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.

Today's Birthdays

Michael Haydn (1737-1806)
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)
Vittorio Gui (1885-1972)
Alice Tully (1902-1993)
Lehman Engel (1910-1982)
Rolf Liebermann (1910-1999)
Martyn Hill (1944)
Raul Gimenez (1950)

and

Eric Bentley (1916)
Ivan Klíma (1931)
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1934-2002)
Renzo Piano (1937)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Bill Monroe (1911-1996)
Robert Ward (1917-2013)
Maurice Jarre (1924-2009)
Mel Tormé (1925-1999)
Nicolai Ghiaruv (1929-2004)
Werner Hollweg (1936-2007)
Arleen Auger (1939-1993)
Steve Kilbey (1954)
Andreas Staier (1955)

and

Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941)
J.B. Priestley (1894-1984)
Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Karl Doppler (1825-1900)
Herbert Lincoln Clarke (1867-1945)
Ernst Pepping (1901-1981)
Gideon Waldrop (1919-2000)
Tatiana Troyanos (1938-1993)
Phillip Ramey (1939)
Barry White (1944-2003)
John Mauceri (1945)
Vladimir Spivakov (1946)
Leslie Cheung (1956-2003)

and

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Alfred A. Knopf Sr. (1892-1984)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1910, Mahler's Symphony No. 8 ("Symphony of a Thousand") received its premiere in Munich, with the composer conducting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

William Boyce (1711-1779)
Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832)
Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904)
Vally Weigl (1894-1982)
Harry Somers (1925-1999)
Arvo Pärt (1935)
Catherine Bott (1952)

and

O. Henry (1862-1910)
D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Reed Whittemore (1919-2012)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774)
Tor Aulin (1866-1914)
Mikolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911)
Judith Nelson (1939-2012)
Christopher Hogwood (1941-2014)
Sir Thomas Allen (1944)
Michael Schønwandt (1953)

and

Hanna Webster Foster (1758-1840)
Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961)
Franz Werfel (1890-1945)
Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)
Mary Oliver (1935)
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Joan Cererols (1618-1680)
Edwin Lemare (1865-1934)
Edward Burlingame Hill (1872-1960)
James Blades (1901-1999)
Olly Wilson (1937)
Otis Redding (1941-1967)
Miriam Fried (1946)
David Rosenboom (1947)
Adam Fischer (1949)
Rachel Masters (1958)

and

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Paul Goodman (1911-1972)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703)
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Ninon Vallin (1886-1961)
Lionel Salter (1914-2000)
Christoph von Dohnányi (1929)
Eric Salzman (1933-2017)
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Dezső Ránki (1951)
Ilan Volkov (1976)

and

Wilhelm Raabe (1931-1910)
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)
Grace Metalious (1924-1964)
Ann Beattie (1947)
Michael Schermer (1954

Friday, September 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

François Philidor (1726-1794)
Joan Cross (1900-1993)
Sir Harry Secombe (1921-2001)
Arthur Ferrante (1921-2009)
Madeleine Dring (1923-1977)
Leonard Rosenman (1924-2008)
Hugh Aitken (1924-2012)
Sonny Rollins (1930)
Buddy Holly (1936-1959)
Jean-Yves Thibaudet (1961)
Angela Gheorghiu (1965)

and

Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951)
Edith Sitwell (1887-1964)
Joe Klein (1946)
Jennifer Egan (1962)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Anton Diabelli (1781-1858)
Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941)
William Kraft (1923)
Arthur Oldham (1926-2003)
Evgeny Svetlanov (1928-2002)
Joan Tower (1938)
Cynthia Haymon (1958)
Detlev Glanert (1960)
Shih-Hui Chen (1962)

and

Fanny Wright  (1795-1852)
Jane Addams (1860-1935)
Robert Pirsig (1928-2017)
Alice Sebold (1963)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)
Amy Beach (1867-1944)
John Cage (1912-1993)
Peter Racine Fricker (1920-1990)
Karita Mattila (1960)
Marc-André Hamelin (1961)
Lars Vogt (1970)

