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)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Max Reger (1873-1916)
Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994)
Nancy Evans (1915-2000)
Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950)
Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)
Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
Myung-Wha Chung (1944)
Carolyn Watkinson (1949)
Mathew Rosenblum (1954)

and

Tobias Smollett (1721-1771)
Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852)
Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890)
Philip Roth (1933)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Vogel (1756-1788)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Paul Le Flem (1881-1984)
Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973)
Willem van Hoogstraten (1884-1964)
Nobuko Imai (1943)
James Conlon (1950)
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (1950)
Courtney Pine (1964)

and

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
Manly Hall (1901-1990)
George Plimpton (1927-2003)
Christa Wolf (1929-2011)
John Updike (1932-2009) 
Franz Wright (1953-2015)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Arts funding in jeopardy

From the Cultural Advocacy Coalition

It is time for us to rise to the challenge yet again. Today's announcement is just the beginning of the many next steps of the federal budget process. Our Oregon Congressional delegation has voiced bipartisan support for the NEA, both in the past two years of funding proposals, and in public statements made recently. Join me and hundreds of other Oregonians in calling on them today and urging them to fight for arts and culture in our state and nation.

Here's how you can take action right now to respond to President Trump's Budget Outline:
  • Contact your House and Senate delegations. Urge them to oppose the President's request and provide full funding for the NEA, NEH, CPB and IMLS. Senator Jeff Merkley serves on the Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. Outreach to Senator Merkley is critical at this time. And, if you are a constituent of Representative Walden's please reach out to him immediately.
Here's what you need to know about the impact of NEA funding in Oregon:
  • In its fiscal year 2016, the NEA provided $727,700 in Partnership Agreement funds to the Oregon Arts Commission. These critical funds are used in conjunction with state legislative dollars to support grants and services across the entire state of Oregon.
  • NEA and state funds enabled the Oregon Arts Commission to not only award 267 grants totaling $2,121,428 in its fiscal year 2015 but also provide non-grant services to arts organizations, community groups, schools and artists. These grants and services supported access to the arts, employment, arts education, community well-being and the cultural heritage of the entire state.
  • Also affected by NEA budget cuts would be direct grants to arts organizations in each state. In its fiscal year 2016, the NEA made 32 direct grants totaling $795,000 in Oregon.
On top of the potential loss of $727,700 in NEA funding, the Oregon Arts Commission (OAC), is proposing cuts to operating support grants for the next biennium of 30% in response to potential budget cuts at the state level of $530,000. That's 30% less art, music, theater, dance, poetry, and more for Oregonians. This is a very real scenario on the table for the OAC in the current budget and the impact of these cuts would be substantial. It's time for us as artists, arts patrons, cultural advocates and Oregonians to take a stand for art and culture in our state and our nation's capitol.

Please join us for Advocacy Day 2017 in Salem on Monday, April 24 to meet and speak with our legislators about the importance of arts and culture to our state and nation.

I know from experience, emails and letters do not have the same effect as speaking with your legislator in person. That's why we love our art LIVE! There's no substitute for face-to-face advocacy for preserving the OAC's budget and its impact on arts and culture throughout our state.

Register today for Advocacy Day 2017 and we will see you in Salem on April 24th!

Today's Birthdays

Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729)
Manuel García II (1805-1906)
Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901)
Giuseppe Borgatti (1871-1950)
Brian Boydell (1917-2000)
Nat "King" Cole (1917-1965)
John LaMontaine (1920-2013)
Stephen Dodgson (1924-2013)
Betty Allen (1927-2009)
John Lill (1944)
Michael Finnissy (1946)
Patrick Burgan (1960)

and

Edmund Kean (1787-1833)
Frank B. Gilbreth (1911-2001)
Penelope Lively (1933)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Seattle Opera cuts some jobs and closes scene shop in Renton

Today's issue of the Seattle Times reports that Seattle Opera has had to reduce its staff and close a scene shop in order to meet its budget. Apparently, the company's expenses have been $2 to $3 million more than its income for quite a while.

