Sunday, August 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

William Henry Fry (1881-1864)
Georges Enescu (1881-1955)
Allan Monk (1942)
Gerard Schwarz (1947)
Rebecca Evans (1963)

and

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761)
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Frank McCourt (1930-2009)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)
Benjamin Godard (1849-1895)
Basil Cameron (1884-1975)
Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973)
Dame Moura Lympany (1916-2005)
Goff Richards (1944)
Tan Dun (1957)

and

Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
Margaret Murie (1902 -2003)
Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Italian-born Viennese composer Antonio Salieri, born in Legnago, in the Republic of Venice (1750). Although he was quite popular in the 18th century, he probably wouldn't be well known today were it not for the movie Amadeus (1984). The movie was based on Peter Shaffer's play by the same name (1979), which was in turn based on a short play by Aleksandr Pushkin, which was called Mozart and Salieri (1830). These stories all present Salieri as a mediocre and uninspired composer who was jealous of Mozart's musical genius; Salieri tried to discredit Mozart at every turn, and some versions of the story even accuse him of poisoning his rival.

But Salieri was a talented and successful composer, writing the scores for several popular operas. He had a happy home life with his wife and eight children. And because he had received free voice and composition lessons from a generous mentor as a young man, he also gave most of his students the benefit of free instruction. Some of his pupils included Beethoven, Franz Liszt, and Franz Schubert. He was the Kapellmeister — the person in charge of music — for the Austrian emperor for 36 years. He and Mozart were competitors, but their rivalry was usually a friendly one; Salieri visited Mozart when he was dying, and was one of the few people to attend his funeral.

After the turn of the 19th century, Salieri's music began to fall out of fashion. "I realized that musical taste was gradually changing in a manner completely contrary to that of my own times," he wrote. "Eccentricity and confusion of genres replaced reasoned and masterful simplicity." He stopped composing operas and began to produce more and more religious pieces. He suffered from dementia late in his life and died in 1825. He had composed his own requiem 20 years earlier, and it was performed for the first time at his funeral.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)
Abram Chasins (1903-1987)
George Melly (1926-2007)
T.J. (Thomas Jefferson) Anderson (1928)
Edward Cowie (1943)
Jean-Bernard Pommier (1944)
Heiner Goebbels (1952)
Artur Pizarro (1968)

and

Oliver St. John Gogarty (1878-1957)
Mae West (1893-1980)
Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
V. S. Naipaul (1932-2018)
Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
Jonathan Franzen (1959)


and from the Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1982, the first compact discs for commercial release were manufactured in Germany. CDs were originally designed to store and play back sound recordings, but later were modified to store data. The first test disc, which was pressed near Hannover, Germany, contained a recording of Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony, played by the Berlin Philharmonic. The first CD commercially produced at the new factory and sold on this date was ABBA's 1981 album The Visitors; the first new album to be released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street, which hit the stores in Japan — alongside the new Sony CD player — on October 1. The event is known as the "Big Bang of digital audio."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861)
Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937)
Jacinto Guerrero (1895-1951)
Ralph Downes (1904-1993)
Bill Evans (1929-1980)
Sarah Brightman (1959)
Franz Welser-Möst (1960)

and

Catharine Trotter Cockburn (1679-1749)
William Maxwell (1908-2000)
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Albert Spalding (1888-1953)
Jaques Ibert (1890-1952)
Leon Theremin (1896-1993)
Lukas Foss (1922-2009)
Aldo Ciccolini (1925-2015)
Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)
Rita Hunter (1933-2001)
Anne Marie Owens (1955)
James O'Donnell (1961)

The Woodstock music festival began on this day in 1969.

and

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
Edna Ferber (1885-1968)
T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935)
Julia Child (1912-2004)
Benedict Kiely (1919-2007)
Denise Chávez (1948)
Stieg Larsson (1954)

and from the Composers Datebook:

Today Johannes Nepomuk Maelzel (1772-1848), German inventor credited with the creation of the metronome, was born in Regensburg. For a time he was the friend of Beethoven and collaborated with him on various projects.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)
Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1955)
Jan Koetsier (1911-2006)
Ferruccio Tagliavini (1913-1995)
Georges Prêtre (1924-2017)
Yuri Kholopov (1932-2003)
Cecilia Gasdia (1960)
Beta Moon (1969)

and

Ernest Thayer (1863-1940)
John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Russell Baker (1925)
Danielle Steel (1947)
Gary Larson (1950)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Sir George Grove (1820-1900)
John Ireland (1879-1962)
Luis Mariano (1914-1970)
George Shearing (1919-2011)
Louis Frémaux (1921-2017)
Don Ho (1930-2007)
Sheila Armstrong (1942)
Kathleen Battle (1948)
Gregory Vajda (1973)

and

Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)
Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)
Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Porter Wagoner (1927-2007)
Buck Owens (1929-2006)
Huguette Tourangeau (1940)
David Munrow (1942-1976)
Pat Metheny (1954)
Stuart MacRae (1976)

and

Robert Southey (1773-1843)
Edith Hamilton (1867-1963)
Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959)
Donald Justice (1925-2004)
William Goldman (1931)
Anthony Swofford (1970)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954)
Ginette Neveu (1919-1949)
Raymond Leppard (1927)
Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008)
Tamás Vásáry (1933) 

and

Louise Brogan (1897-1970) 
Alex Haley (1921-1992)
Andre Dubus (1936-1999)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Portland Opera unearths "Orfeo ed Euridice" at the cemetery

