Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Caroline Miolan‑Carvalho (1827-1895)
Ernest John Moeran (1894-1950)
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940)
Nathan Milstein (1904-1992)
Jule Styne (1925-1994)
Jaap Schröder (1925)
Odetta (1930-2008)
Stephen Cleobury (1948)
Donna Summer (1948-2012)
Jennifer Higdon (1962)

and

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Nicholas Sparks (1965)
Junot Díaz (1968)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

William Croft (1678-1727)
André Messager (1853-1929)
Joseph Bohuslav Foerster (1859-1951)
Alfred Einstein (1880-1952)
Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904-1987)
Paul Bowles (1910-1999)
Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015)
Bo Diddley (1928-2008)
Bruno Canino (1935)
June Anderson (1950)
Stephen Jaffe (1954)
Antonio Pappano (1959)

and

Theodor Fontane (1819-1898)
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
Sara Lidman (1923-2004)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1879 was the premiere of Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta "The Pirates of Penzance," in Paignton at the Royal Bijou (partial preview to insure British copyright). The first full performance of the new work occurred at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York City the following day, with Sullivan conducting and Gilbert in attendance. The New York premiere was arranged to register American copyright of the new work and pre-empt unauthorized "pirate" productions in the U.S.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Tomás Bretón (1850-1923)
Pablo Casals (1876-1973)
Lionel Tertis (1876-1975)
Yves Nat (1890-1956)
Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990)
Billy Tipton (1914-1989)

and

William Gaddis (1922-1998)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1903 took place the first concert by the Seattle Symphony at Christensen's Hall in Seattle under the baton of violinist Harry F. West. The program includes music of Massenet, Bruch, Schubert and Rossini.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Christian Cannabich (1731-1798)
Julius Rietz (1812-1877)
B. J. Lang (1837-1909)
Francesco Tamagno (1850-1905)
Roger Sessions (1896-1985)
Earl "Fatha" Hines (1905-1983)
Johnny Otis (1921-2012)
Nigel Kennedy (1956)

and

Charles Portis (1933)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir John Goss (1800-1880)
Tito Schipa (1888-1965)
Marlene Dietrich (1904-1992)
Oscar Levant (1906-1972)

and

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Charles Olson (1910-1970)
Wilfrid Sheed (1930-2011)
Chris Abani (1966)
Sarah Vowell (1969)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1841, Franz Liszt performs at the Singakademie in Berlin. Women swooned and the general audience reacts with such uncontrolled enthusiasm that Heinrich Heine coins the term "Lisztomania" to describe their fanatical devotion to the performer, which soon swept through most of Europe.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Maurice Gendron (1920-1990)
Thea King (1925-2007)
Earle Brown (1926-2002)
Phil Specter (1940)
Wayland Rogers (1941)
Harry Christophers (1953)
Andre-Michel Schub (1953)

and

Thomas Gray (1716-1771)
Henry Miller (1891-1980)
Jean Toomer (1894-1867)
Juan Felipe Herrera (1948)
David Sedaris (1958)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Merry Christmas from the Poppyhead Choir!

Jean‑Joseph de Mondonville (1711-1772)
Chevalier de Saint‑George (1745-1799)
Cosima Wagner (1837-1930)
Lina Cavalieri (1874-1944)
Giuseppe de Luca (1876-1950)
Gladys Swarthout (1900-1969)
Cab Calloway (1907-1994)
Noël Lee (1924-2013)
Noel Redding (1945-2003)
Jon Kimura Parker (1959)
Ian Bostridge (1964)

and

Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855)
Clara Barton (1821-1912)
Rod Serling (1924-1975)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Peter Cornelius (1824-1874)
Nikolai Roslavets (1881-1944)
Lucrezia Bori (1887-1960)
Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946)
Sir Vivian Dunn (1908-1995)
Teresa Stich-Randall (1927-2007)
Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008)
Arnold Östman (1939)
Libby Larsen (1950)
Hans-Jürgen von Bose (1953)

and

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
Dana Gioia (1950)

and from The Writer's Almanac

Today is Christmas Eve. One of the best modern Christmas Eve stories is a true one, and it happened in 1914, in the trenches of World War I. The “war to end all wars” was raging, but German and British soldiers had been engaging in unofficial ceasefires since mid-December. The British High Command was alarmed, and warned officers that fraternization across enemy lines might result in a decreased desire to fight. On the German side, Christmas trees were trucked in and candles lit, and on that Christmas Eve in 1914, strains of Stille Nacht — “Silent Night” — reached the ears of British soldiers. They joined in, and both sides raised candles and lanterns up above their parapets. When the song was done, a German soldier called out, “Tomorrow is Christmas; if you don’t fight, we won’t.”

The next day dawned without the sound of gunfire. The Germans sent over some beer, and the Brits sent plum pudding. Enemies met in no man’s land, exchanging handshakes and small gifts. Someone kicked in a soccer ball, and a chaotic match ensued. Details about this legendary football match vary, and no one knows for sure exactly where it took place, but everyone agrees that the Germans won by a score of three to two.

At 8:30 a.m. on December 26, after one last Christmas greeting, hostilities resumed. But the story is still told, in a thousand different versions from up and down the Western Front, more than a century later.

On Christmas Eve in 1906, the first radio program was broadcast. Canadian-born Professor Reginald Aubrey Fessenden sent his signals from the 420-foot radio tower of the National Electric Signaling Company, at Brant Rock on the Massachusetts seacoast. Fessenden opened the program by playing “O Holy Night” on the violin. Later he recited verses from the Gospel of St. Luke, then broadcast a gramophone version of Handel’s “Largo.” His signal was received up to five miles away.

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1920, the last operatic appearance ever of the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso took place in an evening performance of Halevy's "La Juive" (The Jewess) at the old Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Caruso would die in Naples (where he made his operatic debut on March 15, 1895) at the age of 48 on August 2, 1921.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Boismortier (1689-1755)
Ross Lee Finney (1906-1997)
Claudio Scimone (1934-2018)
Ross Edwards (1943)
Edita Gruberová (1946)
Elise Kermani (1960)
Han-Na Chang (1982)

and

Harriet Monroe (1860-1936)
Norman Maclean (1902–1990)
Robert Bly (1926)
Carol Ann Duffy (1955)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1989, Leonard Bernstein led the first of two public performances of Beethoven's Ninth at the Philharmonie in West Berlin, with an international orchestra assembled to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The second performance occurred on December 25 at the Schauspielhaus in East Berlin.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787)
Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889)
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Franz Schmidt (1874-1939)
Edgard Varèse(1883-1965)
Joseph Deems Taylor (1885-1966)
Alan Bush (1900-1995)
Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980)
David Leisner (1953)
Jean Rigby (1954)
Zhou Tian (1981)

and

Jean Racine (1639-1699)
Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982)
Donald Harrington (1935-2009)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900)
André Turp (1925-1991)
Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
Roger Lasher Nortman (1941)
Michael Tilson Thomas (1944)
András Schiff (1953)
Kim Cascone (1955)
Thomas Randle (1958)
Jonathan Cole (1970)

and

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Maud Gonne (1866-1953)
Edward Hoagland (1932)

Friday, December 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henry Hadley (1871-1937)
Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
Gordon Getty (1933)
John Harbison (1938)
Roger Woodward (1942)
Mitsuko Uchida (1948)

and

Elizabeth Benedict (1954)
Sandra Cisneros (1954)
Nalo Hopkinson (1960)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Louis‑Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749)
George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898)
Fritz Reiner (1885-1963)
Paul Dessau (1894-1979)
Edith Piaf (1915-1963)
Dalton Baldwin (1931)
Phil Ochs (1940-1976)
William Christie (1944)
Marianne Faithfull (1946)
Olaf Bär (1957)
Steven Esserlis (1958)
Rebecca Saunders (1967)

and

Italo Svevo (1861-1928)
Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of French chanteuse Édith Piaf (1915). Piaf was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, on the outskirts of Paris. Her mother was a café singer and a drug addict, and her father was a street performer who specialized in acrobatics and contortionism. Neither of them particularly cared for Piaf, so she mostly grew up with her grandmother, who ran a brothel. Piaf was looked after by prostitutes and later claimed that she was blind from the ages of three to seven because of keratitis, or malnutrition, though this was never proved.

Her father reclaimed her when she was nine and Piaf began singing with him on street corners until he abandoned her again. She lived in shoddy hotel rooms in the red-light district of Paris and sang in a seedy café called Lulu’s, making friends with pimps, hookers, lowlifes, and gamblers, until she was discovered by an older man named Louis Leplée.

Leplée ran a nightclub off the Champs-Élysées. He renamed Piaf La Môme Piaf, “The Little Sparrow,” dressed her entirely in black, and set her loose on the stage. Piaf was a hit, and recorded two albums in one year, becoming one of the most popular performers in France during World War II.

Édith Piaf died on the French Riviera at the age of 47. More than 40,000 people came to her funeral procession. Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Karachkina named a small planet after Piaf; it’s called 3772 Piaf. Her songs have been covered by Madonna, Grace Jones, and even Donna Summer.

