Friday, December 14, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Preview of Vancouver Symphony holiday concert in The Columbian

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

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the Writer's Almanac:

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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, December 3, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

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

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Today's Birthdays

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