Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
James Patrick (J. P.) Donleavy (1926-2017)
Coleman Barks (1937)
Barry Hannah (1942-2010)-
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

From the former Writer's Almanac:

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and


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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the New Music Box:

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Young artists shine in the spotlight with the Vancouver Symphony (WA)

Every year as I get older, the young people seem to get younger. That was especially true at the Vancouver Symphony concert on Saturday afternoon (April 13), which featured the gold medal winners of its annual young artists contest. This time around, one of the winners, Julin Cheung, was only eleven years old! That is the youngest winner ever that I am aware of.

Cheung won the wind competition and played Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto No. 2 (“La notte”) with as much verve, artistry, and technique as a seasoned flutist twice his age. His tone was beautiful and clear. He created trills that lingered exquisitely. He leaned into long notes and let the short ones flow smoothly. Combined with excellent breath control and tremendous poise, Cheung made the music a pleasure to hear and look a lot easier than it was – the sign of a fine artist indeed. The audience responded to an immediate standing ovation. Cheung is someone to keep an eye on…

Next on the program came Aaron Greene, a tall 17-year-old, who has been one of the co-concertmasters of the Portland Youth Philharmonic for the past two years. Greene delivered an outstanding performance of Ravel’s “Tzigane.” His opening cadenza showed flashes of inspiration that conveyed the gypsy-imbued spirit of the piece. He excelled with double-stops and the pizzicato passages and supplied a bit of fire to finish off the emotive phrases. Supported by sensitive playing by the harp and the orchestra, Greene created a fine freewheeling swirl of sound through the rest of the piece with only a brief problem with a tricky pizzicato phrase.

Jenna Tu, a 16-year-old pianist, gave a lovely interpretation of the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. She played with terrific confidence and artistry, creating a deep, rich sound in the opening segment. All of the wonderful melodies that surge forward and ebb to the back sparkled in the hands of Tu. Her pacing was excellent, including the build up to the final theme. It was fun to follow her fingers on the big screens above the stage and watch her elegant technique. Like Greene and Cheung, Tu received thunderous applause from an enthusiastic audience. Music Director Salvador Brotons brought all three soloists out on stage for one final bow that everyone appreciated.

The second half of the program was devoted to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” one of the most popular of all symphonic works in the Romantic style. Brotons, conducting from memory, inspired an evocative performance from the orchestra. The brass established an angry sultan. Concertmaster Eva Richey spun the image of the story-telling wife, Scheherazade. The strings and woodwinds generated the ocean waves and all the forces contributed to the swashbuckling adventures in exotic lands. Excellent contributions abounded, especially from principal French Horn (Dan Partridge), clarinet (Igor Shakhman) , bassoon (Margaret McShea), trombone (Graham Middleton), flute (Rachel Rencher), harp (Matthew Tutsky), trumpet (Bruce Dunn) and oboe (Alan Juza) and the rock solid percussion section. The dynamics could have provided more contrast and there was occasional muddiness in the strings, but overall, the orchestra transported listeners to a realm of imagination that only vanished with the final waves of notes.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Virtuosic - loud - emotional Corigliano First Symphony receives stirring performance by the Oregon Symphony

Ear-piercing whistles and piccolos, deafening drums and timpani, wailing brass and horns, sustained angry tones from the strings – they were all memorable parts of John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, “Of Rage and Remembrance,” which the Oregon Symphony performed on Saturday, April 6, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The decibel level was very high during the loudest moments, and I did notice orchestra members protecting their ears, but the shock waves of sound effectively expressed the frustration of the composer at the loss of friends during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s when there was no effective treatment.

The bleating cries from the orchestra landed like visceral punches, but they were tempered now and then by solemn, dark, sonic clouds that chugged to a stifling sense of sadness – at one point plaintively announced by a solitary trombone. From the din of melancholy, emerged the muffled sound of salon music (from the first movement of Albéniz-Godowsky Tango) from an offstage piano – suggesting memories of better times and painful losses. Rumblings in the basement of the contrabassoon, contrabass clarinet, bass trombone, and tuba created a sense of dread and mourning. And just when everything was about to hit the bottom, the pounding of drums would begin to pick up the pace and the sense of anger, exploding in frustration.

In the second movement (“Tarantella”) slow melodies sped up into a cheerful dance that became faster and wilder and wilder – conveying the idea of dancing so fast that you can become cured. The fourth movement (“Chaconne” Guilio’s Song”) was highlighted by a cello duet (played by Nancy Ives and Marilyn de Oliveira) that was hauntingly beautiful. Another mesmerizing effect of the piece were the passages in which the sound from the brass section faded in and out.

The stunning emotional range of Corigliano’s First Symphony reminded me of Gustav Mahler’s symphonic works. Sometimes the music was gorgeous, sometimes flat out alarming. The orchestra, led by Music Director Carlos Kalmar, successful touched every nerve of the piece with its virtuosic playing. The blunt finale didn’t wrap up the anger and frustration with a neat bow, but left a lingering sense of unfinished business that must be resolved some day in the future.

Earlier in the concert, Emanuel Ax, a frequent guest with the orchestra, performed Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major and Stravinsky’s Capriccio. It was interesting to read in the program notes that this was the first time that the orchestra had performed the beloved Haydn piece, yet it had played the Stravinsky with Rudolf Firkusny at the keyboard in 1968.

Ax was completely at home with both works. He conveyed the liveliness of the Haydn flawlessly, delivering fleet arpeggios and dangling immaculate trills that were never overstated or understated. The second movement was unrushed and wonderfully serene, followed by a playfully energetic third movement. The orchestra aligned itself to Ax’s playing with great sensitivity and together they made an elegant and refreshing statement.

The Stravinsky piece exhibited mercurial flavor that caused the piece to change restlessly. After a splashy opening, the music veered into a brief tango-inflected section and then bounced into a series of spikey phrases that stimulated responses from various members of the orchestra. A collage of sorts is revealed as the Ax’s playing darted in and out and sometimes slowed down into a brief melodic phrase.

But the final movement had a tongue-in-cheek style in which the pianist teased the orchestra and vice versa.

The audience rewarded the performance with sustained applause that brought Ax back to center stage several times. He responded with a Chopin Nocturne, which was absolutely exquisite.

In sharp contrast to the Corgliano symphony, the concert opened with the lightweight, yet utterly delightful Overture to “Fra Diavolo,” an opera written French composer Daniel Auber in 1830. The orchestra sparkled in its performance highlighted by a snappy snare drum, perky melodic lines that had a Rossini-like flair, and a trumpet call that erupted into a festive and stirring finale.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the former Writer's Almanac:

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

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Felicien David (1810-1876)
William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875)
Milos Sadlo (1912-2003)
George Barati (1913-1996)
Frederic Rzewski (1938)
Margaret Price (1941-2011)
Della Jones (1946)
Al Green (1946)
Mary Ellen Childs (1959)

and

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Eudora Welty (1909-2001)
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1958, American pianist Van Cliburn wins the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the first American to do so.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Preview of young artist concert in The Columbian

My preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert that features the winners of its annual young artists competition was published in today's edition of The Columbian newspaper here.

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Nardini (1722-1793)
Joseph Lanner (1801-1843)
Johnny Dodds (1892-1940)
Lily Pons (1898-1976)
Imogen Holst (1907-1984)
Thomas Hemsley (1927-2013)
Herbert Khaury (aka Tiny Tim) (1932-1996)
Henri Lazarof (1932-2013)
Montserrat Caballé (1933-2018)
Herbie Hancock (1940)
Ernst Kovacic (1943)
Stefan Minde (1936-2015)
Christophe Rousset (1961)

and

Beverly Cleary (1916)
Alan Ayckbourn (1939)
Tom Clancy (1947-2013)
Gary Soto (1952)
Jon Krakauer (1954)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jean-Joseph Mouret (1682-1738)
Charles Hallé (1819-1895)
Karel Ančerl (1908-1973)
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
Gervase de Peyer (1926-2017)
Kurt Moll (1938)
Arthur Davies (1941)

and

Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549)
Christopher Smart (1722-1771)
Mark Strand (1934)
Ellen Goodman (1941)
Dorothy Allison (1949)

From the New Music Box:

On April 11, 1941, Austrian-born composer Arnold Schönberg became an American citizen and officially changed the spelling of his last name to Schoenberg. He would remain in the United States until his death in 1951. Some of his most important compositions, including the Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, and the Fourth String Quartet, were composed during his American years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Michel Corrette (1707-1795)
Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932)
Victor de Sabata (1892-1967)
Fiddlin' Arthur Smith (1891-1971)
Harry Mortimer (1902-1992)
Luigi Alva (1927)
Claude Bolling (1930)
Jorge Mester (1935)
Sarah Leonard (1953)
Lesley Garrett (1955
) Yefim Bronfman (1958)

and

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)
David Halberstam (1934-2007)
Paul Theroux (1941)
Norman Dubie (1945)
Anne Lamott (1954)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1868, Brahms's "A German Requiem," was premiered at a Good Friday concert at Bremen Cathedral conducted by the composer.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627-1693)
Georg Matthias Monn (1717-1750)
François Giroust (1737-1799)
Supply Belcher (1751-1836)
Theodor Boehm (1794-1881)
Paolo Tosti (1846-1916
Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1888-1953)
Sol Hurok (1888-1974)
Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (1889-1985)
Julius Patzak (1898-1974)
Paul Robeson (1898-1976)
Antal Doráti (1906-1988)
Tom Lehrer (1928)
Aulis Sallinen (1935)
Jerzy Maksymiuk (1936)
Neil Jenkins (1945)

and

Charles-Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Gregory Goodwin Pincus (1903-1967)
J. William Fullbright (1905-1995)
Jørn Utzon (1918-2008)

From the former Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1860, the oldest known recording of the human voice was made — someone was singing Au Clair de la Lune. French inventor Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville captured sound waves on glass plates using a funnel, two membranes, and a stylus. He made the recording 17 years before Edison made his, but he didn't invent anything to play the recording back.

