Sunday, April 30, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Franz Lehár (1870-1948)
Louise Homer (1871-1947)
Frank Merrick (1886-1981)
Robert Shaw (1916-1999)
Günter Raphael (1903-1960)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939)
Garcia Navarro (1940-2002)
Vladimir Tarnopolsky (1955)

and

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967)
John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974)
Winfield Townley Scott (1910-1968)
Annie Dillard (1945)
Josip Novakovich (1955)

And from the New Music Box:

On April 30, 1932, the very first Yaddo Festival of Contemporary Music began in Saratoga Springs, NY. Works programmed that year included Aaron Copland's Piano Variations as well as piano works by Roger Sessions, Henry Brant, Vivian Fine and Roy Harris, songs by Charles Ives and Paul Bowles, string quartets by Marc Blitzstein and Louis Gruenberg, and a suite for unaccompanied flute by Wallingford Riegger.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Brownell transfixes audience with impeccable and awesome piano recital

Andrew Brownell exhibited stellar pianism, playing an incisive and impeccable recital in Lincoln Recital Hall as part of the Portland State University Steinway Piano Series. Never flashy, never self-indulgent, Brownell just gave listeners a stellar real deal in a program that danced delightfully between pieces by Chopin, Ravel, Bach and Liszt. His playing was thoughtful yet packed with emotion and that transfixed the small but enthusiastic audience on Saturday (April 22).

Brownell warmed up listenerss ears with a set of Chopin pieces that were infused with charm and depth. He began with the Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major and followed it with three mazurkas. His playing of the Mazurka in f-sharp minor (Op. 6. No 1) had just a hint of springiness while the Mazurka in c-sharp minor (Op. 6 No. 2) slid slightly to the melancholic side. The longer Mazurka in b-flat minor (Op. 24 No. 4) cut both ways, moving seamlessly from a flecks of happiness to shades of melancholy.

Also in playing Ravel's "Miroirs," Brownell demonstrated superb technique and artistry so that each of its five movements stood independently individually yet fit together. Sparkling passages and tricky rhythms contrasted outstandingly with somber and mysterious ones. The dynamics collided perfectly in “Alborada del gracioso” with its playful opening and serious second theme. The final movement, “La vallée des cloches," had a wonderfl enigmatic mood that drifted into the sunset.

After intermission, Brownell performed Bach’s “French” Suite No. 6 in E Major (BWV 817) exquisitely. Again, from one movement to the next he shifted from dance to dance with complete mastery, yet giving the piece as a whole direction and focus that took listeners to a final satisfying destination.

Brownell’s turned to Liszt for his final selections, starting with the “Soirée de Vienne” which seemed to roll effortless from the keyboard. Even the pauses were delicious to hear. He dove into the “Tarantella” from Liszt’s “Venezia e Napoli” with élan, showing absolute command of its many technical challenges - including notes that ran all over the keyboard at a very fast pace. All the while, he kept the spirit of the music free so that there was the feel of spontaneity. His performance was utterly amazing, and the audience erupted with applause in appreciation.

I don’t know how often Brownell can come to Portland to give recitals, but it will probably never be often enough. The good thing is that he is a native of Portland, and he will be moving from his current base in London to Austin, Texas this fall in order to join the piano faculty at the University of Texas. So, he should be coming up this way more often, and when he does, anyone who wants to hear incredibly excellent playing should hear him.

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)
Wallingford Riegger (1885-1961)
Sir Malcom Sargent (1895-1967)
Edward "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974)
Harold Shapero (1920-2013)
Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014)
Willie Nelson (1933)
Klaus Voormann (1938)
Leslie Howard (1948)
Eero Hämeenniemi (1951)
Gino Quilico (1955)

and

Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933)
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)
Robert Gottlieb (1931)
Yusef Komunyakaa (1947)

From the New Music Box:
On April 29, 1969, Duke Ellington was invited to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on his 70th birthday. At the event, U.S. President Richard Nixon played "Happy Birthday" on the piano accompanied by the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Today's Birthdays

John Jacob Niles (1892-1980
Paul Sacher (1906-1999)
Margaret Vardell Sandresky (1921)
Zubin Mehta (1936)
Jeffrey Tate (1943)
Nicola LeFanu (1947)
Elise Ross (1947)
Michael Daugherty (1954)

and

James Monroe (1758-1831)
Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
Erich Salomon (1886-1944)
Robert Anderson (1917-2009)
Harper Lee (1926-2016)
Carolyn Forché (1950)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Adam Reinken (1623-1722
Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883)
Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Nicolas Slonimsky (1894-1995)
Guido Cantelli (1920-1956)
Igor Oistrakh (1931)
Hamish Milne (1939)
Jon Deak (1943)
Christian Zacharias (1950)

and

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Samuel Morse (1791-1872)
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Ludwig Bemelmans(1898-1962)
C(ecil) Day Lewis (1904-1972)
Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)
August Wilson (1945-2005)

And from the Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1667, the poet John Milton sold the copyright for his masterpiece, Paradise Lost, for 10 pounds. Milton had championed the cause of Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament over the king during the English Civil War, and published a series of radical pamphlets in support of such things as Puritanism, freedom of the press, divorce on the basis of incompatibility, and the execution of King Charles I. With the overthrow of the monarchy and the creation of the Commonwealth, Milton was named Secretary of Foreign Tongues, and though he eventually lost his eyesight, he was able to carry out his duties with the help of aides like fellow poet Andrew Marvell.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Milton was imprisoned as a traitor and stripped of his property. He was soon released, but was now impoverished as well as completely blind, and he spent the rest of his life secluded in a cottage in Buckinghamshire. This is where he dictated Paradise Lost — an epic poem about the Fall of Man, with Satan as a kind of antihero — and its sequel, Paradise Regained, about the temptation of Christ.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Erland von Koch (1910-2009)
Pierre Pierlot (1921-2007)
Teddy Edwards (1924-2003)
Wilma Lipp (1925)
Ewa Podleś (1952)
Patrizia Kwella (1953)

and

David Hume (1711-1776)
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Anita Loos (1889-1981)
Bernard Malamud (1914-1986)

And from the New Music Box:

On April 26, 1965, Charles Ives's Fourth Symphony, which was composed mostly between 1910 and 1916, is given its first complete performance by the American Symphony Orchestra led by Leopold Stokowski and two assistant conductors.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Young artists excel in Vancouver Symphony concert

Three very talented teenagers dazzled a nearly full SkyView Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon (April 24) as soloists with the Vancouver Symphony. As gold medal winners of the orchestra’s annual young artist competition, Ashley Teng, Symphony Koss, and Trevor Natiuk aptly demonstrated that they belonged in the spotlight, delivering outstanding performances of music by Carl Nielsen, Pablo de Sarasate, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. The program also included a couple of works by Edvard Grieg and Ottorino Respighi that the orchestra, under music director Salvador Brotons, played with style and polish.

Flutist Ashley Teng, a 16-year-old sophomore at Camas High School, played the first movement of Nielsen’s Flute Concerto with panache. Teng deftly negotiated the many wandering passages and excelled with her fortes. She could always be heard and presented a beautiful tone – even over the orchestra’s crescendos. Her collaborative exchanges with the clarinet, flute, timpani, bass trombone, and other members of the orchestra were done expertly. Teng’s cadenzas floated and soared effortlessly, and she rounded off the final phrase of the piece with the orchestra perfectly.

Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy” received a superb performance from Symphony Koss, a 16-year-old sophomore at Columbia River High School. Koss showed some eye-popping technique especially in the last movement where her fingers were flying at their fastest. Throughout the piece, she was fearless with the stratospheric high notes, nailing each instance cleanly, and when she finished the famous Toreador song the audience burst into applause.

Pianist Trevor Natiuk didn’t hold anything back in his performance of the first movement of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto, conquering its fiery entrance, melodic lines, and splashy chords with ease. It was an impressive debut for the 17-year-old, who is a junior at the Columbia Adventist Academy. The quick filigree of notes, the languid phrases, the knuckle-busting build-up of crescendos – Natiuk made it all look easy, and his resounding cascade of sound in the final measures brought the audience to its feet with cheers and bravos.

The orchestra distinguished itself Grieg’s with fine playing of Grieg’s “Lyric Suite” and Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome.” The strings ensemble created a smooth and rich sonority during the “Shepherd Boy” and “Nocturne” movements of the Grieg. Perky woodwinds accented the “Norwegian March” and the brass wonderfully punched up the volume in the “March of the Dwarves.” Concertmaster Eva Richey created a wistfully sweet solo in the “Nocturne.” Victoria Racz (oboe) and Igor Shakhman excelled in their solos as well.

The orchestra took things up a notch with a resplendent performance of “The Pines of Rome.” The French horns were brilliant in the first movement, and the entire ensemble made a delightful racket that was cut off with precision by Brotons on the final note. Muted horns, solemn low strings, and Bruce Dunn’s offstage trumpet solo imbued the second movement with a sense of mystery. The clarinet (Shakhman) marvelously parted the clouds with a quiet, pristine sound in the third, which also featured the percussion battery making a bouquet of bird songs. The ominous march of Roman legions along the Appian Way in the fourth movement ended triumphantly with timpanist Florian Conzetti having an especially rollicking time. Kudos also to Kris Klavik (English horn) for her evocative playing. Overall, the Respighi performance was one of the best ever by the orchestra.

Today's Birthdays

Gottlieb Muffat (1690-1770)
Ella Fitzgerald (1918-1998)
Astrid Varnay (1918-2006)
Siegfried Palm (1927-2005)
Digby Fairweather (1946)
Truls Mørk (1961)

and

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)
Howard R. Garis (1873-1962)
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)
Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965)
David Shepherd (1931)
Ted Kooser (1939)
Padgett Powell (1952)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1841, at a fund-raising concert in Paris for the Beethoven monument to be erected in Bonn, Franz Liszt performs Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with Berlioz conducting. Richard Wagner reviews the concert for the Dresden Abendzeitung. The following day, Chopin gives one of his rare recitals at the Salle Pleyel, and Liszt writes a long and glowing review for the Parisian Gazette Musicale.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Young soprano totally captivating in PSU Opera's "Suor Angelica" - fun cast makes delightful "Gianni Schicchi"

It’s a rare day when “Suor Angelica” overshadows “Gianni Schicchi,” but that is what happened on opening night (Friday, April 21st) in Lincoln Hall when Portland State University presented both Puccini one-act operas. Because of its serious subject matter and religious underpinnings, “Suor Angelica” is an extremely difficult opera to pull off unless you have a dynamite soprano with an incredibly expressive vocal range, plenty of power, and dramatic chops. Well, guess what, PSU has such a singer. Her name is Saori Erickson, and she delivered such a convincing performance in the title role that the audience was completely drawn into the orbit of her tragedy. “Gianni Schicchi,” a delightful comic opera, had its moments and a splendid cast, but it could not overcome the impression left by Erickson in “Suor Angelica.”

Erickson impressively commanded the stage all by herself at the end of the opera, pushing her voice into fifth gear and reaching a deep level of passion and immediacy. Her voice was absolutely true, never overdriven. It just soared and was especially thrilling when Ken Selden pushed the orchestra to the max. Erickson was equally dramatic in her scene with accuser, the Princess, who was terrifically sung by Grace Skinner. Their confrontation in the courtyard of the cloister was intense and gripping.

The production boasted a bevy of fine singers in supporting roles, including Clair Patton as The Abbess, Kaitlyn Lawrence as The Monitress, Celine Adele Clair as The Mistress of the Novices, and sisters Sarah Hotz, Emily Lucas, Savannah Panah. Director Joshua Miller did an excellent job of shaping the personas of the sisters. They moved well about the stage set, designed by Carey Wong, which featured marble walls and columns, a fountain graced by a statue of the Virgin Mary, and the wild branches of a tree.

Selden and the PSU Orchestra sounded better than ever. The strings were especially radiant and expressive. The ensemble wonderfully expressed the emotive quality of the music and enhanced the drama.

Darian Hutchinson did a marvelous job as the lovable and opportunistic “Gianni Schicchi,” who uses his smarts to outmaneuver a shallow and greedy group of people who want a piece their dead relative’s fortune. The chaotic antics of folks scouring a dead man’s home in search of his well created a lot of hilarious moments. Shainy Manuel’s Zita with her frilly red underwear go the most laughs, but all of the singers delved into their characters with gusto.

Hope McCaffrey sang “O Mio babbino caro” superbly with a lovely tone and high notes that floated effortlessly. But that was just the high point of her performance, which embodied the role of Lauretta perfectly. Alex Trull cut a dashing Rinuccio, but his voice needed more volume to match up McCaffrey’s.

The orchestra seemed less polished in “Gianni Schicchi” and some of the singers could barely be heard. Wong’s set functioned well as the dead man’s home, but it was unfortunate that the bed was so far over to one side of the stage, because some of Hutchinson’s gestures and facial expressions were difficult to see. Of course, the tradeoff was that the big cast had more room to move about.

Back to Erickson – she is only 22 years old and seems to have a big future ahead of her. She sang outstandingly as Rosalinda in PSU Opera’s production of “Die Fledermaus” last year. But she has stepped up her game even further with “Suor Angelica.” If you haven’t seen it, the remaining performances are April 25, 28, 29, and 30.

Morlot to leave Seattle Symphony in 2019

The Seattle Times has reported that Ludovic Morlot will leave his post as its music director in 2019. The orchestra's web site also announced his decision in a press release here. Morlot did not give a particular reason for his decision.

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Martini (1706-1784)
Charles O'Connell (1900-1962)
Violet Archer (1913-2000)
John Williams (1941) - guitarist
Barbara Streisand (1942)
Norma Burrowes (1944)
Ole Edvard Antonsen (1962)
Augusta Read Thomas (1964)
Catrin Finch (1980)

and

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
Willem De Kooning (1904-1997)
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)
Stanley Kauffmann (1916-2013)
Sue Grafton (1940)
Clare Boylan (1948-2006)
Eric Bogosian (1953)
Judy Budnitz (1973)

From the Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1800, the Library of Congress was established. In a bill that provided for the transfer of the nation's capital from Philadelphia to Washington, Congress included a provision for a reference library containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress — and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein ..." The library was housed in the Capitol building, until British troops burned and pillaged it in 1814. Thomas Jefferson offered as a replacement his own personal library: nearly 6,500 books, the result of 50 years' worth of "putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science."

First opened to the public in 1897, the Library of Congress is now the largest library in the world. It houses more than 144 million items, including 33 million catalogued books in 460 languages; more than 63 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world's largest collection of films, legal materials, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Oregon Symphony Delivers Marine Sound Feast Centered around Debussy's La Mer

Fingal's Cave
Thomas Moran, 1884 oil on canvas
Saturday the 22nd at the Schnitz the Oregon Symphony played a concert that was largely marine in theme, with works by Mendelssohn, Debussy, and an American premier by Toshio Hosokawa. The lone exception was the Violin Concerto by Benjamin Britten, featuring soloist Simone Lamsma and directed by the excellent Jun Markl.

