Monday, June 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956)
Arthur Tracy (1899-1997)
Bill Russo (1928-2003)
Kurt Schwertsik (1935)
Carly Simon (1945)

and

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)
George Abbott (1887-1995)
George Orwell (1903-1950)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Exceptional "Rheingold" kicks of San Francisco Opera's "Ring Cycle"

Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera’s revival of its Ring Cycle got off to a rousing start with a top notch performance of “Das Rheingold” at the War Memorial Opera House on June12. The production featured outstanding performances from top to bottom by an exceptional cast and new video projections that were even better than the ones used back in 2011 when this Cycle, directed by Francesca Zambello, received its premiere. Wonderfully- nuanced singing and acting by the principals and top-notch playing from the orchestra, conducted by Donald Runnicles, made this “Rheingold” a memorable occasion.

An impressive array of singers anchored the production with full-throttle performances, starting with Greer Grimsley’s formidable and powerful presence as Wotan. Falk Struckmann, in his San Francisco Opera debut, struck fear into the hearts of the Nibelung slaves as an unrelentingly driven Alberich. Śtefan Margita created a smart and cynical Loge, who helped Wotan to capture Alberich, yet refused to join the gods and drink champagne as they walked up the rainbow bridge to Valhalla.


Jamie Barton, as Fricka, pleaded passionately with Wotan to save their daughter Freia (Julie Adams) instead of giving her to the giants as payment for constructing Valhalla. Wearing Ivy-League-inspired sport jackets, Brian Mulligan’s Donner and Brandon Jovanovich’s Froh blustered about in a futile attempt to counter Fasolt (Andrea Silvestrelli) and Fafner (Raymond Aceto) who made a terrific entry by setting on an iron beam that was lowered from the ceiling.

Silvestrelli and Aceto enhanced their characters’ camaraderie with humorous gestures that caused chuckles to erupt from the audience. That Freia falls in love with Fasolt was effective but odd. Ronnita Miller’s Erda warned Wotan with firm conviction. David Cangelosi cowered convincingly as Mime, the tormented brother of Alberich.

The three Rheinmaidens (Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum) taunted and teased Alberich mercilessly in clouds of dry ice that billowed about the stage. After the gods made their exit to Valhalla, they appeared in dirty clothing and bewailed their fate for having lost the Rheingold.

A massive rock wall of wavy gold stretched across the width of the stage and from top to bottom as well, representing the mines of the Nibelung. Tall ladders were propped against the wall, and minions of Nibelung slaves scurried about in rags, lifting sacks of gold into mining cars. A slippery toad caused laughter to erupt from all corners of the hall. The scene in which Wotan used his spear to remove the ring from Alberich’s finger was gruesomely effective. Donner summoned the bridge to Valhalla with a double-headed hammer that emitted an impressive shower of electrical sparks. The gods ascended the bridge that obviously suggested their entering the Titanic. It would only be a matter of time before their world would sink to the bottom.

Vivid new projections S. Katy Tucker in the opening scene showered the stage with icy-blue waterfalls. They enhanced the original projections by Jan Hartley, the best sequence of which depicted the narrow and twisty passage that descending through a cavern into the mines of the Niebelung.

The projections and scenery combined well with the story to suggest the environmental degradation of the planet in face of those who care only for money and power, but that statement didn’t slap you in the face. That was one of the best things about this production, it had strong values yet never preachy. Hats off to Zambello and company.

Today's Birthdays

Harry Partch (1901-1974)
Pierre Fournier (1906-1986)
Milton Katims (1909-2006)
Denis Dowling (1910-1984)
Terry Riley (1935)

and

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
John Ciardi (1916-1986)
Anita Desai (1937)
Stephen Dunn (1939)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993)
George Russell (1923-2009)
Adam Faith (1940-2003)
James Levine (1943)
Nigel Osborne (1948)
Nicholas Cleobury (1950)
Sylvia McNair (1956)

and

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)
Michael Shaara (1928-1988)
David Leavitt (1961)

Friday, June 22, 2018

In Germany with the Bach Cantata Choir

I have been in Germany for the past few days, singing with the Bach Cantata Choir. We are on tour in Erfurt, Leipzig, Weimar, and Dresden, have sung in places where Bach lived and worked, and have visited sites the Bach museums in Erfurt and Leipzig as well as the Handel's birthplace in Halle. It has been a terrific experience, and I will try to get things posted soon.

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Manfredini (1684-1762)
Étienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817)
Frank Heino Damrosch (1859-1937)
Jennie Tourel (1900-1973)
Walter Leigh (1905-1942)
Sir Peter Pears (1910-1986)
Hans-Hubert Schönzeler (1925-1997)
Pierre Thibaud (1929-2004)
Libor Pešek (1933)
Pierre Amoyal (1949)
Christopher Norton (1953)

and

Harriett Mulford Stone Lothrop (1844-1924)
Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970)
Billy Wilder (1906-2002)
Joseph Papp (1921-1991)
Meryl Streep (1949)
Elizabeth Warren (1949)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795)
Henry Holden Huss (1862-1953)
Hilding Rosenberg (1892-1985)
Harry Newstone (1921-2006)
Lalo Schifrin (1932)
Diego Masson (1935)
Philippe Hersant (1948)
Judith Bingham (1952)
Jennifer Larmore (1958)

and

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1972)
Donald Peattie (1898-1964)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989)
Ian McEwan (1948)

and from the Composers Datebook

On this day in 1890. Richard Strauss's tone-poem "Death and Transfiguration" and "Burleske" for Piano and Orchestra were given their premieres in Eisenach, at a convention of the General German Music Association, with the composer conducting and Eugen d'Albert as the piano soloist in the "Burleske".

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792)
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)
Wilfred Pelletier (1896-1982)
Chet Atkins (1924-2001)
Ingrid Haebler (1926)
Eric Dolphy (1928-1964)
Arne Nordheim (1931-2010)
Mickie Most (1938-2003)
Brian Wilson (1942)
Anne Murray (1945)
André Watts (1946)
Lionel Richie (1949)

and

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)
Josephine Winslow Johnson (1910-1990)
Vikram Seth (1952)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

François Rebel (1701-1775)
Johann Wenzel Stamitz (1717-1757)
Carl Zeller (1842-1898)
Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893)
Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915)
Guy Lombardo (1902-1977)
Edwin Gerschefski (1909-1988)
Anneliese Rothenberger (1926-2010)
Elmar Oliveira (1950)
Philippe Manoury 1952)

and

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pauline Kael (1919-2001)
Tobias Wolff (1945)
Salman Rushdie (1947)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Maria Bononcini (1677-1726)
Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831)
David Popper (1843-1913)
Sir George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987)
Edward Steuermann (1892-1964)
Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003)
Eduard Tubin (1905-1982)
Paul McCartney (1942)
Hans Vonk (1942-2004)
Anthony Halstead (1945)
Diana Ambache (1948)
Eva Marton (1948)
Peter Donohoe (1953)

and

Geoffrey Hill (1932)
Gail Godwin (1937)
Jean McGarry (1948)
Chris Van Allsburg (1949)
Amy Bloom (1953)
Richard Powers (1957)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

New production of Faust was thought-provoking yet puzzling

Alfred Walker as Méphistophélès | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Portland Opera presented a new interpretation of Gounod’s “Faust” with mixed success. Some aspects of the production, which received its West Coast premiere at Keller Auditorium on Friday, June 8, connected crystal-clearly while others were downright puzzling.

Co-commissioned by Chicago Lyric Opera, the production was designed by visual artist John Frame with sets and costumes by Victoria “Vita” Tzykun, and projections by David Adam Moore. Under the direction of Kevin Newbury, they placed the opening action in an artist’s studio, where the aged-Faust attempted to make models for the movie industry. Nearby was a moveable sculpture, suggesting a man looking through a telescope made of film canisters, which could point upwards or downwards, depending on the direction of Faust’s thoughts: heavenly or earthly.

When Faust called on the devil for one last chance to experience the pleasures of youth, Méphistophélès didn’t just appear through cloud of dry ice. Instead, projected imagery showed Méphistophélès being carved from a block of wood. That seemed to imply that Méphistophélès sprang from Faust’s imagination. By extension, then Marguerite, Valentin, and the other characters in the story were created by Faust as well. Perhaps that is why Faust’s character as a young man had a surreal, zombie-like quality. He couldn’t believe that he had become young again, that girls were interested in him, that Marguerite would fall in love with him, and that he would kill Valentin.

Méphistophélès was assisted by four goblins, who were on stage almost all the time, whether they were carrying a soldier, rolling a bed for Marguerite and Faust, lurking around Marguerite’s tiny home, or adjusting the telescope sculpture. Most remarkably, they skillfully entered and exited from an undersized opening that sort of looked like a large fireplace. Maybe it was a portal to Faust’s mind.

Another oddity of this version was that Marguerite was a cripple and had to hobble around with a crutch. When she sang the famous “Jewell Song,” she tossed the crutch to the side. But afterwards she had to return to using the crutch. Also, when the soldiers returned from war, they stumbled in, beaten up and blooded. That was a strong anti-war statement because they looked in complete contrast to the text, which emphasizes the glories of fighting for the fatherland.

