Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview with Jack Allen of All Classical FM

I interviewed Jack Allen, the head honcho at KQAC, and published our conversation in Oregon Music News.

I've been out of town and will be catching up with events in Portland soon.

Today's Birthdays

Carl Loewe (1796-1869)
Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
Ray Henderson (1896-1970)
Gunther Herbig (1931)
Walter Weller (1939)
Radu Lupu (1945)
Semyon Bychkov (1952)

and

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Jacques Barzun (1907)
David Mamet (1947)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Portland Symphonic Choir's Wintersong concert coming up

Wintersong is the Portland Symphonic Choir's annual multi-cultural holiday concert with something for everyone. This year's version will offer music for choirs, brass, percussion, plus narration by Gretchen Corbett, singalongs, and guest choir Rex Putnam High School.

Here's some more information from the press release:
The highlight of the concert is Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols” arranged for all four voices, with harp accompaniment. Based on Renaissance-era songs, the movements alternate between haunting, lilting, and vigorous singing with challenging tempos and harmonies. Britten sets a mood of worship and anticipation that makes you imagine crystalline Christmas nights of long ago. Gabrieli’s fabulous “Hodie Christus Natus Est” tosses peals of joyful cries between multiple choirs. The King’s Singers made “A Little Christmas Music” famous, with its warm and familiar carols such as the Wassailing song, “Little Drummer Boy,” and more. A Swahili song of praise with percussion, “Mungu ni pendo,” adds a bright bounce. In contrast, Shaw’s arrangement of Vittoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium” is achingly hushed.

Representing Hanukkah, the Choir sings an exciting new arrangement of the traditional hymn to the Rock of Ages, “Maoz Tsur.” And Epstein’s arrangement of “Ozi ve Zimrat Yah (My Strength),” is an exotically rhythmic setting of Psalm 118. To honor another ancient tradition, “A Winter Solstice Ritual” combines calm chanting with an organ accompaniment trilling sounds of nature to hearken back to primeval ceremonies of the sun.

Joining us this year with their youthful energy will be Rex Putnam High School choir, directed by John Baker. This outstanding group has placed in the top four choirs 16 years out of 22 in the OSAA State Choir Championship, and has earned three state titles. They will lift their voices in several inspiring songs of the season.
The concert takes place on December 12th at 7:30 pm and Sunday, December 13th at 2:30 pm at St. Mary’s Cathedral (NW 18th & Davis in Portland).

Tickets : $25 for open seating/ $35 for reserved seating. Students 1/2 price, accompanied children under 12 free. Contact Box Office Tickets at www.boxofficetickets.com, call 503-205-0715 or toll free at 1-800-494-8497; or go on the Choir web site at www.pschoir.org.

Today's Birthdays

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967)
John Brecknock (1937)
Chuck Mangione (1940)
Louise Winter (1959)

and

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
Pamela Harrison (1915-1990)
Randy Newman (1943)
Diedre Murray (1951)

and

John Bunyan (1628-1688)
William Blake (1757-1827)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today's Birhdays

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-1678)
Sir Julian Benedict (1804-1885)
Charles Koechlin (1867-1950)
Leon Barzin (1900-1999)
Walter Klien (1928-1991)
Helmut Lachenmann (1935)
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
David Felder (1953)
Victoria Mullova (1959)
Hilary Hahn (1979)

and

James Agee (1909-1955)
Bill Nye (1955)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


I'm thankful for all of the terrific musicians who are willing to share their talents. Portland, in particular, is blessed with people who love to make music. Music helps to define our culture, and our lives are improved through music.

I'm thankful for all of you who have stopped by to read this blog. Some of you may have missed an earlier posting regarding my writing for Oregon Music News. Yes, you'll now find more of my writings over there than here at Northwest Reverb, but I intend to keep Northwest Reverb going, and my colleague, Lorin, will be sharing his thoughts from time to time as well.

Today's Birthdays

Earl Wild (1915)
Eugene Istomin (1925-2003)
John Sanders (1933-2003)
Craig Sheppard (1947)
Vivian Tierney (1957)
Spencer Topel (1979)

and

Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994)
Marilynne Robinson (1943)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991)
Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)
Sir John Drummond (1934-2006)
Jean-Claude Malgoire (1940)
Håkan Hagegård (1945)
Yvonne Kenny (1950)
Gilles Cachemaille (1951)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
Norman Walker (1907-1963)
Erik Bergman (1911)
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
Maria Chiara (1939)
Chinary Ung (1942)
Tod Machover (1953)
Jouni Kaipainen (1956)
Edgar Meyer (1960)
Angelika Kirchschlager (1965)

and

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
Arundhati Roy (1961)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview with Ken Selden

My interview with conductor Ken Selden about the collaboration between the PSU Symphony and Portland Ballet is in Oregon Music News here.