The opening work was Mendelssohn's The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave).The famous see-sawing, sighing opening theme immediately giving the evening a nautical footing, and the orchestra transitioned nicely to the stormy motive and back again, conveying a sense of disquiet, and a restless sea.

Simone Lamsma returned to the stage for OSO for the first time since her smashing performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto last year. She plays strongly, insistent yet not without delicacy. She clearly has something to say, and makes that plain from the start. Her technique is spectacular and wide-ranging: a fierce chordal spiccato, intensive sawing in the low range yielding to nimble, dance-like moments further up. The many tragical moments of the work were not yet drowned in sorrow--her instrument sang with a voice that could not be repressed, nor yet weighted down by sadness. Other sections demanded a fierce, saucy pizzicato, reveling in two-note dissonances.

In the Vivace there were terrifying glissandi, and she handed off the haunting harmonic passages seamlessly to the piccoli, a difficult transition with a memorable effect. The cadenza was completely mesmerizing, including a difficult trick of bowing some strings while simultaneously plucking others with the left hand. The fantastically difficult chromatic runs of the finale she handled with ease, yielding to a meditative exhalation. Truly a spectacular performance.

The second half opened with the American premier of Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa's Circulating Ocean, a programmatic piece also meant to suggest the cycle of human life from nothingess, to existence, then a return to non-existence. De niente, winds began to sound from an aspirated alto flute and other winds as gentle tinkling from tiny Japanese wind bells broke through the breathy atmosphere. A very evocative feeling of crawling mist grew, with the brass gurgling up, muffled as if from a great depth. Surrounding all was a ceaseless susurration from the strings.

This was a fantastically imaginative work early on for percussion: tam tams and bowed celesta, Japanese temple bowls and the wind bells and an antique cymbal featured among the instruments.  There was next to nothing by way of true melody early on: snatches here and there from celesta but later there were bits of half-themes and short motives from flute, bassoon and strings. It was really more of a great sound-picture, a reflection on impermanence. This was a work of stunning imagination, and this surely will not be the last time it is heard in the U.S.

Debussy's great symphonic work La Mer closed out the evening. The intro and moments later in the third felt almost rusty--what should at times have been mellifluous instead came off as stilted. All the pieces were there, just not perfectly fit together.  The second movement, the Jeu de vagues, really pulled together well. Much more effortless; the stunning, giant crescendo and fortissimo arrival was incredibly evocative and breathtaking.   The movement continued frenetic and moody, with wonderful work from strings--violins appropriately sentimental at times, and with grandiose yet subdued work from the cellos.

The entire evening was really incredible stuff--there was some fantastic noise being made that night, in the best sense of the term. This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Today's Birthdays

Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521)
Andrea Luchesi (1741-1801)
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)
Arthur Farwell (1872-1952)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009)
Robert Moog (1934-2005)
Roy Orbison (1936-1988)
Joel Feigin (1951)

and

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
James Patrick (J. P.) Donleavy (1926)
Coleman Barks (1937)
Barry Hannah (1942-2010)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

From The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Roy Orbison (1936), born in Vernon, Texas. One day, during a songwriting session with his partner Bill Dees, Orbison asked his wife, Claudette Frady Orbison, if she needed any money for her upcoming trip to Nashville. Dees remarked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” Forty minutes later, Orbison’s most famous hit, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” had been written.

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1993, Morten Lauridsen's "Les Chanson des Roses"(five French poems by Rilke) for mixed chorus and piano was premiered by the Choral Cross-Ties ensemble of Portland, Ore., Bruce Browne conducting.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709)
Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
Eric Fenby (1906-1997)
Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953)
Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)
Charles Mingus 1922-1979)
Michael Colgrass (1932)
Jaroslav Krcek (1939)
Joshua Rifkin (1944)
Peter Frampton (1950)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste (1956)

and

Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
Louise Glück (1943)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 2001, the Philharmonic Hungarica gives its final concert in Düsseldorf. The orchestra was founded by Hungarian musicians who fled to West Germany after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. For London/Decca Records the Philharmonic Hungarica made the first complete set of all of Haydn's symphonies under the baton of its honorary president, the Hungarian-American conductor Antal Dorati.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Preview of upcoming Vancouver Symphony's Young Artists concert in The Columbian

My article that previews this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert is in today's edition of The Columbian newspaper. The concert will feature three talented teenagers who won the orchestra's annual Young Artist competition.

Today's Birthdays

Randall Thompson (1899-1984)
Leonard Warren (1911-1960)
Bruno Maderna (1920-1973)
Locksley Wellington 'Slide' Hampton (1932)
Easley Blackwood (1933) Lionel Rogg (1936)
John McCabe (1939-2015)
Iggy Pop (1947)
Richard Bernas (1950)
Melissa Hui (1966)

and

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
John Muir (1838-1914)
Elaine May (1932)
Nell Freudenberger (1975)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1937, Copland's play-opera for high school "The Second Hurricane," was premiered at the Grand Street Playhouse in New York City, with soloists from the Professional Children's School, members of the Henry Street Settlement adult chorus, and the Seward High School student chorus, with Lehman Engle conducting and Orson Welles directing the staged production. One professional adult actor, Joseph Cotten, also participated (He was paid $10).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Nikolai Miaskovsky (1881-1950)
Lionel Hampton (1908-2002)
Christopher Robinson (1936)
John Eliot Gardiner (1943)
Robert Kyr (1952)

and

Pietro Aretino (1492-1556)
Harold Lloyd (1893-1971)
Joan Miró (1893-1983) 
Sebastian Faulks (1953)  

From the Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1939 that Billie Holiday recorded the song "Strange Fruit," which describes the lynching of a black man in the South. The song began as a poem written not by Holiday, but by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx named Abel Meeropol (using the pseudonym Lewis Allan) who was deeply disturbed by a picture he saw of a lynching. Meeropol set the song to music with his wife, Laura, and performed it at venues in New York City. (Meeropol and his wife are also noteworthy for adopting the orphaned Rosenberg children, Robert and Michael, after their parents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were executed for espionage.) 

Holiday met Meeropol through a connection at a nightclub in Greenwich Village. She wanted to record the song, but her record label refused to produce something so graphic and she was forced to record it on an alternative jazz label.

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, in Paris, the first public demonstration of an electronic instrument invented by Maurice Martenot called the "Ondes musicales" took place. The instrument later came to be called the "Ondes Martenot," and was included in scores by Milhaud, Messiaen, Jolivet, Ibert, Honegger, Florent Schmitt and other 20th century composers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alexandre Pierre François Boëly (1785-1858)
Max von Schillings (1868-1933)
Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)
Ruben Gonzalez (1919-2003)
Dudley Moore (1935-2002)
Bernhard Klee (1936)
Kenneth Riegel (1938)
Jonathan Tunick (1938)
David Fanshawe (1942-2010)
Murray Perahia (1947)
Yan-Pascal Tortelier (1947)
Natalie Dessay (1965)

and

Sarah Kemble Knight (1666-1727)
Etheridge Knight (1931-1991)
Sharon Pollock (1936)
Stanley Fish (1938)

and from the New Music Box:

On April 19, 1775, William Billings and Supply Belcher, two of the earliest American composers who at the time were serving as Minutemen (militia members in the American Revolutionary War who had undertaken to turn out for service at a minute's notice), marched to Cambridge immediately after receiving an alarm from Lexington about an impending armed engagement with the British.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Big voices – including new Italian tenor – anchor Portland Opera’s Big Night concert

Giordano Lucà
After a hiatus of three years, Portland Opera’s brought back its Big Night concert on Saturday (April 8), and it was a smashing success. The Keller Auditorium, a big barn of a hall, was fairly full from the orchestra floor to the third balcony despite the fact that the Oregon Symphony was preforming Mozart’s “Requiem” at the same time. The centerpiece of Portland Opera’s festive Big Night program was a trio of up and coming stars who delivered spectacular performances of a variety of arias and ensemble pieces from the operatic and musical repertoire. That included Italian tenor Giordano Lucà who made his American debut in this concert. They were augmented by exceptional performances by Portland Opera’s Resident Artists and solid work by the Portland Opera Orchestra under it Music Director George Manahan.

