Saturday, August 31, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Amicare Ponchielli (1834-1886)
Alma Mahler (1879-1964)
Ifor James (1931-2004)
Wieland Kuijken (1938)
Itzak Perlman (1945)
Daniel Harding (1975)

and

Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
William Shawn (1907-1992)
William Saroyan (1908-1981)
Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986)

Memorable quote from William Shawn: "Falling short of perfection is a process that just never stops."

Friday, August 30, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Ernesto Cavallini (1807-1874)
George Frederick Root (1820-1895)
Buddy Rich (1917-1987)
Regina Resnik (1922-2013)
David Maslanka (1943-1917)
David Schiff (1945)
Simon Bainbridge (1952)
Dimitris Sgouros (1969)

and

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)
Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)
R Crumb (1943)
Molly Ivins (1944-2007)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Helge Rosvaenge (1897-1972)
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Charlie Parker (1920-1955)
Norman Platt (1920-2004)
Gilbert Amy (1936)
Anne Collins (1943-2009)
Lucia Valentini Terrani (1946-1998)
Michael Jackson (1958-2009)
Kevin Walczyk (1964)

and

John Locke (1632-1704)
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)
Karen Hesse (1952)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Gabriel Kahane appointed to new artistic position with Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony is shaking things up!

From the press release:

The 2019/20 Season is one of innovation and growth for the Oregon Symphony as it expands its Classical programming, presents the next installment of its groundbreaking SoundSights Series, and now, appoints American composer and singersongwriter Gabriel Kahane to the newly-created post of Creative Chair. In the 2017/18 Season, Kahane stunned Symphony audiences with his oratorio, emergency shelter intake form, which examined inequality through the twin lenses of housing and homelessness. As Creative Chair, he joins the OSO through the 2021/22 Season taking on a variety of responsibilities. In addition to writing and performing three substantial works over the next three seasons, Kahane will serve as an advisor for contemporary programming on the Classical series. And crucially, he will produce two new concert series: Open Music, a composer-driven chamber series to be held in smaller Portland venues, and an as yet unnamed indie concert series in which marquee pop artists will collaborate with dynamic composers and orchestrators. 

“I couldn't be more thrilled to be entering into a long term partnership with the Oregon Symphony,” says Kahane. “Working with the organization on emergency shelter intake form has been a career highlight, and I'm honored and humbled to have been invited to take on a more substantial role with the OSO in the coming years.”

In describing his new position with the Symphony Kahane emphasizes that, “Governing all of my planned curatorial activities with the orchestra is a desire to see an increasing commitment to new music at the OSO, and, in particular, music written by those who've been historically shut out of the concert hall. I take that responsibility seriously, and also consider it a gift to help introduce Portland to so many dynamic voices who are making essential music of the 21st century.”
For the Open Music Series, Kahane will invite a composer or musician featured on the Symphony’s classical program that weekend to examine their creative approach by curating a concert of their own design with music as well as art in other forms that inspires their work. Kahane will be on stage as moderator, friend, conversationalist, and occasionally a cameo performer; a small ensemble from the Oregon Symphony will serve as house band.

Kahane observes that “Writing music is a mysterious thing; those of us who do it professionally are continually baffled and astonished by our sublime and ridiculous pursuit of finding language, meaning, and expression in sound and silence. With Open Music, I want to create an intimate space in which audiences can get a little closer to this ineffable creative path.”

In addition to producing these new series, Kahane has been commissioned to premiere work once a year on the Symphony’s Classical Series. This season he brings the world premiere of Pattern of the Rail, six orchestral settings from his 2018 album Book of Travelers, inspired by a cross country train trip through America following the contentious 2016 presidential election, as well as the premiere of the full orchestral version of “Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.)”  from his acclaimed 2014 album, The Ambassador. Kahane will present these works December 7-9, 2019 on the Symphony’s Prokofiev Fifth program at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. 

From the Kennedy Center to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kahane is in demand across the country. “The Oregon Symphony is thrilled to deepen its relationship with Gabriel,” says Oregon Symphony President and CEO Scott Showalter. “Working with him as our creative chair is a boon for our community.”

ABOUT GABRIEL KAHANE
Gabriel Kahane is a singer-songwriter, pianist, and composer, whose work lives increasingly at the intersection of art and social practice. His 2018 Nonesuch Records debut, Book of Travelers, hailed by Rolling Stone as “a stunning portrait of a singular moment in America”, chronicles an 8,980 mile transcontinental train trip that he embarked on the morning after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Gabriel is grateful to be working with and within an incredibly vibrant and supportive community of musicians. Among his most memorable collaborations have been projects with Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Caroline Shaw, Brooklyn Rider, Blake Mills, Chris Thile, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, for whom he served as composer-in-residence from 2011 til 2013. He has been commissioned by, among others, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Crossing, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, A Far Cry, The Knights, yMusic, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. 