Photo by Cory Weaver/ Portland Opera.
The legend of Orpheus braving the Underworld to retrieve his wife Eurydice has been such a compelling one that it has been retold in almost every art form. Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice has been the most popular retelling in the operatic form, and Portland Opera performed it for the first time in the company’s 54 year history, presenting Gluck’s 1762 version with stylish grace on Sunday, July 29th at the Newmark Theatre.

Using scenery from Des Moines Metro Opera, this production, directed by Chas Rader-Shieber, updated the sets to the 18th Century of Gluck, placing the opening act in a cemetery with an imposing gate that suggested Vienna’s Central Cemetery, the place where Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and other famous composers are buried. Because the Orfeo’s legendary musical skills – he could tame wild beasts and pert near anything else by merely singing and playing his lyre – that location was particularly fitting.
Photo by Cory Weaver/ Portland Opera.
Gluck wrote the role of Orfeo for a castrato, but that assignment has fortunately been taken over by contraltos in modern times. In Portland Opera’s production, Sandra Piques Eddy conveyed the distraught emotional state of Orfeo with conviction, smearing dirt from Euridice’s grave all over his white outfit and melting the audience with heartfelt cries of “Euridice!” Piques Eddy sang the many filigree passages with ease, shaping each line with finesse.

Lindsay Ohse was equally persuasive as Euridice, pouring out her demands with hastening urgency that Orfeo look at her. She scored some gasps from the audience when she sat up from underneath a pile of rose petals to rejoin Orfeo in the last scene.
Photo by Cory Weaver/ Portland Opera.
Helen Huang, sporting a gold outfit with wings and two pillowy ears, provided a touch of lightness as the charming and charismatic Amore, sending Orfeo on his quest to Hades to retrieve his beloved. The chorus, expertly prepared by Nicholas Fox, augmented the scenes with outstanding blend, adding depth to the somber opening scene and joy to the triumphant finale. Fox also conducted the chamber-sized orchestra, which sounded excellent even from my perch in the second balcony.

The Furies made a striking presence with hands and arms stretching out of the grave until finally emerging and capturing a bystander, stripping him of all of his clothing down to his underpants, and dragging him down with them. Orfeo didn’t suffer the same fate, because of his musical prowess. Holding his lyre high, he tamed the Furies and was lowered into the tomb untouched.

The setting of the Underworld was the most disappointing thing in this production. I wanted to be taken to a place that was different, but all we got a removal of the cemetery gates, which revealed a set of steps covered in red carpet. The residents of the underworld wore the same black, morning garb that they had in the scene above ground, but they were at least crowned with a garland of red flowers and gold antlers.

The dance of the blessed spirits, choreographed by Jillian Foley, was a refined and tame affair, endearing themselves to the audience by wearing animal-masks. For the final scene, the cemetery gates were lowered into place amidst a snowfall of red petals, a thick pile of which covered Euridice’s grave. After Armore told Orfeo that he had suffered enough, Euridice emerged from the grave, and the final scene, with the joyful reunion of the two lovers, was resplendent with principals, chorus, and orchestra at full volume.
Photo by Cory Weaver/ Portland Opera.

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
Douglas Moore (1893-1969)
Leo Fender (1909-1991)
Marie-Claire Alain (1926-2013)
Edwin Carr (1926-2003)
John Aldis (1929-2010)
Alexander Goehr (1932)
Giya Kancheli (1935)
Bobby Hatfield (1940-2003)
Dmitri Alexeev (1947)
Eliot Fisk (1958)

and

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
Joyce Sutphen (1949)
Mark Doty (1953)
Suzanne Collins (1962)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Michael Umlauff (1781-1842)
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
Albert William Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Solomon Cutner (1902-1988)

and

Izaak Walton (1593-1683)
John Dryden (1631-1700)
P. L. Travers (1899-1966)
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

and from The Composers Datebook

On this day in 1928, Australian-born American composer Percy Grainger marries Swedish poet and painter Ella Viola Strom at the Hollywood Bowl in front of an audience of 22,000 concert-goers. Grainger conducted the LA Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of his "To a Nordic Princess," dedicated to his bride.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
Adolf Busch (1891-1952)
André Jolivet (1905-1974)
Benny Carter (1907-2003)
Josef Suk (1929-2011)
Jacques Hétu (1938-2010)