Review of Oregon Symphony's concert - Mendelssohn, Mozart, Dutilleux, and Berlioz

Oregon Music News has my review of the Oregon Symphony's concert this weekend. This is a terrific concert that shows off its principal members, and the orchestra is doing it again this evening.

Review of Columbia Symphony's Shakespeare concert

My review of the Columbia Symphony's Shakepeare concert is in Oregon Music News here.

Today's Birthdays

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Jerry Bock (1928)
Vigen Derderian (1929-2003)
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933)
Ludovico Einaudi (1955)
Thomas Zehetmair (1961)
Ed Harsh (1962)

and

Paul Celan (1920-1950)
Jennifer Michael Hecht (1965)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rattle rollercoaster with the Berlin Philharmonic again on the upside

According to this article by Mark Swed in the LA Times, Sir Simon is riding a new wave of popularity after years of pushing the orchestra too far afield.

Today's Birthdays

St. Cecilia
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Lord Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Gunther Schuller (1925)
Jimmy Knepper (1927-2003)
Hans Zender (1936)
Kent Nagano (1951)
Stephen Hough (1961)
Sumi Jo (1962)

and

George Eliot (1819-1880)
André Gide (1869-1951)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)
Bernard Lagacé (1930)
Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003)
James DePreist (1936)
Idil Biret (1941)
Vinson Cole (1950)
Kyle Gann (1955)
Stewart Wallace (1960)
Björk (1965)

and

Voltare (1694-1778)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Marilyn French (1929-2009)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Today's Birthdays

René Kolo (1937)
Gary Karr (1941)
Meredith Monk (1942)
Phillip Kent Bimstein (1947)
Barbara Hendricks (1948)

and

Nadine Gordimer (1923)
Maya Plisetskaya (1925)
Don DeLillo, (1936)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mei-Ann Chen on Baltimore Symphony staff

Mei-Ann Chen, former music director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic, is currently on the conducting roster at the Baltimore Symphony (Marin Alsop's band). Click here for a link to Chen's bio on the BSO website.

According to the bio, Chen has a busy year ahead:
During the 2009-2010 season, Ms. Chen will make debuts with the Alabama Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Fort Worth Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony, Memphis Symphony and Toronto Symphony, as well as return engagements with the Atlanta Symphony and Taiwan National Symphony.

Götterdämmerung finale with Solti, Nilsson, and the Vienna Philharmonic

Sir George is on fire! Nilsson is incredible - as is the VPO!



Thanks to Bob Priest for finding this gem.

Advice for critics

"Arrive sober, stay awake, stay to the end and don't take a bribe unless it is big enough to allow you to retire in comfort for the rest of your life."

- Charles Spencer, the Telegraph's chief theatre critic (from an article in The Guardian)

Thanks to Monica Hayes (the Education & Community Engagement Director at the Oregon Symphony) for this tidbit!

Today's Birthdays

Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1959-1935)
Géza Anda (1921-1976)
David Lloyd-Jones (1934)
Agnes Baltsa (1944)
Ross Bauer (1951)

and

Allen Tate (1899-1979)
Sharon Olds (1942)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anne Midgette answers classical music's persistant questions

Anne Midgette, the classical music critic of the Washington Post, talks with NPR's Tom Huizenga in this fascinating article. You hear her talk by clicking on an audio snippet or read the text.

Here are the questions that she responds to:

1) The Recording Industry Implodes: What Happened?

2) Wait A Minute! I'm Marketing My Own Compositions: How Has the Internet Impacted Musicians?

3) Can the Internet Save the Soul of Classical Journalism?

4) The Sound of Music: Are Composers Writing Differently?

5) Box Office Bummer: Why Are Ticket Sales Slumping?

6) Pavarotti Is Dead: Does It Matter?

7) Exciting Youngsters: Can They Reignite The Classics?

8) Don't Touch That Dial! Will Classical Radio Survive?

9) A Decade In Transition: Is Classical Music In Better Shape Now?

10) A Classical Crystal Ball: What's In The Future?

Today's Birthdays

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941)
Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985)
Lillian Fuchs (1901-1995)
Compay Segundo (1907-2003)
Johnny Mercer (1909-1976)
Don Cherry (1936)
Heinrich Schiff (1951)
Bernard d'Ascoli (1958)

and

Margaret Atwood (1939)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review of The Florestan Trio concert

This review of mine is also in Oregon Music News. The concert took place at the Old Church on Sunday evening (November 15).