The most shocking moment in the performance involved Méphistophélès and his goblins forcing a screaming Marguerite into an abortion, and followed it with Méphistophélès carrying the baby away. Another inspired moment came the final scene when Faust puts on gargoyle-like mask over his head and joins the goblins as they follow Méphistophélès off-stage.

Tzykun dressed Faust and Méphistophélès in colorful checked suits that seemed to be right out of the 1960s or 70s, and Marguerite wore a plain white dress that was more conservative. The chorus, however, wore costumes that were inexplicably right out of the Victorian era. Moore’s projection of blooming flowers (to represent the growing attraction between Faust and Margueritte) was the biggest splash across a mostly drab set. Everything was lit impressively by designer Duane Schuler.

With his powerful and lyric voice, Jonathan Boyd created a Faust that fit well with the demands of the production. Angel Blue’s lovely soprano was often too soft, and her singing of the “Jewell Song” glimmered just brightly enough to make everyone forget about the crutches. She saved the best for last, upping the volume to get over and above the rising orchestra.

Alfred Walker has one of the most melodious baritone voices in the nation, but his Méphistophélès needed a tad more sneer. At the beginning of the last act, Mattaliano came to the front of the stage and told the audience that Walker was suffering from a cold. The remarkable thing was that Walker then sang louder and better than he did in the first two acts.

Singing with great emotion and strength, Edward Parks made a memorable impression as Valenkin. Kate Farrar created a wonderfully impulsive and upright Siébel. Angela Niederloh got the laughs and endured them as well in the role of Marthe, and Shi Lin distinguished himself as Wagner.

George Manahan elicited strong playing from the orchestra, and the Portland Opera Chorus sang with conviction although they were often placed too far to the back of the stage.

Today's Birthdays

John Wesley (1703-1791)
Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Hermann Reutter (1900-1985)
Einar Englund (1916-1999)
Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
Sir Edward Downes (1924)
Christian Ferras (1933-1982)
Gérard Grisey (1946-1998)
Derek Lee Ragin (1958)

and

M. C. Escher (1898-1972)
John Hersey (1914-1993)
Ron Padgett (1942)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Niccolò Vito Piccinni (1728-1800)
Helen Traubel (1899-1972)
Willi Boskovsky (1909-1990)
Sergiu Comissiona (1928-2005)
Lucia Dlugoszewski (1931-2000)
Jerry Hadley (1952-2007)
David Owen Norris (1953)

and

Geronimo (1829-1909)
Joyce Carol Oates (1938)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Ernestine Schumann‑Heink (1861-1936)
Guy Ropartz (1864-1955)
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981)
Sir Thomas Armstrong (1898-1994)
Otto Luening (1900-1996)
Geoffrey Parsons (1929-1995)
Waylon Jennings (1937-2002)
Harry Nilsson (1941-1994)
Paul Patterson (1947)
Rafael Wallfisch (1953)
Robert Cohen (1959)

and

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)
Saul Steinberg (1914-1999)
Dava Sobel (1947)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Sacchini (1730-1786)
Simon Mayr (1763-1845)
Nicolai Rubinstein (1835-1881)
John McCormack (1884-1945)
Heddle Nash (1894-1961)
Rudolf Kempe (1910-1976)
Stanley Black (1913-2002)
Theodore Bloomfield (1923-1998)
Natalia Gutman (1942)
Lang Lang (1982)

and

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
John Bartlett (1820-1905)
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)
Ernesto (Che) Guevara de la Serna (1928-1967)
Jonathan Raban (1942)
Mona Simpson (1971)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Anton (Antonín) Wranitzky (1761-1820)
Anton Eberl (1766-1807)
Elisabeth Schumann (1888-1952)
Carlos Chavez (1899-1978)
Alan Civil (1929-1989)
Gwynne Howell (1938)
Sarah Connolly (1963)
Alain Trudel (1966)

and

Frances Burney (1752-1840)
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Mary Antin (1881-1949)
Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957)
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Vanni Marcoux (1877-1962)
Werner Josten (1895-1963)
Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986)
Leon Goossens (1897-1988)
Maurice Ohana (1913-1992)
Ian Partridge (1938)
Chick Corea (1941)
Oliver Knussen (1952)

and

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)
Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Djuna Barnes (1892-1982)
Anne Frank (1929-1945)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Recommended concerts for this summer published in The Oregonian

I compiled a list of recommended summertime concerts, and it was published online by The Oregonian here. It will probably appear in Friday's print edition.

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Antonio Bonporti (1672-1749)
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
George Frederick McKay (1899-1970)
Shelly Manne (1920-1984)
Carlisle Floyd (1926)
Antony Rooley (1944)
Douglas Bostock (1955)
Conrad Tao (1994)

and

Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
William Styron (1925-2006)
Athol Fugard (1932)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Planets shimmer and young artists shine in orchestral concert

The Vancouver Symphony closed out its 39th season with the spotlight on the winners of its annual young artist competition and an exploratory journey into the celestial sounds of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” The program drew a very large audience to Skyview Concert Hall on the afternoon of Saturday, June 2, and listeners were refreshed by polished performances from the three gold medalists, who looked confident and comfortable at center stage.

First up was Shania Watts (age 18) whose performance of the first movement of William Walton’s Viola Concerto had lovely and resonant tone in the lower register, creating an introspective, soulful quality. In the upper register, she elicited a sweet sound that was equally appealing. With a calm demeanor, she dispatched double stops and glissandos expertly and made the music sing.

Next came Evan Llafet (age 17), who played the first movement of Walton’s Violin Concerto with verve. He deftly commanded the treacherously high sections of the piece, expressing joy and optimism that made the music sparkle. His impeccably delivered series of staccato-infused runs was breathtaking, and followed them with lush, melodic lines before closing out the movement with an elegant, tranquil phrase.

Christopher Yoon (age 18) had a field day with Franz List’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Yoon easily handled its wide dynamic and emotional range that would surge back and forth like waves in ocean. The opening statement cascaded and splashed, slower passages moved along tenderly, ornamental phrases trilled brilliantly, and the demonstrative sections had plenty of weight. Yoon played it all with panache that got the audience out of it seats.

After intermission, the orchestra played Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” accompanied by a video (“Voyage of Discovery 2”) of animated imagery of each planet, based on NASA’s space explorations. Although the music received an inspired performance, the animations seemed dated, and technical glitches prevented the segments for Venus and Uranus from displaying.

Glitches aside, the orchestra got off to a rousing start, pounding out the martial music in the “Mars, the Bringer of War” movement. Urged onward by music director Salvador Brotons, the musicians unleashed several crescendos and the ominous atmosphere gripped the hall. The next movement, “Venus, the Bringer of Peace,” effectively countered that opening statement with its gentle and lyrical melodies. “Mercury, the Winged Messenger” was playful but a bit muddy here and there. Eva Richey’s solos wiggled gracefully and Michael Liu (from the synthesizer keyboard) sprinkled just the right amount of celestial glitter. Lively horn announced “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” with gusto but their sound got a tad honky at times. The ensemble excelled with the hymn-like theme, which painted an English scene onto the planet’s landscape. The slow tic toc of time acquired a ponderous and heavy presence that made “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age,” very effective. A quiet spell was briefly interrupted by a cell phone in the audience, but the orchestra took care of that with a terrific crescendo. “Uranus, the Magician” had a wonderfully lopsided sound against a pulsing rhythm that caused Brotons to hop about on the podium. The suspended chords also had a magical effect. “Neptune, the Mystic” shimmered with lovely contribution from the harp and the celeste. The women of the Vancouver USA Singers (expertly trained by Jana Hart) added to the ethereal sonic texture with their lovely voices from offstage and the music drifted delightfully into the far reaches of the hall.

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900)
Frederick Loewe (1904-1988)
Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984)
Tikhon Khrennikov (1913-2007)
Bruno Bartoletti (1925-2013)
Mark-Anthony Turnage (1960)

and

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
Terence Rattigan (1911-1977)
Saul Bellow (1915-2005)
James Salter (1925-2015)
Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Otto Nicolai (1810-1849)
Alberic Magnard (1865-1914)
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Cole Porter (1891-1964)
Dame Gracie Fields (1898-1979)
Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970)
Les Paul (1915-2009)
Franco Donatoni (1927-2000)
Charles Wuorinen (1938)
Ileana Cotrubas (1939)

and

Baroness Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914)
George Axelrod (1922-2003)
Patricia Cornwell (1956)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1840, Franz Liszt gives a solo performance at the Hanover Square Rooms in London billed as "Recitals." This was the first time the term "recital" was used to describe a public musical performance, and it caused much discussion and debate at the time. Liszt is credited with both inventing and naming the now-common solo piano "recital."

