Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's Birthdays

François Devienne (1759-1803)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Caroline Miolan‑Carvalho (1827-1895)
Ernest John Moeran (1894-1950)
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940)
Nathan Milstein (1904-1992)
Benjamin Frankel (1906-1973)
Alan Lomax (1915-2002)
Jaap Schröder (1925)
Odetta (1930-2008)
Philip Glass (1937)
Stephen Cleobury (1948)
Donna Summer (1948-2012)
George Benjamin (1960)
Jennifer Higdon (1962)

and

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Zane Grey (1872-1939)
John O'Hara (1905-1970)
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Chinese Orchestra's visas to the US denied - concert in Seattle canceled

According to this report in the Seattle Times newspaper, the Beijing Chinese Orchestra had to cancel its concert in Benaroya Hall on February 16, because all of the visas for its members were denied. No explanation has been issued as to why, but the denials occurred on January 20th, which was the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated as President.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)
 Charles Martin Loeffler (1861-1935)
Walter Damrosch (1862-1950)
Lynn Harrell (1944)
Silvia Marcovici (1952)
Gerald Finley (1960)

and

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)
Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989)
Shirley Hazzard (1931-2016)
Richard Brautigan (1935-1984)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715-1777)
Daniel-François-Esprit Auber(1782-1871)
Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852-1935)
Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
Havergal Brian (1876-1972)
Blanche Selva (1884-1942
Luigi Nono (1924-1990)
Myer Fredman (1932-2014)
Malcolm Binns (1936)
Cho-Liang Lin (1960)

and

W. C. Fields (1880-1946)
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
Edward Abbey (1927-1989)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1826 was the premiere of Schubert's String Quartet in D minor, "Death and the Maiden," as a unrehearsed reading at the Vienna home of Karl and Franz Hacker, two amateur musicians. Schubert, who usually played viola on such occasions, could not perform since he was busy copying out the parts and making last-minute corrections.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Bartolomeo Bruni (1757-1821)
Ferdinand Herold (1791-1833)
Alexander Mackenzie (1822-1892)
Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)
Vittorio Rieti (1898-1994)
Michael Head (1900-1976)
Ronnie Scott (1927-1996)
Acker Bilk (1929-2014)
Sir John Tavener (1944-2013)
Richard Danielpour (1956)

and

Colette (1873-1954)
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Claes Oldenburg (1929)
David Lodge (1935)

and from the Composers Almanac:

On this day in 1971, William Bolcom completes his "Poltergeist" Rag (dedicated to Teresa Sterne, a one-time concert pianist who was then a producer for Nonesuch Records). According to the composer's notes, the "Poltergeist" Rag was written "in a converted garage next to a graveyard in Newburgh, N.Y."

Friday, January 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Juan Crisostomo Arriage (1806-1826)
Edouard Lalo (1823-1892)
Jerome Kern (1885-1945)
Jack Brymer (1915-2003)
Skitch Henderson (1918-2005)
Helmut Zacharias (1920-2002)
Fritz Spiegl (1926-2003)
John Ogdon (1937-1989)
Jean-Philippe Collard (1948)
Emanuel Pahud (1970)
James Ehnes (1976)

and

Dmitry Mandeleyev (1834-1907)
Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948)
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795)
Maria Augusta von Trapp (1905-1987)
Stéphane Grappelli (1908-1997)
Jimmy Van Heusen (1913-1990)
Warren Benson (1924-2005)
Jacqueline du Pré (1945-1987)
Frédéric Lodéon (1952)
Mikel Rouse (1957)
Gustavo Dudamel (1981)

and

Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905)
Seán MacBride (1904-1988)
Jules Feiffer (1929)
Christopher Hampton (1946)
Ellen DeGeneres (1958)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1790, Mozart's opera, "Così fan tutte," was premiered in Vienna at the Burgtheater.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jan Blockx (1851-1912)
Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954)
Julia Smith (1905-1989)
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994)
Alfred Reed (1921-2005)
Etta James (1938-2012)
Russell Peck (1945-2009)

and

Robert Burns (1759-1796)
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1909, Richard Strauss's opera "Elektra" was given its premiere in Dresden at the Hofoper, conducted by Ernst von Schuch, with soprano Annie Krull in the title role.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Brahms Second Piano Concerto made glorious with Shaham and Vancouver Symphony

Orli Shaham and the Vancouver Symphony teamed up for a spirited performance of Brahms Second Piano Concerto on Saturday (January 21) at Skyview Concert Hall. Their playing was the highlight of a program that featured some staples of the repertoire: Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D Major. All of the pieces were led by guest conductor Marcello Lehninger, the music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

The concert marked Shaham’s second appearance with the orchestra. In May of 2014, she performed the Mozart concerto for two pianos with Igal Kesselman. This time around, she tackled the Brahms Second, considered one of the greatest and most challenging piano concertos ever written. Using an electronic tablet placed just inside the piano, Shaham played impressively with intensity and verve. That didn’t mean that she was flawless. There were a few missed notes, but they did not affect the overall outcome, which was glorious.

