Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lawrence Schoenberg, son of Arnold Schoenberg, visits Seattle Opera

Last Saturday at Seattle Opera, I was in the Press Room enjoying some refreshments when Hilda Cullen, director of public relations for Seattle Opera, announced that Lawrence Schoenberg, the son of Arnold Schoenberg was in the room. Several critics and guests gathered around Lawrence, who is the youngest child of Arnold Schoenberg (he has a brother and a sister). Lawrence is a pretty low-key fellow and has been retired from teaching math in the public school system for a number of years. He was looking forward to Seattle Opera's "Erwartung," which was on the second half of the program that evening. Lawrence travels often from his home in Los Angeles to Vienna, Austria where the Arnold Schoenberg Center is located. He mentioned that "Erwartung" is usually presented in a concert version rather than as an opera. I didn't see him after the show, but I think that he must have been impressed with Seattle Opera's production.

For those of you who want to travel back a couple of decades, here's a YouTube video of Lawrence Schoenberg, his mother Gertrud Schoenberg, and Rudolf Kolisch.

Today's Birthdays plus Leap Year's

Geraldine Farrar(1882-1967)
George Malcolm (1917-1997)
Joseph Rouleau (1929)
Osmo Vänskä (1953)
Markus Stenz (1965)

and

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Linus Pauling (1901-1994)
Stephen Spender (1909-1995)
Zero Mostel (1915-1977)
Frank Gehry (1929)
Daniel Handler (1970)

Plus birthdays for February 29th:

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868)
Jimmy Dorsey (1904-1957)
Reri Grist (1932)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oregon legistlature looks at raiding the Oregon Cultural Trust to make up the projected deficit

Our representatives in Salem are thinking of taking $1.8 million away from the Oregon Cultural Trust and directing those funds to other areas. I think that this is wrong and will be writing my congressman very soon about the matter. The citzens who give to the Oregon Cultural Trust intend that their donations be used by the OCT.

Here's a letter from the Oregon Council for the Humanities about the matter and some steps that you can follow to voice your opinon:

As you know, Oregon is facing one of the most significant budget shortfalls in its history. The State issued its revenue forecast on Friday. Revenue projections are now an additional $55 million over the previously announced shortfall of $800 million in the State's General Fund. Lottery revenues are also down. Legislators made a list last week that contains proposed reductions and fund sweeps for all agencies to re-balance the 2007-09 budget, assuming an $800 million hole. This represents a serious threat to state funding for culture.

Most sobering: the "funds sweep" list of Other Funds includes the recapture of $1.8 million from the permanent fund of the Oregon Cultural Trust. The $1.8 million includes $1.3 million in cultural license plate revenue generated since 2003 plus interest.

The Cultural Trust was authorized by the Legislature in 1999 to grow and stabilize funding for culture--in good times and in bad. To skim the Trust fund and reallocate cultural license plate fees for the General Fund is a violation of trust with the
buyers of the plates who assumed they were supporting Oregon culture with their purchases. To raid the fund to pay for other state services simply violates the very purpose of the Trust and the intent of the Trust's thousands of donors: to protect and invest in Oregon's cultural resources.

This situation is very serious. Not only are legislators dealing with a large revenue shortfall and the potential of an additional $55 million in cuts, there are efforts underway to hold K-12 school funding from further reductions.

I urge you to please take action in any of the following ways:

- Call your local legislators and tell him or her why the Oregon Cultural Trust needs to remain intact and taken off the fund sweep list.

- Use one of the messages on the Cultural Advocacy Coalition website to send a message directly to your legislator
Write your own message to convey the importance of cultural funding in your city, town, or county.

- Send this message to your friends and those you think may be willing to help.

Work to re-balance the state budget is proceeding very quickly and may be completed by this weekend. Weigh in with your opinion. Contact the Cultural Advocacy Coalition to send a message to your legislators NOW.

Best regards,

Cara Ungar-Gutierrez
Executive Director
Oregon Council for the Humanities

Today's Birthdays

Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918)
Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976)
Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
Elizabeth Welch (1904-2003)
Mirella Freni (1935)
Gidon Kremer (1947)
Frank-Peter Zimmermann (1956)

and

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Ralph Nadar (1934)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Concord Ensemble to sing this Saturday

Cappella Romana sponsors a concert by The Concord Ensemble this Saturday at 8 pm at St. Philip Neri Church - 2408 SE 16th (at Division). This should be an exceptional concert for lovers of choral music.

The following excerpt is from the press release:

The Concord Ensemble makes its Portland debut with a program set in the New World after Cortez overthrew the Aztec empire in 1521. Hear music in European style alongside processionals where Spanish, Indian and African cultures were allowed to mix. The program will include 16th- and 17th-century music for six male voices from Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Portugal and Spain, including a complete Passion from the manuscript at the Convento del Carmen in Mexico City.

The award-winning Concord Ensemble came together in 1997 and specializes in early and contemporary music. The Concord Ensemble’s versatility reached new heights when they appeared with pop star Sting and Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamozov to sold-out audiences at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

Today's Birthdays

Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino (1928)
Lazar Berman (1930-2005)
Johnny Cash (1932-2005)
David Thomas (1943)
Emma Kirkby (1949)
Carlos Kalmar (1958)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Winners of Vancouver Symphony (WA) Young Artists Competition announced

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concluded its fifteenth annual Young Artists competition on Sunday, February 22 at The Royal Durst Theatre at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. In each of the three instrumental performance categories, a first, second and third place winner was selected, with each receiving a scholarship. The total amount in scholarship money was $7,500.

Piano Division
First Place $1,500 Scholarship Stephanie Cai Lake Oswego, OR
Second Place $ 750 Scholarship Mighten Yip Portland, OR
Third Place $ 250 Scholarship Mary Stone Washougal, WA

Strings Division
First Place $1,500 Scholarship Kelly Talim, violin Portland, OR
Second Place $ 750 Scholarship Sarah Kang, cello Clackamas, OR
Third Place $ 250 Scholarship John Lee, viola Beaverton, OR

Brass/Woodwinds/Percussion
First Place $1,500 Scholarship Ted Schaller, alto sax Lake Oswego, OR
Second Place $ 750 Scholarship Matthew Slaughter, flute Portland, OR
Third Place $ 250 Scholarship Jessica Woolf, oboe Lake Oswego, OR

Fifty-three entries were submitted on CD beginning in January and were initially judged by a blue ribbon panel of three local artists and instructors. Three finalists were picked in each of the three categories to perform at a live performance on February 22 in front of an audience that included five judges from the Portland/Vancouver area. The three first place winners not only receive the top amount of $1,500 as a scholarship, but will also perform with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at our concert April 18 & 19, 2009.

Today's Birthdays

Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)
Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965)
Victor Silvester (1900-1978)
Davide Wilde (1935)
Jesús López-Cobos (1940)
George Harrison (1943-2001)
Denis O'Neill (1948)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Xu Zhong delivers fine concert in his Portland Piano International debut


Portland Piano International has operated in Presto mode for its last two concerts, finding replacements for last minute cancellations. Last month Conrad Tao gave a terrific performance in place of an ailing Polina Leschenko. This time around, Xu Zhong came to the relief of Olga Kern, who had to attend to a family emergency. (I have heard that her father is extremely ill.) Zhong had just performed a solo recital at Willamette University as well as conducted and played two Mozart concertos with the Salem Chamber Orchestra the week before his engagement with PPI. Fortunately, Zhong was able to extend his stay in the United States and rescue PPI with an exceptional performance on Sunday afternoon (February 22) in a program that featured works by Debussy, Liszt, and Stravinsky.

The first half of the concert was devoted to Book I of Debussy’s Preludes, which consists of 12 impressionistic pieces that the composer wrote in 1909 and 1910. Zhong played these evocative preludes with finely honed sensitivity. From the soft, diaphanous sounds in “Danseuses de Delphes” (“Delphic Dancers”) to the flighty and spirited atmosphere of “La danse de Puck” (“Puck’s Dance”) and the jaunty “Minstrels,” Zhong found all sorts of tonal colors. Perhaps he slowed down a bit too much now and then, but the shape of each piece remained vibrant.

After intermission, Zhong performed Liszt’s “Sonetto 104 del Petrarca” from “Années de Pèlerinage II” (“Years of Pilgrimage”) and “Vallée d'Obermann” (“Obermann's Valley”) from “Années de Pèlerinage I.” Zhong excelled with the subtle and warm nature of the first work and contrasted it well with the demonstrative style of the second. The grand arpeggios and the filigree work in the “Vallée d'Obermann” were impressively clean and crisp in Zhong’s hands.

The concert ended in uptempo fashion with Stravinsky’s “Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka.” (“Three Movements from Petrouchka”), which dates back to 1921 when the composer converted three portions from this ballet score into a work for solo piano. Zhong really got into this piece, combining precision and artistry to capture the varied emotions of the music in all of its wild, primitive, and shimmering glory.

