Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Preview of WVCMF in The Oregonian

My preview of the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival is now online in The Oregonian here. It will probably appear in the print edition later this week.

Today's Birthdays

Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Robert Planquette (1848-1903)
Norman Del Mar (1919-1994)
Steuart Bedford (1939)
Reinhard Goebel (1952)
Randall Davidson (1953)

and

Mary Harris Jones, or "Mother Jones" (1837-1930)
Primo Levi (1919-1987)
Kim Addonizio (1954)
J. K. Rowling (1965)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Moore (1899-1987)
Meredith Davies (1922-2005)
Moshe Atzmon (1931)
Buddy Guy (1936)
Paul Anka (1941)
Teresa Cahill (1944)
Alexina Louie (1949)
Christopher Warren-Green (1955)

and

Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
William Gass (1924-2017)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951)
Frank Loesser (1910-1969)
Charles Farncombe (1919-2006)
Avet Terterian (1929-1994)
Mikis Theodorakis (1925)
Peter Schreier (1935)
Bernd Weikl (1942)
Olga Borodina (1963)

and

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Don Marquis (1878-1937)
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
Paul Taylor (1930-2018)
T.J. Stiles (1964)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Edgar Meyer shines bright with the Dover Quartet

Edgar Meyer
Monday July 22 saw the great contrabassist Edgar Meyer join the Dover Quartet for a spectacular performance going into the final week of the CMNW Summer Festival. The program featured works by Bach, Brahms and a composition of Meyer's own.

Sonata No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1027 (in this case played by Katie Hyun on violin, Camden Shaw cello and Edgar Meyer on contrabass) opened the everning. It was fascinating to hear the sonata without a continuo as one thinks of it, but with two independent melodic instruments forming the support for the violin.

Meyer found the most dulcet timbre imaginable on his intrument. All three performers were able to bring pitch-perfect accuracy to the most dissonant and abstruse harmonic developments, as surely as if it were a 3-voice fugue played on a clavier. Meyer's ceaselessly gentle yet insistent mezzo-staccato was a thing of beauty. In the finale the pizzicato from the bass was so delicately and intuitively phrased--the perfect symmetry and balance cannot be overstated.

The approachable complexity of the composition required that all three perform at an equally high level to properly realize it, and the result was elegant, energetic and indescribably lovely. Absolutely everything that is best and most beautiful about baroque chamber music was present in this small ensemble.

Meyer's String Quintet (1995) opened with a gossamer Appalachian reverie. Consisting of the Dover Quartet plus Meyer, the texture was incredibly full-throated while still being gentle.  As the movement morphed into a more somber rallentando, Meyer sawed away in what could only be described as a rally into a hoe-down, and the group thundered together in primitive chordal phrases.

The second movement started as a funky blues tune, with both bass and cello having at it. Eerie sul ponticello wails from the violins presented a disturbing emotional counterpoint to the grooviness going on elsewhere. At one point Meyer had the bass neighing like a horse. The quirky, personalized nature of the composition was always present.

 In the third, viola and cello played in chilling unison while strange, warped glissandi from the bass interrupted the plaintive monodic somnolence. The finale began with ceaseless trills and tremolandi, while ominous, syncopated pedal point grumbling from Meyer lay underneath. The entire work seemed, from a technical standpoint, a loving and intensely fascinating study into the textures and effects of a string ensemble employing jazz, blues and bluegrass idioms.

Brahms String Quintet in G Major, Op 3, formed the second half of the evening. This time it was the Dover Quartet plus Paul Neubauer on the extra viola. The glorious sawing from Shaw on his cello was accompanied by a strident molto vibrato from all, forming a vision of pure fire and passion. Mysterious and subdued, the players all carefully held back in the second movement, lending a feeling of quiet tension, like a coiled spring. The poco allegretto played like a grandiose serenade. It is fascinating how the addition of one more bowed instrument, of whatever kind, transforms the sonic possibilities of a string quartet from a chamber ensemble to that of what is essentially a small string orchestra. The amazing ensemble playing displayed a deep and intimate understanding not only of how he or she could sound, but of how they could and should sound. The Dover Quartet has never disappointed in all the times I've seen them, and this was no exception.