When researchers discovered these recordings three years ago, they assumed the voice singing was a woman's, so they played it at that speed. But then they re-checked the inventor's notes, and they realized that the inventor himself had sung the song, very slowly, carefully enunciating, as if to capture the beautiful totality of the human voice.

You can hear the astonishing recording at both speeds at firstsounds.org.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Claudio Merulo (1533-1604)
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)
Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983)
E. Y. (Yip) Harburg (1896-1981)
Josef Krips (1902-1974)
Franco Corelli (1921-2003)
Walter Berry (1929-2000)
Lawrence Leighton Smith (1936-2013)
Meriel Dickinson (1940)
Dame Felicity Lott (1947)
Diana Montague (1953)
Anthony Michaels-Moore (1957)

and

Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857)
Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)
Harvey Cushing (1869-1939)
Robert Giroux (1914-2008)
Seymour Hersh (1937)
Barbara Kingsolver (1955)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1865, American premiere of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertate in Eb, K. 364(320d) for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra took place in New York, with violinist Theodore Thomas and violist Georg Matzka (A review of this concert in the New York Times said: "On the whole we would prefer death to a repetition of this production. The wearisome scale passages on the little fiddle repeated ad nausea on the bigger one were simply maddening.”).

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Charles Burney (1726-1814)
Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846)
Robert Casadesus (1899-1972)
Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)
Ikuma Dan (1924-2001)

and

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998)
Donald Barthelme (1931-1989)
Daniel Ellsberg (1931)
Francis Ford Coppola (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1918, the German conductor of the Boston Symphony, Karl Muck, is arrested and interned as an enemy alien after American enters World War I.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Kuhnau (1660-1772)
André‑Cardinal Destouches (1672-1749)
Friedrich Robert Volkman (1815-1883)
Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)
Andrew Imbrie (1921-2007)
Edison Denisov (1929-1996)
André Previn (1929-2019)
Merle Haggard (1937-2016)
Felicity Palmer (1944)
Pascal Rogé (1951)
Pascal Devoyon (1953)
Julian Anderson (1967)

and

Raphael (Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino) (1483-1520)
Joseph Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)

From the New Music Box:

On April 6, 1897, the U.S. government granted Thaddeus Cahill a patent for his Telharmonium, or Dynamophone, the earliest electronic musical instrument. Cahill built a total of three such instruments, which utilized a 36-tone scale and used telephone receivers as amplifiers. The first one, completed in 1906 in Holyoke, Massachussetts was 60 feet long and weighed 200 tons. It was housed in "Telharmonic Hall" on 39th Street and Broadway New York City for 20 years.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Louis Spohr (1784-1859)
Albert Roussel (1869-1937)
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989)
Goddard Lieberson (1911-1977)
Richard Yardumian (1917-1985)
Evan Parker (1944)
Julius Drake (1959)

and

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Arthur Hailey (1920-2004)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731)
Bettina Brentano von Arnim (1785-1859)
Hans Richter (1843-1916)
Pierre Monteux (1875-1964)
Joe Venuti (1898-1978)
Eugène Bozza (1905-1991)
Muddy Waters (1915-1983)
Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)
Sergei Leiferkus (1946)
Chen Yi (1953)
Thomas Trotter (1957)
Jane Eaglen (1960)
Vladimir Jurowski (1972)

and

Robert E. Sherwood (1896-1955)
Marguerite Duras (1914-1996)
Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1954, Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini (age 87) leads his last concert with the NBC Symphony, an all-Wagner program.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Baptiste‑Antoine Forqueray (1699-1782)
Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey (1895-1971)
Sir Neville Cardus (1888-1975)
Grigoras Dinicu (1889-1949)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Louis Appelbaum (1918-2000)
Sixten Ehrling (1918-2005)
Kerstin Meyer (1928)
Garrick Ohlsson (1948)
Mikhail Rudy (1953)

and

Washington Irving (1783-1894)
John Burroughs (1837-1921)
Herb Caen (1933-1997)
Dr. Jane Goodall (1934)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Gender identity undergoes exploration with chamber opera

Hannah Penn as Hannah after and Lee Gregory as Hannah before in Portland Opera's production of As One. Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.

What is the self? How do you accept yourself if you do not identify with your own gender? How do others accept you? These questions are some of the central underpinnings of As One, a chamber opera that received a strong production from Portland Opera on March 22 at Newmark Theatre. Composed by Laura Kaminsky with video projections by Kimberly Reed who also co-wrote the libretto with Mark Campbell, As One tackles transgender issues straight on but ultimately falls a little short of delivering the emotional goods.

As One uses a string quartet and only two singers to tell the story of a male who becomes a female. The male, listed as Hannah Before in the program, struggles from childhood with his feelings even though he is the “perfect boy” to his family and friends. He delivers newspapers from his bicycle and excels as an athlete, winning medal after medal a la Bruce Jenner. But he steals a blouse from a neighbor’s clothesline and wears it under his clothing. He loves writing cursive, and wants to be with the girls during the sex ed class. At the library, he surreptitiously reads books that discuss transgender issues.

Sometime after high school Hannah Before moves to the San Francisco area, where he takes medication that allows him to become Hannah After. Although she writes to her parents that she won’t be home for Christmas and is finally accepted by others as a woman. A frightful encounter with a hateful stranger at a park causes a dramatic shift in her life, and she responds by taking a trip to an isolated cabin in Norway where she realizes that she can be happy with herself.

As One was most effective in building the story of Hannah and portraying conflict. One can imagine being an island with no one to turn to for help except books. The incident in the park with the stranger had a palpable edge that was followed by the recitation of names of transgender people who have been murdered. Rather than reach out to family or friends, Hannah After inexplicably runs off to Norway to find herself. Snippets of disarming humor brought levity to the story, but I was not convinced that she was truly happy with herself unless she returned to the states and felt that way.

Outstanding performances by Lee Gregory and Hannah Penn carried the Portland Opera production to the goal line. Gregory, who starred as Hannah Before in the Long Beach Opera company’s 2017 production, skillfully conveyed a conflicted young man. Hannah Penn excelled with impeccable comic timing to connect with the audience. Even though Gregory’s legato lines allowed him to become a bit too loud when matched up with Penn’s ornamental filigree, their voices were well suited for each other.

Kaminsky’s music expressed optimism with uplifting motoric phrases. Dissonant tones portrayed the scary scene in the park. A series of sliding sounds conveyed the disorienting effect of the sex altering drugs. Plaintive fragments of Silent Night and The First Noel drifted in and out during the sad Christmastime scene.

Violinists Margaret Bichteler and Nelly Kovalev, violist Hillary Oseas, and cellist Dylan Rieck played with conviction under the direction of Andreas Mitisek, who did double duty as stage director as well as designed the stage and costumes. The use of a suitcase to extract memories from Hannah’s past was subtle and effective.

Reed's films supported the story and music superbly, including a wonderful go-pro-camera like sequence for the newspaper route. When the Lewis and Clark Library from Helena, Montana, (where Reed grew up) was shown, it generated some laughter from the audience who mistook it for the library at Lewis & Clark College.

The ending with self-imposed isolation in Norway, seemed a bit of a stretch. The parents had written that they loved their child, and Hannah had replied that she didn’t have the money for a plane ticket, but later found enough to fly to a foreign land. It seemed that she could have tried to find a few supportive friends in the Bay Area, especially after the dangerous experience at the park. The final scene was hopeful but would it stick after returning home?