and

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953)
Valerie Sayers (1952)
Elizabeth Tallent (1954)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946)
Karel Husa (1921-1916)
Felice Bryant (1925-2003)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977)
Garrison Keillor (1942)
Ian Hobson (1952)
Christian Altenburger (1957)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
Mary Carr Moore (1873-1957)
Karl Ulrich Schnabel (1909-2001)
Udo Reinemann (1942-2013)

and

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

CMNW's All-Dvořák Festival Finale a mixed bag

The last concert of this year's Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival at the Lincoln Performance Hall at PSU on Sunday, July 29, was an interesting mix of the sublime and the subpar. An all-string affair as well (sure, I'll throw the piano in as a stringed instrument here), it featured one of two of the Dvořák string quartets known as the 'American,' a Sonatina for piano and violin and a Serenade for strings.

The opening work was delightful, featuring the great Jon Kimura Parker on piano and Martin Beaver, violin.  The Allegro of the Sonatina in G Major, Op 100, was beautifully cantabile, an exercise in restrained nobility. Kimura Parker's left hand is fantastic--one could listen to it alone and have a feast for the ears. He played with great deftness on the staccato themes and the lively, tinkling arpeggios were a treat. 

Next the Mir
ó Quartet played the String Quartet in F Major, Op 96.  The main theme was deliciously raspy coming from the viola, and while displaying an incredible blend and balance, the group did not lapse into overt sentimentality, but rather chose a more straightforward, concise interpretation. There was a bold sautillé from all stings on the solo parts, and masterful tension-building vis-a-vis the dynamic contrasts. There were no 'bridges to nowhere' here--the dynamic motion was laid out with a single-mindedness of purpose from the whole group.

The sentimentality that was wisely held in reserve from the first movement was spared for the Lento, where it was most warranted. Alternating between simpering tenderness and soaring passion, the rest of the strings formed a trembling music box for the mysterious cello solo. The final movement was a fine example of the thousand little things that have to go right for a great performance like this--it's not the big long moments for any one instrument that made this so memorable; it was rather like the whole group was a sort of self-accompanying concerto grosso for four strings--as though they were somehow the ripieno and concertino at the same time. That said, the anthemic theme that sang forth from Daniel Ching's violin was incredible to hear.

The problem lay in the second half of the concert, the Serenade for Strings in E major, Op 22. The overall timbre was almost fulsome, but coming from six violins, three violas, three cellos and a bass, this actually felt right. The problem was the pitch issues that plagued the first violins right from the start, and unfortunately did not let up for the entire work. If an instrument were out of tune, one would at least expect a tune-up between movements, but this never happened; the first violins just remained out of tune for the whole work.  This did nothing to help the overall effect--despite the fact that there were some lovely moments here and there, the performance was by and large emotionally flat and uninspiring. They kept giving it a valiant effort, but it never quite came together. Perhaps it was partly a question of programming--this piece was an intellectual lightweight following the mighty American quartet, but then how do you place the work for a small string symphony before a mere quartet? It honestly felt like the musicians were tired; it was the tail end of a long and I'm sure brutally difficult festival, so perhaps it was just a lapse in concentration. At any rate it's pointless to speculate as to why this was so underwhelming. I guess you can't win 'em all, and the wonderful quartet was what stuck in my head and heart long after the concert was over.

Today's Birthdays

Marc Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)
Leonardo Leo (1694-1744)
Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896)
Hans Gál (1890-1987)
Erich Kleiber (1890-1956)
Betsy Jolas (1926)
Stoika Milanova (1945)
Mark O'Connor (1961)

and

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)
Wendell Berry (1934)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1978, the citizens of Patowan, Utah, decided to name a local mountain Mr. Messiaen, in honor of the French composer, Olivier Messiaen, who spent a month in Utah in 1973 an composed a symphonic work, "Des canyons aux etoiles" (From the canyons to the stars), which glorified the natural beauty of the region

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Henry Berger (1844-1929)
Italo Montemezzi (1875-1952)
Albert W. Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901-1971)
William Schuman (1910-1992)
David Raksin (1912-2004)
Arthur Butterworth (1923-2014)
Jess Thomas (1927-1993)
David Bedford (1937-2011)
Simon Preston (1938)
Deborah Voigt (1960)
Olga Neuwirth (1968)

and

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Raoul Wallenberg (1912-1947?)
Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1705, in Arnstadt, J.S. Bach and a bassoonist named Johann Heinrich Geyersbach cross paths late a night and an argument ensues. Geyerbach threatens Bach with a stick and Bach draws his sword. Both are hauled up before the city magistrate and reprimanded for their behavio