Today's Birthdays

Rued Langgaard (1893-1952)
Rudy Vallée (1901-1986)
Kenneth Alwyn (1925)
Riccardo Muti (1941)

and

Ludwig A Feuerbach (1804-1872)
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Beatrix Potter (1866-1843)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)
John Ashbery (1927-2017)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Ernő Dohnanyi (1877-1960)
Harl McDonald (1899-1955)
Igor Markevitch (1912-1983)
Mario del Monaco (1915-1982)
Leonard Rose (1918-1984)
Carol Vaness (1952)

and

Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996)
Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007)
Bharati Mukherjee (1940)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1966, Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "Torn Curtain" opens in New York — without the film score that Bernard Herrmann had composed for it. The famous director fired Herrmann during the score's first recording sessions when Hitchcock discovered Herrmann had composed a "symphonic" score and not the "pop" score that Hitchcock had specifically requested.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

John Field (1782-1837)
Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)
Ernest Schelling (1876-1939)
Georges Favre (1905-1993)
Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981)
Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012)
Anthony Gilbert (1934)
Roger Smalley (1943-2015)
Mick Jagger (1943)
Kevin Volans (1949)
Angela Hewitt (1958)

and

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Jean Shepherd (1921-1999)
Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alfredo Casella (1883-1947)
Maureen Forrester (1930-2010)

and

Eric Hoffer (1898-1983)
Elias Canetti (1905-1994)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1788 that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart entered into his catalog the completion of one of his most beloved works, Symphony Number 40 in G Minor (sometimes called “The Great G Minor Symphony”). It was written in the final years of Mozart’s life, when things were not going well. An infant daughter had died a few weeks earlier, he had moved into a cheaper apartment, and he was begging friends and acquaintances for loans. But in the summer of 1788, he wrote his last three symphonies: Symphony Number 39 in E-Flat, Symphony in G Minor, and the Jupiter symphony. It is not known for sure whether Mozart ever heard any of these symphonies performed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856)
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)
Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012)
Guiseppe de Stefano (1921-2008)
Wilfred Josephs (1927-1997)
Peter Serkin (1947)
Philippe Hurel (1955)

and

Jonathan Newton (1725-1807)
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
Frank Wedekind (1864-1918)
Robert Graves (1895-1985)
John D. McDonald (1916-1986)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Franz Berwald (1796-1868)
Johann Vesque von Püttlingen (1803-1883)
Edouard Colonne (1838-1910)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Ben Weber (1916-1979)
Leon Fleisher (1928)
Bernard Roberts (1933-2013)
Maria João Pires (1944) Susan Graham (1960)

and

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Vikram Chandra (1961)

and from the former Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1829 that William Burt received a patent for the "typographer." It was a typewriter that looked more like a record player. It had a swinging arm that picked up ink and then printed a letter, and then the paper was manually adjusted to make space for the next letter.

Monday, July 22, 2019

British Invasion at Chamber Music Northwest

It was a standing-room-only affair on the stage of the Alberta Rose Theatre at the Chamber Music Northwest concert on Wednesday, July 10. That’s because each of the four pieces on the all-British program involved 15 to 18 players, and the stage area is… well… not expansive. So only the cellists were seated. The cozy confines seemed to enhance the concertizing, and the ensembles delivered memorable performances of Vaughn Williams, Elgar, Purcell, and Britten for an appreciative audience that filled the hall.

Glowing, revelatory, superb… you name it, the performance of Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge highlighted the evening with virtuosic, incisive playing. A group of 16 introduced the theme with precision and then took the audience on a wild ride of imaginative variations that Britten concocted at the age of 24. Violinists Yura Lee, Benjamin Hoffman, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Sophie Shao were expert principals, leading the ensemble to fearlessly express the wide range of emotions in the piece.

The largest ensemble of the evening managed to find just enough elbow room to give a lovely performance of Vaughn Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The 18 musicians were divided into two orchestras and a solo quartet. Together they generated a lush sound that was heavenly with a warm, expansive sound that only needed a bit of reverberation.

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings received a vigorous interpretation. The 16 players got a little carried away during one of the tutti sections, and it became difficult for them to turn down the volume level to create more contrast. Still, their enthusiasm was infectious, and they won over the listeners.