Friday, June 8, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750)
Nicolas Dalayrac (1753-1809)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
Reginald Kell (1906-1981)
Emanuel Ax (1949)

and

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
John W Campbell (1910-1970)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1912, Ravel's ballet, "Daphnis et Chloé" was premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, by Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe, Pierre Monteux conducting.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Leopold Auer (1845-1930)
George Szell (1897-1970)
Ilse Wolf (1921-1999)
Philippe Entremont (1934)
Neeme Järvi (1937)
Sir Tom Jones (1940)
Jaime Laredo (1941)
Prince (1958-2015)
Roberto Alagna (1963)
Olli Mustonen (1967)

and

Paul Gaugin (1848-1903)
Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Nikki Giovanni (1943)
Orham Pamuk (1952)
Louise Erdrich (1954)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Sir John Stainer (1840-1901)
Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930)
Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978)
Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)
Iain Hamilton (1922-2000)
Serge Nigg (1924-2008)
Klaus Tennstedt (1926-1998)
Louis Andriessen (1939)

and

Pierre Corneille (1606-1684)
Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)
Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
Maxine Kumin (1925-2014)
Robert Pirsig (1928-2017)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1931, Henry Cowell's "Synchrony" received its premiere in Paris, at the first of two concerts of modern American music with the Orchestre Straram conducted by Nicholas Slonimsky and funded anonymously by Charles Ives. On the same program, Slonimsky also conducted the Orchestre Straram in the European premieres of works by Adolph Weiss ("American Life"), Ives ("Three Places in England"), Carl Ruggles ("Men and Mountains"), and the Cuban composer Amadeo Roldan ("La Rehambatamba").

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Somervell (1863-1937)
Robert Mayer (1879-1985)
Eduard Tubin (1905-1982)
Daniel Pinkham (1923-2006)
Peter Schat (1935-2003)
Martha Argerich (1941)
Bill Hopkins (1943-1981)

and

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)
Alfred Kazin (1915-1998)
David Wagoner (1926)
Margaret Drabble (1939)
David Hare (1947)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

James Hewitt (1770-1827)
Evgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988)
Alan Shulman (1915-2002)
Robert Merrill (1917-2004)
Irwin Bazelon (1922-1995)
Oliver Nelson (1932-1975)
Anthony Braxton (1945)
Cecilia Bartoli (1966)

and

Josef Sittard (1846-1903)
Karl Valentin (1882-1948)
Robert Anderson (1917-2009)
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
Larry McMurtry (1936)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Preview of Vancouver Symphony season finale in The Columbian

Friday's edition of The Columbian contains my preview of the final concert of the season for the Vancouver Symphony (WA). You can read it here.

Today's Birthdays

František Jan Škroup (1801-1862)
Charles Lecocq (1832-1918)
Jan Peerce (1904-1984)
Valerie Masterson (1937)
Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999)
Greg Sandow (1943)
Lynne Dawson (1956)

and

Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
Ruth Westheimer (1928)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

James Cutler Dunn Parker (1828-1916)
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942)
Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Jozef Cleber (1916-1999)
Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012)
Mark Elder (1947)
Neil Shicoff (1949)
Michel Dalberto (1955)

and

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

and from The New Music Box:

On June 2, 1938, Amy Beach began work on her Piano Trio while in residence at the MacDowell Colony. She finished the composition fifteen days later (June 18th) and published it as her Op. 150. It was to be her last major work.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Georg Muffat (1653-1704)
Ferdinando Paër (1771-1839)
Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
Werner Janssen (1899-1990)
Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
Nelson Riddle (1921-1985)
Yehudi Wyner (1929)
Edo de Waart (1941)
Richard Goode (1943)
Frederica von Stade (1945)
Arlene Sierra (1970)

and

John Masefield (1878- 1967)
Charles Kay Ogden (1889–1957)
Naguib Surur (1932-1978)
Colleen McCullough (1937-2015)
Sheri Holman (1966)
Amy Schumer (1981)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Marin Marais (1656-1728)
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)
Billy Mayerl (1902-1959)
Alfred Deller (1912-1979)
Akira Ifukube (1914-2006)
Shirley Verrett (1931-2010)
Peter Yarrow (1938)
Bruce Adolphe (1955)
Marty Ehrlich (1955)

and

Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853)
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Clint Eastwood (1930)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944)
Benny Goodman (1909-1986)
George London (1920-1985)
Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012)
Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)
Zoltan Kocsis (1952)
Anne LeBaron (1953)

and

Howard Hawks (1896-1977)
Colm Toibin (1955)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 30, 1923, 26-year-old composer and conductor Howard Hanson, who would later be one of the founders of the American Music Center, led the world premiere performance of his Nordic Symphony, the first of his seven symphonies and still one of his best-known works, in Rome during his residence as first holder of the American Rome Prize.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Fanciulli (1853-1915)
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)
Helmuth Rilling (1933)
Michael Berkley (1948)
Linda Esther Gray (1948)
Melissa Etheridge (1961)

and

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Steven Levitt (1967)

and

from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1913, Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps" (The Rite of Spring) received its premiere performance in Paris, by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, Pierre Monteux conducting.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1788)
Josiah Flagg (1737-1795)
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914)
Sir George Dyson(1883-1964)
T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)
Nicola Rescigno (1916-2008)
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
John Culshaw (1924-1980)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)
Richard Van Allan (1935-2008)
Maki Ishii (1936-2003)
Elena Souliotis (1943-2004)
Levon Chilingirian (1948)

and

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
Ian Flemming (1908-1964)
May Swenson (1913-1989)
Walker Percy (1916-1990)

and from the New Music Box:

On May 28, 1957, after several discussions, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NARAS) was born at a meeting at Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby Restaurant.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Halévy (1799-1862)
Joseph Joachim Raff (1822-1882)
Louis Durey (1888-1979)
Claude Champagne (1891-1965)
Ernst Wallfisch (1920-1979)
Margaret Buechner (1922-1998)
Thea Musgrave (1928)
Donald Keats (1929)
Elizabeth Harwood (1938-1990)
James Wood (1953)

and

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876)
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
John Cheever (1912-1982)
John Barth (1930)
Linda Pastan (1932)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Al Jolson (1886-1950)
Eugene Goossens (1893-1962)
Ernst Bacon (1898-1990)
Vlado Perlemuter (1904-2002)
Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) (1916-1999)
François‑Louis Deschamps (1919-2004)
Peggy Lee (1920-2002)
Joseph Horovitz (1926)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Teresa Stratas (1938)
William Bolcom (1938)
Howard Goodall (1958)
Armando Bayolo (1973)

and

Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837)
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Frankie Manning (1914-2009)
Alan Hollinghurst (1954)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 26, 1953, Aaron Copland appeared before the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) of the U.S. House of Representative.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Thomas "Blind Tom" Bethune (1849-1908)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Beverly Sills (1929-2007)
Franco Bonisolli (1937-2003)

and

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)
Raymond Carver (1938-1988)
Jamaica Kincaid (1949)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1944, Arturo Toscanini conducts the combined NBC Symphony and New York Philharmonic in a benefit concert of music by Wagner, Verdi, and Sousa at the old Madison Square Garden. The concert raised $100,000 for the Red Cross. During an intermission auction, New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia auctioned off Toscanini's baton for $10,000.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Paul Paray (1886-1979)
Joan Hammond (1912-1986)
Hans‑Martin Linde (1930)
Maurice André (1933-2012)
Harold Budd (1936)
Bob Dylan (1941)
Konrad Boehmer (1941-2014)
Fiona Kimm (1952)
Paul McCreesh (1960)

and

William Trevor (1928)
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Declan Kiberd (1951)
Michael Chabon (1963)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thought-provoking new work tackles homelessness at Oregon Symphony concert

A couple of years ago, the Oregon Symphony reached way outside the box when it thought up the idea of asking a composer to write an orchestral work on homelessness. The orchestra then asked singer-songwriter-composer Gabriel Kahane to create such a work for its “Sounds of Home” series. Kahane took the commission very seriously and went so far as to volunteer at a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, New York (see my interview with Kahane for The Oregonian here). His experience there was undoubtedly a factor in the emergency shelter intake form for orchestra, soloists, and chorus, which received its world premiere on Saturday, May 12th at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form proved a thought-provoking piece. Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman posed most of the questions from an intake form, such as “Where did you stay last night,” “Have you ever been evicted,” and “Have you ever been denied a loan or a lease?” The chorus of inconvenient statistics, consisting of vocalists Holland Andrews, Holcombe Waller, and Kahane, offered replies and supplied some statistical information that probed the loss of housing by low income people during the last recession. In “Certainly we can all agree,” Waller reminded us of how much we all want lots of housing for everyone, but we aren’t will to pay for it nor house the homeless near where we live (with the refrain of “not in my backyard”), which he finished off eloquently with baroque-styled filigree. In the ballad, “A brief history of the subprime mortgage loan crisis,” Kahane sang of the machinations of Wall Street, which worked especially well against people with lower incomes.

Brueggergosman sang with incisive emotion and her voice worked well with the trio of Andrews, Waller, and Kahane. The trio sounded smooth and tight, but Andrews needed to sing louder for the balance. All were amplified as were the members of Maybelle Community Singers, who had the last word in the piece: “Thank you for completing this form.” The orchestra, a full-sized contingent that also included accordion, banjo, and guitar, deftly accompanied each of the 13 movements under the direction of Carlos Kalmar. One of the most striking movements featured whispering strings as Brueggergosman sang “Do your co-workers know that you have lost your home.”

