Sunday, January 31, 2016

Today's Birthdays

François Devienne (1759-1803)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Caroline Miolan‑Carvalho (1827-1895)
Ernest John Moeran (1894-1950)
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940)
Nathan Milstein (1904-1992)
Alan Lomax (1915-2002)
Jaap Schröder (1925)
Odetta (1930-2008)
Philip Glass (1937)
Stephen Cleobury (1948)
Donna Summer (1948-2012)
Jennifer Higdon (1962)


Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Zane Grey (1872-1939)
John O'Hara (1905-1970)
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)
Walter Damrosch (1862-1950)
Lynn Harrell (1944)
Silvia Marcovici (1952)
Gerald Finley (1960)


Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)
Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989)
Shirley Hazzard (1931)
Richard Brautigan (1935-1984)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715-1777)
Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
Havergal Brian (1876-1972)
Blanche Selva (1884-1942
Luigi Nono (1924-1990)
Myer Fredman (1932-2014)
Malcolm Binns (1936)
Cho-Liang Lin (1960)


W. C. Fields (1880-1946)
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)
Edward Abbey (1927-1989)

Benjamin Grosvenor and OSO present a sometimes sparkling, if imperfect Chopin

Benjamin Grosvenor
The Oregon Symphony welcomed pianist Benjamin Grosvenor to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last Saturday, January 23 to perform Chopin's Concerto No 1 in E Minor for Piano and Orchestra. It was a diverse evening, featuring the Oregon premier of an Arthur Honegger work and a symphony by Dvorak, conducted by Tomas Netopil.

Honegger's Rugby (Mouvement symphonique No. 2) was a short piece of atonal cacophony, full of blaring horns, swirling strings, and syncopated exclamations--in short the type of brief show piece at which the OSO typically excels; and this was no exception.

The meat of the evening was the Chopin, featuring the young Grosvenor as soloist. The orchestra started in fine form; in the opening movement a flute theme, subdued yet masterfully in place, floated over a sea of sentimental strings in the thematic exposition. Unfortunately Grosvenor whiffed the climax of the opening cadenza, though this didn't overshadow his incredibly skilled and nuanced scale passages throughout the entire work. There were some problems with the brass drowning out the soloist from time to time, especially in the first movement. Thanks in part to some magnificent and insightful pedaling, Grosvenor was able to weave mellifluous dreamscapes of startling beauty, especially when both hands were in middle to upper registers.

The second movement was tender and superbly rendered--the numerous chromatic passages throughout were not bereft of melodic intent, but infused with meaning and purpose.  The playful theme of the rondo--in which Grosvenor still had to fight with the horns--was fantastically rapid, the scalar motives flowing like water rippling over pebbles. Grosvenor's left hand was often subsumed in the lower registers when the dynamic was anything other than forte; some of this fault lay with the orchestra but not all.

The Dvorak opened with nice stentorian unity from the ensemble, whether in hammering out block chords or throwing up titanic walls of sound. The Adagio was defined by a chameleonic shift to a dark and somber place in the work...which was suddenly gone, the orchestra weaving in and out of conflicting emotions without hiccup. Netopil's interpretation of the exciting dance theme of the third movement ultimately felt a bit broad and labored--it was not as rhythmically tight and explosive as one might hope from what was essentially a Slavonic dance by Dvorak, but the piece ended with a robust and remarkable finale. All in all the evening was somewhat disjointed; there were fine moments of top notch artistry as well as moments that felt out of synch.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jaap van Zweden to become next music director of the New York Philharmonic

Yesterday, The New York Times and other media reported the announcement of Jaap van Zweden as the New York Philharmonic's music director, starting with the 2018-2019 season. He will be the conductor-designate for the 2017-2018 season. He succeeds Alan Gilbert, who announced that he planned to leave the Philharmonic at the end of 2017.