Earlier this year, he appeared as soloist with the St. Louis Symphony in a broadcast of the radio program ‘Live from Here with Chris Thile’; Kahane will make several more appearances on the show throughout the 2019-2020 season.  

An avid theater artist, Kahane has been commissioned twice by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which in 2014 presented The Ambassador, directed by Tony Award-winner John Tiffany, and in 2017 presented 8980: Book of Travelers. Last year, he made his Broadway debut with a score for Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, starring Elaine May and Lucas Hedges. 

A graduate of Brown University, Kahane lives in Brooklyn. 

Recommendations for concerts this fall in Portland

My list of recommended concerts - accompanied by brief descriptions - has been posted in Oregonlive here. It will appear in the printed edition this Friday.

Today's Birthdays

Umberto Giordano (1867-1948)
Alfred Baldwin Sloane (1872-1925)
Ivor Burney (1890-1937)
Karl Böhm (1894-1981)
Paul Henry Lang (1901-1991)
Richard Tucker (1913-1975)
John Shirley-Quirk (1931-2014)
Imogen Cooper (1949)

and

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
John Betjeman (1906-1984)
Rita Dove (1952)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Umberto Giordano (1867-1948)
Alfred Baldwin Sloane (1872-1925)
Ivor Burney (1890-1937)
Karl Böhm (1894-1981)
Paul Henry Lang (1901-1991)
Richard Tucker (1913-1975)
John Shirley-Quirk (1931-2014)
Imogen Cooper (1949)

and

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
John Betjeman (1906-1984)
Rita Dove (1952)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Willem de Fesch (1687-1761)
Luis Delgadillio (1887-1961)
Arthur Loesser (1894-1969)
Humphrey Searle (1915-1981)
Wolfgang Sawallisch (1923-2013)
Nicholas Braithwaite (1939)
Sally Beamish (1956)
Branford Marsalis (1960)

and

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)
Lee de Forest (1873-1961)
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
Julio Cortázar (1914-1984)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Robert Stolz (1880-1975)
Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972)
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
José Van Dam (1940)
Keith Tippett (1947)
Elvis Costello (1954)

and

Brian Moore (1921-1999)
Charles Wright (1935)
Martin Amis (1949)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Resonance Ensemble awarded $100k grant to fund Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem

Wow! Congratulations!

From the press release:

PORTLAND, OR —Resonance Ensemble has been awarded a $100,000 grant from The Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights Initiative. The grant will help fund the world premiere of composer Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem, a pivotal work memorializing the lives of African Americans lost to racist violence in the United States, and the first work of its kind to be performed in Oregon. The work, a commission by Resonance Ensemble, will be presented by Resonance in partnership with the Oregon Symphony on Saturday, May 23, 2020, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
“Resonance is thrilled to receive this grant from The Oregon Community Foundation,” offers Resonance’s Artistic Director Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon. “As yet, there has not been a Requiem written in memory of African Americans who have lost their lives to racial violence; this will be a groundbreaking project that we believe can have a tremendous impact on all Oregonians. We are proud to partner with the Oregon Symphony as a conduit for Damien Geter’s incredibly important work.” 
This concert-length work draws upon classical, jazz, and folk traditions. The Requiem uses the traditional Latin Requiem text for many movements but also incorporates spirituals and texts from civil rights activists Ida B. Wells, Eric Garner, Jamilia Land, and Antwone Rose. The final movement is scored for orchestra and narrator, with words penned and performed by African American poet and Portland resident S. Renee Mitchell.
“I am so grateful to The Oregon Community Foundation for seeing the value in our work,” says Geter. “This funding will help us to have timely and crucial conversations with Oregonians and hopefully beyond. I consider myself an activist through my art, and this Requiem is a perfect marriage of these passions.”
The premiere will feature a choir specially assembled by FitzGibbon, the African American Requiem Choir, featuring professional singers of Resonance Ensemble and Kingdom Sound Gospel Choir and representatives of other area choirs, and four renowned African American singers: Brandie Sutton, soprano; Karmesha Peake, mezzo-soprano; Bernard Holcomb, tenor; and Kenneth Overton, baritone. 

