Thursday, December 31, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Caroline Miolan‑Carvalho (1827-1895)
Ernest John Moeran (1894-1950)
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940)
Nathan Milstein (1904-1992)
Jule Styne (1925-1994)
Jaap Schröder (1925-2020)
Odetta (1930-2008)
Stephen Cleobury (1948)
Donna Summer (1948-2012)
Jennifer Higdon (1962)

and

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

William Gaddis (1922-1998)

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Monday, December 28, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Charles Portis (1933)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Maurice Gendron (1920-1990)
Thea King (1925-2007)
Earle Brown (1926-2002)
Phil Specter (1940)
Wayland Rogers (1941)
Harry Christophers (1953)
Andre-Michel Schub (1953)
Gabriella Smith (1991)

and

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

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Oregon Symphony up for Grammy

I forgot to mention that the Oregon Symphony is in the running for Grammy award in the Best Orchestral Performance category for its Aspects of America: Pulitzer Edition album. Here are the particulars:

Walter Piston (1894-1976)
Symphony No. 7 (1960) [21:43]

Morton Gould (1913-1996)
Stringmusic (1993) [27:35]

Howard Hanson (1896-1981)
Symphony No. 4, Op. 34 ‘Requiem’ (1943) [21:50]

Oregon Symphony/Carlos Kalmar
recorded live, 2017/18, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, USA
PENTATONE PTC5186763 [71:08]

There are the five recordings that are under consideration for the Grammy award:

Aspects of America: Pulitzer Edition. Carlos Kalmar, conductor (Oregon Symphony)

Concurrence. Daníel Bjarnason, conductor (Iceland Symphony Orchestra)

Copland: Symphony No. 3. Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)

Ives: Complete Symphonies. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Lutoslawski: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3. Hannu Lintu, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Based on past awardees, the front runners are the San Francisco and Los Angeles orchestras. I hope that the OSO can break through and get the prize.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Jun Märkel to become Music Director of the Malaysian Philharmonic

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra has announced that Jun Märkel will become its Music Director in 2021. You can read all about it here. Märkel is one of the guest conductors who I am sure was high on the list of candidates to become the next Music Director of the Oregon Symphony. It is not impossible for him to still be in the running for the MD job with the Oregon Symphony, but the MPO offers a full season and the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Portland is probably very long and tiring.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
Anthony Fauci (1940)
Dana Gioia (1950)

and from The Writer's Almanac

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

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

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

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Peplowski and Clairdee warm things up in Vancouver Symphony's holiday concert

In spite of the pandemic and the cold, rainy weather that has descended on us, the Vancouver Symphony teamed up with jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski and vocalist Clairdee to create a cheerful and heart-warming holiday concert last Saturday (December 12). The program had a little bit of this and that, extending from Benny Goodman tunes to Christmas-carol-inspired pieces and several soulful numbers from Clairdee. Some of the pieces were played only by the orchestra, others by Peplowski and his band. Sometimes Peplowski would play with the orchestra, and other times Clairdee would join everyone. It was fun just to watch and hear the variety of performances.

The musicians were spread across most of the stage at Skyview Concert Hall guest with conductor Ken Selden and an orchestra of string players plus a harpist in the center. Peplowski and his band (Steven Feifke on piano, Kevin Congleton on drums, and Tim Gilson on bass) were positioned a few feet away to Selden’s left, and Clairdee on his right. Everyone wore a mask except Peplowski and Clairdee, and plexiglass shields were placed in such a way to add even more protection.

Peplowski has a terrific knack for connecting with audiences, even when he can’t see the audience. He introduced several of the pieces with humorous anecdotes that provided a bit of background information. The first number that he played with the orchestra was an arrangement of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” His style loosened the reins on the well-known music, and made me want to reach for a hot toddy. The only thing that didn’t work all that well was his clarinet making the neighing sound at the very end of the piece.