Today's Birthdays

Franz Lachner (1803-1890)
Kurt Adler (1905-1988)
April Cantelo (1928)
Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)
Raymond Gubbay (1946)

and

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
Émile Zola (1840-1902)
Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Camille Paglia (1947)

Monday, April 1, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Henri d'Anglebert (1629-1691)
Ferrucco Busoni (1866-1924)
F Melius Christiansen (1871-1955)
Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Dinu Lipatti (1921-1950)
William Bergsma (1921-1994)

and

Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)
Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)
Milan Kundera (1929)
Francine Prose (1947)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1888, the eccentric Parisian composer and piano virtuoso Alkan is buried in the Montmatre Cemetery. Isidore Philipp, one of only four mourners who attend Alkan's internment, claimed to have been present when the composer's body was found in his apartment and said the elderly Alkan was pulled from under a heavy bookcase, which apparently fell on him while Alkan was trying to reach for a copy of the Talmud on its top shelf. This story has been discounted by some Alkan scholars.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Durante (1684-1755)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Serge Diaghliev (1872-1929)
Clemens Krauss (1893-1954)
John Mitchinson (1932)
Herb Alpert (1935)
Nelly Miricioiu (1952)
Robert Gambill (1955)
Jake Heggie (1961)

and

René Descartes (1596-1650)
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)
Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)
Marge Piercy (1936)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Tommaso Traetta (1727-1779)
Ted Heath (1900-1969)
Sandor Szokolay (1931-2013)
John Eaton (1935-2015)
Gordon Muma (1935)
Eric Clapton (1945)
Maggie Cole (1952)
Margaret Fingerhut (1955)
Sabine Meyer (1959)

and

Francisco Jose de Goya (1746-1828)
Anna Sewell (1820-1878)
Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Sean O'Casey (1880-1964)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Recommended classical concerts in The Oregonian

The Oregonian published my recommendations for classical concerts this spring. The article appeared online here. I hope that you can hear these concerts.

Today's Birthdays

Henri Lutz (1864-1928)
Rosina Lhévinne (1880-1976)
Sir William Walton (1902-1983)
E Power Biggs (1906-1977)
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012)
Guher Pekinel (1953)
Suher Pekinel (1953)

and

Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-2000)
Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005)
Judith Guest (1936)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1871, Royal Albert Hall is formally opened in London by Queen Victoria.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Weigl (1766-1846)
Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951)
Paul Whiteman (1890-1967)
Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991)
Jacob Avshalomov (1919-2013)
Robert Ashley (1930-2014)
Martin Neary (1940)
Samuel Ramey (1942)
Richard Stilgoe (1942)

and

Raphael (1483-1520)
Nelson Algren (1909-1981)
Mario Vargas Llosa (1936)
Russell Banks (1940)
Iris Chang (1968-2004)
Lauren Weisberger (1977)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1842, the Vienna Philharmonic plays its first concert (as the "Vienna Court Orchestra") in the Redoutensaale under the director of composer Otto Nicolai, the director of the Vienna Court Opera. The program included Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, his concert aria "Ah, Perfido," and the "Leonore" No. 3 and "Consercration of the House" Overtures, along with other vocal selections by Mozart and Cherubini.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931)
Patty Smith Hill (1868-1946)
Ferde Grofé (1892-1972)
Anne Ziegler (1910-2003)
Sarah Vaughn (1924-1990)
Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007)
Paul Ruders (1949)
Maria Ewing (1950)
Bernard Labadie (1963)

and

Henri Murger (1822-1861)
Heinrich Mann (1871-1950)
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969)
Budd Schulberg (1914-2009)
Louis Simpson (1923-2012)
Julia Alvarez (1950)
John O'Farrell (1962)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1808, Franz Joseph Haydn makes his last public appearance at a performance of his oratorio "The Creation" in Vienna in honor of the composer's approaching 76th birthday. Beethoven and Salieri attend the performance and greet Haydn.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Josef Slavík (1806-1833)
Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969)
André Cluytens (1905-1967)
Harry Rabinowitz (1916-2016)
Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
Kyung Wha Chung (1948)

and

Edward Bellamy (1850-1898)
A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Joseph Campbell (1904–1987)
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)
Gregory Corso (1930-2001)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783)
Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Haydn Wood (1882-1959)
Magda Olivero (1910-2014)
Cecil Taylor (1929-2018)
Sir Elton John (1947)

and

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)
Gloria Steinem (1934)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1949, Shostakovich (accompanied by KGB "handlers") arrives in New York for his first visit to America, for the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His anti-Western statements and criticism of Igor Stravinsky embarrassed his American sponsors, including Aaron Copland, and later provided political fodder for the notorious Red-hunter, Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

John Antes (1740-1811)
Maria Malibran (1808-1836)
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)
Christiane Eda-Pierre (1932)
Benjamin Luxon (1937)

and

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990)
Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919)
Dario Fo (1926-2016)
Ian Hamilton (1938-2001)
Martin Walser (1927)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1721, J.S. Bach dedicates his six "Brandenburg" Concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg, whose orchestra apparently never performed them.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Léon Minkus (1826-1917)
Eugène Gigout (1844-1925)
Franz Schreker (1878-1934)
Josef Locke (1917-1999)
Norman Bailey (1933)
Boris Tishchenko (1939-2010)
Michael Nyman (1944)
David Grisman (1945)

and

Roger Martin du Gard (1881-1958)
Louis Adamic (1898-1951)
Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
Kim Stanley Robinson (1952)
Gary Joseph Whitehead (1965)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Carl Rosa (1842-1889)
Hamisch MacCunn (1868-1916)
Joseph Samson (1888-1957)
Martha Mödl (1912-2001)
Fanny Waterman (1920)
Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986)
Stephen Sondheim (1930)
Joseph Schwantner (1943)
George Benson (1943)
Alan Opie (1945)
Rivka Golani (1946)
Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948)
Edmund Barham (1950-2008)

and

Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)
Louis L'Amour (1908-1988)
Edith Grossman (1936)
James Patterson (1940)
Billy Collins (1941)
James McManus (1951)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1687, Italian-born French composer Jean Baptiste Lully, age 54, in Paris, following an inadvertent self-inflicted injury to his foot (by a staff with which he would beat time for his musicians) which developed gangrene.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Modeste Moussorgsky (1839-1881)
Eddie James "Son" House (1902-1988)
Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949)
Paul Tortelier (1914-1990)
Nigel Rogers (1935)
Owain Arwel Hughes (1942)
Elena Firsova (1950)
Ann MacKay (1956)

and

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)
Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998)
Ved Mehta (1934)

From the New Music Box:

On March 21, 1771, the Massachusetts Gazette published an announcement for a musical program including "select pieces on the forte piano and guitar." It is the earliest known reference to the piano in America.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957)
Lauritz Melchoir (1890-1973)
Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997)
Dame Vera Lynn (1917)
Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970)
Marian McPartland (1918-2013)
Henry Mollicone (1946)

and

Ovid (43 BC - AD 17)
Ned Buntline (1823-1886)
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, the New York Symphony and the New York Philharmonic Society united to form the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York - now known as simply "The New York Philharmonic."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Max Reger (1873-1916)
Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994)
Nancy Evans (1915-2000)
Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950)
Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)
Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
Myung-Wha Chung (1944)
Carolyn Watkinson (1949)
Mathew Rosenblum (1954)

and

Tobias Smollett (1721-1771)
Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852)
Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890)
Philip Roth (1933)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Collective artistry drums up terrific world premiere with Oregon Symphony

Four virtuoso percussionists collaborated with the Oregon Symphony to create a phenomenally exciting world premiere performance of Drum Circles by American composer Christopher Theofanidis on Monday evening (March 11) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The foursome (Ji Hye Jung, Matthew Keown, Svet Stoyanov, and Sam Um), who are members of The Percussion Collective Robert Van Sice, astonishingly memorized an amount of complicated music, involving a large array of percussion instruments arranged in front of the orchestra across the width of the stage and to either side of Music Director Carlos Kalmar. Their dramatic and compelling performance was a truly memorable experience.

Robert van Sice is a world-renown percussionist and marimba player who teaches at the Curtis Institute. He recently founded The Percussion Collective Robert Van Sice, which consists of top-tier percussionists, and they were perfect for Drum Circles. The piece, co-commissioned by the Oregon Symphony, the Aspen Music Festival, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony, consists of five movements with evocative titles, such as “Sparks and chants” and “Three chords and truth.”

According to Robert McBride, who interviewed Theofanidis before the performance, Jung, Keown, Stoyanov, and Um worked with the composer, using email, phone calls, and a quartet video rehearsal while the piece was being written, but the five of them never worked on it in-person until they arrived in Portland. Wow!

The first movement, “Rivers and anthems,” opened strongly with a wild series of tones on the marimbas that were supported by a driving beat from the bass drum (Niel Deponte) and timpani (Jonathan Greeney) and drum set (Michael Roberts). The dazzling array of tones and overtones transitioned to a celestial sonic cloud from the vibraphones and cymbals. Melodic lines seemed to overlay each other as if in a dream.

The second movement, “Sparks and chants,” began with single pulses from the soloists, which suggested a bit of tension just before catching fire and taking off. The strings picked up the thread, which, at one point, seemed to throw out a question (if music can do that). Later a broad trumpet fanfare faded away, and we were left again with single percussive notes.

The third movement (“How can you smile when you’re deep in thought?”), offered a series of humorous strokes from a typewriter before the music accelerated into a veritable blitz of sounds and deft interplay between the soloists.

The fourth movement, “Spirits and drums,” provided an echo-like exchange between the orchestra’s percussionists and the soloists. The back and forth exchange suggested a warpath accompanied by deep, serious chords from cellos and bass violins.

The final movement, “Three chords and truth,” returned to a more melodic direction that reminded me of a Renaissance style with shimmering cymbals. Somewhere along the way, all four soloists had to play exactly the same notes at the same time in a way that was sort of random. They did so by watching each other extremely carefully… and it was like a mind-meld.