- Thanks to opera critic Mark Mandel for pointing this out

Today's Birthdays

Enrico Tamberlik (1820-1889)
Henny Youngman (1906-1998)
Christa Ludwig (1928)
Sir Roger Norrington (1934)
Teresa Berganza (1935)
David Del Tredici (1937)
Claus Peter Flor (1953)

and

James Madison (1751-1836)
Maxim Gorky (1868-1936)
César Vallejo (1892-1938)
Sid Fleischman (1920-2010)
Alice Hoffman (1952)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bunch's new work perks up the ears and scores big time with Oregon Symphony audience

It is a rare event in the classical music world when a brand new work can upstage one of the great works in the cello repertoire and one of the best concertos for orchestra, but that’s what happened on Saturday (March 11) when the Oregon Symphony gave the world premiere of Kenji Bunch’s “Aspects of an Elephant.” Bunch’s new piece, a concerto for orchestra, immediately connected with the audience in such a way that it stole the spotlight from fine performances of Dvořák’s Cello Concert and Barber’s “Souveniers.” After the concert, audience members at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall were still talking about Bunch’s new concoction, a real tribute to Bunch and the musicians who played superbly under the direction of Carlos Kalmar.

Commissioned by the Oregon Symphony to celebrate its 120th anniversary, “Aspects of an Elephant” painted the parable of the six men who are in a very dark room with an elephant. After each man touches a part of the elephant, he proclaims what the elephant is like. They get into an argument and the finale, the elephant is revealed.

Bunch reached into every section of the orchestra to create an intriguing mixture of sonic colors. A suspenseful introduction (“Into Darkness”) featured sharp taps from the percussion. The first episode (“The Elephant is a Whip”) accented a plethora of nimble sounds with a slapstick. The next episode used humorous grunting sounds from the brass and light, swishy strings. Mellifluous flutes got into the mix to suggest the elephant’s ear as a silk cloth. With a ground round from the bass violins and rising tones from the trumpets, it was easy to imagine a tree. Streaky, wiggling sounds from the violins created the movement of a snake, and expanding lines from the brass assembled a throne. Sporadic blurts from all sides of the orchestra evoked the men arguing with each other until they are overtaken in the finale with the grandiosity of the elephant in all its glory.

In many ways “Aspects of an Elephant” reminded me of Bernstein’s Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium”) in which the orchestra assumes the role of different philosophers in their discussion about love. But Bunch’s piece incorporated a larger orchestral palette to paint an equally vivid picture. The audience responded to the music with unbridled enthusiasm, which brought Bunch back to the stage a couple of times.

The concert opened with a radiant performance of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto that featured Harriet Krijgh, a rising star from Holland, as the soloist. Krijgh expressed the beauty of the music with great feeling, creating a beautiful tone from beginning to end. With her long arms, she caressed the cello and excelled in all facets – except that she needed to play even louder when the orchestra heightened its crescendos. That’s a problem that many solo cellists have with the Schnitz. It is not the best hall for instruments or singers in the lower ranges.

The program concluded with Barber’s “Souvenirs,” an orchestral survey of popular dances that were a staple of the grand hotels of New York City in the early Twentieth Century. The violins exuded elegance when they tapered off the ends of their phrases in the “Waltz” movement. The slightly languorous sentiment of the “Pas de deux” was nicely set up by the harp, flute, oboe, and bass violin. The muted, yet sprightly trumpets and trombones mingled delightfully with the piccolo in the “Two-step,” while the English horn, brushes and cymbals slid back and forth seductively with the clarinets, cello, and violas during the “Hesitation-Tango.” Everything swirled and sped up for the “Galop” before ending snappily.

It should be noted that Bunch, who has been playing in the viola section for the past couple of years, took a seat with his colleagues in order play the Barber, and when he came out on stage, he was greeted with another volley of applause. That response from the audience seemed to summarize the good vibes of the evening. People actually did leave the hall with a smile and in good spirits.

Today's Birthdays

Eduard Strauss (1835-1916)
Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935)
Colin McPhee (1900-1964)
Lightnin' Hopkins (1912-1982)
Ben Johnston (1926)
Nicolas Flagello (1928-1994)
Cecil Taylor (1929)
Jean Rudolphe Kars (1947)
Isabel Buchanan (1954)

and

Richard Ellmann (1918-1987)
Ben Okri (1959)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1985, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, age 22, makes his operatic debut at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples, singing the lead tenor role in Domenico Morelli's comic opera "L'Amico Francesco."