Shaham’s cadenzas were especially appealing. Throughout the piece, she marvelously created moods that were majestic, dreamy, and playful. Her duets with the French horn in the first movement and with principal cellist Dieter Ratzlaf in the third were soulful and lovely. The orchestra, under the direction of Lehninger, supported Shahm well although the strings had some occasional intonation issues.

Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony received a solid performance with some nicely honed dynamic shifts in terms of volume and tempo changes. Aside from some bobbled notes in the French horns, the ensemble as a whole played with distinction. Yet to make the music more engaging, there needed to be more articulation, more nuanced phrasing, and a faster, wilder finish. I’m not tying to harp needlessly or be nit-picky for the heck of it.I just want more.

Although Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D Major is a staple of period instrument orchestras, it’s good to hear a modern ensemble play it as well. The Vancouver Symphony, chiseled down to a chamber ensemble, gave it a fairly crisp performance. The fugato section in the Overture needed a little more definition so that it would contrast better with the stately theme. The Air was elegant and pleasantly soothing. It was followed by two sprightly and energetic Gavottes. The Bourée seemed to sag a bit, but the final Gigue bounced along well enough to wrap it all up.

Lehninger’s debut with the orchestra went very well. He communicated with clear stickwork throughout. His Bach beat was sharply defined yet expressive. He urged the orchestra effectively in the Beethoven, and he kept everyone together in the Brahms. It would be great to see him return to the podium with the orchestra some day in the near future.

Today's Birthdays

Farinelli (Carlo Maria Broschi) (1705-1782)
Frederick II the Great (1712-1786)
Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)
E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822)
Evelyn Barbirolli (1911-2008)
Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008)
Gottfried von Einem (1918-1996)
Leon Kirchner (1919-2009)
Neil Diamond (1941)
Yuri Bashmet (1953)
Warren Zevon (1947-2003)

and

William Congreve (1670-1729)
Edith Wharton (1862-1937)
Desmond Morris (1928)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Eugene Opera cancels remainder of season

The Eugene Register-Guard has reported that the remaining shows of Eugene Opera's season have been suspended because of a financial crunch. The opera company was in the middle of its 40th season. The Eugene Opera's web site confirms that the company has financial problems that must be resolved.

Today's Birthdays

Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)
Rutland Boughton (1878-1960)
Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)
Milton Adolphus (1913-1988)
Eli Goren (1923-2000)
Cécile Ousset (1936)
Teresa Zylis-Gara (1936)
John Luther Adams (1953)
Mason Bates (1977)

and

Stendhal (1783-1842)
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Derek Walcott (1930)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Oregon Symphony and cellist Gerhardt create intimate, yet faraway soundscape with Dutilleux

The Oregon Symphony most recent concert series contained a wonderful mix of music, ranging from the Classical to Modern, including three pieces that received their first-ever performances with the orchestra. The enticing program consisted of works by Joseph Haydn, César Franck, Ottorino Respighi, and Henri Dutilleux with cellist Alban Gerhardt as the soloist. As you might suspect, Dutilleux’s “A Whole Distant World” was a first for the orchestra, but Franck’s “The Breezes” and Haydn’s Symphony No. 80 were also newbies. The wide variety of sound, styles, and musical techniques required by these pieces as well as Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome,” which concluded the concert spoke well of the orchestra’s abilities and the artistic vision of it music director Carlos Kalmar, especially in light of the fact that all of the works were played extremely well at the concert I attended on Monday evening (January 16) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Due to the weather conditions – below freezing with streets that consisted of rutted, icy lanes – the hall was a little over half-filled, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the musicians who played with élan.

Gerhardt, a frequent soloist with the orchestra during the Kalmar era, impressively played the Dutilleux from memory. The piece, inspired by Baudelaire’s poem “La Chevelure” (“Hair”), has five movements entitled “Enigma,” “Gaze,” “Surges,” “Mirrors,”, and “Hymn.” Even though the music had a pointillist, percussive bent, Gerhardt played with a poetic touch that bought out its introspective qualities. Pizzicatos and brief glissandos darted in and out – sometimes with Gerhardt leading the way and the orchestra echoing. Some of the high, lyric lines seemed to be at a faster pace than the lower and slower passages from the ensemble. Agitated and highly articulated section had a superb lightness. Brief crescendos dissolved into quiet passages that evoked an otherworldliness. Towards the end of the piece, Gerhardt played a series of notes that skipped about like a kid in a playground. Perhaps it was a distant world after all.

Franck’s “The Breezes” was also inspired by poetry. In this case, it was Leconte de Lisle’s poem that describes the winds (daughters of Aeolius) caressing the landscape. The lovely melody swept along pleasantly with little surges that culminated in a crescendo before subsiding again. It had elements that reminded me of the composer's famous Symphony in D minor.