The audience responded to Zhong’s playing of the Stravinsky with an extended standing ovation, and Zhong returned to the Steinway to perform Brahm’s Intermezzo in A major as an encore. Maybe Zhong was just getting warmed up, because this piece came across with more heart and seemed to flow more freely than any of the other works on the program.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Arrigo Boito (1842-1918)
Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940)
Michel Legrand (1932)
Renato Scotto (1934)
Jiří Bělohlávek (1946)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Today's Birthdays

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Sir Hugh Roberton (1874-1952)
Albert Sammons (1886-1957)
Martindale Sidwell (1916-1998)

and

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) - blogger of the 17th Century
Karl Jaspers (1883-1969)

Outstanding Bluebeard and Erwartung at Seattle Opera

Rosarii Lynch photo

Seattle Opera certainly went out on a limb to produce Béla Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” and Arnold Schoenberg’s “Erwartung” (“Expectation”) for the first time in the company’s 35 year history. Both operas have a stark, expressionistic bent that could have fallen flat on its face on opening night (Saturday) at McCaw Hall. Yet each opera delivered a team-effort, combination punch that was a knock-out musically and visually. Overall, this daring double-bill production pushed Seattle Opera forward artistically and exposed new horizons for the company.

The danger in producing operas by Bartók and Schoenberg loom large, because both composers wrote music that the public has not embraced wholeheartedly. Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” (composed in 1911) veers towards atonality, yet has enough modal tonality to make it appealing. Schoenberg’s “Erwartung” (composed in 1909) is atonal and accosts the ears with all sorts of dissonant sonic textures. Fortunately, Speight Jenkins and Seattle Opera engaged the right mix of artists to make these two one-act masterworks intelligible and engaging for today’s audiences.

Seattle Opera featured exceptional casts for both productions. Baritone John Relyea superbly conveyed the complex personality of the forceful, anguished, and enigmatic Bluebeard. Soprano Malgorzata Walewska was completely convincing as Judith, his new bride who gets a tour of Bluebeard’s home and in the process unlocks all of the doors to his terribly-burdened soul. Relyea and Walewska used their powerful and expressive voices to reveal the vast expanse of emotions within each character.

In “Erwartung,” Susan Marie Pierson was totally convincing as a woman who became unhinged in her struggle to make sense of her lover’s death. Pierson’s soprano voice completely matched her haunted state. She drew the audience into her dream world with utter conviction. How she found the right notes within the dissonant landscape of Schoenberg’s music was an astonishing mystery in itself.

Conductor Evan Rogister made the most of his debut with the Seattle Opera orchestra, skillfully letting the music breathe on its own. In “Bluebeard’s Castle” the symphonic portions of the music can almost take over the opera. In “Erwartung,” the orchestral music supports everything (tangible and intangible) in all sorts of unusual ways. Rogister and the orchestra found the emotional arc of the music and gave it a perfect shape.

Both operas were originally created for the Canadian Opera Company in 1993 by Robert Lepage, who has successfully directed productions for Cirque du Soleil and is currently spinning heads with his conception for “The Damnation of Faust” at the Metropolitan Opera. For Seattle Opera’s production, stage director François Racine, who has worked with Lepage, provided fluid instructions that enhanced the story lines. In particular, the three silent actors in “Erwartung” used slow-motion gestures and acrobatics to stunning effect. An illumined hand reaching out, a bed sheet deftly stripped away, a psychiatrist sitting on a chair that was parallel to the stage floor and supported on the side of the wall (his plane of reference was rotated 90 degrees from the woman who was on the stage floor) – all of these actions supported the chaos going on in the woman’s mind.

Robert Thomson’s lighting for both operas was brilliant. In “Bluebeard’s Castle” light spilled out of the doors that Judith opened and flood the wall on the opposite side of the stage with evocative colors. In both operas, an extended wall took on different textures and meanings because of the facile lighting. Also, the gigantic picture frame, which framed both operas, changed color. In “Bluebeard’s Castle,” the color changed impressively from bright gold to a tarnished version of gold.

“Bluebeard’s Castle” and “Erwartung” are linked to Expressionism, which reached a high-water mark in the early part of the Twentieth Century, when Europe was on the verge of great turmoil. In light of the current economic downturn, perhaps Expressionism will experience resurgence. At Seattle Opera, Expressionism, through the music of Bartók and Schoenberg, is being realized at its fullest.

-----------------

Extra note: Because I was a fellow in the NEA Institute for Classical Music and Opera, I attended the Metropolitan Opera production of "The Damnation of Faust," which was directed by Robert Lepage and featured Relyea as Méphistophélès. I wrote a review of the performance here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Today's Birthdays

York Bowen (1884-1961)
Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963)
George Zukerman (1927)
Steven Lubin (1942)
Lucy Shelton (1954)
Lowell Liebermann (1961)

and

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)
Leo Delibes (1836-1891)
Charles Marie Widor (1844-1945)
Kenneth Alford (1881-1945)
Nina Simone (1933-2003)
Elean Duran (1949)
Simon Holt (1948)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Mary Garden (1874-1967)
Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
Christoph Eschenbach (1940)
Barry Wordsworth (1948)
Riccardo Chailly (1953)
Chris Thile (1981)

and

Louis Kahn (1901-1974)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Memorial concert for Cline Otey - former Oregon Symphony and Portland Opera musician and teacher


A memorial Concert for Cline Otey will be held on Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 3:00pm, St. Anne's Chapel, Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Highway (Hwy 43). The concert will feature Otey's family, friends, colleagues and students and will benefit the music therapy program at Marylhurst.

According to Otey's daughter, Lisa Otey, enjoyed a musical career for nearly 40 years in the Portlandarea. He played violin in the Oregon Symphony and the Portland Opera, was assistant conductor to the Portland Youth Philharmonic and taught thousands of children in the orchestras of North Clackamas School
District.

"Music was my father's life," said Lisa. "The only thing more important to him was children. He spent his career nurturing and inspiring the talents of his students and his own family."

Otey passed away on Aug. 5, 2008. Lisa Otey mentioned that one of his passions at the end of his life was music therapy. He longed to bring music into children's hospitals. Even when he spent a short time in a nursing home, he played for the residents and brought healing to their lives.

"I am most interested in finding m dad's former students," stated Lisa. "I have found some online but am at a disadvantage, living in Tucson, Arizona, which is so far away from Portland. It would mean so much if you could list the concert and also a call to his students if they wish to articipate in the concert. They can reach me at lisa@owlsnestmusic.com, www.lisaotey.com and 520.370.5912. It is my dream that this will become an annual event to keep my father's memory and legacy alive."

Concert for Cline
benefit for Marylhurst Music Therapy program
Sunday, March 1
3:00pm
St. Anne's Chapel
Marylhurst University
17600 Pacific Highway (Hwy 43)
$10 suggested donation
all donations accepted

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Grace Williams (1906-1977)
Stan Kenton (1912-1979)
Timothy Moore (1922-2003)
George Guest (1924-2002)
Michael Kennedy (1926)
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988)
Penelope Walmsley-Clark (1949)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oregon Symphony ticket sales through the roof

The Oregon Symphony has surpassed $6.1 million in total ticket sales this season, which is quite an accomplishment in light of the current economic temperature. The orchestra has sold 136,431 tickets so far and is $458,000 ahead of total ticket sales for the entire season last year. This bodes well for the orchestra's continuing health and may help them to pay off some hefty debts that it incurred from previous years when they ran substantially in the red. You can read all about the orchestra's success at the box office in this press release. And the orchestra is playing at a higher level than ever, and that fact has generated a lot of enthusiasm.

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (1655-1720)
Marchel Landowski (1915-1999)
Rita Gorr (1926)
Marek Janowski (1939)
Marlos Nobre (1939)

and

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)
Wallace Stegner (1909-1993)
Toni Morrison (1931)
Yoko Ono (1933)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review: In Mulieribus in Love--Sacred and Profane

In Mulieribus was joined by instrumentalists Philip Neuman and Gayle Neuman on Friday, February 13th in a concert called Love—Sacred and Profane. They performed in the special acoustical space at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in southeast Portland.

The performance opened with a piece dedicated to the more lustful side of love. Anyone familiar with Carl Orff’s wildly popular setting of the Carmina Burana would have instantly recognized the Tempus est Iocundum. Executive Director Tuesday Rupp did the bulk of the singing as alto soloist, and was accompanied by Gayle Neuman on the vielle, an early, five-stringed bowed instrument closely related to the violin family.

Rupp’s robust, impassioned interpretation set the tone for the evening, as she pushed her delivery towards, but never across, the line of complete abandon, reflecting perfectly the meaning of the text. In the past Rupp has shown her abilityto give the impression of singing perilously close to the edge of control and then reign it back in (thereby demonstrating complete control). The effect imparted by this technique is profound, and is indicative of the high level of musicianship to be found in this ensemble as a whole. The audience had all it could do to refrain from thunderous applause until after certain pre-designated sections, as was requested in the program.

IM then did an abrupt about-face with O rosa bella by John Beldyngham (1422-1460.) The change was so immediate and complete as to almost be startling. The singing was heart-achingly tender, morphing from the intensity of the first work into a warm, luscious blanket of sound in which the listener could feel the meaning of the Italian without ever having to look at the translation.

Philip and Gayle Neuman then played three short tunes that demonstrated talent across a wide array of ancient instruments. They took a few moments to explain what they were about to play. The short tunes in this section from a large collection by Alfonso el Sabio, were played first with the vielle and tabor pipe (actually two instruments; a drum that is beat with one hand while the drummer plays a three-holed fife with the other hand.) The cittrole, a small flat-backed instrument reminiscent of a mandolin but plucked with a feather, was next, and Philip played a small, gentle sounding bagpipe for the third tune in this set.