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756)
Pierre-Louis Couperin (1755-1789)
Johann Strauss Sr. (1804-1849)
Lawrance Collingwood (1887-1982)
Witold Rudziński (1913-2004)
Quincy Jones (1933)
Phillip Joll (1954)

and

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Sylvia Beach (1887-1962)
Max Shulman (1919-1988)
Diane Arbus (1923-1871)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Michael Blavet (1700-1768)
Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Alec Rowley (1892-1958)
Irène Joachim (1913-2001)
Jane Rhodes (1929-2011)
Alberto Ponce (1935)
Lionel Friend (1945)
Julia Migenes (1949
Wolfgang Rihm (1952)
Anthony Powers (1953)
Moses Hogan (1957-2003)
Terence Blanchard (1962)

and

Janet Flanner (1892-1978)
George Seferis (1900-1971)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1845, Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in e, Op. 64, was premiered by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Niels Gade, with Ferdinand David the soloist.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1778)
Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)
Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965)
Ralph Shapey (1921-2002)
Norbert Brainin (1923-2005)
Philip Jones (1928-2000)
Helga Pilarczyk (1935-2011)
Liza Minnelli (1946)
James Taylor (1948)

and

George Berkeley (1685-1753)
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916)
Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950)
Edward Albee (1928)
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)
Virginia Hamilton (1934-2002)
Naomi Shihab Nye (1952)
Carl Hiaasen (1953)
David Eggers (1970)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Carl Ruggles (1876-1971)
Henry Cowell (1897-1965)
Xavier Montsalvage (1912-2002)
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Sarah Walker (1943)
Tristan Murail (1947)
Bobby McFerrin (1950)
Katia Labèque (1950)

and

Torquato Tasso (1544-1495)
Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983)
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1829, Mendelssohn conducts a revival performance of J.S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" in Berlin.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838)
Dudley Buck (1839-1909)
Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)
Arthur Honnegger (1892-1955)
Dame Eva Turner (1892-1990)
Bix Biederbecke (1903-1931)
Sir Charles Groves (1915-1992)
William Blezard (1921-2003)
Andrew Parrott (1947)
Stephen Oliver (1950-1992)

and

Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933)
Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948)
Heywood Hale Broun (1918-2001)
David Rabe (1940)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1915, the Moscow Synodal Choir gave the premiere performance of a new choral work by Sergei Rachmaninoff. In Russian, the work was titled Vsenoshchnoe bdeniye, which translates as "All-Night Vigil Service" or more commonly as "Vespers.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Josef Mysliveczek (1737-1781)
Archie Camden (1888-1979)
Dame Isobel Baillie (1895-1983)
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
David Matthews (1943)
Kalevi Aho (1949)
Howard Shelley (1950)

and

Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512)
Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962)
Mickey Spillane (1918-2006)
David Pogue (1963)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1831, Italian violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini makes his Parisian debut a the Opéra. Composers in the audience include Meyerbeer, Cherubini, Halvéy. and Franz Liszt (who transcribes Pagnini's showpiece "La Campanella" for piano). Also in attendance are the many famous novelists and poets, including George Sand, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Mussset and Heinrich Heine.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In Mulieribus weaves splendid tapestry of madrigals

In Mulieribus, the Portland-based female vocal ensemble, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a superb concert of madrigals at The Old Church on Saturday evening (March 4). The singers’ pitch-perfect precision, tonal balance, emotional intensity, and clear diction conveyed piece outstandingly. Some pieces were sung as solos, some as duets, trios, quartets, whatever. It didn’t matter. The high artistry of the group wove a fantastic tapestry of sound that made the concert one of the best so far this year.

Led by artistic director Anna Song, who directed some of the selections and sang in others, the program sampled madrigals primarily from the Italian and English repertoire plus a brand new piece that the group commissioned from Craig Kingsbury. The other sirens in the ensemble were sopranos Kari Ferguson, Arwen Myers, Catherine van der Salm, Ann Wetherell, mezzo soprano Hannah Penn, and altos Sue Hale and Jo Routh. They were accompanied on some of the pieces by theorboist Hideki Yamaya and on two selections by Blake Applegate, Aaron Cain, and Brian Tierney.