Because Peplowski had performed with Benny Goodman, he told how Goodman was quite the taskmaster during rehearsal and how he often forgot the names of famous guest soloists. That recollection led to a suite of Benny Goodman songs, which Peplowski played with the orchestra. His tone was especially wistful in “Poor Butterfly,” and his displayed a sweeping riff at the end of “The Man I Love. For “My Funny Valentine” he created a sultry tone that contrasted well with the loosey-goosey style of “Don’t Be That Way.”

The orchestra, expertly led by Selden, collaborated with Peplowski to deliver a gentle and soothing “Christmastime is Here,” which is indelibly associated with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” movie. They followed that with an up-tempo arrangement of George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm.” It included a seamless segue to the small band before transitioning back to the orchestra for the finish.

With his band, Peplowski delved into a toe-tapping rendition of another Goodman tune, “Avalon,” in which he executed all sorts of tricky runs with ease. He settled things down with a relaxing Rogers and Hart number, “You Took Advantage of Me.” In both pieces his colleagues excelled with their solos, but the bass was unfortunately difficult to hear.

Clairdee caressed several selections with a soulful glow, starting with “This Christmas” in the first half of the program. She put a lot emotion into Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” that made it poignant and then nicely switched things up with a peppy “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

The strings opened the concert with two lively selections (“Pastores a Belen” and “Wassail Song”) from Leroy Anderson’s “Suite of Carols.” Their rendition of Johann Strauss Jr’s “Pizzicato Polka” got the dynamics just right, but the Prelude to Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” got a tad muddy. Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves” received a heart-warming performance with an evocative opening statement by concertmaster Eva Richey and enchanting strumming from harpist Kimberly Taylor.

The small band played a nifty arrangement by pianist Feifke of the “Carol of the Bells,” which of included a brief improvisation by Peplowski. In his introduction to Michel Legrand’s uplifting “You Must Believe in Spring,” Peplowski mentioned that it is a song about hope, which we all need especially at this time.

In the closing number, a Nelson Riddle arrangement of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” Clairdee warmed us up with the famous “Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire.” Peplowski took a turn on the melody and handed it off to the orchestra, and as the music quieted down at the end, Feifke lightly finished things off with a nicely placed phrased from “Jingle Bells.”

Like the other online broadcasts that the VSO has done, this one featured brief, yet informative interviews with Peplowski and Clairdee during intermission. It also included an enlightening vignette about music therapy at PeaceHealth Medical Group. These extra features help to make the concert more enjoyable, and it would be great if the orchestra could keep some aspect of them after we return to the concert hall some day in the future.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from The Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from The Writer's Almanac:

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Today's Birthdays

François Adrien Boieldieu (1775-1834)
Augusta Holmès (1847-1903)
Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)
Turk Murphy (1915-1987)
Steve Allen (1921-2000)
Dame Thea King (1925-2007)
Alice Parker (1925)
Kenneth Gilbert (1931-2020)
Rodion Shchedrin (1932
Philip Langridge (1939-2010)
Trevor Pinnock (1946)
Isabelle van Keulen (1966)

and

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Michel‑Richard Delalande (1657-1726)
Lotte Schöne (1891-1981)
Stan Kenton (1911-1979)
Ida Haendel (1924-2020)
Eddie Palmieri (1936)
Nigel Robson (1948)
Jan Latham-Koenig (1953)

and

Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (1859-1917)
Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959)
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020)
Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000)
Edna O'Brien (1930)