Another ensemble of 16 gave an elegant performance of Purcell’s Chacony in G Minor in an arrangement by Britten. Yet it was a little dull because the most of the piece was played at the forte level except the very end.

Overall, the level of playing was very high, but a conductor might have helped to shape the Elgar and the Purcell.

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Arditti (1822-1903)
Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962)
Licia Albanese (1913-2014)
George Dreyfus (1928)
Ann Howard Jones (1936)
Nigel Hess (1953)
Eve Beglarian (1958)

and

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Tom Robbins (1936)
S. E. Hinton (1948)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Anton Kuerti (1938)
Isaac Stern (1920-2001)
Cat Stevens (1948)
Margaret Ahrens (1950)

and

Hart Crane (1899-1932)
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Tess Gallagher (1943)
Garry Trudeau (1948)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gaston Carraud (1864-1920)
Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921)
Gunnar de Frumerie (1908-1987)
Vilém Tauský (1910-2004)
Michael Gielen (1927-2019)
Nam June Paik (1932-2006)
Hukwe Zawose (1938-2003)
Carlos Santana (1947)
Bob Priest (1951)

and

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Pavel Kohout (1928)
Cormac McCarthy (1933)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Boyd Neel (1905-1981)
Louis Kentner (1905-1987)
Klaus Egge (1906-1979)
Peggy Stuart-Coolidge (1913-1981)
Robert Mann (1920-2018)
Gerd Albrecht (1935-2014)
Nicholas Danby (1935-1937)
Dominic Muldowney (1952)
David Robertson (1958)
Carlo Rizzi (1960)
Mark Wigglesworth (1964)
Evelyn Glennie (1965)
Russell Braun (1965)

and

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)
Julius Fučík (1872-1916)
Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
Screamin' Jay Hawkins (1929-2000)
R. Murray Schafer (1933)
Ricky Skaggs (1954)
Tobias Picker (1954)

and

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
Harry Levin (1912-1994)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933)
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Elizabeth Gilbert (1969)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Christopher Mattaliano shifts to artistic consultant role at Portland Opera

From the press release:
Portland Opera Announces Executive Leadership Transition

Portland, OR (July 16, 2019) – Portland Opera announces an executive leadership transition, with General Director Christopher Mattaliano, who has led the company for 16 years, transitioning to the role of Artistic Consultant beginning with the 2019-20 season. Sue Dixon, current Director of External Affairs will serve as Interim General Director as of July 15. Dixon joined the company in May 2014 as Director of Development and was named Director of External of Affairs in 2017.

“I was incredibly fortunate to become Portland Opera’s General Director in 2003, and the past 16 years have been among the most satisfying and meaningful years of my life,” says Mattaliano. “I have formed deep, lifelong friendships within the Portland community, and have been very blessed to work with a great staff and extraordinary artists. Completing the framework for a new strategic plan that will build Portland Opera’s future created the right time for me to step aside.”

Mattaliano’s relationship with Portland Opera began in 1990 as a guest artist, directing Massenet’s Manon.  After numerous other celebrated collaborations as a guest artist, he was named General Director in July of 2003. Among many highlights during Mattaliano’s tenure, the company saw the creation of the Portland Opera Resident Artist Program in 2005, which has grown into one of the nation’s most competitive young artist programs in the country; an expansion of the company’s repertoire, including over 30 Portland Opera premieres; and an expansion of performance venues beyond the Keller Auditorium to include the Newmark Theatre and the newly created Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre. In addition, under Mattaliano’s leadership the company produced its first two commercial recordings, Galileo Galilei and Orphée by Philip Glass; collaborated with composer John Adams in co-producing Nixon in China in 2005, and produced the work of American composers such as Philip Glass, David Lang, and Laura Kaminsky. Mattaliano’s artistic leadership also included presenting works by major visual artists such as David Hockney, Maurice Sendak, and John Frame; and collaborating with a wide range of Portland organizations, including BodyVox, Portland Art Museum, Chamber Music Northwest, Third Angle, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Symphony, PHAME, and Portland State University. Mattaliano’s vision for the company included a focus on connection to community, through programs including free performance simulcasts, post-show conversations, the creation of the Opera a la Cart program, a free Portland Opera Resident Artist recital series at the Portland Art Museum, and a bilingual Spanish and English production of The Barber of Seville, for Portland Opera to Go’s educational programming.