Throughout the evening the Neumans joined in on recorders, many varieties of stringed instruments both bowed and strummed, primitive bassoons and small drums of all kinds (A.D. Anna Song also played percussion.) Gayle Neuman in particular joined on the vielle in a number of works, and the warmth and precision of her playing added greatly to the enjoyment of this concert.

In the second half of the concert, the song Moys de May by Dufay left one longing for a merrier and more sanguine month than February. Singers and instrumentalists alike deftly navigated the sudden, brief and tricky shifts in meter.

The transition from the music of Western Europe to the songs by the minnesänger (Germany’s version of the trouveres and troubadours) was obvious. The songs were more homophonic than some of the other works, but this allowed IM to display precision and unanimity of movement.

Control seemed to be the watchword of the evening, and the beauty and uniqueness of the German works left one with great regret that such a small portion of this repertoire survives.
Soprano Catherine Van der Salm sang the solo part of Under der Linden by Walther von der Vogelweide (c.1170-c.1230) with poise and exactness. Her deft control and delicate, plaintive insistence lent an emotional power to this work that was undeniable. She maintained a sweet timbre and showed remarkable evenness of vibrato that were truly worth hearing. IM newcomer Kristen Buhler, an mezzo-sooprano, also stood out with her rendition of another German song Meienzît, her precise and yet open delivery showing that she fits well with a group of this caliber.

Like other performances by In Mulieribus, this concert was peppered throughout with surprises. The programming allows listeners to get a sense of the tremendous variety in European art song throughout the many centuries spanned in their repertoire. The true wonder of IM’s performances is the simple joy inherent in listening to these accomplished scholar-singers throw everything they have into their craft, and it never ceases to delight and amaze.

Addendum:

In Mulieribus has had a change in lineup that is not yet reflected on their website. Mezzo-soprano Heather Rosczyk departed to Ohio, and IM is now joined by Kristen Buhler, a mezzo with an M.M. in Conducting from PSU (amongst other qualifications) and Jo Routh, alto, who is a music teacher and has performed with Cantores in Ecclesia, Cappella Romana, the PBO, and other groups.

FearNoMusic Homegrown review

By Brett Campbell

It took 150 years—that is, a grant tied to the state’s sesquicentennial celebrations—but it was gratifying to see a concert featuring only music by contemporary Portland composers. Of course, that happens every night in the state’s pop music clubs, and a contemporary music concert would have seemed utterly normal to audiences in Bach and Beethoven’s times. But in the insular world of contemporary American “classical” music, a concert that dared actually feature composers from our own place and time qualifies as a momentous event. Which isn’t to disparage the remarkable efforts of one of the state’s most valuable performing arts ensembles, Fear No Music—in fact, it shows just how critical they are to Portland’s artistic vitality.

But if the musicians’ commendable boldness lived up to their name, I’m not sure the composers did. While almost every piece offered moments of stimulation or beauty or both, only a few really seemed to boldly go where past composers haven’t gone before.

The concert opened with the premiere of PSU music professor Bonnie Miksch’s Ever widening rings of being, an appealing exercise in electronica academica that paired computer-sampled metallic percussion burblings (the only really modern sounds in the concert) with alternately shimmering and squealing acoustic metal percussion sounds by FNM percussionist Joel Bluestone.

John Peel’s 1997 Scene ed Aria at least admitted its retro ambitions. Inspired by Old Vienna violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler’s arrangements, Peel imagined his own arrangement of a 19th century opera aria for violin and piano. I suppose that makes it postmodern, but it wound up sounding like an updated Cesar Franck sonata, moving deliberately from pensive to brooding to dramatic virtuosic passages, eloquently played by Ines Voglar.

A solo dancer (with literal narrative choreography contributed by Paul Destrooper) accompanied Jilted, a brief 2007 work by Robert McBride. Mcbride is best known as an announcer for Portland’s invaluable KBPS classical radio station, where last year he created a much-needed, weekly two hour modern/contemporary music program called Club Mod. The short and simple elegy portrayed a woman left bereft by the wartime death (or so a telegram and folded flag suggested) of her intended bridegroom.

The pace and ambition picked up with three etudes—by turns brittle, melancholy, and eruptive— played by their composer, former PSU prof Tomas Svoboda. The danceable, Bach-meets-Bartok vigor of these pieces vaulted them, like Debussy and Chopin’s etudes, beyond the realm of mere studies and suited them to Agnieszka Laska’s lovely choreography—at least what I could see of it, which wasn’t much.

I hesitate to disparage the Disjecta art center, both because it generously came to the rescue at the last moment when the original venue abruptly canceled and because new music and boho visual art centers have a long and productive mutually nurturing relationship, as composers from Cage to Glass and Reich and more could attest. But it simply wasn’t capacious enough for the hearteningly teeming audience, resulting in claustrophobic seating and too many obstructed views, especially whenever the dancers descended for floor work.

Abetted by a bravura performance from viola soloist Joel Belgique (in its own way as impressive as, if more concentrated than, his stalwart 2007 Oregon Symphony performance of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy), the second set opener, David Schiff’s brilliant Joycesketch II, blew away everything that came before it and most of what followed. Inspired by James Joyce’s immortal story collection, Dubliners, Schiff’s sketch transformed elements drawn from Irish ballads and fiddle tunes into a vital brew as rich as a pint of Guinness. Drawn from an opera that Schiff (unfortunately better known as an astute writer on music for The Nation and New York Times than for his compositions) intends to finish someday, it suggests that he should get back to it posthaste.

FNM deserves credit for programming composers at all stages of their careers, from Svoboda (entering his eighth decade) to the youngest, Ryan Anthony Francis (born 1981), a Portland native whose compositions have received awards and acclaim at Juilliard and beyond. His earnest, neo-Romantic, 2006 Litany gave cellist Nancy Ives some pretty moments. Bob Priest’s little Cirque de Deux exploited the bassoon’s rich comic potential while providing the soloist the rare opportunity to, er, get down. Another commendably concise work that (unlike others on the program) didn’t outlast its ideas, Jack Gabel’s 2007 Mama’s Song, provided another highlight and the evening’s most purely lovely sounds; I wish I could have seen more than a few, enchanting glimpses of the choreography, also by Laska.

The major work on the menu, the premiere of University of Oregon professor Robert Kyr’s cinematic Variations for a New Day, kicked off with a memorable, Coplandish melody, cruised along jauntily, then suddenly burst into tense, rhythmically charged episodes that culminated in a whirlwind, crowd-pleasing finale. The full FNM ensemble (Bluestone, Belgique, Voglar, Ives, and pianist Mika Sunago), though clearly still reading, managed to give Kyr’s euphoric piece (based on an Sacred Harp hymn) the robust energy and focus it demanded, ending the concert on a terrific high note, a satisfying original musical tribute to the state’s 150th birthday.

Every time I hear Fear No Music, I’m amazed that these master musicians, most of whom play leading roles in the Oregon Symphony, can pull off these challenging, never-before-heard works so convincingly in spite of their crowded schedules and no doubt inadequate rehearsal time. It demonstrates their deep and admirable commitment, not just to brand new sounds but also to subsequent performances of older contemporary works, which give the worthiest pieces a chance to enter the repertoire. These intrepid musicians certainly live up to their name.

But do the composers? I certainly don't miss the bad old days of atonal angst, but this concert presented nothing to fear and little to surprise, with most of the sounds contentedly based in creaky European classical models. In the stretch between the first and last pieces on the program, little of the music really seemed to speak any of the diverse musical languages of 21st century Oregon or even America. Svoboda and Schiff’s engaging compositions might have been cutting edge for 1965 and 1981, respectively, but aren’t younger Oregon composers drawing on contemporary American influences, from microtonality to electronica?

Of course there should be room for all kinds of new sounds, but amid the backward gazing nostalgia (neo Romantic, post Schoenbergian, etc.), where were the rollicking rhythms that've propelled the powerful pop and jazz that permeated the last few generations of American culture? Where were the sounds of other cultures (particularly Pacific Rim) that have enriched American music from the glories of Portland native Lou Harrison beginning half a century ago to David Byrne’s danceable cross-cultural pop a generation ago to today’s Asian underground electronica? Where were the digital technologies and post Reichian minimalist pulses that have drawn new audiences and galvanized two generations of composers, including east coast collectives from Bang on a Can to NOW, 20-somethings from Nico Muhly to Mason Bates, and west coasters from Paul Dresher on down? Most of all, where were the sounds we couldn’t have imagined before we heard them?

I guess that’s the problem when these kinds of concerts come along so infrequently — inevitably, they can present only a limited cross section of Oregon’s musical vitality. The blame lies not with the few groups like FearNoMusic that at least try to perform music of our time and place, but rather with the other institutions, from orchestras to rock clubs, that shun contemporary postclassical composers. Let’s hope these Homegrown concerts plant the seeds of new opportunities for Oregon composers.