Lucà displayed a gorgeous, lyric voice that had power to spare. His singing of “È la solita storia del pastore” from Cilèa’s “L’Arlesiana” was imbued with an eloquent anguish. He let out all of the horses for a very long, and wonderfully sustained final note in “La donna è mobile” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” which brought down the house. He teamed up with soprano Vanessa Isiguen to create an effervescent “Libiamo ne’lieti calici” from “La Traviata” (Verdi again).
Vanessa Isiguen
Not to be outdone, Isiguen captivated the audience with silvery and evocative “Ebben? Ne andrò Lontana” from Catalani’s “La Wally” and returned later to implore the heavens with a passionate “Inneggiamo” from Mascagni’s “Cavaleria Rusticana.” She collaborated with Lucà and the company’s Resident Artists soprano Antonia Tamer and tenor Aaron Short for a lovely “Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso” from Puccini’s “La Rondine.”
Will Liverman
Baritone Will Liverman bowled the listeners over with irresistible rendition of “Largo al factotum” from “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” (Rossini) and delivered an infectious “A Woman is a Sometime Thing” from “Porgy and Bess” (Gershwin). He joined up with Isiguen for a medley of excerpts from “Carousel” (Rogers and Hammerstein), including “If I Loved You.”
Tamer, Farrar, Thorn, Short, Penn, and Guidi

Tamer and Short joined forces with their Resident Artists colleagues mezzo Kate Farrar and baritone Ryan Thorn plus alumna mezzo Hannah Penn and irrepressible bass-baritone Deac Guidi to whip up a delightful “Alla bella Despinetta” from “Così fan tutte” (Mozart). Short and Thorn elicited laughter from all corners of the hall with “Agony” from “Into the Woods” (Sondheim), and they joined tenor Joseph Muir to bet on the horses with a snappy “Fugue for Tinhorns” from “Guys and Dolls” (Loesser). Farrar and Tamer sang “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love” with absolute conviction from “West Side Story” (Bernstein).

The orchestra sounded excellent under the baton of Manahan, but its sound was too light-weight for “Ride of the Valkyries” (Wagner). The chorus, prepared by Nicholas Fox, sang with gusto but another dozen voices would have given it more heft. An extra treat was the company’s children’s chorus, which sang a selection from “Carmen” with the Opera Chorus.

Some folks tout the demise of classical music, especially standard repertoire, but judging the lively and large turnout at the Keller and the exceptional performances, Portland Opera’s gamble for a big night on the town was a pretty darn swell.

Today's Birthdays

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)
Franz von Suppé (1819-1895)
Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995)
Sylvia Fisher (1910-1996)
Penelope Thwaites (1944)
Catherine Maltfitano (1948)

and

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
Bob Kaufman (1925-1986)
Susan Faludi (1959)

Also a historical tidbit from The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1906 an earthquake struck San Francisco. The earthquake began at 5:12 a.m. and lasted for a little over a minute. The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso had performed at San Francisco's Grand Opera House the night before, and he woke up in his bed as the Palace Hotel was falling down around him. He stumbled out into the street, and because he was terrified that that shock might have ruined his voice, he began singing. Nearly 3,000 people died.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729)
Jan Václav Tomášek (1774-1850)
Artur Schnabel (1882-1951)
Maggie Teyte (1888-1976)
Harald Saeverud (1897-1992)
Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976)
Pamela Bowden (1925-2003)
James Last (1929-2015)
Anja Silja (1940)
Siegfried Jerusalem (1940)
Cristina Ortiz (1950)

and

Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen (1885-1962)
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
Brendan Kennelly (1936)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1906 - on tour in San Francisco with the Metropolitan Opera touring company, the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso sings a performance of Bizet's "Carmen" the day before the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Oregon Symphony and Portland Symphonic Choir deliver a fine Mozart Requiem

Stephen Zopfi
Monday night, April 10, saw the final OSO performance of the Mozart Requiem by a Stephen Zopfi-trained Portland Symphonic Choir, as he has announced his retirement from the PSC as of the end of this season. Guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni also led the group in An arrangement of Purcell's Chacony in G-minor, and Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements.

The Chacony, arranged by Joby Talbott, was a fascinating beginning. It was lovely and haunting, presaging the Mozart in its ominous glory. The copious use of bells, including bowed crotales, lent a  slightly cacophonous atmosphere to the piece, as dissonances held and then suddenly dissipated.

The first movement of the Stravinsky featured excellent, often subtle but important work for for the piano, following a sort of monstrous plodding opening. The OSO rendered this work as peripatetic and delightfully strange. Stravinsky must have loved the bassoon considering all the tasty arts he wrote for it over the years, and the OSO bassoonists did not disappoint.  Zeitouni guided the orchestra through difficult shoals in this piece, showing himself to be a capable leader.

As is Zopfi's wont, the PSC sang Mozart's iconic Requiem in D Minor using Germanicized Latin, different in many respects from the usual Church Latin, but the correct choice for this performance. There were balance problems with the choir and orchestra initially, with the sopranos and altos sublimated to the orchestra, but these issues were shortly remedied. Soprano soloist Katie Van Kooten set the standard early, scything through the thick orchestral texture without over-delivery.

By the Kyrie, the balance problems with choir and orchestra were largely resolved, and it was full and forceful.  The Dies Irae featured marvelous diction from the chorus (as did the whole work by and large).  Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke wowed during the Tuba Mirum, and the Rex Tremendae featured a delicious, knock-you-out of your seat 'Rex!' one of many features showing just how well the PSC knows this work.

The soloists, all fine singers individually, left something to be desired by way of ensemble performance. Van Kooten sometimes overpowered the other voices, but really left me wishing that the others could have stepped up to her level of sound production, as she was wonderful to hear. Nevertheless, balance and blend was sometimes lost.

The Confutatis and the Lacrimosa must surely be among the most satisfying choral movements ever, both in terms of performing them and listening to them, and the PSC thrived in this moment. The sopranos and altos execution of sighing, weeping motives, the bass and tenors thundering out the fearful dream of hellfire--the most anticipated moments of the evening lived up to their centuries-old hype and were everything a listener could wish for.

The Requiem shone as a collection of discrete movements, and because of the quality of the movements (obviously mostly because of Mozart but Levin's gold-standard completion should not be forgotten) this was not a bad thing to hear; quite the opposite.  Somehow, emotionally it didn't pull fully together as a cohesive whole; given the quality of sound from both choir and orchestra it felt as though Zeitouni did not quite get it done as he did the first half of the evening, and ensemble problems from the soloists did not help.

