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 Duke 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)