Édith Piaf’s last words were, “Every damn thing you do in this life, you have to pay for.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

VSO goes into overtime at its classical holiday concert

Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. That was the case at the Vancouver Symphony’s concert (December 15) at Skyview Concert Hall, when the program of holiday treats became too much. The suite from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, featuring the Columbia Dance Company, the selection of classical Christmas numbers sung by Charlotte Pistor, and the orchestral arrangement of seasonal tunes went well. But the Johann Strauss Jr. numbers needed a little more zip, and the addition of four more pieces as encores tested everyone’s endurance.

At last year’s holiday concert, Columbia Dance, a training academy for young dancers, made a terrific splash with selections from Swan Lake. This time around, the ladies scored another hit, dancing to Suite No. 1 from The Nutcracker, showing poise and focus as they made exceptional use of the narrow area in front of the orchestra. A supple ballerina created an elegant Sugar-Plum Fairy. Two very young girls cavorted about in the Chinese Dance. The most dramatic entry came at the beginning of the Arabian dance when four girls entered, carrying another dancer who stood on top of a platform. An ensemble made strikingly graceful poses during graceful the Dance of the Reed-Pipes, and a bevy of lissome young ladies fashioned delightful tableaus while dancing to the Waltz of the Flowers. Kudos to the company’s artistic director, Becky Moore, for the marvelous choreography.

Soprano Charlotte Pistor sang three gorgeous pieces: the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria,” Pietro Yon’s Gesu Bambino, and Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night. I liked her performance of O Holy Night the best, because I could hear her voice much more clearly. Brotons allowed the orchestra to play too loudly during the first two pieces, which was a shame because Pistor posses a beautiful instrument with a radiant top. This also happened during the first encore, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” There was no such problem when she sang Silent Night because she was accompanied only by a guitarist, in homage to its first performance 201 years ago.

The orchestra got on a roll with “Around the World at Christmas Time,” an arrangement of Christmas carols and The Hanukkah Song by Bruce Chase. Strauss’ “Thunder and Lightning Polka” was also given a good whirl, but it didn’t need the extra shenanigans of a fellow running around in a raincoat and an umbrella. The Overture to Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra” (The Thieving Magpie) piped along nicely. But Strauss’ “Vienna Blood Waltz” and “Blue Danube Waltz” dragged a bit too much.

Julie Anderson, who was the highest bidder at the orchestra’s gala auction, made an excellent guest conductor appearance by leading the musicians in a spirited performance of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride." At one point she even hopped about the podium which reminded me a bit of Brotons.

Brotons and the orchestra closed out the evening with an energetic performance of Johann Strauss Sr.’s Radetzky March. Brotons enthusiastically got the audience involved in the rhythmic clapping. It was a great way to generate enthusiasm at the end of the evening.

Today's Birthdays

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Edward MacDowell (1860-1908)
Fletcher Henderson (1897-1952)
Rita Streich (1920-1987)
William Boughton (1948)
David Liptak (1949)
Christopher Theofanidis (1967)

and

Saki - H. H. Munro (1870-1916)
Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Christopher Fry (1907-2005)
Abe Burrows (1910-1985)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979)
Ray Noble (1903-1975)
Art Neville (1937)

and

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939)
William Safire (1929-2009)
John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It's the day that The Nutcracker ballet was performed for the first time in St. Petersburg, Russia (1892). Czar Alexander III, in the audience, loved the ballet, but the critics hated it. Tchaikovsky wrote that the opera that came before The Nutcracker "was evidently very well liked, the ballet not. ... The papers, as always, reviled me cruelly." Tchaikovsky died of cholera less than a year later, before The Nutcracker became an international success.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Boismortier (1689-1755)
Ross Lee Finney (1906-1997)
Claudio Scimone (1934-2018)
Ross Edwards (1943)
Edita Gruberová (1946)
Elise Kermani (1960)
Han-Na Chang (1982)

and

Harriet Monroe (1860-1936)
Norman Maclean (1902–1990)
Robert Bly (1926)
Carol Ann Duffy (1955)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1989, Leonard Bernstein led the first of two public performances of Beethoven's Ninth at the Philharmonie in West Berlin, with an international orchestra assembled to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The second performance occurred on December 25 at the Schauspielhaus in East Berlin.

Today's Birthdays

François Adrien Boieldieu (1775-1834)
Augusta Holmès (1847-1903)
Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)
Turk Murphy (1915-1987)
Steve Allen (1921-2000)
Dame Thea King (1925-2007)
Alice Parker (1925)
Kenneth Gilbert (1931)
Rodion Shchedrin (1932)
Philip Langridge (1939-2010)
Trevor Pinnock (1946)
Isabelle van Keulen (1966)

and

Jane Austin (1775-1817)
George Santayana (1863-1952)
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Sir Noel Coward (1899-1973)
Noël Coward (1899-1973)
V. S. Pritchett (1900-1997)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

OSO concert juxtaposes melancholic songs with vigorous Prokofiev

The Oregon Symphony’s concert (December 7) featuring Danish conductor Christian Kluxen and newly orchestrated works by pianist-singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane offered a lot of interesting contrasts. Kahane’s pieces presented a somber and melancholic world view while Kluxen in his conducting of Sergei Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony unleashed a wildly exuberant one. Consequently, the audience at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall reacted warmly and politely to Kahane’s pieces but enthusiastically jumped to their collective feet at the end of the Prokofiev. Perhaps a slight change in programming might have evened things out a bit, however, that’s how the evening went down.

Kahane scored a big hit when he collaborated with the orchestra to perform his emergency shelter intake form in May of 2018. It resulted in a recording of that piece with the orchestra, which will be released next year, and in his being appointed to the orchestra’s first Creative Chair. According to the Symphony’s president and CEO, Scott Showalter, Kahane has wasted no time embracing the Creative Chair position by visiting various organizations as an ambassador for the orchestra.

Kahane also brought an orchestrated score for a cycle of songs from his Book of Travelers, which he originally wrote for piano and voice after the 2016 election, crisscrossing the United States on Amtrak. So, the Oregon Symphony, with Kahane at the piano and Kluxen on the podium, played the world premiere of Pattern of the Rail: Six Orchestral Songs from Book of Travelers.

After a brief orchestra introduction that hinted at a train-like rhythm, Kahane, singing into a microphone that was perched on the piano, launched into his first tune, “Baedeker,” giving us a slice of the famous guidebook yet etching it with apprehension and a feeling of being lost. The following sequence of songs: “Model Trains,” “Baltimore,” “Friends of Friends of Bill,” and “What If I Told You” gave a poetic synopsis of conversations that Kahane had with strangers on the train. Loss, despair, and fear were their main themes, and they were tied together with the final number, “Oct 1, 1939/Port of Hamburg,” which drew on Kahane’s Jewish grandmother who fled Nazi Germany.

As Kahane delivered an amazing amount of text from memory, his light-tenor voice darted all over the map with amazing agility. His style was that of a modern troubadour, who sang words of caution about our culture. The text was printed in the program, but they were difficult to read in the dim light of the hall. The orchestra added texture with word-painting sounds: siren-like violins, marching brass, and breezy woodwinds.

Picking up an electric guitar, Kahane and the orchestra performed his Empire Liquor Mart, which poetically related the tragedy of Latasha Harlins, who died while trying to purchase a bottle of orange juice about two weeks after the Rodney King beating. Harlins was 15 years old. It was moving, but perhaps Kahane could have done an upbeat piece instead. In any case, he followed it by returning to the piano and singing a wistful and poignant encore “Little Love,” which is also from his Book of Travelers.

Kluxen and the orchestra gave a thoroughly electrifying performance of Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Bright trumpets, a striking line for the clarinets (including the bass clarinet), the threatening sound from the bass drum and timpani, and a roaring, big finish to the first movement took the audience’s breath away. The second had a wonderful nervous energy accented with crisp attacks by the strings and a thrilling cascade of sound near the end. The lower brass section established an ominous and forlorn feeling with the tuba (JáTtik Clark) reaching into the depths. A serene melody from the strings led to dramatic statements that faded away. The fourth movement featured a wonderful gnawing sound from the violas, a spirited clarinet solo (James Shields), and a gripping, propulsive, stemwinder of a finale that brought everyone out of their seats. It was a magical moment for the orchestra which (by not standing) allowed the thunderous acclamation to shower the conductor.

It should be noted that Kluxen and the orchestra opened the concert with an incisive performance of Beethoven’s Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus. The punchy beginning, the fleet phrasing of the strings, and the vigorous ending flew by quickly, making an excellent impression as well.

Since this is Kalmar’s last year as music director, the orchestra has brought in a number of very talented young conductors. Kluxen, who in his witty opening remarks said “I am from Denmark, the southern most region of Greenland,” made his U.S. debut with this concert. He is the music director of the Victoria Symphony (Canada) and the chief conductor of the Arctic Philharmonic (Norway). He has a terrific way of letting the orchestra breathe and express the music. Hopefully he will be back again!

Today's Birthdays

Michel‑Richard Delalande (1657-1726)
Lotte Schöne (1891-1981)
Stan Kenton (1911-1979)
Ida Haendel (1924)
Eddie Palmieri (1936)
Nigel Robson (1948)
Jan Latham-Koenig (1953)

and

Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (1859-1917)
Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959)
Freeman Dyson (1923)
Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000)
Edna O'Brien (1930)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

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)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Preview of the VSO's holiday concert in The Columbian newspaper

In today's edition of The Columbian newspaper, you'll find my preview of the Vancouver Symphony's holiday concert with special guests from Columbia Dance (which will present selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and soprano Charlotte Pistor. I hope that you will enjoy reading the article. The online version of the article is available here.

