Friday, December 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Maria Agata Szymanowska (1789-1831)
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
Georges Thill (1897-1984)
Spike Jones (1911-1965)
Rosalyn Tureck (1914-2003)
Dame Ruth Railton (1915-2001)
Ron Nelson (1929)
Christopher Parkening (1947)
Thomas Albert (1948)
John Rawnsley (1949)

and

Shirley Jackson (1919-1965)
Amy Hempel (1951)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alexis de Castillon (1838-1873)
Josef Lhévinne (1874-1944)
Eleanor Robson Belmont (1879-1979)
Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976)
Victor Babin (1908-1972)
Alvin Curran (1938)

and

Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882)
Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)
James Wright (1927-1980)
Lester Bangs (1948-1982)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1836, at a musical soiree at Chopin's apartments in Paris, the female writer "George" Sand, determined to make a good impression with her host, arrives wearing white pantaloons and a scarlet sash (the colors of the Polish flag). Paris Opéra tenor Adolphe Nourit sings some Schubert songs, accompanied by Franz Liszt. Liszt and Chopin play Moschele's Sonata in Eb for piano four-hands.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Andrey Schulz‑Evler (1852-1905)
Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974)
Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)
Philip Ledger (1937-2012)
Donald Maxwell (1948)
Margaret Tan (1953)
Jaap van Zweden (1960)
David Horne (1970)
Evren Genis (1978)

and

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
John Osborne (1929-1994)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909)
Leo Ornstein (1893-2002)
Elliott Carter (1908-2012)
David Ashley White (1944)
Neil Mackie (1946)

and

Grace Paley (1922-2007
Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006)
Grace Paley (1922-2007)
Jim Harrison (1937-2016)
Thomas McGuane (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1918, Russian-born conductor Nikolai Sokoloff leads the first concert of the Cleveland Orchestra at Gray's Armory, presented as a benefit for St. Ann's Church. His program included Victor Herbert's "American Fantasy," Bizet's "Carmen" Suite, two movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, Liadov's "Enchanted Lake," and Liszt's "Les Préludes".

Monday, December 10, 2018

Ehnes registers moving Walton concerto and guest conductor Jensen scores high in his American debut

James Ehnes gave a breathtaking performance of William Walton’s Violin Concerto with the Oregon Symphony under guest conductor Eivind Gulberg Jensen on Saturday (December 1) that was about as close to perfection as can be imagined. His playing encompassed a brilliant technical precision yet expressed the varied emotions of the piece with panache. The lyrical passages were warm and sweet but not syrupy. The fast sections were brisk and electrifying with Ehnes in complete command whether tempos sped up or slowed down – sometimes within the same phrase. The playful exchanges with the orchestra in the tricky second movement were marvelously seamless and the lush, rhapsodic at the end of the final movement – with the harp keeping a heartbeat – was moving.

The thunderous applause brought Ehnes back to center stage several times, and the gracious Canadian violinist responded with an encore, offering an exquisite performance of the third movement of Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major. That sonata is considered extremely difficult to place because of all of the exposed areas – any flaw in playing sticks out immediately. In any case, Ehnes gave an immaculate performance, which served to polish his reputation as one of the very best of the best violinists who has ever performed in Portland.

The other big work on the program was Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances,” which received an outstanding performance from the orchestra. The strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion imbued each movement with incisive playing, starting with a triad of charged, driving notes that transitioned into a melancholic mélange that briefly featured the alto saxophone. The second movement was hauntingly beautiful with its the dusky fanfare followed and slow, off-balanced waltz. Highlights of the third included a shuddering trumpet, woody bass clarinet, and surge into an ebb and flow and a final episode that contained melodies from the composer’s “All-Night Vigil.”

The concert began with a sonically mesmerizing work by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg entitled “Exquisite Corpse.” The title refers to a parlor game from the 1920s in which a story was created from sentences or phrases that the first participant wrote on a piece of paper, folded it over, and gave to the next player to continue in the same manner. Apparently, a Surrealist group broke it down to one word at a time and arrived at “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.” Was this a product of the unconscious mind? Who knows.

In any case, Hillborg ran with the idea, putting composers who have influenced him into the game plan, so to speak. The program notes mentioned Ligeti, Sibelius, and Stravinsky. I think that I heard something Stravinsky-like and a segment near the end that suggested Sibelius, but the pie seemed to stand very well on its own, regardless of influences. It opened with a sparse set of notes in very close relationship to each other. This set acquired more and more notes until it became a dense cloud, hitting bottom – accented by a basement tone from the piano. The strings created a sonic meltdown then ascended furiously and before suddenly stopping, releasing sharp, slicing sounds. Playful passages featured the percussion and piano accompanied by wiggly tones from the woodwinds and later higher pitched sounds and finally a brass choir (anchored by JáTtik Clark on the cimbasso). Syncopated and rhythmic drumming, three piccolos creating a whistling effect, and a couple of huge sonic build-ups led to the a final, strangely mystical chord that blurred and drifted away.

The concert marked the American debut of Jensen, who was born Norway and is only 46 years old. He has directed the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Munich Philharmonic, and seems to be on his way to building a major-league career. He was extremely musical in his gestures, including holding the baton incredibly loosely when the music became less tense. He also had used a quavering hand gesture that was intriguingly exact, yet might be hard to follow when you are playing. It would be great to see him on the podium again to find out what else he can do with this orchestra. As most readers know, Carlos Kalmar is stepping down as music director at the end of the 2019-2020 season. Hmm...

Today's Birthdays

César Franck (1822-1890)
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Morton Gould (1913-1996)
Sesto Bruscantini (1919-2003)
Nicholas Kynaston (1941)
Julianne Baird (1952)
Kathryn Stott (1958)
Sarah Chang (1980)

and

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)
Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Preview of Vancouver Symphony holiday concert in The Columbian

The Columbian newspaper published my preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert, which will feature the Columbian Dance company and excerpts from "Swan Lake." Here is the link to the article.

Today's Birthdays

Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
Conchita Supervia (1895-1936)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006)
Dennis Eberhard (1943-2005)
Christopher Robson (1953)
Donny Osmond (1957)
Joshua Bell (1967)

and

John Milton (1608-1674)
Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908)
Léonie Adams (1899-1988)
Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938)

From the Writer's Almanac:

Milton coined more than 600 words, including the adjectives dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, and feverish; as well as the nouns fragrance, adventurer, anarchy, and many more.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Claude Balbastre (1724-1799)
Frantisek Xaver Dussek (1731-1799)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Gérard Souzay (1918-2004)
Moisei Vainberg (1919-1996)
James Galway (1939)

and

Horace (65-8 B.C.)
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
James Thurber (1894-1961)
James Tate (1948)
Mary Gordon (1949)
Bill Bryson (1951)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710)
Hermann Goetz (1840-1876)
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Ernst Toch (1887-1964)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Richard Franko Goldman (1910-1980)
Daniel Jones (1912-1993)
Helen Watts (1927-2009)
Harry Chapin (1942-1981)
Daniel Chorzempa (1944)
Tom Waits (1949)
Kathleen Kuhlmann (1950)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)

and

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
Willa Cather (1873-1947)
Joyce Cary (1888-1957)
Noam Chomsky (1928)
Susan Isaacs (1943)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605)
Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)
Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)
Tomas Svoboda (1939)
John Nelson (1941)
Daniel Adni (1951)
Bright Sheng (1955)
Matthew Taylor (1964)

and

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529)
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1768)
Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Vitezslav Novák (1870-1949)
"Little" Richard Wayne Penniman (1935)
José Carreras (1946)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)
Osvaldo Golijov (1960)

and

Christina (Georgina) Rossetti (1830-1894)
Joan Didion (1934)
Calvin Trillin (1935)
John Berendt (1939)
Lydia Millet (1968)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1704, George Frideric Handel (age 19) refuses to turn over the harpsichord to Johann Mattheson (age 23) during a performance of Mattheson's opera "Cleopatra," leading to a sword duel between the two. It is said that during the swordplay, Handel was saved by a button on his coat that deflected Mattheson's mortally-directed blade. The two reconciled on December 30 that year, dining together and attending a rehearsal of Handel's opera "Almira," becoming, as Mattheson put it: "better friends than ever."

On this day in 1837, Berlioz's "Requiem," in Paris premiered with François Habeneck conducting (Berlioz later claimed that at one point he had to jump on stage and take over when Habeneck stopped to take snuff, but some eyewitnesses denied this happened).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

André Campra (1660-1744)
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667-1737)
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1949)
Alex North (1910-1991)
Yvonne Minton (1938)
Lillian Watson (1947)
Andrew Penny (1952)

and

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1891)
Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Nicolo Amati (1596-1684)
André Campra (1660-1744)
Antonio Soler (1729-1783)
Émile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Anton Webern (1883-1945)
Halsey Stevens (1908-1989)
Nino Rota (1911-1979)
Irving Fine (1914-1962)
Charles Craig (1919-1997)
Paul Turok (1929-2012)
José Serebrier (1938)
Matt Haimovitz (1970)

and

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Anna Freud (1895-1982)
Zlata Filipović (1980)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Harriet Cohen (1895-1967)
Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970)
Robert Moevs (1920-2007)
Maria Callas (1923-1977)
Jörg Demus (1928)

and

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891)
T. Coraghessan Boyle (1948)
George Saunders (1958)
Ann Patchertt (1963)

And from the Composers Datebook: On this day in 1717, J.S. Bach is allowed to leave the Duke’s Court at Weimar. He had been imprisoned since Nov. 6th by his former employer Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar for accepting a new post at Prince Leopold’s court at Cöthen without first asking permission.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

François‑Xavier Richter (1709-1789)
Ernest (Louis-Etienne-Ernest) Reyer (1832-1909)
Agathe Grøndahl (1847-1907)
Gordon Crosse (1932)
Lou Rawls (1933-2006)
Bette Midler (1945)
Rudolf Buchbinder (1946)
Leontina Vaduva (1960)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Impressive Bruckner 7th fills Arlene Schnitzer with waves of sonic goodness

The symphonic works of Anton Bruckner are played all too rarely in Portland. To the best of my knowledge only the Bruckner Seventh has been performed in the last 30 years. But based on what I heard on Saturday evening, November 17, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the Oregon Symphony is an excellent Bruckner band. Under the baton of guest conductor Alexander Soddy, the orchestra gave an incisive, brilliant, and emotionally rewarding performance of the Seventh.