###

FearNoMusic will perform the Homegrown concert this week in Salem and Eugene.
EUGENE: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 8:00 P.M.
Presented by Vanguard Concert Series as part of MUSIC TODAY FESTIVAL
Beall Concert Hall @ University of Oregon ($8,$5)

SALEM: Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 7:30 P.M.
Presented by New Music at Willamette
Hudson Concert Hall, Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center @ Willamette Univ. (FREE)

--------------

Brett Campbell writes for many publications, including Oregon Quarterly and the Wall Street Journal, and is classical music editor for Willamette Week.

Today's Birthdays

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Sr. Edward German (1862-1936)
Andres Segovia (1893-1987)
Marian Anderson (1893-1993)
Ron Goodwin (1925-2003)
Fredrich Cerha (1926)
Anner Bylsma (1944)
Karl Jenkins (1944)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another pianist switch for Portland Piano International

A year ago, Portland Opera had to scramble at the last minute to replace ailing opera singers in a couple of production. This year, Portland Piano International is getting hit with pianists who can't make give their concerts. In January, Polina Leschenko bowed out of her scheduled appearance because of serious problems with her knee. Now Olga Kern won't make it to Portland this weekend because of a family emergency.

Fortunately, Portland Piano International's Pat Zagelow and Harold Gray have a knack for finding superb pianists who can fill in at a moment's notice. Last month, they found Conrad Tao, who have a terrific concert in place of Leschenko. Now, for Olga Kern's concert, they have engaged Xu Zhong, an internationally acclaimed pianist and conductor from China.

Here's some information from PPI's press release on Zhong:

Xu Zhong is the founding member and Artistic Director of the China Shanghai International Piano Competition, the Executive Artistic Director of Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, and Music Director of Shanghai Sinfonietta.

Xu Zhong has won numerous prestigious international competitions since 1988, including the first Hamamatsu International Piano Competition, the Santander Paloma O'Shea International Piano Competition, the fifth Tokyo International Piano Competition and the tenth Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow. In addition, besides being the regular guest of Chinese orchestras and presenters, both as a pianist and conductor, he has taken up a concert career across Europe, North America, South America and South-East Asia.


Zhong will perform two different programs on Sunday and Monday. For more information, click here.

Review: Reeves’ Vaughan-like performance seals her reputation

By Angela Allen

Just when you think a Valentine’s date with the Oregon Symphony and glamorous jazz singer Dianne Reeves is shaping up to be utterly predictable and sentimental, the night throws in a few surprises.

Reeves, a four-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist who idolized Sarah Vaughan in her formative career, has been Blue Note’s best-selling jazz artist for the past 10 years -- for many reasons.

Appearing as a Portland Jazz Festival artist in concert with the symphony Feb. 14 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, she’s got the goods. She sings voluptuously, provocatively and affably. What’s not to like?

Reeves owns a rich, flexible voice that reaches from baritone to mezzo, like Vaughan’s. And like her heroine, she effortlessly shapes diverse styles from blues to bebop. “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Speak Low” don’t have a whole lot in common.

The show was not just about the music. For one, she possesses the showbiz gene (boy, can she tell a story!). And she’s politic enough to compliment Oregon on is virtues, including the symphony.

After 22 years with Blue Note, she has the professional heft to work with a tightly grooved trio familiar with her every move and improvisational whim. Backing her were Peter Martin, piano, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Kendrick Scott, who played the night before with Terence Blanchard – as well as the Oregon Symphony, most of whom seemed to be enjoying the change of pace in their tuxedos.

Reeves’ two-set program consisted mostly of standards, with a lot of Billy Childs’ arrangements. She made the pieces her own, especially “Misty” (a second-set surprise to the 10-song repertoire) and a dramatic, tear-jerking, slow-paced “Send in the Clowns,” another Childs’ arrangement and Vaughan signature. Her “Embraceable You” and Vaughan favorite “Obsession” wrung out the highs and lows of her sultry voice.

She scatted her way through transitions, sang happy birthday to the bassoonist, and called Oregon Symphony assistant director Gregory Vajda (who directed Thomas Lauderdale with the symphony last fall), “pretty cute.”

Reeves proves herself a seasoned entertainer who keeps the American songbook alive. She quickly warms up a crowd, not much of a chore on Valentine’s, but she gives more than she has to. When she returned for an encore, she walked onstage barefoot after removing her “two-hour-limit” spikes. The audience was primed for the informality.

Her easy-going but polished presentation moved us closer to the magic, range and tradition that the “Divine One” Sarah Vaughan left in Reeves’ hands.

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Angela Allen, who lives in Portland, writes about music, food, art, wine, architecture and style. She was a recipient of grant to study music from the National Endowment of the Arts and Columbia University School of Journalism. Find her work at AngelaAllenWrites.com.

Today's Birthdays

Willem Kes (1856-1934)
Maria Korchinska (1895-1979)
Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992)
Eliahu Inbal (1936)
John Corigliano (1938)
Sigiswald Kuiljken (1944)

and

Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra concert celebrates with youthful artistry

Huw Edwards, music director and conductor of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra has a knack for finding outstanding young artists and displaying their talent on stage. This time, for the PCSO concert on Friday evening, two teens demonstrated artistic abilities way beyond their years. The orchestra played a superb new work by 19-year-old composer Taylor Brizendine, and 17-year-old pianist Rosa Li swept the audience away with her performance of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Both pieces were highlights in a concert that featured some fine playing by the orchestra of works by Brahms, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky as well.

Brizedine, who grew up in Oregon but is now studying at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, has written many pieces which have been performed by such ensembles as the California Institute of the Arts Chamber Orchestra, the Portland Youth Philharmonic chamber music series, and the Oregon Pro Arte Youth Chamber Orchestra. The PCSO commissioned Brizedine to write a piece in honor of Oregon’s 150th birthday, and he responded with the “Hymn of the Earth,” a short work that engaged the audience with a variety of sonic textures.

“Hymn of the Earth” began softly with exposed passages for the harp and xylophone. Other members of the orchestra gradually joined in to create a sense of awakening and a much larger, fuller sound. After a brief, lyrical solo by concertmaster Dawn Carter, the music became more fragmented as if sections of the orchestra were commenting on each other. After a descending bass line got underway, tension seemed to mount. A rebuilding process took place, bolstered by trumpet calls, and the piece ended with flourish with gongs and a feeling of hopefulness.

The audience, which had filled First United Methodist, almost to capacity, appeared thoroughly engaged with Brizedine’s music and gave this piece a solid round of applause. It will be interesting to follow his career as a composer and see how his music progresses.

Next on the program was Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concert with Li as the soloist. Playing the entire piece from memory, Li gave a polished performance with a special attention to detail, especially in the way that she accented some notes even though her fingers were racing up and down the keyboard. Li, a veteran winner of many competitions, negotiated all of the trills and filigree of this difficult work gracefully and made it look as if she were completely at home in front of an orchestra. Wow!

The concert began with Brahms “Academic Festival Overture,” the orchestra played very well with lots of expression. Each section of the orchestra had passages in which its members excelled as an ensemble. The orchestral blend was excellent, the crescendos and decrescendos sounded organic, and the uptempo ending made the entire piece work well as a whole.

In its performance of the “Adagietto” from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, the orchestra achieved a soft, lush sound that was exquisite most of the time, yet it came under duress here and there because of intonation problems in the strings. Overall, guided by some fine conducting by Edwards, this piece still had plenty of beauty to make it very satisfying to the ears.

The concert ended with Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture from “Romeo and Juliet.” This piece needed just a little more intensity to heighten the contrasts between the melodic themes and the violent ones. Still, the last part of the piece was heavenly. Kudos to principal horn Jen Harrison, principal trumpet Mike Hankins, and principal timpani Craig Johnston for their outstanding playing.

Review of Vancouver Symphony (WA) in The Columbian

My review of the Vancouver Symphony's concert, with guest artists the Oregon Repertory Singers, yesterday appeared in this morning's edition of The Columbian here.

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (1797-1871)
Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935)
Walter Donaldson (1893-1947)
Jean Langlais (1907-1991)
Norma Procter (1928)
John Adams (1947)
Christopher Rouse (1949)
Kathryn Harries (1951)
Christian Lindberg (1958)

and

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Matt Groening (1954)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Review: Terence Blanchard and the Portland Jazz Orchestra team up for fabulous concert

Review by Angela Allen

When Terence Blanchard, trumpet in hand, asked the Arlene Schnitzer audience to chime in on a chorus of “A Tale of God’s Will,” bassist Derrick Hodge smiled sweetly.

There was little chance that the audience, as ardent as it was, could capture the deep emotion that New Orleans’ Blanchard did when he composed this music based on his hometown’s tragedy. Bets are, “A Tale of God’s Will” will stick around in the archives for years. Portlanders were truly lucky to hear it.

Along with backup from the Portland Jazz Orchestra, Blanchard’s quintet played an almost two-hour performance Friday as headliners for the 10-day Portland Jazz Festival featuring Blue Note label artists.

A compact, smooth-talking trumpeter with a style that mixes utter confidence with compassion, Blanchard won a Grammy this year for “A Tale of God’s Will, A Requiem for Katrina.”

The 13-track song cycle includes such profoundly melodic pieces as “Wading Through,” “Mantra,” “Funeral Dirge” and “Dear Mom,” all of which the quintet performed like scared music. The sound track was written for Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke” after the 2005 hurricane.