After intermission the orchestra returned to a more familiar sonority with Haydn. The stormy beginning gave way to a leisurely dance-like theme and an exchange between the two followed in a teasing sort of way. In the second movement, the orchestra conveyed a soothing refinement with its playing of the lyrical melody. The third contrasted a crisp march with another delightful dance-like tune. The fourth featured fleet stings and lots of syncopation that made some of the passages seem slightly lop-sided. It was all brilliantly played by the orchestra.

To conclude the concert, the orchestra gave a resplendent performance of Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome.” It kicked off with sparkling colors that expressed the delight of kids playing in the Villa Borghese gardens. The second movement conjured the somber reverence of the catacombs (kudos to the off-stage trumpeting of Jeffrey Work) and a grand procession. The third suggested a lovely hillside scene in the evening with the full moon glowing through the clouds (kudos to the slowly penetrating clarinet of James Shields. Kyle Mustain on English horn called the forces of his orchestral colleagues (with four extra trumpets and two trombones in the balcony) to create the majesty of a Roman legion marching along the Via Appia for a glorious finale.

Joining the orchestra for the Respighi was Gerhardt. That’s one of the many superb qualities of this exception musician. He just quietly came on stage and plays with the cellists as if he has been a member of the orchestra forever. I have seen him do this in every other concert that he has played with the orchestra. That speaks so well of his commitment as a musician and as a human being. The world needs more people like him.

Today's Birthdays

Claude-Bénigne Balbastre (1727-1799)
Charles Tournemire (1870-1939)
Hans Erich Apostel (1901-1972)
Robin Milford (1903-1959)
Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981)
Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013)
William Warfield (1920-2002)
Leslie Bassett (1923-2016)
James Louis ("J.J.") Johnson (1924-2001) Aurèle Nicolet (1926-2016))
Uto Ughi (1944)
Myung-whun Chung (1953)

and

Francis Bacon (1561–1626)
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781)
Lord Byron (1788-1824)
August Strindberg (1849-1912)
Howard Moss (1922-1987)
Joseph Wambaugh (1937)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day, in 1907, the Metropolitan Opera production of R. Strauss' opera "Salome," with soprano Olive Fremstad in the title role, creates a scandal. The opera is dropped after a single performance, and not staged at the Met again until the 1930s.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Preview of Orli Shaham concert with the Vancouver Symphony in The Columbian

My preview of the Vancouver Symphony's concerts this weekend with pianist Orli Shaham and guest conductor Marcello Lehninger appeared in the Friday issue of The Columbian newspaper.

Seattle Opera presents a spare yet winning La Traviata

Corinne Winters and Joshua Dennis
Photo by Philip Newton
Seattle Opera's January 14 opening night of Verdi's La Traviata at McCaw Hall provided an interesting new way of looking at one of the old favorites of the repertoire. One of the most-performed operas worldwide, La Traviata is often associated with luscious set designs and grand costuming. However, SO's production of Peter Konwitschny yielded a new and fascinating perspective.

Beginning with a deeply pensive overture, the production was more concerned with looking at the underlying emotional content than any visual spectacle. The principals were without exception marvelous, insightful and deft singers. Especially impressive was Joshua Dennis as Alfredo in his SO debut. He had a warmth and gentility of tone coupled with agile ornamentation. Corinne Winters' Violetta was equally praiseworthy--in this production everything was exposed, musically and emotionally, and she was able to stand up to the challenges. Her Amami, Alfredo was exquisite while yet a bit subdued, and this seemed somehow appropriate. Weston Hurt as Giorgio Germont had an emotional and profound baritone, giving one the ability to feel for him despite the despicable techniques he uses to manipulate Violetta.

There were really no sets, per se. A few props: a chair here, drinking glasses there, a welter of playing cards tossed about, but no sets. And lighting was very important: a glaring whiteness during Brindisi  seemed to shine a light on the callous hedonism of the socialites. Even so the humor in the music was not excised, even if rendered somehow unsettling despite the joyous theme.  Several times the singers appeared in the aisles amongst the audience, making the scene seem more immediate and real even if it is hard to hear someone singing with their back to you.

Though it seems Violetta has an excruciating time dying given that she had nought but a chair in her room, the sparseness of the sets really put the onus on the singers (even moreso than usual) to bring out the emotional import of their parts. Winters' acting chops were fine, and the entire production seemed to suck some of the sap out of an opera that is often over-the-top romantically speaking. It also allowed viewers to focus more completely on the meaning of the music, and interpret for themselves events such as the entire group of socialites falling to the floor in a Jonestownian collapse amongst the detritus of playing cards in the second act.

The production proceeds with two casts through January 27.