Today's Birthdays

Ernest Lough (1911-2000)
Leonid Kogan (1924-1982)
Sir Charles Mackerras (1925)
David Amram (1930)
Gene Clark (1941-1991)
Philip Picket (1950)
Philip Grange (1956)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review of Portland Symphonic Choir - Brahms Requiem

You can find my review of the Brahms Requiem that was performed by the Portland Symphonic Choir on Sunday afternoon (November 15th) in Oregon Music News.

Review of Portland Youth Philharmonic concert

Please click here to read my review of the Portland Philharmonic concert that took place on Saturday evening (November 14) at the Schnitz.

Conversation with Oregon Symphony soloists

In Oregon Music News, I've published an interview with the four members of the Oregon Symphony who will be featured this weekend in Mozart's "Sinfoinia concertante." The interview contains a lot of information about this piece, which has been reconstructed by Robert Levin - partly because the original has been lost. You'll find some humor sprinkled throughout the interview as well. The interviewees - Carin Miller, David Buck, Martin Hebert, and John Cox. All of them are principals with the orchestra, and they take turns ribbing each other.

Today's Birthdays

W. C. Handy (1873-1958)
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Burnet Tuthill (1888-1982)
Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960)
David Wilson-Johnson (1950)
Donald Runnicles (1954)

and

George S. Kaufman (1889-1961)
Andrea Barrett (1954)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marrowstone Music Festival - on the staff - correction

I was at the Portland Youth Philharmonic concert last night and noticed an ad for the Marrowstone Music Festival in the program. The ad lists the staff at Marrowstone and it includes on Oregon Symphony principal trombonist Aaron LaVere (who is currently on leave from the orchestra and playing in Korea) and one our nation's very best clarinetists, Todd Palmer. Marrowstone is scheudled to run from July 25 through August 8 next summer in Bellingham, Washington.

Correction
See the comment below from Marrowstone's Britt Madsen. Apparently, Aaron LeVere will not be on the Marrowstone staff this summer.

Today's Birthdays

Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-1980)
Petula Clark (1932)
Peter Dickinson (1934)
Daniel Barenboim (1942)
Pierre Jalbert (1967)

and

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946)
Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986)
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Fanny Hensel (1805-1847)
Rev. John Curwen (1816-1880)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Leonie Rysanek (1926-1998)
Jorge Bolet (1914-1990)
Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)
Robert Lurtsema (1931-2000)
Ellis Marsalis (1934)
Peter Katin (1930)
William Averitt (1948)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vancouver Symphony (WA) concert features guest conductor

In today's Columbian newspaper, I've got a preview of the Vancouver Symphony's concerts with guest conductor Richard Rintoul.

Third Angle scores again


According to this report in dramma per musica (aka Bob Kingston)the Third Angle New Music ensemble will be the pit orchestra for Portland Opera's production of Trouble in Tahiti. Congrats to Ron Blessenger and co. This production will feature the Portland Opera Studio Artists and will take place in the Newmark Theatre.

Today's Birthdays

Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817-1870)
Brinley Richards (1817-1885)
George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931)
Marguerite Long (1874-1966)
Joonas Kokkoken (1921-1996)
Lothar Zagrosek (1942)
Martin Bresnick (1946)

and

St. Augustine (354-430)
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Third Angle invited to new music festival in Beijing

If you can read Chinese, it would be a great help to Ron Blessinger and the 3Aers. Click here for more details.

Brett Campbell on Henry Cowell in the WWJ

Brett Campbell (Willamette Week's classical music guy) has an article in the Wall Street Journal about the influence of Henry Cowell and a music festival that will feature Cowell's works. Click here to read the story.

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887
Jean Papineau-Couture (1916-2000)
Lucia Popp (1939-1993)
Neil Young (1945)

and

Michael Ende (1929-1995)
Tracy Kidder (1945)

PS: Courtesy of New Music Box:
On November 12, 1925, cornetist Louis Armstrong made the first recordings with a group under his own name for Okeh Records in Chicago, Illinois. The group, called Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, recorded his original compositions, "Gut Bucket Blues" and "Yes! I'm In The Barrel" (Okeh 8261) as well as "My Heart" composed by his wife Lil Hardin who was the pianist in the band. (The flipside of the 78rpm record on which the latter was issued, Okeh 8320, was "Armstrong's composition "Cornet Chop Suey" recorded three months later on February 26, 1926.) Armstrong's Hot Five and subsequent Hot Seven recordings are widely considered to be the earliest masterpieces of recorded jazz.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Charles Noble gives a glimpse into orchestra auditions

One thing I admire about Charles Noble, principal violist with the Oregon Symphony, is the candor he brings to classical music from the perspective of an orchestra member. His most recent blog post tells of his failure to get a job with the LA Philharmonic. That's Dudamel's new band, if you haven't been keeping up with things. The baseline salary for orchestra members there is over $100,000, and Noble was aiming for the assistant principal violist job, which would pay a lot more.