The message that suggested the responsibility of the wealthy for homelessness probably caused a few patrons to leave the hall before emergency shelter intake form was performed and a few got up and left while it was performed. Kahane’s piece didn’t explore the role of divorce, drugs, mental illness, and other factors that have added to the homeless. But he didn’t hammer a Western-European-net-answer either. His “emergency shelter intake form” was his genuine take on the problem on homelessness, and it caused the audience to reflect in a positive way.

Just to push this a little further, it should be noted that many composers have upset the wealthy and powerful. For example, censors demanded that Verdi’s Rigoletto be changed so that it didn’t mention a king even though it was based on Victor Hugo’s Le roi s'amuse (The king amuses himself), which was based on the scandalous and behavior of the King of France and was subsequently banded for 22 years.

An opera that was not fondly received by Hitler was Paul Hindemith’s News of the Day. It was labeled by the Nazi’s a degenerative art and backlisted. The Oregon Symphony played the opera's lively Overture, which contained a number of thematic passages that flitted blithely about.

All-star violinist Joshua Bell appeared in the first half of the concert to play Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium). Bell’s superb performance showed off his incredible skill and artistry over the five moments that reflected various aspects of love.. He was ably supported by the orchestra, which had an equally demanding role. After concluding the piece, Bell especially recognized principal cellist Nancy Ives for her exquisite playing with him at the beginning of the fifth movement.

Bell followed the thunderous applause from the audience with an encore, the romantic and lyrical theme by Nigel Hess for the movie “Ladies in Lavender.” Bell played it impeccably and received another round of extended heartfelt applause. Bell, by the way, joined the audience to hear Kahane’s piece in the second half of the program.

Today's Birthdays

Andrea Luchesi (1741-1801)
Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870)
Louis Glass (1864-1936)
Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
Alicia de Larrocha (1923)
Robert Moog (1934-2005)
Joel Feigin (1951)

and

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)
Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Johann Schrammel (1850-1893)
Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Sun Ra (1914-1993)
George Tintner (1917-1999)
Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008)
Claude Ballif (1924-2004)
John Browning (1933-2003)
Peter Nero (1934)

and

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014)

and from the New Music Box:

On May 21, 1893, in an lengthy article published in the New York Herald titled "Real Value of Negro Melodies," Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak, during his three-year sojourn in the United States, prognosticated that the future of American music should be based on "negro melodies" and announced that the National Conservatory of Music, where he was serving as Director at the time, would be "thrown open free of charge to the negro race." It was to be the first of a total of seven articles in the Herald in which Dvorak expounded these ideas which provoked comments ranging from incredulity to denunciation by composers and performers around the world including Anton Bruckner, Anton Rubinstein and John Knowles Paine.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Thomas "Fats" Waller (1904-1943)
Gina Bachauer (1913-1976)
Heinz Holliger (1939)
Rosalind Plowright (1949)
Linda Bouchard (1957)

and

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989)
Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981)
George Hurst (1926-2012)
Karl Anton Rikenbacher (1940-2014)
Tison Street (1943)
Joe Cocker (1944-2014)
Cher (1946)
Sue Knussen (1949-2003)
Jane Parker-Smith (1950)
Emma Johnson (1966)

and

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)
Nellie Melba (1859-1931)
Kerstin Thorborg (1896-1970)
Sandy Wilson (1924-2014)
Pete Townshend (1945)
Stephen Varcoe (1949)

and

Malcom X (1925-1965)
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)
Nora Ephron (1941-2012)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1886, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (11 selections) was given during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The next documented performance (12 sections) was given in Boston on February 27, 1887, by the Handel and Haydn Society, with Carl Zerrahn conducting a chorus of 432 and an orchestra of 50. In both the 1886 Cincinnati and 1887 Boston performances, the famous 19-century German soprano Lilli Lehmann appeared as one of the soprano soloists. The first complete performance of the work was apparently given either at the Moravian Church in Bethlehem on Mar 17, 1900, by the Bach Choir under J. Fred Wolf, or at Carnegie Hall in new York on April 5, 1900, by the Oratorio Society, Frank Damrosch conducting.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Superb singing in Portland Opera's Rigoletto

Stephen Powell as Rigoletto | Photo by Cory Weaver.
Exceptional performances by the principal singers highlighted Portland Opera’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto on Thursday evening (May 8) at Keller Auditorium. Presented with traditional scenery and costumes, the story of the humpbacked jester, his lovely and naïve daughter, and a lascivious Duke resonated with an audience that has been well-numbed by current scandals involving famous people in business, entertainment, and politics. With Stephen Powell in the title role, Katrina Galka as his daughter Gilda, and Barry Banks as the Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto proved its evergreen status once again, making one wonder if humanity has learned much of anything since its premiere in 1851.

Powell’s marvelous interpretation revealed a wide palette of emotions from brusque bullying humor when he protects the Duke to pitiable sadness when he realizes that his daughter is dead. And he delivered it all with a gorgeous baritone that never had a rough edge, even at the loudest moments.

Galka, a graduate of Portland Opera’s Resident Artist Program, went beyond all expectations with a wonderfully vulnerable Gilda who nonetheless summons an inner strength that causes her to sacrifice herself for the reprehensible Duke. Galka and Powell were superb in their duets, such as “Sì! Vendetta, tremenda vendetta” in which Rigoletto cries for revenge while Gilda pleads for her lover.

Banks strutted about as the Dune of Mantua, peeling off high notes with the carefree nonchalance of a playboy. He extended final note of “La donna è mobile" effortlessly, and it should have made the highlight reel for the evening news.
Barry Banks as the Duke and Katrina Galka as Gilda | Photo by Cory Weaver.
Scott Conner cut a dangerous Sparafucile and Hannah Penn a seductive Maddalena. However, Penn’s voice was difficult to hear whenever she was paired with others. Reginald Smith Jr was a forceful Count Monterone with demonstratively thunderous voice that gripped the audience and didn’t let go until he exited the stage. Helen Huang as Countess Ceprano flirted shamelessly with the Duke while her husband, Shi Li as Count Ceprano, fumed in frustration.

The chorus of the Duke’s retainers sang lustily and left no doubt that they would do anything to protect him. The orchestra, conducted by George Manahan, got off to an anemic start, but revved up the dynamic range as the opera progressed.

The scenery, designed by Sarah J. Conly and J. Michael Deegan for The Atlanta Opera, was used by Portland Opera when it last produced Rigoletto in 2009. The staging revealed the interior of a stone palace for the Duke’s residence, a stony courtyard and steps to Rigoletto’s home, and the lowly lodgings of Sparafucile and his sister. Patrons who sat on the far left-side may have missed the entry of Rigoletto and Gilda in a boat because of a wall in the final scene.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667)
Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876)
Karl Goldmark (1830-1915)
Ezio Pinza (1892-1947)
Henri Sauguet (1901-1989)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Sir Clifford Curzon (1907-1982)
Perry Como (1912-2001)
Boris Christoff (1914-1993)
Mikko Heiniö (1948)

and

Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Walter Gropius (1883-1969)
Frank Capra (1897-1991)
Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991)
Tina Fey (1970)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Werner Egk (1901-1983)
Sandor Vegh (1905-1997)
Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005)
Dennis Brain (1921-1957)
Peter Mennin (1932-1983)
Taj Mahal (1942)
Paul Crossley (1944)
Brian Rayner Cook (1945)
Bill Bruford (1949)
Ivor Bolton (1958)

and

Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957)
Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959)
Gary Paulsen (1939)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 17, 1846, Belgian-born instrument builder and clarinetist Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone, an instrument that would have a profound impact on American jazz. Over a century later, on May 17, 1957, a computer was used to make music for the first time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Richard Tauber (1891-1948)
Ivan Vishnegradsy (1893-1979)
Jan Kiepura (1902-1966)
Woody Herman (1913-1987)
Liberace (1919-1987)
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000)
Betty Carter (1930-1998)
Donald Martino (1931-2005)
Robert Fripp (1946)
Monica Huggett (1953)
Andrew Litton (1959)

and

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)
Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)
Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912-2008)
Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 16, 1907, Miller Reese Hutchison filed an application at the U.S. Patent Office for his invention, the motor-driven Diaphragm Actuated Horn and Resonator, for use in automobiles. The patent was granted on May 3, 1910. The carhorn would later be used as a musical instrument by numerous composers ranging from George Gershwin in An American in Paris (1928) to Wendy Mae Chambers who developed a Car Horn Organ in 1983.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Michael William Balfe (1808-1870)
Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986)
Arthur Berger (1912-2003)
John Lanchbery (1923-2003)
Ted Perry (1931-2003)
Richard Wilson (1941)
Brian Eno (1948)

and

L. Frank Baum (1856-1919)
Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931)
Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980)
Peter Shaffer (1926-2016)
Jasper Johns (1930)
Laura Hillenbrand (1967)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 15, 1972, the Concord Quartet premiered George Rochberg's String Quartet No. 3 at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. Rochberg, an established serialist composer, shocked the compositional scene by returning to tonality in this composition. Many cite this premiere as the birth of neo-romanticism.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)
Lou Harrison (1917-2003)
Aloys Kontarsky (1931)
Peter Skellern (1947)
Maria de La Pau (1950)
Helen Field (1951)
David Byrne (1952)

and

Hal Borland (1900-1978)
Mary Morris (1947)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Constantin Silverstri (1913-1969)
William Schwann (1913-1998)
Gareth Morris (1920-2007)
Ritchie Valens (1941-1959)
Jane Glover (1949)
Stevie Wonder (1950)
David Hill (1957)
Tasmin Little (1965)

and

Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)
Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989)
Kathleen Jamie (1962)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1875, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's "Magnificat" took place during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The Cincinnati Commercial review of May 14 was not favorable: "The work is difficult in the extreme and most of the chorus abounds with rambling sub-divisions. We considering the ‘Magnifcat' the weakest thing the chorus has undertaken . . . possessing no dramatic character and incapable of conveying the magnitude of the labor that has been expended upon its inconsequential intricacies. If mediocrity is a mistake, the ‘Magnifcat' is the one error of the Festival". Thomas also conducted the next documented performance in Boston on Mar. 1, 1876 (for which composer John Knowles Paine performed as organ accompanist to a chorus of 300).

