Saturday, May 31, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)
Billy Mayerl (1902-1959)
Alfred Deller (1912-1979)
Akira Ifukube (1914-2006)
Shirley Verrett (1931)
Peter Yarrow (1938)


Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853)
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Friday, May 30, 2008

From the Top concert sold out

The "From the Top" concert with pianist/host Christopher O'Riley that takes place tomorrow night at Kaul Auditorium is sold out. In fact, Chamber Music Northwest's executive director, Linda Magee, has told me that it is "over sold out." If you don't have a ticket, you can beg at the door tomorrow evening.

Review of recent Portland Chamber Orchestra concert

I was in Ashland last weekend (more on that later) and couldn't review the Portland Chamber Orchestra concert that took place on Friday at Kaul Auditorium. Lorin Wilkerson, who also contributes to this blog, was out of town and, alas, so was another potential reviewer. Fortunately, Jill Timmons, pianist and artist-in-residence at Linfield College, did review the concert for The Jewish Review. You can read Timmons' review here.

Today's Birthdays

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)
George London (1920-1985)
Gustav Leonhardt (1928)
Pauline Oliveros (1930)
Zoltan Kocsis (1952)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)
Hellmuth Rilling (1933)
Michael Berkeley (1948)
Linda Esther Gray (1948)
Melissa Etheridge (1961)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chamber music concert at the Old Church

Tomorrow night - Thursday, May 29 at 8 PM - some of the best musicians in Portland will present a chamber music concert at The Old Church - 1422 SW 11th Ave. The ticket price is only $10, which makes this a very affordable event.


Shostakovich: Quintet for Piano & Strings

Gerald Cohen: Trio for Viola, Cello & Piano

Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht


Greg Ewer & Ron Blessinger, violins

Michelle Mathewson & Viorel Bejenaru, violas

Justin Kagan & Dorothy Lewis, cellos

Cary Lewis, piano

Admission at door: $10

Doors open at 7:00 PM

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1788)
Nicola Rescigno (1916-2008)
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
John Culshaw (1924-1980)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925)
Richard Van Allan (1935)
Maki Ishii (1936-2003)
Elena Souliotis (1943-2004)
Levon Chilingirian (1948)


Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)

Come to Cafe Bach for the lighter side of the Baroque

By Lorin Wilkerson

As a member of the board of Portland's Bach Cantata Choir, I'd like to extend a personal invitation to our final event of the season, a fundraiser we call Cafe Bach that will take place at 2pm on Sunday, June 1.

Singing as we do the cantatas of Bach and other baroque composers who seemed to be obsessed with deep and weighty theological mysteries, it's fun to cut loose and present the lighter side of Baroque music. Coffee addiction was considered a serious social ill in early 18th century Germany, and since Bach was known to enjoy a cup or two of joe, the Coffee Cantata was his response to the pressing problem of be-wigged, jittery java junkies clogging the streets of Leipzig, singing rowdy opera at the top of their lungs.

In addition to the Coffee Cantata, members of the BCC and the Cantata Chamber Orchestra will also present Telemann's Der Schulmeister and several other works, including PDQ Bach's madrigal My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth. James and I had the privilege of working with PDQ's biographer Dr. Peter Schickele earlier this year, and I was grateful to be able to thank him in person for exposing me to the horrors of PDQ Bach.

So join us and travel back in time a few centuries to a Leipzig coffee house to enjoy some good coffee, good music and authentic German pastry. If it's been awhile since your last obsttorte or guglhupf, now's your chance, and you will be supporting Portland's own Bach choir, dedicated to the performance of every single known Bach cantata over the next 15 years or so. This is a ticketed event with limited seating capacity, so get your tickets now. Specific information on the location, and the link for online ticket sales can be found at

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Noble reflects on the past OSO season

Charles Noble's thoughtful posting about the Oregon Symphony's past season is a must-read for those keeping track of the orchestra. I am probably in the minority of audience members who really enjoy all of the music for stage works (the one time I heard the LA Phil in Disney Hall, they did the complete Ravel Daphnis et Chloé with the Pacific Chorale. and it was great), but I'm addicted to classical music. Of course, the ultimate thing would've been to hear the music and see it interpreted in dance. But hey, you can do that with Carmina Burana, too, if you want the whole enchilada.

Operaman discusses Regieopera

I have been enjoying Stephen Llewellyn's blog on the Portland Opera website because of his insight and opinions about opera. In his most recent posting, Llewellyn (aka operaman), discusses Regieopera and his dislike for it. The posting contains some photos of outlandish opera productions. They make me recall talking briefly with Jim Fullan, Portland Opera's marketing and PR honcho, who traveled to Berlin a few months ago and saw a production of Aida in which (in the last act) Aida gives birth to a gun that she and Radames use to kill themselves. I think that Fullan mentioned that the production was set in some kind of Baptist revival camp in which a huge baptismal font dominated the set. Far out!

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Halévy (1799-1862)
Claude Champagne (1891-1965)
Ernst Wallfisch (1920-1979)
Thea Musgrave (1928)
Donald Keats (1929)
Elizabeth Harwood (1938-1990)
James Wood (1953)


Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876)
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
John Cheever (1912-1982)
John Barth (1930)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Alan Pierce brings his batons to Europe

Alan Pierce, the bass-trombonist who retired from the Oregon Symphony last year, took a trip to Europe a month ago to get his batons in the hands some more conductors. One of the conductors Pierce met was Jun Märkl, music director of the Orchestre National De Lyon and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony. Märkl liked Pierce's batons and bought several of them. Here's a photo of Pierce and Märkl:

Pierce also sold his batons to Vincent de Kort, who regularly conducts the opera, ballet and Gewanthaus Orchestra in Leipzig. The next photo shows de Kort trying out one of Pierce's batons:

Here's Pierce with Alessandro de Marchi, who was the conductor for the Opera Komisch in Berlin and is a renown harpsichordist and now a connoisseur of Pierce batons.

Today's Birthdays

Victor Herbert (1859-1924)
Al Jolson (1886-1950)
Sir Eugene Goossens (1893-1962)
Vlado Perlemuter (1904-2002)
Peggy Lee (1920-2002)
Joseph Horovitz (1926)
Teresa Stratas (1938)
William Bolcom (1938)
Howard Goodall (1958)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How to be a classical music snob

Joel Stein, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times has written a humorous account of his rigorous training to become an insufferable classical music critic. Here's the first paragraph:

"A few years ago, I began working toward my retirement goal of being an intolerable old man. I'm way ahead of schedule on knowing enough about wine to bore anyone, but classical music has proved much more difficult, largely because no matter how much you listen, it does not get you drunk."

You can chuckle your way through the rest of the article here.

Today's Birthdays

Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Beverly Sills (1929-2007)
Franco Bonisolli (1937-2003)


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)
Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sing in a rehearsal with the Oregon Bach Festival choir

Iif you have the pipes and want to sing with the Bach Festival choir, you'll get your chance this summer during an open rehearsal on June 23rd at 7 pm in Eugene. Space is limited to 100 singers and the cost is $10 to cover the score, Bach's "B Minor Mass." If you want to know the details, click here. The Oregon Bach Festival will present this masterwork at the Schnitz on June 27th.

Today's Birthdays

Paul Paray (1886-1979)
Dame Joan Hammond (1912-1986)
Maurice André (1933)
Bob Dylan (1941)
Fiona Kimm (1952)
Paul McCreesh (1960)


William Trevor (1928)
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Violist breaks a string during Carmina - and other observations

During the Monday evening performance of Carmina Burana with the Oregon Symphony, I noticed that principal violist Joël Belgique broke a string on his viola and quickly repaired it during a movement later in the work when he didn't have all that much to play. I talked with Belgique yesterday over the phone about it - just because broken strings during performances don't occur all that often.

Which string broke?

Belgique: It was the G string, which is located second to the bottom. You know, I played a concert with Fear No Music in Utah three months ago and a string broke on the same spot twice in the same piece. This usually indicates that there’s something sharp on edge of the bridge.

So I went to get that fixed and thought that it would be fine but the feroce in the Carmina got it. I keep a separate set of strings in the pocket of my tails if anything goes wrong. Carmina is pretty easy for the strings and there was a movement in which I didn’t have to play, so I did some repair work and it was pretty successful. I’ve actually practiced restringing just in case this sort of thing happens.

Charles Noble, the assistant principal, offered his viola, but I opted to try my repair skills. I might have had to have used his viola if the music had been more demanding.

Thanks for giving us the lowdown!

Belgique: No problem.

--- other observations --

On Sunday evening, Kalmar had a great way of raising one eyebrow each time that the women of the choir had to sing a quick, repeating phrase. It was pretty uncanny.

I loved the way that baritone Stephen Powell could put a hiccup at the end of one of his passages. And his timing was impeccable.

On Sunday evening the percussion and the keyboards fell behind the beat at one point and then on Monday the Horn section fell behind the beat for a short while.

I head a couple of people in the choir jump the gun in a couple of spots on Sunday and Monday.

We received standing ovations every night, but the audience really jumped out of their seats on Saturday and Monday. It was great to see a sold-out Monday evening performance. I heard that people were turned away at the box office.

The program notes by Elizabeth Schwartz were fine, but she left out the famous quote by Jim Svejda about Carmina: "For at the end, we are thoroughly convinced that this is music that a gland would write, if only it could."

Today's Birthdays

Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
Alicia de Larrocha (1923)
Robert Moog (1934-2005)


Anatoly Karpov (1951)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Benefit for Quake Victims

I received the following urgent email from Nadene Steinhoff, who works in the Office of Communications at Willamette University:

"I've been talking with Jay Chen, who is a trumpet teacher here at Willamette University. He is a native of Chengdu, from the Sichuan Province of China, 50 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. He has been watching the images emerging from China and said, 'I have never cried so much in my life.'

The quake occurred in the middle of the day, so schools were the hardest hit. In just one school alone, more than a thousand children were buried, Chen said. 'When they were uncovered, they were found wrapped in their teachers’ arms. There is a true humanity here. The response by the Chinese government is also unprecedented.'

Chen, who is also principal trumpet with the Portland Opera, is organizing a response. He is short on time and big on heart, and hopes to get the word out quickly. He has invited friends from the Portland Columbia Symphony, Portland Opera, Oregon Ballet and Oregon Symphony, along with professors from many Portland and regional universities, to join him in a fundraiser, scheduled for Sunday, June 1, at 4 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church at 1838 SW Jefferson Street in Portland. (There is free parking, or use the Goose Hollow MAX stop).

Compelling slides of the disaster will be accompanied by brass ensemble music, provided by French horn, trumpet and low brass musicians. One timpanist will join the group. Chen will speak about the disaster in China and how it has affected people’s lives. All funds will go to the American Red Cross for dispersal to earthquake victims."

WHAT: Concert to Benefit Quake Victims

WHEN: Sunday, June 1, at 4 p.m.

WHERE: First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson Street, Portland

Donations accepted


Jay Chen
Willamette University
(503) 313-4920

Rachel Anderson
Benefit Concert Coordinator
(503) 667-7833

Betsy Hatton
Portland Columbia Symphony
(503) 234-4077

Today's Birthdays

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Johann Schrammel (1850-1893)
Minna Keal (1909-1999)
George Tintner (1917-1999)
Humphrey Lyttleton (1921)
John Browning (1933-2003)
Peter Nero (1934)


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Menotti's The Telephone to be performed at The Old Church

This benefit peformance for the Portland Symphonic Choir is coming up on May 27th at 7:30. Details are in the poster (below) that you can expand. It should be a fun show.

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Thomas "Fats" Waller (1904-1943)
Gina Bachauer (1913-1976)
Heinz Holliger (1939)
Rosalind Plowright (1949)


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989)
Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981)
George Hurst (1926)
Karl Anton Rikenbacher (1940)
Joe Cocker (1944)
Sue Knussen (1949-2003)
Jane Parker-Smith (1950)
Emma Johnson (1966)


Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Berlin Philharmonic's hall catches on fire - musicians evacuated

I found this on Opera Chic's web site. No injuries and nothing damaged except the roof. Reports indicate some kind of welding accident. A more dramatic picture and report can be found here on the New York Times web site.

Tim Page takes buyout from the Washington Post

Classical music criticism shrinks further: Tim Page, the classical music critic at the Washington Post has taken a buyout offer. This sad news appears in The New York Observer here. Ionarts has a well-written piece about Page here. Opera Chic also notes the buyout.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Dame Nellie Melba (1859-1931)
Kerstin Thorborg (1896-1970)
Sandy Wilson (1924)
Pete Townshend (1945)
Stephen Varcoe (1949)


Nora Ephron (1941)

Cellist search underway for Fear No Music

After last night's performance of Carmina Burana with the Oregon Symphony I talked briefly with Inés Voglar, who is a member of the orchestra's violin section and is also the artistic director of the Fear No Music ensemble. Now that cellist Adam Esbensen is leaving the orchestra and FNM to play with the Boston Symphony, I asked Voglar if FNM has found a new cellist. She replied that FNM will use a different cellist for each concert next season and sometime afterwards they will make a decision.

Portland has a lot of fine cellists. This is Celloland after all. But Esbensen has been one of the very best to play here. We wish him the best in his music making with James Levine and company. Tonight is Esbensen's last regular season concert with the Oregon Symphony. If you can still get a ticket to Carmina Burana, you'll have a chance to hear him with his Oregon colleagues.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Karl Goldmark (1830-1915)
Ezio Pinza (1892-1947)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Sir Clifford Curzon (1907-1982)
Perry Como (1912-2001)
Boris Christoff (1914-1993)
Mikko Heiniö (1948)


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Walter Gropius (1883-1969)
Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Carmina Burana with the Oregon Symphony

I had a wonderful time singing Carmina Burana with the Oregon Symphony this evening. It was great to see a completely sold out house - with extra chairs placed at the very tip top of the upper balcony - and the entire audience jumped to their feet at the end of the performance, with bravos, cheers, and enough applause to fill an ego to the very brim. It was a fantastic experience! Maestro Kalmar was doing his thing on the podium - juking and jiving like no one else in the biz - our In Taberna section was very uptempo - the choir was on fire and the soloists were ultra fantastic - well baritone Stephen Powell really hams up his Abbot aria - you have to see it! Speaking of seeing it, I understand that there are a few tickets available for the Sunday night performance and a little more for Monday's show. If you want to experience a real entertaining evening with symphonic and choir music at its best, be sure to come and hear us. You'll really enjoy the show.

Extra note: Playing in the violin section is Becky Anderson, who is still a teenager but has been recognized for her talent and artistry. Anderson will be attending The Curtis Institute of Music in the fall and will be featured in the "From the Top" program on May 31st at Kaul Auditorium. That will be a live taping. In the Carmina Burana, Anderson is sitting at a separate stand next to Julie Coleman.

Charlotte Pistor and the Vancouver Symphony (WA) concert

This afternoon I attended the Vancouver Symphony (WA) concert that featured soprano soloist Charlotte Pistor in Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs." Pistor turned in a terrific concert and I only had 45 minutes to scribble a quick review of the concert for The Columbian newspaper. They have already posted it online here.

Today's Birthdays

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Sandor Vegh (1905-1997)
Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005)
Dennis Brain (1921-1957)
Paul Crossley (1944)
Brian Rayner Cook (1945)
Bill Bruford (1949)
Ivor Bolton (1958)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Richard Tauber (1891-1948)
Ivan Vishnegradsy (1893-1979)
Jan Kiepura (1902-1966)
Woody Herman (1913-1987)
Liberace (1919-1987)
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000)
Donald Martino (1931-2005)
Robert Fripp (1946)
Monica Huggett (1953)
Andrew Litton (1959)


Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)
Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Michael William Balfe (1808-1870)
Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986)
John Lanchbery (1923-2003)
Ted Perry (1931-2003)
Brian Eno (1948)


Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931)
Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980)
Peter Shaffer (1926)
Jasper Johns (1930)

Hilarious diagram of New York Philharmonic hierarchy

I found a pointer to Matthew Guerrieri's diagram of the New York Phil's organization in a posting by Alex Ross on his blog. It's hilarious! Maybe someone can draw one of these for the Oregon Symphony or the Seattle Symphony.

Preview of Vancouver Symphony (WA) concert with soprano Charlotte Pistor

Today's Columbian newspaper has my preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert, which features soprano Charlotte Pistor in Richard Strauss's "Four Last Songs" and Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony.

Review: Marc-André Hamelin in recital

On Sunday afternoon at the Newmark Theatre, acclaimed pianist Marc-André Hamelin gave a recital that displayed his impeccable command of a wide range of music. The concert, sponsored by Portland Piano International, featured two Haydn sonatas, a jazz-inflected sonata by Weissenberg, a ballade and a barcarolle by Chopin, a Johann Strauss-inspired number by Godowsky, and a couple of new evocative pieces by Hamelin himself. It was a delightful hodgepodge that struck me as more cerebral than emotional. Maybe that was due to the fact that Hamelin didn’t throw his head back or make any grand gestures with his hands and arms after he finished an ardent phrase. This virtuoso pianist didn’t go over the top on the emotional side, instead he delivered clean and clear interpretations

I have heard a lot about Hamelin from a friend of mine who plays blues guitar but has a keen interest in the music of Charles-Valentin Alkan, whose works Hamelin has performed and recorded to great acclaim. Hamelin has received the the Preis der Deutsche Schallplattenkritik (Prize of the German Recoding-critics) and the 2000 Gramophone Instrumental Award and has been nominated twice for the Grammy Awards.

The concert opened with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Sonata in F major (Hob. Xv1:23) and Sonata in B-flat major (Hob. XV1:41). Hamelin began the first sonata with a very light, almost crystalline touch. He gave the second movement (Adagio) a dreamy, lyrical quality, and it contained some brief, yet dramatic pauses as well. The third movement (Presto), Hamelin emphasized Haydn’s humor in an understated way that included some very rapid flourishes.

Hamelin’s interpretation of the second sonata was slightly weightier, beginning with a first movement that skillfully alternated between noble sentiments and lighter passages that seemed to trip along like a kid skipping down a sidewalk. Hamelin impressed me with his quick articulation of tricky phrases. He played both Haydn numbers very quickly.

The first half of the program concluded with Alexis Weissenberg’s "Sonate en état de jazz" (Sonata in a State of Jazz). The first part of this piece (evoking a tango) contained a lot of crunchy chords and a complicated mix of notes that drew the audience deeper and deeper into the music. At one point, the music spills into a tango, but then another set of odd, crunchy chords take over again before the music ends with question. The second part (Charleston) revealed a virtuosic combination of notes and rhythm and no discernable melody. The third part of the piece (Blues) kept us in a melancholy reverie until it faded away with a musical question mark at the end. The fourth part (Samba) had an intriguing set of sophisticated rhythms that would sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo in lesser hands.

After intermission Hamelin returned to play Frédéric Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp major (Op 60) and the Ballade No 3. in A-flat major (Opus 47). Hamelin performed the Barcarolle in an understated manner, but he did seem to open up a bit of emotion for the Ballade – especially when he delivered an exquisitely tender transition from the first theme to the second.

Next Hamelin played two of his own works: the Etude No. 8 "Erlkönig" (after Goethe’s poem) and the Etude No. 7 (after Tchaikovsky). The Etude No. 8 was Hamelin’s re-imaging of the Goethe’s famous poem about a father carrying his young son on horseback through a wild forest and the son hearing the call of the elf king (Erlkönig) who lures the child away from the father. I thought that the treble notes in Hamelin’s piece represented the voice of the child, and I could easily hear the father on horseback riding faster and faster. It seemed like a work that deserves another hearing, and Hamelin told the audience (before playing the work) that he would perform it again this summer in a festival in Norway where he would accompany the great German baritone, Thomas Quasthoff in Schubert’s famous "Erlkönig."

Hamelin played his Etude No. 7 with his left hand only. This was a hauntingly beautiful number that gave me the picture of someone losing his/her way in the woods on a wintry evening. If you shut your eyes, you could’ve sworn that Hamelin was using both hands. He demonstrated an innate sense of how to use the pedal and a very, light and even touch on the keyboard. The result was magical.

The concert concluded with Leopold Godowsky’s “Symphonic Metamorphoses on Johan Strauss’s ‘Wine, Woman, and Song.’” Hamelin made this complicated piece look a lot easier than it is, rounding out the concert with a glorious and joyous sound.

After a hearty round of applause, Hamelin gave us an encore, an arrangement by Weissenberg of "April in Paris "(Charles Trenet). This piece was lush and elegant and left us at the salon and wanting more.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)
Lou Harrison (1917-2003)
Aloys Kontarsky (1931)
Peter Skellern (1947)
Maria de La Pau (1950)
Helen Field (1951)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Constantin Silverstri (1913-1969)
Gareth Morris (1920)
Jane Glover (1949)
David Hill (1957)
Tasmin Little (1965)

Review: Seattle Opera's I Puritani a pure delight

Seattle Opera pulled out all the stops in its production of Bellini’s I Puritani, delivering a thrilling performance on Saturday, May 10. The success of this production hinged on a quartet of singers who could sing Bellini’s demanding music and work exceptionally well together. Seattle Opera’s foursome, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, soprano Norah Amsellem, baritone Mariusz Kwiecien, and bass John Relyea delivered the goods with Brownlee showing why he is in the pole position to become a world-renown bel canto tenor.

Bellini wrote I Puritani as a romance based loosely on the a bit of history from England’s civil war when the Protestants and Catholics were at each other’s throats. The opera was a hit when it premiered in Paris in 1835 but fell out of the repertoire from approximately the time of Verdi’s death (1901) until the 1950s when singers like Maria Callas resurrected the bel canto tradition. This season’s production of I Puritani marks the first time that Seattle Opera has done it.

Brownlee, as the cavalier Arturo, not only possesses the extended upper register that is required by this opera, but he has plenty of it and it’s a gorgeous sound with lots of resonance. He hit the D above high C with gusto and the F above that in full voice with mega gusto. I don’t know that I’ll ever get the chance to hear that live again. It was astounding. No wonder that Brownlee already has recording contracts coming out of his ears. We’ll be hearing a lot more of him.

As the young Puritan noblewoman Elvira, Norah Amsellem acting was phenomenal. She completely won over the audience when she went mad after her fiancée, Arturo, presumably ran off with another woman. However, her vibrato became very wide in the upper stratosphere – so much so that it sounded as if she was singing two separate notes instead of one.

Kwiecien embodied Riccardo, the jealous lover of Elvira, with a powerful baritone and demonstrative acting. He seemed to force his voice it a little too much at times, but that worked with Riccardo’s pent-up emotions.

Reylea was a perfect fit for Giorgio, the retired colonel and uncle of Elvira. His majestic voice had a world of depth and his gestures and expressions matched the character impeccably.

In lesser roles, Simeon Esper as Sir Bruno Robertson, Joseph Rawley as Lord Gualtiero Walton, and Fenion Lamb as Enrichetta were excellent. The Seattle Opera Chorus was superb vocally, giving us a lively, rich, and present sound that was balanced and filled the house. Kudos to chorusmaster Beth Kirchhoff for preparing them so well.

The orchestra was conducted with great sensitivity by Edoardo Műller. Together, they paced the opera very well and never overwhelmed the singers with too much sound.

Stage director Linda Brovsky had everyone moving in such a way that it looked natural and almost spontaneous. Especially impressive was the interaction between Amsellem, Kwiecien, and Reylea during mad scene in the second act. For example, Elvira would sing of losing her lover and then turn around and run directly into Riccardo.

The scenery, designed by Robert A. Dalstrom and built by the Seattle Opera Scenic Studios, featured multilevel platforms that easily suggested a fortress. The design allowed the principals and chorus to enter and exit from several directions – all of which helped to keep the story moving forward. All of the singers met the challenges of climbing stairs and singing very well.

The traditional costumes were designed by Peter J. Hall and looked terrific. The program noted that the costumes belong to the Metropolitan Opera and were premiered there as part of its production of I Puritani in 1976. Lighting designer Thomas C. Hase contributed to the overall success of Seattle’s production marvelously.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Viotti (1744-1824)
Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
Burt Bacharach (1928)
Dalmacio Gonzalez (1945)
Doris Soffel (1948)


Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

Review: Step up to Portland Opera’s Aida

The principals and chorus overcame some challenging scenery in Portland Opera’s Aida, which opened on Friday night to a full house in Keller Auditorium. Dominating the stage were a series of temple steps and an incredibly large statue of a falcon with a wing span of breath-taking proportions. Cast members crisscrossed the steps carefully, and once they were in position, they sang with the full-throttle conviction that this grandiose opera requires. Yet the sheer size of the steps took away the space needed for big procession of the warriors after the battle between the Egyptian army and the Ethiopians. So, the overall spectacle of the opera was reduced somewhat.

Lisa Daltirus created an energetic and compassionate Aida with convincing acting and thrilling singing. Daltirus showed her fantastic range and grasp of dynamics, matching words, phrasing, and sound to make the conflicted character of the princess-slave come alive. One of the many vocal highlights she did occurred in the third act, when she shot out a small beam, focused, pure sound with no vibrato and then gradually increased the volume, added vibrato, and kept it heartrendingly beautiful at the same time. And her acting was totally amazing with facial expression, gestures, and timing that drew the audience into her perspective.

Philip Webb sang the role Radames, captain of the Egyptian guard and the lover of Aide, wonderfully. Webb’s “Celeste Aida” glowed with radiance and power, and his voice became stronger as the opera progressed. Webb’s presence as a leader of armies needed to show more confidence and his acting, in general, looked wooden. He looked uncomfortable ascending the stairs that were built into the unfolded wings of the falcon-statute and his sash came undone. But he delivered his passages terrifically and nudged the sash over the edge with his foot before he descended.

As Amneris, the daughter of the king of Egypt, Leann Sandel-Pantaleo guarded her voice in the first act but let it grow as the opera unfolded. By the last act, she unleashed the full anger and anguish of a woman who knew that she would forever be unhappy. Her actions as the vengeful and emotionally charged rival of Aida were outstanding.

Keith Miller as Ramfis, chief priest and Greer Grimsley as Amonasro, the captured Ethiopian king and father of Aida gave superb performances. Their declamatory bass voices suited their characters perfectly. Jeffrey G. Beuran had the physical stature but needed more heft and depth in his voice as the king of Egypt.

In place of the procession of Egyptian soldiers at the end of the first act, an ensemble of dancers re-enacted the battle between the Egyptians and the Ethiopians on the steps. The athletic dancers performed well, but the mock rape of the Ethiopian priestess seemed to push the point of defeat a little too much. The two body builders who carried the Egyptian high priestess, Sharon Apostolou, were struggling to maintain their balance at the top of the steps. Fortunately, no one took a spill, but it looked dicey at times.

The falcon-statue rotated to help change the setting from scene to scene, revealing a tomb for the last act. The scenery and properties were designed by Gerard Howland and are jointly owned by Portland Opera and nine other opera companies. It’s a smart but treacherous set that has no handrails, so anyone who descended the steps needed to make sure that his/her footing was secure. Stage director Sandra Bernhard did a good job in making sure that the movement of choruses and principals didn’t get in each other’s way. (The original production of this version was directed by Colin Graham.)

I liked it when hieroglyphics were projected onto the walls and steps, and lighting designer Helena Kuukka didn’t do anything tricky with color schemes or else we might have seen some people tumble.

The costuming, designed by David C. Woolard, seemed to be out of joint. Amneris wore a dress with an overextended bustle and an odd headdress. Aida wore a print number that harkened to cotton field garb of 19th Century America. At least the Egyptian priests looked sort of priestly.

Robert Ainsley fashioned a well-balanced sound for the chorus that reached a satisfying zenith at the end of the Triumphal March. But overall, I wanted more volume from them at other crucial moments in the opera.

Conductor Vjekoslav Sutej expertly led the orchestra, which played better than ever.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review: Portland Baroque Orchestra exuberant in Brandenburgs and Telemann

By Lorin Wilkerson

The Portland Baroque Orchestra presented their second-to-last concert of the season on Saturday evening, May 10 at the First Baptist Church in down town Portland. Talk about going out with a bang: they played three of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti (1, 3, and 6) as well as a grandiose orchestral suite by Telemann. This exciting concert marked the close of a two-year cycle in which the PBO has brought all six Brandenburgs to Portland, but is also a harbinger of big things to come from this group during their Silver Anniversary next year. The PBO has been invited to perform the entire set of Brandenburgs for the Oregon Bach Festival in 2009, marking the first time an authentic period orchestra will perform at this august event. Next year they will also play two concerts in smaller Oregon cities. Having grown up in small-town Oregon, I think this is an extremely laudable undertaking, and I’m sure that wherever they play they will be as warmly received as they were here Saturday night.

While the Brandenburg Concerti have long been ranked at the top of my desert island list (e.g., if I were to be marooned on a desert island for the rest of my life [with some miraculous provision enabling me to listen to CDs] with only one work to listen to, it would be these six concerti), I have always felt that #1 is rather ‘clunky’ compared to the rest. The blatting of horns in odd syncopation to the rest of the orchestra’s rather straightforward movement, the strings harrumphing along at the root of a surprisingly dense texture, its four movements standing in contrast to the traditional baroque three-movement symmetry—these things have always led me to consider #1 a sort of ungainly stepchild in comparison to the other five. That’s not to say I didn’t love it, it just never occupied the special place in my heart that these other treasures have.

Enter the PBO on Saturday night. Just watching as the orchestra took their places told the discerning baroque concertgoer that something unusual was afoot: this was a big group assembling on stage. A trio of cellos, a pair of violas, a bassoon and continuo gathered with a whole throng of violins at the start. As if that weren’t enough, out came a pair of horns, three oboes and a few more violins for good measure! The house was sold out (and it was extremely warm inside), and as artistic director Monica Huggett took the stage the excitement in the audience was palpable.

The brisk tempo right at the start did not disappoint. This may have been the fastest I have heard this work played, and that in itself was refreshing and lent to the opening Allegro a crispness that dispelled one of my private gripes with the recordings I have heard of #1, and that is the ponderous exactitude of tempo. R.J. Kelley and Paul Avril had a difficult task with the baroque horns that are the centerpiece of the first movement, and their playing was virtually flawless. Even at this speed there was none of the warbling or misaligned pitches that one occasionally hears even with modern French horns, let alone these valveless descendents of the original cor de chasse. Lecturer and oboist Debra Nagy had explained that the opening horn motif was an authentic Saxon hunting call, and Kelley and Avril delivered with an air of true majesty. The brass and winds executed a delightful, rapid-fire call-and-response with crystal clarity.

Baroque oboe specialist Gonzalo Ruiz intoned the sonorous mystery of the Adagio almost hypnotically, and as Carla Moore answered on the piccolo violin, she played this tricky instrument so sweetly that it belied its origins as a bawdy Polish tavern fiddle. The third movement was marked by a lusty trio for oboes and bassoon. Listening once again to a horn and wind dialogue in the fourth movement reminded me why I love Baroque music so much: this delicate yet somehow raucous filigree would crumble to dust if everything weren’t placed just so, and yet there it was, exposed, naked and perfect for all the world to hear.

The PBO’s interpretation of #1 on Saturday night gave me the most enjoyment I have ever had listening to this particular work. When an ensemble “re-interprets” a well-loved chestnut, the new iteration is often described as “bold” or “visionary” in some way. The great vision I heard in the PBO’s Brandenburg #1 was simply that it was balanced and integrated in a way I have yet to hear in any recording. The horns didn’t stick out, the tempo didn’t drag, the violino piccolo was not scratchy or wailing. This music is so dense, complex and rapid that it would’ve been easy to just hammer it out and/or plod along (as I often hear on CDs), yet the PBO skillfully negotiated these treacherous waters.

The second work on the bill was Brandenburg #3, which paired trios of violins, violas, and cellos with a basso continuo consisting of double bass and clavier. This work galloped right from the outset as well, and these marvelous string players unflinchingly tossed up Bach’s polyphonic wall with such spontaneous zest that at times it felt more like watching a group of old friends jam around a campfire. Huggett played a selection from Bach’s G-major violin concerto (BWV 1021) as a cadenza in the two-chord Adagio that forms the second movement, and she phrased it without any excessive sentimentality, rendering it as a pure, simple statement.
The way they tossed an airy motif from one player to another in the closing Allegro was like listening to a rivulet cascade down nine instruments one-at-a-time, all the way from the top violin to the bottom cello, and then suddenly it was grounded by a saucy, grumbling continuo joined by the cellos. It was a joy to see how much fun they were having while playing #3; wry grins would suddenly appear on one face or another as everything was clicking and they hurtled along full-throttle.

Following the break was #6, the final work in the set which is scored for treble instruments; the highest notes we heard came from Huggett on the viola. She was joined by one more viola, cello, two violas da gamba, and continuo. Bach wrote a lot of good music for the viola, an instrument that he was especially fond of playing, and this was a treat for me as I have not heard Huggett play viola before. The abundance of low strings lent this piece a rich, dark timbre, and it was a marked departure from the other works of the evening. The violas were the featured melodic instrument in #6, and the Adagio ma non tanto of the second movement heard the pick-pock of this pair over a measured sawing in the violas da gamba. The final movement closed with a quick cat-and-mouse theme wherein each viola scurried incessantly after the other.

The switch to the Telemann Overture-Suite in F Major saw a return of the grande ensemble from the Brandenburg #1. The work consisted of a set of French dances bracketed between an overture and a closing fanfare. The exuberant hunting call from the horns that opened the overture sounded almost like a coronation march, and seeing this large group sway to and fro reminded me of a scene from the film Tous les Matins du Monde, where Marin Marais stands before the magnificent Vingt-Quatre Violons du Roi, a group of the French King’s proud instrumentalists stewing in the rich juices of their own fecund musicianship. Stylistic, dotted French rhythms abounded in the Telemann, and the whole enterprise smacked of the stateliness and royalty that would have been associated with this size of ensemble in Telemann’s day. A lightning-quick Badinerie that couldn’t have lasted more than 45 seconds was preceded by a spritely Menuet that gave us yet another trio of bassoon and oboes. I loved the title of the seventh movement: Rejouissance, or ‘Rejoicing.’ For me, that word aptly summed up the entire evening.

The PBO gave us yet another remarkable concert Saturday night, and I left the venue thinking that I would dearly love to have a recording of their interpretation of Brandenburg #1. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and they will release a CD of their version of this epic set, the way they’ve recently done with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Today's Birthdays

Alma Gluck (1884-1938)
Irving Berlin (1888-1939)
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Ross Pople (1945)
Judith Weir (1954)
Cecile Licad (1961)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Link to NPR article and soundbites of the Portland Opera Chorus

Click here to link to the NPR article and soundbites of the Portland Opera Chorus in preparation for "Aida."

Today's Birthdays

Max Steiner (1888-1971)
Dmitri Tiokin (1894-1979)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Richard Lewis (1914-1990)
Milton Babbit (1916)
Maxim Shostakovich (1938)


Karl Barth (1886-1968)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005)
Nigel Douglas (1929)
Billy Joel (1949)
Michel Beroff (1950)
Linda Finnie (1952)
Anne Sofie von Otter (1955)
Alison Hagley (1961)


James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937)

Interview with soprano Lisa Daltirus – Portland Opera’s Aida

(Photo: Corey Weaver for Portland Opera)

Soprano Lisa Daltirus is staring in the title role of Portland Opera’s "Aida," which opens tonight at Keller Auditorium. Earlier this year, Daltirus did a fantastic performance of "Tosca" with Seattle Opera and will be doing "Aida" with them in August. I talked to her a couple of days ago in order to find out more.

Tell us a little of your background and how you got interested in opera?

Daltirus: My father was an amateur trumpeter and played with jazz bands. My mother loved Broadway musicals. There was always music in the house. I was always sort of performing impromptu. My mother encouraged me to do skits. My mother bought me a piano, and I took lessons at an early age. I was heavily involved in music in my church, which gave me a wide selection of styles from classical to gospel. What intrigued me early on was a production of ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors.’ I was in the chorus and did some dancing. I loved the idea of a production – of putting it all together. I loved the idea of performing. I did know that I would go into opera until high school when I had an epiphany moment. I was more into straight drama. I did a lot plays at the school and did recitation competitions. Then one day it all came together. I loved singing and my voice liked the classical style and I liked acting. So, that meant opera.

Where did you get your training?

Daltirus: At Westminister Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. I got married right after college and had a couple of kids. So I put my singing career on hold, but kept my training up privately. I did a few competitions and was really fortunate to have some of the right people hear my and recommend to others for performing opportunities. So I went from level to level and all that culminated in my debut at Central Park in 'Tosca.'

I read that you saved the day at the last minute for another soprano.

Daltirus: Yes, I was attending the Richard Tucker Foundation’s gala at Avery Fisher Hall, and I had been attended the gala concert the previous two years. I was also acquainted with the organization through some other smaller concerts they do in New York City. When I entered the lobby I greet them and told them what had been doing. I had just finish an 'Aida' in Delaware. They said, ‘Ok, great. Enjoy the show.’ Then the soprano Aprile Millo sang her first number and had to apologize and excuse herself from the rest of the show because she was ill. The final part of the show was the Triumphal scene from Aida. So the Foundation people came down to my aisle, found me, and asked me if I could do it. So, in that moment I said, ‘God, you opened the door; now you’re going to have to walk me through it.’ Then I just went up on the stage and did it.

How many 'Aidas' have you done?

Daltirus: This will be number seven. It’s one of my favorite roles. I love Verdi. I identify with his heroines. Aida is defiant, and she decides to die with her love. She could’ve run away, but she doesn’t. Her love for Radames wins out.

What draws you to the character of Aida?

Daltirus: I love it that she’s a slave to the Egyptian princess, but she is a princess herself. Amneris can’t figure out what’s so special about this girl, Aida, and why Radames is drawn to her. Why is she regal and different than all the other ones.

The intimate part of the story the orchestration features some light orchestration, but then in a few minutes everything can escalate with trumpets blaring and the orchestra going full tilt. You’ve got to ramp up quickly, and that’s got to be taxing on your voice.

Daltirus: That’s Verdi! He tests your entire range vocally as well as dramatically. It’s all there together – especially in 'Aida.' This particular production has impressed me because both the grand story and the intimate love story will stand out. You’ll get to see all of the emotions and conflicts on stage.

You will be singing 'Aida' again in August with Seattle Opera. What will you do between shows?

Daltirus: I’ll fly home to suburban Philadelphia for a little bit to be with my family and then return to Seattle for the rest of the summer. Later this year I’ll be making my debut with Chicago Lyric Opera in 'Porgy and Bess.' That’s a demanding opera as well.

What other roles are you working on?

Daltirus: I love most things by Verdi. There’s still a lot more for me to explore there. I’ve done 'Il trovatore' and have learned Amelia in 'Un ballo in maschera,' but haven’t performed that one yet. 'La forza del destino' is on my list and so is 'Simon Boccanegra' and 'Don Carlo' that I’m prepared for. I love Puccini and the verismo style. 'Manon Lescaut' is high on my list. So there’s lots to do.

Portland Opera presents “Aida” on May 9, 11, 13, 15, 17 at Keller Auditorium.

Here's a review that I wrote of Daltirus in Seattle Opera's production of "Tosca" earlier this year.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869)
Heather Harper (1930)
Carlo Cossutta (1932-2000)
Keith Jarrett (1945)
Felicity Lott (1947)


Edmund Wilson (1895-1972)
Gary Snyder (1930)
Thomas Pynchon (1937)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Audrey Luna (PSU grad) receives rave review for performance

I've just been informed that there are two Audrey Lunas who are young, up and coming singers. Unfortunately, the Audrey Luna that I wanted to highlight was not the singer in this production of the Mahler 4. However, Audrey Elizabeth Luna is doing very well as a professional singer. See

Updated 6/6/2008

Audrey Luna got a rave review in the Baltimore Sun for her performance in the Mahler 4 with the Annapolis Symphony. Luna is currently teaching at Miami University (Ohio).

Today's Birthdays

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Elisabeth Soderstrom (1927)
Philip Land (1950)
Robert Spano (1961)


Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Archibald MacLeish (1892-1962)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Portland Opera Chorus featured on NPR this Friday

(Photo: Cory Weaver for Portland Opera)

Julia Sheridan, publicity and publications manager at Portland Opera has informed me that NPR's Morning Edition will broadcast a 7-minute story on the Portland Opera Chorus this Friday, May 9. She thinks that it will run at about 7:50 but doesn't have a confirmed time yet.

In Sheridan's words: "It's a story about life in the chorus--and the Portland Opera chorus in particular. The story includes interviews with a couple of the chorus members as they go about their day jobs and great clips from the chorus rehearsals for Aida (led by chorus master Rob Ainsley, and later by conductor Vjekoslav Sutej) including a rousing finish of the 68-member chorus on stage with the Portland Opera Orchestra. It's a huge and wonderful sound."

Visitor statistics - update

Over the past week, Northwest Reverb has received over 2,000 visits a month (the analytics take in the past 31 days as it moves forward). Right now, it's at 2,200 visits from over 1,400 visitors. Thanks to all of you who have been reading this blog!

A big thanks, also to Lorin Wilkerson who has been writing some excellent previews and reviews.

Today's Birthdays

Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973)
Godfrey Ridout (1918-1984)
Murry Sidlin (1940)
Ghena Dimitrova (1941-2005)


Robert Peary (1856-1920)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Video preview of Seattle Opera's I Puritani

Seattle Opera production of Bellini's "I Puritani" opened last weekend. Here's a glimpse of the opera (© 2008 Bill Mohn and Seattle Opera).

Today's Birthdays

Hans Pfizner (1869-1947)
Maria Caniglia (1905-1979)
Kurt Böhme (1908-1989)
Charles Rosen (1929)
Mark Ermler (1932)
Tammy Wynette (1942-1998)


Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Nellie Bly (1864-1922)
James Beard (1903-1985)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Portland Youth Philharmonic triumphs in season finale

The Portland Youth Philharmonic met the challenges of a very demanding program in its final concert of the season. Under the baton of former music director and conductor Huw Edwards, the orchestra tackled the March No. 4 in G Major Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Cirrcumstance”, Benjamin Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem,” and Anton Bruckner’s “Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major, “Romantic.” The Britten piece marked a premiere by the PYP and the Bruckner was a premier of the complete work.

Although everyone knows the first march of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” because of its use in many graduation exercises, the fourth march is in many ways the more interesting. The Portland Youth Philharmonic did justice to the main, stately theme and the lively secondary theme, setting a brisk tempo and wrapping it up with a flourish.

Britten’s wrote the “Sinfonia da Requiem” at the age of 26 while he was in the United States, and it is considered by many to be closest that Britten came to writing a full orchestral symphonic work. Divided into three movements that are taken from the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead, this piece is a powerful lament for those whose lives have been extinguished by war.

The PYP percussion battery impressively replicated the noise of battle at the beginning of this work (Lacrymosa). Outstanding playing by saxophonist Taylor Brizendine added tension to the theme begun by the strings and bass sections until the entire orchestra broke out in a series of anguished cries. The angry timpani and snarling trumpets in the second movement (Dies Irae) were impressive, and I loved the way that the saxophone floated above it all. After a huge swell of orchestral rage, the commotion died down to reveal a soothing theme in the third movement (Requiem aeternam) that accented fine playing by the woodwinds, brass, and harps. The first violins showed poise in taking over the melody and extending it to second violins, cellos, and violas. After the entire ensemble became engaged a final theme, the sound was stripped down to a lonely, plaintive note from the clarinet, played expressively by principal Tom Salata.

After intermission, the orchestra undertook Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, a dauntingly difficult hour-long work that requires stamina, concentration, and technical agility from the entire orchestra at all times. The orchestra started very well, offering a glorious explosion of sound in the first movement and the violins held onto the high tremolo tenaciously. The soundscape held together fairly well through the second and third movements, downshifting and then accelerating together and shaping the complex passages. But intonation problems crept in and became more of a problem in the fourth movement as fatigue threatened to take over. To the orchestra’s credit and the credit of Edwards, the ensemble collectively regrouped as it played and delivered a spectacular ending with a beautiful, big sound.

I liked the way that the three seniors in the percussion section took turns in playing the timpani. Charles Dietz Crabtree, principal French horn, did the heavy lifting with some brilliant playing. Principal oboist Max Blair and co-principal flutist Emma Davis also played superbly. Edwards did a wonderful job of acknowledging the terrific effort of the orchestra in this arduous work, and the audience responded with heartfelt applause and a standing ovation.

Since this was the final concert of the season, each senior in the orchestra wore a red carnation, and the program announced the colleges and universities that many seniors will attend next fall. It looked like the woodwind section will be dealt a major blow by the exodus, in particular, four bassoonists are graduating. Fortunately, the new music director and conductor David Hattner, attended this concert and will be ready to audition the next crop of players. It will be interesting to see how Hattner shapes next year’s ensemble. He is only the fifth conductor to be in charge of this outstanding 85 year old orchestra.

Today's Birthdays

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731)
Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960)
Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993)
Roberta Peters (1930)
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (1931)
Marisa Robles (1937)
Enrique Batiz (1942)


Horace Mann (1796-1859)
Frederick Church (1826-1900)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iwasaki delivers electrifying Sibelius

Many concertgoers have wondered just how good of a violinist is Jun Iwasaki, the concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony. We’ve heard him play exceptionally well as primo violinist of the orchestra, but it’s always in brief snatches whenever he has an exposed solo. Fortunately, at Friday night’s concert with the Portland Columbian Symphony Orchestra, we got to hear the 26-year-old virtuoso perform Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, and it was absolutely amazing.

Iwasaki, who replaced an ailing former OSO concertmaster Amy Schwartz-Moretti as the soloist, played the demanding Allegro moderato, with its two difficult cadenzas with panache. He put a zing on the high notes, gave us exciting changes in tempo and volume, executed nifty glissandos, and made the double stops look easy. Because of the capacity attendance, the hall (First United Methodist Church) became fairly warm and seemed to cause Iwasaki and the orchestra to be a little out of tune with each other at the very end of the first movement. That was quickly resolved by wisely retuning before the Adagio di molto got underway.

Iwasaki and orchestra put a loving, soft touch on the second movement, keeping the sound well-balanced and emotive. I could easily hear him above the swell of the orchestra when it grew louder. The final movement, Allegro, ma non tanto, danced along with a lively, vibrant emotion, and after it ended the entire audience literally leapt to its feet to give Iwasaki a standing ovation and waves of bravos.

The concert began with “Crisantemi” (Chrysantemums) by Giacomo Puccini in honor of his birth 150 years ago. Music director and conductor Huw Edwards and the orchestra captured the moodiness of this beautiful miniature with an excellent blend and clean playing. The light-footed pacing ensured that the music never bogged down.

In the second half of the program, the orchestra played the Symphony No. 1 in C minor by Johannes Brahms. Because of the warmth of the hall, the men of the orchestra didn’t have to wear their jackets. This change in apparel benefited also benefited them because Edwards chose to begin the piece with a very quick tempo. The fast pace, unfortunately, didn’t allow for much buildup later in the first movement. Actually, it seemed that some passages later in the piece were rushed along a bit too much and the music lost some drama.

Aside from some intonation problems here and there, the orchestra played very well. One of the highlights was the duet between concertmaster Dawn Carter and principal French hornist Jill Jaques. Also, principal oboist Brad Hochhalter, principal clarinetist Carolyn Arnquist, and principal flutist Liberty Broillet were exceptional. I loved how the strings added tension in the pizzicato section of the fourth movement, and the horns, in general, played well throughout the piece.

Yet even Brahms’ great symphony couldn’t erase the impact of Iwasaki’s performance in the Sibelius concerto. If you have the chance to hear him play with the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra on Monday evening at the Gerding Theater at the Armory (in the Pearl district), I highly recommend it.

Today's Birthdays

Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844-1901)
Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
Bing Crosby (1903-1977)
Sir William Glock (1908-2000)
Léopold Simoneau (1916-2006)
Pete Seeger (1919)
Jonathan Harvey (1939)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
Alan Rawstorned (1905-1971)
Philippe Herreweghe (1947)
Valery Gergiev (1953)

Shirely Apthorp tells Beriners to calm down and get back to work

There's been a lot of pepperspray in the Berlin press lately about Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim. Esteemed music critic Shirley Apthorp in this article says that the cultural elite in Berlin blow things way out of proportion:

"Berlin's seemingly limitless capacity to teeter on the edge of cultural oblivion is a symptom of a city where too many well-funded institutions compete for the same dwindling subsidies.

It is also a feature of a music scene dominated by a handful of media-savvy alpha animals, most of whom would rather predict the end of the world as we know it than admit that the problems stem from schoolyard squabbles."

Ian Bostridge's review of The Rest Is Noise

I concur with Charles Noble's recent posting about the brilliant review that Ian Bostridge, wrote in The Times Lieterary Supplement of Alex Ross'"The Rest Is Noise." Bostridge, a world-class singer who also has a Phd from Oxford University, eloquently summarizes and distills the central points of this amazing book and recommends it to anyone who wants to understand why classical music is where it is today.

If you don't have time to digest "The Rest Is Noise," then please take a few minutes to read Bostridge's review.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Benefit concert for KBPS at the Museum of Contemporary Craft

On Friday, May 2nd at 7:30 pm, you can catch a chamber music concert at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in the Pearl District. Violinist Inés Voglar and pianist Cary Lewis present a world premiere of a work by Robert McBride (the KBPS radio host and composer). Voglar and Lewis will be joined by violist Joël Belgique and cellist Dorothy Lewis for a rarely heard arrangement of Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" from the opera "Prince Igor. For the final number Lewis performs Richard Strauss' "Enoch Arden, a melodrama based on a text by Tennyson and narrated by Edmund Stone (KBPS raido host).

This concert is sponsored by Classical Millennium, the Museum of Contemporary Craft and All Classical 89.9 FM as a benefit for the KBPS “Permanent Home on Your Dial” campaign.

This event will also inaugurate a new concert space in Portland at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, located in the downtown Portland park blocks’ DeSoto Building at 724 Northwest Davis. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $20 each at Classical Millennium, 3144 East Burnside, Portland, 503-231-8909, or at the door on the evening of the performance, as available. Seating is limited to 100 for this intimate concert experience.

Insider tip: The "Polovtsian Dances" will be played by two husband/wife combos: Lewis/Lewis and Belgique/Voglar. So be watching for the eye to eye communication between these couples during that number.

Today's Birthdays

Sophia Dussek (1775-1831)
Walter Susskind (1913-1980)
Gary Bertini (1927-2005)
Judy Collins (1939)


Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)