The upshot of Noble's posting is that auditioning sucks. He doesn't go into a lot of detail, but if you've ever auditioned for anything, you know how nerve-wracking it can be. Trying for a prestigious position with American's hottest orchestra would require a sedative for most people. For a more in depth account of Noble's willingness to stress himself out to the max, you've got to read his postings on trying out for the assistant principal position with the Seattle Symphony. He almost nailed that one. (The links to that story are in the second paragraph of his current posting.)

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841)
Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969)
Jan Simons (1925-2006)
Arthur Cunningham (1928-1997)
Vernon Handley (1930)
Harry Bramma (1936)
Jennifer Bate (1944)
Naji Hakim (1955)

and

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Carlos Fuentes (1928)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
François Couperin (1668-1733
Graham Clark (1941)
Sir Tim Rice (1944)
Andreas Scholl (1967)

and

Oliver Goldsmith (1730 - 1774)
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Pierrette Alarie (1921)
Piero Cappuccilli (1929-2005)
Ivan Moravec (1930)
William Thomas McKinley (1938)
Thomas Quasthoff (1959)
Bryn Terfel (1965)

and

Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Video and pics from roundtable with Philip Glass

Here's a short clip from the roundtable last week with Philip Glass. In the video, Glass talks about "Orphée."

video

Roundtable panelists Bob Hicks (Art Scatter) and Marty Hughley (The Oregonian):



Hicks, Hughley, and Stephen Llewellyn (Operaman):



Brett Campbell (Willamette Week) and Bob Kingston (dramma per musica) -- Bob is holding his LP of Einstein on the Beach:



I posted the roundtable discussion on Oregon Music News here.

For my review of "Orphée" click here.

Seattle Rep delivers a knock-out with 'Opus'

Seattle Repertory Theatre turns to music as a central theme with playwright Michael Hollinger’s hilarious, moving, and insightful work Opus at the Leo K. Theatre. The play offers a detailed look into the frenetic existence of the imaginary world-class Lazara Quartet as they begin preparations for the gig of a lifetime at the White House. They have only one week to prepare the monumental Beethoven string quartet Opus 131 with brand-new violist Grace (Chelsey Rives), a fresh-faced, idealistic young woman who presents a stark contrast to the world-weary companions who have made music together for decades.

Hollinger’s insight as a violist who has played many string quartets was obvious; judicious name-dropping, high-brow insider’s jokes and the occasional below-the-belt one liner were present throughout, and even when the play got more serious as it moved toward the climax there were countless, genuinely hilarious moments. His portrayal of the volcanic frustrations and sometimes uncomfortable intimacy thrust upon men of mercurial temperament who have worked together so closely for so long, on something as personal as this music, never comes off as anything other than sincere. The love, cynicism and rancor between the men, and sometimes between them and their music, paints an honest, multi-layered portrait of these complex relationships.

The delivery by the five actors was by and large extremely convincing, and their timing was impeccable in the oft razor-sharp repartee called for by Hollinger’s dialogue. Of particular note was Allen Fitzpatrick’s brilliant performance as Elliot, the harried, antagonistic first violinist who is tormented by the fact that his lover Dorian (Todd Jefferson Moore), who is a much better musician than he, had been relegated to the viola despite Dorian’s superior skills, his ability to “hear things that we don’t,” as the second violinist portrayed by Shawn Belyea puts it.

The structure of the work is non-linear and consists of many flashbacks that flesh out the circumstances behind Dorian’s mysterious disappearance, shortly after erratic behavior forces his ouster from the quartet at the beginning of the play. One feels genuine sympathy for the plight of this bi-polar genius whose unpredictable personality dooms any attempt to seal the rifts in his disintegrating relationship with the maddeningly self-absorbed Elliot. Rapid-fire changes of the minimalist set served to highlight the quick firing-off of the flashback sequences, and the soundtrack was poignant and familiar; lots of Bach, and Beethoven. Hollinger succeeds marvelously in portraying the passion, love and conflict the characters feel toward their music and each other; indeed one of Hollinger’s stated purposes was to use the intimacy of the players as an allegorical tool to portray the inter-play between the instruments in a string quartet.