The concert sparkled from the get go with a quartet singing “Su, su, su pastorelli vezzosi” (“Arise, up, charming shepherd lads”) from Book 8 of Claudio Monteverdi’s Madrigals. The overlapping lines were well-balanced throughout and the light quality was totally inviting. “Ah, Robin, gentle Robin” by William Corynish acquired a plaintive, searching tone that took the audience in a more melancholic direction. Later in the program John Wilbye’s “Weep, O mine eyes,” sung by a sextet, also created a wonderfully mournful mood.

The matching of vowels and consonants were wonderfully demonstrated throughout the concert, but the trio (Myers, van der Salm, and Ferguson) singing of Luzzasco Luzzaschi’s “T’amo mia vita” (“I love you, my life”) sounded as if they were just one person with three voices. In much the same way, Wetherell and Hale singing of Strozzi’s “Begli occhi” (“Beautiful eyes”) by Barbara Strozzi was perfectly matched in every which-way by. The crunchy suspensions of Alesandro Scarlatti’s “Cor meo deh non languire” (“My heart, do not languish”) received an impeccable interpretation by a quintet.

Van der Salm gave such a breathtakingly exquisite performance of Alessandro Grandi’s “O quam tu pulchra es” (“O how beautiful you are”) that the audience responded with applause even though they should have waited until the end of the following piece. Jan Sweelinck’s “Lascia filli, mi acara” (“Leave,my sweet girl”) achieved a gem-like polish with a trio (Myers, Hale, and Routh).

Equally effective were Myers and Penn in their solos. Myers delivered a stunningly beautiful interpretation of Monteverdi’s “Lamento della Ninfa” (“The Nymph’s Lament”), augmented by the male trio. Hannah Penn’s haunting plea in Barbara Strozzi’s “Chesi può fare” (“What can one do”) penetrated all corners of the room with heart-felt emotion

Even though most of the madrigals in the program were written over 400 years ago, it was refreshing to hear a new take on the form. Based on a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, Kingsbury’s “Canción de las siete doncellas” (“Song of the seven maidens”) received a splendid world premiere at this concert. The music had lots of close-cut dissonance –coupled with multilayered phrases and flat-out beautiful harmonics.

“Sole e pensoso” (“Alone and thoughtful”) by Luca Marenzio featured alto Routh, soprano van der Salm and the male ensemble. The final number “Sanita e allegrezza” (“Health and joy”) by Orazio Vecchi sent the audience out into the night in good cheer.

Today's Birthdays

Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613)
Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000)
Dick Hyman (1927)
Christian Wolff (1934)
Robert Tear (1939-2011)
Barthold Kuijken (1949)
Simon Halsey (1958)

and

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)
Leslie Fiedler (1917-2003)
Neil Postman (1931-2003)
John McPhee (1933)
Leslie A. Fiedler (1948)
Jeffrey Eugenides (1960)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

John Wilbye (1574-1638)
Tomaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Heino Eller (1887-1970)
Christopher Seaman (1942)
Uri Segal (1944)
Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997)
Nicholas Kraemer (1945)
Clive Gillinson (1946)
Okko Kamu (1946)
Montserrat Figueras (1948-2011)
Michael Chance (1955)

and

William York Tindall (1903-1981)
William Boyd (1952)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1897, Johannes Brahms attends his last concerts and hears his Symphony No. 4 conducted by Hans Richter.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Article about Kenji Bunch and his new work in The Oregonian

I interviewed  composer Kenji Bunch about his new work, "Aspects of an Elephant," for an article that was published in The Oregonian online here. The print version should be available sometime this week.
Bunch's piece will be premiered this weekend by the Oregon Symphony, which commissioned the it.

Today's Birthdays

Oscar Straus (1870-1954)

Julius Rudel (1921-2014)
Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006)
Wes Montgomery (1925-1968)
Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015)
Lorin Maazel (1930-2014)
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (1944)
Stephen Schwartz (1948)
Marielle Labèque (1952)
Mark Gresham (1956)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin (1975)

and

Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Ring Lardner (1885-1933)
Gabriel García Márquez (1928-2014)
Willie Mays (1931)
Dick Fosbury (1947)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alphonse Hasselmans (1845-1912)
Arthur Foote (1853-1937)
Pauline Donalda (1882-1970)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
Anthony Hedges (1931)
Barry Tuckwell (1931)
Sheila Nelson (1936)
Richard Hickox (1948)

and

Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594)
Frank Norris (1870-1902)
Leslie Marmon Silko (1948)

From The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1750 that the first Shakespearean play was presented in America. Richard III was performed by the actors of Walter Murray and William Kean’s troupe from Philadelphia. Theater was still new in the colonies. And though it was popular in Philadelphia, that city still preferred to pride itself on its scientific and literary achievements, so Murray and Kean set out for New York City.