Today's Birthdays

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
Alexander Tcherepnin (1899-1977)
Webster Booth (1902-1984)
Placido Domingo (1941)
Richie Havens (1941-2013)
Edwin Starr (1942-2003)
Suzanne Mentzer (1957)
Frank Ticheli (1958)

and

Louis Menand (1952)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1904, Janacek's opera "Jenufa" was premiered in Brno at the National Theater.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)
Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
Julius Conus (1869-1942)
Józef Hofmann (1876-1957)
Huddie William Ledbetter (Lead Belly) (1889-1949)
Walter Piston (1894-1976)
Eva Jessye (1895-1992)
Yvonne Loriod (1924-2010)
David Tudor (1926-1996)
Antonio de Almeida (1928-1997)
Iván Fischer (1951)

and

George Burns (1896-1996)
Alexandra Danilova (1903-1997)
Federico Fellini (1920-1993)
Edward Hirsch (1950)
Tami Hoag (1959)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Fritz Reiner (1885-1963)
Erwin Nyíregyházi (1903-1987)
Boris Blacher (1903-1975)
Edith Piaf (1915-1963)
Dalton Baldwin (1931)
Elliott Schwartz (1936)
Phil Ochs (1940-1976)
William Christie (1944)
Dolly Parton (1946)
Olaf Bär (1957)

and

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Italo Svevo (1861-1928)
Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943)
Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995)
Julian Barnes (1946)
Edwidge Danticat (1969)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1973, Leonard Bernstein leads a performance of Haydn's "Mass in Time of War" at a "Concert for Peace" at Washington DC's National Cathedral, with members of National Symphony, in protest against President Nixon, on the eve of Nixon's second term in office. The concert was timed to coincide with Nixon's official inaugural concert, which concluded with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

César Cui (1835-1918)
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)
John Laurence Seymour (1893-1986)
Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996)
Anthony Galla-Rini (1904-2006)
John O'Conor (1947)
Anthony Pople (1955-2003)
Christoph Prégardien (1956)

and

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869)
Rubén Darío (1867-1916)
A. A. Milne (1882-1956)
Oliver Hardy (1892-1957)

FYI: Roget's "Thesaurus" has never been out of print since it was first published in  1852.

and from the Composers Datebook:

1958 "What Does Music Mean?", broadcast, the first of a series of televised New York Philharmonic "Young People's Concerts" on CBS-TV hosted by Leonard Bernstein. The series continued until 1972, with 53 different programs hosted by Bernstein.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728-1788)
François‑Joseph Gossec (1734-1829)
Henk Badings (1907- 1987)
Oscar Morawetz (1917-2007)
Annie Delorie (1925-2009)
Donald Erb (1927- 2008)
Jean Barraqué (1928-1973)
Sydney Hodkinson (1934)
Dame Gillian Weir (1941)
Anne Queffélec (1948)
Augustin Dumay (1949)
Nancy Argenta (1957)
Gérard Pesson (1958)

and

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Anne Brontë 1820-1849)
William Stafford (1914-1993)
Luis López Nieves (1950)
Sebastian Junger (1962)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1919, Polish composer and pianist Ignaz Jan Paderewski becomes premiere of Poland.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Niccoló Piccinni (1728-1800)
Daisy Kennedy (1893-1981)
Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989)
Roger Wagner (1914-1992)
Ernesto Bonino (1922-2008)
Pilar Lorengar (1928-1996)
Marilyn Horne (1934)
Richard Wernick (1934)
Gavin Bryars (1943)
Brian Ferneyhough (1943)
Katia Ricciarelli (1946)

and

Robert Service (1874-1958)
Anthony Hecht (1923-2004)
William Kennedy (1928)
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
Mary Karr (1955)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (1980)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1942, Britten's "Diversions on a Theme" for Piano Left Hand, was premiered by pianist Paul Wittgenstein, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Ivor Novello (1883-1951)
Elie Siegmeister (1909-1991)
Malcolm Frager (1935-1991)
Don "Captain Beefheart" Van Vliet (1941-2010)
Aaron Jay Kernis (1960)

and

Molière (1622-1673)
Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872)
Andreas William Heinesen (1900-1991)
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1941 Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" was premiered at Stalag VIII-A, a German prisoner of war camp in Görlitz (Silesia), with the composer at the piano and fellow-prisoners Jean Le Boulaure (violin), Henri Akoka (clarinet) and Etienne Pasquier (cello).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Vintage Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg inspires Oregon Symphony in spirited Vivaldi

The icy weather forced Saturday evening’s concert to be rescheduled for Monday (January 9th) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, but it did not dampen the spirits of violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who led the Oregon Symphony in a vivid performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” Standing in the center of the all-string ensemble, Salerno-Sonnenberg took on the role of soloist and conductor- chief-inspirer, firing up her colleagues with intensity and immaculate playing that was focused, highly nuanced, and filled with brilliant articulation even on the fastest passages. The attention to detail and dramatic scope also applied to the treatment that Salerno-Sonnenberg and forces gave to Rodion Shchedrin’s “Carmen Suite” (after Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen) , which rounded out the second-half of the program.