One might have liked a bit more (indeed, any at all) finger-movement by the actors as an added verisimilitude, but thanks to Hollinger’s clever writing, the time-span in which the audience watches the group ’play’ music without moving their fingers across the neck is relatively short. The structure is such that the play takes about 90 minutes and is uninterrupted by intermission, so that by the time the shocker at the finale takes place, the audience is breathless and wondering if it’s actually over. The standing ovation was well-deserved.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review of Orphée

My review of Portland Opera's "Orphée" will be posted on Oregon Music News tomorrow. I'll also have a posting about last week's roundtable with Philip Glass. I'll provide links to these articles tomorrow.

Update: in case you missed the link to the review, click here.

Interviews with Portland Symphonic choristers in Hollywood Star newspaper

I've written an article about five members of the Portland Symphonic Choir for the November issue of The Hollywood Star newspaper. The piece highlights the backgrounds and musical contributions that these singers have made through the PSC. It also mentions the upcoming concert on Sunday in which the choir will perform Brahms Requiem with Richard Zeller and Georgia Jarman. Jarman, btw, is featured as Eurydice in the current Portland Opera production of "Orphee."

The article for the Hollywood Star is not available on line. However, you can find copies of the paper in NE area coffee shops. All of the interviewees live in NE Portland. They are Jerry and Mary Nelson, Sue Nelson, Maria Hein, and Jim Maddry.

Today's Birthdays

Sir Arnold Bax (1883-19530
Lamberto Gardelli (1915-1938)
Jerome Hines (1921-2003)
Richard Stoker (1938)
Simon Standage (1941)
Judith Zaimont (1945)
Tadaaki Otaka (1947)
Elizabeth Gale (1948)
Bonnie Raitt (1949)
Ana Vidović (1980)

and

Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995)
William Alwyn (1905-1985)
Al Hirt (1922-1999)
Dame Joan Sutherland (1926)
Dame Gwyneth Jones (1937)
Joni Mitchell (1943)
Judith Forst (1943)
Christina Viola Oorebeek (1944_

and

Albert Camus (1913-1960)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Two fund-raising concerts

Recital Benefit for All Classical KQAC FM

Pianist Julia Hwakyu Lee presents music of Bach, Liszt, Amy Beach and Prokofiev. Lee teaches music at Portland State University and the University of Portland.

Friday, November 06 at 7:30pm
World Trade Center Auditorium (121 S.W. Salmon in downtown Portland)

Admission $15, $10 for seniors 65 and over, $5 for students with ID. Tickets available at the door.

Dueling Divas Part Deux

Alexis Hamilton and Diane Syrcle join forces again in a program that includes The Flower Duet from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Mira o Norma from Bellini's Norma, selections from Aaron Copland's Old American Songs, Kurt Weill's Broadway Album, plus arias from Rusalka, La Favorita, Samson et Dalila, and Tosca.

Saturday, November 07 at 7:30pm
Bridgeport United Church of Christ (621 N.E. 76th Avenue in Portland)

Tickets $15 per person; seating is limited. Dessert and silent auction are included.

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Sax (1814-1894)
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
Don Lusher (1923-2006)
James Bowman (1941)
Arturo Sandoval (1949)
Daniele Gatti (1961)

and

Robert Musil (1880-1942)
Harold Ross (1892-1951)
James Jones (1921-1977)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Filmusik turns to the kaiju genre with 'Gamera vs. Guiron'


Filmusik, an enterprise that combines film with live entertainment in a hearkening-back to the days of yore, presented the first performance of the Japanese cult classic 'Gamera vs. Guiron' last night at the Hollywood Theatre. Members of Classical Revolution Portland delivered live music by composer Galen Huckens, the Willamette Radio Workshop provided voice actors and live sound effects were by David Ian, Pat Janowski and friends.

An enthusiastic showing of geeks, film buffs, and scenesters of all schools and ages showed up for the premier. Huckens' composition began the film with a pleasant, pastoral spacescape, accompanied by a rich voice-over monologue extolling the wonders of the limitless universe. 'Over-the-top' was the watch-phrase of the evening, as the foley (sound effects) crew and voice actors paid imaginative homage to the campy production values of the movie. The intense concentration and accurate timing of the foley artists was something to behold all evening long; many times all four of them were producing more than one effect simultaneously, with an impressive variety of objects: balloons, rattles, voice synthesizers, even a hand-cranked wind machine came into play.