and

Frank Yerby (1916-1991)
Justin Kaplan (1925-2014)
Ward Just (1935)
Jonathan Kozol (1936)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
Frederic Curzon (1899-1973)
Rudolf Schock (1915-1986)
Irwin Gage (1939)
René Pape (1964)

and

Mary Renault (1905-1983)
Richard Wright (1908-1960)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634)
Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764)
Marcel Grandjany (1891-1975)
Francesco Mignon (1897-1986)
Robert Thurston Dart (1921-1971)
Rudolf Kelterborn (1931)
Valerie Coleman (1970)

and

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909)
Louis H. Sullivan (1852-1924)
Sally Benson (1897-1972)
Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)
Alison Lurie (1926)
Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)
Malcolm Gladwell (1963)
Kiran Desai (1971)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

George Böhm (1661-1733)
Alphons Diepenbrock (1862-1921)
Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995)
David Blake (1936)
Greg A. Steinke (1942)
John Zorn (1953)
Paul Goodwin (1956)

and

Eugene Field (1850-1895)
Joseph Roth (1894-1939)
Grady Nutt (1934-1982)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812)
Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921)
Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957)
Conway Twitty (1933-1993)
Seiji Ozawa (1935)
Júlia Várady (1941)
Leonard Slatkin (1944)
Reza Vali (1952)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Amicare Ponchielli (1834-1886)
Alma Mahler (1879-1964)
Ifor James (1931-2004)
Wieland Kuijken (1938)
Itzak Perlman (1945)
Daniel Harding (1975)

and

Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
William Shawn (1907-1992)
William Saroyan (1908-1981)
Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986)

Memorable quote from William Shawn: "Falling short of perfection is a process that just never stops."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ernesto Cavallini (1807-1874)
George Frederick Root (1820-1895)
Buddy Rich (1917-1987)
Regina Resnik (1922-2013)
David Maslanka (1943-1917)
David Schiff (1945)
Simon Bainbridge (1952)
Dimitris Sgouros (1969)

and

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)
Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)
R Crumb (1943)
Molly Ivins (1944-2007)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

List of recommended concerts for the fall season in Oregonlive-Oregonian

Oregonlive published a list of concerts that I've recommended for your fall listening pleasure. You can access the list here. It will appear in the print edition this weekend.

Today's Birthdays

Helge Rosvaenge (1897-1972)
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Charlie Parker (1920-1955)
Norman Platt (1920-2004)
Gilbert Amy (1936)
Anne Collins (1943-2009)
Lucia Valentini Terrani (1946-1998)
Michael Jackson (1958-2009)
Kevin Walczyk (1964)

and

John Locke (1632-1704)
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)
Karen Hesse (1952)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Umberto Giordano (1867-1948)
Alfred Baldwin Sloane (1872-1925)
Ivor Burney (1890-1937)
Karl Böhm (1894-1981)
Paul Henry Lang (1901-1991)
Richard Tucker (1913-1975)
John Shirley-Quirk (1931-2014)
Imogen Cooper (1949)

and

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
John Betjeman (1906-1984) 
Rita Dove (1952)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)
Eric Coates (1886-1957)
Lester Young (1909-1959)
Barry Conyngham (1944)
Ann Murray (1949)
Sian Edwards (1959)

and

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)
C. S. Forester (1899-1966)
Ira Levin (1929-2007)
William Least Heat-Moon (1939)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Vineyard’s cellar resonates with chamber music

Ensemble getting ready to play "String Cycle"
 Surrounded by oak vats and wafted with the smell of wine, the audience at the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival was in a good mood for a concert last Saturday (August 18th). They had tasted one of the exceptional vintages at J. Christopher Wines, located in the hillside just north of Newberg, and were ready for an afternoon of music by Sergei Prokofiev, Kenji Bunch, and Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. Based on what I heard, the barrel room, which seats at least 50, has an excellent, lively acoustic and is a wonderful venue for chamber music. The acoustic also means that you can hear when someone places a wineglass on the concrete floor and other similar disturbances.

The concert began with Prokofiev’s “Sonata for Two Violins,” which received incisive playing by Megumi Stohs Lewis and Sasha Callahan. They deftly kept a tonal balance while exchanging the leading melodic line between each other. The music seemed more intellectual than emotional at times, because of the crisscrossing lines, but sweet third movement (“Commodo”) and the fourth (“Allegro con brio”) really sang.