As a final note, Stephen Zopfi's contribution to Portland's choral community, and arts community as a whole, cannot be underestimated. The PSC has more performances of their own this season, but too often the work of a choral conductor is overlooked when the baton is handed to an orchestral conductor who will be leading the group in concert. Having sung under Stephen for a number of years in the PSC, I can say unreservedly that Portland audiences will miss the work of this brilliant, hard-working and extremely knowledgeable musician in the years to come. Adieu, maestro.

Today's Birthdays

Federico Mompou (1893-1987)
Mischa Mischakov (1895-1981)
Henry Mancini (1924-1994)
Herbie Mann (1930-2003)
Dusty Springfield (1939-1999)
Stephen Pruslin (1940)
Leo Nucci (1942)
Richard Bradshaw (1944-2007)
Dennis Russell Davis (1944)
Peteris Vasks (1946)

and

John Millington Synge (1871-1909)
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)
Sir Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
Carol Bly (1930-2007)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)
Karl Alwin (1891-1945)
Bessie Smith (1894-1937)
Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016)
John Wilbraham (1944-1998)
Michael Kamen (1948-2003)
Lara St. John (1971)

and

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Henry James (1843-1916)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1931, Copland's "A Dance Symphony," was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. This work incorporates material from Copland's 1923 ballet"Grohg," which had not been produced. The symphony was one the winners of the 1929 Victor Talking Machine Company Competition Prize. The judges of the competition decided that none of the submitted works deserved the full $25,000 prize, so they awarded $5000 each to four composers, including Copland, Ernest Bloch, and Louis Gruenberg, and gave $10,000 to Robert Russell Bennett (who had submitted two works).

Friday, April 14, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jean Fournet (1913-2008)
Paavo Berglund (1929-2012)
Morton Subotnick (1933)
Loretta Lynn (1935)
Claude Vivier (1948-1983)
John Wallace (1949)
Julian Lloyd Webber (1951)
Barbara Bonney (1956)
Mikhail Pletnev (1957)
Jason Lai (1974)

and

Christian Huygens (1629-1695)
Arnold Toynbee (1853-1882)
Anton Wildgans (1881-1932)
Tina Rosenberg (1960)

From the Writer's Almanac:

It's the legal birthday of the modern printing press, which William Bullock patented on this day in 1863 in Baltimore. His invention was the first rotary printing press to self-feed the paper, print on both sides, and count its own progress — meaning that newspapers, which had until then relied on an operator manually feeding individual sheets of paper into a press, could suddenly increase their publication exponentially.

The Cincinnati Times was likely the very first to use a Bullock press, with the New York Sun installing one soon after. Bullock was installing a press for The Philadelphia Press when he kicked at a mechanism; his foot got caught, his leg was crushed, and he died a few days later during surgery to amputate. His press went on to revolutionize the newspaper business.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Felicien David (1810-1876)
William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875)
Milos Sadlo (1912-2003)
George Barati (1913-1996)
Frederic Rzewski (1938)
Margaret Price (1941-2011)
Della Jones (1946)
Al Green (1946)
Mary Ellen Childs (1959)

and

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Eudora Welty (1909-2001)
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1958, American pianist Van Cliburn wins the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the first American to do so.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tolday's Birthdays

Pietro Nardini (1722-1793)
Joseph Lanner (1801-1843)
Johnny Dodds (1892-1940)
Lily Pons (1898-1976)
Imogen Holst (1907-1984)
Thomas Hemsley (1927-2013)
Herbert Khaury (aka Tiny Tim) (1932-1996)
Henri Lazarof (1932-2013)
Montserrat Caballé (1933)
Herbie Hancock (1940)
Ernst Kovacic (1943)
Stefan Minde (1936-2015)
Christophe Rousset (1961)

and

Beverly Cleary (1916)
Alan Ayckbourn (1939)
Tom Clancy (1947-2013)
Gary Soto (1952)
Jon Krakauer (1954)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jean-Joseph Mouret (1682-1738)
Charles Hallé (1819-1895)
Karel Ančerl (1908-1973)
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
Gervase de Peyer (1926-2017)
Kurt Moll (1938)
Arthur Davies (1941)

and

Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549)
Christopher Smart (1722-1771)
Mark Strand (1934)
Ellen Goodman (1941)
Dorothy Allison (1949)

From the New Music Box:
On April 11, 1941, Austrian-born composer Arnold Schönberg became an American citizen and officially changed the spelling of his last name to Schoenberg. He would remain in the United States until his death in 1951. Some of his most important compositions, including the Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, and the Fourth String Quartet, were composed during his American years.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Michel Corrette (1707-1795)
Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932)
Victor de Sabata (1892-1967)
Fiddlin' Arthur Smith (1891-1971)
Harry Mortimer (1902-1992)
Luigi Alva (1927)
Claude Bolling (1930)
Jorge Mester (1935)
Sarah Leonard (1953)
Lesley Garrett (1955)
Yefim Bronfman (1958)

and

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)
David Halberstam (1934-2007)
Paul Theroux (1941)
Norman Dubie (1945)
Anne Lamott (1954)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1868, Brahms's "A German Requiem," was premiered at a Good Friday concert at Bremen Cathedral conducted by the composer.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Tallis Scholars mesmerize audience with sublime concert

The Tallis Scholars showed off their superb musicianship on Tuesday evening (April 4) at St. Mary’s Cathedral, singing a concert of early polyphonic gems and newer works similarly inspired. Consisting of an ensemble of ten singers conducted by Peter Phillips, The Tallis Scholars produced an astonishing clarity of sound with excellent diction, pinpoint pitch control, outstanding dynamic range, no vibrato, and a warmth of resonance and color. The group’s sound was astounding to experience.

As far as I can figure out, Phillips has used his uncanny ears to assemble singers with matching tonal qualities. He has four sopranos whose voices are so equal that in polychoral formations – and in the resonant acoustic of St. Mary’s, it was very difficult to figure out who is singing what. The same goes for the pair of altos (one woman and one countertenor), two tenors, and two basses. In pieces that had an exposed line for one voice, say a tenor, that singer could finish a phrase and the other tenor simply picked it with a match tone. Even in recitatives involving two singers, such in the first piece of the evening, the “Magnificat IV” of Hieronymus Praetorius, the two basses sang the text as if they were one person.

So with its perfectly matched voices, the ensemble sang each piece in the program impeccably with the only fault being that the sopranos were too loud in the “Magnificat” of Orland Gibbons. But from that point onward, the group’s sound was balanced with no sagging in tone or pace. Each entry was pristine and the final notes of each piece were never overdrawn – that is, extended for effect.

The program feature various settings of the ”Magnificat” (also known as the “Song of Mary”), the “Pater Noster” (“Lord’s Prayer”), the “Ave Maria” (“Hail Mary”), and the “Nunc Dimittis” (“Song of Simeon”) with a segue to Johannes Eccard's “Maria wallt zum Heiligtum” (“Mary made a pilgrimage to the temple”) as a setup for the “Nunc Dimittis.”

Most impressive in these sets were three pieces by Arvo Pãrt. His “Magnificat,” “Ave Maria,” and “Nunc Dimittis” had unusual harmonics and dissonances that added depth to the text. Some notes in his “Nunc Dimittis” were so ear-bendingly close together that they were almost disturbing. Yet, it would have been fantastic to hear each of those pieces a second time.