Monday, December 14, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Maria Agata Szymanowska (1789-1831)
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
Georges Thill (1897-1984)
Spike Jones (1911-1965)
Rosalyn Tureck (1914-2003)
Dame Ruth Railton (1915-2001)
Ron Nelson (1929)
Christopher Parkening (1947)
Thomas Albert (1948)
John Rawnsley (1949)

and

Shirley Jackson (1919-1965)
Amy Hempel (1951)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Alexis de Castillon (1838-1873)
Josef Lhévinne (1874-1944)
Eleanor Robson Belmont (1879-1979)
Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976)
Victor Babin (1908-1972)
Alvin Curran (1938)

and

Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882)
Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)
James Wright (1927-1980)
Lester Bangs (1948-1982)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1836, at a musical soiree at Chopin's apartments in Paris, the female writer "George" Sand, determined to make a good impression with her host, arrives wearing white pantaloons and a scarlet sash (the colors of the Polish flag). Paris Opéra tenor Adolphe Nourit sings some Schubert songs, accompanied by Franz Liszt. Liszt and Chopin play Moschele's Sonata in Eb for piano four-hands.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Andrey Schulz‑Evler (1852-1905)
Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974)
Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)
Philip Ledger (1937-2012)
Donald Maxwell (1948)
Margaret Tan (1953)
Jaap van Zweden (1960)
David Horne (1970)
Evren Genis (1978)

and

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
John Osborne (1929-1994)

Friday, December 11, 2020

Preview of Vancouver Symphony's holiday concert in The Columbian

The Columbian Newspaper published my preview of the Vancouver Symphony's holiday live-stream concert, which will take place with jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski, vocalist Claridee, and guest conductor Ken Selden. It was fun to interview them and write the aricle, which you can read here.

Today's Birthdays

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909)
Leo Ornstein (1893-2002)
Elliott Carter (1908-2012)
David Ashley White (1944)
Neil Mackie (1946)

and

Grace Paley (1922-2007)
Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006)
Grace Paley (1922-2007)
Jim Harrison (1937-2016)
Thomas McGuane (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1918, Russian-born conductor Nikolai Sokoloff leads the first concert of the Cleveland Orchestra at Gray's Armory, presented as a benefit for St. Ann's Church. His program included Victor Herbert's "American Fantasy," Bizet's "Carmen" Suite, two movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, Liadov's "Enchanted Lake," and Liszt's "Les Préludes".

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Today's Birthdays

César Franck (1822-1890)
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Morton Gould (1913-1996)
Sesto Bruscantini (1919-2003)
Nicholas Kynaston (1941)
Julianne Baird (1952)
Kathryn Stott (1958)
Sarah Chang (1980)

and

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)
Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
Conchita Supervia (1895-1936)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006)
Dennis Eberhard (1943-2005)
Christopher Robson (1953)
Donny Osmond (1957)
Joshua Bell (1967)

and

John Milton (1608-1674)
Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908)
Léonie Adams (1899-1988)
Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938)

From the Writer's Almanac:

Milton coined more than 600 words, including the adjectives dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, and feverish; as well as the nouns fragrance, adventurer, anarchy, and many more.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Claude Balbastre (1724-1799)
Frantisek Xaver Dussek (1731-1799)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Gérard Souzay (1918-2004)
Moisei Vainberg (1919-1996)
James Galway (1939)

and

Horace (65-8 B.C.)
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
James Thurber (1894-1961)
James Tate (1948)
Mary Gordon (1949)
Bill Bryson (1951)

Monday, December 7, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710)
Hermann Goetz (1840-1876)
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Ernst Toch (1887-1964)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Richard Franko Goldman (1910-1980)
Daniel Jones (1912-1993)
Helen Watts (1927-2009)
Harry Chapin (1942-1981)
Daniel Chorzempa (1944)
Tom Waits (1949)
Kathleen Kuhlmann (1950)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)

and

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
Willa Cather (1873-1947)
Joyce Cary (1888-1957)
Noam Chomsky (1928)
Susan Isaacs (1943)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605)
Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)
Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)
Tomas Svoboda (1939)
John Nelson (1941)
Daniel Adni (1951)
Bright Sheng (1955)
Matthew Taylor (1964)

and

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529)
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1768)
Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995)

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Vitezslav Novák (1870-1949)
"Little" Richard Wayne Penniman (1935-2020)
José Carreras (1946)