If anyone can write for movies, it’s Blanchard. He transports. He induces sadness, rage, melancholy, compassion, joy, prayerfulness – all the things that a movie sound track should do. Even those who don’t cry at tragic operas, would have wept Friday.

The soaring orchestral quality of the music and Blachard’s insistent impassioned playing was enough. But his quintet, dressed in suits and ties, played with such precision, formality and respect for one another that the show was far more a hallowed performance than a free-wheeling jazz gig.

The quintet included the impish Fabian Almazan, drummer Kendrick Scott, and the ever-attuned Hodge on stand-up and electric bass. Walter Smith, the tenor saxophonist and a finalist in the Thelonius Monk Institute’s prestigious 2008 sax competition, was debuting with the quintet. He fit in like a glove in his pale grey suit, never grandstanding though the music allowed it.

Paul Mazzio conducted the Portland Jazz Orchestra that added fulsomeness to the music with strings, woodwinds, brass and timpani. Mazzio is an ace trumpeter himself. He obviously understood the piece. Too bad the concert hall wasn’t as full as the music.

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Angela Allen, who lives in Portland, writes about music, food, art, wine, architecture and style. She was a recipient of grant to study music from the National Endowment of the Arts and Columbia University School of Journalism. Find her work at AngelaAllenWrites.com.

Pat Zagelow to leave Portland Piano International

I just received notice that Pat Zagelow, executive director of Portland Piano International, will be leaving the PPI to become the full-time director of Friends of Chamber Music. She had been executive director of both PPI and FOCM for many years and has helped to make both organizations very successful. But on April 1, Zagelow will be wearing one hat instead of two.

So, Portland Piano International will be searching for a new executive director. Get your resume ready. In the meantime, Zagelow and her asswociate Lori Fitch will work with the new PPI interim executive director - whoever that will be - to make a smooth transition.

Classical Millennium hanging tough

I stopped by Classical Millennium yesterday to purchase a couple of recordings and ended up talking briefly with its amiable owner Michael Parsons, who sorting some merchandise in his office - which is stuffed with CDs. Parsons said that his business is doing alright despite the current economic downturn. The snows during December really set things back a bit, but the store is above water. That's good news - from my perspective. Portland is very fortunate to have a terrific classical music store where the staff is very knowledgeable! Boston doesn't even have an independent classical music store anymore. I hope that you get a chance to stop by Parson's classical music kingdom and purchase a some recordings.

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Alexander Dargomizhsky (1813-1869)
Jack Benny (1894-1974)
Wyn Morris (1929)
Steven Mackey (1956)
Renée Fleming (1959)

and

Frederick Douglass (1814-1895)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oregon Repertory Singers to join Vancouver Symphony (WA) in upcoming concert

This weekends Vancouver Symphony concerts will feature the Oregon Repertory Singers in performances of Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms" and Manual Oltra's "Psalmus brevis." Also on the program in Johannes Brahms "Serenade No. 2." I wrote a preview about the concert for The Columbian newspaper. Please click here, if you would like to know more about the concert.

Today's Birthdays

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938)
Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991)
Eileen Farrell (1920-2002)
Yfrah Neaman (1923-2003)
Colin Matthews (1946)
Peter Gabriel (1950)

and

Grant Wood (1891-1942)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Portland Columbia Symphony presents Valentines/Birthday concert

The Portland Columbia Symphony will present concerts this weekend (Friday night and Sunday afternoon) that will feature love-themed music and a new piece by a very young Oregonian, Taylor Brizendine. Brizendine 19-year-old student at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. He has studied composition with Tomas Svoboda and Michael Johanson, and at CalArts plays bassoon and takes lessons from Julie Feves, who happens to be an Oregon native and Juilliard graduate and a regular guest artist at Chamber Music Northwest's summer concerts.

Brizendine has written a piece called "Hymn of the Earth," which the Portland Columbia Symphony will perform. Here's some information from the orchestra's web site about Brizendine and his new work:

Written for the 150th anniversary of the state of Oregon, "Hymn of the Earth" is very nature based, and unlike most of his works, quite tonal. Influences for the piece include the Oregonian scenery, but also the current political atmosphere. When the piece was originally finished in early October 2008, the ending was small and quiet, symbolizing a disinterest in the way the American government was shaping up, and an overall disappointment in the country and state. However, on November 4th, 2008 when President Obama was elected, Taylor happened to be listening to his piece and editing it. As soon as the election was called he couldn't help but feel a rush of excitement, and in fact destroyed the last third of the piece. In his new found sense of national and state pride, he re-wrote the ending to be quite the opposite of the original. Hymn of the Earth is now a statement of patriotism and hope for the condition of not only Oregon, or the United States, but the world as a whole.


For more about the upcoming Portland Columbia Symphony's concert, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Campion (1567-1620)
Roy Harris (1898-1979)
Franco Zeffirelli (1923)
Paata Burchuladze (1951)

and

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Max Beckmann (1884-1950)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oregon Symphony announces 2009/10 season

The Oregon Symphony recently presented its lineup of soloists and concert schedule for next season. Some big names will appear with the orchestra like Pinchas Zukerman, Midori, and Itzhak Perlman, Angela Hewitt, Yefim Bronfman, Jon Kimura Parker, Ingrid Filter, Edgar Meyer, and Béla Fleck. I'm excited to see that Elina Vähälä will be back to play Britten's Violin Concerto, and the amazing Arnaldo Cohen will play all of the Beethoven piano concerts over a span of three nights plus the Triple Concerto for violin, cello and piano with guest cellist Quirine Viersen and OSO's concertmaster Jun Iwasaki.

One of the concerts that intrigues me the most will feature several of the orchestra's principals in Mozart's "Sinfonia Concertante" for flute, oboe, bassoon, and horn. Flutist David Buck, oboist Martin Hebert, bassoonist Carin Miller, and hornist John Cox will take center stage for that one. That concert will also feature Mendelssohn's rarely performed "The Fair Melusina Overture, the orchestra's premiere performance of Henri Dutileux's Symphony No. 2 ("The Double"), and Berlioz "Le Corsaire" Overture.

The concert series have been divided differently this year into three groups, with six concerts apiece in the A and B series and four in the C series. With the C series concerts, the OSO ventures into the Sunday afternoon time slot (2 pm) for the first time.

The Video Games Live concert is a new twist, and I've heard that this concert usually sells out and attracts lots of people who never attend symphony concerts. I'm very sure that the two performances of this concert will be standing room only.

Next season will be the first time in many years that former music director James DePeist will not be conducting the orchestra. His 5-year term as conductor laureate ended last season. This season leads the orchestra in concerts (on April 18, 19, and 20) simply as a guest conductor.

The Oregon Symphony has a fine video that previews next season on its web site here.

Today's Birthdays

Rudolf Firkušný (1912-1994)
Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995)
Cristopher Dearnley (1930-2000)
Jerome Lowenthal (1932)
Edith Mathis (1938)
Alberto Lysy (1935)
Christine Cairns (1959)

and

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fear No Music gives Oregon a homegrown birthday concert for Oregon's 150th

Fear No Music will be going native to celebrate Oregon's 150th birthday this Friday in a new music extravaganza at DISJECTA (8371 N Interstate Ave.). You'll hear lots of spanking new music and you'll get to see a new dance performance as well. It might be a sensory overload!

Here's the press release from Fear No Music:

As we prepare to honor Oregon's 150th anniversary of statehood, we will participate in this historic event in our "fear no music" way by adding a fresh, musical twist to the excitement, festivities and pride associated with the anniversary. Join Fear No Music for the world premieres of three new works, written especially for this grand occasion. Hear supernatural sounds created by composer Bonnie Miksch, Professor of Composition at Portland State University; experience acoustical journeys by the daring Robert Kyr; explore new sounds by Robert Priest, Artistic Director of Marzena; and revel in the ballet version of "Jilted" by Robert McBride and "Mama's Song" by Jack Gabel (premiere choreographies by Paul Destrooper and Agnieszka Laska respectively). We are excited to collaborate with the Agnieszka Laska Dancers and Gavin Larsen, a lead dancer for the Oregon Ballet Theater, moving to the music of Tomas Svoboda, Jack Gabel, and Robert McBride. Also, featuring great works by John Peel, David Schiff, and Ryan Anthony Francis. This concert is part of a regional tour that includes performances in Portland, Eugene and Salem.


And, the intrepid composer Bob Priest this comment about his piece:

"Cirque de Deux" (2009) Bob Priest
In your town for one night only, a bassoonist and cellist from D-Bob's sound circus come out to play . . .

it's relatively short (5 minutes) with some extended techniques (multiphonics, cello de-tuning, etc.) and theatrical behavior - or is that, misbehavior? and yes, there will be contra!

i confess that i gave into my comedic side a tad in this piece. sprinkled among some of the sonic absurdities mentioned above are loving references to Mozart, Berg, John Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Ravel, Lutoslawski and Bernstein. in other words, eine kleine musical may-hemming and hee-hawing gets mixed in with a few serious moments musicaux.


Performers in this Fear No Music concert are FNMers Inés Voglar, Joël Belgique, Mika Sunago, and Joel Bluestone with guest artists Tomas Svoboda, Evan Kuhlman, Nancy Ives, the Agnieszka Laska Dancers and Gavin Larsen, from the Oregon Ballet Theater.