“The Board of Directors is exceedingly grateful to Christopher Mattaliano for his 16 years of leadership and vision at Portland Opera,” says President of the Board of Directors, Curtis T. Thompson, MD. “Chris has led our company through a period of artistic excellence during his tenure, and created wonderful community programs and unforgettable productions. We are looking forward to building upon his work with this next chapter for Portland Opera, and with Sue Dixon’s leadership, vision, and commitment to community.”

Dixon, who currently oversees all aspects of fundraising, marketing, sales, communications, and special events, will serve as Interim General Director effective immediately.  “In my first five years with Portland Opera, I had a chance to work closely with Chris, our senior team, and the Board of Directors to better serve our wonderful opera patrons, and to connect them with the artistic mission of our company,” says Dixon. “I know first-hand that we have realized many great accomplishments, and also that we have great work ahead of us. As we look toward creating the future, we celebrate Chris’s legacy at Portland Opera. I am honored to be able to build upon a strong artistic and community-based foundation for the company.”

About Portland Opera 

Portland Opera exists to inspire, challenge, and uplift our audiences by creating productions of high artistic quality that celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera. 

Since 1964, Portland Opera has contributed to the cultural, artistic, and economic landscape of the city and region that we love. We celebrate the beauty and breadth of the opera repertoire with performances that take place in the Keller Auditorium, Newmark Theatre, and the Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre at the Hampton Opera Center. The company is also a committed educational partner, touring fully staged operas to schools and community centers throughout Oregon and SW Washington region each year, in addition to a host of other efforts designed to make opera accessible for all. 

Christopher Mattaliano Biography 

Christopher Mattaliano was named Portland Opera’s fifth General Director in July 2003. In this capacity, he was responsible for all artistic, financial, and administrative aspects of the company. 

Previous to this appointment, Mr. Mattaliano was the Artistic Director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival, a summer festival in Iron Mountain, Michigan, that produces a season of professional opera, chamber music, and other genres of music, including folk and jazz. 

He brought to the company an intense artistic vision honed from his extensive stage directing experience. Prior to taking the helm at Portland Opera, Mr. Mattaliano achieved considerable regional success, directing five acclaimed Portland Opera productions—Manon (1991), Eugene Onegin (1992), Pagliacci/Carmina Burana (1997), Candide (2002), and Il Trovatore (2002). In 2004, his direction of Rossini's The Journey to Reims opened his first season as General Director to both popular and critical acclaim. Since then he has directed The Rape of Lucretia (2005), Macbeth (2006), The Magic Flute (2007), Cinderella (2007), Albert Herring (2008), Rigoletto (2009), The Barber of Seville (2010), Pagliacci/Carmina Burana (2010), L’Heure Espagnole/L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (2011), Candide (2012), Falstaff (2013), The Magic Flute (2016), Songs of Love and War (2017), Rigoletto (2018), La Cenerentola (2018), and The Barber of Seville (2019). 

In addition to those productions, Mr. Mattaliano has directed productions for the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, L’Opera de Montreal, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Minnesota Opera, Dallas Opera, and Central City Opera, among many others. His work has also been enjoyed internationally at L’Opera de Nice and the Norwegian National Opera. 

He has directed world premieres of Hugo Weisgall’s Esther for the New York City Opera, jazz composer Fred Ho’s Journey Beyond the West for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Peter Westergaard’s The Tempest for the Opera Festival of New Jersey, and the American premiere of Fleischman’s Rothschild’s Violin at the Juilliard Opera Center. 

His passion for stage direction has extended well beyond the stages of those many companies. He has taught at the Juilliard School, the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Development Program, Manhattan School of Music, Yale University, Princeton University, Mannes College of Music, and the New National Theater of Japan. In 1996 his essay on auditioning (“The Dreaded Audition”) was published by OPERA America. 

Mr. Mattaliano received his BA in Theater Arts from Montclair State University with additional training at the Trent Park School of Performing Arts in London, England. In 1998 he received the L. Howard Fox Visiting Alumni Award from his alma mater as well as a National Opera Institute Stage Direction Grant. 