Krystian Zimerman (1956)
Osvaldo Golijov (1960)

and

Christina (Georgina) Rossetti (1830-1894)
Joan Didion (1934)
Calvin Trillin (1935)
John Berendt (1939)
Lydia Millet (1968)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1704, George Frideric Handel (age 19) refuses to turn over the harpsichord to Johann Mattheson (age 23) during a performance of Mattheson's opera "Cleopatra," leading to a sword duel between the two. It is said that during the swordplay, Handel was saved by a button on his coat that deflected Mattheson's mortally-directed blade. The two reconciled on December 30 that year, dining together and attending a rehearsal of Handel's opera "Almira," becoming, as Mattheson put it: "better friends than ever."

Friday, December 4, 2020

Today's Birthdays

André Campra (1660-1744)
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667-1737)
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1949)
Alex North (1910-1991)
Yvonne Minton (1938)
Lillian Watson (1947)
Andrew Penny (1952)

and

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1891)
Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Nicolo Amati (1596-1684)
André Campra (1660-1744)
Antonio Soler (1729-1783)
Émile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Anton Webern (1883-1945)
Halsey Stevens (1908-1989)
Nino Rota (1911-1979)
Irving Fine (1914-1962)
Charles Craig (1919-1997)
Paul Turok (1929-2012)
José Serebrier (1938)
Matt Haimovitz (1970)

and

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Anna Freud (1895-1982)
Zlata Filipović (1980)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Harriet Cohen (1895-1967)
Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970)
Robert Moevs (1920-2007)
Maria Callas (1923-1977)
Jörg Demus (1928-2019)

and

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891)
T. Coraghessan Boyle (1948)
George Saunders (1958
Ann Patchertt (1963)

And from the Composers Datebook: On this day in 1717, J.S. Bach is allowed to leave the Duke’s Court at Weimar. He had been imprisoned since Nov. 6th by his former employer Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar for accepting a new post at Prince Leopold’s court at Cöthen without first asking permission.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Today's Birthdays

François‑Xavier Richter (1709-1789)
Ernest (Louis-Etienne-Ernest) Reyer (1832-1909)
Agathe Grøndahl (1847-1907)
Gordon Crosse (1932)
Lou Rawls (1933-2006)
Bette Midler (1945)
Rudolf Buchbinder (1946)
Leontina Vaduva (1960)

Monday, November 30, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Friday, November 27, 2020

Bruce Browne - RIP

Dr. Bruce Browne, former conductor of the Portland Symphonic Choir and a longtime professor of music at Portland State University, died on Tuesday, November 24th. I sang under his direction in the PSC for many years and have many fond memories of rehearsals and concerts. I was often amazed how he could pick out an incorrect tone when 100 singers were singing together. A Facebook page has been started in his memory here: 

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
Helen Hooven Santmyer (1895-1986)
Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
Murray Schisgal (1926-2020)
Shelagh Delaney (1938-2011)

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Monday, November 23, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from The Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from The Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Shelby Foote (1916-2006)

Monday, November 16, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Pratt channels Mozart to highlight VSO's second livestreamed concert

Conducting and playing from the keyboard with inspired intensity, Awadigin Pratt led the Vancouver Symphony in a memorable performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.12 for the second livestreamed concert of this COVID-19-inflicted season. The event, which took place without an audience in the Skyview Concert Hall on Saturday (November 7) evening, had a genuine feeling of playfulness and cheerful refinement that expressed the music perfectly.

Pratt, who concertizes while maintaining a professorship at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, seemed to channel Mozart, wonderfully expressing the cheerful outer movements with an ebullient tone that balanced marvelously against the somber and statelier mood of the inner movement.

Throughout the piece, Pratt kept everything on the front burner so that the music sounded fresh. His cadenza during the first movement ascended with chordal progression that resolved like the glimmer of twinkling lights returning to earth in a grand way. His solo in the second movement offered exquisite pianissimos and a cascading line that spilled gently back to the original key so that the orchestra could join in. When the spotlight fell on Pratt in the third movement, he again found a way to the express the sublime with a joyful heart.