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Baptist Wanha (Vanhal) (1739-1813)
Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812)
Giovanni Viotti (1755-1824)
Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
Burt Bacharach (1928)
Anthony Newman (1941)
Dalmacio Gonzalez (1945)
Doris Soffel (1948)

and

Edward Lear (1812-1888)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Rosellen Brown (1939)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jan Václav (1791-1825)
Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914)
Alma Gluck (1884-1938)
Irving Berlin (1888-1939)
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
Ross Pople (1945)
Judith Weir (1954)
Cecile Licad (1961)

and

Martha Graham (1894-1991)
Mari Sandoz (1896-1966)
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Francisco "Paco" Umbral (1932-2007)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Marie Leclair (1697-1764)
Max Steiner (1888-1971)
Dmitri Tiomkin (1894-1979)
Maybelle Carter (1909-1978)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Richard Lewis (1914-1990)
Milton Babbit (1916-2011)
Maxim Shostakovich (1938)
Lori Dobbins (1958)

and

Karl Barth (1886-1968)
Fred Astaire (1899-1987)
Barbara Taylor Bradford (1933)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 10, 1987, David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe produced the first-ever Bang on a Can Marathon, a twelve-hour concert at the SoHo gallery Exit Art combining music by Milton Babbitt, Steve Reich, John Cage, George Crumb, Lois V Vierk, Lee Hyla, Aaron Kernis, Phill Niblock and others.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816)
Adolph von Henselt (1814-1889)
Jacques Singer (1910-1980)
Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005)
Nigel Douglas (1929)
Billy Joel (1949)
Michel Beroff (1950)
Joy Harjo (1951)
Linda Finnie (1952)
Anne Sofie von Otter (1955)
Alison Hagley (1961)

and

James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937)
Alan Bennett (1934)
Charles Simic (1938)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Article-interview in The Oregonian with Gabriel Kahane for upcoming premiere

My article-interview with singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane has been posted in Oregonlive here. The topic is his piece on homelessness, which will receive its premiere at the Oregon Symphony concerts May 12-14. The print version will be out on Friday.

Today's Birthdays

Carl Philipp Stamitz (1745-1801)
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869)
Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)
Heather Harper (1930)
Carlo Cossutta (1932-2000)
Keith Jarrett (1945)
Felicity Lott (1947)

and

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
Edmund Wilson (1895-1972)
Gary Snyder (1930)
Thomas Pynchon (1937)
Roddy Doyle (1958)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Anton Seidl (1850-1898)
Edmond Appia (1894-1961)
Elisabeth Soderstrom (1927-2009)
Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981)
Philip Lane (1950)
Robert Spano (1961)

and

Olympe de Gouge (1748-1793)
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Archibald MacLeish (1892-1962)
Angela Carter (1940-1992)
Peter Carey (1943)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 7, 1946, Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering is founded with about 20 employees. The company, later renamed Sony, would eventually invent the home video tape recorder, the Walkman and the Discman, as well as take-over Columbia Records, later CBS Records, which under the leadership of composer Goodard Lieberson (1956-1973) released numerous recordings of music by American composers.

and from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1824, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 ("Choral") was premiered at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna, with the deaf composer on stage beating time, but with the performers instructed to follow the cues of Beethoven's assistant conductor, Michael Umlauf.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

PSU Opera lives up to its sterling reputation with Britten's Albert Herring

Portland State University Opera presented another professional-quality run with Benjamin Britten's only comic opera, Albert Herring. The performance on April 29 at the Lincoln Performance Hall was spectacular; yet another feather in the cap of this marvelous program.

Opening with a nice Victorian hubbub, Grace Skinner as the housekeeper and Jonathan Robert's Superintendent Budd (in a fine, pure baritone) demonstrated poise and nuance in their vocal performances. The overall production was redolent with Victorian stuffiness, and this group performed marvelously in their send-up of this 'morally righteous' time. Helen Soultanian's (Lady Billows) rich, full mezzo was well-suited for this role, and her ornamentation was impeccable.

There was true beauty in the ensemble about Albert's virtue, even if the sopranos tended to dominate to the detriment of other voices at times. The orchestra was up to the task in their difficult job--there was mischief and tomfoolery there as well, and a fine cacophony from the winds in the first act. The 'Peach' duet between Sid and Nancy (Erik Standifird and Celine Clark) was at turns humorous and slyly lustful.

Christian Sanders as Albert Herring was a real showstopper. His incredible tenor was matched by his acting--even in the midst of a high comedy such as this, his ability to portray the frustration and smothered angst that seems to define Herring's life was crucial.  His voice was up to this difficult task, expressive and seemingly effortless, and with impeccable diction to boot. Sanders took his time enunciating, acting--doing all the small things necessary to make comedy work. He was not content to lean to heavily on the situation itself (the drunken 'male ingenue') but worked tirelessly to make sure all the subtleties were there.

The dirge-like quartet wherein the group meditates on what they were sure was Herring's death was appropriately weighty, an emotional counterpoint to all the levity. The audience is posed with a difficult quandary: do we laugh, knowing as we do that Albert is perfectly fine, or grieve with those who are sure that he has died? As a whole, the singers demonstrated a real sensitivity, and a natural feeling for the odd, intoxicating textual underlay that singing Britten demands.

Portland State University Opera always delivers a high-quality product in which it seems everyone is giving every ounce to the performance, and the sum feels greater than the marvelous parts. Albert Herring was no exception.

Today's Birthdays

Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973)
George Perle (1915-2009)
Godfrey Ridout (1918-1984)
Murry Sidlin (1940)
Ghena Dimitrova (1941-2005)
Nathalie Stutzmann (1965)

and

Robert Peary (1856-1920)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Gaston Leroux (1868-1927)
Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
Orson Wells (1915-1985)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-1872)
Hans Pfizner (1869-1947)
Maria Caniglia (1905-1979)
Kurt Böhme (1908-1989)
Charles Rosen (1927-2012)
Mark Ermler (1932-2002)
Tammy Wynette (1942-1998)
Bunita Marcus (1952)
Cédric Tiberghien (1975)

and

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Nellie Bly (1864-1922)
Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
James Beard (1903-1985)
Kaye Gibbons (1960)

From the New Music Box:
On May 5, 1891, Walter Damrosch led the New York Philharmonic in the very first concert in the large auditorium at Carnegie Hall, now called Stern Auditorium. The program consisted entirely of European repertoire: Beethoven’s "Leonore Overture No. 3," Berlioz’s "Te Deum," Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky "Festival Coronation March" (with the composer making a guest appearance on the podium), the hymn "The Old One Hundred" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (then America's unofficial national anthem although the tune is that of the British anthem "God Save The Queen").

This was not actually the first concert in the building, however. On April 1, Liszt-pupil Franz Rummel had already given an all-European solo piano recital in the space that now holds Zankel Hall. The oldest known program for the third of Carnegie's stages, what is now called Weill Recital Hall, a chamber music concert produced by the Society for Ethical Culture, dates back to October 31, 1891 and included the song "At Twilight" by the American composer Ethelbert Nevin.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Marianne (Anna Katharina) von Martínez (1744-1812)
Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731)
Emil Nikolaus Von Reznicek (1860-1945)
Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960)
Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993)
Roberta Peters (1930)
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (1931)
Marisa Robles (1937)
Enrique Batiz (1942)
Peter Ware (1951)

and

Horace Mann (1796-1859)
Frederick Church (1826-1900)
Graham Swift (1949)
David Guterson (1956)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682)
Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844-1901)
Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
Bing Crosby (1903-1977)
Sir William Glock (1908-2000)
Léopold Simoneau (1916-2006)
Pete Seeger (1919-2014)
John Lewis (1920-2001_
James Brown (1933-2006)
Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012)

and

Niccol Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
May Sarton (1912-1995)
William Inge (1913-1973)
Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

From the New Music Box:
On May 3, 1943, William Schumann received the very first Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Secular Cantata No. 2 - A Free Song, a work published by G. Schirmer and premiered by the Harvard Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky on March 26, 1943.

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1971, debut broadcast of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" was made with an electronic theme by composer Don Voegeli of the University of Wisconsin (In 1974, Voegeli composed a new electronic ATC theme, the now-familiar signature tune of the program).