Since joining the company, his presence is in considerable demand on the national level, leading the keynote panel at the 2004 OPERA America conference and being named to the National Endowment for the Arts’ opera review panel. Mr. Mattaliano served on OPERA America's Board of Directors from 2005-2011. He continues to direct productions around the country, including recent productions of The Barber of Seville at Michigan Opera Theatre, Candide at Arizona Opera, and Macbeth at New Orleans Opera. 


Today's Birthdays

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Sir Donald F. Tovey (1875-1940)
Eleanor Steber (1914-1990)
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976)
Peter Schickele (1935)
Michael Roll (1946)
Dauwn Upshaw (1960)

and

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946)
Erle Stanley Gardner (1899-1970)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Antoine François Marmontel (1816-1898)
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Fritz Mahler (1901-1973)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904-2003)
Bella Davidovich (1928)
Bryden Thomson (1928-1991)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941)
Pinchas Zukerman (1948)
Richard Margison (1954)
Joanna MacGregor (1959)
James MacMillan (1959)
Helmut Oehring (1961)

and

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Tony Kushner (1956)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Jack Beeson (1921-2010)
Julian Bream (1933)
Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010)
Linda Ronstadt (1946)
John Casken (1949)
Gérard Lesne (1956)

and

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
Arianna Huffington (1950)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
Piero Bellugi (1924-2012)
Eric Stokes (1930-1999)
Unsuk Chin (1961)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Owen Wister (1860-1938)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Frank Raymond Leavis (1895-1978)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Irving Stone (1903-1989)
Arthur Laurents (1917-2011)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir Reginald Goodall (1905-1990)
Carlo Bergonzi (1924-2014)
Jeanne Loriod (1928-2001)
Per Nørgård (1932)
Albert Ayler (1936-1970)
Jennifer Smith (1945)

and

John Clare (1793-1864)
Isaak Babel (1894-1941)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Don Giovanni gets the chair in Heartbeat Opera production

Instead of being dragged down into hell, Don Giovanni got the electric chair in the new interpretation that Heartbeat Opera gives to Mozart’s masterpiece. The intrepid New York-based company’s reimagining of Don Giovanni in a semi-stage concert version intrigued a nearly full house at Lincoln Hall on Saturday, July 7 as part of the Chamber Music Northwest festival. By altering the plot a bit and using a new arrangement by composer Daniel Schlosberg for a chamber ensemble of seven, Heartbeat Opera refreshed Don Giovanni but still came up a bit short.

Directed by Louisa Proske, the production pretty much followed the traditional storyline up to the big party scene in which the Don almost rapes Zerlina, but instead of escaping, the Don is cornered and almost stripped bare by the partygoers. In the second act, Don Giovanni is held in hospital-jail cell where a doctor gives him injections, perhaps to deaden his libertine instincts. Everyone else is held in a waiting room, and the doctor finally returns to put a harness on Don Giovanni and then press the button to electrocute him.

Leela Subramaniam in the role of Donna Anna was a standout, and her vocal prowess dominated many of the ensemble numbers. Tyler Putnam’s stentorian bass baritone and versatile acting terrifically conveyed the Commendatore and Massetto. Matthew Gamble created a likeable yet conflicted Leporello. Samarie Alicea’s Zerlina sparkled with desire. Felicia Moore fashioned a forceful and convincing Donna Elvira. Joshua Sanders distinguished himself with eloquent singing as Don Ottavio.

John Taylor Ward in the title role sang gracefully but his voice seemed a bit too soft, and his acting was somewhat on the cool side. Perhaps I have seen too many hot-blooded Don Giovannis. In any case, I just didn’t find Ward convincing.

The septet of musicians performed Schlosberg’s arrangement with verve. The melodies inventively swirled between clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich, violinists Jacob Ashworth and Katie Hyun, violist Carrie Frey, cellist Clare Monfredo, bassist Evan Runyon, and harpsichordist Schlosberg (with Schlosberg wearing a wig and playing a synthesizer during the party scene). In the second act, some of the opera was shortened, and Schlosberg periodically interjected suspended, high pitched chords, which created an eerie effect, especially when the doctor pressed the syringe into the neck of Don Giovanni. The final note of the opera was an off-pitched near-honk from the clarinet. Perhaps it was a negation of the final moralizing sextet, or it signaled Don Giovanni’s undying defiance. It was sort of an ugly way to end the opera.