The kaiju genre of films (kaiju are monsters, more or less; think of Godzilla as the king of the kaiju) are renowned for their hokey production limits and histrionic emotional scope, and because of that they have retained a large cult following to this day. Gamera, a giant, fanged, flying space-turtle who can retract all his limbs and turn them into smoky, flame-belching jet engines, was well-known as a 'friend to children,' as the film repeatedly stated.

The main protagonists, two young boys who board an abandoned spacecraft and mistakenly launch themselves to the evil alter-ego of Earth, planet Terra, are emotionally attached to Gamera. The whale-song-like wailing of the foley artists in providing Gamera's voice succeeded in portraying him as a sympathetic, heroic creature, and the audience delighted in this, clapping, hooting, cheering him on in battle, and commiserating with his suffering. All of the performers involved, while definitely revelling in the kitsch, also seemed to understand the taken in its entirety, the film was not meant to be a laughable rollick, though it is hard to imagine it as anything else viewing it through our eyes today.

CRPDX played sensitively and intuitively all evening long. Huckens' score throughout provided an almost consistent counterpoint to the laughs and cornball acting, imparting a sombre, darkly beautiful element that balanced the overall mise-en-scene and kept intact the emotional import of brave, besieged children battling immensely evil forces way beyond their control. The knife-headed bad-boy kaiju Guiron who shoots throwing stars from his head, the giant silvery, fox-headed bat Gyaos who breathes laser beams, the cannibalistic Japanese-Terran babes who are the sole human survivors on their destroyed planet, the skepticism of their own parents--all these elements are aligned against the children, who want nothing more than to free the world from war and traffic accidents. Their only protector--Gamera, who has his own bouncing-ball theme song that appears throughout the movie, which the audience is encouraged to sing (and eventually does, inspite of themselves.)

Filmusik has succeeded brilliantly once again; Huckens seems to be getting better and better at what he does. The entire live production manages to capture all the camp, humor, and drama inherent in this battle of foam-rubber titans. At the beginning of the film the children lament "Gee, grownups have no dreams." Fortunately they are wrong in that observation, as this darkly comedic reverie at the Hollywood theater so vividly points out. There are three performances left: November 6th, 11th, and 13th.

Today's Birthdays

Hans Sachs (1494-1576)
Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961)
Walter Gieselking (1895-1956)
Claus Adam (1917-1983)
György Cziffra (1921-1994)
Nicholas Maw (1935)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (1940)
Art Garfunkel (1941)
Gram Parsons (1946-1973)

and

Ida M. Tarbell (1867-1944)
Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918)
Sam Shephard (1943)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Barry Johnson to leave The Oregonian

This is not a good sign of the times: Barry Johnson, aka Mr. Portland Arts Watch is taking a buyout from The Oregonian. I didn't always agree with Johnson's ideas, but he added a lot to conversation about the Portland Arts scene. His last day at the O is December 18th. I hope to read more of Johnson's ideas on the web somewhere. As soon as I find out where he will be posting, I'll let you know. He might pop up at Art Scatter, which also has a posting on this announcement This is another dark day for culture in Portland.

Today's Birthdays

Arnold Cooke (1906-2005)
Elgar Howarth (1935)
Joan Rodgers (1956)
Elena Kats-Chernin (1957)
Daron Hagen (1961)

and

Charles Frazier (1950)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's official - Portland Opera's Orphée will be recorded

Philip Glass himself - at today's roundtable - confirmed that Orange Mountain Music is recording all four performances of "Orphée," which opens this Friday at Keller Auditorium! This is an historic first for Portland Opera. It will be released commercially. Congratulations!

Here's the details from the press release:
In an historic first for the company, Portland Opera’s upcoming production of the west coast premiere of Philip Glass’ Orphée will be commercially recorded by Orange Mountain Music.

Portland Opera General Director Christopher Mattaliano noted the historic aspect of this recording as well as its significance in the world of contemporary classical music. “It is an honor,” he said, “to have Portland Opera’s production of Orphée complete the recording collection of Philip Glass’ entire Cocteau Trilogy. Mounting the west coast premiere of Orphée has been a project that has energized the company and our community. This recording puts the exclamation point on that excitement, especially since it will make our work available to a world-wide audience. It is also a source of pride for our staff, board, orchestra, and guest artists to be involved in such a worthwhile project.”