Wearing a mask just like his orchestral colleagues, Pratt urged on the ensemble (strings plus two oboes and two horns) by raising his eyebrows, nodding his head, and gesturing with his hands. Although he was deeply into the piece – often with his eyes closed – he and the musicians were totally in sync, and that was a pleasure to witness.

Complimenting the Mozart perfectly, Pratt graciously offered an encore, “Summerland” by William Grant Still. Its lush and eloquent melodic lines acquired depth with a slightly bluesy style. Through Pratt’s playing, I got the distinct feeling that Mozart and Still were kindred spirits.

Richard Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” for 23 strings needed more verve to push the moody complexity of its sound across an online medium. It’s a virtuosic work with each member of the orchestra as a soloist. Phrases came and went but the overall arc of the piece didn’t take shape. Concertmaster Eva Richey brought out her lines over a thick cloud of sound from her colleagues. A few slips in intonation didn’t derail anyone, but the individual nuances for each musician were not always clear. It would be great to hear the ensemble do it again when we can get back into the concert hall.

A string orchestra reinvigorated the atmosphere with a cheerful account of Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 10. Mendelssohn wrote this piece when he was just fourteen years old, and its one surviving movement opens with a serious sentiment before transitioning into uplifting, youthful passages. Although the sound was a bit muted (because of the online transmission), the musicians created a wave of buoyancy that swept upwards and into the final measures where this listener couldn’t help but to smile.

Kudos to the VSO production team for kicking things off with an enthusiastic greeting from Music Director Salvador Brotons, who is responsibly staying in his hometown of Barcelona because of the pandemic. We also enjoyed an interview with Pratt, which included a brief description of his performance at the White House under Presidents Clinton and Obama. Another bright spot was an interview with Lotof Shahtout, the owner of Michelle’s Pianos, which provided the Steinway grand for the Mozart concerto. It was enlightening to hear how the company is involved with the community. That is especially encouraging to hear during these stressful times.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the New Music Box:

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Preview of VSO concert in The Columbian

I forgot to post a link to my preview of last weekend's livestreamed concert with the Vancouver Symphony under the direction of conductor and pianist Awadagin Pratt. Here is the link to the article in The Columbian newspaper. I am still working on my review and hope to post it tomorrow.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
François Couperin (1668-1733)
John Phillips Marquand (1873-1949)
Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)
Graham Clark (1941)
Sir Tim Rice (1944)
Andreas Scholl (1967)

and

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


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

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Friday, November 6, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From The Writer's Almanac:

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

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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


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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

from The New Music Box

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

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, October 26, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Today's Birhdays

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

and

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957)
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974)
Howard Ferguson (1908-1999)
Alexander Schneider (1908-1993)
Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997)
Dizzy (John Birks) Gillespie (1917-1993)
Sir Malcom Arnold (1921-2006)
Marga Richter (1926-2020)
Shulamit Ran (1949)
Hugh Wolff (1953)

and

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

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)
Rolando Panerai (1924-2019)
Reiner Goldberg (1939)
Stephen Kovacevich (1940)

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

and from The Writer's Almanac:

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Writer's Almanac:

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, October 12, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Carlos López Buchardo (1881-1948)
Gilda Dalla Rizza (1892-1975)
Erich Gruenberg (1924-2020)
Pilar Lorengar (1938-1996)
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)
Daryl Runswick (1946)
Penelope Walker (1956)
Chris Botti (1962)

and

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

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Today's Birthdays

George Bridgetower (1780-1860)
Fernando De Lucia (1860-1925)
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Albert Stoessel (1894-1943)
Eugene Weigel (1910-1998)
Art Blakey (1919-1990)
Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)
David Rendall (1948)

and

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

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from The Writer's Almanac:

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 5, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

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

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Antoine Dauvergne (1713-1797)
Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1923-2017)
Steve Reich (1936)

and

Emily Post (1873-1960)
Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)
Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993)
Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