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Marcello (1669-1747)
Théodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Bernhard Heiden (1910-2000)
Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000)
Stephen Paulus (1949-2014)
Carlo Curley (1952)

and

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Max Beerbohm (1872-1956)
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
Oscar Hijuelos (1951-2013)
John Green (1977)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1456 that the first edition of the Gutenberg Bible was bound and completed in Mainz, Germany. The Gutenberg Bible was the first complete book printed with movable type. The press produced 180 copies of the Bible. Books had been printed on presses before, in China and Korea, with wood and bronze type; but Gutenberg used metal type, and made a press that could print many versions of the same text quickly. His contributions to printing were huge: he created an oil-based printing ink, he figured out how to cast individual pieces of type in metal so that they could be reused, and he designed a functioning printing press. But others before him had come up with similar ideas. Probably the most important thing that Gutenberg did was to develop the entire process of printing — he streamlined a system for assembling the type into a full book and then folding the pages into folios, which were then bound into an entire volume — and to do it all quickly. The techniques that Gutenberg refined were used for hundreds of years, and the publication of the Gutenberg Bible marked a turning point in the availability of knowledge to regular people.
and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1968, Czech conductor and composer Rafael Kubelik launches an appeal to world musicians to boycott performances in the five nations which invaded Czechoslovakia on August 20-21 until their military forces evacuate the country. The appeal was joined by Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Otto Klemperer, Bernard Haitink, Claudio Arrau, and others.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925)
Ernst Krenek (1900-1991)
William Primrose (1903-1982)
Constant Lambert (1905-1951)
Carl Dolmetsch (1911-1977)
Mark Russell (1932)
Brad Mehldau (1970)

and

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
Edgar Lee Masters (1869-1950)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1934, the Berkshire Symphonic Festival in was founded in Stockbridge, Mass., by American composer and conductor Henry Hadley, with the participation of the New York Philharmonic. The Festival later became associated with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Josef Strauss (1827-1870)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
John Lee Hooker (1917-2001)
Ivry Gitlis (1922)
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)
Tori Amos (1963)

and

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)
Annie Proulx (1935)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
Count (William) Basie (1904-1984)
Tommy Reilly (1919-2000)
Willhelm Killmayer (1927-2017)
Gregg Smith (1931-2016)
Dame Janet Baker (1933)

and

X. J. Kennedy (1929)
Robert Stone (1937-2015)
Ellen Hinsey (1960)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Jacopo Peri (1561-1633)
Mario Bernardi (1930-2013)
Dame Anne Evans (1941)
Maxim Vengerov (1974)

and

Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950)
Paul Tillich (1886-1965)
H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)
Jacqueline Susann (1918-1974)
Heather McHugh (1948)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Today's Birthdays

William Henry Fry (1881-1864)
Georges Enescu (1881-1955)
Allan Monk (1942)
Gerard Schwarz (1947)
Rebecca Evans (1963)

and

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761)
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Frank McCourt (1930-2009)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)
Benjamin Godard (1849-1895)
Basil Cameron (1884-1975)
Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973)
Dame Moura Lympany (1916-2005)
Goff Richards (1944)
Tan Dun (1957)

and

Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
Margaret Murie (1902 -2003)
Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

Italian-born Viennese composer Antonio Salieri, born in Legnago, in the Republic of Venice (1750). Although he was quite popular in the 18th century, he probably wouldn't be well known today were it not for the movie Amadeus (1984). The movie was based on Peter Shaffer's play by the same name (1979), which was in turn based on a short play by Aleksandr Pushkin, which was called Mozart and Salieri (1830). These stories all present Salieri as a mediocre and uninspired composer who was jealous of Mozart's musical genius; Salieri tried to discredit Mozart at every turn, and some versions of the story even accuse him of poisoning his rival.

But Salieri was a talented and successful composer, writing the scores for several popular operas. He had a happy home life with his wife and eight children. And because he had received free voice and composition lessons from a generous mentor as a young man, he also gave most of his students the benefit of free instruction. Some of his pupils included Beethoven, Franz Liszt, and Franz Schubert. He was the Kapellmeister — the person in charge of music — for the Austrian emperor for 36 years. He and Mozart were competitors, but their rivalry was usually a friendly one; Salieri visited Mozart when he was dying, and was one of the few people to attend his funeral.

