Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the New Music Box:

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

PSU Opera revels in the convoluted love triangles of "La finta giardiniera"

Portland State University Opera delivered a high-spirited production of “La Finta Gardiniera,” one of Mozart’s early operas and a definitive precursor to his famous comic works “Così fan tutti” and “Le nozze di Figaro.” He wrote “La Finta Gardiniera” (The Pretend Gardener) when he was 18 on commission for the Munich Carnival. It is stuffed with convoluted love triangles, made scenes, and humorous situations that PSU Opera’s talented singers delivered with gusto to an enthusiastic audience at Lincoln Hall on opening night, April 19th.

PSU Opera featured two different casts for the production. The singers I heard were led by the supple and expressive voice of Savannah Panah as Sandrina, who pretends to be a gardener in the home of the Podesta (mayor) of Lagonero. However, Sandrina is actually the Marchioness Violante, and she surreptitiously becomes a gardener in order to flee from her violent lover, the Count Belfiore. The Posdesta, sung with a wink and a nod by Erik Standifird, falls in love with Sandrina. In the meantime, the Podesta’s haughty niece, Arminda, given an appropriately high-handed delivery by Helen Soultanian, shows up to receive her suitor Count Belfiore, delivered with impeccable comic timing by Avesta Mirashrafi, but she is confronted by her rejected lover Cavalier Ramiero, which countertenor Nicholas Wavers sang with earnest conviction.

To further complicate matters, the servant Serpetta, sung wonderfully by Maeve Stier, is in love with the Podesta, but another servant Nardo, sung by the rich voice of Jonathan Roberts, loves Serpetta.

A blend of absurd and serious situations become intertwined before things get straightened out so that the lovers find each other with the exception of the Posesta, who must wait until another Sandrina shows up. Under the direction of David Ward, the singers generated a ton of laughter in the first act and did well with the complicated mad scene in the second act and the untangling of the story in the third act.

Traditional costumes designed by Hadley Yoder included accented the opera buffa style. In particular, Standifird’s Podesta sported a magnificent, pillowy pompadour that was matched in its ridiculousness by the red mop of a haystack atop Soultanian’s Arminda. Sets designed by Carey Wong featured a series of panels that were enhanced by the lush bucolic paintings of Elecia Beebe and the lighting of Peter West.

Ken Selden’s crisp conducting paced the PSU Orchestra at a good clip. There were some slips in intonation but the spirit of the music was conveyed with gusto. Music Director Chuck Dillard’s supple harpsichord accompaniment was spot on. The interplay between the singers and the orchestra musicians was especially enjoyable when singers recalled dreams in which an oboe, flute, or other instrument could be heard. Just after a particular instrument was mentioned, Mozart gave that instrument a lovely exposed passage, and each time the PSU Orchestra member played his/her solo superbly.

Overall, “La finta Gardiniera” is an excellent choice for a university production. On college campuses there a plenty of convoluted love triangles, and some even get resolved. PSU Opera deserves kudos for creating a production that can still make us laugh.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the former Writer's Almanac:

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

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Erland von Koch (1910-2009)
Pierre Pierlot (1921-2007)
Teddy Edwards (1924-2003)
Wilma Lipp (1925-2019)
Ewa Podleś (1952)
Patrizia Kwella (1953)

and

David Hume (1711-1776)
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Anita Loos (1889-1981)
Bernard Malamud (1914-1986)
I. M. Pei (1917-2019)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the former Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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.