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
Jean‑Baptiste Barrière (1707-1747)
Ludwig August Lebrun (1752-1790)
Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)
Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843-1922)
Lorenz Hart (1894-1943)
Alan Rawstorne (1905-1971)
Jean‑Marie Auberson (1920-2004)
Arnold Black (1923-2000)
Philippe Herreweghe (1947)
Valery Gergiev (1953)
Elliot Goldenthal (1954)

and

Jerome K Jerome (1859-1927)
Dr. Benjamin Spock (1904-1998)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643)
William Lawes (1602-1645)
Sophia Dussek (1775-1831)
Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960)
Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)
Jón Leifs (1899-1968)
Walter Susskind (1913-1980)
Gary Bertini (1927-2005)
Judy Collins (1939)

and

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Joseph Heller (1923-1999)
Bobbie Ann Mason (1940)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Organ Symphony needs to pipe up - Kwak splendid in ethereal violin concerto

One of the biggest deficiencies of the Arlene Schnizter Concert Hall becomes fully evident whenever the Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 (the “Organ Symphony”) is on the program. The piece is famous for the organ’s entry in the second movement, when it should have a rich, full ring that just thunders, and makes you realize that it is the king of instruments. But the organ that Schnitz uses just can’t make such a statement no matter what the organist tries to do, and the Oregon Symphony had Douglas Schneider, one of the very finest organists in the Pacific Northwest at the keyboard for its concert on Saturday, April 21st for the Saint-Saëns spectacular. The organ’s sound was good enough for the gentle and hymn-like passages in the first movement, but it just couldn’t deliver the goods and make the bombastic announcement in the second. That was a shame. Still, Schneider powered up the volume for the triumphant finale, and that roused the audience to close out the evening.

Speaking of the finale, guest conductor Sascha Goetzel executed a crazy gesture to get that forte at the end of the piece by extending arm upward, leaning as far back as possible, then closing it like the jaws of some huge monster. The gesture worked, but it was also very surprising because for most of the concert Goetzel seemed to have his head buried in the score and didn’t communicate much of anything to the musicians. His performance on the podium was a mystery to me throughout the evening.

The other big piece on the program featured concertmaster Sarah Kwak in Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Kwak played the piece brilliantly, fashioning rich melodic lines that created a sense of the ethereal and ephemeral. Although most of the tones were in the upper register of her instrument, including a lovely high-wire passage, she also excelled in the lower register. The orchestra played with terrific articulation to match Kwak’s, but it could have held back its volume a tad more in order to let her sound come out more strongly.

The concert kicked off with Krenek’s “Potpourri,” a pieced that lived up to its name in every which way. It was a 17-minute sonic variety show that traveled through a number of different styles from unabashed orchestration that could have adorned a musical to a jaunty, Charleston-esque dance session, to a piano-infused church-like hymn, to a big Wagner-like passage, and a couple of Romantic bits thrown in. I missed a half a dozen more because they were so delightfully enticing and fleeting. The piece had one of the softest percussion sections that I have ever heard and a sparkly ending that featured principal trumpet Jeffrey Work and the trombones.

Today's Birthdays

Franz Lehár (1870-1948)
Louise Homer (1871-1947)
Frank Merrick (1886-1981)
Robert Shaw (1916-1999)
Günter Raphael (1903-1960)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939)
Garcia Navarro (1940-2002)
Vladimir Tarnopolsky (1955)

and

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967)
John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974)
Winfield Townley Scott (1910-1968)
Annie Dillard (1945)
Josip Novakovich (1955)

And from the New Music Box:

On April 30, 1932, the very first Yaddo Festival of Contemporary Music began in Saratoga Springs, NY. Works programmed that year included Aaron Copland's Piano Variations as well as piano works by Roger Sessions, Henry Brant, Vivian Fine and Roy Harris, songs by Charles Ives and Paul Bowles, string quartets by Marc Blitzstein and Louis Gruenberg, and a suite for unaccompanied flute by Wallingford Riegger

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)
Wallingford Riegger (1885-1961)
Sir Malcom Sargent (1895-1967)
Edward "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974)
Harold Shapero (1920-2013)
Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014)
Willie Nelson (1933)
Klaus Voormann (1938)
Leslie Howard (1948)
Eero Hämeenniemi (1951)
Gino Quilico (1955)

and

Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933)
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)
Robert Gottlieb (1931)
Yusef Komunyakaa (1947)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1906, Victor Herbert conducts a benefit concert at the Hippodrome in New York City for victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Today's Birthdays

John Jacob Niles (1892-1980)
Paul Sacher (1906-1999)
Margaret Vardell Sandresky (1921)
Zubin Mehta (1936)
Jeffrey Tate (1943)
Nicola LeFanu (1947)
Elise Ross (1947)
Michael Daugherty (1954)

and

James Monroe (1758-1831)
Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
Erich Salomon (1886-1944)
Robert Anderson (1917-2009)
Harper Lee (1926-2016)
Carolyn Forché (1950)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann Adam Reinken (1623-1722
Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883)
Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Nicolas Slonimsky (1894-1995)
Guido Cantelli (1920-1956)
Igor Oistrakh (1931)
Hamish Milne (1939)
Jon Deak (1943)
Christian Zacharias (1950)

and

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Samuel Morse (1791-1872)
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Ludwig Bemelmans(1898-1962)
C(ecil) Day Lewis (1904-1972)
Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)
August Wilson (1945-2005)

And from the former Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1667, the poet John Milton sold the copyright for his masterpiece, Paradise Lost, for 10 pounds. Milton had championed the cause of Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament over the king during the English Civil War, and published a series of radical pamphlets in support of such things as Puritanism, freedom of the press, divorce on the basis of incompatibility, and the execution of King Charles I. With the overthrow of the monarchy and the creation of the Commonwealth, Milton was named Secretary of Foreign Tongues, and though he eventually lost his eyesight, he was able to carry out his duties with the help of aides like fellow poet Andrew Marvell.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Milton was imprisoned as a traitor and stripped of his property. He was soon released, but was now impoverished as well as completely blind, and he spent the rest of his life secluded in a cottage in Buckinghamshire. This is where he dictated Paradise Lost — an epic poem about the Fall of Man, with Satan as a kind of antihero — and its sequel, Paradise Regained, about the temptation of Christ.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Erland von Koch (1910-2009)
Pierre Pierlot (1921-2007)
Teddy Edwards (1924-2003)
Wilma Lipp (1925)
Ewa Podleś (1952)
Patrizia Kwella (1953)

and

David Hume (1711-1776)
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Anita Loos (1889-1981)
Bernard Malamud (1914-1986)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Gottlieb Muffat (1690-1770)
Ella Fitzgerald (1918-1998)
Astrid Varnay (1918-2006)
Siegfried Palm (1927-2005)
Digby Fairweather (1946)
Truls Mørk (1961)

and

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)
Howard R. Garis (1873-1962)
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)
Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965)
David Shepherd (1931)
Ted Kooser (1939)
Padgett Powell (1952)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1841, at a fund-raising concert in Paris for the Beethoven monument to be erected in Bonn, Franz Liszt performs Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with Berlioz conducting. Richard Wagner reviews the concert for the Dresden Abendzeitung. The following day, Chopin gives one of his rare recitals at the Salle Pleyel, and Liszt writes a long and glowing review for the Parisian Gazette Musicale.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Report from the SHIFT Festival of American orchestras

Three colorful handkerchiefs from the SHIFT Festival

The SHIFT festival, a celebration of American orchestras at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., just completed its second year with four orchestras taking part in the weeklong festivities. I got the opportunity to hear three of the orchestras, because Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) held its annual meeting during the festival period (April 9-15). So I enjoyed three concerts at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall by the Albany Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra (I missed the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which performed earlier in the week).

The SHIFT festival, co-presented by the Washington Performing Arts and the Joh F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is very similar to the Spring for Music festival, which was held at Carnegie Hall from 2011-2014 in that the participating orchestras must fund their own way to the festivals and the main concert has a flat fee of $25 for all tickets. However, there are a couple of differences. The Spring for Music festival required that each orchestra sell 800 tickets for the concert whereas the SHIFT festival makes no such requirement. Also, the SHIFT festival asks that each orchestra give two or three “residency” performances in the Washington D.C. community. That does not mean that the entire orchestra has to play. It means that ensembles from the orchestra can do so.

On Thursday, April 12th, I heard the Albany Symphony’s new music ensemble, Dogs of Desire, give a residency performance at the Bind Whino SW Arts Center. The 18-member ensemble teamed up with vocalist Theo Bleckmann for an amplified jazz-blues-rock-pop-inflected cycle of songs by Kate Bush, Andrew Norman, Ted Hearne and others. Albany’s music director, David Allen Miller, conducted that sonic exploration as well as the entire orchestra on Wednesday, April 11th, at the Kennedy Center in a program of new works by Joan Tower, Michael Daugherty, Dorothy Chang, and Michael Torke. Pianist Joyce Yang was the featured soloist in Tower’s “Still/Rapids” and Torke’s “Three Manhattan Bridges.” Carol Jantsch, principal tubist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, took the spotlight in Daughtery’s “Reflections on the Mississippi” and three children’s choir collaborated with the instrumentalists to present Chang’s inspiring “The Mighty Erie Canal.”