The orchestra undertook the hour-long piece with breath-taking alacrity, scaling its monumental heights and descending into the depths as if they were nothing at all. Under the baton of Soddy, who is primarily known for his work as an opera conductor, the music began in an unhurried fashion with the massive architecture of sound unfolding in a natural, organic way. Soddy kept the tension under wraps so that the music didn’t reach its climax until the very end – which is a very difficult thing to do because of the massive build up and release of sound that occurs so often in the piece.

The four Wagner tubas, rented from San Francisco Opera, were played magnificently – with extra kudos to Joseph Berger whose playing bloomed and filled the hall in the second movement. Several exposed passages by flutist Martha Long were also performed outstandingly. The strings were also exceptional and held their own against the volleys from the brass section. If only there were 20 more string players to create an even more emphatic and demonstrative impression!

Ingrid Fliter, the Argentinian pianist and the winner of the 2006 Gilmore Artist Award last performed with the orchestra in 2008, playing Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. This time around, she performed Beethoven’s Piano No. 5, (aka “Emperor”) with the orchestra to a fairly full house. I was not impressed with the fact that she had not memorized the piece (using an electronic tablet for the score), because any kind of aid doesn’t allow the soloist to freely interpret music. She did play the louder sections very well, especially, the last spirited and jubilant final movement. But parts that involved softer sounds, such as in the second movement, could have been dreamier. Still, Filter connected well with the audience, which brought her and the conductor back to the stage three times.

Today's Birthdays

Carl Loewe (1796-1869)
Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
Sergei Liapunov (1859-1924)
Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907)
Ture Rangström (1884-1947)
Ray Henderson (1896-1970)
Klaus Huber (1924-2017)
Gunther Herbig (1931)
Walter Weller (1939-2015)
Radu Lupu (1945)
Semyon Bychkov (1952)

and

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
L(ucy) M(aud) Montgomery (1874-1942)
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Jacques Barzun (1907-2012)
David Mamet (1947)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967)
John Brecknock (1937-2017)
Chuck Mangione (1940)
Louise Winter (1959)

and

Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
Pamela Harrison (1915-1990)
Berry Gordy Jr. (1929)
Randy Newman (1943)
Diedre Murray (1951)

and

John Bunyan (1628-1688)
William Blake (1757-1827)
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942)
Nancy Mitford (1904-1973)
Rita Mae Brown (1944)
Alan Lightman (1948)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-1678)
Anton Stamitz (1750-1798 or 1809)
Franz Krommer (1759-1831)
Sir Julian Benedict (1804-1885)
Viktor Ewald (1860-1935)
Charles Koechlin (1867-1950)
Leon Barzin (1900-1999)
Walter Klien (1928-1991)
Helmut Lachenmann (1935)
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
David Felder (1953)
Victoria Mullova (1959)
Hilary Hahn (1979)

and

Anders Celsius (1701-1744)
Charles Beard (1874–1948)
James Agee (1909-1955)
Marilyn Hacker (1942)
Bill Nye (1955)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Earl Wild (1915-2010)
Eugene Istomin (1925-2003)
Alan Stout (1932-2018)
John Sanders (1933-2003)
Craig Sheppard (1947)
Vivian Tierney (1957)
Spencer Topel (1979)

and

Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994)
Charles Schulz (1922-2000)
Marilynne Robinson (1943)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Franz Gruber (1785-1863)
Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991)
Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)
Paul Desmond (1924-1977)
Sir John Drummond (1934-2006)
Jean-Claude Malgoire (1940)
Håkan Hagegård (1945)
Yvonne Kenny (1950)
Gilles Cachemaille (1951)

and

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
Helen Hooven Santmyer (1895-1986)
Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
Murray Schisgal (1926) Shelagh Delaney (1938-2011)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1934, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler's article "The Hindemith Case" defending Hindemith's music appears in several German newspapers. A response attacking both Hindemith and Furtwängler appears in the Nazi newspaper "Der Angriff" on November 28. Furtwängler resigns all his official German posts on December 4 and leaves Berlin for several months. On December 6 Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels denounces Hindemith as an "atonal noisemaker" during a speech at the Berlin Sport Palace.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
Willie ("The Lion") Smith (1897-1973)
Norman Walker (1907-1963)
Erik Bergman (1911-2006)
Emma Lou Diemer (1927)
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
Maria Chiara (1939)
Chinary Ung (1942)
Tod Machover (1953)
Jouni Kaipainen (1956)
Edgar Meyer (1960)
Angelika Kirchschlager (1965)

and

Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677)
Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
Margaret Anderson (1886-1973)
Nuruddin Farah (1945)
Arundhati Roy (1961)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1850, the legendary soprano Adelina Patti makes her operatic debut at age 16 in New York City, singing in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor."

Friday, November 23, 2018

Romanian soprano superb in Portland Opera's "La Traviata"

Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
By opening its 2018-2109 season with “La Traviata” on Friday, November 2, Portland Opera has decided to return to its base with a grand opera at the Keller Auditorium in the late fall. For the past three years, the company has experimented with a season that extended from late spring through summer with mixed success, doing two works at the Keller and two at the Newmark Theatre. Apparently, the company figured out that the experiment worked alright, but was not convincing. So, it has readjusted its schedule once again with a big fall performance (“La Traviata”) followed by March performances at the Newmark of the popular new opera, “As One,” and summer performances at the Keller (“The Barber of Seville”), the Newmark (“La Finta Giardiniera”) and the intimate Hampton Opera Center (“In the Penal Colony”).

“La Traviata” has an evergreen status with Portland Opera, because it has mounted six productions (1968, 1975, 1982, 1993, 2001, 2008) in the past with reliable success. It’s a star vehicle for Verdi sopranos, and Romanian Aurelia Florian fulfilled that requirement with an outstanding performance of the Violetta Valéry, the consumptive courtesan with a heart of gold.

This production featured huge painted backdrops, designed by Ecole Sormani and provided by the Stivanello Costume Company, that set each scene in the style of upper-class salons of 19th Century France. The traditional costumes were designed by Christine A. Richardson. Directed by Elise Sandell, this “La Traviata” was a fairly standard affair, except for the big soirees, which offered a dash of inclusiveness with a bearded male chorister in a ball gown and at least one female colleague dressed in a man’s suit.

The opening party scene had splash with Alfredo (Jonathan Boyd) coming out of the gate singing strongly and Violetta (Florian) responding with an equally vigorous voice. She grabbed a bottle of bubbly and kicked off her shoes, which lightened up things a bit, but the two didn’t have much chemistry as onstage lovers. A couple of off-stage noises interrupted things a bit at beginning of Act 2, but that was quickly forgotten when Violetta capitulated to the demands of Germont (Weston Hurt) to drop the affair with his son. Hurt’s resolute and lovely baritone was one of the highlights of the evening. The scene in which Violetta rejected Alfredo in favor of Baron Douphol (Daniel Mobbs), causing Alfredo to erupt and throw his winnings was forcefully compelling. In the final act, Florian wonderfully conveyed the pathos of Violetta’s sickness and her last breath while proclaiming her eternal love for Alfredo. The two lovers finally connected convincingly and created the feeling of warmth and tragedy as the curtain came down.

Conductor Christopher Larkin guided the music with great sensitivity, and the orchestra sounded excellent. The chorus, prepared by Nicholas Fox, was in top form. The audience was on its feet during the curtain calls, showering the most applause and cheers on Florian.

Today's Birthdays

Pierre Du Mage (1674-1751)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
André Caplet (1878-1925)
Guy Reginald Bolton (1884-1979)
Jerry Bock (1928-2010)
Vigen Derderian (1929-2003)
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933)
Ludovico Einaudi (1955)
Thomas Zehetmair (1961)
Nicolas Bacri (1961)
Ed Harsh (1962)

and

Nirad C. Chaudhuri (1897-1999)
Paul Celan (1920-1950)
Jennifer Michael Hecht (1965)

and from the Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1889, the first jukebox was unveiled in a saloon in San Francisco. It was invented by Louis Glass, who had earlier worked as a telegraph operator for Western Union and then co-founded the Pacific Phonographic Company. He was fascinated by the phonograph technology and saw a market for charging people to listen to them, since phonographs were still too expensive to buy for your own home. He installed the machine in the Palais Royal saloon simply because he knew the owner and it was close to his house, so he didn’t have to carry the machine very far.

The word “jukebox” wasn’t invented until the 1920s. Glass called his machine the “nickel-in-the-slot phonograph,” since you had to pay a nickel to hear a song play. In today’s money, a nickel was about $1.27 at the time. The first machine had four different stethoscopes attached to it that functioned as headphones. Each pair of headphones had to be activated by putting in a nickel, and then several people could listen to the same song at once. There were towels left by each listening device so people could wipe them off after using. As part of his agreement with the saloonkeepers, at the end of each song, the machine told the listener to “go over to the bar and buy a drink.”