Tickets cost $20, 15, or $5 depending on age and student status.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Melchior Molter (1696-1765)
Joyce Grenfell (1914-2001)
Leontyne Price (1927)
Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004)
Roberta Flack (1937)
Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)

and

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Large audience enjoys Oregon Symphony concert with guest conductor Gaffigan and guitarist Fernández

It almost felt like the good old days at the Oregon Symphony on Saturday evening. A large crowd nearly filled the Schnitz to capacity for a program that included debuts by a conductor and a guest artist who are relatively unknown in Portland.

For this concert, James Gaffigan, associate conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, led the local band and guitar virtuoso, Eduardo Fernández was the featured soloist. The entire ensemble teamed up for a terrific performance of Joasquin Rodrigo’s “Concerto de Aranjuez,” one of the most beloved guitar concertos on this side of the Atlantic ocean. According to Elaine Calder, president of the Oregon Symphony, the tickets for this concert sold incredibly well because of that concerto. I had guess that the some special ticket sales had caused the increase, but I was completely wrong. It simply turns out that the orchestra’s fans want to hear this concerto, and Fernández was a perfect choice to fulfill their expectations.

A native of Uruguay, Fernández put on a dazzling artistic display with fleet finger work. The exposed melodic lines of this piece were clear yet lyrical, and Fernández made the difficult stuff look easy and natural, playing cleanly and crisply the entire way. Under Gaffigan’s baton, the orchestra danced lightly with Fernández and enhanced the overall effect with a perfect balance of sound.

But despite the popularity of Rodrigo’s concerto, the orchestra’s musicians weren’t going to coast during this concert and chill out. Instead, they delivered three gem-like performances of the other pieces on the program. They opened the concert with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 (also known as “The Hen”), which could’ve been completely uninteresting. But with Gaffigan in command and with the awesomely unified playing in the string sections, this piece came alive with all sorts of intriguing and engaging sounds that juxtaposed drama and tension with playfulness and lyricism. One of the cool passages in the piece was a nifty oboe duet that featured principal oboist Martin Hebert and assistant principal Karen Wagner. Their sound blended perfectly.

According to the program notes, this was the first time that the Oregon Symphony had performed this work by Haydn. This was also the ensemble's debut performance of Ferruccio Busoni’s “Berceuse élégiaque” Busoni wrote this short work after death of his mother. Because the piece requires only six violins, the weight of the music shifts to the lower register of the orchestra. The Oregon Symphony fully expressed the sad mood of this piece, but the tone didn’t sag or become overbearing. Instead, the orchestra found the somber magic of the music and made it sing.

The concert ended with a magical interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” (1919 version), which Gaffigan impressively conducted from memory. The orchestra fully grasped the sonic breath of this enchanting music and gave a performance that sparkled. The entire orchestra deserves praise, and extra kudos should be given to principal trumpet Jeffrey Work, principal oboe Martin Hebert, principal bassoon Carin Miller, principal horn John Cox, and principal flute David Buck.

I also enjoyed watching Gaffigan wade into the orchestra to shake the hands of the orchestra members. It was a genuine gesture and seemed to generate a lot of good will.

Today's Birthdays

Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Hildegard Behrens (1937)
Ryland Davies (1943)
Paul Hillier (1949)
Marilyn Hill Smith (1952)
Amanda Roocroft (1966)

and

James Stephens (1882-1950)

Portland baritone Jacob Herbert collects a Grammy

Congratulations to Jacob Herbert, a native Portlander, who is a featured singer in "Spotless Rose: Hymns To The Virgin Mary," the album that was chosen for a Grammy last night in Category 105, Best Small Ensemble Performance. Charles Bruffy, conducted the Phoenix Chorale.

Herbert, who sings with the Portland Symphonic Choir, has also been called back by the Chanticleer ensemble for a second audition. More on that later.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Singers create emotional turbulence in Portland Opera's Turn of the Screw


Portland Opera ventured into the grim psychological territory of Benjamin Britten’s “Turn of the Screw” with much success on Saturday evening at Keller Auditorium. An exceptional cast, led by soprano Brenda Harris as the Governess, captured the haunted and emotional turmoil with incisive singing and acting. Stage director Nicholas Muni, who created the original concept of this production for Cincinnati Opera, did a marvelous job of leaving the story with its labyrinth of ambiguity, although I still blame the ghosts for the malevolence.

Harris deftly conveyed a person who was tormented by her situation. When showing resolve and courage, she sang with flinty determination and a clarion projection. When collapsing in anguish and frustration, her voice had a soft, melting quality that was perfect.

Judith Forst, in her role as Mrs. Grose, created the overwhelmed housekeeper brilliantly with a riveting soprano voice and convincing acting. As Flora, the young girl who gets caught up in the conniving actions of her brother, soprano Joélle Harvey was superb. She tone could be charming and innocent at one moment, and then devious the next. The scene in which she vengefully rebuked the Governess was stunning.

Tenor Ryan MacPherson’s made a completely convincing evil presence as Quint, and his voice dripped with all sorts of succulent sounds that lure others to their doom. Soprano Mary Phillips as the ghastly Miss Jessel was also creepily believable in tone and action.

As Miles, Michael Kepler Meo, struck the right sense of jaded attitude – a sort of evil Harry Potter. Although he is only ten years old, Meo more than carried his own weight as a singer. His treble voice had a pure, yet slightly resonant tone that carried well and he often added some power to it. Tenor Brendan Tuohy sang the role of The Prologue impeccably, and he looked like a Miles who had grown up rather than died, which was sort of spooky in its own way.

All of the principals sang with precise diction, making the supertitles unnecessary (except when two different texts were sung at the same time).

Conductor Christopher Larkin provided crisp direction to a chamber orchestra of only thirteen players. Percussionist Gordon Rencher gave a particularly outstanding performance in the way that he handled a myriad of tones and rhythms.

Under Numi’s deft direction, the erotic undercurrent in the story was accented several times, for example, when a bare-chested Miles was lying supine on a bed and beckoned the Governess to him. Fortunately, this undercurrent didn’t cross the line, and action added to the emotional and psychological turbulence rather than detract from it.

The overly large chess set near the front of the stage was an excellent metaphor for this drama, because the main characters relentlessly tried to checkmate each other. All of the action took place in an expansive room with dark curtains extending from ceiling to floor and a series of steps that led to some exceedingly tall doors (worthy of an NBA player) placed dead center in the back. The height made Quint’s descent between the folds of the curtains very impressive.

This production used an ensemble of 40 supernumeraries as servant ghosts of the mansion. Their presence added marvelously to the haunted atmosphere.

With “The Turn of the Screw,” Portland Opera brought a Benjamin Britten opera to its main stage for the first time. Over the past few years, Portland Opera’s young artists program gave outstanding performances of “The Rape of Lucretia” and “Albert Herring” at the more intimate Hampton Opera Center.

The uneasy story line in “The Turn of the Screw” and Britten’s jarring music elicited an unusual cacophony of coughing in the audience – especially in the first act – or else the hackers decided to inflict their colds on their neighbors. Perhaps they were affected by the cold-blooded Quint…

Today's Birthdays

Osian Ellis (1928)
John Williams (1932)
Elly Ameling (1933)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Stephen Roberts (1948)
Irvine Arditti (1953)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Ossip Gabrilovich (1878-1936)
Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927)
Claudia Muzio (1889-1936)
Lord Harewood (1923)
Stuart Burrows (1933)
Wolfgang van Schweintz (1953)

and

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Portland Opera's studio artists to give concert this Tuesday

The Turn of the Screw opens tonight, but don't forget that on Tuesday at Sherman Clay pianos in the Pearl District, baritone José Rubio and bass Jonathan Kimple, who are members of the Portland Opera Studio Artists program, will give a recital.



They will sing works of Mozart, Beethoven, Fauré, Hahn, Chausson, Duparc, Brahms, Tosti and Rachmaninoff.

The event is free, but there's a suggested donation of $10, which will go to the Portland Opera Studio Artists Program.

Today's Birthdays

Karl Weigl (1881-1949)
Claudio Arrau (1903-1991)
Stephen Albert (1941-1992)
Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Matthew Best (1957)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Orli Shaham inspires Portland State University musicians

With Orli Shaham at the piano, the PSU New Music Ensemble kicked it into high gear and gave a fine performance of Olivier Messiaen’s “Oiseaux Exotiques” at Kaul Auditorium last night (February 4th). Their collaboration, led by conductor Ken Selden, created a fanciful collection of bird calls, which zinged about the hall impressively and became the high point in concert that featured the ensemble in Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s “Crossing II” and PSU Symphony Orchestra in Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”).

Shaham introduced the Messiaen piece with three excerpts that included calls by the catbird, the cardinal, and the wood thrush. That provided an excellent context for the audience, which had probably never heard this work before. The New Music Ensemble started the piece demonstratively, but after Shaham started to play, they picked it up a notch. Shaham captured the colors of the bird sounds and the spiky, almost herky-jerky movement of birds. The students really got into it as well and the nervousness of the music came alive. The dramatic cut off in which everyone suddenly stops was executed perfectly, and the final countdown of chords closed out the piece very well.