After the piece ended, the audience erupted with cheers and enthusiastic applause. Jung, Keown, Stoyanov, and Um returned several times and responded with a lovely encore based on a tango by Astor Piazzola.

The other pieces on the concert were also played exceptionally well. After intermission, Sarah Kwak gave an exquisite interpretation of Vaughn Williams’s The Lark Ascending. The lyrical music evoked images of an idyllic setting where the bird would sing before taking flight. The strings fashioned gentle waves and the woodwinds and French horns complimented the bucolic atmosphere perfectly.

To open the concert, the orchestra delivered a crisp and vigorous interpretation of the Overture to Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. Yet, because the musicians were located further back on the stage (behind the massive number of percussion instruments), some of the sound was less present.

The concert concluded with Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony (Italian). The joyous opening was light but not fluffy, highlighted by the tremendous woodwind section. One of the bass violinists must have broken a string, because he quietly exited with his instrument right after the first movement. The bass violins played added just a bit more volume and the rest of the piece went along as if nothing was amiss at all. The dynamics and pace were fresh and inspiring until the final notes. It was a marvelous performance of a great masterpiece.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Vogel (1756-1788)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Paul Le Flem (1881-1984)
Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973)
Willem van Hoogstraten (1884-1964)
Nobuko Imai (1943)
James Conlon (1950)
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (1950)
Courtney Pine (1964)

and

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
Manly Hall (1901-1990)
George Plimpton (1927-2003)
Christa Wolf (1929-2011)
John Updike (1932-2009)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729)
Manuel García II (1805-1906)
Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901)
Giuseppe Borgatti (1871-1950)
Brian Boydell (1917-2000)
Nat "King" Cole (1917-1965)
John LaMontaine (1920-2013)
Stephen Dodgson (1924-2013)
Betty Allen (1927-2009)
John Lill (1944)
Michael Finnissy (1946)
Patrick Burgan (1960)

and

Edmund Kean (1787-1833)
Frank B. Gilbreth (1911-2001)
Penelope Lively (1933)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Enrico Tamberlik (1820-1889)
Henny Youngman (1906-1998)
Christa Ludwig (1928)
Sir Roger Norrington (1934)
Teresa Berganza (1935)
David Del Tredici (1937)
Claus Peter Flor (1953)

and

James Madison (1751-1836)
Maxim Gorky (1868-1936)
César Vallejo (1892-1938)
Sid Fleischman (1920-2010)
Alice Hoffman (1952)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756)
Pierre-Louis Couperin (1755-1789)
Johann Strauss Sr. (1804-1849)
Lawrance Collingwood (1887-1982)
Witold Rudziński (1913-2004)
Quincy Jones (1933)
Phillip Joll (1954)

and

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Sylvia Beach (1887-1962)
Max Shulman (1919-1988)
Diane Arbus (1923-1871)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Michael Blavet (1700-1768)
Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Alec Rowley (1892-1958)
Irène Joachim (1913-2001)
Jane Rhodes (1929-2011)
Alberto Ponce (1935)
Lionel Friend (1945)
Julia Migenes (1949)
Wolfgang Rihm (1952)
Anthony Powers (1953)
Moses Hogan (1957-2003)
Terence Blanchard (1962)

and

Janet Flanner (1892-1978)
George Seferis (1900-1971)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1778)
Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)
Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965)
Ralph Shapey (1921-2002)
Norbert Brainin (1923-2005)
Philip Jones (1928-2000)
Helga Pilarczyk (1935-2011)
Liza Minnelli (1946)
James Taylor (1948)

and

George Berkeley (1685-1753)
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916)
Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950)
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)
Edward Albee (1928-2016)
Virginia Hamilton (1934-2002)
Naomi Shihab Nye (1952)
Carl Hiaasen (1953)
David Eggers (1970)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Carl Ruggles (1876-1971)
Henry Cowell (1897-1965)
Xavier Montsalvage (1912-2002)
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Sarah Walker (1943)
Tristan Murail (1947)
Bobby McFerrin (1950)
Katia Labèque (1950)

and

Torquato Tasso (1544-1495)
Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983)
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1829, Mendelssohn conducts a revival performance of J.S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" in Berlin.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838)
Dudley Buck (1839-1909)
Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)
Arthur Honnegger (1892-1955)
Dame Eva Turner (1892-1990)
Bix Biederbecke (1903-1931)
Sir Charles Groves (1915-1992)
William Blezard (1921-2003)
Andrew Parrott (1947)
Stephen Oliver (1950-1992)

and

Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933)
Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948)
Heywood Hale Broun (1918-2001)
David Rabe (1940)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Josef Mysliveczek (1737-1781)
Archie Camden (1888-1979)
Dame Isobel Baillie (1895-1983)
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
David Matthews (1943)
Kalevi Aho (1949)
Howard Shelley (1950)

and

Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512)
Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962)
Mickey Spillane (1918-2006)
David Pogue (1963)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1831, Italian violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini makes his Parisian debut a the Opéra. Composers in the audience include Meyerbeer, Cherubini, Halvéy. and Franz Liszt (who transcribes Pagnini's showpiece "La Campanella" for piano). Also in attendance are the many famous novelists and poets, including George Sand, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Mussset and Heinrich Heine.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Todayk's Birthdays

Eduard Strauss (1835-1916)
Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935)
Colin McPhee (1900-1964)
Lightnin' Hopkins (1912-1982)
Ben Johnston (1926)
Nicolas Flagello (1928-1994)
Jean Rudolphe Kars (1947)
Isabel Buchanan (1954)

and

Richard Ellmann (1918-1987)
Ben Okri (1959)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1985, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, age 22, makes his operatic debut at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples, singing the lead tenor role in Domenico Morelli's comic opera "L'Amico Francesco."

Today's Birthdays

Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613)
Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000)
Dick Hyman (1927)
Christian Wolff (1934)
Robert Tear (1939-2011)
Barthold Kuijken (1949)
Simon Halsey (1958)

and

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)
Leslie Fiedler (1917-2003)
Neil Postman (1931-2003)
John McPhee (1933)
Leslie A. Fiedler (1948)
Jeffrey Eugenides (1960)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

John Wilbye (1574-1638)
Tomaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Heino Eller (1887-1970)
Christopher Seaman (1942)
Uri Segal (1944)
Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997)
Nicholas Kraemer (1945)
Clive Gillinson (1946)
Okko Kamu (1946)
Montserrat Figueras (1948-2011)
Michael Chance (1955)

and

William York Tindall (1903-1981)
William Boyd (1952)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1897, Johannes Brahms attends his last concerts and hears his Symphony No. 4 conducted by Hans Richter.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Oscar Straus (1870-1954)
Julius Rudel (1921-2014)
Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006)
Wes Montgomery (1925-1968)
Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015)
Lorin Maazel (1930-2014)
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (1944)
Stephen Schwartz (1948)
Marielle Labèque (1952)
Mark Gresham (1956)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin (1975)

and

Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Ring Lardner (1885-1933)
Gabriel García Márquez (1928-2014)
Willie Mays (1931)
Dick Fosbury (1947)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alphonse Hasselmans (1845-1912)
Arthur Foote (1853-1937)
Pauline Donalda (1882-1970)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
Anthony Hedges (1931)
Barry Tuckwell (1931)
Sheila Nelson (1936)
Richard Hickox (1948)

and

Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594)
Frank Norris (1870-1902)
Leslie Marmon Silko (1948)

From The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1750 that the first Shakespearean play was presented in America. Richard III was performed by the actors of Walter Murray and William Kean’s troupe from Philadelphia. Theater was still new in the colonies. And though it was popular in Philadelphia, that city still preferred to pride itself on its scientific and literary achievements, so Murray and Kean set out for New York City.

Through the 1700s, New York’s primary form of entertainment was drinking. By the time Murray and Kean arrived in February of 1750, there were 10,000 city residents and over 150 taverns. Murray and Kean set up shop in a two-story wooden structure on Nassau Street, slightly east of Broadway.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Carlos Surinach (1915-1997)
Cecil Aronowitz (1916-1978)
Samuel Adler (1928)
Bernard Haitink (1929)
Aribert Reimann (1936)
Ralph Kirshbaum (1946)
Leanna Primiani (1968)

and

Khaled Hosseini (1965)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1801,the U.S. Marine Band performed for Thomas Jefferson's inaugural. Jefferson, an avid music lover and amateur violinist, gave the Marine Band the title "The President's Own." Since that time, the band has played for every presidential inaugural.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Dr. Atomic and the Rach 2 form an impressive outing by the Oregon Symphony

Marc-Andre Hamelin
Saturday February 23 saw the OSO present an intense and weighty concert featuring the Dr. Atomic Symphony, distilled from the opera of the same name by composer John Adams, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor by Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration.*

The evening opened with symphony based on Adams's opera, which deals with the emotions of Robert J. Oppenheimer in the days preceding the first test of an atomic weapon on human history, deep in the New Mexico desert. In Adams's own words the work "is kind of explosive, as if it were Oppenheimer's plutonium sphere just about to go supercritical." The disturbing cacophony from the first notes onward set the tone for this deeply serious work.  The tremendous percussion section of the OSO had their work cut out for them in this piece, with tuned gongs, thunder sheet, tam tams and crotales among the instruments featured prominently, not to mention the incredibly demanding part written for the timpani, and the section executed everything masterfully. The double basses grumbled like a disgruntled animal, and contributed to an unsettling feeling of being on the ragged edge of something terrifying, unavoidable and yet somehow profoundly alluring.  The OSO explored the fascinating, syncopated sound world fearlessly, and the haunting trumpet in the final act gave voice to the tortured mind of Oppenheimer contemplating the awesome power of the destructive device he has wrought.