After the turn of the 19th century, Salieri's music began to fall out of fashion. "I realized that musical taste was gradually changing in a manner completely contrary to that of my own times," he wrote. "Eccentricity and confusion of genres replaced reasoned and masterful simplicity." He stopped composing operas and began to produce more and more religious pieces. He suffered from dementia late in his life and died in 1825. He had composed his own requiem 20 years earlier, and it was performed for the first time at his funeral.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)
Abram Chasins (1903-1987)
George Melly (1926-2007)
T.J. (Thomas Jefferson) Anderson (1928)
Edward Cowie (1943)
Jean-Bernard Pommier (1944)
Heiner Goebbels (1952)
Artur Pizarro (1968)

and

Oliver St. John Gogarty (1878-1957)
Mae West (1893-1980)
Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
V. S. Naipaul (1932-2018)
Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
Jonathan Franzen (1959)

and from the Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1982, the first compact discs for commercial release were manufactured in Germany. CDs were originally designed to store and play back sound recordings, but later were modified to store data. The first test disc, which was pressed near Hannover, Germany, contained a recording of Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony, played by the Berlin Philharmonic. The first CD commercially produced at the new factory and sold on this date was ABBA's 1981 album The Visitors; the first new album to be released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street, which hit the stores in Japan — alongside the new Sony CD player — on October 1. The event is known as the "Big Bang of digital audio."

Friday, August 16, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861)
Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937)
Jacinto Guerrero (1895-1951)
Ralph Downes (1904-1993)
Bill Evans (1929-1980)
Sarah Brightman (1959)
Franz Welser-Möst (1960)

and

Catharine Trotter Cockburn (1679-1749)
William Maxwell (1908-2000)
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Portland Opera's "In the Penal Colony" kills it

Sean Doran as The Condemned Man, Martin Bakari as the Visitor, and Nathan H.G. as The Soldier in Portland Opera's new production of Philip Glass's In the Penal colony. Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
Bleak, harrowing, and painful to watch, Portland Opera’s production of Philip Glass’s In the Penal Colony was a compelling glimpse into hell. Based on a short story of the same name by Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony is a macabre tale set in a prison where a horrific machine is scheduled to kill an inmate. Directed by Jerry Mouawad and presented in the Studio Theatre in the Hampton Opera Center on August 3rd, Portland Opera’s performance made me squirm and want to look away, because it was as if I were viewing an execution.

Ryan Thorn as The Officer | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
The intimate confines of the Studio Theatre put the audience uncomfortably close to the action in which a high-level visitor interacts with an officer at a penal colony somewhere in the tropics. The officer is proud of the execution machine, which can gradually kill a condemned prisoner, who has no idea of what he is guilty of. However, the machine malfunctions, and the prisoner is set free. Then the crazed officer takes his place and is killed. The libretto, by Rudolph Wurlitzer, was expertly to the point.

Written for a string quintet, Glass’s minimalist music and repetitive style expressed the story very well. Gnawing lines conveyed harshness and brutality. Edgy and motoric sounds suggested the machine. The multitude of dissonant tones aptly described the unjust spectrum of the situation. All was played with icy resolve by violinists Margaret Bichteler and Nelly Kovalev, violist Hillary Oseas, cellist Dkylan Rieck, and bassist David Parmeter under the baton of Nicholas Fox.

Martin Bakari deftly created the cautious and analytical role of The Visitor. Bakari’s lyrical tenor embraced his character’s curiosity and passiveness as when he declared that he opposed “the procedure” yet would not interfere. Ryan Thorn’s imposing baritone amplified The Officer’s conviction that he was fulfilling his commander’s orders. One of the most impressive moments when Thorn sang with steady conviction while his hands shook violently, imitating the harrowing teeth of machine.

In non-singing roles, Sean Doran excelled as The Condemned Man, and there was a collective sigh of relief in the hall when he ran off to freedom. Nathan H. G. was equally convincing as The Soldier, who must carry out orders even though he might not like them.
Ryan Thorn as The Officer and Martin Bakari as The Visitor | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
In addition to directing, Mouawad designed the set, effectively using just a few props. A huge canvas cloth covered the floor. Suspended from the ceiling was another canvas cloth, decked with drawings to represent how the machine works. A large plexiglass window was lowered over a blood-soaked bed to give the sense of tattooing teeth.

Delivered in one act, In the Penal Colony was gripping and worthy of Kafka. But in the end, despite the terrific performance and the relevancy of the many serious topics touched on, I didn’t have the feeling that I would like to hear this opera again. That is interesting in light of the Glass’s statement (in the program notes) that “it’s the most performed opera that I’ve written.” There must be something innate that draws people to public executions.