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra took the stage at the Kennedy Center on Friday (April 13th) under the baton of its music director Krzysztof Urbanski, who chose a program of works from his native Poland. He started with a mesmerizing “Orawa” for string orchestra, based on Polish folk dance by Wojciech Kilar. Then things got deeper with an amazing performance by Alisa Wellerstein in Witold Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto, followed by Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Credo.” The Penderecki piece took up almost all of the real estate with a large orchestra, five soloists, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, and the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. The soloists, soprano Erin Wall, mezzos Renee Tatum and Alyssa Martin, tenor Thomas Cooley, and bass Liudas Mikalauskas, sang with commitment, but Cooley pushed his voice out of bounds on some high notes.

One of the best things about the National Symphony Orchestra’s concert was the number of youth in the audience. It looked like at least a third of those in attendance were in college or high school. Music director Gianandrea Noseda put together a tribute to the great Russian baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who had been originally scheduled for the concert. Each of Noseda’s selections had a strong Russian-Italian connection. First was Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” after Pergolesi with soprano Madison Leonard,tenor Rexford Tester, and bass Andrew Bogard. Next came Balakirev’s “Islamey” in the arrangement by Casella with a very-full-sized orchestra (8 bass violins) that sort of blurred the tones when the full contingent was going a top speed. That was followed by five of Rachmaninov’s “Etudes-Tableaux” in an arrangement by Respighi. The musicians excelled the most with the Rachmaninov, conveying sounds from the soothing seashore, a lively fair, a funeral march, a lively Little Red Riding Hood and a howling wolf, and a high-stepping march to wind things up.

For the reviews of these concert, I gladly refer you to those posted by my colleagues in the Classical Voice of North America.

In the meantime, the SHIFT Festival is going to take a year off and resume in 2019. Hmm... maybe the Oregon Symphony could make an appearance in the near future...



Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Martini (1706-1784)
Charles O'Connell (1900-1962)
Violet Archer (1913-2000)
John Williams (1941) - guitarist
Barbara Streisand (1942)
Norma Burrowes (1944)
Ole Edvard Antonsen (1962)
Augusta Read Thomas (1964)
Catrin Finch (1980)

and

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
Willem De Kooning (1904-1997)
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)
Stanley Kauffmann (1916-2013)
Sue Grafton (1940)
Clare Boylan (1948-2006)
Eric Bogosian (1953)
Judy Budnitz (1973)

From the former Writer's Almanac:
On this day in 1800, the Library of Congress was established. In a bill that provided for the transfer of the nation's capital from Philadelphia to Washington, Congress included a provision for a reference library containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress — and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein ..." The library was housed in the Capitol building, until British troops burned and pillaged it in 1814. Thomas Jefferson offered as a replacement his own personal library: nearly 6,500 books, the result of 50 years' worth of "putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science."

First opened to the public in 1897, the Library of Congress is now the largest library in the world. It houses more than 144 million items, including 33 million catalogued books in 460 languages; more than 63 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world's largest collection of films, legal materials, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521)
Andrea Luchesi (1741-1801)
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)
Arthur Farwell (1872-1952)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009)
Robert Moog (1934-2005)
Roy Orbison (1936-1988)
Joel Feigin (1951)

and

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
James Patrick (J. P.) Donleavy (1926)
Coleman Barks (1937)
Barry Hannah (1942-2010)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

From the former Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Roy Orbison (1936), born in Vernon, Texas. One day, during a songwriting session with his partner Bill Dees, Orbison asked his wife, Claudette Frady Orbison, if she needed any money for her upcoming trip to Nashville. Dees remarked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” Forty minutes later, Orbison’s most famous hit, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” had been written.

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1993, Morten Lauridsen's "Les Chanson des Roses"(five French poems by Rilke) for mixed chorus and piano was premiered by the Choral Cross-Ties ensemble of Portland, Ore., Bruce Browne conducting.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709)
Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
Eric Fenby (1906-1997)
Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953)
Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)
Charles Mingus 1922-1979)
Michael Colgrass (1932)
Jaroslav Krcek (1939)
Joshua Rifkin (1944)
Peter Frampton (1950)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste (1956)

and

Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
Louise Glück (1943)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 2001, the Philharmonic Hungarica gives its final concert in Düsseldorf. The orchestra was founded by Hungarian musicians who fled to West Germany after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. For London/Decca Records the Philharmonic Hungarica made the first complete set of all of Haydn's symphonies under the baton of its honorary president, the Hungarian-American conductor Antal Dorati.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Randall Thompson (1899-1984)
Leonard Warren (1911-1960)
Bruno Maderna (1920-1973)
Locksley Wellington 'Slide' Hampton (1932)
Easley Blackwood (1933) Lionel Rogg (1936)
John McCabe (1939-2015)
Iggy Pop (1947)
Richard Bernas (1950)
Melissa Hui (1966)

and

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
John Muir (1838-1914)
Elaine May (1932)
Nell Freudenberger (1975)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1937, Copland's play-opera for high school "The Second Hurricane," was premiered at the Grand Street Playhouse in New York City, with soloists from the Professional Children's School, members of the Henry Street Settlement adult chorus, and the Seward High School student chorus, with Lehman Engle conducting and Orson Welles directing the staged production. One professional adult actor, Joseph Cotten, also participated (He was paid $10).

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bach's Mass in B Minor reaches heavenward in Trinity Music and PBO performance

Guest review by Phillip Ayers

What a joy it was to be in attendance at the first performance of the “Bach B Minor” that Trinity Music and the Portland Baroque Orchestra performed on Friday (April 13). Trinity Cathedral was packed to the brim. It would be interesting to find out from attendees what, exactly, were their reasons for being there. As Canon Matthew Lawrence remarked in his opening welcome, “This is a sacred space.” And sacred spaces are for anyone. All are welcome! So, whether or not this was a “spiritual” experience, as it certainly was for me, or not, it was an honor to be with all the others Friday.

This monumental work was presented with an intermission, which no doubt was a practical consideration; but I would have preferred an uninterrupted performance. Sure, it would be a long time in a sitting position, but the whole thing is “of a piece.” A few weeks ago, the Oregon Symphony performed Verdi’s "Requiem" without an intermission and I didn’t hear any complaints in the restroom afterwards!

The arrangement for a large-scale work such as this in a worship-space is problematical and this was coped with rather well. The soloists had to move forward from a side position when they sang, and members of the choir had to reposition themselves from their seats to where they would sing. But none of this was distracting. At first, I thought that moving the altar to one side, as it is for organ recitals sometimes, and having all the performers on the altar-level would have been better for the overall performance. But the acoustic is such that, if the choir are forward, the effect is better for the listener in the nave. Visibility of the performers was difficult as well. But, the altar stayed in place, thus emphasizing that the “B Minor,” concert-piece that it is, is very much a mystical, spiritual experience and calls for an appropriate setting.

Bruce Neswick, Canon for Cathedral Music at Trinity, introduced the performance and its conductor, David Hill, conductor of the Yale Schola Cantorum and the Bach Choir of London, as well as other distinguished positions in Leeds and Bournemouth. In doing so, Canon Neswick mentioned that it was a performance of the "Bach B Minor Mass" by the Bach Choir in 1847 that heralded the revival of this massive work.

For me, openings of large choral works always thrill and the opening of the Bach when the tenors begin the massive fugue in the Kyrie is no exception. It reminds me of the opening of the "Mozart Requiem" with the clarinet’s pungent introduction to the choral exclamations of Requiem aeternam and Kyrie. I sat mesmerized and almost in tears. The careful enunciation of the text, taken up by the altos, then the first sopranos, then the second sopranos, and finally the basses, etched an indelible impression upon me.

The care that singers and players gave to the entire production was admirable, and many things stand out. First, the singers: all five soloists were outstanding. The two sopranos, Trinity’s own Arwen Myers and Estelí Gomez sparkled especially in their duet in Christe eleison, German tenor Nils Neubert shone in the Benedictus and the bass Jesse Blumberg stood in the pulpit for Quoniam tu solus sanctus, declaiming the Most High in an expressive fashion. He also executed the wide range necessary to sing Et in Spiritum Sanctum in the Credo. Countertenor Daniel Moody’s crisp, clear (and high!) blessed instrument rang out in all of his arias. The whole ensemble alternated with the choir, providing a wonderful contrast in two places in the score.

Members of the Portland Baroque Orchestra were at their best, accompanying the Trinity Choir and the soloists, carefully tuning often. The solo violin (Carla Moore) in Laudamus te, playing 32nd notes with great ease, was a complement to the excellent singing of the soprano. Janet See, playing a wooden transverse flute, stood out in the Benedictus. But the surprise of the evening was hearing—and seeing—Andrew Clark play a corno da caccia in the Quoniam. This remarkable instrument has a bell that seems like it is a mile from the rest of the horn, and Clark played from memory using only his embouchure (lips, as there are no valves) to bring off this difficult music.