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.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

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)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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".

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Today's Birthday

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.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

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)

Saturday, December 7, 2019

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)

Friday, December 6, 2019

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)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

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."

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

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)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

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)

Monday, December 2, 2019

PSU Opera’s “Mirror Game” reflects gender bias and distorted values in hi tech world

Left to right: Lydia O'Brien, Eric Olson, Maeve Stier, Avesta Mirashrafi, Madeleine Tran
Inspired by the Me Too movement and the quick rise and fall of charismatic Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, Mirror Game, a brand new opera commissioned by PSU Opera and presented on November 29 in Lincoln Hall Studio Theater, touched and torched many issues that affect women in world of hi tech. Set in a Silicon Valley company that produces video games, Mirror Game, written by composer Celka Ojakangas with librettist Amy Punt, can be seen as a cautionary tale for women and basically anyone who uses deception to achieve “success.”

Delivered in 80 minutes without intermission, Mirror Game, covered a lot of territory and suffered just a tad because it sped by at a fast pace. Yet, the skillful directions of Kristine McIntyre worked well with a strong cast led by Maeve Stier in the central role of Cybil, a coder who schemes her way to the top of her company, running over her colleagues and her lover in the process. In the final scene, Cybil’s perfidy is exposed to her colleagues and the general public, and she is left alone.

Like many cautionary tales, everything starts innocently enough. In Mirror Game, we follow Cybil and fellow coders Melody and Olivia, all of whom have enough gaming prowess to be accepted into a male-dominated team at a startup in Silicon Valley. Opportunities to be a “team player” require each woman to go along with the sexualized overtures of the CEO Rohm, and to a lesser extent Tony, the team’s manager. Cybil learns how to play along, but she then rejects her lover, Olivia. Cybil develops a marketing strategy for her company’s video game. That morphs into selling the game as a way for girls to become free of bullying. The success of Cybil’s new strategy propels her ahead, and her own machinations bring her to break into Rohm’s computer. Events turn quickly so that Rohm is disgraced and Cybil promoted to CEO. But then the company finds that she has trolled herself online and created a totally false impression.

Brilliant acting and singing by Maeve Stier created a totally captivating Cybil with an impressive palette of emotions that included pouting, charming, and scheming. Lydia O’Brien’s Olivia gripped us with her anguish. Madeleine Tran was playfully rambunctious in the role of Melody. Eric Olson created an earnest Tony, who fell for Cybil and was crushed after he learned of her deception. Avesta Mirashrafi had plenty of swagger to make Rohm a believable playboy-like CEO. Wyatt Jackson distinguished himself as the Voice. Music director and pianist Chuck Dillard had the right touch for the singers.

Ojakangas’s score for electronic piano and synthesized music evoked the gaming world with an agile, lightweight texture. The dialogs between characters were sung, and Ojakangas sprinkled in duets, trios, and ensemble numbers that worked well. She also included timely arias for the main characters, including a 60’s styled pop number that Tony sang.

Punt kept things moving at a fast pace and threw in references to the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, Amy Adams, and others along the way. Punt and Ojakangas made terrific use of the Pause button to create asides for Cybil to communicate her intimate thoughts. The Humiliation Half Life situations were also excellently conveyed.

Crisp stage directions by Kristine McIntyre enhanced the story and made good use of the sparse props, including a bench that barely accommodated a seduction scene between Cybil and Tony. The video projections by Kathy Maxwell were outstanding, with some suggesting the chaotic inner world of the characters, some imitating the gaming experience, and others displaying views of the Bay Area. A tip of the hat to costume designer Madeleine Beer, because Cybil changed her top to a black turtleneck sweater a la Elisabeth Holmes (who had a copied that style from Steve Jobs).

Mirror Game is an admirable opera that deserves more than one hearing. It will be interesting to find out how Ojakangas and Punt’s creation plays on other stages, especially if it is done in the Bay Area.

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 (1928-2019)

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.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

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)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Carl Loewe (1796-1869)
Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
Sergei Liapunov (1859-1924)
Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907)
Ture Rangström (1884-1947)
Ray Henderson (1896-1970)
Klaus Huber (1924-2017)
Gunther Herbig (1931)
Walter Weller (1939-2015)
Radu Lupu (1945)
Semyon Bychkov (1952)

and

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
L(ucy) M(aud) Montgomery (1874-1942)
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Jacques Barzun (1907-2012)
David Mamet (1947)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967)
John Brecknock (1937-2017)
Chuck Mangione (1940)
Louise Winter (1959)

and

Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Sibelius "The Tempest" brings drama to Oregon Symphony concert

My review of Sibelius' "The Tempest," presented by the Oregon Symphony and a troupe of expert actors lead by Tyrone Wilson, has been published in Classical Voice North America here.  I hope that you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Joe Cantrell for the photos.

Today's Birthdays

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
Pamela Harrison (1915-1990)
Berry Gordy Jr. (1929)
Randy Newman (1943)
Diedre Murray (1951)

and

John Bunyan (1628-1688)
William Blake (1757-1827)
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942)
Nancy Mitford (1904-1973)
Rita Mae Brown (1944)
Alan Lightman (1948)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-1678)
Anton Stamitz (1750-1798 or 1809)
Franz Krommer (1759-1831)
Sir Julian Benedict (1804-1885)
Viktor Ewald (1860-1935)
Charles Koechlin (1867-1950)
Leon Barzin (1900-1999)
Walter Klien (1928-1991)
Helmut Lachenmann (1935)
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
David Felder (1953)
Victoria Mullova (1959)
Hilary Hahn (1979)

and

Anders Celsius (1701-1744)
Charles Beard (1874–1948)
James Agee (1909-1955)
Marilyn Hacker (1942)
Bill Nye (1955)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Earl Wild (1915-2010)
Eugene Istomin (1925-2003)
Alan Stout (1932-2018)
John Sanders (1933-2003)
Craig Sheppard (1947)
Vivian Tierney (1957)
Spencer Topel (1979)

and

Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994)
Charles Schulz (1922-2000)
Marilynne Robinson (1943)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Franz Gruber (1785-1863)
Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991)
Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)
Paul Desmond (1924-1977)
Sir John Drummond (1934-2006)
Jean-Claude Malgoire (1940)
Håkan Hagegård (1945)
Yvonne Kenny (1950)
Gilles Cachemaille (1951)

and

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
Helen Hooven Santmyer (1895-1986)
Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
Murray Schisgal (1926)
Shelagh Delaney (1938-2011)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1934, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler's article "The Hindemith Case" defending Hindemith's music appears in several German newspapers. A response attacking both Hindemith and Furtwängler appears in the Nazi newspaper "Der Angriff" on November 28. Furtwängler resigns all his official German posts on December 4 and leaves Berlin for several months. On December 6 Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels denounces Hindemith as an "atonal noisemaker" during a speech at the Berlin Sport Palace.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony deliver glorious Mozart and Mahler

Alexi Kenney
On Saturday November 16 violinist Alexi Kenney joined Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony to perform Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major ("Strassburg"), and the orchestra finished the evening with Mahler's "Tragic" Symphony, No. 6 in A Minor.

Initially the strings felt a bit anemic, so the winds fortunately added a needed spark.  There was a perfect sync between solo and orchestra, and it almost felt as though Kenney were serenading the players and they responded in kind. Intensive and focused restraint was necessary from the orchestra to let Kenney's delicacy shine, and the OSO did just that.  Kenney's cadence was delicious, coming as it did on the heels of a long sustained crescendo.

Kenney displayed no over-reliance on predictable cadential trills--he played straight scales and arpeggios so that when the trills did happen, they really meant something, just as they ought. The adagio felt like a siren call, a subdued murmuring from an orchestra playing with baited breath--the tenderest and most sympathetic adagio possible. Not the flashiest or most technically demanding work in the repertoire, still this concerto was great fun to hear.

The Mahler opened with a doomsaying thrum on the low strings--there was no holding back here. Diabolical visions emerged from the piercing fanfare of the brass. The strings were like a seething sea of melancholy from which the horns bravely but impossibly tried to extricate themselves. The horn solo was fantastic--smooth and perfect, before the horrifying blasts from the low strings yet again.

The Andante was a beatific ascension, and Kalmar the OSO read one another's intent and movement flawlessly. What an heroic chordal display unfolded from the brass--leaning on the lower neighbor tones so hard they almost broke, creating an incredible tension that then resolved in an angelic chorus, and immense sentimentality flowed from the orchestra in wave after golden wave. The third movement featured more shocking eructations from the brass, who really had their work cut out for them this night.

The finale began with some clunky explorations, with handsome, throaty intonation from the violas.  The horn work was especially impressive all evening--uniform and splendorous. The amazing molto pianissimo from the violins was such a subtle whispering that one couldn't be sure if they were actually making a sound, or whether it was something that was felt from the inside, a sympathetic harmonic vibration from within. As the end drew nigh OSO exposed a titanic and eschatological furor, as grandiose as one could want from Mahler.