Friday, October 2, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Frantisek Tuma (1704-1774)
Henry Février (1875-1957)
Leroy Shield (1893-1962)
Francis Jackson (1917)
Mary Jeanne van Appledorn (1927-2014)
Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988)
Michel Plasson (1933)
Phill Niblock (1933)
Peter Frankl (1935)
Ton Koopman (1944)
Jonathan Summers (1946)

and

Mahatma Gandhi, (1869-1948)
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
Groucho Marx (1890-1977)
Graham Greene (1904-1991)
Jan Morris (1926)

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Today's Birthdays

J. Friedrich Eduard Sobolewski (1808-1872)
Henry Clay Work (1832-1884)
Paul Dukas (1865-1935)
Vladimir Horowitz (1904-1989)
Sylvano Bussotti (1931)

and

Jimmy Carter (1924)
Tim O'Brien (1946)

and from the Composers Datebook:

This day in 1924 marked the opening of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, funded by a gift of $12.5 million from the American patroness Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who had inherited her fortune from the Curtis Publishing Company. The faculty, providing instruction for 203 students, includes Leopold Stokowski and Josef Hofmann heading conducting and piano departments, respectively. Polish-born coloratura Marcella Sembrich. Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch. French-born harpist/composer Carlos Salzedo. and Italian composer Rosario Scalero.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Vancouver Symphony (WA) hits a home run with its inaugural livestreamed concert

Photo by Paul Quackenbush

It was pretty strange to see musicians wearing masks and spaced six feet apart from one another, but that was the tableau on stage at the Skyview Concert Hall when the Vancouver Symphony presented its inaugural online concert on Saturday (September 26). The face coverings and distanced positions were necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced performing arts groups to offer livestream performances. The VSO ensemble, paired down to a chamber-sized group of around 15, played a full program of works by Antonio Vivaldi, George Walker, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and William Grant Still, culminating with a vigorous and intelligent performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony. Ken Selden, who also wore a mask, conducted the ensemble expertly with an expressive style that elicited top-notch playing.

I watched the Sunday’s rebroadcast of the performance on my HP laptop, which has good speakers but is not equivalent to being in the same space with the musicians. In general, I didn’t hear the lower strings as well as I would have liked, and fortes and pianissimos didn’t come across as strikingly as they do in the concert hall. Still, it was exciting to experience the performance, and the VSO deserves the highest marks for rising to the challenge with a meaningful selection of music that received fine and committed playing from the musicians.

The ensemble wonderfully captured the idiosyncratic moodiness of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony (arranged by Rudolf Barshai). The piece seesawed over a sonic landscape that conveyed loneliness, anguish, anger, and a glimmer of hope before subsiding into silence. When concertmaster Eva Richey held a sustained note against the repeated striking lines from her colleagues, it made me think of Shostakovich’s subtle, yet nerve-wracking defiance of Stalin and the Soviet authorities. May we all persevere against the current virus with such inner strength.

The concert featured pieces by two African-American composers: George Walker and William Grant Still. With its soothing rendition of Walker’s Lyric for Strings, the VSO created a heartfelt balm that seemed perfect for the crisis of our current times. The same could be said for Still’s Serenade, which resonated with a calming gospel-song quality. Principal cellist Dieter Ratzlaf carried the ball with evocative playing, and the performance was wonderfully preceded by a phone interview between Selden and Still’s daughter, Judith Anne Still, who told how the piece was commissioned by a high school in Great Fall, Montana. She added that her father’s compositions, including his works for orchestra, are now in high demand, and she has to fulfill about 150 orders per week!

Sandwiched between the pieces by Walker and Still were Elgar’s Serenade for Strings and Vaughn Williams’ Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus.” The ensemble delivered the restive and elegant Serenade with polish. They delved into the soulful atmosphere of the Five Variants, which was based on a folk song but is known by most listeners as a hymn (arranged by Vaughn Williams btw). The lovely duet between the concertmaster and the harpist in the third variant was exquisite.

