)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)

and

Irving Babbitt (1865-1933)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Giancarlo Guerrero conducts Grant Park Music Festival

Giancarlo Guerrero, music director and conductor of the Eugene Symphony will conduct the Grant Park Festival Orchestra tonight and tomorrow night. Their program consists of music from Chicago's Latin American composers: Ricardo Lorenz, Gustavo Leone, Elbio Rodriguez Barilari, and Osvaldo Golijov.

Today's Birthdays

Morris Stoloff (1898-1980)
William Steinberg (1899-1978)
Lionel Bart (1930-1999)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott (1931)
André Gagnon (1942)

and

Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Ernst Jandl (1925-2000)