Sung in Savonic, Igor Stravinsky’s “Our Father” (“Pater Noster”) seemed to harken to a Russian liturgical style and was quite lovely. His “Ave Maria” was unfortunately very short. John Tavener’s “Our Father” had a thicket of gently flowing lines for the inner voices that were wonderfully set against long, static phrases for the outer voices. John Sheppard’s “Our Father” had a multi-channeled sounded, and the version by Jacobus Gallus ended with an intricate and gorgeous Amen

The “Ave Maria” of Jean Mouton had a mellow and somber effect while the “Nunc dimittis” of Andres de Torrentes soared with beautiful high notes from the sopranos. Gustav Holst’s “Nunc dimittis” rounded out the program joyously, causing the audience to erupt with applause. The ensemble responded with lilting encore of Claudio Monteverdi’s “Cantate Domino.”

Another unique ability of the Tallis Scholars singers is their uncanny ability to read the idiosyncratic conducting of Peter Phillips. He uses a lot of very small and contained gestures that seem tricky to decipher. Yet his singers understand him perfectly and are able to deliver a sound that is positively stunning.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627-1693)
Georg Matthias Monn (1717-1750)
François Giroust (1737-1799)
Supply Belcher (1751-1836)
Theodor Boehm (1794-1881)
Paolo Tosti (1846-1916)
Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1888-1953)
Sol Hurok (1888-1974)
Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (1889-1985)
Julius Patzak (1898-1974)
Paul Robeson (1898-1976)
Antal Doráti (1906-1988)
Tom Lehrer (1928)
Aulis Sallinen (1935)
Jerzy Maksymiuk (1936)
Neil Jenkins (1945)

and

Charles-Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Gregory Goodwin Pincus (1903-1967)
J. William Fullbright (1905-1995)
Jørn Utzon (1918-2008)

From the Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1860, the oldest known recording of the human voice was made — someone was singing Au Clair de la Lune. French inventor Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville captured sound waves on glass plates using a funnel, two membranes, and a stylus. He made the recording 17 years before Edison made his, but he didn't invent anything to play the recording back.

When researchers discovered these recordings three years ago, they assumed the voice singing was a woman's, so they played it at that speed. But then they re-checked the inventor's notes, and they realized that the inventor himself had sung the song, very slowly, carefully enunciating, as if to capture the beautiful totality of the human voice.

You can hear the astonishing recording at both speeds at firstsounds.org.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Claudio Merulo (1533-1604)
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)
Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983)
E. Y. (Yip) Harburg (1896-1981)
Josef Krips (1902-1974)
Franco Corelli (1921-2003)
Walter Berry (1929-2000)
Lawrence Leighton Smith (1936-2013)
Meriel Dickinson (1940)
Dame Felicity Lott (1947)
Diana Montague (1953)
Anthony Michaels-Moore (1957)

and

Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857)
Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)
Harvey Cushing (1869-1939)
Robert Giroux (1914-2008)
Seymour Hersh (1937)
Barbara Kingsolver (1955)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1865, American premiere of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertate in Eb, K. 364(320d) for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra took place in New York, with violinist Theodore Thomas and violist Georg Matzka (A review of this concert in the New York Times said: "On the whole we would prefer death to a repetition of this production. The wearisome scale passages on the little fiddle repeated ad nausea on the bigger one were simply maddening.”).

Friday, April 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Charles Burney (1726-1814)
Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846)
Robert Casadesus (1899-1972)
Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)
Ikuma Dan (1924-2001)

and

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998)
Donald Barthelme (1931-1989)
Daniel Ellsberg (1931)
Francis Ford Coppola (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook: (br>
On this day in 1918, the German conductor of the Boston Symphony, Karl Muck, is arrested and interned as an enemy alien after American enters World War I.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Kuhnau (1660-1772)
André‑Cardinal Destouches (1672-1749)
Friedrich Robert Volkman (1815-1883)
Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)
Andrew Imbrie (1921-2007)
Edison Denisov (1929-1996)
André Previn (1929)
Merle Haggard (1937-2016)
Felicity Palmer (1944)
Pascal Rogé (1951)
Pascal Devoyon (1953)
Julian Anderson (1967)

and

Raphael (Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino) (1483-1520)
Joseph Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)

From the New Music Box:
On April 6, 1897, the U.S. government granted Thaddeus Cahill a patent for his Telharmonium, or Dynamophone, the earliest electronic musical instrument. Cahill built a total of three such instruments, which utilized a 36-tone scale and used telephone receivers as amplifiers. The first one, completed in 1906 in Holyoke, Massachussetts was 60 feet long and weighed 200 tons. It was housed in "Telharmonic Hall" on 39th Street and Broadway New York City for 20 years.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Louis Spohr (1784-1859)
Albert Roussel (1869-1937)
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989)
Goddard Lieberson (1911-1977)
Richard Yardumian (1917-1985)
Evan Parker (1944)
Julius Drake (1959)

and

Thomas Hobbs (1588-1679)
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Arthur Hailey (1920-2004)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shaham gives transcendent performance of Korngold’s Violin Concerto

Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto received an incisive and transcendent performance by Gil Shaham in a special one-time only concert with the Oregon Symphony on Sunday afternoon (April 2) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Shaham, one of the world’s preeminent violinists, expertly conveyed the lush and lyrical landscape of Korngold’s concerto, demonstrating a rich tone that often was a smooth as a silk handkerchief. His flawless technique and mastery of the dynamics made the piece sing, yet it all worked so well because of extremely sensitive playing by the orchestra under the direction of Carlos Kalmar. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the piece came at the end of the second movement, “Romance,” when his final note was matched perfectly by vibraphone as played by Niel DePonte. That was heavenly. A thunderous standing ovation brought Shaham back to the stage several times, and he responded with an immaculately played encore, the “Gavotte en rondeau” by Bach.

The Korngold concerto was the centerpiece of a program that danced around the music of fin de siècle Vienna. That included two pieces that received their initial performances by the orchestra: the Overture to Richard Heuberger’s “The Opera Ball” and the Overture to Johan Strauss, Jr.’s “Indigo and the Forty Thieves.” Both were played with exuberance by Kalmar and company with lots of attention to details such as slowing the pace and then speeding up. “The Opera Ball” featured melodic lines that glided effortlessly about that hall and delightful phrases that cascaded quickly down a staircase. The 12 strikes of a bell signaled midnight solemnly but then everything broke loose with a dance tune swirling about. The Strauss, Jr. Overture was also totally delightful with swelling melodic passages, a light brigade of brass, and scintillating march.

After intermission came Franz von Suppé’s “Poet and Peasant” Overture followed by Josef Strauss’s “Dynamite Waltzes.” Nancy Ives superbly delivered the intimate and almost sentimental cello solo passages, which were a terrific set up for the bombastic and furious second part of the piece (associated forever in many American minds with some cartoon characters). That extroverted piece contrasted well with the “Dynamite Waltzes,” which despite its title (well, the real title was “Mysterious Powers of Magnetism”) was more sedate and refined.

As Kalmar mentioned in his introduction, the “Dynamite Waltzes” contained a couple of lines that Richard Strauss stole and modified for his opera “Der Rosenkavalier.” The orchestra played the Suite from that opera with gusto, excelling in sudden shifts in the dynamics and a brilliantly polished sound. Principal oboist Martin Hébert stole the spotlight with his exceptional playing, but Concertmaster Sarah Kwak and Principal Horn John Cox also set the bar high with their fine contributions.