Through the 1700s, New York’s primary form of entertainment was drinking. By the time Murray and Kean arrived in February of 1750, there were 10,000 city residents and over 150 taverns. Murray and Kean set up shop in a two-story wooden structure on Nassau Street, slightly east of Broadway.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pianist Kahane races through Schumann concerto with Oregon Symphony

I am not sure why Jeffrey Kahane rushed through Schumann’s Piano Concerto when he played it with the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Monday evening (February 27), but rush he did. Maybe he was bored with the piece, had too many espressos, or was just in an odd state of mind. Whatever the reason, Kahane sped through the first movement so quickly, it seemed like he just wanted to get it over with asap. All of the notes were there, but he didn’t provide any dynamic nuances at all. It was really weird. The second movement was thankfully a little slower and Kahane did deliver some of the delicate moments with grace. He returned to his lightning fast technique in the final movement, which was appropriate since it is marked “Allegro vivace.” The audience responded to the joyous finale with great enthusiasm, enough applause to bring Kahane back to the stage three times. He reciprocated with variations on “America the Beautiful” that he improvised with great sensitivity – a stark contrast with the way that he handled the Schumann.

Despite the quick pace of the Schumann concerto, the orchestra still managed to shine under guest conductor Christoph König. Oboist Karin Wagner and clarinetist James Shields expressed their solos elegantly, and the cellos enhanced the melodic theme in the second movement with lush and robust playing.

The orchestra excelled with its performance of John Adam’s “Slonimsky’s Earbox,” a piece that the orchestra co-commissioned in 1996. The music wandered all over the place – a tribute to the wide-ranging mind of conductor/composer/writer Nicolas Slonimsky – sometimes careening from one section of the orchestra to the next. The punchy dialogue between the brass and swirl of sound from the rest of the orchestra had a galvanizing effect that led to a myriad of intriguing sonic combinations. One moment the flutes would concoct a phrase that bubbled up into the rest of the woodwinds. The next moment the orchestra would sync up into a tic toc segment that featured muted trumpets, and then everything seemed to dissolve into a slow, sonic melt. At one point the marimba, xylophone, and vibraphone were going like mad, and the strings created a chattering sound. Somewhere in the midst of the excitement things quieted down so that Joël Belgique’s lovely viola solos could be heard. König expertly led the orchestral concerto with a clear command of the constant changes in meter and the lively pace.

The last half of the concert was devoted to Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” which a finely honed performance from the orchestra. From the stately beginning through the many variations – which contain clue-like references to friends of the composer – to the grand finale, the many sections of the orchestra took over the spotlight with élan. Witty repartee between strings and woodwinds, robust and crisp brass, and hugely emotional crescendos and decrescendos were impressively executed and wonderfully conveyed the beauty of Elgar’s masterpiece. Solos by Belgique, Shields, cellist Nancy Ives, and subtle shading by timpanist Sergio Carreno highlighted the performance.

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Carlos Surinach (1915-1997)
Cecil Aronowitz (1916-1978)
Samuel Adler (1928)
Bernard Haitink (1929)
Aribert Reimann (1936)
Ralph Kirshbaum (1946)
Leanna Primiani (1968)

and

Khaled Hosseini (1965)

and

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1801,the U.S. Marine Band performed for Thomas Jefferson's inaugural. Jefferson, an avid music lover and amateur violinist, gave the Marine Band the title "The President's Own." Since that time, the band has played for every presidential inaugural.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Oscars-Schmoscars - Large audience hears clarinetist Shifrin with the Vancouver Symphony

You’d think that competing in the same time slot as the annual Oscars ceremony would have severely diminished the attendance at Vancouver Symphony’s concert on Sunday night (February 26), but Skyview Concert Hall was fairly full with a large crowd. The strong turnout must have been due in part to the featured soloist, clarinetist David Shifrin, who is well-known for his work at Chamber Music Northwest, both as a performer and as its artistic director for the past 36 years. He didn’t disappoint the listeners, deftly playing the “Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra” by Carl Maria von Weber and Gioachino Rossini’s “Introduction, Theme, and Varations.” The orchestra, led by music director Salvador Brotons, rounded out the program with solid performances of works by Christoph Willibald Gluck and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