His phonograph was a huge hit and, at a conference in Chicago, Glass told his competitors that his first 15 machines brought in over $4,000 in six months. This led to other manufacturers making their own machines. Shortly after, Thomas Edison designed a phonograph people could buy for their homes, which also cut into the market. Glass’s invention eventually made the player piano obsolete, and competitors updated the jukebox with new technologies from record players to CDs. Now there is such a thing as a digital jukebox, but they never really caught on, since they come with the size and expense of a regular jukebox, without any of the charm of flipping through the records and watching the moving parts of the machine.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

St. Cecilia
Frantisek Benda(1709-1786)
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849)
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965)
Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Gunther Schuller (1925-2015)
Jimmy Knepper (1927-2003)
Hans Zender (1936)
Kent Nagano (1951)
Stephen Hough (1961)
Sumi Jo (1962)

and

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

And from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the feast day of Saint Cecilia, who was the patron saint of musicians because she sang to God as she died a martyr’s death. She was born to a noble family in Rome near the end of the second century A.D.

It wasn’t really until the 1400s that people really began to celebrate her widely as the patron saint of music. Then, in the 1500s, people in Normandy held a large musical festival to honor her, and the trend made its way to England in the next century. Henry Purcell composed celebratory odes to honor her, and the painter Raphael created a piece called “The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia.” Chaucer wrote about her in the Second Nonnes Tale, and Handel composed a score for a famous ode to her that John Dryden had written.

Today, Saint Cecilia is often commemorated in paintings and on stained glass windows as sitting at an organ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)
Bernard Lagacé (1930)
Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003)
James DePreist (1936-2013)
Idil Biret (1941)
Vinson Cole (1950)
Kyle Gann (1955)
Stewart Wallace (1960)
Björk (1965)

and

Voltare (1694-1778)
Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944)
Mary Johnston (1870-1936)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Marilyn French (1929-2009)
Tina Howe (1937)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)
René Kolo (1937)
Gary Karr (1941)
Meredith Monk (1942)
Phillip Kent Bimstein (1947)
Barbara Hendricks (1948)

and

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)
Maya Plisetskaya (1925-2015)
R.W. Apple Jr. (1934-2006)
Don DeLillo, (1936)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1805, Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" (1st version, with the "Leonore" Overture No. 2) was premiered in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712)
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935)
Jean‑Yves Daniel‑Lesur (1908-2002)
Géza Anda (1921-1976)
Maralin Niska (1926-2010)
David Lloyd-Jones (1934)
Agnes Baltsa (1944)
Ross Bauer (1951)

and

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

and from The Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was four and a half months after the devastating battle, and it was a foggy, cold morning. Lincoln arrived about 10 a.m. Around noon, the sun came out as the crowds gathered on a hill overlooking the battlefield. A military band played, a local preacher offered a long prayer, and the headlining orator, Edward Everett, spoke for more than two hours. Everett described the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail, and he brought the audience to tears more than once. When Everett finished, Lincoln spoke.

Now considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, the Gettysburg Address ran for just over two minutes, fewer than 300 words, and only 10 sentences. It was so brief, in fact, that many of the 15,000 people that attended the ceremony didn't even realize that the president had spoken, because a photographer setting up his camera had momentarily distracted them. The next day, Everett told Lincoln, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

There are several versions of the speech, and five different manuscript copies; they're all slightly different, so there's some argument about which is the "authentic" version. Lincoln gave copies to both of his private secretaries, and the other three versions were re-written by the president some time after he made the speech. The Bliss Copy, named for Colonel Alexander Bliss, is the only copy that was signed and dated by Lincoln, and it's generally accepted as the official version for that reason.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941)
Amelita Galli‑Curci (1882-1963)
Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985)
Lillian Fuchs (1901-1995)
Compay Segundo (1907-2003)
Johnny Mercer (1909-1976)
Don Cherry (1936-1995)
Heinrich Schiff (1951)
Bernard d'Ascoli (1958)

and

Louis Daguerre (1787-1851)
Asa Gray (1810-1888)
W.S (William Schwenck) Gilbert (1836-1911)
George Gallup (1901-1984)
Margaret Atwood (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, Mickey Mouse debuts in "Steamboat Willie," in New York. This was the first animated cartoon with synchronized pre-recorded sound effects and music -- the latter provided by organist and composer Carl Stalling of Kansas City. Stalling would later provide memorial music for many classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ernest Lough (1911-2000)
Hershy Kay (1919-1981)
Leonid Kogan (1924-1982)
Sir Charles Mackerras (1925-2010)
David Amram (1930)
Gene Clark (1941-1991)
Philip Picket (1950)
Philip Grange (1956)

and

Shelby Foote (1916-2006)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831)
Alfred Hill (1869-1960)
W. C. Handy (1873-1958)
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Burnet Tuthill (1888-1982)
Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960)
Earl Wild (1915-2010)
David Wilson-Johnson (1950)
Donald Runnicles (1954)

and

George S. Kaufman (1889-1961)
José Saramago (1922-2010)
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Andrea Barrett (1954)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bach Cantata Choir to perorm at Leipzig Bach Festival in June of 2020

The Leipzig Bach Festival has invited Portland's own Bach Cantata Choir to perform at the internationally renown festival in June of 2020. Here is the news via Facebook from the choir's artistic director, Ralph Nelson:

Last summer, the Bach Cantata Choir (of which I am the artistic director/conductor) traveled to Germany and sang in two of Bach’s great churches in Leipzig. We have been invited back to Leipzig to sing as part of the Leipzig Bach Festival in 2020 – a festival that occurs annually each June, and draws Bach enthusiasts from around the world. The theme of the Leipzig Bach Festival in 2020 will be “Bach – We Are Family,” and will feature 17 invited choirs from 5 continents around the world. The Bach Cantata is extremely honored to be one of four choirs to represent the United States – the other three are the Bethlehem PA Bach Choir (America’s first Bach choir), Trinity Wall Street (New York City) and Emmanuel Music (Boston). We will be singing three cantatas (#38, #115, and #180) in St. Nicholas Church (pictured here -- one of Bach’s two great churches in Leipzig) on June 16, 2020. We have a concert coming up this weekend on Sunday, November 18 at 2pm at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church (NE 44th and Sandy in Portland, Oregon). Admission is free – doors open at 1:30pm. See www.bachcantatachoir.org for more details.



PS: I sing in the choir and am really looking forward to a return to Leipzig in 2020!

Today's Birthdays

Sir William Herschel (1738-1822)
Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-1980)
Petula Clark (1932)
Peter Dickinson (1934)
Daniel Barenboim (1942)
Pierre Jalbert (1967)

and

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946)
Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960)
Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986)
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1926, the first broadcast of a music program took place on the NBC radio network, featuring the New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch, the New York Oratorio Society, and the Goldman Band, with vocal soloists Mary Garden and Tito Ruffo, and pianist Harold Bauer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Toiday's Birthdays

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Fanny Hensel (1805-1847)
Rev. John Curwen (1816-1880)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Leonie Rysanek (1926-1998)
Jorge Bolet (1914-1990)
Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)
Robert Lurtsema (1931-2000)
Peter Katin (1930-2015)
Ellis Marsalis (1934)
William Averitt (1948)

and

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002)
William Steig (1907-2003)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jan Zach (1699-1773)
Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817-1870)
Brinley Richards (1817-1885)
George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931)
Marguerite Long (1874-1966)
Joonas Kokkoken (1921-1996)
Lothar Zagrosek (1942)
Martin Bresnick (1946)

and

St. Augustine (354-430)
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
George V. Higgins (1939-1999)
Eamon Grennan (1941)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1937, the first "official" radio broadcast by the NBC Symphony Orchestra took place with Pierre Monteux conducting. Arthur Rodzinski had conducted a "dress rehearsal" broadcast on Nov. 2, 1937. Arturo Toscanini's debut broadcast with the NBC Symphony would occur on Christmas Day, 1937

Monday, November 12, 2018

Zhgenti shows brilliant pianism in concert with Vancouver Symphony

Dmitri Zhgenti made the most of his appearance with the Vancouver Symphony, delivering a riveting performance of Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto. This was Zhgenti’s second time with the orchestra. Two years ago, he made a smashing debut with Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto. This time around, he enthralled the near-capacity audience at Skyview Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon (November 3) with all too rarely heard piano concerto by the great Armenian composer.

Zhgenti showed complete command of the piece right away, articulating arpeggios with precision and feeling, leaning into some notes to bring out the emotion of the music, and playing with plenty of power to be heard over the full-sized orchestra, which was under the baton of music director Salvador Brotons.

His expressed the first big cadenza with elegance, creating a slightly mysterious mood. After the orchestra rejoined him, he executed passages that seemed to leap about wildly – augmented by a fast filigree of notes.

In another extended cadenza, Zhgenti’s sound emerged out of the depths, followed by a rhapsodic theme that raced high and low on the keyboard. He executed crunchy chords a series of complex sounds, which separated into another speed-braking segment that was very exciting. Zhgenti wonderfully brought out the pensive qualities at the beginning of the second movement. He expressed the big stentorian themes and incisively ran the tables on a massive run that seemed to use all of the keys. The accompaniment of the wiggly-high-pitched flexatone and the ruminating bass clarinet created an oddly appealing vibe with the piano and orchestra.

The third movement with its very fast tempo was handled with panache by Zhgenti and wrapped up the piece with a grand enthusiasm that brought the audience to its feet.

For an encore, Zhengti replayed some of his parts from the concerto, demonstrating how the dissonance and some of the sadness in the music reflected the anguish of the Armenian people, which the composer was well-aware of. After contrasting a passage that he felt was more playful with another that was very serious, he told us that he felt the composer was trying to convey that children should pay attention to what their parents.