In his introductory remarks before the concert, Scott Showalter, the orchestra’s President and CEO, announced that its annual gala raised over a million dollars. That is excellent news and should go a long way to help bring Shaham back to Portland some day in the near future. A gap of 24 years has flown by since Shaham last appeared here with the Oregon Symphony… which is too long of a dry spell.

Today's Birthdays

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731)
Bettina Brentano von Arnim (1785-1859)
Hans Richter (1843-1916)
Pierre Monteux (1875-1964)
Joe Venuti (1898-1978)
Eugène Bozza (1905-1991)
Muddy Waters (1915-1983)
Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)
Sergei Leiferkus (1946)
Chen Yi (1953)
Thomas Trotter (1957)
Jane Eaglen (1960)
Vladimir Jurowski (1972)

and

Robert E. Sherwood (1896-1955)
Marguerite Duras (1914-1996)
Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Classical music on the cheap

The online portion of the Oregonian has published my article about classical music concerts that cost almost nothing. In my research for this article, I found lots of concerts opportunities that are gratis. Portlanders are very fortunate to live in a city that has so many free and inexpensive concerts. I think that the article will appear in print -- probably this weekend.

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Baptiste‑Antoine Forqueray (1699-1782)
Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey (1895-1971)
Sir Neville Cardus (1888-1975)
Grigoras Dinicu (1889-1949)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Louis Appelbaum (1918-2000)
Sixten Ehrling (1918-2005)
Kerstin Meyer (1928)
Garrick Ohlsson (1948)
Mikhail Rudy (1953)

and

Washington Irving (1783-1894)
John Burroughs (1837-1921)
Herb Caen (1933-1997)
Dr. Jane Goodall (1934)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Franz Lachner (1803-1890)
Kurt Adler (1905-1988)
April Cantelo (1928)
Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)
Raymond Gubbay (1946)

and

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
Émile Zola (1840-1902)
Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Camille Paglia (1947)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Henri d'Anglebert (1629-1691)
Ferrucco Busoni (1866-1924)
F Melius Christiansen (1871-1955)
Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Dinu Lipatti (1921-1950)
William Bergsma (1921-1994)

and

Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)
Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)
Milan Kundera (1929)
Francine Prose (1947)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1888, the eccentric Parisian composer and piano virtuoso Alkan is buried in the Montmatre Cemetary. Isidore Philipp, one of only four mourners who attend Alkan's internment, claimed to have been present when the composer's body was found in his apartment and said the elderly Alkan was pulled from under a heavy bookcase, which apparently fell on him while Alkan was trying to reach for a copy of the Talmud on its top shelf. This story has been discounted by some Alkan scholars.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Andrew Brownell to appear on PSU Steinway Piano Series

From the press release:

The PSU Steinway Piano Series events during the weekend of April 21-23 will feature guest pianist Andrew Brownell.  A native of Portland currently residing in London as a performer and teacher, Mr. Brownell was the 2nd Prize Winner of the 2006 Leeds International Piano Competition and received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music in London.  He will perform a recital of works by Bach, Chopin, Liszt and Ravel on Saturday evening, April 22, at 7:30 pm in Lincoln Recital Hall (Rm. 75).  Tickets are $25 for general admission. $10 for PSU faculty and staff, students, and seniors with ID.

In this weekend of events, Mr. Brownell will also give a masterclass for PSU students and an outstanding student from the community the evening prior to his recital, on Friday, April 21, at 7 pm at Portland Piano Company.  Susan Chan will give a masterclass for several fine OMTA students on Sunday, April 23, at 2 pm in Lincoln Recital Hall.

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Durante (1684-1755)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Serge Diaghliev (1872-1929)
Clemens Krauss (1893-1954)
John Mitchinson (1932)
Herb Alpert (1935)
Nelly Miricioiu (1952)
Robert Gambill (1955)
Jake Heggie (1961)


and

René Descartes (1596-1650)
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)
Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)
Marge Piercy (1936)

From the Writer's Almanac:

Oklahoma! opened on Broadway on this date in 1943. It was based on a play called Green Grow the Lilacs (1930), by Lynn Riggs. Though the play, which was about settlers in the Oklahoma Territory, featured some old folk songs, it wasn’t a musical of the Broadway variety. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were both admirers of the play, and they had both independently tried to adapt it to the musical format, but their respective songwriting partners — Lorenz Hart and Jerome Kern — weren’t interested. So Rodgers approached Hammerstein about it. Usually musicals were made up of fairly thin and joke-riddled plotlines that only served to string together the most important element: the songs. But Rodgers and Hammerstein were both committed to making the songs fit the story, rather than the other way around. One of Broadway’s most beloved musicals, as well as one of its most successful partnerships, was born of their collaboration.

Nobody expected the show to do very well, but Oklahoma! was an immediate smash hit, and the first big Broadway blockbuster. It ran for over 2,200 performances. One of its stars, Celeste Holm, was not surprised at its success. A gypsy fortuneteller had told her that someone with the initials “R.R.” would change her life. “She said, ‘I see you surrounded by dancing cowboys,’” Holm later recalled. “It was the silliest thing I ever heard. I didn’t think a thing about it — until opening night, when I looked around and realized, Oh my God, there are the dancing cowboys!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Tommaso Traetta (1727-1779)
Ted Heath (1900-1969)
Sandor Szokolay (1931-2013)
John Eaton (1935-2015)
Gordon Muma (1935) Eric Clapton (1945)
Maggie Cole (1952)
Margaret Fingerhut (1955)
Sabine Meyer (1959)

and

Francisco Jose de Goya (1746-1828)
Anna Sewell (1820-1878)
Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Sean O'Casey (1880-1964)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Henri Lutz (1864-1928)
Rosina Lhévinne (1880-1976)
Sir William Walton (1902-1983)
E Power Biggs (1906-1977)
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012)
Guher Pekinel (1953)
Suher Pekinel (1953)

and

Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-2000) 
Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005)
Judith Guest (1936)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1871, Royal Albert Hall is formally opened in London by Queen Victoria.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Financial crisis causes Eugene Opera and general director to split

According to this report by OPB, a debt of $200,000 has caused General Director Mark Beudert to leave Eugene Opera - effective at the end of June.

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Weigl (1766-1846)
Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951)
Paul Whiteman (1890-1967)
Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991)
Jacob Avshalomov (1919-2013)
Robert Ashley (1930-2014)
Martin Neary (1940)
Samuel Ramey (1942)
Richard Stilgoe (1942)

and

Raphael (1483-1520)
Nelson Algren (1909-1981)
Mario Vargas Llosa (1936)
Russell Banks (1940)
Iris Chang (1968-2004)
Lauren Weisberger (1977)

And from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1842, the Vienna Philharmonic plays its first concert (as the "Vienna Court Orchestra") in the Redoutensaale under the director of composer Otto Nicolai, the director of the Vienna Court Opera. The program included Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, his concert aria "Ah, Perfido," and the "Leonore" No. 3 and "Consercration of the House" Overtures, along with other vocal selections by Mozart and Cherubini.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931)
Patty Smith Hill (1868-1946)
Ferde Grofé (1892-1972)
Anne Ziegler (1910-2003)
Sarah Vaughn (1924-1990)
Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007)
Paul Ruders (1949)
Maria Ewing (1950)
Bernard Labadie (1963)

and

Henri Murger (1822-1861)
Heinrich Mann (1871-1950)
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969)
Budd Schulberg (1914-2009)
Louis Simpson (1923-2012)
Julia Alvarez (1950)
John O'Farrell (1962)


And from the Composers Datebook:
On this date in 1808, Franz Joseph Haydn makes his last public appearance at a performance of his oratorio "The Creation" in Vienna in honor of the composer's approaching 76th birthday. Beethoven and Salieri attend the performance and greet Haydn.