For the Weber and Rossini pieces, Shifrin brought out the cantabile style, make the melodic lines sing. His expressive artistry accented sharp contrasts in dynamics, easily diving into the softest pianissimos and ascending to bold fortes that were never too harsh. He executed wonderful tempo shifts – sometimes in mid phrase – and occasionally he would turn slightly from side to side so that everyone in the hall could hear him.

The operatic moments of each piece also include some mind boggling runs that went up and down very quickly. The Rossini piece offered the flashiest of these with a series that involved popping a high note in the midst of a run that was in the lower range. Using terrific breath control, Shifrin played all of the pianistic passages with gusto, crouching and almost bouncing lightly in a way that was fun to watch.

The orchestra accompanied Shifrin with great sensitivity. It was easy to hear every phrase and nuance from his clarinet. In much the same way, the orchestra also gave a fine performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. The combinations of light and airy sections contrasted very well against the turbulent and darker parts of the piece. The violins nicely tip-toed their way through the delicate areas of the second movement, including passages that featured a distant echo. There were some muffled notes in the French horns and a stray note here and there from other sections, but overall, the orchestra gave a satisfying performance.

The concert began with the Overture to Gluck’s “Iphigénie en Aulide,” which warmed up the audience with stately melodic lines that suggested slowly turning ocean waves mixed in with a little pomp. The orchestra excelled at creating the darker moods of the piece as well.

Brotons conducted the Gluck and Mozart from memory. His baton work and gestures showed expert command of the music and allowed him to engage the musicians freely. It’s an impressive thing to behold.

Today's Birthdays

Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932)
Henry Wood (1869-1944)
Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982)
Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)
Frank Wigglesworth (1918-1996)
Doc Watson (1923-2012)
Martin Lovett (1927)
Florence Quivar (1944)
Roberta Alexander (1949)
Katia Labèque (1950)

and

James Merrill (1926-1995)
Ira Glass (1959)

From the Writer's Almanac:
Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata was published on this date in 1802. Its real name is the slightly less evocative “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2,” and its Italian subtitle is translated as “almost a fantasy.” In 1832, five years after Beethoven’s death, a German critic compared the sonata to the effect of moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne, and the interpretation became so popular that, by the end of the century, the piece was universally known as the “Moonlight Sonata.” Beethoven himself had attributed the emotion of the piece to sitting at the bedside of a friend who had suffered an untimely death.

It was on this day in 1875 that the opera Carmen appeared on stage for the first time at the Opéra-Comique in France. When it premiered, the audience was shocked by the characters of Carmen, a gypsy girl, and her lover, Don José. The opera ran for 37 performances even though it came out late in the season, and it came back the next season, too.

Nietzsche heard Carmen 20 different times, and thought of it as a musical masterpiece. Tchaikovsky first heard Carmen in 1880. Bizet died of a heart attack just three months after the opera's debut.

It was on this day in 1931 that "The Star-Spangled Banner" became the official national anthem of the United States.

The lyrics come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key more than a century before, "Defence of Fort McHenry." He'd spent a night toward the end of the War of 1812 hearing the British navy bombard Baltimore, Maryland. The bombardment lasted 25 hours — and in the dawn's early light, Francis Scott Key emerged to see the U.S. flag still waving over Fort McHenry. He jotted the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" on the back of an envelope. Then he went to his hotel and made another copy, which was printed in the Baltimore American a week later.

The tune for the Star-Spangled Banner comes from an old British drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven," which was very popular at men's social clubs in London during the 1700s. Francis Scott Key himself did the pairing of the tune to his poem. It was a big hit.