Salerno-Sonnenberg has a big following in Portland. She has appeared with the orchestra many times, and her many fans showered her with cheers right from the first moment that she stepped onto the stage. That she rearranged her schedule to accommodate the delayed performance spoke volumes about her generous character.

repertoire, you would think that the musicians might have shrugged and turned in a ho-hum performance, but Monday night’s concert was anything but that. You could hear flowers blooming, winds blowing, birds singing as if it were happening right in the concert hall – and that was just for the “Spring” movement. The other movements were equally evocative with the sun blazing, slashing rain, insects buzzing about, farmers dancing, hunters and their hounds, and frigid snow.

Salerno-Sonnenberg employed an amazing array of movements to convey the tempos and sudden attacks, motioning with her head and shoulders, turning to the violins or to the violas and cellos as needed. She achieved a mind meld of sorts with the orchestra and that made the music so tangible . Several duets and trios involved Salerno-Sonnenberg and violinists Sarah Kwak and Inés Voglar Belgique, violist Joël Belgique, and cellist Nancy Ives. Ives wonderfully anticipated her subtle changes in tempo in many extended passages that featured just the two of them.

After intermission, a chamber ensemble consisting of the orchestral strings and percussion gave a splendidly sensitive interpretation of the “Carmen Suite.” This time, Salerno-Sonnenbergj led from the concertmaster chair (with Kwak next to her). She would indicate starting tempos with her hand and used body language (or an occasional free hand) to signal important cutoffs to the percussionists. The battery (including Niel DePonte, Michael Roberts, Sergio Carreno, and Jonathan Greeney) played a vast array of instruments with immaculate precision. The famous melodies from the opera were delivered in unusual ways (for example, the low strings used pizzicatos to play the toreador song) that tickled the ears.

It was a good thing that the orchestra’s president and CEO, Scott Showalter, mentioned in his introduction that the next day was her birthday. So, the after her final bow, the orchestra and crowd serenaded her with a rousing and heartfelt Happy Birthday. That was a great way to cap off the evening.

Today's Birthdays

Ludwig von Köchel (1800-1877)
Jean de Reszke (1850-1925)
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
Louis Quilico (1925-2000)
Zuzana Ruzickova (1927)
Siegmund Nimsgern (1940)
Mariss Jansons (1943)
Kees Bakels (1945)
Nicholas McGegan (1950)
Ben Heppner (1956)
Andrew Manze (1965)

and

John Dos Passos (1896-1970
Emily Hahn (1905-1997)
Maureen Dowd (1952)

and from the Composers Datebook:

Today in 1900, Puccini's "Tosca," was given its premiere in Rome at the Teatro Constanzi.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)
Gottfried Heinrich Stölze (1690-1749)
Vassili Kalinnikov (1866-1901)
Richard Addinsell (1904-1977)
Daniil Shafran (1923-1997)
Renato Bruson (1936)
Paavo Heininen (1938)
William Duckworth (1943-2012)
Richard Blackford (1954)
Wayne Marshall (1961)
Juan Diego Flórez (1973)

and

Horatio Alger (1832-1899)
Lorrie Moore (1957)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1945, Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 was premiered by the Moscow State Philharmonic, with the composer conducting.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)
Jacques Duphly (1715-1789)
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948)
Pierre Bernac (1899-1979)
William Pleeth (1916-1999)
Leo Smit (1921-1999)
Morton Feldman (1926-1987)
Salvatore Martirano (1927-1995)
Anne Howells (1941)
Viktoria Postnikova (1944)
Lori Laitman (1955)

and

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Jack London (1876-1916) 
Haruki Murakami (1949)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Alban Gerhardt to play at All Classical's Thursdays @ Three

Provided that he can get to the radio station, the great cellist Alban Gerhardt will play at All Classical's Thursdays @ Three. This should be a tremendous treat that listeners will enjoy immensely. I think that I saw on his blog that he is a skier. So he might get some cross-country skies and some bungee chords for his cello and make his way over the snow-laden streets and over the river to 89.9. He is scheduled to play Dutilleux's Cello Concert (entitled "A Whole Distant World") in this weekend's concerts with the Oregon Symphony.