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Albert Spalding (1888-1953)
Jaques Ibert (1890-1952)
Leon Theremin (1896-1993)
Lukas Foss (1922-2009)
Aldo Ciccolini (1925-2015)
Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)
Rita Hunter (1933-2001)
Anne Marie Owens (1955)
James O'Donnell (1961)

The Woodstock music festival began on this day in 1969.

and

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832
Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
Edna Ferber (1885-1968)
T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935)
Julia Child (1912-2004)
Benedict Kiely (1919-2007)
Denise Chávez (1948)
Stieg Larsson (1954)

and from the Composers Datebook:

Today Johannes Nepomuk Maelzel (1772-1848), German inventor credited with the creation of the metronome, was born in Regensburg. For a time he was the friend of Beethoven and collaborated with him on various projects.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)
Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1955)
Jan Koetsier (1911-2006)
Ferruccio Tagliavini (1913-1995)
Georges Prêtre (1924-2017)
Yuri Kholopov (1932-2003)
Cecilia Gasdia (1960)
Beta Moon (1969)

and

Ernest Thayer (1863-1940)
John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Russell Baker (1925-2019)
Danielle Steel (1947)
Gary Larson (1950)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Sir George Grove (1820-1900)
John Ireland (1879-1962)
Luis Mariano (1914-1970)
George Shearing (1919-2011)
Louis Frémaux (1921-2017)
Don Ho (1930-2007)
Sheila Armstrong (1942)
Kathleen Battle (1948)
Gregory Vajda (1973)

and

Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)
Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)
Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Porter Wagoner (1927-2007)
Buck Owens (1929-2006)
Huguette Tourangeau (1940)
David Munrow (1942-1976)
Pat Metheny (1954)
Stuart MacRae (1976)

and

Robert Southey (1773-1843)
Edith Hamilton (1867-1963)
Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959)
Donald Justice (1925-2004)
William Goldman (1931)
Anthony Swofford (1970)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Today's Birthdays

J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954)
Ginette Neveu (1919-1949)
Raymond Leppard (1927)
Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008)
Tamás Vásáry (1933)

and

Louise Brogan (1897-1970)
Alex Haley (1921-1992)
Andre Dubus (1936-1999)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
Douglas Moore (1893-1969)
Leo Fender (1909-1991)
Marie-Claire Alain (1926-2013)
Edwin Carr (1926-2003)
John Aldis (1929-2010)
Alexander Goehr (1932)
Giya Kancheli (1935)
Bobby Hatfield (1940-2003)
Dmitri Alexeev (1947)
Eliot Fisk (1958)

and

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
Joyce Sutphen (1949)
Mark Doty (1953)
Suzanne Collins (1962)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Music critics at Tanglewood

The Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) held its annual meeting at Tanglewood from July 26 to 28. As an MCANA member, I've enjoyed hearing great concerts, listening to lectures and panel discussions, and talking with my colleagues about the music business at these yearly events. Our time at Tanglewood was packed with such opportunities, and I've included some photos and a brief synopsis of my time there.

Tanglewood raised $32 million to build its new Linde Center for Music and Learning, which had its grand opening just a month before we arrived. Encompassing four buildings that provide concert and rehearsal space plus a café, the Linde Center is now the home of the Tanglewood Learning Institute. The TLI offers a wide range of cross-cultural programs, including performances, lectures, and multi-media presentations that can stretch year-around.

Sue Elliott, the director of the TLI (btw: Elliott used to work at Seattle Opera), gave an intriguing presentation about Wagner's Ring at Studio E. (The seating can be retracted to allow a full-size orchestra to rehearse there.)

Sue Elliott at Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning
We also heard Boston Symphony's music director, Andris Nelsons and Wagnerian soprano Christine Goerke talk with BSO and Tanglewood artistic director Anthony Fogg.

Andris Nelsons, Christine Goerke, and Tony Fogg at Studio E, Tanglewood

Nelsons told us that he first heard a Wagner opera when he was five years old. He said that afterwards he was depressed for about a month, but that "it was a good depression." Goerke is a very entertaining talker. Here she is with some of her fans afterwards.


Another engaging and insightful speaker we heard was soprano Jane Eaglen, who now teaches at the New England Conservatory:



On Friday (July 26), MCANA gave its Award for Best New Opera to composer Ellen Reid and librettist Roxy Perkins for p r i s m (see this article for more information). Because Reid was at a family wedding, she could not attend in person; so she spoke to us us via a taped video.