The New Music Ensemble opened the concert with the Oregon premiere of Ali-Zadeh’s “Crossing II.” This piece was very quiet and almost meditative most of the way. A sustained note from the violin and the viola provided a background upon which other notes from other instruments were dropped in a seemingly random fashion. This gradually transitioned into a more rhythmic and episodic section that had a distinct (but not over pronounced) Middle Eastern flavor which tones that wiggled and slid around. I was hoping to the music break into some kind of enthusiastic whirling dervish kind of thing, but it remained reserved and seemed to cross back to the opening statement.

After intermission, the PSU orchestra delivered a solid performance of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. A few phrases in the strings were muddied and there were some intonation problems, but the students caught the spirit of the piece in fine fashion. They reserved the best for the last, because the fugue in the fourth movement displayed seamless exchanges of the theme between various sections. Also, it should be noted that principal clarinetist Thomas Salata showed a lot of sensitivity in his playing throughout the entire work.

A final note, the audience turn out was fairly good (at least 300 people) and at least 80 percent of them were students. They were very polite and listened very attentively. They also didn’t cough. It would be great to see this audience at the other concerts in town.

When music critics lash out -- the Lexicon of Musical Invective

Check out this great article in Slate in which author Jan Swafford unleashes some tirades by critics about the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and others. The best one is this screed by a critic named J.L. Klein in his 1871 "History of the Drama" on the music of Wagner:

This din of brasses, tin pans and kettles, this Chinese or Caribbean clatter with wood sticks and ear-cutting scalping knives … [t]his reveling in the destruction of all tonal essence, raging satanic fury in the orchestra, this demoniacal lewd caterwauling, scandal-mongering, gun-toting music … the darling of feeble-minded royalty, …of the court flunkeys covered with reptilian slime, and of the blasé hysterical female court parasites … inflated, in an insanely destructive self-aggrandizement, by Mephistopheles' mephitic and most venomous hellish miasma, into Beelzebub's Court Composer and General Director of Hell's Music—Wagner!


Swafford points out that this outrageous opinion and many others of music critics have been compiled in book entitled "Lexicon of Musical Invective," which was written by conductor, theorist, and scholar Nicholas Slonimsky. (Man, I'm going to have to get this book and find out how I can do my job better!) I hope that you enjoy reading the article as much as I have.

Today's Birthdays

Ole Bull (1810-1880)
Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798)
Jussi Björling (1911-1960)
Sir John Pritchard (1921-1989)
John Poole (1934)
Ivan Tcherepnin (1943-1998)
Josef Protschka (1944)
Phylis Bryn-Julson (1945)

and

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron (1934)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stats on being a composer in America

The American Music Center recently completed a study called "Taking Note"about the current situation with American composers. Here are the highlights:

- Being a professional composer is a three-quarter time job. Composers spend 27 hours per week on average on composition activity. They earn a median annual income of $45,000 from all of their activities, not exclusively from composing;

- Three-quarters of those surveyed considered themselves to be professional composers, but only 10% made their primary living from that work;

- Two-thirds of professional composers perform their own music, not relying solely on others to produce and present their work;

- Composers are utilizing new technologies to connect with audiences directly, and growing numbers are establishing careers through these connections.

- In addition to nearly 100 interviews conducted in 8 cities across the country, Taking Note includes eleven “spotlights” on innovative ways in which composers are crafting careers and contributing to the new music ecology.

Okay, I have to confess that I haven't seen the term "new music ecology" before, but what the heck, I'll go for it. Maybe blogs like this one are seen as a way to create a healthy new music ecology. Hm...

Violin master class with Jun Iwasaki at the Community Music Center

This Friday (Feb. 6th), you can watch Jun Iwasaki, concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, work with selected students in a master class at the Community Music Center from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The CMC is located at 3350 SE Francis Street in Portland. Donations will be accepted.

Tough times for the arts

The current recession is taking its toll on arts organizations everywhere. I was going to list some of the news reports on cutbacks, but Charles Noble in his has already done that. To add to the lamenting times, Decca is also going out of business according to this Norman Lebrecht article in La Scena Musicale - despite the fact that they have a number one hit on their hands.

Today's Birthdays

Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993)
Jutta Hipp (1925-2003)
Martti Talvela (1935-1989)

and also

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All-Brahms chamber music concert with Dubays and Janet Guggenheim

Violinist Jonathan Dubay, cellist Gregory Dubay, and pianist Janet Guggenheim will play three Brahms pieces at Sherman Clay Pianos on Thursday evening (Feb. 5th) at 7 pm. The concert is free and open to the public - no ticket required. Sherman Clay Pianos is located in the Pearl District at 131 NW 13th Ave.

Here's the program:

· Trio in B Major for Violin, Cello and Piano, Opus 8
· Cello Sonata in E Minor, Opus 38
· Violin Sonata in A Major, Opus 100

Jonathan Dubay is a member of the Oregon Symphony and has performed chamber music concerts throughout the United States as a member of the Essex Quartet.

Gregory Dubay is the Executive Director of the Community Music Center and was the principal cellist of the Honolulu Symphony.

Janet Guggenheim has given recitals throughout the world both as soloist and collaborative artist, performing with such illustrious musicians as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, YoYo Ma, Gary Karr, Ransom Wilson and Pierre Fournier. She is a faculty member at Portland State University and pianist of the Florestan Trio.

Lukas Foss, composer, pianist, and conductor, dies at 86

Foss died on Sunday at the age of 86. Click here for the New York Times report.

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)
Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986)
Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975)
Helga Dernesch (1939)

and

Georg Trakl (1887-1914)
Alvar Aalto (1898-1978)
Simone Weil (1909-1943)

Upcoming CRPDX Events: Free Concert Downtown at Noon on February 4

Following is a press release from Classical Revolution Portland:

That's right folks, we're gettin' classy. CRPDX @ The Old Church - 1422 SW 11thFebruary 4th, 200912pm, free! Members of Classical Revolution PDX are delighted to perform luminous works of the twentieth century including a duo for Flute and Piano by Aaron Copland, three short pieces for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke, and Claude Debussy's Danses Sacreé et Profane and Sonata for Flute, Harp and Viola. It's at noon, you can bring your lunch and it's FREE!

And be sure to save the date:

February 18th - Chamber jam at the Someday Lounge - 9pm. Performances of the Fantasie for harp and violin by Saint-Saens, two songs for alto, viola, and piano by Brahms, Recitativo and Scherzo by Fritz Kreisler, a baroque trio sonata, and a special performance of the trio for flute, harp and viola by Debussy.

March 13th - Second Fridays @ The Community Music Center -7pm Family Friendly!!

March 15th - Bachxing Day version 2.1 @ The Someday Lounge 9pm. Official Bachxing day festivities have been rescheduled to celebrate Bach's birthday. Members of CRPDX perform their own interpretations of Bach concertos, partitas, cello suites and more. Plus, create your own ridiculous Bach names, puns and haikus. We hope to see you at a Classical Revolution PDX event soon!



Mattie Kaiser

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ken Selden talks about the PSU Symphony and upcoming concert with Orli Shaham


Ken Selden, music director and conductor of the Portland State University Symphony Orchestra, will lead the orchestra in a concert with the internationally acclaimed pianist Orli Shaham this Wednesday at 8 pm at Kaul Auditorium. They will play Olivier Messiaen’s “Oiseaux Exotiques” with Shaham and will also perform the Oregon premiere of Franghis Ali-Zade’s “Crossing II” and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Italian Symphony.” The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for seiniors, $8 for students, and free to those with PSU or Reed College ID.

Since his arrival at PSU, Selden has picked up two national awards (from ASCAP) for adventurous programming in the university/conservatory division. That’s quite an accomplishment for PSU and its music department.

I caught up with Selden at a coffee shop near PSU and peppered him with a few questions about

It’s pretty amazing that you can get internationally acclaimed artists to come and play with your orchestra. How do you do that?

Selden – It's definitely unusual for artists of this caliber to be performing with a university orchestra. In this case, we're talking about musicians that I've worked with in the past, or have a close connection with, through mutual friends. The first year I was here we invited Awadagin Pratt, and last year we worked with Matt Haimovitz. We talk to the soloists and see if they're interested in the project we're doing. The funding for bringing them here comes from the Instrumental Music Club, which is a student-run organization at PSU that is funded by general fees.

Orli Shaham has played the Messiaen piece before with the Baltimore Symphony and other orchestras. When I spoke to the students about someone we could bring, they were interested in "Oiseaux Exotiques" and in her. In some cases, we might speak to an agent to see if that artist might have an interest in our project. Orli Shaham travels quite a bit, and during the summer she was on tour in Australia with her husband. Both were playing with different ensembles at that time. We couldn't reach her on the road, so we had her agent ask her, and she said yes! It's unusual for a university orchestra to play Messiean, so that must have appealed to her.

So the Instrumental Music Club takes care of Shaham’s fees?