Marc-Andre Hamelin was the soloist for the Rachmaninoff piano concerto. The chordal passages at the opening were bold and beautiful, but his arpeggios, while precise, felt a bit understated. Dream-like scalar passages were unfortunately marred by the orchestra being slightly out of sync with the soloist, by a narrow but consistently noticeable margin, especially in the cadences. At other times the voice of the piano was simply subsumed by the orchestra.

In the Adagio, the duets between piano and various woodwinds were delightful, like a breathless lullaby. The long, slow solo part was followed by strings playing molto cantabile for all they were worth, swooning and soaring.  Hamelin was brilliant, hanging on every isolated note and phrase, infusing them with deep meaning.  He attacked the final movement with a jocular staccatissimo, playing with a tinkling, vibraphone-like quality. For all his deft and delicate touch he still brought the thunder for the showy Rach fireworks display, and the orchestra did a much better job of getting out of the soloists way in the finale.

*Due to illness I was unable to stay and review the Strauss, which comprised the second half of the evening.

Today's Birthdays

Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932)
Henry Wood (1869-1944)
Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982)
Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)
Frank Wigglesworth (1918-1996)
Doc Watson (1923-2012)
Martin Lovett (1927)
Florence Quivar (1944)
Roberta Alexander (1949)
Katia Labèque (1950)

and

James Merrill (1926-1995)
Ira Glass (1959)

From the Writer's Almanac:

Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata was published on this date in 1802. Its real name is the slightly less evocative “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2,” and its Italian subtitle is translated as “almost a fantasy.” In 1832, five years after Beethoven’s death, a German critic compared the sonata to the effect of moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne, and the interpretation became so popular that, by the end of the century, the piece was universally known as the “Moonlight Sonata.” Beethoven himself had attributed the emotion of the piece to sitting at the bedside of a friend who had suffered an untimely death.

It was on this day in 1875 that the opera Carmen appeared on stage for the first time at the Opéra-Comique in France. When it premiered, the audience was shocked by the characters of Carmen, a gypsy girl, and her lover, Don José. The opera ran for 37 performances even though it came out late in the season, and it came back the next season, too.

Nietzsche heard Carmen 20 different times, and thought of it as a musical masterpiece. Tchaikovsky first heard Carmen in 1880. Bizet died of a heart attack just three months after the opera's debut.

It was on this day in 1931 that "The Star-Spangled Banner" became the official national anthem of the United States.

The lyrics come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key more than a century before, "Defence of Fort McHenry." He'd spent a night toward the end of the War of 1812 hearing the British navy bombard Baltimore, Maryland. The bombardment lasted 25 hours — and in the dawn's early light, Francis Scott Key emerged to see the U.S. flag still waving over Fort McHenry. He jotted the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" on the back of an envelope. Then he went to his hotel and made another copy, which was printed in the Baltimore American a week later.

The tune for the Star-Spangled Banner comes from an old British drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven," which was very popular at men's social clubs in London during the 1700s. Francis Scott Key himself did the pairing of the tune to his poem. It was a big hit.

For the next century, a few different anthems were used at official U.S. ceremonies, including "My Country Tis of Thee" and "Hail Columbia." The U.S. Navy adopted "The Star-Spangled Banner" for its officialdom in 1889, and the presidency did in 1916. But it wasn't until this day in 1931 — just 80 years ago — that Congress passed a resolution and Hoover signed into law the decree that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was the official national anthem of the United States of America.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
Tom Burke (1890-1969)
Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
Marc Blitzstein (1905-1965)
John Gardner (1917-2011)
Robert Simpson (1921-1997)
Bernard Rands (1934)
Robert Lloyd (1940)
Lou Reed (1942)

and

Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) (1904-1991)
Mikhail S Gorbachev (1931)
Tom Wolfe (1931)
John Irving (1942)

and from the Composers Datebook:

Starting on this day in 1967 and continuing over the next two weeks, Russian cellist Mstsilav Rostropovich performed 26 works for cello and orchestra at 8 concerts with the London Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York City -- including some world premieres!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960)
Glenn Miller (1904-1944)
Leo Brouwer (1939)
Moray Welsh (1947)
Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson (1954-2006)
Galina Gorchakova (1962)
Thomas Adès (1971)

and

Oskar Kokoschka (1866-1980)
Ralph Ellison (1913-1994)
Robert Lowell (1917-1977)
Richard Wilbur (1921-2017)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Today's Birthdays

John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951)
Sergueï Bortkiewicz (1877-1952)
Guiomar Novaes (1895-1979)
Geraldine Farrar (1882-1967)
Roman Maciejewski (1910-1998)
George Malcolm (1917-1997)
Joseph Rouleau (1929)
Osmo Vänskä (1953)
Markus Stenz (1965)

and

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Linus Pauling (1901-1994)
Stephen Spender (1909-1995)
Zero Mostel (1915-1977)
Frank Gehry (1929)
John Fahey (1939-2001)
Stephen Chatman (1950)
Colum McCann (1965)
Daniel Handler (1970)

and from the Composers Datebook

On this date in 1882, the Royal College of Music is founded in London.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918)
Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976)
Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
Elizabeth Welch (1904-2003)
Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006)
Mirella Freni (1935)
Morten Lauridsen (1943)
Gidon Kremer (1947)
Frank-Peter Zimmermann (1956)

and

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)
Ralph Nadar (1934)
N. Scott Momaday (1934)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Blind pianist wows crowd at Vancouver Symphony concert

Ignasi Cambra amazed Vancouver Symphony patrons with an exceptional performance of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto on Saturday afternoon (February 22) to a near-capacity audience at Skyview Concert Hall. The Spanish pianist played the piece with impeccable technique and delivered the emotional goods with panache, a truly commendable achievement for any talented pianist. Yet one additional element made this performance exceptionally memorable… Cambra is blind.

Cambra’s condition made it all the more mesmerizing to watch his fingers dash up and down the keyboard as his every move was projected on two large screens positioned on either side of the stage. Besides commanding hand-crossovers with panache and delivering numerous immaculate trills, he also played the entire piece with great sensitively, always making sure that the melodic line could be heard even when the orchestra was playing its loudest.

Cambra gave the first movement (Allegro con brio) a joyful and lively quality that elicited an extended round of applause from the audience. The second (Largo) was dreamy and accompanied by a wonderfully silky sound from the violins. The third (Rondo: Allegro) galloped off at a good clip, and Cambra added a crisp snap to some of the phrases.

After the concerto concluded, the listeners erupted with their appreciation, and Brotons brought Cambra back to the keyboard where he played two encores. The first was a Scarlatti sonata in D minor, in which Cambra deftly displayed graceful ornamentation in the right hand. The second was the beloved and comforting “Träumerei” (Dreaming) from Schumann’s Kinderszenen.

After intermission, the orchestra gave a spirited performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony. Because this work is closer to the classical style of Beethoven’s predecessors, there are a lot of exposed sections for the strings, and those sections revealed that the violins were not always in agreement with intonation. The final movement sounded the best with Brotons and his forces finishing the piece dramatically. Another plus was the evocative playing of principal clarinetist Igor Shahkman.

To open the concert, the orchestra played the Overture to Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. The somber sentiment of the piece came across very well with the trombones sounding grand and noble. The nimble and lighter sections needed to be slightly faster and crisper to achieve more contrast between serious and humorous. But these quibbles aside, it was fun to hear the orchestra play the piece, and that made me wonder if the VSO might consider presenting a concert version of an opera sometime in the future.

Overall, the star of the concert was Cambra, and that, of course, brings up the possibility of another appearance by him with the orchestra in the years ahead.