Friday, August 3, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964)
Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)
Tony Bennett (1926)
James Tyler (1940-2010)
Simon Keenlyside (1959)

and

Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885)
Ernie Pyle (1900-1944)
P. D. James (1920-2014)
Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)
Diane Wakoski (1937)
Marvin Bell (1937)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1668, German composer Dietrich Buxtehude marries the daughter of Franz Tunder, retiring organist at St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, as a condition to succeed Tunder in his position at St. Mary's. It is thought that both Handel and J.S. Bach were both interested in the position - but not in Tunder's daughter.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Bliss (1891-1975)
Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963)
Marvin David Levy (1932-2015)
Anthony Payne (1936)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Richard Einhorn (1952)
Angel Lam (1978)

and

Irving Babbitt (1865-1933)
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Isabel Allende (1942)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

All-Dvořák program delivers the goods in Chamber Music Northwest concert

Guest review by Phillip Ayers

The audience who gathered in the blessed, air-conditioned space on the Reed campus Thursday evening (July 26) was treated to a feast of Antonin Dvořák’s chamber music that included an arrangement of a famous movement from one of his symphonies. I felt that a two-hour offering of Romantic music would put me to sleep after a long day of fighting the heat or wouldn't thrill me as much as something peppily Baroque. Maybe the Chinese opera offering earlier in the week would do better at keeping me alert and awake. But I was pleasantly surprised that not only did I stay awake, I found myself at times on the edge of my seat!

First on the program was Robert McBride’s arrangement of “Goin’ Home,” the so-called “spiritual” (not really, though) that Dvořák used in the Largo movement of his “Symphony from the New World.” In the symphonic rendition, the tune, original with the composer, is plaintively played by an English horn; McBride arranged it to be sung by a bass-baritone with a string quartet. The text was written by William Arms Fisher, a student of Dvořák. Russian-born Anton Belov sang it with a dark, almost tomb-like sound, more bass than baritone. Fortunately, the words were supplied in the program as the singer’s articulation of the words was at times unclear. He reached the higher notes with his fine vocal resonance and color intact.

The Miró Quartet accompanied Belov with great sensitively. The program notes explained the origin of the text and how the marriage of text and tune, laid out in ABA form, came to be. It is an interesting story, one of many associated with the composer’s “American Chapter.” As a Kansan, I can relate to Dvořák’s time that he spent in Iowa, loving the prairies. This tender music evokes plenty of childhood memories. I've found recordings by singers such as Bryn Terfel and Paul Robeson are worth a listen. The arranger, one of the most skillful classical music programmers at KQAC (All Classical), and now happily retired, acknowledged the applause following the piece with a “Namaste” sign to the singer and string quartet. McBride said to me afterward, when I remarked that “Goin’ Home” is often sung at funerals: “I want it sung at mine!"

The Miró Quartet was joined by violist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith for the performance of Dvořák's String Sextet in A Major,, B. 80, Op. 48. Chamber music performances are as much visual as they are aural, to me at least; and this was a perfect example of that. Gestures, expressions of delight, joy, concentration on musical nuances, even pain, were evident.

The sextet is in four movements, each one with a distinct quality and flavor, often including folk melodies from the composer’s native country; as Dvořák’s biographer Otakar Sourek remarked, “In his Sextet, every theme is like a drop of Slavonic blood.” The two middle movements are based on folk dances: a dumka and furiant. The former is introspective and melancholic, the latter by contrast “explodes in a rhythmically boisterous whirlwind of sound,” as the program notes by Elizabeth Schwartz say. (Question: “Does furiant have the same root as furious?) A theme-and-variations final movement had a hard-to-get theme to it, but the contemplative silence between the variations was appreciated. Playing in the highest registers, at times the violins sounded a bit screechy, but it was offset by the richness of the violas and cellos

This is the first chamber work of Dvořák’s heard outside Bohemia, and it helped to boost his reputation in Europe and elsewhere, including New York City. It came from his “Slavonic” period (1878-1880), so called because his music featured Czech/Bohemian/Moravian elements with folk dances or melodies taking after folksongs. Dvořák's music is noted for musical surprises, and this sextet is full of them.

After intermission, the Montrose Trio, consisting of Jon Kimura Parker, pianist, Martin Beaver, violinist, and Clive Greensmith, cellist, were joined by Parker’s spouse, violist Aloysia Friedmann, for Dvořák’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, B. 162, Op. 87. This work, written some eleven years after the sextet, revealed a “new” Dvořák, who had become an internationally renowned composer and a champion of his native culture. No longer a backwater violist, at 48 he had become a self-confident composer and as Schwartz says in her notes, “Opus 87 is music written by a man who knew what he wanted to say and had mastered his craft.”

The many shifting moods in this music, especially in the first movement, are due to the harmonic inventiveness and well-developed musical complexity. The Lento movement features a cello solo which was well and sensitively played by Greensmith, alternating serene melody with turbulence in contrasting keys. The varied qualities of the third movement, Allegro moderato grazioso, with its waltz-like theme, is “juxtaposed with a highly rhythmic section that races through tonalities with the ease of a horse galloping over a meadow [Schwartz].” The final movement is bewildering, opening with a theme in, E-flat minor (rather than E-flat major). Dvořák is never at a loss for a melody and here was tunefulness that was singularly beautiful, his favorite instrument (viola) often introducing the new melodies. He wrote to a friend that, in composing this quartet, “…melodies are coming to me in droves.”