The concert kicked off with spirited account of Vivaldi’s Concerto alla rustica. All parts of the orchestra could be heard equally well, including Michael Liu’s harpsichord, and concertmaster Richey’s fluid solo passages were a delight. After the piece ended, Richey faced the empty seats and bowed, which seemed a little awkward at first but became sort of poignant as the concert progressed because she and other players who had the spotlight in the various pieces were appropriately acknowledged in this way.

Selden, who teaches at Portland State University, deserved extra credit for effectively conducting with a mask. The facial expression of conductors is one of the elements that helps to inspire musicians, and to take that ingredient away from the conductor could have presented a problem. Selden, fortunately, had plenty of other gestures to express what he wanted, and that helped to make concert a success.

Clarinetist Steve Bass, who is also the CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting, was outstanding as emcee. Principal trombonist Greg Scholl teamed up expertly with podcast producer Ashley Hall to present informative background information on each piece before the concert began. A nice improvement after the concert ended would be to print the names of the musicians; so that we know who each one is.

Photo by Paul Quackenbush


Today's Birthdays

Johann Svendsen (1840-1911)
Sir Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)
Václav Smetáček (1906-1986)
David Oistrakh (1908-1974)
Dame Julie Andrews (1935)
Johnny Mathis (1935)
Alan Hacker (1938-2012)
Jonathan Lloyd (1948)
Andrew Rindfleisch (1963)

and

W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)
Truman Capote (1924-1984)
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Jacques-Martin Hottetere (1674-1763)
Joaquin Nin (y Castellanos) (1879-1949)
Gene Autry (1907-1998)
Richard Bonynge (1930)
Jerry Lee Lewis (1935)
Jean-Luc Ponty (1942)

and

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)
Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Johann Mattheson (1681-1764)
Florent Schmitt (1870-1958)
Vivian Fine (1913-2000)
Rudolf Barshai (1924-2010)
Edward Applebaum (1937)
Catherine Robbin (1950)
Michaela Comberti (1952-2003)

and

Confusius (551 BCE - 479 BCE)
Caravaggio (1571-1610)
Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923)
Edith Pargeter (1913-1995)
Simon Winchester (1944)

and

from the Composers Datebook

On this day in 1951, the Sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" opens in theaters across America, featuring memorable score by Bernard Herrmann that included eerie, other-worldly sounds imitating the electronic instrument known as a "Theremin" (after its Russian-born inventor, Leon Theremin). In the movie, actress Patricia Neal's rendition of the space alien command "Gort: Klaatu barada nikto" prevents Earth's destruction by a death-ray robot from outer space.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Cyril Scott (1879-1970)
Vincent Youmans (1898-1946)
Jean Berger (1909-2002)
Igor Kipnis (1930-2002)
Dame Josephine Barstow (1940)
Misha Dichter (1945)
Chris Merritt (1952)
Dimitry Sitkovetsky (1954)

and

Sir William Empson (1906-1984)
Joyce Johnson (1935)
Kay Ryan (1945)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Alfred Cortot (1877-1962)
Charles Munch (1891-1968)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Yvonne Levering (1905-2006)
Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966)
Salvatore Accardo (1941)
Dale Duesing (1947)

and

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
Jane Smiley (1949)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1957, 20 years after George Gershwin died, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. It was not immediately successful. It only became famous when it was turned into a film in 1961 and won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It’s based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, but it is set in the gang-ridden streets of New York.

During the weeks leading up to the opening of West Side Story, the news was full of stories of gang violence and racial confrontations. At the end of August, Strom Thurmond filibustered for more than 24 hours to try to prevent passage of the Voting Rights Act. The day before the show’s opening, federal troops forcibly integrated Little Rock High School.

In general, critics responded favorably to West Side Story, but all the major Tony Awards went instead to The Music Man, a bubbly, nostalgic musical about a small town in Iowa.