Today's Birthdays

Christian Sinding (1856-1941)
Reihold Glière (1875-1956)
Maurice Duruflé(1902-1986)
Mark DeVoto (1940)
York Höller (1944)
Drew Minter (1955)
Alex Shapiro (1962)

and

William James (1842-1910)
Aldo Leopold (1887-1948)
Alan Paton (1903-1988)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1925, Copland's Symphony for Organ and Orchestra was premiered at Aeolian Hall in New York City by the New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch, with Nadia Boulanger the soloist.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jean Martinon (1910-1976)
Sidney Griller (1911-1993)
Dean Dixon (1915-1976)
Milton Babbitt (1916-2011)
Max Roach (1924-2007)
Sherrill Milnes (1935)
Rod Stewart (1945)
James Morris (1947)
Mischa Maisky (1948)
Rockwell Blake (1951)
Charles Norman Mason (1955)
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (1961)

and


Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)
Philip Levine (1928-2015)
Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Today's Birthdays

John Knowles Paine (1839-1906))
Rudolf Bing (1902-1997)
Herva Nelli (1909-1994)
Henriette Puig‑Roget (1910-1992)
Pierre Pierlot (1921-2007)
Joan Baez (1941)
Scott Walker (1944)
Jimmy Page (1944)
Waltraud Meier (1956)
Hillevi Martinpelto (1958)
Nicholas Daniel (1962)

and

Karel Čapek (1890-1938)
Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935)
Richard Halliburton (1901-1939)
Brian Friel (1929) 
Michiko Kakutani (1955)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1909, Ravel: "Gaspard de la Nuit," was given its premiere performance by Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes, in Paris.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jean Gilles (1668-1705)
Lowell Mason (1792-1872)
Sigismond Thalberg (1812-1871)
Hans von Bülow (1830-1894)
Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967)
Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988)
Giorgio Tozzi (1923-2011)
Robert Starer (1924-2001)
Benjamin Lees (1924-2010)
Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
Zdeněk Mácal (1936)
Robert Moran (1937)
Evgeny Nesterenko (1938)
Elijah Moshinsky (1946)
Paul Dresher (1951)
Vladimir Feltsman (1952)

and

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913)
Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1923, the first broadcast in England of an opera direct from a concert hall took place, Mozart's "The Magic Flute" via the BBC from London.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Oregon Symphony concert with Salerno-Sonnenberg moved to Monday

It's starting to snow in Portland and freezing rain is expected. So the dicey weather has forced the folks at the Oregon Symphony to play it on the safe side and move tonight's concert with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg to Monday evening at 7:30.

I just called Peter Frajola, the orchestra's associate concertmaster, and he said that they did play the concert to a full house in Salem last night.It will be interesting to see who attends the concert on Monday night. I'm sure that the Winter movement of the Vivaldi will have additional significance. Brrr!

Today's Birthdays

Clara Haskil (1895-1960)
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
John Brownlee (1900-1969)
Nicanor Zabaleta (1907-1993)
Günter Wand (1912-2002)
Ulysses Kay (1917-1995)
John Lanigan (1921-1996)
Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000)
Tommy Johnson (1935-2006)
Iona Brown (1941-2004)
Richard Armstrong (1943)

and

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
Hugh Kenner (1923-2003)
Nicholson Baker (1957)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1955, Marian Anderson made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Ulrica in Verdi's "Un Ballo in Mascera" (A Masked Ball). She was the first African-American singer to perform as an opera soloist on the Met stage. Subsequent distinguished African-American singers who performed as members of the Met company included Robert McFerrin, Sr. (Bobby McFerrin Jr.’s father), Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Kahtleen Battle and Jessye Norman.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg to lead conductor-less Oregon Symphony

Preface: This article was scheduled to appear in the Saturday (January 7th) edition of The Columbian newspaper, but the concert in Vancouver (scheduled for Sunday evening) has been cancelled due to weather worries. The Vancouver School District, which oversees the venue (Skyview High School Auditorium), has decided to cancel all events in school buildings over the weekend because of anticipated snow and freezing rain. Consequently, the article will not run in the paper. However, the same program will take place tomorrow night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. So much of the text - especially the interview portions- are especially pertinent.
---
For the first time in its 120-year history, the Oregon Symphony will venture across the Columbia River to perform this Sunday evening in Vancouver. The historic concert will be extra special because it will feature Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, one of the most dynamic and exciting violinists on the planet. She will lead the Grammy-nominated orchestra in performances of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” and Rodion Shchedrin’s “Carmen Suite,” which is based on Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”

A lot of classical music lovers have seen Salerno-Sonnenberg with the Oregon Symphony over the years. She has also recorded widely with over twenty releases on the EMI and Nonesuch labels plus eleven on her record label, NSS Music. Her professional career was launched after she won the Walter W. Naumberg International Violin Competition in 1981. Since then she has received an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Avery Fisher Prize, soloed with major orchestras around the world, and appeared TV shows, such as CBS’ 60 Minutes and The Tonight Show.

The really cool thing about the Oregon Symphony concert is that Salerno-Sonnenberg will lead the music-making from the concertmaster’s chair. She will not be waving a baton from the podium, and the orchestra’s Music Director, Carlos Kalmar won’t be doing it either. You might think that it’s really weird to lead an orchestra in this way, but it is all part of Salerno-Sonnenberg’s new path.