Van Zweden, 55, has been the music director of the Dallas Symphony since 2008 and the music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic since 2012. I met him in 2010 at the annual Music Critics (MCANA) meeting and heard him conduct the Dallas Symphony at that time. I don't have access to my review of the concert, because it was posted on Oregon Music News, which has lost connection to a lot of articles after they shifted to a new server a few months ago.

Van Zweden is from Holland, and at age 19, he was the youngest-ever concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Here is interesting quote from the NY Times article:

"Mr. van Zweden will not be the first Dutch conductor to lead the Philharmonic. Willem Mengelberg, who was associated with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for most of his career, led the Philharmonic from 1922 through 1930. Mr. van Zweden said he admired the meticulousness of Mr. Mengelberg, who is remembered for rehearsing pieces even after opening night."

Today's Birthdays

Antonio Bartolomeo Bruni (1757-1821)
Ferdinand Herold (1791-1833)
Alexander Mackenzie (1822-1892)
Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)
Michael Head (1900-1976)
Ronnie Scott (1927-1996)
Acker Bilk (1929-2014)
Sir John Tavener (1944-2013)
Richard Danielpour (1956)


Colette (1873-1954)
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Claes Oldenburg (1929)
David Lodge (1935)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Edouard Lalo (1823-1892)
Jerome Kern (1885-1945)
Jack Brymer (1915-2003)
Skitch Henderson (1918-2005)
Helmut Zacharias (1920-2002)
Fritz Spiegl (1926-2003)
John Ogdon (1937-1989)
Jean-Philippe Collard (1948)
Emanuel Pahud (1970)
James Ehnes (1976)

Dmitry Mandeleyev (1834-1907)
Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948)
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Exciting new developments with Musica Maestrale

After chatting with Hideki Yamaya, early music specialist and artistic director of Musica Maestrale, I told him I'd email him a few questions as it sounded like some exciting stuff was happening with Musica Maestrale and a new music festival in Astoria that's slated to begin this summer.

LW: State of the Union vis-a-vis: Musica Maestrale in 2016.  And the state is---

HY: Good!  We have a very exciting lineup for the rest of the season: the next concert is on Jan. 29, which I will talk about later.  Then on Apr. 10, we have a concert with Mara Winter, a wonderful historical flutist from Olympia, WA.  She is a recent winner of the Early Music America Barbara Thornton Memorial Scholarship, and is a rising star in the early music world.  We will present a program for Renaissance flute, a notoriously difficult and beautiful instrument, accompanied by lute.  For the last concert of the season, on May 14, we have a program of early 17th-century Italian chamber music, my favorite.  We invited Christine Beckman and Courtney Kuroda, both fantastic violinists from Seattle, joined by local favorite Max Fuller on cello, for this one.  Should be a very exciting program; you wouldn't want to miss it!  

We are also expanding our concerts further afield; we are presenting all three of these programs out in Astoria in addition to the show in Portland.  As you know, I have been a part of the Astoria Music Festival for many years now, and I have been cultivating an interest in early music out there.  I am hopeful that MM would go over very well out on the coast.

But by far the most exciting thing for MM is that we are starting a brand-new summer early music festival in August!

LW: So you're starting a new music fest in Astoria.  What can you tell us so far?

HY: It will be called simply 'Musica Maestrale Festival--Early Music in Astoria": [the title] is easily recognizable and direct.  It will run from Aug. 18 to 21, and there will be 4 concerts, 2 jam sessions, and 4 workshops, so it will be a fun-filled weekend for audiences and student/participants alike.  And who wouldn't want to spend a few days in Astoria in August?  We are working on the roster of performer/instructors right now, but we can confirm that the Renaissance power couple Gayle and Phil Neuman will be joining us. More details as they develop!

LW: Can you tell me a little bit about MM's new Executive Director?

HY: Yes, Carol Shepherd is our new executive director.  She is the former general manager of Astoria Music Festival, and when she resigned from that position last summer, we snatched her up!  She is a musician herself; she sings and plays brass.  So far it's been a very good fit, and the summer festival was originally her idea.  I'm very happy to be working with her.

LW: And how about a quick note on your upcoming concert this Saturday, January 29th?

HY: The program is entitled "Lessons of the Dark: Sacred vocal music of François Couperin".  It'll be on Jan. 29 at 7:30PM, at First Christian Church downtown.  It will feature two great sopranos Arwen Myers and Catherine van der Salm, accompanied by Max on viola da gamba and myself on theorbo.  The featured piece will be 'Leçons de ténèbres', a masterful setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, a story of the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in the Old Testament.  It's a glorious piece, and the third lesson, written for 2 sopranos, was featured in the movie 'All the Mornings of the World (Tous les matins de monde).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Portland Center Stage production of Dicken's classic exceeds expectations

Stephen Stocking as Pip, Maya Sugarman as Estella and Dana Green as Miss Havisham - Photo by Patrick Weishampel/
Readers of this blog know that I rarely review plays, but a dramatic presentation of “Great Expectations,” the classic coming-of-age-novel by Charles Dickens was too enticing to pass up. So I attended the opening night performance of “Great Expectations” at Portland Center Stage on Friday evening (January 22), wondering how well this production could portray the cornucopia of characters and the two decades that elapse during the telling of the story. Well, after three hours (including a 15 minute intermission), I left the Gerding Theater at the Armory impressed and satisfied with Lucinda Stroud’s succinct yet riveting adaptation, the brilliant acting of the nine players (of which several depicted more than one role), the storytelling style that shifted back and forth from first person to third, the imaginative direction of Jane Jones, and the functional and evocative set, which was designed by Christopher Mumaw.

The production (based on Stroud's adaptation for Seattle-based Book-It Repertory Theatre) offered many memorable scenes, starting straight away with prone, enshrouded bodies that created the graveyard where Pip, the central character of the story, is confronted by the escaped convict Magwitch. The setting for Joe Gargery’s blacksmith’s shop was simply conveyed with an anvil, a hammer, and a rope that controlled how much air went to the forge. An imposing gate and a huge mirror helped to define Miss Havisham’s gloomy residence. Jaggers office had a massive desk while the gentlemanly quarters of Pip and Herbert Pocket required only a table and a few chairs. The epic fight between Magwitch and Compeyson was terrifically silhouetted onto a big bedsheet.

Stephen Stocking captured the essence of Pip, from his wide-eyed boyhood to young adulthood where he was in danger of becoming a conceited, and debt-ridden gentleman. Because he was almost continuously on the stage, Stocking could have easily let Pip’s character slip, but he marvelously kept it in focus and showed how it evolved in the course of the story.
Sean McGrath and Isaac Lamb as petitioners, with John Hutton as Jaggers, Stephen Stocking as Pip and Damon Kupper as Wemmick - Photo by Patrick Weishampel/
Deftly switching between extremes, Maya Sugarman created a warm and caring Biddy – and after a quick costume change – became a haughty and cold Estella. (The way that Estella disdainfully addressed Pip as “Boy,” will remained etched in my brain.) Gavin Hoffman was the salt of the earth in his performance as the loyal and devoted blacksmith Joe Gargery.

Dana Green scared half of the audience with her wrathful declamations in the role of Mrs. Joe, and her imperious bearing as Miss Havisham was hauntingly impressive. John Hutton gave the escaped criminal Magwitch a forceful flinty shell, and Hutton was equally convincing as Jaggers, the lawyer who commanded his client’s desires with absolute rectitude.

Damon Kupper’s avuncular and mutton chopped Pumblechook sported the oddest grin you could ever imagine. Kupper was equally gifted at conveying the peculiar, officious demeanor Wemmick. Chris Murray won everyone over as the amiable and energetic Herbert Pocket.