Philip Glass, following his attendance at the Orphée orchestra dress rehearsal, expressed his pleasure about the upcoming recording. “This recording,” he said, “happily completes the Cocteau Trilogy and will admirably reflect my hopes and intentions for this piece. The Portland Opera production features a brilliant cast and an inspired conductor. My great compliments to Christopher Mattaliano who has brought this production together.”

Mr. Mattaliano was also clear in his appreciation for the cooperation from all of the unions involved—the American Federation of Musicians, the American Guild of Musical Artists, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. “This recording would not have been possible without their welcome and appreciated participation,” he said.

Michael Riesman, music director and principal keyboardist of the Philip Glass Ensemble, will produce the CD for Orange Mountain Music. Mr. Riesman was also the producer for the other two commercial recordings in the Cocteau Trilogy: La Belle et la Bête and Les Enfants Terribles. Orange Mountain Music’s mission is to archive all of Philip Glass’ music so that as many of his compositions as possible are available commercially. The commercial release of the Portland Opera Orphée is currently set for the spring of 2010 in a two-disc CD complete with libretto and production photographs.

Portland Opera’s production of Glass’ Orphée opens Friday, November 6, with additional performances on Nov. 8, 12, and 14. All four performances in the 3,000-seat Keller Auditorium will be recorded live.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
Vincenzio Bellini (1801-1835)

and

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571)
Terrence McNally (1939)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Exceptional recital by Jonathan Biss in Portland Piano International debut

Guest Review by Aaron Berenbach

Most artists have, from time to time, experiences as an observer of another artist that leave them wishing they practiced their art more. Experiences of an artist performing at the pinnacle of their art. Sunday’s concert at the Newmark Theatre by pianist Jonathan Biss was such an experience. Technique, interpretation, and emotional investment all combined in a varied selection of solo piano works that cast Biss’s considerable talents in a very favourable light.

Opening the concert with selections from Felix Mendelssohn, Biss immediately displayed the skills and artistic maturity that have made his reputation. Mendelssohn’s Prelude and Fugue in E minor, Op. 35, No. 1 flashed by in a blur of smooth yet intense playing, Biss’s fingers only leaving the keys infrequently to keep his glasses from falling forward. Miscues were rare and almost unnoticeable, a difficult enough feat when performing the piano works of such a gifted composer and musician. The melody of the prelude, in an inner voice, rang true and clear. The complex structure of the fugue appeared reminiscent of the works of Bach, a composer that Mendelssohn admired and emulated though at the time Bach’s works were not as widely known and respected as they are today.

Continuing in the same vein, Biss then played three selections from Mendelssohn’s famous Songs Without Words. The first, Duet in A flat Major, was an impressive display of hand positioning as the melodic lines were equally distributed between the two. At times Biss’s hands were on top of each other, fingers going about their business with speed and precision. Happiness in A Major followed, a welcome glimpse of Mendelssohn’s sense of humor. Elegy in D Major rounded out the trio nicely. All three were played superbly, and Biss showed every sign of being as swept up in the emotional shifts as the audience.

Finishing up with Mendelssohn was his Variations serieuses, Op. 54. Mendelssohn avoided for some time the writing of variations as the style had fallen out of favor with “serious” composers. His foray into the genre however, was every bit as prestigious as his other works for piano. Once again Mr. Biss put on a display of technical skill and emotional sensitivity, playing his way through a dazzling selection of variations with what appeared to be genuine pleasure. The Theatre conscientiously provided a screen above the stage, presenting the audience with a clear view of Mr. Biss’s hands, yet at times his fingers moved with such speed and dexterity that the image became blurred as technology failed to keep up.

Jumping forward in time, Biss then played five selections from Gyorgy Kurtag’s Jatekok. Originally intended as pedagogical pieces for young players, the compilation eventually expanded to several volumes of small works exploring the innumerable “colors” of sound possible to be coaxed from the piano. Sparse, dynamically diverse, and (at times) extremely playful, the five selections showed a different side of Biss’s playing. At certain points the piano was so quiet and restrained that the sound was almost drowned out by the infrequent shifting of the audience. The sonorities were clear and unadorned, bringing to mind the works of both Bartok and Webern. Approached with all the skill and focus of the earlier pieces played, these selections provided both a departure from the usual fare of solo piano works, and an unexpected highlight of the concert as a whole.

