Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today's Birthdays plus Leap Year's

Geraldine Farrar(1882-1967)
George Malcolm (1917-1997)
Joseph Rouleau (1929)
Osmo Vänskä (1953)
Markus Stenz (1965)


Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Linus Pauling (1901-1994)
Stephen Spender (1909-1995)
Zero Mostel (1915-1977)
Frank Gehry (1929)
John Fahey (1939-2001)
Stephen Chatman (1950)
Daniel Handler (1970)

Plus birthdays for February 29th:

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868)
Jimmy Dorsey (1904-1957)
Reri Grist (1932)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918)
Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976)
Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
Elizabeth Welch (1904-2003)
Mirella Freni (1935)
Morten Lauridsen (1943)
Gidon Kremer (1947)
Frank-Peter Zimmermann (1956)


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)
Ralph Nadar (1934)
N. Scott Momaday (1934)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Alfred Bachelet (1864-1944)
Emmy Destinn (1878-1930)
Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
Witold Rowicki (1914-1989)
Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino (1928)
Lazar Berman (1930-2005)
Johnny Cash (1932-2005)
David Thomas (1943)
Guy Klucevsek (1947)
Emma Kirkby (1949)
Richard Wargo (1957)
Carlos Kalmar (1958)


Elisabeth George (1949)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Max Raabe: Sauve, sophisticated, hard to pin down

By guest reviewer: Angela Allen

In patent-leather shoes and tails, every hair slicked into place, Max Raabe led two hours of wit, elegance and impeccably presented music from the ‘20s and ‘30s at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

The Oregon Symphony sponsored “A Night in Berlin” on Feb. 24. If only our grandparents had been there! Instead, Raabe and his tuxedoed 12-person Berlin-based Palast Orchester (Palace Orchestra) charmed new generations at its Portland debut.

Never heard of these guys?

The ramrod-straight Raabe, who says it’s fun to be naughty in a tuxedo, has a campy side. He performed at Marilyn Manson’s wedding. He wrote the Britney Spears song, “Oops, I Did It Again.”

Raabe has far more credentials than those.

At 47, he has fronted his band for 22 years and performed for those unimpressed by fly-by-night popular culture. Adding to his high-end Continental entertainment appeal, he is a preservationist of “the most elegant pop music we ever had,” he says. His repertoire of ‘20s and ‘30s tunes will remain in the European and American songbooks.

Raabe and the Palast Orchester have a shtick, though you can’t quite label it. They don’t do jazzy conversational riffs, or big-band orchestral playing, or kitschy cabaret. They don’t sit throughout the entire concert, like the Lawrence Welk guys. They throw in humor and a little slapstick (not too much) such as when the percussionist Vincent Riewe knocked down the chimes one by one, or the entire orchestra performed a tune with bells.

They mix it up, ping-ponging tunes from Europe and America, transporting us from everyday ho-hum life as cabaret music did decades ago in the fraying Weimar Republic. Foxtrots, tangos, rumbas, played with verve and precision, could pull even the most cynical back to the good parts of the tough days.

With big ears and a graceful body that moved from mike to piano (where he leaned, not played) and back again to the spotlight, Raabe resembles a dapper big-eared Fred Astaire with a much better voice. His baritone moved easily into the tenor range and his speaking voice dropped to bass. He introduced every song – about two dozen of them-- often with a clever remark in his slight German accent.

Raabe doesn’t own full-blown operatic chops, though he was trained in opera, or Frank Sinatra/Kurt Elling lyric virtuosity, but he convincingly crooned Kurt Weill’s and Bertholdt Brecht’s “Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar.” He did a campy take on “Just a Gigolo,” adapted from an Austrian song in the late ‘20s (and made even more famous by Bing Crosby). He charmed the audience with Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” and Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets.” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” proved a crowd-pleaser, but the hot-blooded speedy version of “Avalon” drew the most applause. He sang a number of German tunes as well – auf Deutsch, of course.

Raabe was the big cheese but his versatile orchestra was as polished as its members’ shoes. Almost everyone, all men except the violinist, played at least two instruments, and several members sang a couple of times with Raabe. Jorn Ranke played trombone and viola as well as sang. Bernd Hugo Dieterich picked the bass and blew the sousaphone, and Ulrich Hoffmeier did magic on the guitar, banjo and violin.

Violinist Cecilia Crisafulli, in a backless red gown, emerged as almost a centerpiece (hard to trump the suave Raabe). She is “the queen,” as Raabe says, and she takes the lead after Raabe on curtain calls. Palast has always had a female violinist, and it does add spark (and sparkles).