With his outstanding performance, Zhgenti is carving out a name for himself as one of the premiere pianists in the area. It would be great to hear him again, perhaps with a little Mozart or something in a completely different style.

After intermission, the orchestra launched into Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”) with Brotons impressively conducting it from memory. Some flight intonation problems in the violins and a bobble or two from the French horns were minor quibbles in this very spirited performance. Dynamic contrast and good tempos made the piece very enjoyable with the Scottish-dance theme in the second movement a highlight. The clarinet duet in the third movement and the celebratory ending in the fourth, led by the horns, rounded off the piece joyously.

The “Roman Carnival Overture,” which began the concert, needed a quicker tempo to convey its festive atmosphere. Alan Juza’s English horn solo was a highlight with its melancholic and dreamy quality. But the joyful passages were sluggish. A little more zip would have given the piece more uplift.

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887
Jean Papineau-Couture (1916-2000)
Michael Langdon (1920-1991)
Lucia Popp (1939-1993)
Neil Young (1945)

and

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Roland Barthes (1915-1980)
Michael Ende (1929-1995)
Tracy Kidder (1945)
Katherine Weber (1955)

From the New Music Box:

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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841)
Frederick Stock (1872-1942)
Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969)
Jan Simons (1925-2006)
Arthur Cunningham (1928-1997)
Vernon Handley (1930-2008)
Harry Bramma (1936)
Jennifer Bate (1944)
Fang Man (1977)

and

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)
Mary Gaitskill (1955)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1898, shortly after it was finished, the painting “Nevermore” by Gaugin is purchased by the English composer Frederick Delius. The painting was inspired by Poe’s famous poem and is now in the collection of London’s Cortland Gallery.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
François Couperin (1668-1733)
John Phillips Marquand (1873-1949)
Ennio Morricone (1928)
Graham Clark (1941)
Sir Tim Rice (1944)

Andreas Scholl (1967)
and

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
Vachel Lindsey (1879-1931)
John Phillips Marquand (1893-1960)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1900, Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch makes his Carnegie Hall debut in New York City during his first American tour. In 1909 he married contralto Clara Clemens, the daughter of the American writer Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review of Oregon Symphony's Petrushka concert in Classical Voice North America magazine

My review of last weekend's Oregon Symphony concert that featured Stravinsky's Petrushka and the puppet wizardry of Doug Fitch has been published in the Classical Voice North America here.  I hope that you enjoy reading it.


Today's Birthdays

Burrill Phillips (1907-1988)
Pierrette Alarie (1921-2011)
Piero Cappuccilli (1929-2005)
Ivan Moravec (1930-2015)
William Thomas McKinley (1938-2015)
Thomas Quasthoff (1959)
Bryn Terfel (1965)

and

Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
Hugh Leonard (1926-2009)
Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich Witt (1770-1836)
Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953
Lamberto Gardelli (1915-1938)
Jerome Hines (1921-2003)
Richard Stoker (1938)
Simon Standage (1941)
Judith Zaimont (1945)
Tadaaki Otaka (1947)
Elizabeth Gale (1948)
Bonnie Raitt (1949)
Ana Vidović (1980)

and

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)
Raja Rao (1908-2006)
Kazuo Ishiguro (1954)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ferenc (Franz) Erkel (1810-1893)
Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995)
William Alwyn (1905-1985)
Al Hirt (1922-1999)
Dame Joan Sutherland (1926-2010)
Dame Gwyneth Jones (1937)
Joni Mitchell (1943)
Judith Forst (1943)
Christina Viola Oorebeek (1944)

and

Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Benny Andersen (1929-2018)
Stephen Greenblatt (1943)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Robert Musil (1880-1942)
Harold Ross (1892-1951)
Ann Porter (1911-2011)
James Jones (1921-1977)
Michael Cunningham (1952)

From The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the March King, John Philip Sousa, born in Washington, D.C. (1854). His father was a U.S. Marine Band trombonist, and he signed John up as an apprentice to the band after the boy tried to run away from home to join the circus. By the time he was 13 years old, Sousa could play violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone, and was a pretty good singer too. At 26, he was leading the Marine Band and writing the first of his 136 marches, including “Semper Fidelis,” which became the official march of the Corps, and “The Washington Post March.” In addition to those marches, he wrote nearly a dozen light operas, and as many waltzes too; and he wrote three novels. But he’s best known for “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Monday, November 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Hans Sachs (1494-1576)
Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961)
Walter Gieselking (1895-1956)
Claus Adam (1917-1983)
György Cziffra (1921-1994)
Nicholas Maw (1935-2009)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (1940-2010)
Art Garfunkel (1941)
Gram Parsons (1946-1973)

and

Ida M. Tarbell (1867-1944)
Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918)
Thomas Flanagan (1923-2002)
Sam Shephard (1943)
Vandana Shiva (1952)
Diana Abu-Jabar (1960)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1955, Karl Böhm conducts a performance of Beethoven's "Fidelio" at the gala re-opening of Vienna Opera House (damaged by Allied bombs on March 12, 1945). During the rebuilding of the Opera House, performances had continued in two nearby Viennese halls: the Theatre and der Wien and the Volksoper.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Carl Tausig (1841-1871)
Arnold Cooke (1906-2005)
Elgar Howarth (1935)
Joan Rodgers (1956)
Elena Kats-Chernin (1957)
Daron Hagen (1961)

and

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
C. K. Williams (1936-2015)
Charles Frazier (1950)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Oregon Symphony and Kahane ricochet through Norman's "Split"

Although pianist Jeffrey Kahane has been a regular guest artist with the Oregon Symphony, his appearance with the orchestra on Saturday (October 27th) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was a special occasion because of “Split,” a piano concerto that was written for him by the LA-based composer Andrew Norman. Kahane premiered the piece with the New York Philharmonic in 2015. This time around with the Oregon Symphony under the baton of Carlos Kalmar, Kahane played the revised version.

Yet, since there is no recording of the piece available commercially, it was difficult to know how much of the piece was revised. I checked out the interview that was posted online, and Norman mentioned that he added an additional piano part that was perhaps meant as an alter ego to the music that Kahane played. Norman also said that he did extensive revisions to the piece but they were not elaborated.

In any case, “Split” had a lot of snap, crackle, and pop with fragmentary passages for the soloist and the orchestra moving in various directions – sometimes like a ricocheting pinball. Crouched over the keyboard, Kahane would pounce on some notes, accenting the percussive sound of the piano. At other times, he played rhapsodic lines that reminded me of Liszt. But as soon as I thought the piece would settle in one direction, a sharp snap from the percussion battery would signal a change, causing Kahane and the orchestra to scramble in a new direction. Sometimes Kahane responded with a nervous jangle of sounds and then seem to lose track (intentionally) until only a few solitary notes dwindled away. Blatts and splats from the brass augmented choppy passages. Some segments had whispery high, ethereal tones that evaporated. Kahane and the woodwinds would bubble things up with a random quality. Lyrical snatches came and went from all corners.

Because of its scattershot style, “Split” might be Norman’s take on the multitasking we live in. Whatever the case, he was on hand to take a bow from an audience that was genuinely appreciative.

The big and familiar piece on the program was Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, which received a superb performance from the opening blast of the Fate motif to the furiously triumphant finale,. The ensemble cooked up a full-bodied Russian stew with a terrific dark, soulful sound. Some phrases in the pizzicato-ing second movement needed to diminuendo more, but the all-in-all the playing expressed an outstanding combination of precision and emotion, resulting in a standing-ovation from the audience. Kudos all around… especially to the woodwinds and timpanist Jonathan Greeney.

The concert opened with “Three Dance Episodes” from Bernstein’s “On the Town,” a musical that depicts three sailors on 24-leave in New York City during WWII. The terrific orchestration of the concert suite captures the adventurous spirit of the trio and their encounters.

The first interlude (“The Great Lover”) featured a loose-limbed and jaunty theme that was augmented by interruptions from jokey woodwinds and flashes of brass. The second (“Lonely Town”) was imbued with, subdued clarinets, a smoky trumpet sound from Jeffrey Work, moody strings, and swaggering brass. The third (“Times Square”) alternated between blustery clarinet riffs by Mark Dubac, a saunter into a saucy night club, and the hectic pulse of people, vehicles, lights, tall buildings, and all.

Preview of Vancouver Symphony concert in The Columbian

The Columbian newspaper published my preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert. It includes an interview with pianist Dmitri Zhgenti, who will play Khachaturian's Piano Concert. You can read it online here.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
Vincenzio Bellini (1801-1835)
Vladimir Ussachevsky (1911-1990)

and

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571)
William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901)
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962)
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Terrence McNally (1939)
Martin Cruz Smith (1942)
Joe Queenan (1950)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692-1766)
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Count Andrey Razumovsky (1752-1836)
John Foulds (1880-1939)
Luchino Visconti (1906-1976)
Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001)
Harold Farberman (1929)
Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001)
Jeremy Menuhin (1951)
Marie McLaughlin (1954)
Paul Moravec (1957)

and

George Boole (1815-1864)
C.K. Williams (1936-2015)
Thomas Mallon (1951)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
Eugen Jochum (1902-1987)
Bruno Bjelinski (1909-1992)
Victoria de Los Angeles (1923-2005)
William Mathias (1934-1992)
Lyle Lovett (1957)

and

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
Grantland Rice (1880-1954)
A. R. Gurney (1930-2017)
Edward Said (1935-2003)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1830, Chopin’s friends in Warsaw throw a festival “bon voyage” dinner for the composer-pianist on the eve of his departure for Paris. As it turned out, he would never return to his native land.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Louise Talma (1906-1996)
August Everding (1928-1999)
Colin Tilney (1933)
Odaline de la Martinez (1949)
Naji Hakim (1955)

and

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675)
John Keats (1795-1821)
Susan Orlean (1955)

from The New Music Box:

On October 31, 1896, the Boston Symphony premiered the Gaelic" Symphony in E Minor by Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (Amy Marcy Cheney Beach), the first symphony by an American woman ever publicly performed.