“I have been a soloist with the Oregon Symphony for many years and it has been a beautiful, wonderful relationship,” said Salerno-Sonnenberg. “But that’s what I did for decades, and I don’t wish to do that anymore. Now, this is a transition into a new world for me. I will be a soloist and lead the Vivaldi from the concertmaster’s chair, but there will be no conductor. For the Shchedrin in the second half, I will sit in the concertmaster chair and lead. This is what I’ve been doing for ten years with my orchestra, the New Century Chamber Orchestra and as a guest with other ensembles.”

By leading from within the orchestra, Salerno-Sonnenberg is upping the ante on her colleagues with the intent of delivering an intensely engaging concert.

“I’m not beating time,” explained Salerno-Sonnenberg. “This forces the musicians to play differently, to focus differently, and to be more involved, more committed to the performance. They have to be. This creates extraordinary vibrancy in a performance. And that is what I love doing now.”

Even though she has probably played “The Four Seasons” hundreds of times and recorded it on the EMI label, Salerno-Sonnenberg always becomes inspired by the music to make a new and fresh. She likes to draw inspiration from the descriptive sonnets that Vivaldi wrote to accompany the music.

“’The Four Seasons’ is a fascinating piece,” she remarked. “Vivaldi wrote the text, and the notes were written to justify the text. For birds, he writes trills for the violins that emulates the text. I have to take things to another level. I try to play more than what is written on the page. There’s the hunt so you have gunshots. Autumn is all about being drunk. There are insects, dogs barking, wind, and storms. I try to bring that out even more than what Vivaldi wrote.”

Shchedrin’s arrangement of “Carmen” takes things a little further, because it involves percussion and strings. He wrote the piece as ballet music for his wife Maya Plisetskaya, who was one of the great prima ballerinas at the Bolshoi.

“Shchedrin’s arrangement is mind-blowingly incredible,” exclaimed Salnero-Sonnenberg. It is almost better than the opera. The strings and percussion are the two polar regions of the orchestra. Almost like the yin and the yang. You will find this music powerful and exciting.”

One orchestra member who has played with Salerno-Sonnenberg in all of her appearances with the Oregon Symphony is its Associate Concertmaster Peter Frajola.

“Salnero-Sonnenberg is a bit of a paradox,” noted Frajola, “because she comes off as being intense, but she is relaxed and can do anything that she wants. She tosses off the most difficult parts of concertos with ease. You can’t do that without being relaxed. And she is very generous with what she does. It will be good for us to go back to chamber ensemble playing – listening, watching, and feeling the music together.“

Originally, she was scheduled for just one performance in Portland, but the opportunity to play in Vancouver came about when Scott Showalter, President and CEO of the Oregon Symphony, found out that her travel schedule would accommodate an additional concert.

“We reached out to Executive Director Igor Shakhman and the Vancouver Symphony,” said Showalter. “They have been fantastic, and we are really excited to bring this concert to Vancouver.”

Today's Birthdays

Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Georges Martin Witkowski (1867-1943)
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
Karl Straube (1873-1950)
Earl Kim (1920-1998)
David Bernstein (1942)
Alexander Baillie (1956)

and

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)
Wright Morris (1910-1998)
E. L. Doctorow (1931-1915)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1733, this notice appears in the Leipzig newspaper Nachtricht auch Frag u. Anzeiger: "Tonight at 8 o'clock there will be a Bach Concert at the Zimmermann Coffeehouse on Catharine Street". This presumably featured secular vocal works, chamber music and concertos performed by the Leipzig Collegium, an ensemble directed by J.S. Bach.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Constanza Mozart (1762-1842)
Peter Wolle (1792-1871)
Frederick Converse (1871-1940)
Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951)
Nicolai Roslavets (1881-1944)
Reginald Smith-Brindle (1917-2003)
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920-1995)
Laszlo Heltay (1930)
Alfred Brendel (1931)
Maurizio Pollini (1942)

and

Stella Gibbons(1902-1989)
Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990)
W. D. Snodgrass (1926-2009)
Umberto Eco (1932-2016)
Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1938)
Charlie Rose (1942)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Felder leads sing-along throng through American Songbook with panache

There’s probably no better way to sing some of the favorites from the Great American Songbook than to do it with Hershey Felder. Felder is the one-man actor, singer, comedian, historian, pianist, and showman who just concluded his acclaimed Irving Berlin show at Portland Center Stage. After the end of each Irving Berlin show, he would invite the audience to come to an extra show that would feature songs from musicals and the opportunity to sing along with him. My wife and I decided to take him up on his offer and we joined the full house on New Year’s Eve.

The evening was a love-fest of sorts – with the audience in a buoyant, festive mood that gave Felder a long, and appreciative ovation when he walked onto the stage, which had the same piano, Christmas tree, and back wall as the set that he used for the Irving Berlin show – except he was flanked on stage by twenty people sitting on either side of him. Because there was no printed program of what numbers would be offered, everyone just had to go with the flow. So Felder sat down at the piano and began playing Berlin’s “Always,” inviting the audience of 640 to join him. We were immediately teased by Felder, who conducted the ends of each phrase with his free hand. Of course, lots of participants didn’t follow him exactly, and they were lightly admonished and cajoled by Felder. That got everyone laughing, and it enhanced the mood of the evening.