Today's Birthdays

Anton (Antoine) Reicha (1770-1836)
Alfred Bachelet (1864-1944)
Emmy Destinn (1878-1930)
Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
Witold Rowicki (1914-1989)
Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino (1928-2017)
Lazar Berman (1930-2005)
Johnny Cash (1932-2005)
David Thomas (1943)
Guy Klucevsek (1947)
Emma Kirkby (1949)
Richard Wargo (1957)
Carlos Kalmar (1958)

and

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
John George Nicolay (1832-1901)
Elisabeth George (1949)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Armand-Louis Couperin (1727-1789)
Antoine Reicha (1770-1836)
Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)
Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965)
Victor Silvester (1900-1978)
Davide Wilde (1935)
Jesús López-Cobos (1940)
George Harrison (1943-2001)
Lucy Shelton (1944)
Denis O'Neill (1948)
Melinda Wagner (1957)

and

Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)
Karl Friedrich May (1842–1874)
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993)
John C. Farrar (1896-1974)

And from the New Music Box:

On February 25, 1924, the first issue of the League of Composers Review was published. Under the editorial leadership of Minna Lederman, this publication—which soon thereafter changed its name to Modern Music (in April 1925)—was the leading journalistic voice for contemporary music in America for over 20 years and featured frequent contributions from important composers of the day including Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, John Cage, Marc Blitzstein, Henry Cowell, Lehman Engel, and Marion Bauer. Its final issue appeared in the Fall of 1946.
And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1682,Italian composer Alessandro Stradella, age 37, is murdered in Genoa, apparently in retaliation for running off with a Venetian nobleman's mistress.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Antoine Boësset (1587-1643)
Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Arrigo Boito (1842-1918)
Luigi Denza (1846-1922)
Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940)
Michel Legrand (1932)
Renato Scotto (1934)
Jiří Bělohlávek (1946)

and

Wilhelm (Carl) Grimm (1786-1859)
Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
George Augustus Moore (1852-1933)
Mary Ellen Chase (1887-1973)
Weldon Kees (1914-1955)
Jane Hirshfield (1953)
Judith Butler (1956)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1955, Carlisle Floyd's opera "Susannah" received its premiere at Florida State University in Tallahassee. According to Opera America, this is one of the most frequently-produced American operas during the past decade.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Concert preview with blind piano virtuoso in The Columbian newspaper

My concert preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert with blind pianist Ignasi Cambra appeared in Friday's issue of The Columbian Newspaper here. Cambra will play Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto with the orchestra.

Today's Birthdays

John Blow (1649-1708)
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Sir Hugh Roberton (1874-1952)
Albert Sammons (1886-1957)
Dave Apollon (1897-1972)
Elinor Remick Warren (1905-1991)
Martindale Sidwell (1916-1998)
Hall Overton (1920-1972)
Régine Crespin (1927-2007)

and

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) - blogger of the 17th Century
W. E B. Du Bois (1868-1963)
Karl Jaspers (1883-1969)
William L. Shirer (1904-1993)
John Camp (1944)

Tidbit from the New York Times obit: In the early 1930s, William Shirer and his wife shared a house with the guitarist Andres Segovia.

From The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1940 that Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land."

The melody is to an old Baptist hymn. Guthrie wrote the song in response to the grandiose “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin and sung by Kate Smith. Guthrie didn’t think that the anthem represented his own or many other Americans’ experience with America. So he wrote a folk song as a response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” a song that was often accompanied by an orchestra. At first, Guthrie titled his own song “God Blessed America” — past tense. Later, he changed the title to “This Land Is Your Land,” which is the first line of the song.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890)
York Bowen (1884-1961)
Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963)
Joseph Kerman (1924-2014)
George Zukerman (1927)
Steven Lubin (1942)
Lowell Liebermann (1961)
Rolando Villazón (1972)

and

George Washington (1732-1799)
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Edward Gorey (1925-2000)
Gerald Stern (1925)
Ishmael Reed (1938)
Terry Eagleton (1943)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Music gives voice to silent films in VSO chamber event

During the silent film era (1895-1930), it was common for movie theaters to provide live music accompaniment while the film was shown. Most theaters hired an organist or a pianist, who could improvise as the movie played. Some theaters in larger towns or cities provided a chamber ensemble to accompany the film. Resurrecting this long-ago performance art, moviegoers got a refreshing taste of keyboard improvisation while watching Laurel and Hardy’s Wrong Again and incidental music from a chamber ensemble during Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman at Kiggins Theatre on February 10 as part of the Vancouver Symphony’s chamber music series.

The music for the performances was led by Rodney Sauer, a pianist, arranger of music, and scholar of silent films who lives in Denver. Sauer knows his way around the keyboard so well that he can play in the dark, because all of the lights were turned off when he accompanied Wrong Again. He improvised the entire way through 20-minute film in which Laurel and Hardy depict two clueless stable hands who mistakenly try to get $5,000 in reward money from a millionaire by bringing a racehorse named Blue Boy instead of a missing painting with the same name. Hilarious circumstances ensue after Laurel and Hardy bring the horse into the millionaire’s mansion and get him to stand on top of the grand piano!

The melodies that Sauer played had a music hall quality. Now and then, he would segue into something blatantly familiar like “Camptown Races.” He relied on a trill whenever Laurel or Hardy used an odd hand gesture to indicate that rich people were peculiar. If a scene was suspenseful, it was accompanied by an unresolved chord. Whenever the action became faster, the music picked up speed. Overall, Sauer’s deft accompaniment helped to give the film a voice and added to the laughter.

For The Cameraman, Sauer wrote a score that was a compilation of music available from the 1920s for silent films. He performed it with a quartet of VSO musicians: violinist Eva Richey, cellist Dieter Ratzlaf, trumpeter Bruce Dunn, and clarinetist Igor Shahkman. They opened the film with a quick fanfare and accompanied the scenes with gusto.

The movie’s plot centered on Keaton as a bumbling tintype photographer who falls in love with the receptionist at a news organization. In those days, cameramen were sort of like news hounds who had to go out and film some event that would capture the public’s interest. To impress and win the young lady, Keaton spends all of his money on an old camera and tries his luck at getting a story. After some mishaps he captures a big fight in Chinatown between rival gangs, but that reel goes missing due to a mischievous monkey. Keaton doesn’t give up and, with the aid of the monkey, captures an accident at a boat race in which he rescues the girl. In the end, his filming of the gang war, the boat race, and the rescue win him a job at the news company and the girl.

The movie had plenty of pratfalls and gags were expertly accompanied by the musicians. Salon-like music and lyrical passages accompanied the romantic scenes. The pace of the music quickened whenever Keaton raced through the streets or up and down flights of stairs. At one point, Keaton and another man are crowded in booth at a swimming pool and engage in a chaotic struggle to get out of their street clothes and into swim trunks. The chamber ensemble accompanied their antics with a Strauss Waltz. Much of the music was paired so seamlessly with the action or situation that I forgot about the music altogether. I have to admit that it would be fun to experience the movie and the music again to figure out how Sauer made the experience work so well. Overall, the experience of chamber music and silent film was magical.



Today's Birthdays

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)
Leo Delibes (1836-1891)
Charles Marie Widor (1844-1945)
Kenneth Alford (1881-1945)
Nina Simone (1933-2003)
Elena Duran (1949)
Simon Holt (1948)

and

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)
Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)
Ha Jin (1956)
Chuck Palahniuk (1962)
David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Peter Salomon (1749-1815)
Charles‑Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870)
Mary Garden (1874-1967)
Robert McBride (1911-2007)
Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
Toshiro Mayuzumi (1929-1997)
Christoph Eschenbach (1940)
Barry Wordsworth (1948)
Cindy McTee (1953)
Riccardo Chailly (1953)
Chris Thile (1981)

and

Russel Crouse (1893-1966)
Louis Kahn (1901-1974)
Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Robert Altman (1925-2006)
Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Louis Aubert (1877-1968))
Arthur Shepherd (1880-1958)
Grace Williams (1906-1977)
Stan Kenton (1912-1979)
Timothy Moore (1922-2003)
George Guest (1924-2002)
György Kurtág (1926)
Michael Kennedy (1926-2014)
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988)
Smokey Robinson (1940)
Penelope Walmsley-Clark (1949)
Darryl Kubian (1966)

and

André Breton (1896-1966)
Carson McCullers (1917-1967)
Amy Tan (1952)
Siri Hustvedt (1955)
Jonathan Lethem (1964)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692)
Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (1655-1720)
Gustave Schirmer, Jr. (1864-1907)
Marchel Landowski (1915-1999)
Rolande Falcinelli (1920-2006)
Rita Gorr (1926-2012)
Yoko Ono (1933)
Marek Janowski (1939)
Marlos Nobre (1939)
Donald Crockett (1951)

and

Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916)
Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)
Wallace Stegner (1909-1993)
Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)
Len Deighton (1929)
Toni Morrison (1931)
George Pelecanos (1957)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Oregon Symphony with Simone Lamsma give intense and superb concert

Outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Saturday (February 9), it was winter coat weather with temperatures below freezing, but inside things were toasty warm because of the fiery, incisive playing of violin soloist Simone Lamsma and the Oregon Symphony. It was the 34-year-old Dutch virtuoso’s fourth appearance with the orchestra, and this time around she delivered a searing performance of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto.

Lamsma plumbed the extroverted and introverted contours of the piece with an intense fierceness. During the numerous lightning-fast passages, notes brilliantly took flight from her Strad, and she held nothing back form the rhapsodic, bravura sections. She also expressed the slower, melancholic sections with an equal amount of intensity, bringing out the somber colors that suggested a lament that my have drawn of the composer’s Armenian heritage.

The orchestra supported Lamsma expertly. Principal clarinetist matched her voice marvelously when he echoed a brief melodic line that led to her cadenza in the first movement. The same sensitivity was given by the bassoons and cellos and later. The folksy and dance-like rhythm of the last movement was playful between the orchestra and soloist, but it went by at a good clip, and Lamsma notched it up at one point into fifth or sixth gear before the piece ended.