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1933, Arnold Schoenberg, accompanied by his wife, baby daughter, and family pet terrier "Witz," arrives in New York on the liner Isle de France.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Former OSO flutist wins assistant principal post at the Cleveland Orchestra

Fellow critic Mark Mandel alerted me to the announcement that Jessica Sindell, former principal flutist with the Oregon Symphony will be the assistance principal flutist of the Cleveland Orchestra. You can read all about it in the Cleveland Plain Dealer here.

Today's Birthdays

Peter Warlock (Philip Arnold Heseltine) (1894-1930)
Stanley Sadie (1930-2005)
Frans Brüggen (1934-2014)
Grace Slick (1939)
René Jacobs (1946)
James Judd (1949)
Shlomo Mintz (1957)

and

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)
André Chénier (1762-1794)
Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
Robert Caro (1935)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Harold Darke (1888-1976)
Vivian Ellis (1904-1996)
Václav Neumann (1920-1995)
Jon Vickers (1926-2015)
James Dillon (1950)
Lee Actor (1952)
James Primosch (1956)

and

James Boswell (1740-1795)
Harriet Powers (1837-1910)
Henry Green (1905-1973)
David Remnick (1958)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giuditta Pasta (1797-1865)
Howard Hanson (1896-1981)
Dame Cleo Laine (1927)
Carl Davis (1936)
Howard Blake (1938)
Kenneth Montgomery (1943)
Naida Cole (1974)

and

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
John Harold Hewitt (1907-1987)
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
John Hollander (1929-2013)
Anne Perry (1938)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Helmut Walcha (1907-1991)
Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997)
Dominick Argento (1927)
Julius Eastman (1940-1990)
Håkan Hardenberger (1961)
Vanessa-Mae (1978)

and

Lee Krasner (1908-1994)
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
Zadie Smith (1975)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758)
Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)
György Pauk (1936)
Christine Brewer (1955)
Natalie Merchant (1963)
Sakari Oramo (1965)

and

Andrei Bely (1880-1934)
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
John Arden (1930-2012)
Andrew Motion (1952)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623)
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Don Banks (1923-1980)
Galina Vishnevskaya (1926-2012)
Peter Lieberson (1946)
Diana Burrell (1948)
Colin Carr (1957)
Midori (1971)

and

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
John Berryman (1914-1972)
Anne Tyler (1941)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885)
Imre [Emmerich] Kálman (1882-1953)
Conrad Leonard (1898-2003)
Paul Csonka (1905-1995)
Tito Gobbi (1913-1984)
Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
George Crumb (1929)
Sofia Gubaidulina (1931)
Malcolm Bilson (1935)
Bill Wyman (1936)
George Tsontakis (1951)
Cheryl Studer (1955)

and

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)
Moss Hart (1904-1961)
Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
Norman Rush (1933)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Albert Lortzing (1801-1851)
Miriam Gideon (1906-1996)
Denise Duval (1921-2016)
Ned Rorem (1923)
Lawrence Foster (1941)
Toshio Hosokawa (1955)
"Weird Al" Yankovic (1959)
Brett Dean (1961)

and

Robert Bridges (1844-1930)
Johnny Carson (1925-2005)
Nick Tosches (1949)
Laurie Halse Anderson (1961)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Sir Donald McIntyre (1934)
Elizabeth Connell (1946)

and

John Reed (1887-1920)
John Gould (1908-2003)
Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

In 1883, the grand opening of the original Metropolitan Opera House in New York City with performance of Gounod's "Faust" with Auguste Vianesi, conducting.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957)
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974)
Howard Ferguson (1908-1999)
Alexander Schneider (1908-1993)
Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997)
Dizzy (John Birks) Gillespie (1917-1993
Sir Malcom Arnold (1921-2006)
Marga Richter (1926)
Shulamit Ran (1949)
Hugh Wolff (1953)

and

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Nesterowicz and the Oregon Symphony raise a glass to Finland, Poland, and Russia

The second classical concert of the Oregon Symphony’s season featured an up-and-coming conductor Michał Nesterowicz, who is the principal guest conductor of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, and violin virtuoso Karen Gomyo in a program that traversed through Finland, Russia, and Poland. The attendance at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Saturday, October 13, was rather thin, which was disappointing, considering the fact that Gomyo is a familiar artist for Portland audiences. She has appeared with the orchestra several times to great acclaim, starting in 2010 with Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, continuing in 2011 with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, followed by 2015 with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

This time around, Gomyo turned in a sterling performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, conveying its wide range of dynamics and virtuosic demands and many nuances with impeccable technique. She expressed the many moods of the piece – whether brooding, frenzied, majestically soaring, or rhapsodically lyrical – with a firm commitment that delivered all of the goods. The audience loved her playing so much that it brought her back a couple of times. She complimented the applause with an encore, a “Tango Etude” by Astor Piazzolla.

In a nod to his homeland, Nesterowicz conducted music by Polish composers Witold Lutosławski and Wojciech Kilar that were grounded in folk tunes. Lutosławski’s “Little Suite,” a four-movement work inspired by melodies from the southeastern part of Poland, opened with a delightful piccolo solo that was played with Zachariah Galatis. The second movement featured a snappy, polka-esque pulse, and the third had an intense lyricism shaped initially by the woodwinds and then the embraced by the orchestra. The last movement seamlessly juxtaposed a bouncy dance tune against a rhapsodic and slightly melancholic song.

Kilar’s “Orawa” for string orchestral cast a hypnotic spell with its subtle rhythmic shifts and simple melodic lines. The piece, reflected the harvest-time music of the Polish Podhale region, suggested colors that were open and expansive then switched closed on denser textures. As the piece became faster and faster it got technically more difficult with sounds skittering in all directions. The final, striding chords was followed by a joyous “Hey!” from the musicians. The audience responded with enthusiasm and Nesterowicz signaled Concertmaster Sarah Kwak and principal cellist Nancy Ives for their solo contributions.

The orchestra concluded the concert with a robust performance of Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony. That’s the one that he wrote after WWII, snubbing the Soviet authorities who expected him to create a weighty, monumental work. Instead, the piece, even with five movements, was relatively brief and joyful.

Urged on by Nesterowicz, the musicians launched into the perky, busy, and cheerful first movement with relish. The second movement, with sensitive contributions by clarinetists James Shields and Mark Dubac and the solitary piccolo sound of Galatis was plaintively somber. The third offered a crazy quilt of drama with outstanding playing by principal trumpeter Jeffrey Work and the forceful brass. Of the fourth and fifth, I can attest to the amazingly evocative playing of principal bassoonist Carin Miller Packwood. She created a soulful sound that was unforgettable even after the orchestra wound the piece up in the galloping, spirited finale.

Because Nesterowicz is a very tall he chose not to use the podium, which allowed him a large area in which to move. His gestures were very natural and graceful, which connected well with the orchestra and soloist. I would like to hear him with the orchestra again but with a program that extends outside the boundaries of his homeland, the Baltics, and Russia. Hey!

Today's Birthdays

Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
Adelaide Hall (1901-1993)
Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991)
Adelaide Hall (1909-1993)
Robert Craft (1923-2015)
Jacques Loussier (1934)
William Albright (1944-1998)
Ivo Pogorelich (1958)
Leila Josefowicz (1977)

and

Christopher Wren (1632-1723)
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
John Dewey(1859-1952)
Robert Pinsky (1940)
Elfriede Jelinek (1946)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Sidonie Goossens (1899-2004)
Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966)
Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968)
Emil Gilels (1916-1985)
Robin Holloway (1943)
Robert Morris (1943)

and

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Auguste Lumière (1862-1954)
Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899-1974)
Jack Anderson (1922-2005)
John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell) (1931)
Philip Pullman (1946)
Tracy Chevalier (1962)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Luca Marenzio (1553-1599)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Lotte Lenya (1898-1981)
Alexander Young (1920-2000)
Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
Chuck Berry (1926-2017)
Wynton Marsalis (1961)

and

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811)
Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)
Ntozake Shange (1948)
Rick Moody (1961)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)
Rolando Panerai (1924)
Reiner Goldberg (1939)
Stephen Kovacevich (1940)

and

Georg Büchner (1813-1837)
Nathanael West (1903-1940)
Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to singer Marian Anderson.