Today's Birthdays

Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
Willie ("The Lion") Smith (1897-1973)
Norman Walker (1907-1963)
Erik Bergman (1911-2006)
Emma Lou Diemer (1927)
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
Maria Chiara (1939)
Chinary Ung (1942)
Tod Machover (1953)
Jouni Kaipainen (1956)
Edgar Meyer (1960)
Angelika Kirchschlager (1965)

and

Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677)
Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
Margaret Anderson (1886-1973)
Nuruddin Farah (1945)
Arundhati Roy (1961)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1850, the legendary soprano Adelina Patti makes her operatic debut at age 16 in New York City, singing in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor."

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Pierre Du Mage (1674-1751)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
André Caplet (1878-1925)
Guy Reginald Bolton (1884-1979)
Jerry Bock (1928-2010)
Vigen Derderian (1929-2003)
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933)
Ludovico Einaudi (1955)
Thomas Zehetmair (1961)
Nicolas Bacri (1961)
Ed Harsh (1962)

and

Nirad C. Chaudhuri (1897-1999)
Paul Celan (1920-1950)
Jennifer Michael Hecht (1965)

and from the Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1889, the first jukebox was unveiled in a saloon in San Francisco. It was invented by Louis Glass, who had earlier worked as a telegraph operator for Western Union and then co-founded the Pacific Phonographic Company. He was fascinated by the phonograph technology and saw a market for charging people to listen to them, since phonographs were still too expensive to buy for your own home. He installed the machine in the Palais Royal saloon simply because he knew the owner and it was close to his house, so he didn’t have to carry the machine very far.

The word “jukebox” wasn’t invented until the 1920s. Glass called his machine the “nickel-in-the-slot phonograph,” since you had to pay a nickel to hear a song play. In today’s money, a nickel was about $1.27 at the time. The first machine had four different stethoscopes attached to it that functioned as headphones. Each pair of headphones had to be activated by putting in a nickel, and then several people could listen to the same song at once. There were towels left by each listening device so people could wipe them off after using. As part of his agreement with the saloonkeepers, at the end of each song, the machine told the listener to “go over to the bar and buy a drink.”

His phonograph was a huge hit and, at a conference in Chicago, Glass told his competitors that his first 15 machines brought in over $4,000 in six months. This led to other manufacturers making their own machines. Shortly after, Thomas Edison designed a phonograph people could buy for their homes, which also cut into the market. Glass’s invention eventually made the player piano obsolete, and competitors updated the jukebox with new technologies from record players to CDs. Now there is such a thing as a digital jukebox, but they never really caught on, since they come with the size and expense of a regular jukebox, without any of the charm of flipping through the records and watching the moving parts of the machine.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

St. Cecilia
Frantisek Benda (1709-1786)
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849)
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965)
Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Gunther Schuller (1925-2015)
Jimmy Knepper (1927-2003)
Hans Zender (1936-2019)
Kent Nagano (1951)
Stephen Hough (1961)
Sumi Jo (1962)

and

George Eliot (1819-1880)
André Gide (1869-1951)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the feast day of Saint Cecilia, who was the patron saint of musicians because she sang to God as she died a martyr’s death. She was born to a noble family in Rome near the end of the second century A.D.

It wasn’t really until the 1400s that people really began to celebrate her widely as the patron saint of music. Then, in the 1500s, people in Normandy held a large musical festival to honor her, and the trend made its way to England in the next century. Henry Purcell composed celebratory odes to honor her, and the painter Raphael created a piece called “The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia.” Chaucer wrote about her in the Second Nonnes Tale, and Handel composed a score for a famous ode to her that John Dryden had written.

Today, Saint Cecilia is often commemorated in paintings and on stained glass windows as sitting at an organ.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)
Bernard Lagacé (1930)
Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003)
James DePreist (1936-2013)
Idil Biret (1941)
Vinson Cole (1950)
Kyle Gann (1955)
Stewart Wallace (1960)
Björk (1965)

and

Voltare (1694-1778)
Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944)
Mary Johnston (1870-1936)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Marilyn French (1929-2009)
Tina Howe (1937)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)
René Kolo (1937)
Gary Karr (1941)
Meredith Monk (1942)
Phillip Kent Bimstein (1947)
Barbara Hendricks (1948)

and

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)
Maya Plisetskaya (1925-2015)
R.W. Apple Jr. (1934-2006)
Don DeLillo (1936)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1805, Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" (1st version, with the "Leonore" Overture No. 2) was premiered in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712)
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935)
Jean‑Yves Daniel‑Lesur (1908-2002)
Géza Anda (1921-1976)
Maralin Niska (1926-2010)
David Lloyd-Jones (1934)
Agnes Baltsa (1944)
Ross Bauer (1951)

and

Allen Tate (1899-1979)
Sharon Olds (1942)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was four and a half months after the devastating battle, and it was a foggy, cold morning. Lincoln arrived about 10 a.m. Around noon, the sun came out as the crowds gathered on a hill overlooking the battlefield. A military band played, a local preacher offered a long prayer, and the headlining orator, Edward Everett, spoke for more than two hours. Everett described the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail, and he brought the audience to tears more than once. When Everett finished, Lincoln spoke.

Now considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, the Gettysburg Address ran for just over two minutes, fewer than 300 words, and only 10 sentences. It was so brief, in fact, that many of the 15,000 people that attended the ceremony didn't even realize that the president had spoken, because a photographer setting up his camera had momentarily distracted them. The next day, Everett told Lincoln, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

There are several versions of the speech, and five different manuscript copies; they're all slightly different, so there's some argument about which is the "authentic" version. Lincoln gave copies to both of his private secretaries, and the other three versions were re-written by the president some time after he made the speech. The Bliss Copy, named for Colonel Alexander Bliss, is the only copy that was signed and dated by Lincoln, and it's generally accepted as the official version for that reason.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941)
Amelita Galli‑Curci (1882-1963)
Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985)
Lillian Fuchs (1901-1995)
Compay Segundo (1907-2003)
Johnny Mercer (1909-1976)
Don Cherry (1936-1995)
Heinrich Schiff (1951)
Bernard d'Ascoli (1958)

and

Louis Daguerre (1787-1851)
Asa Gray (1810-1888)
George Gallup (1901-1984)
Margaret Atwood (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, Mickey Mouse debuts in "Steamboat Willie," in New York. This was the first animated cartoon with synchronized pre-recorded sound effects and music -- the latter provided by organist and composer Carl Stalling of Kansas City. Stalling would later provide memorial music for many classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ernest Lough (1911-2000)
Hershy Kay (1919-1981)
Leonid Kogan (1924-1982)
Sir Charles Mackerras (1925-2010)
David Amram (1930)
Gene Clark (1941-1991)
Philip Picket (1950)
Philip Grange (1956)

and

Shelby Foote (1916-2006)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831)
Alfred Hill (1869-1960)
W. C. Handy (1873-1958)
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Burnet Tuthill (1888-1982)
Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960)
Earl Wild (1915-2010)
David Wilson-Johnson (1950)
Donald Runnicles (1954)

and

George S. Kaufman (1889-1961)
José Saramago (1922-2010)
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Andrea Barrett (1954)

Friday, November 15, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir William Herschel (1738-1822)
Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-1980)
Petula Clark (1932)
Peter Dickinson (1934)
Daniel Barenboim (1942)
Pierre Jalbert (1967)

and

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946)
Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960)
Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986)
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1926, the first broadcast of a music program took place on the NBC radio network, featuring the New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch, the New York Oratorio Society, and the Goldman Band, with vocal soloists Mary Garden and Tito Ruffo, and pianist Harold Bauer.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Fanny Hensel (1805-1847)
Rev. John Curwen (1816-1880)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Leonie Rysanek (1926-1998)
Jorge Bolet (1914-1990)
Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)
Robert Lurtsema (1931-2000)
Peter Katin (1930-2015)
Ellis Marsalis (1934)
William Averitt (1948)

and

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002)
William Steig (1907-2003)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jan Zach (1699-1773)
Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817-1870)
Brinley Richards (1817-1885)
George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931)
Marguerite Long (1874-1966)
Joonas Kokkoken (1921-1996)
Lothar Zagrosek (1942)
Martin Bresnick (1946)

and

St. Augustine (354-430)
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
George V. Higgins (1939-1999)
Eamon Grennan (1941)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1937, the first "official" radio broadcast by the NBC Symphony Orchestra took place with Pierre Monteux conducting. Arthur Rodzinski had conducted a "dress rehearsal" broadcast on Nov. 2, 1937. Arturo Toscanini's debut broadcast with the NBC Symphony would occur on Christmas Day, 1937.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)
Jean Papineau-Couture (1916-2000)
Michael Langdon (1920-1991)
Lucia Popp (1939-1993)
Neil Young (1945)

and

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Roland Barthes (1915-1980)
Michael Ende (1929-1995)
Tracy Kidder (1945)
Katherine Weber (1955)

From the New Music Box:

On November 12, 1925, cornetist Louis Armstrong made the first recordings with a group under his own name for Okeh Records in Chicago, Illinois. The group, called Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, recorded his original compositions, "Gut Bucket Blues" and "Yes! I'm In The Barrel" (Okeh 8261) as well as "My Heart" composed by his wife Lil Hardin who was the pianist in the band. (The flipside of the 78rpm record on which the latter was issued, Okeh 8320, was "Armstrong's composition "Cornet Chop Suey" recorded three months later on February 26, 1926.) Armstrong's Hot Five and subsequent Hot Seven recordings are widely considered to be the earliest masterpieces of recorded jazz.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841)
Frederick Stock (1872-1942)
Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969)
Jan Simons (1925-2006)
Arthur Cunningham (1928-1997)
Vernon Handley (1930-2008)
Harry Bramma (1936)
Jennifer Bate (1944)
Fang Man (1977)

and

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)
Mary Gaitskill (1955)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1898, shortly after it was finished, the painting “Nevermore” by Gaugin is purchased by the English composer Frederick Delius. The painting was inspired by Poe’s famous poem and is now in the collection of London’s Cortland Gallery.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Hough and Schuldt and Oregon Symphony make memorable Mendelssohn

Stephen Hough’s tremendous talent was on display once again with the Oregon Symphony. This time around (Nov. 2), the virtuosic Brit delivered a scintillating performance of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, mesmerizing the audience at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. His memorable appearance with the orchestra was matched by an equally impressive debut on the podium Clemens Schuldt, whose balletic conducting style was fascinating to watch.

From the opening demonstrative runs up and down the keyboard to languid, melodic passages, Hough commanded the concerto thoroughly. With his buttery smooth technique, the unrelenting arpeggios flowed gracefully, and he punctuated the aggressive sections with impeccably placed accents. Whether generating lingered pensively or cascaded like a rushing stream, Hough gave it a direction so that it never sounded ostentatious or like mere fluff.

Hough’s superb playing registered instantly with the audience, which broke out in rapturous applause at the end of the piece. The cheers brought him back to center stage several times, and he responded with an encore, an intoxicating invention that created a mysterious shimmer with feathery-light, sustained notes that were layered on top of each other

Guest conductor Schuldt, who helms the Munich Chamber Orchestra, used a playful gestures and dance-like footwork to elicit a terrific sound. Sometimes he stabbed towards the musicians and at other times and at other times he didn’t direct at all, letting the sound come to him. The result was a fresh and inspired performance of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1. (“Spring”). The triangle (Niel DePonte) put a glint of happiness on the first movement. The trills in the second movement were elegant but not fussy. Other highlights included subtle phrases from the clarinet, a lovely French horn duet, a delightful flute solo, exchanges between the woodwinds and the strings, the pristine lines from the strings, and the build up to the finale.

Schuldt’s animated style enhanced the playing of two shorts works by Lili Boulanger: Of a Sad Evening and On a Spring Morning. The first piece had a warm, somber side that contained a steady, plodding beat, which suggested doom. Yet it all ended with an ethereal ascending line and feeling of heavenly restfulness. The second piece sparkled with parts for the orchestra that seemed to echo each other. It is a great tragedy that Boulanger’s short life – she died when she was just 24 years old – leaves us to wonder what else she might have written.

Back to the Schumann, Schuldt received a compliment from the orchestra when concertmaster Sarah Kwak refused to stand and allowed the audience to shower him with enthusiastic applause. He and the orchestra had a little surprise already in mind – and it was in keeping with the theme of springtime – Johan Strauss Jr’s Voices of Spring. It was performed with outstanding dynamics, including finely drawn changes in tempo that would have made Willi Boskovsky proud. It would be wonderful to hear Schuldt conduct the orchestra again in the near future.

Today's Birthdays

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
François Couperin (1668-1733)
John Phillips Marquand (1873-1949)
Ennio Morricone (1928)
Graham Clark (1941)
Sir Tim Rice (1944)
Andreas Scholl (1967)

and

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
Vachel Lindsey (1879-1931)
John Phillips Marquand (1893-1960)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1900, Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch makes his Carnegie Hall debut in New York City during his first American tour. In 1909 he married contralto Clara Clemens, the daughter of the American writer Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Burrill Phillips (1907-1988)
Pierrette Alarie (1921-2011)
Piero Cappuccilli (1929-2005)
Ivan Moravec (1930-2015)
William Thomas McKinley (1938-2015)
Thomas Quasthoff (1959)
Bryn Terfel (1965)

and

Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
Hugh Leonard (1926-2009)
Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Friday, November 8, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich Witt (1770-1836)
Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Lamberto Gardelli (1915-1938)
Jerome Hines (1921-2003)
Richard Stoker (1938)
Simon Standage (1941)
Judith Zaimont (1945)
Tadaaki Otaka (1947)
Elizabeth Gale (1948)
Bonnie Raitt (1949)
Ana Vidović (1980)

and

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)
Raja Rao (1908-2006)
Kazuo Ishiguro (1954)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ferenc (Franz) Erkel (1810-1893)
Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995)
William Alwyn (1905-1985)
Al Hirt (1922-1999)
Dame Joan Sutherland (1926-2010)
Dame Gwyneth Jones (1937)
Joni Mitchell (1943)
Judith Forst (1943)
Christina Viola Oorebeek (1944)

and

Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Benny Andersen (1929-2018)
Stephen Greenblatt (1943)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Saxophonist charms with Creston's concerto at Vancouver Symphony concert

Feathery soft sustained notes, smoothly articulated runs, and buttery tones are just a few phrases that hardly do justice to the superb performance of Paul Creston’s Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra that Jeffrey Siegfried delivered in his appearance (November 2) with the Vancouver Symphony at Skyview Concert Hall Siegfried, who teaches at West Virginia University, was a last-minute replacement for Albert Juliá, who experienced Visa problems. Siegfried had just three weeks to reacquaint himself with the pieces, and during that time he finished a tour with The Moanin’ Frogs saxophone orchestra before flying to Vancouver.

Using impeccable breath control, Siegfried held listeners spellbound and wonderfully showed off the merits of the alto saxophone as a solo instrument. He impressively shifted from double fortes to double pianissimos in a split second without ever twisting or tweaking the sound. Whenever he reeled off an unrelenting series of arpeggios, there was never a blurred note or a blip. His immaculate technique allowed him to create a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere during his cadenza in the second movement, “Meditative.” His expressive playing, supported with sensitivity by the orchestra under Salvador Brotons, communicated instantly with listeners, who responded to each movement with applause.

After the finishing the piece, Siegfried quieted the enthusiastic listeners by playing Claude Debussy’s Syrinx, which Siegfried had transcribed for soprano saxophone from the original score for flute. He created an enigmatic and ethereal mood with fleeting trills and a final note that seemed to gradually fade into the far reaches of the hall.

After intermission, Brotons interviewed a couple musicians from the orchestra, who mentioned their love for the music of Brahms. That feeling came directly to the listeners from the first beat of Brahms’ Second Symphony. Conducting from memory, Brotons elicited cheerfulness and optimism from his forces. The French horns demonstrated a polished, resonant sound. The strings created sunshine and enjoyed themselves, and the brass and woodwinds chimed in with buoyancy. The patrons loved it all, applauding between movements and cheering at the end.

Barber’s First Essay for Orchestra opened the concert with a solid but slightly sad sound that reminded me of his Adagio for Strings, which he wrote a year earlier. That heaviness transitioned to a lighter, brighter melody that skipped along before being subdued by the stately earlier theme. The brass section distinguished itself with firm fortes. Perhaps the orchestra will tackle Barber’s other Essays in the near future.

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Sax (1814-1894)
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
Don Lusher (1923-2006)
James Bowman (1941)
Arturo Sandoval (1949)
Daniele Gatti (1961)

and

Robert Musil (1880-1942)
Harold Ross (1892-1951)
Ann Porter (1911-2011)
James Jones (1921-1977)
Michael Cunningham (1952)

From The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the March King, John Philip Sousa, born in Washington, D.C. (1854). His father was a U.S. Marine Band trombonist, and he signed John up as an apprentice to the band after the boy tried to run away from home to join the circus. By the time he was 13 years old, Sousa could play violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone, and was a pretty good singer too. At 26, he was leading the Marine Band and writing the first of his 136 marches, including “Semper Fidelis,” which became the official march of the Corps, and “The Washington Post March.” In addition to those marches, he wrote nearly a dozen light operas, and as many waltzes too; and he wrote three novels. But he’s best known for “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Hans Sachs (1494-1576)
Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961)
Walter Gieselking (1895-1956)
Claus Adam (1917-1983)
György Cziffra (1921-1994)
Nicholas Maw (1935-2009)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (1940-2010)
Art Garfunkel (1941)
Gram Parsons (1946-1973)

and

Ida M. Tarbell (1867-1944)
Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918)
Thomas Flanagan (1923-2002)
Sam Shephard (1943)
Vandana Shiva (1952)
Diana Abu-Jabar (1960)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1955, Karl Böhm conducts a performance of Beethoven's "Fidelio" at the gala re-opening of Vienna Opera House (damaged by Allied bombs on March 12, 1945). During the rebuilding of the Opera House, performances had continued in two nearby Viennese halls: the Theatre and der Wien and the Volksoper.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Todaly's Birthdays

Carl Tausig (1841-1871)
Arnold Cooke (1906-2005)
Elgar Howarth (1935)
Joan Rodgers (1956)
Elena Kats-Chernin (1957)
Daron Hagen (1961)

and

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
C. K. Williams (1936-2015)
Charles Frazier (1950)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
Vincenzio Bellini (1801-1835)
Vladimir Ussachevsky (1911-1990)

and

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571)
William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901)
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962)
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Terrence McNally (1939)
Martin Cruz Smith (1942)
Joe Queenan (1950)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Moser and Oregon Symphony wow everyone with Lutosławski concerto

Oregon Symphony’s concert on October 26th was a blast! Soloist Johannes Moser and the orchestra under Carlos Kalmar turned Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto into an entertaining standoff that had everyone at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall of the edge of their seats. We were also treated to an evocative taste of Peru via Gabriela Lena Frank’s Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra. And all of that was topped off with an incisively energetic performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Moser, the Oregon Symphony’s Artist-in-Residence, gave a mesmerizing interpretation of the Lutosławski concerto, emphasizing his role as a soloist whose musings on the cello are interrupted by the collective of musicians surrounding him. He looked askance and fairly annoyed at the interruptions from the orchestra. Of course, that was all part of the piece, but he could take a few simple notes – sometimes the exact same note – and make each stroke of that note totally engaging. At other times, he would suddenly embark on a wild frenzy of notes then in a split-second return to the same set of pulsating notes that he started with. The brass would crash into his idyllic world and back off, but after Moser reestablished his path another section of the orchestra would butt disruptively. Moser would become defiant, taking wide movements with his bow and his entire body as if to fend of the sonic intruders. Sometimes the pace would quicken as if he had hurried away to find a private space. But the orchestra always tracked him down and to pummel him with volleys of sound. Moser exhibited unbelievable control of his instrument, despite playing wickedly virtuosic passages. The combative nature of the piece had a wonderfully spontaneous feeling that made the music amazingly compelling.

After the pieces concluded – with no obvious winner – the audience showered Moser and forces with enthusiastic applause that would have gone on and on if Moser had not had an encore ready. For that he teamed up with orchestral bass Nina DeCesare for a delightful transcription of a Rossini number – humorously mimicking a motif from the Lutosławski – which brought down the house again.

On the front end of the program, we heard Frank’s Walkabout, a four-movement work that was inspired by her travels in Peru, which is her mother’s homeland. “Soliloquio Serrano” (Mountain Soliloquy) was devoted to the strings and featured solos by the principals, including several brief flurries by concertmaster Sarah Kwak and a lovely plaintive solo by principal violist Joël Belgique. “Huaracas” (Slingshots) catapulted forward with punchy rat-ta-tats from the brass. Marimbas and other percussive instruments kept things stirred up and the orchestra created threatening sounds that swelled and subsided until the sound finally drifted away. “HailÍ” (Prayer) was introspective yet bumpy and even gently throbbing, opening and closed with a dense mesh of sound from the strings. “Tarqueada” (which referred to a parade of musicians) offered a festive outburst with whistles, a thunder sheet, high nasal-sounding clarinets, pounding timpani, and spirited brass. It was lively conclusion to the sonic tour of Peru, which was capped off by Frank, who came to the podium to acknowledge the sustain acclamation from the concertgoers

The concert finished with a superb performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Led by Kalmar, the orchestra made this evergreen fresh and invigorating. Terrific articulation, little accents here and there, well-shaped phrases, wonderful dynamics – the entire piece was a gem form start to finish. The glowing sound of the French horn from Joseph Berger and the spirited, uplifting piccolo of Zachariah Galatis were just two of the highlights of the evening. Everyone left the concert hall with a buoyant step.

Today's Birthdays

Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692-1766)
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Count Andrey Razumovsky (1752-1836)
John Foulds (1880-1939)
Luchino Visconti (1906-1976)
Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001)
Harold Farberman (1929-2018)
Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001)
Jeremy Menuhin (1951)
Marie McLaughlin (1954)
Paul Moravec (1957)

and

George Boole (1815-1864)
C.K. Williams (1936-2015)
Thomas Mallon (1951)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Keller's acoustic does in Madama Butterfly

Luis Chapa as B.F. Pinkerton and Hiromi Omura as Cio-Cio-San in Portland Opera's 2019 production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.

The barn-like acoustic of the Keller Auditorium presents a lot of challenges for opera productions, especially when the orchestra goes full tilt. That was the case with Portland Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly on opening night (October 25). The orchestra, guided by assistant conductor Nicholas Fox, who replaced an ailing George Manahan, created a vivid account, but quite often the voices of the principal characters, with the exception of Luis Chapa’s Pinkerton, got lost in the vastness of the hall. The lack of vocal oomph lessened the impact of the tragic story, despite astute stage directions from E. Loren Meeker.

The performance marked the U.S. debut of Hiromi Omura in the title role. The Japanese native, who now lives primarily in France, sang impeccably, but she needed to be louder. Mexican tenor Chapa (in his company debut) had no such problem and conveyed the culturally obtuse and cruel Pinkerton with carefree ease. At the curtain call, the audience rained boos and applause on him, which he accepted with gallantry.

Other Portland Opera debuts included Nina Yoshida Nelsen, who created a sympathetic and conflicted Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s servant. Troy Cook’s gorgeously resonant baritone fit the role of Sharpless like a glove. Peixin Chen’s Bonze needed more vocal heft. It just wasn’t damning enough. Karl Marx Reyes was totally convincing as the greedy marriage broker Goro.

The chorus, prepared expertly by Fox, sounded terrific, generating a lovely “Humming Chorus,” and the women were almost scary in their denunciation of Cio-Cio-San when her uncle more or less excommunicates her

Under Meeker’s directions, Cio-Cio-San’s son was on stage for a much longer period than I have seen in other productions. That went surprisingly well.

The production, a revival of scenery and costumes originally constructed for New York City Opera but now owned by Portland Opera, beautifully evoked the bay below and the hillside above Cio-Cio-San’s house. A little bridge, garden, and a tree attractively graced a traditional-looking Japanese home. All was deftly lit by designer Mark McCullough.

Madama Butterfly is the first opera to be performed under the reign of Portland Opera’s new general director, Sue Dixon. As good as the performance was, Dixon still has to deal with the problem of Keller Auditorium’s size and poor acoustic. Good luck!

Preview of Vancouver Symphony concert in today's Columbian

Today's edition of The Columbian newspaper printed my preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert, which will feature Paul Creston's Saxophone Concert.  Click here to read the article online.

Today's Birthdays

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
Eugen Jochum (1902-1987)
Bruno Bjelinski (1909-1992)
Victoria de Los Angeles (1923-2005)
William Mathias (1934-1992)
Lyle Lovett (1957)

and

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
Grantland Rice (1880-1954)
A. R. Gurney (1930-2017)
Edward Said (1935-2003)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1830, Chopin’s friends in Warsaw throw a festival “bon voyage” dinner for the composer-pianist on the eve of his departure for Paris. As it turned out, he would never return to his native land.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Louise Talma (1906-1996)
August Everding (1928-1999)
Colin Tilney (1933)
Odaline de la Martinez (1949)
Naji Hakim (1955)

and

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675)
John Keats (1795-1821)
Susan Orlean (1955)

from The New Music Box

On October 31, 1896, the Boston Symphony premiered the Gaelic" Symphony in E Minor by Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (Amy Marcy Cheney Beach), the first symphony by an American woman ever publicly performed.

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1933, Arnold Schoenberg, accompanied by his wife, baby daughter, and family pet terrier "Witz," arrives in New York on the liner Isle de France.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Peter Warlock (Philip Arnold Heseltine) (1894-1930)
Stanley Sadie (1930-2005)
Frans Brüggen (1934-2014)
Grace Slick (1939)
René Jacobs (1946)
James Judd (1949)
Shlomo Mintz (1957)

and

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)
André Chénier (1762-1794)
Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
Robert Caro (1935)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Harold Darke (1888-1976)
Vivian Ellis (1904-1996)
Václav Neumann (1920-1995)
Jon Vickers (1926-2015)
James Dillon (1950)
Lee Actor (1952)
James Primosch (1956)

and

James Boswell (1740-1795)
Harriet Powers (1837-1910)
Henry Green (1905-1973)
David Remnick (1958)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giuditta Pasta (1797-1865)
Howard Hanson (1896-1981)
Dame Cleo Laine (1927)
Carl Davis (1936)
Howard Blake (1938)
Kenneth Montgomery (1943)
Naida Cole (1974)

and

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
John Harold Hewitt (1907-1987)
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
John Hollander (1929-2013)
Anne Perry (1938)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Helmut Walcha (1907-1991)
Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997)
Dominick Argento (1927-2019)
Julius Eastman (1940-1990)
Håkan Hardenberger (1961)
Vanessa-Mae (1978)

and

Lee Krasner (1908-1994)
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
Zadie Smith (1975)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758)
Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)
György Pauk (1936)
Christine Brewer (1955)
Natalie Merchant (1963)
Sakari Oramo (1965)

and

Andrei Bely (1880-1934)
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
John Arden (1930-2012)
Andrew Motion (1952)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623)
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Don Banks (1923-1980)
Galina Vishnevskaya (1926-2012)
Peter Lieberson (1946)
Diana Burrell (1948)
Colin Carr (1957)
Midori (1971)

and

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
John Berryman (1914-1972)
Anne Tyler (1941)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885)
Imre [Emmerich] Kálman (1882-1953)
Conrad Leonard (1898-2003)
Paul Csonka (1905-1995)
Tito Gobbi (1913-1984)
Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
George Crumb (1929)
Sofia Gubaidulina (1931)
Malcolm Bilson (1935)
Bill Wyman (1936)
George Tsontakis (1951)
Cheryl Studer (1955)

and

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)
Moss Hart (1904-1961)
Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
Norman Rush (1933)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Albert Lortzing (1801-1851)
Miriam Gideon (1906-1996)
Denise Duval (1921-2016)
Ned Rorem (1923)
Lawrence Foster (1941)
Toshio Hosokawa (1955)
"Weird Al" Yankovic (1959)
Brett Dean (1961)

and

Robert Bridges (1844-1930)
Johnny Carson (1925-2005)
Nick Tosches (1949)
Laurie Halse Anderson (1961)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Sir Donald McIntyre (1934)
Elizabeth Connell (1946)

and

John Reed (1887-1920)
John Gould (1908-2003)
Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

In 1883, the grand opening of the original Metropolitan Opera House in New York City with performance of Gounod's "Faust" with Auguste Vianesi, conducting.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957)
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974)
Howard Ferguson (1908-1999)
Alexander Schneider (1908-1993)
Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997)
Dizzy (John Birks) Gillespie (1917-1993)
Sir Malcom Arnold (1921-2006)
Marga Richter (1926)
Shulamit Ran (1949)
Hugh Wolff (1953)

and

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
Adelaide Hall (1901-1993)
Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991)
Adelaide Hall (1909-1993)
Robert Craft (1923-2015)
Jacques Loussier (1934)
William Albright (1944-1998)
Ivo Pogorelich (1958)
Leila Josefowicz (1977)


and
Christopher Wren (1632-1723)
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
John Dewey(1859-1952)
Robert Pinsky (1940)
Elfriede Jelinek (1946)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sidonie Goossens (1899-2004)
Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966)
Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968)
Emil Gilels (1916-1985)
Robin Holloway (1943)
Robert Morris (1943)

and

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Auguste Lumière (1862-1954)
Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899-1974)
Jack Anderson (1922-2005)
John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell) (1931)
Philip Pullman (1946)
Tracy Chevalier (1962)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Preview of Portland Baroque Orchestra's season opener in The Oregonian

My article about PBO's opening concert series, featuring all of the Brandenburg Concertos, appears in today's edition of The Oregonian and online here. It was a lot of fun to interview Monica Huggett.


Today's Birthdays

Luca Marenzio (1553-1599)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Lotte Lenya (1898-1981)
Alexander Young (1920-2000)
Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
Chuck Berry (1926-2017)
Wynton Marsalis (1961)

and

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811)
Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)
Ntozake Shange (1948)
Rick Moody (1961)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Review of Oregon Symphony - Colin Currie - Andy Akiho concert

My review of  last weekend's Oregon Symphony concert, which featured a world premiere of Colin Currie playing Andy Akiho's Percussion Concerto is now posted on Classical Voice North America here.


Today's Birthdays

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)
Rolando Panerai (1924)
Reiner Goldberg (1939)
Stephen Kovacevich (1940)

and

Georg Büchner (1813-1837)
Nathanael West (1903-1940)
Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

and from the Composers Datebook:


On this day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to singer Marian Anderson.

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1933 that Albert Einstein officially moved to the United States to teach at Princeton University. He had been in California working as a visiting professor when Hitler took over as chancellor of Germany. Einstein’s apartment in Berlin and his summer cottage in the country were raided, his papers confiscated, and his bank accounts closed. He returned to Europe and handed in his German passport, renouncing his citizenship. He considered offers from all over the world, including Paris, Turkey, and Oxford. Einstein eventually decided on Princeton, which offered him an attractive package teaching at its Institute for Advanced Study — but he had his hesitations about the university. For one thing, it had a clandestine quota system in place that only allowed a small percentage of the incoming class to be Jewish. The Institute’s director, Abraham Flexner, was worried that Einstein would be too directly involved in Jewish refugee causes, so he micromanaged Einstein’s public appearances, keeping him out of the public eye when possible. He even declined an invitation for Einstein to see President Roosevelt at the White House without telling the scientist. When Einstein found out, he personally called Eleanor Roosevelt and arranged for a visit anyway, and then complained about the incident in a letter to a rabbi friend of his, giving the return address as “Concentration Camp, Princeton.” In 1938, incoming freshmen at Princeton ranked Einstein as the second-greatest living person; first place went to Adolf Hitler.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
Franz [Ferenc] Doppler (1821-1883)
James Lockhart (1930)
Derek Bourgeois (1941)
Marin Alsop (1956)
Erkki-Sven Tüür (1959)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962-2017)

and

Noah Webster (1758-1843)
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)
Günter Grass (1927-2015)
Thomas Lynch (1948)

And from the Writer's Almanac:

In 1882, during a tour across the US, Oscar Wilde lectured to coal miners in Leadville, Colorado, where he saw a sign on a saloon that said, "Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best," and called it "the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Crusell (1775-1838)
Dag Wirén (1905-1985)
Harold Blumenfeld (1923-2014)
Karl Richter (1926-1981)
Barry McGuire (1935)
Suzanne Murphy (1941)
Peter Phillips (1953)

and

Virgil (70 B.C.E.- 19 B.C.E.)
Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844-1900)
P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)
Varian Fry (1907-1967)
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007)
Italo Calvino (1923-1985)
Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Zimlinsky (1871-1942)
Gary Graffman (1928)
Rafael Puyana (1931-2013)
Enrico di Giuseppe (1932-2005)
La Monte (Thorton) Young (1935)
Sir Cliff Richard (1940)
Kaija Saariaho (1952)

and

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
Katha Pollitt (1949)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Art Tatum (1910-1956)
Hugo Weisgall (1912-1997)
Gustav Winckler (1925-1979)
Paul Simon (1941)
Leona Mitchell (1949)
Kristine Ciesinski (1950)
Melvyn Tan (1956)
Mark Applebaum (1967)

and

Conrad Richter (1890-1968)
Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Carlos López Buchardo (1881-1948)
Gilda Dalla Rizza (1892-1975)
Erich Gruenberg (1924)
Pilar Lorengar (1938-1996)
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)
Daryl Runswick (1946)
Penelope Walker (1956)
Chris Botti (1962)

and

Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985)
Alice Childress (1916-1994)
Robert Coles (1929)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

George Bridgetower (1780-1860)
Fernando De Lucia (1860-1925)
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Albert Stoessel (1894-1943)
Eugene Weigel (1910-1998)
Art Blakey (1919-1990)
Ennio Morricone (1928)
David Rendall (1948)

and

Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825)
Eleanor Roosevelt (1883-1962)
Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)
Thich Nhat Hanh (1926)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Vernon Duke (1903-1969)
Paul Creston (1906-1985)
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Gloria Coates (1938)
Sir Willard White (1946)
John Prine (1946)
Steve Martland (1959)
Evgeny Kissin (1971)

and

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the composer Vernon Duke, born Vladimir Dukelsky, in Parafianovo, Belarus (1903). He was a talented classical musician, educated at an elite conservatory, but his family fled Russia after the revolution and he wound up playing piano in cafés in Constantinople (now Istanbul). From there, his family rode steerage class on a ship to America, went through Ellis Island, and ended up in New York in 1921. There the teenage Dukelsky met George Gershwin, who was only a few years older, and the two became good friends. Dukelsky played Gershwin what he described as “an extremely cerebral piano sonata,” and Gershwin, who was also trained in classical music, suggested this: “There’s no money in that kind of stuff, and no heart in it, either. Try to write some real popular tunes — and don’t be scared about going low-brow. They will open you up.” He also suggested that Dukelsky shorten his name, as he himself had done — Gershowitz to Gershwin. So Vladimir Dukelsky came up with the name Vernon Duke, but he didn’t use it for a while.

First, he went to Paris. There, he met and impressed the great ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Dukelsky wrote later about their first meeting — that Diaghilev had drawled: “‘Ah, a good-looking boy. That in itself is most unusual. Composers are seldom good-looking; neither Stravinsky nor Prokofiev ever won any beauty prizes. How old are you?’ I told him I was 20. ‘That’s encouraging, too. I don’t like young men over 25.’” And so Diaghilev commissioned him to write a ballet, and he wrote Zephire et Flore, with sets by Georges Braque, choreography by Léonide Massine, and costumes by Coco Chanel. It got a great reception, and Dukelsky was taken in by the not-quite-as-good-looking Stravinsky and Prokofiev. For a few years he divided his time between Paris, where he continued to write classical music, and London, where he wrote show tunes and used the name Vernon Duke. Then in 1929, he decided to go back to America, and he wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1930s — “April in Paris” (1932), “Autumn in New York” (1934), “I Can’t Get Started” (1936), and “Taking a Chance on Love” (1940). And he wrote the music for the Broadway show and film Cabin in the Sky (1940). By that time, he had become an American citizen and officially changed his name to Vernon Duke.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954)
Carl Flesch (1873-1944)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Roger Goeb (1914-1997)
Einojuhani Routavaara (1928-2016)
Alfons Kontarsky (1932-2010)
John Lennon (1940-1980)
Jackson Browne (1948)
Sally Burgess (1953)
Roberto Sierra (1953)

and

Ivo Andrić (1892-1975)
Bruce Catton (1899-1978)
Léopold (Sédar) Senghor (1906-2001)
Belva Plain (1915-2010)
Jill Ker Conway (1934)
James Howe McClure (1939-2006)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Will Vodery (1885-1951)
Paul V. Yoder (1908-1990)
James Sample (1910-1995)
Kurt Redel (1918-2013)
Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)
Johnny Ramone (1948-2004)
Robert Saxton (1953)
Carl Vine (1954)
Tabea Zimmermann (1968)
Bruno Mantovani (1974)

and

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963)
Walter Lord (1917-2002)
Philip Booth (1925-2007)
R.L. Stine (1943)
Elizabeth Tallent (1954)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

William Billings (1746-1800)
Joe Hill (1879-1915)
Alfred Wallenstein (1898-1983)
Shura Cherkassky (1911-1995)
Charles Dutoit (1936)
John Mellencamp (1951)
Yo-Yo Ma (1955)
Li Yundi (1982)

and

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
Helen Clark MacInnes (1907-1985)
Desmond Tutu, (1931)
Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones) (1934-2014)
Thomas Keneally (1935)
Dianne Ackerman (1948)
Sherman Alexie (1966)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

William Bradbury (1816-1868)
Jenny Lind (1820-1887)
Julia Culp (1880-1970)
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Maria Jeritza (1887-1982)
Edwin Fischer (1886-1960)
Paul Badura-Skoda (1927-2019)
Dennis Wicks (1928-2003)
Udo Zimmermann (1943)
Keith Lewis (1950)

and

Le Corbusier (1887-1965)
Caroline Gordon (1895-1981)

From the Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1600 that the opera Euridice was first performed, at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. It is the oldest surviving opera.

Euridice was performed for the wedding celebrations of Henry IV of France and Maria de' Medici. It was written by Jacopo Peri, a beloved composer and singer. He had already written Dafne a few years earlier, which is considered to be the first opera, but that music has been lost.

Euridice is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which the gifted musician Orpheus falls in love with the beautiful Eurydice, but just after their wedding she is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus is heartbroken, and he journeys to the underworld, to Hades, to try to bring her back. He charms the king of the underworld, also named Hades, and his wife, Persephone, and they agree to return Eurydice to Orpheus on one condition: that he get all the way back to the upper world without looking back to see if Eurydice is following. He almost makes it, but right as he is walking out into the sunlight he turns back, and Eurydice is still in the underworld, so he loses her forever. Peri not only wrote the opera, but he sang the role of Orpheus. The climax of the opera came during "Funeste piagge," or "Funeral shores," when Orpheus begs Hades and Persephone to release his beloved.

Peri wrote a long preface to Euridice, in which he explained the new musical form he was working in, which we now call opera. He said that he was trying to write the way he imagined the Greeks would have, combing music and speech into the ultimate form of drama. One of the people who came to Florence to see Euridice was Vincenzo Gonzaga, the Duke of Mantua. And he probably brought his servant, Claudio Monteverdi. A few years later, in 1607, Monteverdi premiered his first opera, L'Orfeo, which was also a retelling of the legend of Orpheus. Monteverdi elevated the opera form to new heights, and L'Orfeo is considered the first truly great opera, with all of the dramatic orchestration and lyrics that are so central to the drama.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Oregon Symphony opens the season with magnificent Mozart and Brahms

The Oregon Symphony hit a couple of grand slams by opening its season on September 28 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with the music of Mozart and Brahms. Guest artist Garrick Ohlsson put his amazing technical skills and artistry on display once again with the Oregon Symphony. He has an incredible facility to summon just the right dynamics to make the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25 sounded as fresh as ever. His playing was immaculate. His sound refined and elegant but not prissy. Each movement captivated listeners so much that spontaneous applause erupted from the audience. In the second movement, he created crystalline tones that were not glancing – as if he had somehow personally rounded off each one. The last movement was playful and cheerful, putting everyone in good spirits that caused thunderous acclamation from the entire hall. He graciously returned to the keyboard with an encore, Chopin’s Waltz in E flat, Op. 18, and again stunned listeners with a superb performance that resulted in another clamorous response from patrons.

After intermission, the orchestra, guided by Music Director Carlos Kalmar, gave a marvelous performance of Brahms Second Symphony. The orchestra played with vigor, agility, and great sensitivity, including several delicate entries in the second movement. The music alternated wonderfully between noble, stirring melodic lines and those that were lighter and happier. All of the musicians displayed an impressive degree of articulation, but the exchanges between the strings and woodwinds in the third movement demonstrated were exquisite. Each section excelled throughout the piece, but a significant highlight, highlighted by Joseph Berger’s horn glowing solos. The audience responded to each movement with applause, and the joyful, strong finale resulted in an enthusiastic, heartfelt standing ovation.

The concert opened with the world premiere of “Remaking a Forest” by British-American composer Oscar Bettison. Concertmaster Sarah Kwak started the piece with simple, brief phrases that trickled into the orchestra. But all the notes were different and felt random and disconnected. Sounds would drip or slide off pitch. Sometimes a booming punch from the percussion section would interrupt. At other times a clarinet might quietly insinuate itself into the mix and then drop out. The one-movement piece also featured snarling trombones and enigmatic passages from the brass sections that suggested a descent into a deep cavern. The strings pierced the air with slashing, sharp sounds. Amidst the blur, I heard little bells ringing and sandpapery sounds. I thought that everything would coalesce into something harmonic, be it never did. Perhaps a forest was remade – I am not sure. The composer made an appearance on stage to a polite round of applause, but the piece was rather cool and puzzling.

Today's Birthdays

Cyril Bradley Rootham (1875-1938)
Jürgen Jürgens (1925-1994)
John Downey (1927-2004)
Iwan Edwards (1937)
Ken Noda (1962)

and

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)
Helen Churchill Candee (1858-1949)
Flann O’Brien (1911-1966)
Václav Havel (1936-2011)
Edward P. Jones (1950)
Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958)
Maya Ying Lin (1959)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1930, The New York Philharmonic begins its famous series of weekly Sunday afternoon national broadcasts with a program from Carnegie Hall conducted by Erich Kleiber. The first-ever radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic had occurred on August 12, 1922, when a summer-time concert from Lewisohn Stadium conducted by Willem van Hoogstraten was relayed locally over WJZ in New York.

My note: Willem van Hoogstraten was the conductor of the Portland Symphony (former name of the Oregon Symphony) from 1925 to 1938.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Fanny Tacchinardi‑Persiani (1812-1867)
Alain Daniélou (1907-1994)
Alain Lombard (1940)
Richard Wilson (1941)
John Aler (1949)
Fransico Araiza (1950)
Marc Minkowski (1962)
David Dzubay (1964)

and

Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
Damon Runyan (1880-1946)
Buster Keaton (1895-1966)
Brenden Gill (1914-1997)
Jackie Collins (1937-2015)
Roy Blount Jr. (1941)
Anne Rice (1941)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1921, the American Academy in Rome awards American composer Leo Sowerby its first two-year composition fellowship. American composer Howard Hanson was awarded the second two-year composition fellowship on November 9, 1921. The third fellowship was awarded to Randall Thompson on June 6, 1922. The fellowship awards continue to this day.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Vancouver Symphony and Feltsman open season with exciting Tchaikovsky concerto

Vladimir Feltsman signing CDs during intermission
Vancouver Symphony didn’t open its season with a light-weight overture or a festive fanfare. Instead, it got right down to business with guest artist Vladimir Feltsman, who delivered a scintillating performance of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. The electrifying concert delighted the near standing-room-only audience at Skyview Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon (September 28), kicking off the orchestra’s 42nd season in grand style.

Generating a bold, bravura sound in the opening statement, Feltsman immediately conveyed the grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s piece. He terrifically expressed its full range of dynamic qualities. The lyrical passages floated effortlessly. His accelerandos were exciting. Fortes could be heard above orchestra, and pianissimos gave listeners the sense of intimacy, especially during the slower cadenzas.

The orchestra, conducted by Music Director Salvador Brotons, supported Feltsman with great sensitivity. The big, sweeping phrases were lush and warm. The brass supplied extra punch, and passages tapered off with finesse as needed. Oboist Fred Korman and flutist Rachel Rencher supplied lovely solos.

Going into the finale, Feltsman didn’t hold back anything, and the orchestra matched him enthusiastically. The final notes were followed with thunderous applause and a standing ovation that brought Feltsman back to the stage several times where he was given a bouquet of flowers.

After intermission, the orchestra played Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, which Brotons, in his introductory remarks to the audience, noted is a “love song from beginning to end.” The hour-long performance was rewarding to hear, with the orchestra creating the lush melodies and delving into the many emotional contrasts and colors of the music. The violins supplied a unified sound, the French horns had many golden moments, the woodwinds contributed with distinction, and brass choir was stirring. Highlights of the performance included fine playing by Karen Strand (English horn), Igor Shakhman (clarinet) Barbara Heilmair (bass violin), and Eva Richey (violin).

Because the Second Symphony seems to ebb and flow at times like ocean waves coming onto the shoreline, it is difficult to create an arc to the piece. Impressively conducting from memory, Brotons urged his forces, but the music got a bit lost on the listeners despite the big finale. Perhaps they were still swimming in the sound of the Tchaikovsky concerto.