Felder then offered stories and insights into the selections that he would play and take the audience on a journey through some of his favorite tunes from various musicals. He would play the song in a key favorable to most voices and mouth the words clearly so that anyone could sing along. He launched into “It Aint Necessarily So” and “Summertime” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and followed it with “Our Love is Here to Stay.” From Jerome Kern’s “Showboat,” he led us through “Old Man River,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” and “Along came Bill.”

We grazed on “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma,” and dipped into “South Pacific” with “Bali Ha’I,” “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “Some Enchanted Evening” that was done with hilarious choreography, pairing a high-school drama student with a married lady. We finished up with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”

Felder used his ear to pick out and invite on stage an audience member who knew all of the words to “The Sound of Music” (Rodgers and Hammerstein again) and had had opera training to boot. We also sang “My Favorite Things” and “So Long, Farewell” with women-only doing a couple of the verses.

We found out that Felder, as a teenager, was the music director and stage director of the first-ever Yiddish production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” (Bock and Harnick) and had to use his incredible falsetto to play the role of Golde on opening night because the actress for that role was in the hospital. To celebrate that great musical, we did “Sunrise, Sunset” and admired Felder as he sang “Do you Love Me?”

The evening concluded with a touching reminiscence by Felder. From an early age, he had trained to be a serious classical pianist, but his mother fell ill and when he was a teenager he missed school for a year to be with her. They watched musicals on VHS over and over. Before she died of cancer at the age of 35, the last song she sang to him was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She asked him to sing that song with others and whenever he did that she would be there. So that’s what we did.

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736)
Johann Friedrich Agricola (1720-1774)
Josef Suk (1874-1935)
Frank Wess (1922-2013)
Grace Bumbry (1937)
Joseph Turrin (1947)
Margaret Marshall (1949)
Ronald Corp (1951)
Peter Seiffert (1954)
Boris Berezovsky (1969)

and

Sir Issac Newton (1642-1727)
Jacob Grimm (1785-1863)
Louis Braille (1809-1852)
Augustus John (1878-1961)
Doris Kearns Goodwin (1943)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Portland classical music recommendations in The Oregonian

My article on upcoming classical music concerts through March will appear this weekend in The Oregonian. However, you can read it online in Oregonlive here.

Today's Birthdays

Victor Borge (1909-2000)
Ronald Smith (1922-2004)
Sir George Martin (1926-2016)
HK Gruber (1943)
David Atherton (1944)

and

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

and from the Composers Datebook:

The comic opera “Don Pasquale” by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti had its first performance in Paris on this date in the year 1843.

also:

On this day in 1925, German conductor and composer Wilhelm Furtwängler made his American debut, conducting the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Choir soprano refuses to sing for Trump

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sing a the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th, but the famed chorus will be without one of its sopranos, Jan Chamberlin, who resigned from the group. As reported in this Washington Post article, Chamberlin wrote in a Facebook post that by “singing for this man” the choir would appear to be “endorsing” tyranny and fascism, and its image would be “severely damaged.”  That's a gutsy statement and one that I applaud wholeheartedly. I sing with the Bach Cantata Choir, and if it had been invited to sing for the inauguration, I am pretty sure that the entire choir would have refused. As Chamberlin stated, “I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ ”“And I certainly could never sing for him.”

Today's Birthdays

Mily Balakirev (1837-1910)
Michael Tippett (1905-1998)
Barbara Pentland (1912-2000)
Gardner Read (1913-2005)
Irina Arkhipova (1925-2010)
Alberto Zedda (1928)
Peter Eötvös (1944)
Janet Hilton (1945)
Vladimir Ovchinnikov (1958)
Tzimon Barto (1963)
Robert Fertitta (1970)
Eric Whitacre (1970)

and

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Christopher Durang (1949)
Lynda Barry (1956)

and from the Composer's Datebook:

On today’s date in 1843, Richard Wagner’s opera “The Flying Dutchman” had its premiere performance in Dresden.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New visit milepost for Northwest Reverb

According to Google Analytics, Northwest Reverb had 20,754 pageviews in December.That's an all-time high for the blog. Thank you all for visiting.

Today's Birthdays

Charles Racquet (1598 - 1664)
Frederick William Gaisberg (1873-1951)
Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956)
Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958)
Erich Schmid (1907-2001)
Trude Rittmann (1908-2005)
Milt Jackson (1923-1999)
Richard Verreau (1926-2005)
Maurice Béjart (1927-2007)
Bernard Greenhouse (1916-2011)
Alberto Portugheis (1941)

and

E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
J. D. Salinger (1919-2010)

From the Composer's Datebook:

On this day in 1908, Gustav Mahler made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, leading a performance of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde."