Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, March 30, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Friday, March 27, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990)
Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919)
Dario Fo (1926-2016)

Ian Hamilton (1938-2001) Martin Walser (1927)

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Monday, March 23, 2020

Oregon Symphony layoffs -- ugh!

The Oregonian reported that pert near everyone at the Oregon Symphony has been laid off because of the corona virus. You can read the awful story here.

Also, Scott Showalter, President and CEO of the orchestra, has made a special appeal to Governor Brown, which is posted on the orchestra's home page here. Because of the cancellation of the season, the orchestra is facing a devestating $5 million deficit. This is really awful news. I am sincerely hoping that the orchestra survives.




Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the New Music Box:

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, March 16, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Eduard Strauss (1835-1916)
Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935)
Colin McPhee (1900-1964)
Lightnin' Hopkins (1912-1982)
Ben Johnston (1926-2019)
Nicolas Flagello (1928-1994)
Jean Rudolphe Kars (1947)
Isabel Buchanan (1954)

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Friday, March 13, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Michael Blavet (1700-1768)
Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Alec Rowley (1892-1958)
Irène Joachim (1913-2001)
Jane Rhodes (1929-2011)
Alberto Ponce (1935-2019)
Lionel Friend (1945)
Julia Migenes (1949)
Wolfgang Rihm (1952)
Anthony Powers (1953)
Moses Hogan (1957-2003)
Terence Blanchard (1962)

and

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

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Shostakovich's 11th the Loudest Thing Ever? Maybe...

Robert Trevino (c) Lisa Hancock
On Feb 22 the Oregon Symphony welcomed first-time conductor Robert Trevino, who had the titanic task of bringing to life Shostakovich's Symphony No 11 in G minor, "The Year 1905," which was (ostensibly) written in memoriam to the heroes of that last great Russian revolution before the big one finally succeeded in 1917.

But first, after a brief piece Icarus in Orbit by George Walker, was a work at the polar opposite of the Shostakovich stylistically speaking, the Violin Concerto in A Minor by Gian Carlo Menotti, with concert master Sarah Kwak taking on solo duties.

There was no big intro to the Menotti, just a sudden but not sharp attack by Kwak. A persistent, hopscotching saltando gave way to a gentle, stirring serenade. Kwak's insight was fantastic--almost bordering on understated but never giving way to tiresomeness. Very much the opposite--there was tremendous variety in her phrasing, and inventive emotive intent was her hallmark.  The Adagio opened with a resounding timbre worthy of the famed Kreisler concerto. The extended orchestral tacets gave Kwak all the room she needed to explore, and I'm sure I was not the only one who felt like listening to her solo all evening.
Sarah Kwak

The Shostakovich, on the other hand...suffice it to say this was an entirely different animal. Lurking and mysterious at the outset, the presage to the bloodshed imparted a sense of brooding, of impending action.  This tautness was difficult to sustain for long periods and yet keep interesting--several minutes with nothing but pianissimo timpani and snare drum with an occasional melody instrument peeping through--and yet rather than dulling, the tension increased.

Then the action began! A frenetic, tutti battaglia--the timpanist was a master of understatement, and there was terrific work from the brass choir, especially the trumpets, unafraid of getting their hands dirty. There were throaty molto fortissimi that almost defied description, and Trevino did a marvelous job of instilling balance with a hundred people playing with all their might. The heart-pounding excitement from the percussion cannot be overstated.

In the third movement there was awesomely menacing stuff from low brass and winds. Balance issues became a factor later as the unmuted trumpets simply overpowered the strings--there's only so much noise you can wring out of the strings before the trumpets just have to quiet down a bit.  There were long savory staccatissimo passages from bass and cello--horsehair was flying all over the stage.  The English horn solo in the finale was exquisitely rubato, and Trevino kept mysteriously directing the one soloist  (who did not need it) while ignoring the 2 harps and  30 violins who were desperately trying (and failing) to keep their pizzicato entrances on the beat. Sometimes the conductor needs to be a metronome, and the strings were the ones who needed a metronome at that moment, not the masterful cor anglais soloist.

That being said, the entire experience was exquisite. The tuned bell plates at the end (or to use the much more satisfying term, plattenglocken ) were so horrifyingly loud (in a good way) that the harpists were desperately cramming in ear plugs. The finale was certainly one of the loudest unamplified musical experiences I've ever heard, and I reveled in the sheer, childish joy of just hearing so much unalloyed, unapologetic noise!  I'm sure I was laughing because it was so fun, but believe me, no one heard.

Portland audiences are known for being extremely appreciative, something which I believe is a mark of pride for our city, but I have seldom seen so many curtain calls or such enthusiastic applause, as Trevino came out again and again and again to acknowledge each section and certain soloists, and when the percussion stood to be recognized the huzzahs almost blew the roof off the Schnitz.  This was the most fun I've had in a long time, and you just can't experience this kind of thing without going to hear live music.

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Friday, March 6, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Today's Birthdays

Alphonse Hasselmans (1845-1912)
Arthur Foote (1853-1937)
Pauline Donalda (1882-1970)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
Anthony Hedges (1931-2019)
Barry Tuckwell (1931-2020)
Sheila Nelson (1936)
Richard Hickox (1948)

and

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

From The Writer's Almanac:

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

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Khaled Hosseini (1965)

And from the Composers Datebook:

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

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

From the Writer's Almanac:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 2, 2020

Today's Birthdays

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

and

Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) (1904-1991)
Mikhail S Gorbachev (1931)
Tom Wolfe (1931-2018)
John Irving (1942)

and from the Composers Datebook:

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

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Stellar playing by Cotik in new album of Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin


J. S. Bach wrote three sonatas and three partitas for solo violin that are described by scholars and musicians as one of the supreme achievements in the violin repertoire. They require virtuosic technique and artistry that test a player’s ability to manage both quick passagework and also long, flowing lines. Because Bach didn’t specify dynamics, the sonatas and partitas are open to interpretation, and there are many recordings that feature baroque violins and modern violins. You’d think that every avenue of these pieces has been explored, but that is not the case. With his latest CD on the Centaur label, Tomás Cotik has explore another route for Bach’s amazing works by using a baroque bow with his modern violin. The result is absolutely marvelous to hear.

Cotik, assistant professor of violin at Portland State University, has detailed many of his thoughts about the various interpretations of Bach’s music in The Strad, the ultimate magazine for serious violinists. But you don’t have to be an expert in order to enjoy his playing of Bach. It is quite spectacular. Cotik excels at playing lightening fast passages with impeccable precision, yet he can stop on a dime and deliver an exquisitely lyrical line. He can caress a legato section, linger ever so slightly over a note, then toss off a run with elegant ease. The mixture of sounds from one movement to the next is thoroughly intoxicating.

Cotik’s playing has been featured on several recordings, and he maintains an active performance schedule. His interpretation of Bach’s sonatas and partitas his newest album in should add a notch to his reputation as a stellar violinist.

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