The appreciative audience called Lamsma back to center stage three times, and she graciously responded with an encore. Instead of choosing a gentle and relaxing number, she tore into a wickedly difficult Finale from Hindemith’s sonata for solo violin. That brought down the house one more time.

The two outer pieces of the evening’s program provided a delightful contrast. The concert opened with Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, which the orchestra took at a blitzing pace. Urged on by Kalmar, the musicians showed off their agility straight away, pouncing on the first movement with alacrity. The serene second movement featured outstanding contributions by principal bassoonist Carin Miller Packwood. The third had a slightly strident opening, but finished quietly, and the fourth was super crisp, showing off the fleet fingerwork of the strings.

The concert closed out with a terrific performance of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony. The sound of the orchestra was well-balanced throughout the piece. For example, the trombones’ entry near the beginning was soft yet just loud enough to be heard. The violins raced up and down with élan. The woodwinds created bird like sounds that put listeners in the midst of a forest. Concertmaster Sarah Kwak dished out a lyrically sweet melody during her solo. Clarinetists Shields and Marc Dubec offerred an amazingly blended sound. The French horns were polished an grand, and the final trumpet call by principal Jeffrey Work wonderfully announced the noble theme that makes this symphonic work one of the best ever.

The only oddity of the program was that Kalmar didn’t do any introductory remark. Over the years, Kalmar has gotten very adept at expressing some well-chosen ideas to the audience with just a few words about each piece on the program. I am thinking that this was just an aberration, and that we will hear him again in the near future.

Today's Birthdays

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881)
Sr. Edward German (1862-1936)
Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947)
Andres Segovia (1893-1987)
Marian Anderson (1893-1993)
Paul Fetler (1920-2018)
Ron Goodwin (1925-2003)
Fredrich Cerha (1926)
Lee Hoiby (1926-2011)
Anner Bylsma (1944)
Karl Jenkins (1944)

and

Ronald Knox (1888-1957)
Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)
Chaim Potok (1929-2002)
Ruth Rendell (1930-2015) Mo Yan (1955)

From the New Music Box:

On February 17, 1927, a sold-out audience attends the world premiere of The King's Henchman. an opera with music by composer, music critic and future radio commentator Deems Taylor and libretto by poet Edna St. Villay Millay, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The New York Times review by Olin Downes on the front page the next morning hailed it as the "best American opera." The opera closed with a profit of $45,000 and ran for three consecutive seasons. It has not been revived since and has yet to be recorded commercially.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Charles Avison (1709-1770)
Willem Kes (1856-1934)
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951)
Maria Korchinska (1895-1979)
Alec Wilder (1907-1980)
Machito (1908-1984)
Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992)
Eliahu Inbal (1936)
John Corigliano (1938)
Sigiswald Kuiljken (1944)

and

Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895)
Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)
Van Wyck Brooks (1886-1963)
Richard Ford (1944)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
Jean‑François Lesueur (1760-1837)
Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826)
Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (1797-1871)
Robert Fuchs (1847-1927)
Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935)
Walter Donaldson (1893-1947)
Georges Auric (1899-1983)
Harold Arlen (1905-1986)
Jean Langlais (1907-1991)
Norma Procter (1928-2017)
John Adams (1947)
Christopher Rouse (1949)
Kathryn Harries (1951)
Christian Lindberg (1958)

and

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Art Spiegelman (1948)
Matt Groening (1954)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Alexander Dargomizhsky (1813-1869)
Ignaz Friedman (1882-1948)
Jack Benny (1894-1974)
Wyn Morris (1929-2010)
Steven Mackey (1956)
Renée Fleming (1959)

and

Frederick Douglass (1814-1895)
Carl Bernstein (1944)

and

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest opened in London. He wrote the first draft in just 21 days, the fastest he’d ever written anything.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938)
Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991)
Eileen Farrell (1920-2002)
Yfrah Neaman (1923-2003)
Colin Matthews (1946)
Peter Gabriel (1950)
Raymond Wojcik (1957-2014)
Philippe Jaroussky (1978)

and

William Roughead (1870–1952)
Ricardo Güiraldes (1886-1927)
Grant Wood (1891-1942)
Georges Simenon (1903-1989)
Elaine Pagels (1943)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1914, ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) is formally organized in New York City, with composer Victor Herbert as its first director.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Campion (1567-1620)
Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812)
Roy Harris (1898-1979)
Franco Zeffirelli (1923)
Mel Powell (1923-1998)
Paata Burchuladze (1951)

and

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Judy Bloom (1938)

And courtesy of the New Music Box:

On February 12, 1924 at New York's Aeolian Hall, self-named 'King of Jazz' Paul Whiteman presented An Experiment in Modern Music, a concert combining "high art" and "hot jazz." The concert featured newly commissioned works from Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Edward MacDowell, Irving Berlin, Ferde Grofé, and Rudolf Friml, but the highlight of the program was the world premiere performance of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Rudolf Firkušný (1912-1994)
Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995)
Michel Sénéchal (1927)
Cristopher Dearnley (1930-2000)
Jerome Lowenthal (1932)
Gene Vincent (1935-1971)
Edith Mathis (1938)
Alberto Lysy (1935-2009)
Christine Cairns (1959)

and

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Philip Dunne (1908-1992)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909-1993)
Pico Iyer (1957)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1841, was given the first documented American performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 at the New York's Broadway Tabernacle, by the German Society of New York, Uri Corelli Hill conducting.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Johann Melchior Molter (1696-1765)
Adelina Patti (1843-1919)
Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)
Joyce Grenfell (1914-2001)
Cesare Siepi (1923-2010)
Leontyne Price (1927)
Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004)
Roberta Flack (1937)
Barbara Kolb (1939)

and

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)
Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)
Åsne Seierstad (1970)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1921, Charles Ives hears Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird" Ballet Suite at an all-Russian program by the New York Symphony at Carnegie Hall. Also on the program were works of Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff (with Rachmaninoff as piano soloist). Walter Damrosch conducted.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Oregon Symphony teams up with Manual Cinema for fantastic Hansel and Gretel

Wow! It’s amazing what artists can do with overhead projectors! Manual Cinema, a Chicago-based company that specializes in shadow puppetry, elevated the largely forgotten overhead projector into a splendid storytelling device, using impeccable timing and imagination to enhance the Oregon Symphony’s presentation of Hansel and Gretel on Saturday, February 2, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The imaginative visual component provided by Manual Cinema worked seamlessly with the orchestra, under Music Director Carlos Kalmar, and a stellar line-up of soloists to wonderfully convey Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera in a refreshing way.

Hansel and Gretel has been a staple of opera houses everywhere since its premiere in 1893, due to its beautiful music and charming story of two children, who get lost in the woods and almost gobbled up by a gingerbread witch. However, the storyline, based on one of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, has a serious undercurrent, because the children’s family is poor and on the brink of starvation. With nothing in the house to eat, the mother, in a pitch of anger over the children’s frivolous behavior, sends them into the forest to pick strawberries.

The Oregon Symphony’s production of Hansel and Gretel marked its North American premiere (the original version was presented at the La Monnaie De Munt, Brussels) as part of the orchestra’s SoundStories series. Several black-clad puppeteers stood next to four overhead projectors that were lined up in front of a screen behind the orchestra on the left side of the stage. The puppeteers deftly handled a complicated series of cutouts and also did live-action segments – all of which was projected onto a large screen centered on the back wall. All of the images, including the live-acting flowed seamlessly in sync with the music in a balletic way with no glitches of any sort.

A superb slate of singers portrayed all of the characters with panache. The voices of Chelsea Duval-Major as Hansel and Maeve Höglund as Gretel complimented each other perfectly, highlighting their collaboration with the “Angel’s Prayer” and the duet to celebrate the witch’s death. Jenny Schuler created the stern mother, who realizes the gravity of her mistake after the warm-hearted father, Gregory Dahl, arrives home with food that he had bundled together after dumpster diving. The sparkling, clear voice of Yungee Rhie wonderfully delivered the goods in the roles of the Sandman and the Dew Fairy. John Easterlin gave a tour-de-force performance as the Witch, punctuating his stentorian lines with an incredibly entertaining combination of cackles. The voices of the freed children were conveyed with distinction by the Pacific Youth Choir.

The orchestra performed outstandingly from beginning to end with terrific emotion that provided the connective tissue for the entire enterprise. Every section was on top of its game. It was fun to watch percussionist Niel DePonte play the cuckoo whistle for one of the forest scenes.

It was too bad that the supertitles had to be placed on either side of the orchestra rather than above the large screen, but that arrangement is the only one that works in the hall. The amplification of the singers muddied the diction a bit, but it was necessary due to limited rest for the singers between performances.