Today's Birthdays

Anton Arensky (1861-1906)
George Butterworth (1885-1916)
Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962)
Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)
Van Cliburn (1934-2013)
Richard Stolzman (1942)
Roger Vignoles (1943)

and

Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
George Eastman (1854-1932)
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Chamber Music Northwest premieres a new concerto by David Schiff at Concertos through the Centuries.

David Schiff
The CMNW Summer Festival continued on Monday, July 8 with a program entitled  Concertos through the Centuries, featuring works by Bach, Brahms, and a newly commissioned chamber concerto by long-time festival collaborator David Schiff.

The first piece, Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C Minor by Bach (BWV 1060R)  left much to be desired. While recognizing that this concert did not purport to use period instruments or historically informed performance techniques, still there are things that can be imitated on modern instruments: the dry saltando of a gut string, or the quavering softness of an un-keyed hole, for instance, and certainly conscientious phrasing and attention to small details can go along way in giving a baroque 'feel' to a performance on modern instruments (as was later achieved in the second Bach concerto of the evening.) All of these performers are aware of that, yet it was not apparent from this performance. While possessed of a full and even rich timbre, the outing was plagued by mushy phrasing and lack of a strong pulse.

The world premiere of Schiff's Chamber Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Ensemble was a different matter entirely.  The opening movement, Playing with Friends (Jeux d'Enfants) must have been a somber game to start, but with Schiff directing, David Shifrin navigated these still waters with a delicious huskiness on his clarinet, and was joined by bassoonist Julie Feves for some hypnotic chordal work. It exploded into a cacophonous exultation, followed by a dizzying solo turn for the clarinet. A saucy pizzicato from the strings and spare punctuations from the percussion sounded more like childish jubilation; one felt a bit of Bernstein at times. As the strings and horns burst into wild discord and the percussionist dished out ridiculously tasty syncopations, it was as fun as eating too much candy when you're six years old...and then subito al niente.

The second movement, Arietta, seemed to border on the humdrum at times until it all began to make sense in the larger context of the movement. By the end everything came together and it was truly poignant. The last movement, Rondo al'ebraica, was true to its title. Wild and wonky, non-traditional but unmistakably klezmer,  Shifrin was constantly simmering on the clarinet, always threatening to explode into a full rolling boil but somehow never reaching that crest. The percussion was fascinating, as long, expansive hits on the ride cymbal lay a groundwork for the wild partying above.

The Brahms was a scaled down version of the Adagio from Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major. Arranger Daniel Schlosberg did duties as the soloist.  Sophie Shao's broad, comely cello solo complemented the rich and convincing arrangement. Yearning and poignant, the piano and cello loomed out of the dense texture like a purring of enamored titans. Schlosberg's huge solo work made the whole thing feel like a cloud on which one could dream and never want to wake.

The final concerto of the evening was Bach's Brandenburg No. 4, (BWV 1049) and it suffered from none of the lethargy of the evening's opener.  There was crispness of articulation from the flutes and a judicious, minimalist rubato from violist Yura Lee. The interplay between the ripieno and concertante was absolutely seamless and exciting. The Andante was heavy-handed yet not unlovely, and in the finale the solo work from the concertante was magnificent. Lee's job as band-leader held everything together; her unflagging pace and vibrant playing set the tone that everyone followed.



Today's Birthdays

Antônio Carlos Gomes (1836-1896)
Liza Lehmann (1862-1918)
Nicolai Gedda (1925-2017)
Herbert Blomstedt (1927)
Hermann Prey (1929-1998)
Francis Bayer (1938-2004)
Liona Boyd (1949)
Suzanne Vega (1960)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
E. B. White (1899-1985)
Harold Bloom (1930)
Jhumpa Lahiri (1967)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1798, in the nation's capital of Philadelphia, President John Adams signed an Act of Congress establishing the United States Marine Band. (The original "32 drummers and fifers" assisted in recruiting and entertained residents.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henri Weiniawski (1835-1880)
Carl Orff (1895-1982)
Ljuba Welitsch (193-1996)
Ian Wallace (1919-2009)
Josephine Veasey (1930)
Jerry Herman (1931)
Arlo Guthrie (1947)
Graham Johnson (1950)
Béla Fleck (1958)