From the New Music Box:
On On March 27, 1914, 20 year-old Leo Ornstein shocked audiences and critics at his Steinway Hall recital in London during which he performed his revolutionary Three Moods for solo piano and Danse Sauvage. The critic for the London Daily Mail described the event as a "wild outbreak," while another reviewer wrote, "We have never suffered from such insufferable hideousness, expressed in terms of so-called music." However, based on the attention that concert received, Schott published some of Ornstein's music for the first time. Famous as a wunderkind, Ornstein would compose into his 90s and live until 2002 to become the oldest composer in American music history.

From The Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of the woman who wrote "Happy Birthday to You," Patty Smith Hill, born in Anchorage, Kentucky (1868). Most of her life was spent as a kindergarten teacher. She began teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, and it was there, in 1893, that Hill first wrote the lyrics to the song. But it was originally meant as a welcome to start the school day and was first called "Good Morning to All." Hill's sister Mildred, an accomplished musician, provided the melody. Hill was only 25 when she wrote the lyrics to the famous song.

It became popularized with the invention of radio and sound films. The song appeared in the Broadway musical "The Band Wagon" (1931), and was used for Western Union's first singing telegram in 1933. A third sister, Jessica Hill, noticed the similarities between "Happy Birthday to You" and the song her sisters wrote, and she was able to prove it in a court of law. The song was copyrighted in 1935 and remains under copyright to this day. According to Forbes magazine, the song produces about $2 million in licensing revenue each year. "Happy Birthday to You" is still one of the most popular songs in the English language, along with "Auld Lang Syne" and "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Josef Slavík (1806-1833)
Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969)
André Cluytens (1905-1967)
Harry Rabinowitz (1916-2016)
Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
Kyung Wha Chung (1948)

and

Edward Bellamy (1850-1898)
A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Joseph Campbell (1904–1987)
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)
Gregory Corso (1930-2001)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783)
Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Haydn Wood (1882-1959)
Magda Olivero (1910-2014)
Sir Elton John (1947)

and

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)
Gloria Steinem (1934)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1949, Shostakovich (accompanied by KGB "handlers") arrives in New York for his first visit to America, for the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His anti-Western statements and criticism of Igor Stravinsky embarrassed his American sponsors, including Aaron Copland, and later provided political fodder for the notorious Red-hunter, Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Recommended classical concerts for springtime in today's Oregonian

Today's Oregonian published a list of classical music concerts in its spring guide. I hope that it has a few events that will capture your fancy. The paper published the same article a few days ago online here. I wrote the article and would liked to have included more performances, but the paper has its space requirements.

Today's Birthdays

John Antes (1740-1811)
Maria Malibran (1808-1836)
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)
Christiane Eda-Pierre (1932)
Benjamin Luxon (1937)

and

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990)
Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919)
Dario Fo (1926-2016)
Ian Hamilton (1938-2001)
Martin Walser (1927)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1721, J.S. Bach dedicates his six "Brandenburg" Concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg, whose orchestra apparently never performed them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oregon Symphony announces recording of Haydn symphonies

From the press release:

The Oregon Symphony today announced that its upcoming CD – the fourth under the musical direction of Carlos Kalmar – is set for a local release today and an official international release on April 7.
                                                                                                                  
This latest CD, entitled Haydn Symphonies, follows Spirit of the American Range (2015) which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance; This England (2012); and Music for a Time of War (2011), which garnered two Grammy Award nominations for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered album. This latest CD, like its three predecessors, was recorded in hybrid multichannel Super Audio CD format for Pentatone. This recording brings the total number of recordings by the Oregon Symphony to 20.
 
The new CD features three symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 53 (The Imperial), Symphony No. 64 (Tempora Mutantur), and Symphony No. 96 (The Miracle). It was recorded live at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in 2013 (Symphony No. 64) and 2016 (Symphonies Nos. 53 and 96) by Sound Mirror recording engineers John Newton and Blanton Alspaugh, both of whom engineered the three previous CDs.           
 
Music Director Carlos Kalmar said, “It is my great pleasure to share our newest recording with classical music lovers all over the world. I believe our orchestra is consistently proving it has something important to say musically. We appreciate our relationship with Pentatone and their partners at Sound Mirror who do such a great job of recording us live. We are already at work on our next recording.”
 
“We are very excited about this new release,” Pentatone’s Vice-President for Artist and Repertoire Renaud Loranger said. “It further documents the relationship between the Oregon Symphony and its music director, Carlos Kalmar, in performances beaming with vitality and stylistic acumen, and will no doubt become another milestone of our collaboration.”

Haydn Symphonies will receive its first radio broadcast on Portland’s own 24/7 classical music station, All Classical Portland (89.9 FM and streaming internationally at allclassical.org), at 7 pm today, March 23.
 
The recording was made possible in part through a generous gift from Cliff and Karen Deveney and by the James DePreist Fund for Broadcast and Recording.
 
Following its local release today, Haydn Symphonies will be available for purchase at the Symphony Ticket Office (909 SW Washington) or at the Pentatone website (pentatonemusic.com) until its official international release on April 7, 2017, when it will become available at most music outlets.
 
HAYDN SYMPHONIES
Haydn: Symphony No. 53 in D Major (The Imperial)
Haydn: Symphony No. 64 in A Major (Tempora Mutantur)
Haydn: Symphony No. 96 in D Major (The Miracle)

Today's Birthdays

Léon Minkus (1826-1917)
Eugène Gigout (1844-1925)
Franz Schreker (1878-1934)
Josef Locke (1917-1999)
Norman Bailey (1933)
Boris Tishchenko (1939-2010)
Michael Nyman (1944)
David Grisman (1945)

and

Roger Martin du Gard (1881-1958)
Louis Adamic (1898-1951) 
Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
Kim Stanley Robinson (1952) 
Gary Joseph Whitehead (1965)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Carl Rosa (1842-1889)
Hamisch MacCunn (1868-1916)
Joseph Samson (1888-1957)
Martha Mödl (1912-2001)
Fanny Waterman (1920)
Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986)
Stephen Sondheim (1930)
Joseph Schwantner (1943)
George Benson (1943)
Alan Opie (1945)
Rivka Golani (1946)
Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948)
Edmund Barham (1950-2008)

and

Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)
Louis L'Amour (1908-1988)
Edith Grossman (1936)
James Patterson (1940)
Billy Collins (1941)
James McManus (1951)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1687, Italian-born French composer Jean Baptiste Lully, age 54, in Paris, following an inadvertent self-inflicted injury to his foot (by a staff with which he would beat time for his musicians) which developed gangrene.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Modeste Moussorgsky (1839-1881)
Eddie James "Son" House (1902-1988)
Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949)
Paul Tortelier (1914-1990)
Nigel Rogers (1935)
Owain Arwel Hughes (1942)
Elena Firsova (1950)
Ann MacKay (1956)

and


Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)
Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998) 
Ved Mehta (1934)

From the New Music Box:
On March 21, 1771, the Massachusetts Gazette published an announcement for a musical program including "select pieces on the forte piano and guitar." It is the earliest known reference to the piano in America.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957)
Lauritz Melchoir (1890-1973)
Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997)
Dame Vera Lynn (1917)
Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970)
Marian McPartland (1918)
Henry Mollicone (1946)

and

Ovid (43 BC - AD 17)
Ned Buntline (1823-1886)
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)