As an introduction to Kenji Bunch’s “String Circle,” Sasha Callahan interviewed Bunch before the playing commenced. With an unassuming air, he described how his piece is sort of a fiddlers’ jam that taps into Appalachian folk, Texas Swing, a setting of A Wayfaring Stranger, and the sound of a fax machine. The ensemble (violinists Greg Ewer and Callahan, violists Charles Noble and Bunch, and cellist Leo Eguchi) set it all into motion, starting with the slip-slidy “Lowdown.” A lighthearted “Shuffle Step” offered brief solos for the violas and the cello. “Ballad” was poignant tribute to a song made famous by Johnny Cash. The pizzicati-ensemble playing in “Porch Picking” lifted the mood and set the table for the motoric “Overdrive,” which featured a rhythmically gnawing sound.

Quartet receiving applause after the Quartet in E Flat
As first violinist for Mendelssohn-Hensel’s Quartet in E Flat, Ewer served up a mesmerizing performance, expressing the slow sections soulfully and nimbly conquering the fast passages with élan, and putting an artistic statement on top of it. His expert playing was matched by violinist Callahan, violist Noble, and cellist Eguchi, who wonderfully whipped his way through some wickedly treacherous sections. The ensemble dug into the depths of the music from somber beginning, then took the listeners on a fantastic journey that ended with a breathtaking, racing finale to the mountaintop.

By pairing wine and chamber music at local wineries, the WVCMF has found a winning combination for its concert series. The festival, which is now in its third year, featured Joan Tower as composer-in-residence for the first week of concerts. It provides a great way to get out of town and enjoy the wine country with high-caliber performances. Prosit!

Northwest Reverb

Willem de Fesch (1687-1761)
Luis Delgadillio (1887-1961)
Arthur Loesser (1894-1969)
Humphrey Searle (1915-1981)
Wolfgang Sawallisch (1923-2013)
Nicholas Braithwaite (1939)
Sally Beamish (1956)
Branford Marsalis (1960)

and

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)
Lee de Forest (1873-1961)
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
Julio Cortázar (1914-1984)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Robert Stolz (1880-1975)
Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972)
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
José Van Dam (1940)
Keith Tippett (1947)
Elvis Costello (1954)

and

Brian Moore (1921-1999)
Charles Wright (1935)
Martin Amis (1949)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Marcello (1669-1747)
Théodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Bernhard Heiden (1910-2000)
Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000)
Stephen Paulus (1949-2014)
Carlo Curley (1952)

and

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Max Beerbohm (1872-1956)
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
Oscar Hijuelos (1951-2013)
John Green (1977)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1456 that the first edition of the Gutenberg Bible was bound and completed in Mainz, Germany. The Gutenberg Bible was the first complete book printed with movable type. The press produced 180 copies of the Bible. Books had been printed on presses before, in China and Korea, with wood and bronze type; but Gutenberg used metal type, and made a press that could print many versions of the same text quickly. His contributions to printing were huge: he created an oil-based printing ink, he figured out how to cast individual pieces of type in metal so that they could be reused, and he designed a functioning printing press. But others before him had come up with similar ideas. Probably the most important thing that Gutenberg did was to develop the entire process of printing — he streamlined a system for assembling the type into a full book and then folding the pages into folios, which were then bound into an entire volume — and to do it all quickly. The techniques that Gutenberg refined were used for hundreds of years, and the publication of the Gutenberg Bible marked a turning point in the availability of knowledge to regular people.

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1968, Czech conductor and composer Rafael Kubelik launches an appeal to world musicians to boycott performances in the five nations which invaded Czechoslovakia on August 20-21 until their military forces evacuate the country. The appeal was joined by Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Otto Klemperer, Bernard Haitink, Claudio Arrau, and others.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Seattle Opera delivers heartfelt "Porgy and Bess"

Angel Blue (Bess) and Alfred Walker (Porgy). Philip Newton photo
With a large cast, full orchestra, and incredible jazz-inflected music, “Porgy and Bess” stands alone as the one American opera that is recognized around the world. Written by George Gershwin and premiered in 1935 on Broadway, it had to wait until mid-1980s to become a standard of the operatic repertoire. The jazz idiom that Gershwin used was surely one of the reasons that “Porgy and Bess” was adopted slowly by the operatic world. But another roadblock was the story, which told about the love between a crippled beggar, Porgy, and a drug-addicted woman, Bess, who live in an impoverished African-American community in the South. Seattle Opera’s presentation, heard on opening night, August 11th, at McCaw Hall, conveyed the drama compellingly with all-star performances by the principals and company.