Selden – Yes. Most universities have resources for student organizations and usually the funds go to sports and social activities like dances. But PSU has shown a lot of enthusiasm to support the Instrumental Music Club. Before I joined the PSU faculty, I had heard that the club brought Janos Starker here for master classes. That really attracted my attention. So, I wanted to expand that to concertos, and bring the orchestra up to a level that would allow for collaborations.

n addition to guest artist fees, it also costs a lot of money to rent new music, which is maybe why university orchestras tend to stick to standard repertoire. Fortunately, our department chair Bryan Johanson, who is a composer as well, has supported my interest in new music. I've found a lot of good things happening here. PSU started a music education degree about three years ago and that has already been very successful. The concerto competition winner this year, for example, is a music education student. We continue to develop our performance programs as well.

On Wednesday’s concert, you'll also perform a piece by Franghis Ali-Zade called “Crossing II”


Selden – This Azerbaijani work is by a composer who was discovered by the Kronos Quartet. Ali-Zade has performed as pianist with the Kronos Quartet and has composed several pieces for them. Her music combines flavors, it's Azerbaijani in one sense - with a middle eastern flavor. This piece has a drone with a dissonance set up against it, and it has rhythmic passages that are in the contemporary style of classical music. If you listen to some traditional Azerbaijani music on YouTube you can hear these connections. "Crossing II" is for a small ensemble with just one person on every part, but you?ve got the ability to create orchestral tutti gestures as well.

n the first part of this piece, Ali-Zade writes a dotted line for every second. You might have a series of notes that are placed in there or sustained through that second. The conductor measures how many seconds are going by, and then you place your note during that period of time. The second part of the piece is more rhythmical. She does not write bar lines, just music, and the conductor gives the pulse. The ensemble plays rhythmic patterns within that pulse. Some are in unison and some in counterpoint, but it?s in very irregular meters. Other sections are more metered. There?s a dreamy quality to the beginning and end, where the harp joins in. In describing this piece, Ali-Zade has used metaphors like rivers and crossing borders. It's an imaginary landscape. I'm excited to be doing this piece for the first time.

In choosing contemporary repertoire, I look to see what is being performed by major orchestras around the world and in the US, and try to figure out what hasn?t been done here. We are finding that a lot of people are interested in hearing these works. We were the first in Portland to perform Magnus Lindberg?s "Coyote Blues" and the "Chamber Symphony" by Thomas Adès. Both are fantastic pieces that have been played all over the world but never here.

Tell us about Messiaen’s “Oiseaux Exotiques.”

Selden – Messiaen wrote this piece after he became obsessed with the sounds of birds. "Oiseaux Exotiques" belongs with other pieces that Messiaen wrote for his wife, Yvonne Loriod, in concerto style, and I think that they are his most important contribution to the repertoire. He wrote these pieces for solo piano and winds, brass and percussion, and left out the strings. The strings seemed to become less connected in his mind to the birds. Every ten years or so he would write a new piece with this instrumentation. These are very important works because he would explore how to combine, in counterpoint, the sound of birds. In "Oiseaux Exotiques," there is incredible interaction between various birds from all over the world that would never be in the same place in nature. He would transcribe bird songs while sitting in a field or forest or from recordings. He would combine them in the way that other composers would combine motives, and created a brilliant landscape of birds. It's an amazing piece.

This concert is called "Supernatural." It's not about the depiction of a familiar natural landscape, but something more vivid and fantastic. With Messiaen he is transforming the bird sound and creating a brilliant musical texture. You?re not supposed to identify certain birds when listening to the piece. It?s more about musical exploration. When I went to college, I wasn?t interested in this music at all, but one day much later it struck me and now I try to do Messiaen everywhere I go. It can open up a new world for people.

And you’ll finish the concert with the Mendelssohn.


Selden – It will be interesting to hear Mendelssohn after hearing the other pieces. I like the idea of people coming off the street and into the concert hall and hearing contemporary works and then later in the concert going backwards in order to hear a piece that was created much earlier. I think that listening to contemporary pieces first help to refresh and clear the mind. Then you're ready for some Mendelssohn.

I’ve never experienced a concert that way before. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Selden – Great! See you at the concert!

----

Orli Shaham is giving the master class on Tuesday night at 7 pm ESB 183. It’s not a big room, so it might be packed. The instrument club selected the students that will play during the master class. Orli Shaham with to Juilliard pre-college and to Columbia University and hosts a classical music radio program in Los Angeles.

Today's Birthdays

Louis Marchand (1669-1732)
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)
Stan Getz (1927-1991)
Skip Battin (1934-2003)
Martina Arroyo (1937)
Sir Andrew Davis (1944)
Ursula Oppens (1944)

Also

James Joyce (1882-1941)
James Dickey (1923-1997)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iwasaki makes smashing debut with the Oregon Symphony

There was a heightened sense of occasion in the air Saturday night at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall. Jun Iwasaki, the gifted 26-year-old concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, gave a smashing performance of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Combining pinpoint accuracy with emotional understanding, Iwasaki revealed the beauty of this lush, Romantic work and made it sparkle. Together with oustanding playing by his colleagues in the orchestra, Iwasaki swept the audience off of its feet and received a sustained standing ovation.

But it wasn’t just the performance by Iwasaki and the orchestra in the Korngold that made the evening so remarkable. The orchestra, led by music director and conductor Carlos Kalmar, was at the top of its game in every piece on the program. The ensemble gave superbly nuanced interpretations of Mozart’s March in C major and his Symphony No. 40 in G minor as well as a very evocative rendition of “Salome’s Dance” from Richard Strauss’ opera “Salome.” It would be easy to gush all over the place about the orchestra’s performance, because it was so damn good.

I really liked the way that Iwasaki came almost to the lip of the stage for the Korngold concerto. The few extra steps forward helped to connect him with the audience and it also probably helped with the sound projection from his violin, because he could easily get washed out by the big waves of sound from the orchestra. He displayed fantastic artistry throughout the piece, whether maneuvering through devilishly tricky cadenzas or capturing a wistful mood with a sweet, silky tone or applying a zing in the middle of a dance.

The orchestra got plenty of licks in as well. Niel DePonte’s playing on the xylophone shimmered just right. The sound from flutists David Buck and Alicia DiDonato Paulsen pirouetted gracefully at one point in the third movement. All of the strings joined Iwasaki with bows going up and out on the last note – it was sonically and visually appealling.

The concert began with a little known march by Mozart. Yet it was a mini gem, because it contained wonderfully contrasting themes that this orchestra played with élan. Just when I caught onto the playful and spirited theme, the orchestra would shift to the one that was more lyrical. It seemed almost a shame that it had to end after five minutes, but that’s all that Mozart gave us.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, on the other hand, is a very well-known work, and the cool thing about the orchestra’s playing was how Kalmar and Company made it sound so fresh and inviting. They gave a wonderfully nuanced interpretation in the way that they chose to emphasize some notes here and there and with precise, totally unified playing – especially in the demanding passages for the strings. The woodwinds and horns were terrific also, and, the first movement of this piece was played so well that the audience broke into applause. Actually, the audience might have been somewhat stunned, because it was absolutely quiet throughout. I did not hear one cough. Everyone seemed to be listening very intently and genuinely moved by the work at the end. You would think that the 21st Century would be too jaded for Mozart, but that it not so when an orchestra rises to the top level.

Although it could have relaxed and cooled its heels, the orchestra captured the last piece on the program, Strauss’ “Salome’s Dance,” with a very evocative performance. The orchestra, delving into the sinuous music, successfully created the lurid atmosphere, even the waltz-like passages had a sinister, almost grotesque feel. Among the many highlights of the concert was the playing of principal violist Joël Belgique, principal flutist David Buck, and principal oboist Martin Hebert.

-------

Before the concert began, Kalmar presented the 2009 Patty Vemer Music Educator of the Year Award to Donna Kagan, who teaches music at Stafford Primary School in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. Kagan directs two choirs with more than 100 members, several student musicals, and the summer music and drama camp for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade. It’s great to hear about the work of teachers like Kagan and to recognize their efforts with an award and a gift of $1,000.

Another note: in the audience I sat next to a board member who told me that 700 people attended the dress rehearsal on Saturday morning. That was one of the largest dress rehearsal crowds in quite a while.

Second Anniversary of Northwest Reverb

Today is the second anniversary of this blog. It continues to be a lot of fun to write about music and the people who make music. Over the past year, Lorin Wilkerson has added his commentary, and I've included other writers here and there. From February 1, 2008 through January 31, 2009, this blog received 25,180 from 14,311 unique visitors. Thank you for stopping by and reading the postings. I'll be looking at new ways to improve Northwest Reverb as time allows. I hope that you enjoy reading it.

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Stradivari 1671-1743
Victor Herbert 1859-1924
Clara Butt (1872-1936)
Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004)

and

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Galway Kinnell (1927)

Today is SuperBach Sunday

The Bach Cantata Choir, led by Ralph Nelson, is presenting its annual SuperBach Sunday concert today at 2pm at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. The concert will be done before the SuperBowl begins. Here's the program:

J. S. Bach Orchestral Suite in B Minor, Abby Mages, flute
Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697): Muss nicht der Mensch auf dieser Erden
J. S. Bach: Cantata 159, Sehet! Wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem (Behold! We Go Up to Jerusalem)
J. S. Bach: Cantata 137, Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty)

Rose City Park Presbyterian Church
NE 44th and Sandy
FREE Admission -- doors open at 1:30pm
Free will offering will be taken.