The most amazing thing? Nobody is directing. There is no maestro. They are so well rehearsed and grooved, who needs it?

The group would have been just as or more impressive in a smaller venue, with my grandparents dancing on the floor.

Angela Allen, a Portland writer and photographer, writes about music, food, art, wine, architecture and style. She received a grant to study music from the National Endowment of the Arts and Columbia University School of Journalism. Find her work at

Today's Birthdays

Antoine Reicha (1770-1836)
Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)
Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965)
Victor Silvester (1900-1978)
Davide Wilde (1935)
Jesús López-Cobos (1940)
George Harrison (1943-2001)
Denis O'Neill (1948)
Melinda Wagner (1957)


Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)
Karl Friedrich May (1842–1874)
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Antoine Boësset (1587-1643)
Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Arrigo Boito (1842-1918)
Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940)
Michel Legrand (1932)
Renato Scotto (1934)
Jiří Bělohlávek (1946)


Wilhelm (Carl) Grimm (1786-1859)
Judith Butler (1956)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today's Birthdays

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Sir Hugh Roberton (1874-1952)
Albert Sammons (1886-1957)
Dave Apollon (1897-1972)
Martindale Sidwell (1916-1998)
Régine Crespin (1927-2007)


Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) - blogger of the 17th Century
Karl Jaspers (1883-1969)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890)
York Bowen (1884-1961)
Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963)
George Zukerman (1927)
Steven Lubin (1942)
Lucy Shelton (1954)
Lowell Liebermann (1961)
Rolando Villazón (1972)


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Edward Gorey (1925-2000)
Ishmael Reed (1938)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)
Leo Delibes (1836-1891)
Charles Marie Widor (1844-1945)
Kenneth Alford (1881-1945)
Nina Simone (1933-2003)
Elean Duran (1949)
Simon Holt (1948)


Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)
Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)
Ha Jin (1956)
Chuck Palahniuk (1962)

The Imani Winds give a remarkable concert at Kaul Auditorium

Occasionally one attends a performance where the the musicianship is of such high caliber, the selections are so varied and engrossing, and the personality of the performers is so engaging that the feeling of it lingers long afterward, like the faint ghost of a warmly remembered dream. The concert by the acclaimed Imani Winds on Saturday night, February 20th in the Kaul Auditorium at Portland’s Reed College, was just such an event.

The performance marked the end of the Imani Winds’ residency at Reed, and was part of Chamber Music Northwest’s ’09-’10 Encore series. All of the music presented was from the 20th and 21st centuries, and three of the night’s offerings were composed by the group’s flutist Valerie Coleman, as well as two with arrangements by the horn player Jeff Scott. ‘Personality’ was a watchword of the evening, referenced by several of the group as each of the five performers stood, one before each work, to speak about the piece to follow.

The only un-introduced work of the evening was the opener, Coleman’s Afro Blue, which began with oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz wandering nonchalantly onto the stage to begin singing a loud, exuberant melody, rough edges gloriously exposed, based (as was later explained) on the Afro-Cuban religion Santería. One by one the rest of the group filed out and they began playing their instruments in a wild aural jumble, seemingly heedless of each other. Eventually the work developed into a series of arguments, first clarinet vs. oboe, then those two against the flute with bassoon and horn rumbling in the background as if egging on the row. Towards the end the composer invited the audience to join in a call-and-response, which was enthusiastically picked up.

The next work was by Czech composer Karel Husa, a programmatic piece called Five Poems, each of which was based on something to do with the life of birds. It was more than a recitation of bird song notation, though the composer wrote that he used that effect. Put simply, the work presented the spiritual and emotional life of birds. Rapt silence greeted the first poem, Walking Bird, an abstract yet easily idiomatic rendering of birds strolling down the beach—jerky, alien yet humorous. In Interlude: Lamenting Bird and its companion With a Dead Bird, the music turned intensely atmospheric and spooky, a weird, muted wailing emanating from the horn. Fighting Birds was a cacophony of toots, whistles, squawks, shrieks and burps, as well as incredible delicacy from the horn. The group closed the half with a piece commissioned early in their career, Aires Tropicales by Paquito D’Rivera, a piece redolent with Latin American rhythms and themes such as Habanera and Vals Venezolano.