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1933 that Albert Einstein officially moved to the United States to teach at Princeton University. He had been in California working as a visiting professor when Hitler took over as chancellor of Germany. Einstein’s apartment in Berlin and his summer cottage in the country were raided, his papers confiscated, and his bank accounts closed. He returned to Europe and handed in his German passport, renouncing his citizenship. He considered offers from all over the world, including Paris, Turkey, and Oxford. Einstein eventually decided on Princeton, which offered him an attractive package teaching at its Institute for Advanced Study — but he had his hesitations about the university. For one thing, it had a clandestine quota system in place that only allowed a small percentage of the incoming class to be Jewish. The Institute’s director, Abraham Flexner, was worried that Einstein would be too directly involved in Jewish refugee causes, so he micromanaged Einstein’s public appearances, keeping him out of the public eye when possible. He even declined an invitation for Einstein to see President Roosevelt at the White House without telling the scientist. When Einstein found out, he personally called Eleanor Roosevelt and arranged for a visit anyway, and then complained about the incident in a letter to a rabbi friend of his, giving the return address as “Concentration Camp, Princeton.” In 1938, incoming freshmen at Princeton ranked Einstein as the second-greatest living person; first place went to Adolf Hitler.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
Franz [Ferenc] Doppler (1821-1883)
James Lockhart (1930)
Derek Bourgeois (1941)
Marin Alsop (1956)
Erkki-Sven Tüür (1959)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962-2017)

and

Noah Webster (1758-1843)
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)
Günter Grass (1927-2015)
Thomas Lynch (1948)

And from the Writer's Almanac:

In 1882, during a tour across the US, Oscar Wilde lectured to coal miners in Leadville, Colorado, where he saw a sign on a saloon that said, "Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best," and called it "the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across."

Monday, October 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Crusell (1775-1838)
Dag Wirén (1905-1985)
Harold Blumenfeld (1923-2014)
Karl Richter (1926-1981)
Barry McGuire (1935)
Suzanne Murphy (1941)
Peter Phillips (1953)

and

Virgil (70 B.C.E.- 19 B.C.E.)
Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844-1900)
P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)
Varian Fry (1907-1967)
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007)
Italo Calvino (1923-1985)
Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Zimlinsky (1871-1942)
Gary Graffman (1928)
Rafael Puyana (1931-2013)
Enrico di Giuseppe (1932-2005)
La Monte (Thorton) Young (1935)
Sir Cliff Richard (1940)
Kaija Saariaho (1952)

and

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
Katha Pollitt (1949)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Art Tatum (1910-1956)
Hugo Weisgall (1912-1997)
Gustav Winckler (1925-1979)
Paul Simon (1941)
Leona Mitchell (1949)
Kristine Ciesinski (1950)
Melvyn Tan (1956)
Mark Applebaum (1967)

and

Conrad Richter (1890-1968)
Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Carlos López Buchardo (1881-1948)
Gilda Dalla Rizza (1892-1975)
Erich Gruenberg (1924)
Pilar Lorengar (1938-1996)
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)
Daryl Runswick (1946)
Penelope Walker (1956)
Chris Botti (1962)

and

Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985)
Alice Childress (1916-1994)
Robert Coles (1929)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

George Bridgetower (1780-1860)
Fernando De Lucia (1860-1925)
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Albert Stoessel (1894-1943)
Eugene Weigel (1910-1998)
Art Blakey (1919-1990)
Ennio Morricone (1928)
David Rendall (1948)

and

Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825)
Eleanor Roosevelt (1883-1962)
Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)
Thich Nhat Hanh (1926)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Vernon Duke (1903-1969)
Paul Creston (1906-1985)
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Gloria Coates (1938)
Sir Willard White (1946)
John Prine (1946)
Steve Martland (1959)
Evgeny Kissin (1971)

and

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the composer Vernon Duke, born Vladimir Dukelsky, in Parafianovo, Belarus (1903). He was a talented classical musician, educated at an elite conservatory, but his family fled Russia after the revolution and he wound up playing piano in cafés in Constantinople (now Istanbul). From there, his family rode steerage class on a ship to America, went through Ellis Island, and ended up in New York in 1921. There the teenage Dukelsky met George Gershwin, who was only a few years older, and the two became good friends. Dukelsky played Gershwin what he described as “an extremely cerebral piano sonata,” and Gershwin, who was also trained in classical music, suggested this: “There’s no money in that kind of stuff, and no heart in it, either. Try to write some real popular tunes — and don’t be scared about going low-brow. They will open you up.” He also suggested that Dukelsky shorten his name, as he himself had done — Gershowitz to Gershwin. So Vladimir Dukelsky came up with the name Vernon Duke, but he didn’t use it for a while.

First, he went to Paris. There, he met and impressed the great ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Dukelsky wrote later about their first meeting — that Diaghilev had drawled: “‘Ah, a good-looking boy. That in itself is most unusual. Composers are seldom good-looking; neither Stravinsky nor Prokofiev ever won any beauty prizes. How old are you?’ I told him I was 20. ‘That’s encouraging, too. I don’t like young men over 25.’” And so Diaghilev commissioned him to write a ballet, and he wrote Zephire et Flore, with sets by Georges Braque, choreography by Léonide Massine, and costumes by Coco Chanel. It got a great reception, and Dukelsky was taken in by the not-quite-as-good-looking Stravinsky and Prokofiev. For a few years he divided his time between Paris, where he continued to write classical music, and London, where he wrote show tunes and used the name Vernon Duke. Then in 1929, he decided to go back to America, and he wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1930s — “April in Paris” (1932), “Autumn in New York” (1934), “I Can’t Get Started” (1936), and “Taking a Chance on Love” (1940). And he wrote the music for the Broadway show and film Cabin in the Sky (1940). By that time, he had become an American citizen and officially changed his name to Vernon Duke.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954)
Carl Flesch (1873-1944)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Roger Goeb (1914-1997)
Einojuhani Routavaara (1928-2016)
Alfons Kontarsky (1932-2010)
John Lennon (1940-1980)
Jackson Browne (1948)
Sally Burgess (1953)
Roberto Sierra (1953)

and

Ivo Andrić (1892-1975)
Bruce Catton (1899-1978)
Léopold (Sédar) Senghor (1906-2001)
Belva Plain (1915-2010)
Jill Ker Conway (1934)
James Howe McClure (1939-2006)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Guest conductor Märkl and Oregon Symphony impress with varied program

Whether the piece was Classical, Romantic, modern, or a world premiere – guest conductor Jun Märkl and the Oregon Symphony handled it all with panache. Märkl, a frequent guest with the orchestra since 2013, used his balletic style and pinpoint, to express the music of Haydn, Brahms, Copland, and Katherine Balch. It was a captivating tour-de-force program at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Monday, October 1, and it made me think that Märkl is a front-runner when the audition process opens up to replace the orchestra’s musical director, who will retire after the 2020/2021 season.

Each piece on the program was fascinating, starting with the world premiere of Balch’s “Chamber Music,” which was performed by the full orchestra. As Märkl noted in his opening remarks, the piece was like a discussion among groups within the orchestra. Quiet sounds dawdled, sliced, and slipped by in a random-like way. Now and then, the bass violins rapidly patted the sides of their instruments. The percussion section created a tinkle-like sound. The trumpets blared briefly. The woodwinds sounded like a wheezing harmonica. The piece was all very ephemeral with no melody ever emerging. It really tested my ears, and I would like to hear it again someday.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 (“Hen”) shifted gears (and ears) in a completely different direction with elegant and delightful melodic lines. Märkl’s fluid yet very articulate conducting elicited spot-on dynamic contrasts from the orchestra that made each movement intriguing. Among the best moments were the clucking sounds in the first movement, the subtle humor in the second, the dancing third, and the surging, perky style of fourth. Haydn just doesn’t get much better.

Inon Barnatan joined the orchestra for a scintillating performance of Copland’s Piano Concerto. The piece has elements of jazz and ragtime that often got jagged and jangly. Barnaton showed remarkable precision and expressivity at the keyboard, interacting with the orchestra with verve. There were soft sections, of course, and the clarinets snuck into the piece once or twice so quietly, it was as if their sound was perched on pillows.

Thunderous applause brought Barnatan back to the stage several times, and he indulged the listeners cooking up a very complex, fast, yet loosey-goosey version of Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm,” which brought down the house once again

After intermission Märkl led a very the orchestra in a marvelous performance of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. The dynamics and choice of tempi gave the piece a compelling direction that never lagged was overly sentimental. Although the French horns had a couple of minor blips, the orchestra played it all at an extremely high level, and the audience responded with cheers. Märk shook hands with many members of the orchestra and seemed to be enjoying it all immensely. The third time he appeared, the orchestra refused to stand, allowing him to soak up the acclaim. It was a genuine musical love-fest.

Before the concert began, the orchestra’s president and CEO, Scott Showalter announced that the orchestra’s latest CD, “Aspects of America,” has been released on the Pentatone label. The CD contains music by Sean Shepherd, Sebastian Currier, Christopher Rouse, Kenji Bunch, and Samuel Barber. It is only available through Pentatone (a Dutch company) at the moment, but should be in the U.S. soon.

Correction: "Aspects of America" is available through Amazon. (Thanks to Elaine Calder's comment.)

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Will Vodery (1885-1951)
Paul V. Yoder (1908-1990)
James Sample (1910-1995)
Kurt Redel (1918-2013)
Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)
Johnny Ramone (1948-2004)
Robert Saxton (1953)
Carl Vine (1954)
Tabea Zimmermann (1968)
Bruno Mantovani (1974)

and

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963)
Walter Lord (1917-2002)
Philip Booth (1925-2007)
R.L. Stine (1943)
Elizabeth Tallent (1954)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

William Billings (1746-1800)
Joe Hill (1879-1915)
Alfred Wallenstein (1898-1983)
Shura Cherkassky (1911-1995)
Charles Dutoit (1936)
John Mellencamp (1951)
Yo-Yo Ma (1955)
Li Yundi (1982)

and

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
Helen Clark MacInnes (1907-1985)
Desmond Tutu, (1931)
Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones) (1934-2014)
Thomas Keneally (1935)
Dianne Ackerman (1948)
Sherman Alexie (1966)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

William Bradbury (1816-1868)
Jenny Lind (1820-1887)
Julia Culp (1880-1970)
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Maria Jeritza (1887-1982)
Edwin Fischer (1886-1960)
Paul Badura-Skoda (1927)
Dennis Wicks (1928-2003)
Udo Zimmermann (1943)
Keith Lewis (1950)

and

Le Corbusier (1887-1965)
Caroline Gordon (1895-1981)

From the Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1600 that the opera Euridice was first performed, at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. It is the oldest surviving opera.