A melodic, excitingly engaging evening of chamber music played by experts in their field whose rapport with their audience is simply terrific and cannot be beat! I'm already looking forward to next season.

Today's Birthdays

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)
Hans Rott (1858-1884)
Morris Stoloff (1898-1980)
William Steinberg (1899-1978)
Jerome Moross (1913-1983)
Lionel Bart (1930-1999)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott (1931)
Jordi Savall (1941)
André Gagnon (1942)
Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)

and

Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Ernst Jandl (1925-2000)
Madison Smartt Bell (1957)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review of Bright Sheng's "The Silver River" published in CVNA

I attended Chamber Music Northwest's presentation of "The Silver River," an opera written by Bright Sheng with a libretto by  David Henry Hwang and followed it up with a review that is now posted in Classical Voice North America here. I hope that you enjoy reading it.

Today's Birthdays

Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Robert Planquette (1848-1903)
Norman Del Mar (1919-1994)
Steuart Bedford (1939)
Reinhard Goebel (1952)
Randall Davidson (1953)

and

Mary Harris Jones, or "Mother Jones" (1837-1930)
Primo Levi (1919-1987)
Kim Addonizio (1954)
J. K. Rowling (1965)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Moore (1899-1987)
Meredith Davies (1922-2005)
Moshe Atzmon (1931)
Buddy Guy (1936)
Paul Anka (1941)
Teresa Cahill (1944)
Alexina Louie (1949)
Christopher Warren-Green (1955)

and

Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
William Gass (1924-2017)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951)
Frank Loesser (1910-1969)
Charles Farncombe (1919-2006)
Avet Terterian (1929-1994)
Mikis Theodorakis (1925)
Peter Schreier (1935)
Bernd Weikl (1942)
Olga Borodina (1963)

and

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Don Marquis (1878-1937)
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
Paul Taylor (1930)
T.J. Stiles (1964)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Rued Langgaard (1893-)
Rudy Vallée (1901-1986)
Kenneth Alwyn (1925)
Riccardo Muti (1941)

and

Ludwig A Feuerbach (1804-1872)
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Beatrix Potter (1866-1843)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)
John Ashbery (1927-2017)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Ernő Dohnanyi (1877-1960)
Harl McDonald (1899-1955)
Igor Markevitch (1912-1983)
Mario del Monaco (1915-1982)
Leonard Rose (1918-1984)
Carol Vaness (1952)

and

Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996)
Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007)
Bharati Mukherjee (1940)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1966, Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "Torn Curtain" opens in New York — without the film score that Bernard Herrmann had composed for it. The famous director fired Herrmann during the score's first recording sessions when Hitchcock discovered Herrmann had composed a "symphonic" score and not the "pop" score that Hitchcock had specifically requested.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Today's Birthdays

John Field (1782-1837)
Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)
Ernest Schelling (1876-1939)
Georges Favre (1905-1993)
Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981)
Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012)
Anthony Gilbert (1934)
Roger Smalley (1943-2015)
Mick Jagger (1943)
Kevin Volans (1949)
Angela Hewitt (1958)

and

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Jean Shepherd (1921-1999)
Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alfredo Casella (1883-1947)
Maureen Forrester (1930-2010)

and

Eric Hoffer (1898-1983)
Elias Canetti (1905-1994)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1788 that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart entered into his catalog the completion of one of his most beloved works, Symphony Number 40 in G Minor (sometimes called “The Great G Minor Symphony”). It was written in the final years of Mozart’s life, when things were not going well. An infant daughter had died a few weeks earlier, he had moved into a cheaper apartment, and he was begging friends and acquaintances for loans. But in the summer of 1788, he wrote his last three symphonies: Symphony Number 39 in E-Flat, Symphony in G Minor, and the Jupiter symphony. It is not known for sure whether Mozart ever heard any of these symphonies performed

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856)
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)
Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012)
Guiseppe de Stefano (1921-2008)
Wilfred Josephs (1927-1997)
Peter Serkin (1947)
Philippe Hurel (1955)

and

Jonathan Newton (1725-1807)
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
Frank Wedekind (1864-1918)
Robert Graves (1895-1985)
John D. McDonald (1916-1986)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Preview of Vancouver Symphony's upcoming outdoor concert

It's gonna be hot, but if you can keep cool, you'll enjoy the open-air concert this Thursday in downtown Vancouver where the Vancouver Symphony under Ken Selden will perform a program of light classical music for free. My preview about the concert appeared in The Columbian newspaper here.