For the next century, a few different anthems were used at official U.S. ceremonies, including "My Country Tis of Thee" and "Hail Columbia." The U.S. Navy adopted "The Star-Spangled Banner" for its officialdom in 1889, and the presidency did in 1916. But it wasn't until this day in 1931 — just 80 years ago — that Congress passed a resolution and Hoover signed into law the decree that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was the official national anthem of the United States of America.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
Tom Burke (1890-1969)
Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
Marc Blitzstein (1905-1965)
John Gardner (1917-2011)
Robert Simpson (1921-1997)
Bernard Rands (1934)
Robert Lloyd (1940)
Lou Reed (1942)

and

Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) (1904-1991)
Mikhail S Gorbachev (1931)
Tom Wolfe (1931)
John Irving (1942)

and from the Composers Datebook:

Starting on this day in 1967 and continuing over the next two weeks, Russian cellist Mstsilav Rostropovich  performed 26 works for cello and orchestra at 8 concerts with the London Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York City -- including some world premieres!

Oh, and just to make it easier, he performed everything from memory.

We should also mention, I suppose, that, during those weeks in New York, Rostropovich was asked to leave his hotel because other guests there complained about his practicing all night!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Seattle Opera's unveils gripping "Katya Kabanova"

Melody Moore (Katya). Jacob Lucas photo
Tragedy can happen anywhere. That’s why the 1950s setting in the United States looked comfortably appropriate in Seattle Opera’s production of “Katya Kabanova.” Designed by Genevieve Blanchett and Mark Howett, the white picket fence, the expansive living room of a ranch house, and the video projections of wild rivers updated the setting from a village near the Volga River in the 1860s to a small town that could easily have been in the Pacific Northwest. The powerfully expressive singing of Melody Moore in the title role and evocative playing by the orchestra under Oliver von Dohnányi highlighted the performance on opening night (February 25) at McCaw Hall.

Written by Leoš Janáček, “Katya Kabanova” tells the story of a lovely, young woman trapped by circumstances that she cannot overcome. Her domineering mother-in-law constantly belittles Katya and runs rough-shod over her husband, Tichon. Katya finds herself longing for another man, Boris, who is single but must tolerate his gruff and boorish uncle in order to get his inheritance. An evening liason between Katya and Boris pushes Katya into a heightened emotional state, and she confesses her adultery to the townspeople. Katya then runs off, causing the townspeople to search for her. She meets with Boris, but they don’t have a future together. Distraught yet strangely at peace with herself, Katya dies after falling into the river.
Joseph Dennis (Boris) and Melody Moore (Katya). Philip Newton photo
The Katya that Moore created had a depth of character that anchored the story. Her singing in the final scene revealed a tormented soul that wanted to connect with others. Joseph Dennis made for a dashing Boris, but his lovely tenor barely had enough volume to be heard above the orchestra. Nicky Spence’s Tichon, on the other hand, riveted the audience with his volcanic bursts of frustration.

Victoria Livengood excelled in every which way as Kabanicha, the evil mother-in-law, bully everyone around her with demands and proclamations. When yells at Katya that Tichon “is her husband, not her lover,” that pretty much summed up her view of marital relations. As Dikoj, Stefan Szkafarowsky spouted off like a crusty old teakettle – full of abrasiveness and a smidgeon of charm.
Jennifer Cross (Glasha), Victoria Livengood (Kabanicha) and Nicky Spence (Tichon). Philip Newton photo
Maya Lahyani played the role of Varvara with a light-hearted and free-spirited nature that provided some relief from the heaviness of Katya’s situation. It also meshed wonderfully with Joshua Kohl’s Kudrjas. The duets that featured the two lovers (Varvara and Kudrjas) were exceptionally well sung.

Patrick Nolan provided crisp stage directions that were easy to follow. One of the most symbolic moments came at the end when Katya fell backwards into the river. It seemed to be an acceptance of her fate.

Under the baton of Dohnányi, the orchestra sounded fantastic, delivering sounds that marvelously matched the text and expressed the emotional states of the characters. Lush moments, angry outbursts, ominous moods… the musicians terrifically conveyed it all. There was a solitary passage in the final scene when the clarinet (Benjamin Lulich) deftly conveyed what seemed to be the essence of Katya wandering in the woods. It was truly magical.

Today's Birthdays

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960)
Glenn Miller (1904-1944)
Leo Brouwer (1939)
Moray Welsh (1947)
Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson (1954-2006)
Galina Gorchakova (1962)
Thomas Adès (1971)

and

Oskar Kokoschka (1866-1980)
Ralph Ellison (1913-1994)
Robert Lowell (1917-1977)
Richard Wilbur (1921)