Fortunately, Perkins was able to attend our ceremony, and field a number of insightful questions from Canadian critic Arthur Kaptainis before receiving her trophy:



Later that evening we heard a concert featuring the BSO under Nelsons. The performance opened with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 2, To October, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. That was the first time that the BSO had ever performed this Symphony, and we could all understand why, because the text joyously praised Lenin. Well, Shostakovich had received a commission from the Propaganda Department of the state music publishers, which assigned the text. He made the most of it with stirring music that moves from a dark, moody, interior to an bright, optimistic exterior.

The Shostakovich was followed by Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12, with Paul Lewis at the keyboard, and the complete ballet score of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Both pieces were played at a very high level. The Mozart received a crisp and elegant performance that was unfortunately accompanied during the quiet and slow movement by a loud fan somewhere in the ceiling above the orchestra (as far as I could tell). The orchestra delivered a lush and lovely Ravel that was punctuated with terrific waves of sound from the instruments and the voices that washed over the audience deliciously. The wind machine, positioned at the front and extreme left-hand side of the stage and cranked by one of the percussionists, attracted a lot of attention from younger members of the audience. The addition of a few supertitles would have been helpful in order to follow the storyline, which Ravel's music evokes so wonderfully.

On Saturday morning, we took in a rehearsal in the Shed of Die Walküre that was led by Nelsons. It was the final one for the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra in preparation for three separate performances so that everyone in the orchestra could get a shot at playing at least two of the acts. That meant that each concert had a different concertmaster, and there was a rotation of positions within most of the sections. The average age of the orchestra was 25 years old, and Tanglewood hired physical therapists to deal with any issues resulting from the strenuous workout.



We absorbed Act I of Die Walküre that same evening in a concert-staging. The top-tier voices were led by Simon O'Neill as Siegmund, Amber Wagner as Sieglinde, Franz-Josef Selig as Hunding and James Rutherford as Wotan. Wagner threatened to steal the show with her extra-large voice, but all of the singers were in top form and held their own. When Selig struck a thoughtful pose at one point, it seemed to me that he didn't convey the harsh and elemental nature of Hunding. But that was my only nit. The orchestra played brilliantly, and the audience (which was less than the previous evening) responded rapturously.

Act II followed on Sunday afternoon, and the cast grew to include Goerke as Brünnhilde and Stephanie Blythe as Fricka. Blythe's voice has grown in size and expressivity even more than ever. Her lower register threatens to swallow you whole. She was absolutely amazing as the chastising Fricka, and gave Wotan the stink-eye that should have burnt a hole in his white jacket. Rutherford conveyed the Wotan with as much dignity as could be expected. He turned in an exceptional performance when lamenting Wotan's predicament to Brünnhilde.

A huge thunderclap rang out just a few seconds before the downbeat of Act III later that evening. The wind picked up and rain thrashed the trees just after the Valkyries started their Hojotohos, and it all perfectly matched up when they sang "A storm is building!". Anyone who was out on the lawn hopefully got accommodation in the shed, which had a good expanse of empty seats in the back rows. When Wagner sang "O glorious wonder," she let all of the horses out of the stable and created a tremendous sensation. The Valkyries (Kelly Cae Hogan, Jessica Faselt, Renée Tatum, Ronnita Miller, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Eve Gigliotti, Dana Beth Miller, and Mary Phillips) sang with gusto and blended well. Goerke and Rutherford created such fine moments that members of the orchestra (when they weren't playing) were watching intently... but not so intently as to forget when to come back in. The orchestra held its own with a couple of wobbly notes in the brass. The entire enterprise was exceptional.

Other notable events included a lecture by Doris Kearns Goodwin about leadership at the Ozawa Hall. It was basically a book tour speech for her latest book, Leadership, and it was well worth hearing.

Doris Kearns Goodwin with Sue Elliott

We also heard a panel that included Elliott, Fogg, Mark Volpe, president and CEO of the BSO, Jennifer Melick, managing editor of Symphony magazine, and music critic Keith Powers. They primarily discussed artistic planning and the vision of Tanglewood for the future. The folks in charge  have a lot of good ideas that will keep Tanglewood at the forefront of America's music festivals.

Today's Birthdays

Michael Umlauff (1781-1842)
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
Albert William Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Solomon Cutner (1902-1988)

and

Izaak Walton (1593-1683)
John Dryden (1631-1700)
P. L. Travers (1899-1966)
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

and from The Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, Australian-born American composer Percy Grainger marries Swedish poet and painter Ella Viola Strom at the Hollywood Bowl in front of an audience of 22,000 concert-goers. Grainger conducted the LA Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of his "To a Nordic Princess," dedicated to his bride.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Dover Quartet and friends close CMNW's Summer Fest with a pair of stunning quintets

The Dover Quartet:
 Joel Link, Milena Parajo-van de Stadt, Camden Shaw, Bryan Lee.
Chamber Music Northwest closed out David Shifrin's penultimate season as artistic director with a pair of magnificent quintets, one by Dvořák and one by Schubert. Jeffrey Kahane joined the Dover Quartet on the piano for the Dvořák, and Peter Wiley added his cello to the Schubert in the second half.