The second half opened with a brutally difficult work by Györgi Ligeti, Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet. A bewildering forest of rasping dissonances, penetrating unisons, sonic experiments and textural adventures, the movements rarely lasted more than a minute or so but were more intense and memorable for their brevity. Forget about tonality; only occasionally did the listener glimpse brief snatches of what could even be called melody. Bassoonist Monica Ellis was intriguing all throughout the evening, bringing forth sounds from her instrument that were nothing short of amazing: angry exclamations, aspirant chuffs, and a muffled tootling enabled by a cloth stuffed into the end of her instrument were just a few of the skills she brought to the Ligeti. The last movement ended with a joke played on the audience. The music came to a pause and the performers all leaned forward, brows furrowed, eyes locked, bodies tensed in preparation for what must surely be a simultaneous explosion from the whole group…then they relaxed, and sat back laughing without sounding another note. It was over.

The next work was a composition of Coleman’s, adapted from a multimedia presentation about the life of chanteuse, dancer and humanitarian Josephine Baker. It consisted of four movements, each telling the story of a different phase of her life. Ol’ St. Louis began with what Coleman described as the music Baker would have heard as a young girl in St. Louis, when street-corner bands were playing the earliest distillations of a new music that would later become jazz. There was great work here for Scott on the horn and Mariam Adam on the clarinet, as they spilled out tune after saucy tune in the old, ‘dirty’ jazz style. In Paris 1925 Coleman gave a nod not only to Baker’s years as Europe’s most popular burlesque dancer, but also conveyed the wide-eyed wonder of a young African American woman encountering a place where the rigid cruelty of American segregation did not apply. The evening closed with Scott’s dexterous arrangement of Astor Piazzola’s popular Libertango.

There was never a doubt that the audience would settle for anything less than an encore, which turned out be another composition by Coleman, an exuberant African-based piece entitled Umojaa, Swahili for ‘unity.’ The performers spoke about personality, their own and that of the music, several times throughout the night. When it is precisely that personality which stands out in the face of such brilliant, difficult music so expertly and sensitively performed, then it was a memorable concert indeed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Opera Theater Oregon sends up Wagner in 'Das Rheingold'

Photography by Bob Ison of Ice Wolf Photos

On Wednesday night at the Clinton Street Theater in SE Portland, Opera Theater Oregon debuted what must surely be the world premier of any Wagner opera to be set as an episode of the once-popular, vapid TV series Baywatch. Das Rheingold may not seem at first like a suitable thematic partner for a show whose main claim to fame was a horde of buxom young women and bronzed, muscled men running around the beach (often in slow motion) rescuing people, preventing crime, and solving mysteries, but glimpse underneath the surface dissimilarities and a surprising mesh occurs.

The production was impressive considering all the work needing to be done by director Katie Taylor, at the helm of a scrappy young company like OTO. The score was arranged by musical director Erica Melton, and consisted of two ensembles: an orchestra with piano, harp, clarinets and brass (provided by Festival Brass), and in lieu of strings (and some of the winds) was a small army of electric guitars (the Electric Opera Company) and percussionists off to the right of the stage, in addition to live foley artists.

Baritone Michael Miersma had the leading role as Larry 'Loomin' Large (Alberich the Dwarf,) who determines that the only way to gain the glory and power that rightfully belongs to him is to come into possession of the perfect tan, which stood in for the Ring. He was great fun to watch; he brought with him the boldness and brash confidence that have marked his past roles, qualities that served this farce well because anything less than over-the-top would not have been enough. His madman histrionics, communicated through strong facial acting, were beyond the pale, absolutely hysterical.

The singing as a whole was remarkably well-done; Benjamin Bell's Wotan (Mitch (David Hasselhoff)), David Simmons' Matt Brody (Loge) and Emily Kinkley as Freia (CJ Parker (Pamela Anderson)) all acquitted themselves admirably from a vocal standpoint in these demanding roles, as did the chorus and those singing supporting roles.

The dialogue was ridiculous, much like the TV show. Sample:

'You're making fun of me!'
'No duh.'
'I'm going to barf.'

I can't say I'm familiar enough with Baywatch to know whether that was lifted directly from the script, but it makes its point. In all it was a riot, the Baywatch theme serving as a clever vehicle with which to roast the self-importance of Wagnerian opera. The orchestral reduction was sensitively done; surprisingly it felt like there wasn't much missing from a harmonic or textural standpoint. The fuzzy, wailing, Baywatch theme that kept recurring from the electric guitars, as well as the quotation of MC Hammer's 'Can't Touch This' are more examples of the cornball antics that Taylor fearlessly employed.

The production runs through February 28th at the Clinton Street Theater, and is preceded by Leitmotif Bingo 30 minutes before the beginning of each show. Scaled back quite a bit from the lengthy original, it's another example of Portland's avant-garde, alternative classical music scene, and perhaps the only thing in the world that could bring hardcore Baywatch and Wagner fans together--at long last.