Northwest Reverb

.Franz Berwald (1796-1868)
Johann Vesque von Püttlingen (1803-1883)
Edouard Colonne (1838-1910)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Ben Weber (1916-1979))
Leon Fleisher (1928)
Bernard Roberts (1933-2013)
Maria João Pires (1944)
Susan Graham (1960)

and

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Vikram Chandra (1961)

and from the former Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1829 that William Burt received a patent for the "typographer." It was a typewriter that looked more like a record player. It had a swinging arm that picked up ink and then printed a letter, and then the paper was manually adjusted to make space for the next letter.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Arditti (1822-1903)
Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962)
Licia Albanese (1913-2014)
George Dreyfus (1928)
Ann Howard Jones (1936)
Nigel Hess (1953)
Eve Beglarian (1958)

and

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Tom Robbins (1936)
S. E. Hinton (1948)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Anton Kuerti (1938)
Isaac Stern (1920-2001)
Cat Stevens (1948)
Margaret Ahrens (1950)

and

Hart Crane (1899-1932)
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Tess Gallagher (1943)
Garry Trudeau (1948)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Portland Opera's "La Cerentola" a magical treat

Alasdair Kent as Don Ramiro and Kate Farrar in the title role | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
Among the many notable productions that Christopher Mattaliano has directed at Portland Opera, the company’s new production of “La Cenerentola” has to be counted as one of his best. The performance on opening night (Friday, July 13) at the Newmark Theatre sparkled with humor and heartfelt, poignant moments. An outstanding cast, consisting of up-and-coming young talent and seasoned veterans, blended seamlessly to make the well-known story of Cinderella a fresh and enchanting experience.

The production featured inventive and expertly paced acting that kept the audience wondering what would happen next. The comic scenes had everyone in stitches, like the rivalry between Cinderella’s bad sisters, which started with ballet-posed-one-upmanship and accelerated to hilarious extremes with both of them rolling across the floor in a mock cat fight. Yet there were plenty of moments when genuine seriousness came through equally strong, such as after Cinderella and the prince lock eyes for the first time in the “Un soave no so che” duet.

Kate Farrar in the title role combined a supple and powerful delivery with superb acting to sweep even the most reticent listener into her character’s aura. Her singing of Nacqui all’ affanno embodied grace and kindness that wrapped up the opera in wonderful bow.

Australian tenor Alasdair Kent excelled as Don Ramiero (the prince), and while his voice at first seemed a tad thin, he just kept getting better and better throughout the evening. He sang all of the high notes with a golden tone, including the stratospheric ones in the Si, retrovarla io guiro aria.


Ryan Thorn as Dandini | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
Ryan Thorn was an absolute stitch as the prince’s valet, Dandini, especially when he melodramatically fell to the floor after realizing that he couldn’t win Cinderella.

Eduardo Chama raked in the laughs as the pompous and bumblingly malevolent Don Magnifico, threatening to steal the show at any moment. 

Helen Huang’s Clorinda and Laura Beckel Thoreson’s Tisbe were absolutely mesmerizing with incredibly well-timed gestures and expressions that perfectly matched up with the corresponding musical phrase.
Laura Beckel Thoreson as Tisbe, Eduardo Chama as Don Magnifico, Helen Huang as Clorinda | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Daniel Mobbs created Alidoro, the stately philosopher-tutor-magician, with a warm, sympathetic voice.
| Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
The chorus of leaping footmen made each of their entries a wonderful diversion. But whenever they moved away from the front of the stage, they were hard to hear, owing to the very dry acoustic of the Newmark.

Despite the small size of the Newmark’s orchestra pit, Carolyn Kuan got a lot of sound from the chamber orchestra and paced her forces with verve. Still, some more strings would have improved the overall sound, which got rather thin at times, not matter how much she gestured.

The sets, designed by Daniel Meeker and built by Oregon Ballet Theatre for Portland Opera, were straightforward and evoked everything in the story without being gimmicky. Sue Bonde’s fanciful costume designs were terrific, especially the gaudy outfits that Clorinda and Tisbe wore.

If there were some way to improve the sound of the Newmark Theatre, the production would have been even more satisfying. The Newmark has a very dry acoustic that does not favor music. Someday it would be terrific if Portland had an excellent space for opera, then a production like “La Cerentola” would be truly magical.
| Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera

Today's Birthdays

Gaston Carraud (1864-1920)
Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921)
Gunnar de Frumerie (1908-1987)
Vilém Tauský (1910-2004)
Michael Gielen (1927)
Nam June Paik (1932-2006)
Hukwe Zawose (1938-2003)
Carlos Santana (1947)
Bob Priest (1951)

and

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Pavel Kohout (1928)
Cormac McCarthy (1933)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Boyd Neel (1905-1981)
Louis Kentner (1905-1987)
Klaus Egge (1906-1979)
Peggy Stuart-Coolidge (1913-1981)
Robert Mann (1920-2018)
Gerd Albrecht (1935-2014)
Nicholas Danby (1935-1937)
Dominic Muldowney (1952)
David Robertson (1958)
Carlo Rizzi (1960)
Mark Wigglesworth (1964)
Evelyn Glennie (1965)
Russell Braun (1965)

and

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)
Julius Fučík (1872-1916)
Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
Screamin' Jay Hawkins (1929-2000)
R. Murray Schafer (1933)
Ricky Skaggs (1954)
Tobias Picker (1954)

and

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
Harry Levin (1912-1994)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933)
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Elizabeth Gilbert (1969)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Sir Donald F. Tovey (1875-1940)
Eleanor Steber (1914-1990)
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976)
Peter Schickele (1935)
Michael Roll (1946)
Dauwn Upshaw (1960)

and

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946)
Erle Stanley Gardner (1899-1970)