Isaac Lamb excelled in several diverse roles, including the lumbering and menacing Orlick, the sly and cruel Compeyson, and as the snorting carriage horse. The stiff-upper-lipped vanity of Drummlie was superbly conveyed by Sean McGrath.

Even if you have never read “Great Expectations,” you should see this production, which runs through February 14th. It’s a classic, just like Dickens's novel.
Damon Kupper as Pumblechook, Stephen Stocking as Pip, Dana Green as Mrs. Joe, Isaac Lamb as Orlick and Gavin Hoffman as Joe Gargery - Photo by Patrick Weishampel/

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795)
Maria Augusta von Trapp (1905-1987)
Stéphane Grappelli (1908-1997)
Jimmy Van Heusen (1913-1990)
Warren Benson (1924-2005)
Jacqueline du Pré (1945-1987)
Frédéric Lodéon (1952)
Mikel Rouse (1957)
Gustavo Dudamel (1981)


Jules Feiffer (1929)
Christopher Hampton (1946)
Ellen DeGeneres (1958)

Monday, January 25, 2016

300 year old Domenicelli cello found in trunk of stolen car

Back in November this news item reported a stolen Antonio Domenicelli cello that was made in Ferrara, Italy in 1714. It was apparently in a 2007 Accura, which the thief commandeered. Recently, a new report says that car was found and the 300-year-old cello was still in the trunk.

Today's Birthdays

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954)
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994)
Etta James (1938-2012)
Russell Peck (1945-2009)


Robert Burns (1759-1796)
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Farinelli (Carlo Maria Broschi) (1705-1782)
Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)
E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822)
Evelyn Barbirolli (1911-2008)
Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008)
Gottfried von Einem (1918-1996)
Leon Kirchner (1919-2009)
Neil Diamond (1941)
Yuri Bashmet (1953)
Warren Zevon (1947-2003)


William Congreve (1670-1729)
Edith Wharton (1862–1937)
Desmond Morris (1928)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)
Rutland Boughton (1878-1960)
Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)
Milton Adolphus (1913-1988)
Eli Goren (1923-2000)
Cécile Ousset (1936)
Teresa Zylis-Gara (1936)
John Luther Adams (1953)
Mason Bates (1977)


Stendhal (1783-1842)
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Derek Walcott (1930)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tiedemann announced as new executive director of Young Musicians & Artists

From the press release:

Young Musicians & Artists (YMA) Board Co-Chairs Laura Moen and Diana Kerman today announced the appointment of Sarah Tiedemann as the organization’s new Executive Director. Tiedemann is scheduled to begin Feb. 8, 2016, taking the helm as the camp embarks upon its 51st year.
“Young Musicians and Artists is delighted to welcome Sarah as our new Executive Director,” Kerman states. “She brings a broad knowledge of the Portland arts community, as well as enthusiasm for young people as they pursue their interest and love of the arts.”
Tiedemann is a flutist, arts administrator, and educator who received degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and the New England Conservatory, with additional studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. She comes to YMA from positions as Administrative and Communications Coordinator of Third Angle New Music and Instructor of Flute at Willamette University, and previously served as Communications & Marketing Director for Chamber Music Northwest. In addition, she has spent five summers as a member of the YMA faculty and looks forward to continuing and expanding upon YMA’s legacy both as the Northwest’s premier visual and performing arts residential summer program, and as an open, accepting environment where students learn life and leadership skills.
“With the recent Congressional endorsement of STEM to STEAM, this is an incredibly exciting time in arts education,” Tiedemann states. “With the support of our enthusiastic board, faculty, students, and extensive alumni network, I’m confident that we will continue to strengthen YMA’s role within the community. I look forward to working with everyone on this dedicated team to bring the organization to the next level.”
Tiedemann enters the position following previous Executive Director Quinland Porter’s departure last summer. “We’re grateful for Quinland’s eight years of leadership and delighted by how camp flourished during her tenure,” says Moen. “We’re now focusing on a smooth transition—one that preserves YMA’s culture and traditions while positioning the camp for even higher levels of enrollment and success.”
YMA’s 2016 camp sessions take place from June 19 – July 1 (music) and July 3 – 15 (visual arts, digital photography, theatre, musical theatre, creative writing, dance, and songwriting). For more information, visit
About YMA
Since 1965, Young Musicians & Artists (YMA) has provided a high-quality residential summer performing and visual arts program. Students who have completed grades 4 through 12 receive professional instruction in dance, instrumental music, photography, creative writing, piano, musical theatre, songwriting, composition, theatre, visual arts, and vocal music. Over its 50 year history, YMA has grown steadily from a one-week summer camp of 50 string students to the Northwest’s premier visual and performing arts residential summer program, with two, two-week sessions. Since 1974, YMA has been housed at Willamette University, which offers outstanding facilities and an environment that is perfectly suited to the appreciation of the arts.
Today, 50 artist/instructors, 20 guest artists, and 40 student-counselors work with approximately 250 students each summer to provide excellent arts instruction, to expose students to first-class artistic work by professional artists, to foster a love and appreciation of creative expression, and to build confidence and self-esteem in young artists.
Superb instruction, creative environment, camaraderie, and lasting friendships bring former students, parents, and friends back year after year to relive that “YMA magic.”