Today's Birthdays

Charles‑Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870)
Mary Garden (1874-1967)
Robert McBride (1911-2007)
Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
Christoph Eschenbach (1940)
Barry Wordsworth (1948)
Cindy McTee (1953)
Riccardo Chailly (1953)
Chris Thile (1981)


Russel Crouse (1893-1966)
Louis Kahn (1901-1974)
Richard Matheson (1926)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pianist Susan Chan to give concert with London-based violinist Madeleine Mitchell

Pianist and PSU professor Susan Chan will give a free concert with London-based violinist Madeleine Mitchell at Sherman Clay/Moes Piano tomorrow (Saturday, February 20th) at 3 pm. The concert is part of PSU's Music Department Faculty series, and the program features works by Mozart, Brahms, Bridge, and pieces written for Mitchell by MacMillan and Nyman.

Sherman Clay/Moes Pianos is located in the Pear District at 131 Northwest 13th Avenue. (Portland).

Here's some extra information about Madeleine Mitchell:
Madeleine Mitchell is one of Britain's liveliest musical forces and foremost violinists' (The Times). She has performed in over 40 countries as a soloist in a wide repertoire in major venues. Fulbright/ITT Fellow to New York in the 1980s, she toured Texas and New Mexico in 2009 and has been invited back for concerts and master classes in Florida, California and Portland in 2010. Mitchell has been nominated for Woman of the Year, the European Women of Achievement and the Creative Briton Awards.

Preview of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony (WA) concert

I have written a preview of the up-coming Vancouver Symphony concert, and it's in today's issue of The Columbian newspaper. The concert will feature Glière's Harp Concerto with guest artist Catherine Barrett. "Elegy" by composer Joel Feigin (who teaches at the University of California Santa Barbara), and Vasily Kalinnikov’s “Symphony No. 1.”

Today's Birthdays

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Louis Aubert (1877-1968)
Grace Williams (1906-1977)
Stan Kenton (1912-1979)
Timothy Moore (1922-2003)
George Guest (1924-2002)
Michael Kennedy (1926)
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988)
Smokey Robinson (1940)
Penelope Walmsley-Clark (1949)
Darryl Kubian (1966)


Carson McCullers (1917-1967)
Amy Tan (1952)
Siri Hustvedt (1955)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (1655-1720)
Marchel Landowski (1915-1999)
Rolande Falcinelli (1920-2006)
Rita Gorr (1926)
Yoko Ono (1933)
Marek Janowski (1939)
Marlos Nobre (1939)
Donald Crockett (1951)


Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)
Wallace Stegner (1909-1993)
Toni Morrison (1931)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

James DePreist leads Phoenix Symhony in recent concert

James DePreist, former music director of the Oregon Symphony, conducted the Phoenix Symphony February 4-6 and received a rave review from Richard Nilsen in The Arizona Republic. On Saturday evening (February 20th) DePreist will lead the Juilliard Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in the following program:

DANIEL BÖRTZ Sinfonia No. 1
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 5 in G Major
R. STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben

Today's Birthdays

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Sr. Edward German (1862-1936)
Andres Segovia (1893-1987)
Marian Anderson (1893-1993)
Ron Goodwin (1925-2003)
Fredrich Cerha (1926)
Lee Hoiby (1926)
Anner Bylsma (1944)
Karl Jenkins (1944)


Ronald Knox (1888-1957)
Jack Gilbert (1925)
Chaim Potok (1929-2002)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Imani Winds at Mississippi Studios with Robert McBride

This Thursday you can catch some thing special, because the Imani Winds, one of American's premiere wind ensembles, will do a live-recording with Robert McBride, aka Mr. Club Mod at Mississippi Studies (3939 N. Mississippi, Portland) at 8 pm. The ensemble will play music that has been written for them by jazz greats Paquito D'Rivera, Jason Moran and Wayne Shorter, hot off their latest CD.

Tickets are $15.

Today's Birthdays

Willem Kes (1856-1934)
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951)
Maria Korchinska (1895-1979)
Machito (1908-1984)
Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992)
Eliahu Inbal (1936)
John Corigliano (1938)
Sigiswald Kuiljken (1944)


Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895)
Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)

Monday, February 15, 2010

List of interviews

I really enjoy interviewing people and thought that I would list all of the interviews that I have done for Northwest Reverb. This list doesn't include the interviews that my colleague, Lorin Wilkerson, has done.