Euridice was performed for the wedding celebrations of Henry IV of France and Maria de' Medici. It was written by Jacopo Peri, a beloved composer and singer. He had already written Dafne a few years earlier, which is considered to be the first opera, but that music has been lost.

Euridice is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which the gifted musician Orpheus falls in love with the beautiful Eurydice, but just after their wedding she is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus is heartbroken, and he journeys to the underworld, to Hades, to try to bring her back. He charms the king of the underworld, also named Hades, and his wife, Persephone, and they agree to return Eurydice to Orpheus on one condition: that he get all the way back to the upper world without looking back to see if Eurydice is following. He almost makes it, but right as he is walking out into the sunlight he turns back, and Eurydice is still in the underworld, so he loses her forever. Peri not only wrote the opera, but he sang the role of Orpheus. The climax of the opera came during "Funeste piagge," or "Funeral shores," when Orpheus begs Hades and Persephone to release his beloved.

Peri wrote a long preface to Euridice, in which he explained the new musical form he was working in, which we now call opera. He said that he was trying to write the way he imagined the Greeks would have, combing music and speech into the ultimate form of drama. One of the people who came to Florence to see Euridice was Vincenzo Gonzaga, the Duke of Mantua. And he probably brought his servant, Claudio Monteverdi. A few years later, in 1607, Monteverdi premiered his first opera, L'Orfeo, which was also a retelling of the legend of Orpheus. Monteverdi elevated the opera form to new heights, and L'Orfeo is considered the first truly great opera, with all of the dramatic orchestration and lyrics that are so central to the drama.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Cyril Bradley Rootham (1875-1938)
Jürgen Jürgens (1925-1994)
John Downey (1927-2004)
Iwan Edwards (1937)
Ken Noda (1962)

and

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)
Helen Churchill Candee (1858-1949)
Flann O’Brien (1911-1966)
Václav Havel (1936-2011)
Edward P. Jones (1950)
Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958)
Maya Ying Lin (1959)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1930, The New York Philharmonic begins its famous series of weekly Sunday afternoon national broadcasts with a program from Carnegie Hall conducted by Erich Kleiber. The first-ever radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic had occurred on August 12, 1922, when a summer-time concert from Lewisohn Stadium conducted by Willem van Hoogstraten was relayed locally over WJZ in New York.

My note: Willem van Hoogstraten was the conductor of the Portland Symphony (former name of the Oregon Symphony) from 1925 to 1938.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Fanny Tacchinardi‑Persiani (1812-1867)
Alain Daniélou (1907-1994)
Alain Lombard (1940)
Richard Wilson (1941)
John Aler (1949)
Fransico Araiza (1950)
Marc Minkowski (1962)
David Dzubay (1964)

and

Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
Damon Runyan (1880-1946)
Buster Keaton (1895-1966)
Brenden Gill (1914-1997)
Jackie Collins (1937-2015)
Roy Blount Jr. (1941)
Anne Rice (1941)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1921, the American Academy in Rome awards American composer Leo Sowerby its first two-year composition fellowship. American composer Howard Hanson was awarded the second two-year composition fellowship on November 9, 1921. The third fellowship was awarded to Randall Thompson on June 6, 1922. The fellowship awards continue to this day.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Antoine Dauvergne (1713-1797)
Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1923-2017)
Steve Reich (1936)

and

Emily Post (1873-1960)
Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)
Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993)
Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Vancouver Symphony kicks off 40th season with lively all-American concert

The Vancouver Symphony kicked off its 40th season on Saturday (September 29) with solid performances of works by Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein plus a world premiere by local composer and contra-bassoonist Nicole Buetti. Japanese virtuoso Mayuko Kamio, who opened the orchestra’s concert season a couple of years ago with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, returned to Skyview Concert Hall to dazzle the audience this time with Barber’s Violin Concerto. Her appearance was all the more remarkable, because a problem with her visa almost caused her to cancel. Fortunately, Senator Maria Cantwell was able to stepped in and rescue the situation.

Kamio played the first two movements of the Barber with a warm, sweet sound and a graceful expressiveness that created a lyrical tapestry. The textures were imbued with a lush and romantic atmosphere that were almost nostalgic. The orchestra accompanied her playing with excellent dynamics, and Alan Juza set the pastoral tone of the second movement with a lovely solo.

The whirling dervish of sound in the third movement caught everyone’s attention as Kamio whipped through the fast-moving notes with incisive eloquence. Kamio’s fingers seemed to move at a speed that was humanly impossible, but the big screens on either side of the stage allowed everyone to follow along. The strings of the orchestra expertly caught fire alongside of her – earning kudos for their tight ensemble playing. As Kamio took her bows, they were applauding her vigorously – just like the listeners – with smiles everywhere.

Music Director Salvador Brotons invited Buetti to center stage to tell listeners a bit about her piece, called “Odyssey.” She explained how the piece came about through her interest in science and science fiction, which was promoted by her father.

“Odyssey” had cinematic feel that was very approachable. The opening salvo offered snarling glissandi from the brass that segued into a mysterious and slightly ominous theme for the entire orchestra. The piece grew quieter, and we could hear a melancholy duet that featured the contra-bassoon (Buetti) and tuba (Mark Vehrencamp). A flock of skittering violins interrupted the mood, which took on a new direction with a perky trio of bassoons leading the way. The rest of the orchestra became swept up into a dance-like melody, which gradually took on a more heroic flavor with all of the brass and timpani playing a prominent part. The piece ended triumphantly, and the audience responded with genuine enthusiasm and a standing ovation for the composer. It seems very likely that she will have to write another piece for the orchestra in the near future.

The Suite from Bernstein’s “Candide” in an arrangement by Charlie Harmon was performed with enough pizzazz to convey the major themes of the opera (or operetta or musical – depending on your point of view). The orchestra performed “I Am Easily Assimilated” with a snappy groove, the “Best of All Possible Worlds” percolated along, and “Make Our Garden Grow” carried plenty of emotional weight to wrap up the piece in an uplifting way. But the violins had an intonation problem on the high note at the beginning of the piece and there were some fumbled notes by the trumpets. Still, the music tickled my ears, and made me think that it would be wonderful to hear the orchestra do a concert version someday.
In similar way, the orchestra’s playing of the “Symphonic Dances” from Bernstein’s “West Side Story” got the main themes across but was a tad disjointed. The ensemble conveyed “Somewhere and “Mambo” and “Maria” with conviction, but sometimes the balance got warped, such as when the xylophone became too dominant during “Maria.” The “Rumble” section was wild enough to cause the audience to applaud, and Brotons wisely stiff-armed the noise so that the finale, the tragic “Somewhere” theme could be heard. Timpanist Forian Conzetti did an impressive amount of double duty with multiple instruments, and the percussion battery (with Diana Hnatiw on the drumset) deserved kudos for its many contributions to the underlying pulse of the piece.

Concertmaster Eva Richey serving refreshments during intermission

Today's Birthdays

Frantisek Tuma (1704-1774)
Henry Février (1875-1957)
Leroy Shield (1893-1962)
Francis Jackson (1917)
Mary Jeanne van Appledorn (1927-2014)
Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988)
Michel Plasson (1933)
Phill Niblock (1933)
Peter Frankl (1935)
Ton Koopman (1944)
Jonathan Summers (1946)

and

Mahatma Gandhi, (1869-1948)
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
Groucho Marx (1890-1977)
Graham Greene (1904-1991)
Jan Morris (1926)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

J. Friedrich Eduard Sobolewski (1808-1872)
Henry Clay Work (1832-1884)
Paul Dukas (1865-1935)
Vladimir Horowitz (1904-1989)
Sylvano Bussotti (1931)

and

Jimmy Carter (1924)
Tim O'Brien (1946)

and from the Composers Datebook:

This day in 1924 marked the opening of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, funded by a gift of $12.5 million from the American patroness Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who had inherited her fortune from the Curtis Publishing Company. The faculty, providing instruction for 203 students, includes Leopold Stokowski and Josef Hofmann heading conducting and piano departments, respectively. Polish-born coloratura Marcella Sembrich. Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch. French-born harpist/composer Carlos Salzedo. and Italian composer Rosario Scalero.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Svendsen (1840-1911)
Sir Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)
Václav Smetáček (1906-1986)
David Oistrakh (1908-1974)
Dame Julie Andrews (1935)
Johnny Mathis (1935)
Alan Hacker (1938-2012)
Jonathan Lloyd (1948)
Andrew Rindfleisch (1963)

and

W.S. Merwin (1927)
Truman Capote (1924-1984)
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jacques-Martin Hottetere (1674-1763)
Joaquin Nin (y Castellanos) (1879-1949)
Gene Autry (1907-1998)
Richard Bonynge (1930)
Jerry Lee Lewis (1935)
Jean-Luc Ponty (1942)

and

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)
Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Preview of Vancouver Symphony (WA) season opener in The Columbian

The Columbian newspaper has published my preview of opening concert for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's 40th season.  Click here to read the article.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Mattheson (1681-1764)
Florent Schmitt (1870-1958)
Vivian Fine (1913-2000)
Rudolf Barshai (1924-2010)
Edward Applebaum (1937)
Catherine Robbin (1950)
Michaela Comberti (1952-2003)

and

Confusius (551 BCE - 479 BCE)
Caravaggio (1571-1610)
Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923)
Edith Pargeter (1913-1995)
Simon Winchester (1944)

and

from the Composers Datebook

On this day in 1951, the Sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" opens in theaters across America, featuring memorable score by Bernard Herrmann that included eerie, other-worldly sounds imitating the electronic instrument known as a "Theremin" (after its Russian-born inventor, Leon Theremin). In the movie, actress Patricia Neal's rendition of the space alien command "Gort: Klaatu barada nikto" prevents Earth's destruction by a death-ray robot from outer space.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Cyril Scott (1879-1970)
Vincent Youmans (1898-1946)
Jean Berger (1909-2002)
Igor Kipnis (1930-2002)
Dame Josephine Barstow (1940)
Misha Dichter (1945)
Chris Merritt (1952)
Dimitry Sitkovetsky (1954)

and

Sir William Empson (1906-1984)
Joyce Johnson (1935)
Kay Ryan (1945)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alfred Cortot (1877-1962)
Charles Munch (1891-1968)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Yvonne Levering (1905-2006)
Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966)
Salvatore Accardo (1941)
Dale Duesing (1947)

and

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
Jane Smiley (1949)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1957, 20 years after George Gershwin died, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. It was not immediately successful. It only became famous when it was turned into a film in 1961 and won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It’s based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, but it is set in the gang-ridden streets of New York.