and

John Calvin (1509-1564)
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
Saul Bellow (1915-2005)
Alice Munro (1931)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
Dame Elizabeth Lutyens (1906-1983)
David Diamond (1915-2005)
David Zinman (1936)
Paul Chihara (1938)
John Mark Ainsley (1963)

and

Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823)
Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961)
Oliver Sacks (1933-2015)
David Hockney (1937)
Dean Koontz (1945)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
George Antheil (1900-1959)
Billy Eckstine (1914-1993)
Susan Chilcott (1963-2003)
Raffi Cavoukian (1948)
Zhou Long (1953)

and

Philip Johnson (1906-2005)
J. F. Powers (1917-1999)
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004)
Anna Quindlen (1953)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Clarinets Gone Wild at Chamber Music Northwest Concert

Single-reed aficionados and curiosity-seekers mixed with regular Chamber Music Northwest patrons to fill Kaul Auditorium to the brim at the Clarinet Critical Mass concert last Saturday (June 29). They were treated to an outstanding program that featured contemporary works, including a world premiere by Michele Mangani, and arrangements of familiar pieces, topping things off with a chorus of 30 instrumentalists that played Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.”

The concert began with Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint, a pulsating minimalist work that faded in and out, creating a constant hum. Against the humming background, soloist Chad Burrow fashioned phrases early on reminded me of birdsong and later became more like jazz riffs. The ensemble of eleven was conducted with precision by Jose Franch-Ballester.

Next came Peter Schickele’s Monochrome IIII. It had a meandering, slightly jazzy line that led to thick, lush chords. After things got stirred up, the music alternated between another pleasant melody and a more agitated, freestyle section. The short work as wonderfully expressed by nine clarinetists under the direction of David Hattner.

The world premiere of Dance Variations on Themes of Mozart, commissioned by CMNW, proved to be a real crowd pleaser with composer Mangani leading a choir of 14. Taking the theme from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet (K. 581), the piece sampled the waltz, tarantella, ragtime, tango, swing, bossa nova, and Czarda. The instrumentalists played with panache and were rewarded with an enthusiastic standing ovation.

A expert septet gave a rousingly evocative performance of Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in arrangement by Matt Johnston that contained a lot of tricky interplay. Kudos to Mark Dover, basset horn, and James Shields, contrabass clarinet, for the growly, woody sounds.

After intermission, Corrado Giuffredi an Franch-Ballester mesmerized the audience with Mangani’s Tango-Klezmer Duets. Their virtuosic playing brought down the house with animated tongue-in-cheek gestures that perfectly matched the music.

Seunghee Lee’s super smooth tones highlighted her arrangement of Piazzolla’s Libertango and Evan Solomon’s arrangement of Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for seven clarinetists.

The grand finale of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” in an arrangement by Guido Six generated a panoply of sound that was impressively organ-like. Hattner conducted a chorus of clarinetists that spanned the full range from E-flat clarinet to basset horn, bass clarinet, contralto clarinet, and contrabass clarinet. The ensemble was amazingly articulate and expressive.

The concert got off to a late start because of last-minute ticket sales and the announcement of the winners of CMNW’s Young Artist Competition. With a collective $20,000 in prizes, the competition drew some of the best talent from around the world. Third place went to Haoran Wang (China), second to Iván Villar Sanz (Spain), and first to Sam Boutris (USA) in what the judges described as a very difficult decision owing to the high artistry of the participants.

Judging from the sort of collective single-reed madness that apparently infected Portland’s classical music scene, it seems that next year, CMNW could try for an oboe extravaganza. Or what about a trombone blowout. Or perhaps a bassoonathon! Who knows! In any case, CMNW struck gold with its weeklong celebration of the clarinet. Bravo!