As a choir singer myself, I’m always on the lookout for how a choir works with a conductor, particularly one who is a guest, such as Mr Hill. The choir was expertly prepared by Canon Neswick and his assistants, Christopher Lynch and Arwen Myers (one of the soprano soloists) well in advance of this performance. Hill had only three rehearsals last week before the first performance to bring his particular skill and expertise to the group, and the final result was stupendous. It was noticeable that a few times the conductor pointed to his eye as though to signal the chorus to watch him more closely, and a few singers were careful about that. However, having sung this work before, I would have to say, “This is a lot of music!” It is also complex and requires the utmost in attentiveness to notes, dynamics, shaping of sound, and the conductor’s requirements. So, noses in music result! It must also be said that this choir is made up of both professional singers, many of whom are salaried, and “your regular amateur” singer. (Remember that “amateur” means “lover.”) Also, the choir had just come off of a heavy Holy Week and Easter schedule, singing for all the liturgies that go with it.

A small omission in the program was that of the organists’ names who played with the continuo: none other than Bruce Neswick and Chris Lynch.

Two outstanding moments come immediately to mind to acknowledge the choir’s hard work: (1) Crucifixus was stunningly sung, the ending quietly elegant; (2) Dona nobis pacem at the work’s conclusion was glorious. During this movement, I was immediately reminded of two recent events, one global and the other local. The global: President Trump’s announcement that very day (Friday) of the missile strikes in Syria; the local: carrying my sign at the March 24 anti-gun demonstration downtown which read: “Dona Nobis Pacem!” Give us peace, now and always!

Today's Birthdays

Nikolai Miaskovsky (1881-1950)
Lionel Hampton (1908-2002)
Christopher Robinson (1936)
John Eliot Gardiner (1943)
Robert Kyr (1952)

and

Pietro Aretino (1492-1556)
Harold Lloyd (1893-1971)
Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Sebastian Faulks (1953)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, in Paris, the first public demonstration of an electronic instrument invented by Maurice Martenot called the "Ondes musicales" took place. The instrument later came to be called the "Ondes Martenot," and was included in scores by Milhaud, Messiaen, Jolivet, Ibert, Honegger, Florent Schmitt and other 20th century composers.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Alexandre Pierre François Boëly (1785-1858)
Max von Schillings (1868-1933)
Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)
Ruben Gonzalez (1919-2003)
Dudley Moore (1935-2002)
Bernhard Klee (1936)
Kenneth Riegel (1938)
Jonathan Tunick (1938)
David Fanshawe (1942-2010)
Murray Perahia (1947)
Yan-Pascal Tortelier (1947)
Natalie Dessay (1965)

and

Sarah Kemble Knight (1666-1727)
Etheridge Knight (1931-1991)
Sharon Pollock (1936)
Stanley Fish (1938)

and from the New Music Box:

On April 19, 1775, William Billings and Supply Belcher, two of the earliest American composers who at the time were serving as Minutemen (militia members in the American Revolutionary War who had undertaken to turn out for service at a minute's notice), marched to Cambridge immediately after receiving an alarm from Lexington about an impending armed engagement with the British.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)
Franz von Suppé (1819-1895)
Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995)
Sylvia Fisher (1910-1996)
Penelope Thwaites (1944)
Catherine Maltfitano (1948)

and

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
Bob Kaufman (1925-1986)
Susan Faludi (1959)

Also a historical tidbit from (the former) Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1906 an earthquake struck San Francisco. The earthquake began at 5:12 a.m. and lasted for a little over a minute. The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso had performed at San Francisco's Grand Opera House the night before, and he woke up in his bed as the Palace Hotel was falling down around him. He stumbled out into the street, and because he was terrified that that shock might have ruined his voice, he began singing. Nearly 3,000 people died.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729)
Jan Václav Tomášek (1774-1850)
Artur Schnabel (1882-1951)
Maggie Teyte (1888-1976)
Harald Saeverud (1897-1992)
Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976)
Pamela Bowden (1925-2003)
James Last (1929-2015)
Anja Silja (1940)
Siegfried Jerusalem (1940)
Cristina Ortiz (1950)

and

Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen (1885-1962)
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
Brendan Kennelly (1936)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1906 - on tour in San Francisco with the Metropolitan Opera touring company, the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso sings a performance of Bizet's "Carmen" the day before the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Federico Mompou (1893-1987)
Mischa Mischakov (1895-1981)
Henry Mancini (1924-1994)
Herbie Mann (1930-2003)
Dusty Springfield (1939-1999)
Stephen Pruslin (1940)
Leo Nucci (1942)
Richard Bradshaw (1944-2007)
Dennis Russell Davis (1944)
Peteris Vasks (1946)

and

John Millington Synge (1871-1909)
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)
Sir Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
Carol Bly (1930-2007)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The magical and the idyllic evoked in Oregon Symphony concert

One of the best things about the Oregon Symphony concert on Saturday evening (April 7) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was how well John Corigilano’s percussion concerto, “Conjurer,” complimented Maurice Ravel’s ballet music, “Daphnis and Chloe.” The Corigliano piece, featuring the orchestra’s artist in residence, Colin Currie, was remarkably subtle and soft, which allowed the Ravel to be more expansive yet maintains its refined character.

Corigilano divided “Conjurer” into three movements defined by types of percussion instruments. The first, “Wood,” offered an array of pitched wood instruments such as the marimba, xylophone, and wood blocks that Currie tapped, struck, hammered, prodded, and scratched. The assortment of tones, separated at times by brief pauses, worked especially well against the string accompaniment.

In the second movement, “Metal,” Currie created a layered web of sounds by playing the vibraphone, cymbals, tubular bells, and tam-tams (gongs). The notes seemed to lengthen and then decay into a contemplative and almost static stance. The third, “Skin” involved several drums, including timpani and a big bass drum that Currie played with his hands rather than with drumsticks. Accented with kick drum and sporadically charged up by the orchestral brass, the music became stirred up before it all subsided and settled down with little pauses to almost mirror the beginning, as if coming out of nowhere.

Unlike previous percussion concertos, Currie didn’t have to dash between the large setups of instruments. Between the first and second movements he seemed to move in slow motion from on percussion battery to the next while Music Director Carlos Kalmar kept conducting, and that caused some chuckling from the audience.

The orchestra has performed the suite from “Daphnis and Chloe” many times, but the concert marked the first time that it chose to do the entire hour-long ballet. Because the music tells a idyllic love story of a shepherd and shepherdess (with some pirates tossed in), it would have been advantageous to have some supertitles to indicate each movement. Otherwise, it was easy to close one’s eyes and ride the sonic ebb and flow and picture a seascape with birds flying about. But Ravel did have the story in mind, and the sensuous arabesques of sound were nonetheless deftly delivered by the orchestra, including a wonderfully effective wind machine (aeoliphone) in the percussion section and choruses from Portland State University (prepared by Ethan Sperry).

Aside from the lush and gorgeous sound of the orchestra, high points included the “Grotesque Dance of Darcon,” which had a wonderfully odd wa-wa from a trio of trombones. Another point was the percussive slap that shot over the orchestra to signal the abduction of Chloe. Virtuosic playing from Concertmaster Sarah Kwak, and principals in the woodwinds and brass added to the enchantment. Overall, the strings shimmered, the myriad of ascending and descending lines flowed like a rushing stream, and the final sonic abandon brought the piece to a fantastic conclusion.

The choruses, consisting of the Portland State Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina, were confined to the loft area behind the orchestra, which was disadvantageous, because their sound, while blending nicely with the instrumentalists didn’t have a lot of volume or intensity. More singers would have given the performance the requisite sonic weight to make the evening more memorable.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)
Karl Alwin (1891-1945)
Bessie Smith (1894-1937)
Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016)
John Wilbraham (1944-1998)
Michael Kamen (1948-2003)
Lara St. John (1971)

and

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Henry James (1843-1916)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1931, Copland's "A Dance Symphony," was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. This work incorporates material from Copland's 1923 ballet"Grohg," which had not been produced. The symphony was one the winners of the 1929 Victor Talking Machine Company Competition Prize. The judges of the competition decided that none of the submitted works deserved the full $25,000 prize, so they awarded $5000 each to four composers, including Copland, Ernest Bloch, and Louis Gruenberg, and gave $10,000 to Robert Russell Bennett (who had submitted two works).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Jean Fournet (1913-2008)
Paavo Berglund (1929-2012)
Morton Subotnick (1933)
Loretta Lynn (1935)
Claude Vivier (1948-1983)
John Wallace (1949)
Julian Lloyd Webber (1951)
Barbara Bonney (1956)
Mikhail Pletnev (1957)
Jason Lai (1974)

and

Christian Huygens (1629-1695)
Arnold Toynbee (1853-1882)
Anton Wildgans (1881-1932)
Tina Rosenberg (1960)

From the former Writer's Almanac:

It's the legal birthday of the modern printing press, which William Bullock patented on this day in 1863 in Baltimore. His invention was the first rotary printing press to self-feed the paper, print on both sides, and count its own progress — meaning that newspapers, which had until then relied on an operator manually feeding individual sheets of paper into a press, could suddenly increase their publication exponentially.

The Cincinnati Times was likely the very first to use a Bullock press, with the New York Sun installing one soon after. Bullock was installing a press for The Philadelphia Press when he kicked at a mechanism; his foot got caught, his leg was crushed, and he died a few days later during surgery to amputate. His press went on to revolutionize the newspaper business.