Co-produced by Glimmerglass Festival, Seattle Opera’s production of “Porgy and Bess” was directed by Garnett Bruce after the original direction of Francesca Zambello. The direction fit each character like a glove except for the scene in which Bess carries Clara and Jake’s baby and places it in a large planter next to Porgy’s door. Surely she could have given it to someone who just happened to walk by, but instead, the bundle gets abandoned for a good while before Bess picks it up again.

Scenic designer Peter J. Davison set Catfish Row as an enclave of rundown tenements with metal frames that suggested prison cells. Costumes by Paul Tazewell were updated to reflect the 1950s.
Mary Elizabeth Williams (Serena). Philip Newton photo
Alfred Walker embodied Porgy with a full-throated earnestness that had depth and compassion. Angel Blue embraced the conflicted and vulnerable character of Bess with passion. Lester Lynch struck fear into the hearts of everyone as the menacing Crown. Mary Elizabeth Williams as Serena summoned the most soulful wail that I’ve ever heard when she sang “My Man’s Gone Now,” after the death of her husband.
Angel Blue (Bess) and Jermaine Smith (Sportin' Life). Philip Newton photo

Jermaine Smith snaked and slid around with a grin and impeccable timing as the drug-dealin’ Sportin’ Life. He impressively executed a cheerleading jump toe-touch (mid-air jump) that probably no other male opera singer could do. He sang “It Ain’t Necessarily So” with panache and made it all look effortless.

Brandie Sutton expressed Clara with a lovely soprano while Derrick Parker filled Jake’s shoes with a bass-baritone was deep as a well. Edwin Graves distinguished himself as Robbins and Martin Barkari as Peter the Honeyman. Judith Skinner’s Maria scorched Sportin’ Life with her eyes and verbal delivery. Ashley Faatoalia’s Crab Man, Ibidunni Ojikutu’s Strawberry Woman, and Bernard Holcomb’s Mingo and the chorus added wonderfully to the atmosphere of the community.

In terms of balance with the voices on stage, the orchestra was flawless, but the music could have had a little more swing and pizazz. That was a little surprising, because John DeMain, who has an acclaimed history with this opera, was on the podium. Still, the production was genuinely rewarding right down to the final uplifting number, “I’m On My Way,” in which Porgy announces his quest to find Bess against all odds.
Cast members of Seattle Opera's Porgy and Bess. Philip Newton photo

Today's Birthdays

Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925)
Ernst Krenek (1900-1991)
William Primrose (1903-1982)
Constant Lambert (1905-1951)
Carl Dolmetsch (1911-1977)
Mark Russell (1932)
Brad Mehldau (1970)

and

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
Edgar Lee Masters (1869-1950)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1934, the Berkshire Symphonic Festival in was founded in Stockbridge, Mass., by American composer and conductor Henry Hadley, with the participation of the New York Philharmonic. The Festival later became associated with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Josef Strauss (1827-1870)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
John Lee Hooker (1917-2001)
Ivry Gitlis (1922)
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)
Tori Amos (1963)

and

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)
Annie Proulx (1935)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
Count (William) Basie (1904-1984)
Tommy Reilly (1919-2000)
Willhelm Killmayer (1927-2017)
Gregg Smith (1931-2016)
Dame Janet Baker (1933)

and

X. J. Kennedy (1929)
Robert Stone (1937-2015)
Ellen Hinsey (1960)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
Mario Bernardi (1930-2013)
Dame Anne Evans (1941)
Maxim Vengerov (1974)

and

Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950)
Paul Tillich (1886-1965)
H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)
Jacqueline Susann(1918-1974)
Heather McHugh (1948)

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.