Monday, July 16, 2018

CMNW's July 15 matinee was a peripatetic delight

Benjamin Lulich
The program presented on Sunday July 15 at the Lincoln Performance Hall as part of the Chamber Music Northwest summer festival was a rich repast featuring works from the most spare, stripped-down solo work to sumptuous sound walls from an eclectic barrage of instruments.

Clarinettist Benjamin Lulich played Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet to open the program. The rich, woody timbre he employed in the opening, and the weight of importance placed on each individual note lent the air of a self-conscious, mildly sad threnody with a long, slow, riveting decrescendo al niente at the end. The finale felt like a slightly wonky klezmer tune, marvelously short, sweet and delicious, like a musical petit fours. Flutist Ransom Wilson followed this with Debussy's iconic Syrinx for solo flute, playing with a sinuous, serpentine clarity of line and skillful manipulation, varying timbre even across individual notes.

Jean Cartan's (1906-1932)  Sonatine for Flute and Clarinet was next, as Wilson and Lulich joined forces for a Pastorale that opened as curious ricercar followed by a murmuring accompagnato for flute, and there were fascinating times when the duo managed to sound like two flutes, or even two clarinets. The Berceuse was characterized by a warm, buttery 4-note ostinato from the clarinet, and they reveled in the dissonant cadences of the Rondeau.

Jacques Ibert's Suite from Le jardiniere de Samos saw the woodwind players joined by Mikio Sasaki on trumpet, Jennifer Frautschi on violin, Mihai Marica on cello, and percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum.Highlights from the Ibert included Frautschi's dancing, 2-note saltando chords in the Air de danse, the 3-voiced fugue with delightfully bouncy entrances, and the incredible efficacy of the ensemble playing in bringing out the highlights from amongst a welter of interweaving lines.

Stravinsky's Suite from L'histoire du soldat comprised the second half of the afternoon, and for it the Ibert ensemble (minus cello and flute) were joined by Charles Reneau on trombone, Peter Lloyd on bass, and  bassoonist Julie Feves, who also provided a delightful narrative of the tale before the music started.

Jennifer Frautschi
In the opening movement Lloyd's staccato was so biting that at times it sounded like a pizzicato. Frautschi's double-stopped air in the second movement was truly engaging, and the lines were tossed so seamlessly between bassoon and trombone it was sometimes difficult to tell where one instrument ended and the other began. The Pastorale was played as a sad and evocative duet between bassoon and clarinet. The wild and wonderful staccato trumpet theme from the Royal March was another highlight, and during the Three Dances Frautschi played a languorous tango, redolent with mystery, and a slow and staggering ragtime. The Grand Choral was appropriately reverent, and the group rendered it like the odd modern cousin of a chorale at the outset of a Bach cantata.

Such incredible variety over a short concert (perhaps an hour's worth of music) is one reason why CMNW is such an important part of the region's cultural landscape, and further is an example of the ingenuity of the programming.

Today's Birthdays

Antoine François Marmontel (1816-1898)
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Fritz Mahler (1901-1973)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904-2003)
Bella Davidovich (1928)
Bryden Thomson (1928-1991)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941)
Pinchas Zukerman (1948)
Richard Margison (1954)
Joanna MacGregor (1959)
James MacMillan (1959)
Helmut Oehring (1961)

and

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Tony Kushner (1956)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Jack Beeson (1921-2010)
Julian Bream (1933)
Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010)
Linda Ronstadt (1946)
John Casken (1949)
Gérard Lesne (1956)

and

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
Arianna Huffington (1950)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
Piero Bellugi (1924-2012)
Eric Stokes (1930-1999)
Unsuk Chin (1961)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Owen Wister (1860-1938)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Frank Raymond Leavis (1895-1978)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Irving Stone (1903-1989)
Arthur Laurents (1917-2011)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Review of Chamber Music Northwest concert in CVNA magazine

My review of CMNW's "Sounds from 20th Century America" concert has been posted in Classical Voice North America here. It was a fun concert to hear, and I hope that you enjoy reading the review!