The Dvořák opened thunderous--towering and grandiose. The movement was very evocative, as is the composer's wont. Galloping at first, it evolved into a filigree wherein Kahane made the piano tinkle like a glass harmonica. It soon became a swelling ocean squall, which disspated into sudden calm. Kahane's octave work was subtly brilliant.

The Dumka was full of pathos, like a melancholy folk-tune as Milena Parajo-van de Stadt elicited a handsome helden-baritone recital from her viola. As the movement turned into an up-tempo exultation, the recapitulation became a sad sigh of relief. Or was it a sigh of grief, with every arrival like a communal exultation of mourning. In the finale, the piano sometimes over-balanced the strings, and not everything lined up perfectly; it felt like it took a while for the symmetry to align.

The Schubert featured  seamless unisons between the two cellists as the group embarked on a grand idyll. The pizzicato moving bass line from Wiley's instrument added an extra dimension to the texture of the string quartet. It was a perfect example of why quintets are so fun, and this one was delightful to listen to.  The perfectly smooth chordal section of the adagio was mesmerizing, like a paean to Morpheus. The group allowed it to grow organically in intensity and urgency. Wiley's cello functioned like a ceaseless commentary on the goings-on of the Dover Quartet's strings. The magnificently choreographed arpeggiating pizzicatos between Wiley and the violins felt like a long farewell. The third movement opened like a crisp snow to break the somnolence of the adagio, and they rendered the finale as a Tzigane dance, ferocious and rich.

It has been a true pleasure listening to the Dover Quartet at this year's festival. The depth of insight and bewildering array of styles and techniques they put on display are reminders (if such were really needed) why it's so worthwhile and important to support endeavors like CMNW's Summer Festival. Each concert is an astounding adventure, whether one knows the work intimately or is being exposed to it for the first time.

Not for the first time (nor probably the last) I reiterate that my summer just doesn't feel complete without CMNW--it's as integral to the season as ripe August blackberries or a walk in the cool Willamette valley starlight. And with this kind of quality, it will no doubt be here for a long, long time.


Today's Birthdays

Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
Adolf Busch (1891-1952)
André Jolivet (1905-1974)
Benny Carter (1907-2003)
Josef Suk (1929-2011)
Jacques Hétu (1938-2010)

and

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953)
Valerie Sayers (1952)
Elizabeth Tallent (1954)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946)
Karel Husa (1921-1916)
Felice Bryant (1925-2003)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977)
Garrison Keillor (1942)
Ian Hobson (1952)
Christian Altenburger (1957)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
Mary Carr Moore (1873-1957)
Karl Ulrich Schnabel (1909-2001)
Udo Reinemann (1942-2013)

and

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Marc Antonio Cesti (1623-1669)
Leonardo Leo (1694-1744)
Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896)
Hans Gál (1890-1987)
Erich Kleiber (1890-1956)
Betsy Jolas (1926)
Stoika Milanova (1945)
Mark O'Connor (1961)

and

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)
Wendell Berry (1934)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1978, the citizens of Patowan, Utah, decided to name a local mountain Mr. Messiaen, in honor of the French composer, Olivier Messiaen, who spent a month in Utah in 1973 an composed a symphonic work, "Des canyons aux etoiles" (From the canyons to the stars), which glorified the natural beauty of the region

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Henry Berger (1844-1929)
Italo Montemezzi (1875-1952)
Albert W. Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901-1971)
William Schuman (1910-1992)
David Raksin (1912-2004)
Arthur Butterworth (1923-2014)
Jess Thomas (1927-1993)
David Bedford (1937-2011)
Simon Preston (1938)
Deborah Voigt (1960)
Olga Neuwirth (1968)

and

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Raoul Wallenberg (1912-1947?)
Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1705, in Arnstadt, J.S. Bach and a bassoonist named Johann Heinrich Geyersbach cross paths late a night and an argument ensues. Geyerbach threatens Bach with a stick and Bach draws his sword. Both are hauled up before the city magistrate and reprimanded for their behavior.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Portland Opera harvests laughter amidst the more serious tones of La Finta Giardiniera

Lindsay Ohse | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Mozart wrote thee operas by the time he was 12 years old then received a commission to write another one in 1770 when he was only 14. He followed that with three more operas, so that by the time he wrote La finta giardiniera, in 1774, to fulfill a commission for the Munich Carnival, he was already a veteran at the age of 18. According to scholars, La finta giardiniera (The pretend gardener) is the first of Mozart’s operas that shows the imprint of his style and his uncanny ability to express the implications of comic and serious situations.