Susan Chan - 3/20/07

Amy Schwartz Moretti - 4/18/07

Robert Kyr - 5/29/07

Greer Grimsley - 8/1/2007

Bob Priest - 9/23/07

Carlos Kalmar - 9/25/07

Endre Hegedűs - 10/11/07

Angela Niederloh - 10/29/07

Carlos Kalmar - 1/17/2008

Yaacov Bergman - 1/15/08

Molly Barth - 2/8/08

Gerald Thompson - 2/13/08

Peter Schickele - 3/4/08

Pamela South - 3/10/08

Gregory Vajda - 4/3/08

Lisa Daltirus - 5/9/08

David Hattner - 6/26/08

Simone Dinnerstein - 7/15/08

Lajos Balogh - 7/29/08

Stephen Marc Beaudoin and Tuesday Rupp - 7/31/08

Gregory Vajda (video interview) - 8/25/08

Elaine Calder - 9/5/08

Bob Priest - 9/14/08

Christopher Mattaliano (video interview) - 9/17/08

Carlos Kalmar - 10/2/08

Stephen Marc Beaudoin - 1/22/09

Jun Iwasaki - 1/26/09

Ken Selden - 2/2/09

Sharin Apostolou - 3/9/09

Evan Kuhlmann - 3/31/09

Tito Capobianco - 4/15/09

John Paul - 4/29/09

Jennifer Higdon - 5/13/09

James Conlon - 6/5/09

Richard Rodzinski and John Giordano - 6/10/09

Harold Gray - 6/30/09

Elizabeth Harcombe - 7/24/09

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg - 8/7/09

Haochen Zhang - 9/29/09

Since September, I've been posting all of my interviews in Oregon Music News.

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑François Lesueur (1760-1837)
Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826)
Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (1797-1871)
Marcella Sembrich (1858-1935)
Walter Donaldson (1893-1947)
Georges Auric (1899-1983)
Jean Langlais (1907-1991)
Norma Procter (1928)
John Adams (1947)
Christopher Rouse (1949)
Kathryn Harries (1951)
Christian Lindberg (1958)


Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Matt Groening (1954)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Alexander Dargomizhsky (1813-1869)
Jack Benny (1894-1974)
Wyn Morris (1929)
Steven Mackey (1956)
Renée Fleming (1959)


Frederick Douglass (1814-1895)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938)
Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991)
Eileen Farrell (1920-2002)
Yfrah Neaman (1923-2003)
Colin Matthews (1946)
Peter Gabriel (1950)
Raymond Wojcik (1957)
Philippe Jaroussky (1978)


Grant Wood (1891-1942)
Georges Simenon (1903-1989)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Carlos in Belfast

In case you were wondering, Carlos Kalmar, the music director of the Oregon Symphony is conducting a concert of the Ulster Orchestra this evening. The program features Ilya Gringolts in the Brahms Violin Concerto, Rachmaninov's "Youth Symphony," and Shostakovich's Symphony No.9.

On February 26 and 27, Kalmar will lead the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia in concerts that contain Jesús Bal y Gay's "Don Quijote," Richard Strauss's Horn Concerto No. 2, and Vaughn Williams' "Sea Symphony" for choir, baritone, and soprano.

Kalmar will be back in Portland to conduct the Oregon Symphony and the Portland Symphonic Choir in Rossini's "Stabat Mater" on March 5, 6, and 7th. In this concert, the orchestra will also perform Schubert's Symphony No. 6, “Little C major.”

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Campion (1567-1620)
Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812)
Roy Harris (1898-1979)
Franco Zeffirelli (1923)
Mel Powell (1933-1998)
Paata Burchuladze (1951)


Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Max Beckmann (1884-1950)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jack Gabel reflects on Astoria Music Festival preview

By guest reviewer Jack Gabel

In 2009 the Astoria Music Festival won an Ovation Award, given by the Oregon Festivals and Events Association, for Best Performing or Fine Arts Festival of the Year. Having never attended, tonight I learned why the festival is deserving. Artistic Director, Kieth Clark is dedicated to meaningful engagement, development and education of the Festival's audience and he's determined to build that audience into savvy lovers of fine performing arts.

The Astoria Music Festival is taking on a significantly ambitious project for it's 2010 Festival, the staging of Alban Berg's legendary opera "Wozzeck," albeit in a chamber orchestra version. Nevertheless, I'm sure my initial reaction is not unique: WHAT! "Wozzeck" in Astoria, Oregon, who'd have thunk it? Indeed, quite a leap from last season's "Fairy Queen" staged and "Phantom of the Opera" on screen with live music. The big question: will the audience follow Clark's artistic direction into Berg's dramaturgical Freudian depths and lyrically musical dodecaphony?