Today's Birthdays

Sir Reginald Goodall (1905-1990)
Carlo Bergonzi (1924-2014)
Jeanne Loriod (1928-2001)
Per Nørgård (1932)
Albert Ayler (1936-1970)
Jennifer Smith (1945)

and

John Clare (1793-1864)
Isaak Babel (1894-1941)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Andy Akiho brings the magic back to Chamber Music Northwest's Summer Festival

Andy Akiho
Returning composer/performer Andy Akiho and friends gave a memorable concert on Wednesday July 11 at the Alberta Rose Theater, as part of CMNW's Summer Festival. Akiho's reputation (and audience) have grown over the years, as the packed house that night proved.

Joining Akiho, who performed several works on his primary instrument the steel pan, were Ian David Rosenbaum on marimba, Tara Helen O'Connor on flute, Jennifer Frautschi on violin, and the members of the Dover Quartet, violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, cellist Camden Shaw and violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt.

The decision to mic all the instruments at first was puzzling; in the opening work the flute came off as excessively shrill at parts, but balance issues were fine and did not favor one instrument over another, and it was clearly what the composer had in mind so while initially off-putting, through the course of the concert his choice bore fruit.

The opening piece was the world premiere of the flute/marimba instrument set for -intuition) (Expectation, the original having been written for trumpet/marimba. O'Connor joined Rosenbaum for this syncopated, jazzy work, set over a subtly shifting ostinato on the marimba. There were nice effects from the flute, chuffing and aspirating and exaggerated flutter tonguing. A difficult piece to approach but it sort of grew on you...

Karakurenai was next, with Akiho and Rosenbaum, and was a work for prepared steel pan featuring chop sticks, poster tack and other items according to Akiho. Based around a rigid, lengthy syncopation, this shorter work had a repetitive feel that could be meditative in the right circumstances.

Deciduous, featuring Akiho and Frautschi, came third. The opening highlighted the strangely mellifluous, odd almost tonal-shifting attack and decay from the steel pan. Radically shifting moods, from frenetic and harried to placid and thoughtful took place instantaneously, leaving the listener never quite sure of anything except where they were at at the moment. A series of harmonic shrieks from the violin over a whispering accompaniment from the pan was followed by an odd, chaotic chase. Some of the most violent and painful-sounding pizzicato I've ever heard--almost diabolical--and then a beautiful soliloquy from the pan, a joyous air and a pentatonic fantasy...this was a fantastic and engaging piece.

21, a piece Akiho and Rosenbaum performed here before, left an impression that perhaps for Akiho, often (but certainly not always,) the rhythm is the mistress, and varying pitches and timbres, melodies and instruments, exist merely to service it.

Ian David Rosenbaum
The second half consisted entirely of the LIgNEouS Suite, a work some of whose movements were commissioned by different groups, with the fifth and final movement being commissioned by the Dover Quartet, who performed it along with Rosenbaum. This performance was its west coast premier.

It opened with sul ponticello scritching from the strings, and a repeating pattern over a wild and intense performance on the marimba. Wailing away with mallet shafts bereft of their yarn heads, Rosenbaum performed incredibly rapid arpeggios and scale passages with alacrity, now raking the sticks across the marimba tubes in a cacophonous glissando, followed by hard, alarmingly loud snaps from a giant rubber band. The strings sang an unlovely but fascinating accompaniment. This and other movements may not have been a marimba concerto exactly, but they came close.

The second movement began with a ghostly suppuration from the strings over a murmuring marimba, struck with very soft heads that resulted in dissonant sostenutos as the notes hung in the air long after being struck. In this and in earlier pieces, unisons occured amongst the instruments that provided a fascinating sonic color due to the disparity amongst them.

Later in the work came more startling effects from the marimba, alternatively purposely assaultive and mysteriously otherworldly. Gloriously loud, stark chords came from the strings, and strange sawing sounds, wails, slaps and knocks on the body and fingerboards of instruments. Like all of his works, this exhibited exhuberant play with the world of sounds.

Two things struck me most about this concert: first would be Rosenbaum's virtuosity on his instrument. As a percussionist I have played the marimba a number of times, so have some small inkling of the challenges this instrument presents. I have never heard it played, nor imagined it could be played, the way Rosenbaum plays it. Simply breathtaking-and here give some credit to the composer-but a lesser performer could not have attempted nor even dreamed of giving the kind of performance Rosenbaum did. It was absolutely astounding, the most technically astute and artistically intuitive kind of exhibition anyone could hope for from a true virtuoso. Being somewhat biased toward percussionists, I have often felt the they are sometimes given shorter shrift than they deserve in the world of classical/art music. Let anyone who feels that way hear a performance like this. Enough said.

Another thing is the simple joy of not only hearing something you have never heard before, but maybe even hearing something that is unlike anything you have heard before. This is the great reward that exists for those who seek out new music, which is perhaps the foremost of so many reasons I always go to hear Andy Akiho when he is in town.

Today's Birthdays

Anton Arensky (1861-1906)
George Butterworth (1885-19116)
Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962)
Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)
Van Cliburn (1934-2013)
Richard Stolzman (1942)
Roger Vignoles (1943)

and

Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
George Eastman (1854-1932)
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)