Without pause, Biss followed the Kurtag selections with the lesser-known Adagio in B minor, K.540 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A short, melancholic piece, perhaps written for the composer’s own enjoyment, it followed the Kurtag selections as a particularly well thought out piece of concert programming. From Romantic, to 20th century, to Classical, Biss’s treatment of the music remained skillful and intent. The emotional connection to all the music was apparent, as Biss’s left hand would rise from the keys, almost conducting the music of the remaining hand. Sudden crescendos or halts would cause his hands to fly up and his whole posture to rock backwards, as if almost being bucked from the bench by the force of the music. Through all, it appeared truly to be the movements of a music lover lost in the swirl of sound rather than pretentious posturing.

After a short intermission, Biss ended the concert with Franz Schubert’s Sonata in A Major, D.959. One of three piano sonatas written near the end of his life, Schubert showed his mastery of Classical forms, mixing them with longer Romantic melodies, creating quite a large work (that behooves the smart musician to pack a lunch before setting out on the journey). Presented in four movements, the piece stretches over a large area, both temporally and harmonically.

Adding to his list of attributes a prodigious memory, Biss presented the sonata with no lack of skill and panache. Winding through the opening Allegro, the multiple themes stood out proudly, contrasting nicely against the new material presented in the development. The second movement, Andantino, moved boldly through some far-reaching harmonic shifts, their sudden appearance seeming to shock Biss as much as the audience. The third movement, Scherzo-Allegro vivace, displayed more of Schubert's original take on Classical forms, and the finale, Rondo-Allegretto, interestingly subdued, brought the massive piece to such a satisfying close that the audience demanded an encore.

Biss deserves the reputation he is still earning as an energetic, mature, and intuitive musician. His skills combined with the intriguing program choices of last Sunday created a musical event that tied together a sizable piece of the compositional history of the piano. The enjoyment he garners from sharing his gift is apparent and bodes well for both his future and that of his audiences.

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Aaron Berenbach is studying music composition with Bob Priest at Marylhurst University and pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter/composer/teacher.

Interview with David Hattner

An interview that I did with David Hattner, Portland Youth Philharmonic's maestro, is now posted at Oregon Music News.

For those of you who may have missed it, my interview with composer Tomas Svoboda (including some snippets of sound clips from his latest works is available here.

Today's Birthdays

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Luchino Visconti (1906-1976)
Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001)
Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001)
Jeremy Menuhin (1951)
Marie McLaughlin (1954)
Paul Moravec (1957)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oregon Symphony collaborates with two guests and finds Ravel a gem

The Oregon Symphony made music with two guest artists on Saturday evening (October 31st) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The ensemble was led by Claus Peter Flor, a German conductor who is the music director of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and is well-known for his work with the Dallas Symphony over the past decade. Guest violinist Stefan Jackiw, a 29-year-old American virtuoso also made his debut with the orchestra, which played works by Ravel, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was the big number on the program, and Flor led the orchestra with an uptempo approach that never looked back. The piece was punctuated with sharp attacks and a robust sound from the horn section. The violins nicely leaned into the phrasing at times and the bass violins showed off some blistering fast fingerwork in the third movement. Even in the slower sections of the piece, Flor didn’t ask the orchestra to linger over notes very long. Yet there seemed to have been a loss of focus near the end of the piece. The flute trill, for example, sounded wonky, and the exuberant energy of the finale was present but not totally convincing.

Guest violinist, Stefan Jackiw delivered a strong performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4. The way Jackiw held his violin reminded me at times of Midori, showing a remarkable sensitivity to the orchestra’s sound yet giving impression that he was playing for each individual in the audience. Jackiw demonstrated a fine sense of nuance throughout the piece like when he deftly increased the sound of some descending triplets, or spun out a sweet, singing tone. He had cadenza in each of the three movements, but he first was the most flamboyant and may, I think, be one that was developed by Joseph Joachim, the great 19th century Hungarian violinist.

The first piece on the program, Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin,” absolutely sparkled. Flor used his hands rather than a baton to coax a soft, nimble, and poignant sound from the orchestra. Amidst the lush chords and enchanting atmosphere was a superb performance by principal oboist Martin Hebert. Hebert seemed to effortlessly create sounds that ranged from fluttering and playful to ruminating and mild. The overall effect was gemlike.

Possible recording of Portland Opera's production of Orphée

I just heard that Portland Opera's production of "Orphée" might be commercially recorded by Orange Mountain Music. This is an exciting development! I'll let you know if I hear more about this.

Today's Birthdays

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
Eugen Jochum (1902-1987)
Victoria de Los Angeles (1923-2005)
William Mathias (1934-1992)
Lyle Lovett (1957)

and

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
Edward Said (1935-2003)