During the weeks leading up to the opening of West Side Story, the news was full of stories of gang violence and racial confrontations. At the end of August, Strom Thurmond filibustered for more than 24 hours to try to prevent passage of the Voting Rights Act. The day before the show’s opening, federal troops forcibly integrated Little Rock High School.

In general, critics responded favorably to West Side Story, but all the major Tony Awards went instead to The Music Man, a bubbly, nostalgic musical about a small town in Iowa.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Nikolaus Hanff (1663-1711)
Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897)
Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970)
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)
Glenn Gould (1932-1982)
Stella Sung (1959)

and

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929)
Sir Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991)
Vaclav Nelhybel (1919-1996)
Cornell MacNeil (1922-2011)
Alfredo Kraus (1927-1999)
John Rutter (1945)
Marc Neikrug (1946)

and

Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Eavan Boland (1944)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1947, German-born composer Hans Eisler is questioned about his former membership in the Communist Party by the House Committee on Un-American activities. Eisler had been a member of the Party in the 1920s, left Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933, and had been working in Hollywood on film scores and as the musical assistant to Charlie Chaplin. He left the U.S. in 1948 and settled in East Germany - where he composed that country's national anthem.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Féréol Mazas (1782-1849)
William Levi Dawson (1899-1990)
Jarmila Novotná (1907-1994)
Soulima Stravinsky (1910-1994)
Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012)
Ray Charles (1930-2004)
John Coltrane (1926-1967)
Robert Helps (1928-2001)
Bruce Springsteen (1949)
William Shimell (1952)

and

Euripides (ca 480 BC - 406 BC) - today is the traditional day for Greeks to celebrate his birthday.
Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947)
Walter Lippmann (1899-1974)
Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Pryor (1870-1942)
Mikolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911)
Henryk Szeryng (1918-1988)
William O. Smith (1926)
Hugh Bean (1929-2003)
Leonardo Balada (1933)
Anna Tomowa-Sintow (1941)
John Tomlinson (1946)
Vladmir Ghernov (1953)
Michael Torke (1961)

and

Fay Weldon (1931)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

François Francoeur (1698-1787)
Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
Meinrad Schütter (1910-2006)
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)
Jill Gomez (1942)
Andrei Gavrilov (1955)
Nina Rautio (1957)

and

Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498)
Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)
H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells (1866-1946)
Sir Allen Lane (1902-1970)
Stephen King (1941)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review of trans gender film + music hybrid posted on CVNA

My review of "Contralto" the hybrid film and music performance - featuring the Third Angle New Music Ensemble - that took place last weekend during the Time-Based Art Festival is now posted on Classical Voice North America here.  I have experienced a number of unusual concerts over the years, and "Contralto" has to rank in my top ten. I hope that you enjoy the review.

Today's Birthdays

Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968)
Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (1885-1941)
Uuno Klami (1900-1961)
David Sheinfeld (1906-2001)
John Dankworth (1927-2010)
Jane Manning (1938)
Laurie Spiegel (1945)
John Harle (1956)

and

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)
Maxwell Perkins (1884-1947)
Stevie Smith (1902-1971)
Donald Hall (1928)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1954, Stravinsky: "In Memoriam Dylan Thomas," premiered in Los Angeles, conducted by Robert Craft. Stravinsky had met the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas the previous year, and they had discussed collaborating on an opera project, but Thomas died on November 9, 1953.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gustav Schirmer (1829-1893)
Allan Pettersson (1911-1980)
Kurt Sanderling (1912-2011)
Blanche Thebom (1918-2010)
Arthur Wills (1926)
Bonaventura Bottone (1950)

and

William Golding (1911-1993)
Amalia Hernández (1917-2000)
Roger Angell (1920)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748)
Lord Berners (1883-1950)
Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Josef Tal (1910-2008)
Norman Dinerstein (1937-1982)
Thomas Fulton (1949-1994)
John McGlinn (1953-2009)
Anna Netrebko (1970)

and

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault (1819-1868)
Paul Zimmer (1934)
Alberto Ríos (1952)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870)
Vincenzo Tommasini (1878-1950)
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920)
Isang Yun (1917-1995)
Hank Williams (1923-1953)
Vincent La Selva (1929-2017)

and

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
Frank O'Connor (1903-1966)
Ken Kesey (1935-2001)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Paul Taffanel (1844-1908)
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
Hans Swarowsky (1899-1975)
B. B. King (1925-2015)

and

John Gay (1685-1732)
Henry Louis Gates Jr. (1950)
Elizabeth McCracken (1966)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1920, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso makes his last records (selections by Meyerbeer, Lully, Bartlett, and Rossini) for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey. He would make his last operatic appearance at the old Metropolitan Opera House on Christmas Eve in 1920 (an evening performance of Halevy's "La Juive"), and die the following summer in Naples.

On this day in 1977, opera diva Maria Callas dies of a heart attack, age 53, in Paris

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Horatio William Parker (1863-1919)
Bruno Walter (1876-1962)
Frank Martin (1890-1974)
Henry Brant (1913-2008)
Richard Arnell (1917-2009)
Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975)
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (1933-2014)
Jessye Norman (1945)
Richard Suart (1951)

and

Robert Benchley (1899-1945)
James Fenimore Cooper (1789

Friday, September 14, 2018

Vancouver Chamber Music Series offers potpourri in opening concert

The Vancouver Chamber Music Series kicked off its 8th season with a wide variety of works, many of which connected well with the waning days of summer. A rotating group of musicians, mostly members of the Vancouver Symphony, along with some very talented friends took turns getting into position on the small, but adequate stage, at Kiggins Theatre, which, by the way, has a fine acoustic for chamber music. Except for the solos that Dimitri Zhgenti played, all of the works included Michael Liu, who has played the keyboard with the orchestra since 2002.

Zhgenti, who will be featured in Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto with the orchestra later this year, played the most demanding pieces of the concert. He conveyed three selections by Rachmaninoff with verve and an excellent sense of contrasting the various moods and theme. The Prelude Op. 23 in G minor juxtaposed the springy opening with the highly Romantic second theme. The Etude-Tableaux Op. 33 No 8 in G minor had a delicate and far-away sound. The Etude-Tableaux Op 39 No.1 in offered a rolling wave of notes and a memorably emphatic, crisp ending.

Zhgenti tackled Schumann’s “Symphonic Etudes,” one of the most difficult works in piano literature with gusto. He demonstrated excellent articulation and conquered most of its complex and intricate passages, but he seemed to experience some slippage later in the piece yet recovered unscathed.

The program featured several pieces by Nicole Buetti, who has played bassoon with the orchestra since 2014. She collaborated with flutist Darren Cook and pianist Liu in “The Gelato Trio.” Its first movement, “Life Without Gelato,” painted a melancholic picture that ended in an unresolved state. It was followed by a lighter and carefree “Life With Gelato,” which topped the piece off in satisfyingly. In “The Lake,” Buetti created a lush and lovely scene with flutist Corrie Cook and pianist Liu.

Buetti’s “The Chase” evoked a group of waddling ducks through her bassoon playing along with cellist Betsy Goy and Liu. Buetti’s humorous side was also on display in her arrangement of “Take Five” that featured the contra-bassoon playing the melodic line, descending into the basement with gusto. Liu provided some bounce with the stride piano style, Ed Sale added the bass, and Bruce Barnes whisked up the rhythm on the drum set.

Husband-wife flutists, Darren and Corrie Cook, paired up with Liu to perform Jennifer Grady’s gentle and lilting “Soaring.” Later in the program, the Cooks used the double-tonguing technique to create the sense of fluttering birds against a calm sky of light chords from Liu.

Clarinetist Steve Bass and Liu put the audience in the midst of flowers and veggies with their expressive rendition of Paul Reade’s “Suite” from an 80s-era BBC TV series called “The Victorian Garden.” Bass skipped carefully through Finzi’s Bagatelle No 1, “Prelude,” but seemed to slip a bit here and there.

Concertmaster Eva Richey delivered a sensitive performance of the Meditation from Massenet’s opera “Thais.” She followed that with an energetic interpretation of the Hoe-Down movement from Copland’s “Rodeo.” Pianist Liu provided impeccable accompaniment of both pieces.

The final number, an arrangement of Astor Piazzola’s “Libertango” by Uwe Rossler, got all of the musicians on stage. The piece got better as it went along and put a smile on the faces of the audience as they went out into the late afternoon sun.