Today's Birthdays

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)
Cor de Groot (1914-1993)
Doc Severinsen (1927)
Joe Zawinul (1932-2007)
Ringo Starr (1940)
Michaela Petri (1958)

and

Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)
David McCullough (1933)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Gustav Mahler (1860), born in Kalischt, Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. His father was an Austrian Jewish tavern-keeper, and Mahler experienced racial tensions from his birth: he was a minority both as a Jew and as a German-speaking Austrian among Czechs, and later, when he moved to Germany, he was a minority as a Bohemian. His father was a self-made man, very fiery, and he abused Mahler’s mother, who was rather delicate and from a higher social class. Mahler was a tense and nervous child, traits he retained into adulthood. He had heart trouble, which he had inherited from his mother, but he also had a fair measure of his father’s vitality and determination, and was active and athletic.

Mahler began his musical career at the age of four, first playing by ear the military marches and folk music he heard around his hometown, and soon composing pieces of his own on piano and accordion. He made his public piano debut at 10, and was accepted to the Vienna Conservatory at 15. When he left school, he became a conductor, and then artistic director of the Vienna Court Opera. He became famous throughout Europe as a conductor, but he was fanatical in his work habits, and expected his artists to be, as well. This didn’t win him any friends, and there were always factions calling for his dismissal. He spent his summers in the Austrian Alps, composing.

1907 was a difficult year for Mahler: he was forced to resign from the Vienna Opera; his three-year-old daughter, Maria, died; and he was diagnosed with fatal heart disease. Superstitious, he believed that he had had a premonition of these events when composing his Tragic Symphony, No. 6 (1906), which ends with three climactic hammer blows representing “the three blows of fate which fall on a hero, the last one felling him as a tree is felled.” When he composed his ninth symphony, he refused to call it “Symphony No. 9” because he believed that, like Beethoven and Bruckner before him, his ninth symphony would be his last. He called it A Symphony for Tenor, Baritone, and Orchestra instead, and he appeared to have fooled fate, because he went on to compose another symphony. This one he called Symphony No. 9 (1910); he joked that he was safe, since it was really his 10th symphony, but No. 9 proved to be his last symphony after all, and he died in 1911. Most of his work was misunderstood during his lifetime, and his music was largely ignored — and sometimes banned — for more than 30 years after his death. A new generation of listeners discovered him after World War II, and today he is one of the most recorded and performed composers in classical music.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alberto Nepomuceno (1864-1920)
Hans Eisler (1898-1962)
Dame Elizabeth Lutyens (1906-1983)
Dorothy Kirsten (1910-1992)
Ernst Haefliger (1919-2007)
Bill Haley (1925-1981)
Maurice Hasson (1934)
Vladimir Ashkenazy (1937)
Stephen Hartke (1952)

and

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
Eleanor Clark (1913-1996)
Hilary Mantel (1952)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1913, inParis, the Grand Prix de Rome music award is given to 19 year-old French composer Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), the first woman to be so honored

Friday, July 5, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Josef Holbrooke (1878-1958)
Wanda Landowska (1879-1958)
Jan Kubelík (1880-1940)
Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)
Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984)
George Rochberg (1918-2005)
János Starker (1924-2013)
Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993)
Matthias Bamert (1942)
Alexander Lazarev (1945)
Paul Daniel (1958)
Isabelle Poulenard (1961)

and

A. E. Douglass (1867-1962)
Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
Barbara Frischmuth (1941)
Craig Nova (1945)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772)
Stephen Foster (1826-1864)
Roy Henderson (1899-2000)
Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
Mitch Miller (1911-2010)
Tibor Varga (1921-2003)
Cathy Berberian (1925-1983)

and

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
Lionel Trilling (1905-1975)
Neil Simon (1927-2018)
Tracy Letts (1965)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Theodore Presser (1848-1925)
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
George M. Cohan (1878-1942)
Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953)
Meyer Kupferman (1926-2003)
Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004)
Brigitte Fassbaender (1939)

and

Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992)
Sir Tom Stoppard (1937)
Dave Berry (1947)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Christoph W. Gluck (1714-1787)
Earl Hawley Robinson (1910-1991)
Frederick Fennell (1914-2004)

and

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803)
Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971)
Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012)

Monday, July 1, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1899-1993)
Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012)
Andrae Crouch (1942-2015)
Philip Brunelle (1943)
Sioned Williams (1953)
Nikolai Demidenko (1955)

and

George Sand (1804-1876)
Jean Stafford (1915-1979)
William Strunk Jr. (1969-1946)
Twyla Tharp (1941)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1897, the Music Division of the Library of Congress is founded in Washington, D.C.