Bringing an opera into the concert hall with the visual aid of a group like Manual Cinema is much cheaper than doing a full-blown opera production. The success of Hansel and Gretel makes me want to hear more. Perhaps there is a way for The Oregon Symphony to commission another such endeavor. Just think of the possibilities! Well, you could reach for the sky with a complete Ring Cycle. Hmm…

Today's Birthdays

Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841)
Franz Xaver Witt (1834-1888)
Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Harald Genzmer (1909-2007)
Hildegard Behrens (1937-2009)
Ryland Davies (1943)
Paul Hillier (1949)
Jay Reise (1950)
Marilyn Hill Smith (1952)
Amanda Roocroft (1966)

and

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
James Stephens (1882-1950)
Brendan Behan (1923-1964)
J.M. (John Maxwell) Coetzee (1940)
Alice Walker (1944)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1893, Verdi's opera, "Falstaff," was first performed in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala. This was Verdi's last opera.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651)
André Grétry (1741-1813)
Osian Ellis (1928)
John Williams (1932)
Elly Ameling (1933)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Margaret Brouwer (1940)
Stephen Roberts (1948)
Irvine Arditti (1953)

and

Jules Verne (1828-1905)
Kate Chopin (1850-1904)
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
Neal Cassady (1926-1968)
John Grisham (1955)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927)
Ossip Gabrilovich (1878-1936)
Eubie Blake (1883-1983)
Claudia Muzio (1889-1936)
Quincy Porter (1897-1966)
Lord Harewood (1923-2011)
Maruis Constant (1925-2004)
Stuart Burrows (1933)
Wolfgang van Schweintz (1953)

and

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)
Gay Talese (1932)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Karl Weigl (1881-1949)
Andre Marchal (1894-1980)
Claudio Arrau (1903-1991)
Stephen Albert (1941-1992)
Paul Esswood (1942)
Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Bruce J. Taub (1948)
Matthew Best (1957)
Sean Hickey (1970)

and

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
Eric Partridge (1894-1979)
George Herman "Babe" Ruth (1895-1948)
Mary Douglas Leakey (1913-1996)
Deborah Digges (1950-2009)
Michael Pollan (1955)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Hagner and Stenz create a little magic with the Oregon Symphony

Sometimes it is interesting to see which guest artist makes the biggest impression at a concert. The Oregon Symphony offered an interesting choice at its concert on Saturday, January 26th, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. On the one hand, virtuoso violinist Viviane Hagner made her debut with the orchestra in playing Unsuk Chin’s Violin Concerto. On the other, veteran conductor Markus Stenz made his debut on the podium, balancing the new work with two evergreens: Beethoven’s First Symphony, and Schumann’s Third.

Chin’s Violin Concerto, written in 2001, was divided into four movements denoted purely by beats per minute. But the tempo didn’t matter all that much, because the piece seemed to move all over the place, with Hagner spending most of her time in the upper register of her instrument. She created a huge array of sounds – from edgy, almost shrill to gnawing to glassy glissandos to quiet, simple notes – but no discernable melodic phrases – not even a snatch of one. The whole piece seemed to be more of an intellectual sonic exploration, and it was fascinating to hear the various episodes. The second movement had moments that sounded ethereal and sort of like a music box. The third featured an extended pizzicato section for the orchestra. At the beginning of the piece Hagner generated quiet tones that seemed to rise from out of a cloud of sound from the orchestra, and at the end of the piece, her sound became placid and was subsumed by general orchestral sound. Perhaps that phoenix-like emergence and extinguishment was meant as a metaphor for contemporary life.

To counter the edgy complexity of the Violin Concerto, Hagner played an encore from Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas for violin. Her performance sounded immaculate, eloquent, and full of inner light that just took one’s breath away.

As part of his introductory remarks to the audience, Stenz gave a short music class in regards to the opening of the last movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No 1 and how revolutionary it was. Stenz encouraged the audience to shout “Bam” and count the next sequence of beats – following his every gesture. Later, during the performance of the symphony, some of the audience members chuckled when they recognized the section of music that Stenz had taught.

The orchestra performed Beethoven’s First Symphony superbly. The fast passages were light and immaculate played. Each instrumental part seemed to be perfectly balanced. The dynamics offered wonderful contrasts and the tempos were spot on.

Schumann’s Third Symphony also received an outstanding outing. In the first movement, the French Horn section created a glowing sound, the trumpets were crisp, the violins energetic. And so the exceptional playing continued through the rest of the piece with a nod again to the terrifically balanced sound, sensitivity to dynamics, tempos, and just a sense of delivering the poetry of the music.

For each piece, Stenz eschewed the baton. His style at times suggested sculpting the air, and he was gifted at doing so with either hand. With the Beethoven and Schumann, he didn’t worry about keeping a clear beat; instead, he seemed to use his gesture to shape of music in a poetic way. Often the last note of a movement ended up with his right arm extended straight ahead and upwards.

The music lesson that Stenz gave at the beginning of the concert connected well with the crowd. A couple of my friends afterwards indicated that they liked his approach. It would be swell to hear him return to the podium and find out how he could reach out to the audience again. For that matter, it would be wonderful to bring back Hagner to hear her again as well.

Today's Birthdays

Ole Bull (1810-1880)
Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798)
Ricardo Viñes (1875-1943)
Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)
Jussi Björling (1911-1960)
Sir John Pritchard (1921-1989)
Luc Ferrari (1929-2005)
John Poole (1934)
Ivan Tcherepnin (1943-1998)
Josef Protschka (1944)
Phylis Bryn-Julson (1945)

and

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron (1934)
John Guare (1938)
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
Christopher Guest (1948)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1887, Verd's: opera "Otello" premiered in Milan at the Teatro all Scala, with the composer conducting (and cellist Arturo Toscanini in the orchestra).

Monday, February 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Eustache du Caurroy (1549-1609)
Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795)
Aristide Cavaillé‑Coll (1811-1899)
Yrjo Kilpinen (1892-1952)
Bernard Rogers (1893-1968)
Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993)
Jutta Hipp (1925-2003)
Martti Talvela (1935-1989)
François Dumeaux (1978)

and also

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
Gavin Ewart (1916-1995)
Betty Friedan (1921-2006)
Robert Coover (1932)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)
Sidney Lanier (1842-1881)
Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986)
Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975)
Blas Galindo Dimas (1910-1993)
Jehan Alain (1911-1940)
Helga Dernesch (1939)

and

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Georg Trakl (1887-1914)
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Alvar Aalto (1898-1978)
James Michener (1907-1997)
Simone Weil (1909-1943)
Richard Yates (1926-1992)
Paul Auster (1947)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1844, Berlioz's "Roman Carnival" Overture, in Paris was premiered at the Salle Herz, with the composer conducting.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Vancouver Symphony struts down Broadway

The Vancouver Symphony put a little razzmatazz into its first concert of the New Year (January 26), pairing flashy and popular works by Copland and Gershwin with several numbers from the world of Broadway musicals. While the purely instrumental pieces were warmly appreciated by the near-capacity audience in SkyView Concert Hall, it was the collaboration with singer-actress Susannah Mars, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, and other guest artists that really got people’s attention.

Sashaying in from the left side of the stage, Mars did a bang-up job with “Hello Dolly” (from Hello Dolly) and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” (from Anything Goes), backed up by 80-plus voices of the PGMC. They were brassy and had plenty of verve that got heads to nod along.

In “What I did for Love” (from A Chorus Line), Mars shared the spotlight with two students from the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics: Isabella Daltoso and Maddison Gebhard. Each took a verse, with Mars leading the way, and young singers showed that they could easily deliver the goods, making the piece very enjoyable.

Gebhard and Daltoso were joined by Julana Torres and Jae Specht for a lively rendition with dance moves of “America” (from West Side Story). They made terrific use of an extended stage area that didn’t leave much room for error.

The PGMC, expertly prepared by its Artistic Director Bob Mensel, were featured in three selections: “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” (from Oklahoma), “To Build a Home” (from The Bridges of Madison County), and “Wheels of a Dream” (from Ragtime). The men sang with enthusiasm and sensitivity, but , the tenor section needed to be stronger whenever they broke into harmony.

The musical half of the program concluded with “Make our Garden Grow” (from Candide) with Thomas Black and Mars as the soloists. Black’s warm and expansive baritone sounded well suited to the piece, but the timbre of Mars’ voice didn’t match up well. Music Director, Salvador Brotons and the orchestra didn’t hold anything back in the final measures, and the music expressed the hope of a brighter tomorrow, which was a great way to end the concert.

The orchestral suite of four dance episodes from Copland’s ballet Rodeo was played with a lot of spirit, but needed some tightening up, especially when a couple of violins jumped the gun at the in third episode, “Saturday Night Waltz,” causing first few measures to sound a bit out of whack. Still, there was plenty of good music made with excellent solos on trombone (Greg Scholl), trumpet (Bruce Dunn), and clarinet (Igor Shahkman).

Gershwin’s American in Paris fared much better, and the orchestra conveyed the scene of a young American strolling around Paris, sampling one diversion or another, yet becoming homesick. Solos on English Horn (Kris Klavik) and by the concertmaster Eva Richey were highlights of the piece and the bluesy sound of the trombone and trumpet suggested the comfort food of American music. The dynamics could have been crisper, but the orchestra wound it all up on an emphatic and joyful note.

The concert marked the first time that the orchestra had ventured into Broadway. The amplification of the voices (choir and soloists) was done very well. Some lyrics in the chorale pieces were difficult to understand, and that might have been circumvented if they had been printed with the program note. Still, the Broadway pops concept was a refreshing success for the orchestra.