Well, those facts provided an intriguing preface to Portland Opera’s presentation of La finta giardiniera on July 12 at the Newmark Theatre. The company made the most of its first-ever performance of this early Mozart work, delivering an engaging and charming new production under the direction of Chas Rader-Shieber.
Mark Thomsen, Helen Huang, Thomas Cilluffo, and Antonia Tamer | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Containing a lot of nuances and relying on impeccable timing during the humorous situations, the directions of Rader-Shieber resonated well with the singers. One of the best moments occurred when the Podesta (The Mayor) slapped Count Belfiore, jolting his attention toward his daughter Arminda instead of the pretend gardener, Sandrina. Everyone got into the silliness of the romantic juxtapositions, including the mad scene in which Sandrina and Belfiore partially disrobed. However, Rader-Shieber’s directions for Serpetta focused on her rebuttals of Nardo’s gentle advances, which gave her a negative sheen.

Lindsay Ohse glowed in the role of Sandrina, wonderfully conveying the turbulent emotions of a woman who sought refuge from her abusive lover, then after a period of “madness” falls in love with him. Thomas Cilluffo created a smug, amiable, yet slightly clueless Belfiore, singing with virility and charm while raking in the laughs. As Arminda, Antonia Tamer, convincingly preened and pouted, generating ample amounts of laughter yet managed to stiff arm her former lover. Mark Thomsen fashioned a suave and avuncular Podesta, but his voice was underpowered.
Geoffrey Schellenberg and Helen Huang| Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Florid passages flowed with pinpoint accuracy from Camille Sherman, who fashioned a loyal yet frustrated Ramiro who could not win back Arminda. Helen Huang, as the maid, Serpetta, also commanded her lines with a beautiful agility. Sporting the red cap of a gnome, Geoffrey Schellenberg (looking a bit like John Belushi) created a robust, humorous, and lovesick Nardo, the assistant gardener.
Mark Thomsen and Camille Sherman | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
A colorful new set design by Michael Olich for Portland Opera featured terraces surrounded by walls that were painted with large flower blossoms, giving the production a bright, magical effect. Olich also designed carefree costumes that bordered on the cheesy side, such as Belfiore’s flowery suit. Olich's gnome-like costumes for four supernumeraries, who deftly worked about the garden, seamlessly fit into the story.

Playing the harpsicord and conducting, George Manahan guided the orchestra in a polished performance that overcame the dry acoustic of the hall.

At the end of the opera, Sandrina and Belfiore regain their sanity and fall in love, but the other pairings don’t work out. So, Ramiro and Arminda did not reunite, and Serpetta and Nardo remained separate entities. That outcome was a twist on the original score and worked, but left a slightly sour taste.

Today's Birthdays

Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964)
Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)
Tony Bennett (1926)
James Tyler (1940-2010)
Simon Keenlyside (1959)

and

Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885)
Ernie Pyle (1900-1944)
P. D. James (1920-2014)
Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)
Diane Wakoski (1937)
Marvin Bell (1937)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1668, German composer Dietrich Buxtehude marries the daughter of Franz Tunder, retiring organist at St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, as a condition to succeed Tunder in his position at St. Mary's. Years later, Buxtehude offered his position in Lübeck with a similar caveat that the new organist must marry his daughter. It is thought that both Handel and J.S. Bach were both interested in the position - but not in Buxtehude's daughter.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Bliss (1891-1975)
Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963)
Marvin David Levy (1932-2015)
Anthony Payne (1936)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Richard Einhorn (1952)
Angel Lam (1978)

and

Irving Babbitt (1865-1933)
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Isabel Allende (1942)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Today's Birthdays

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)
Hans Rott (1858-1884)
Morris Stoloff (1898-1980)
William Steinberg (1899-1978)
Jerome Moross (1913-1983)
Lionel Bart (1930-1999)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott (1931)
Jordi Savall (1941)
André Gagnon (1942)
Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)

and

Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Ernst Jandl (1925-2000)
Madison Smartt Bell (1957)