Tonight I witnessed maestro Clark figuratively "parting the waters." He opened the free-and-open-to-the-public series of soirees titled The Road To Wozzeck, at the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center; the first stop: "Vienna City of Dreams." Clark's roughly 30 minute accessible, engaging lecture/demonstration laid the groundwork on fin de siécle Vienna and its collapsing imperial culture in which was forged the so-called Second Viennese School of musical composition and attendant modernist developments in the plastic arts, science and medicine, not to mention the founding of modern psychology. And, his audience stayed with him, all the way to the promised land — a mostly graying but enthused near-full house — through the searching tumult of Mahler and on to the expressionism of Schöenberg and introspection of Berg.

After the lecture, The Bergamo Ensemble (a band of young professionals, just breaking out of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music) took the stage to deliver first, one of the most extremely aggressive interpretations I've ever heard of Claude Debussy's "Sonata for Cello and Piano" (1915). Before delivering a sharp, warm and incisive performance, pianist Ian Scarfe briefly introduced the work as that of Debussy's he finds most closely reflective of Schoenberg and Berg. Cellist Anne Suda read so much contrast into the score, intermittently I felt I wasn't hearing Debussy at all, but discovering his lost contemporary genius; not to suggest a misreading, rather the freshest I've heard.

Next, Alban Berg's "4 Pieces for Clarinet and Piano" Op. 5 (1913) were rendered in striking tonal colors by clarinetist Anna-Christina Phillips, to reveal a side to Berg, more like Shoenberg's other legendary student, Anton Webern: angular, edgy, mercurial. Again pianist Scarfe hovered over every phrase with full corporeal engagement, convincingly of one mind with the composer.

At intermission the audience was invited to examine a framed original page from Schoenberg's "Die Glückliche Hand" before rejoining to hear The Bergamo Ensemble tackle perhaps Shoenberg's most renowned work, "Pirrot Lunaire" Op. 21 (1912). And tackle it they did; wrestling it into submission and rendering it a thing of beauty before an awestruck audience. My cohort told me she thought she'd probably heard the piece before, but now knows she really has and will never forget this performance. It's hard to imagine how an ensemble could wring more detail and clarity from the alternately dense, fleeting and fidgety score. Violinist, Kevin Rogers punctuated the mass where it was called for and stretched out to linger gracefully on his lyrical lines. Flutist, Justin Lee took his instrument instantly and effortlessly from dulcet to piercing as the score often demands. Soprano, Amy Foote gave the audience the definitive lesson in hyper dramatic sprechstimme und sprechgesang. Her hysteria was as artful as it was giddy, fitting perfectly the text and delivered with flawless technique. The vocal world labels voices Puccini and Wagnerian; Ms. Foote may be setting the standard for Pirrot Sopranos, should the label ever catch on. Sung in German, the presentation was accompanied by projected lyrics and the technology was fully utilized to offer a brief slide-show preparation to the work, outlining the history of the commedia dell arte and its migration from Italy to Vienna. All in all, an evening, overflowing with historical content, both educationally fulfilling, artistically rewarding at every level and well worth the 2-hour drive both to and from Astoria.

Next stop on The Road to Wozzeck: "Opera Preview and Movie Wozzeck" — a sneak peak at the first stages of the summer's production in progress and a screening of Werner Herzog's 1979 film, based on Buchner's 1836 play "Woyzeck." This presentation will take place on Friday, April 16th at the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center, and again, admission is free. If it's half as engaging as tonight's memorable performance, demonstration and lecture, you too may find the drive worth it. Moreover, local producers of fine performing arts might find it instructional, considering the widespread desperation to grow and enthuse audiences. Keith Clark is on to something, and let's hope it's catching.


Jack Gabel is a Portland-based, composer, sound engineer, producer, record label owner, currently serving as Resident Composer and Technical Director to Agnieszka Laska Dancers.

Today's Birthdays

Rudolf Firkušný (1912-1994)
Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995)
Michel Sénéchal (1927)
Cristopher Dearnley (1930-2000)
Jerome Lowenthal (1932)
Gene Vincent (1935-1971)
Edith Mathis (1938)
Alberto Lysy (1935)
Christine Cairns (1959)


Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bach Cantata Choir concert from the singer's perspective

I had a lot of fun singing in the Bach Cantata Choir concert on Sunday afternoon (February 7th). It was the choir's annual Super Bach Sunday concert, and over 400 people came to hear us sing a variety of works instead of hunkering on the couch with a bowl of chips in preparation for the Super Bowl. The choir sang works by Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Clemens, Claudio Monteverdi, J.S. Bach, and the first performance in the United States of Johann Schelle's cantata "Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele" ("Praise the Lord, my soul"). The Schelle piece came at the end of the program and was the biggest hit of the concert. The instrumental ensemble and the choir created beautiful swells of sound, and the audience actually sprang from their collective seats at Rose City Presbyterian Church, rewarding us with a standing ovation.

I had a brief solo in the Monteverdi piece ("Ave Maris Stella" from his “Vespers of 1610”) and a moment of panic as well, because I had to move from my position in the choir to a place that was closer to the conductor, Ralph Nelson. When I moved, I to close my folder to get between some of my colleagues, and, after getting into place, I opened my folder and found myself looking at the wrong piece of music. Gads! After some furious turning of pages - fortunatley while the instrumental ensemble was playing a passage that required no singing from anyone in the chorus - I found where I was supposed to be, and my solo went off without a glitch. I guess it all added a bit of drama to the piece, because some people in the audience (like my wife Kathy) were wondering if I'd get it all figured out in time! That's part of the beauty of a live performance. You really don't know what's going to happen!


After the concert, I rushed off to the Anton Kuerti's piano recital at the Newmark Theatre. My reviews of that concert as well as of Portland Opera's Cosi fan tutte and the Oregon Symphony concert with Karen Gomyo and Pietari Inkinen are posted in Oregon Music News.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Melchior Molter (1696-1765)
Adelina Patti (1843-1919)
Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)
Joyce Grenfell (1914-2001)
Cesare Siepi (1923)
Leontyne Price (1927)
Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004)
Roberta Flack (1937)
Barbara Kolb (1939)


Charles Lamb (1775-1834)
Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Monica Huggett in the New York Times

Portland Baroque's artistic leader, Monica Huggett, has been leading the Baroque charge at the Juilliard School in New York City. Huggett plus her colleagues on the faculty plus students and guests recently gave a concert that received an excellent review in the New York Times.

Thanks to All Classical's Christa Wessel for point out this review on the radio's blog.

Today's Birthdays

Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Hildegard Behrens (1937)
Ryland Davies (1943)
Paul Hillier (1949)
Jay Reise 1950)
Marilyn Hill Smith (1952)
Amanda Roocroft (1966)


James Stephens (1882-1950)
Brendan Behan (1923-1964)
Alice Walker (1944)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651)
André Grétry (1741-1813)
Osian Ellis (1928)
John Williams (1932)
Elly Ameling (1933)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Margaret Brouwer (1940)
Stephen Roberts (1948)
Irvine Arditti (1953)


Jules Verne (1828-1905)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Ossip Gabrilovich (1878-1936)
Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927)
Claudia Muzio (1889-1936)
Lord Harewood (1923)
Stuart Burrows (1933)
Wolfgang van Schweintz (1953)


Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

On blogging Portland Opera's Cosi fan tutte

It's sort of nuts to try to formulate your thoughts while sitting in the lobby of the Keller Auditorium while all sorts of opera goers are milling about, but it was a fun experience for me. I intend to find some time today to write a real review. In the meantime, you can find the few short notes I wrote at Oregon Music News. Also, a big thank you to Portland Opera for inviting me to take part in this experience! It was like a mini-show.

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Karl Weigl (1881-1949)
Andre Marchal (1894-1980)
Claudio Arrau (1903-1991)
Stephen Albert (1941-1992)
Paul Esswood (1942)
Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Bruce J. Taub (1948)
Matthew Best (1957)
Sean Hickey (1970)


Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
Michael Pollan (1955)
Deborah Digges (1950-2009)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cantores in Ecclesia's director, Dean Applegate, retires

A press release from Cantores in Ecclesia, one of Portland's finest choirs, has announced that its director (and founder) Dean Applegate will step aside on March 5th. Blake Applegate will take over as director and Dean Applegate will continue as the organizer of the annual William Byrd Festival.

A special mass and gala reception in Dean Applegate’s honor will take place on Friday, March 5th, 7:30 PM, at St Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1112 SE 41st. Ave., Portland.

Today's Birthdays

Ole Bull (1810-1880)
Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798)
Ricardo Viñes (1875-1943)
Jussi Björling (1911-1960)
Sir John Pritchard (1921-1989)
Luc Ferrari (1929-2005)
John Poole (1934)
Ivan Tcherepnin (1943-1998)
Josef Protschka (1944)
Phylis Bryn-Julson (1945)


Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron (1934)
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Eustache du Caurroy (1549-1609)
Aristide Cavaillé‑Coll (1811-1899)
Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993)
Jutta Hipp (1925-2003)
Martti Talvela (1935-1989)
François Dumeaux (1978)

and also

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
Betty Friedan (1921-2006)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Third Angle in this month's Hollywood Star

I wrote an article about the upcoming concert by Third Angle at the Hollywood Theater for the Hollywood Star newspaper. Ron Blessinger and the 3Aers will present intriguing and humorous works (including Ramon Sender's Tropical Fish Opera). The article appears on page 4 of the Star.

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)
Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986)
Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975)
Jehan Alain (1911-1940
Helga Dernesch (1939)


Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Georg Trakl (1887-1914)
Alvar Aalto (1898-1978)
Simone Weil (1909-1943)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

$3 mil in the works for Lang Lang

According to this report in Blomberg News, Lang Lang signed a $3 million deal with Sony Classical. Wow!

Anniversary of this blog

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of Northwest Reverb. Thank you for stopping by and reading my postings and those of my colleague Lorin Wilkerson about music. Since February 1st of last year, Northwest Reverb received 39,711 visits from 22.500 visitors.

Today's Birthdays

Louis Marchand (1669-1732)
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)
Stan Getz (1927-1991)
Skip Battin (1934-2003)
Martina Arroyo (1937)
Sir Andrew Davis (1944)
Ursula Oppens (1944)
Eliane Aberdam (1964)


James Joyce (1882-1941)
James Dickey (1923-1997)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Today's Birthdays

Victor Herbert (1859-1924)
Francesco Stradivari 1671-1743
Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768)
Victor Herbert (1859-1924)
Clara Butt (1872-1936)
Sándor Veress (1907-1999)
Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004)
Ursula Mamlok (1928)
Michael G. Shapiro (1951)


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
S. J. Perelman (1904-1979)
Galway Kinnell (1927)

Bach Cantata Choir to present U.S. Premier of Schelle Cantata

Following is a press release from the Bach Cantata Choir:

The Bach Cantata Choir of Portland will present a free concert of music dating from 1410 through 1736 on “Superbowl” Sunday – Sunday February 7th from 2:00pm-3:00pm at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, 1907 NE 45th Ave in Portland, Oregon. The concert, under the direction of conductor Ralph Nelson, will feature the American premiere of “Lobe den Herrn” by Johann Schelle (1648-1701) – a predecessor of Bach’s at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. The concert also features Bach’s Cantata #18 and smaller works by Ockeghem (1410-1487), Clemens non Papa (1510-1556), Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736). The concert is free and open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken. Doors open at 1:30pm.

Since the early 1600s, the position of “Cantor” at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig (Germany) has been considered one of the most important musical positions in all of Europe. Johann Sebastian Bach held this position from 1723 until his death in 1750. The featured composer on this concert, Johann Schelle, held the position from 1677 until his death in 1701. A student of Heinrich Schütz, Schelle composed mainly for the church and was the first composer at St. Thomas to primarily compose works in German as opposed to Latin. His work, “Lobe den Herrn” is a work set on large scale (9 brass instruments, tympani, string orchestra, organ and chorus in 10 parts) – and scholars think that it may have been composed either for a “Thanksgiving” service or for the annual opening of the Leipzig Town Council. The work has been brought to light (and recorded) by Robert King, director of the King’s Consort in England, and the Bach Cantata Choir has received a copy of these scores directly from Mr. King. The Bach Cantata Choir will be the first choir in America to perform this work.

Also on the program are fascinating smaller works with an “anniversary” theme. Johannes Ockeghem was born 600 years ago in 1410 – and his short work “Alma Redemptoris Mater” is a beautiful work set in the late Medieval style. The concert also features other composers who are having “anniversary years” – namely the Flemish composer Clemens non Papa (born 1510), and Giovanni Pergolesi (born 1710). In the year 1610, the famous Venetian composer Claudio Monteverdi wrote a monumental work for chorus and orchestra entitled “Vespers of 1610” – the Bach Cantata Choir will perform one movement from this work – the “Ave Maris Stella”.

The Bach Cantata Choir will also live up to its mission of performing a Bach Cantata at each concert by performing J.S Bach’s Cantata #18, “Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt”. The soloists featured in this cantata will be Cameron Herbert, soprano, Byron Wright, tenor and bass-baritone Jacob Herbert.

Except for the Ockeghem and Clemens pieces, which will be performed a cappella, all works will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra. Former PSU professor Gerald Webster has assembled the brass players for the Schelle, and the Bach Cantata will feature Portland recorderist Zoe Tokar. John Vergin will provide the organ continuo. This concert features the Bach Cantata Choir – a choir of 55 professional or semi-professional voices, drawn from many of Portland’s finest choirs.