Today's Birthdays

Charles Tournemire (1870-1939)
Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981)
Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013)
William Warfield (1920-2002)
Aurèle Nicolet (1926)
Uto Ughi (1944)
Myung-whun Chung (1953)


Francis Bacon (1561–1626)
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781)
Lord Byron (1788-1824)
August Strindberg (1849-1912)
Howard Moss (1922-1987)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
Alexander Tcherepnin (1899-1977)
Webster Booth (1902-1984)
Placido Domingo (1941)
Richie Havens (1941-2013)
Edwin Starr (1942-2003)
Suzanne Mentzer (1957)
Frank Ticheli (1958)


Louis Menand (1952)

Bass fiddler moves from Oregon Symphony to Seattle Symphony

While at the Seattle Opera's "Marriage of Figaro" performance, I noticed in that the program listed Ted Botsford as the assistant principal bassist. Since the Seattle Opera regularly draws its orchestra from the Seattle Symphony roster, I took at look at the Seattle Symphony's web site and found Botsford listed as a member of its bass section here. As with some former members of the Oregon Symphony, Botsford has moved to an orchestra that pays more, but it is also a tribute to the fine playing of the OSO orchestra. Since Kalmar's arrival, several instrumentalists have won auditions at other orchestras (for example, the Boston Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, and the San Diego Symphony).

So, this is old news, in a way, but Botsford is still listed in the Oregon Symphony programs as on leave. I understand that the designation is a formality due to union rules.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Seattle Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” a mixed bag

Arthur Woodley (Dr. Bartolo), Margaret Gawrysiak (Marcellina), Nuccia Focile (Susanna) and Shenyang (Figaro) in The Marriage of Figaro. Photo by Philip Newton
Seattle Opera kicked off the New Year with a performance of “The Marriage of Figaro” that strayed a little off target. Part of the problem stemmed from the sets, which featured a series of huge, movable panels. Also, the cast didn’t have quite the right chemistry to make the story flow, which was too bad, considering that the production marked general director Aidan Lang’s debut as stage director of a Seattle Opera production. Yet even though things missed a bit, the opera’s many comic moments succeeded in delighting the audience at McCaw Hall on opening night (January 16).

The sets, designed by Robin Rawstorne for New Zealand Opera , opened the performance with an imposing paneled wall that stretched across the front of the stage. After the wall separated (vertically down the middle), one or more rooms of the Almaviva residence came into view. Various alignments of the big front paneled walls and other dividing panels that were guided by overhead wires determined which rooms of the residence were revealed. Part of the stage floor moved in sequence with the dividing panels, so that none of the props were knocked over. The scenic idea was intellectually stimulating but got in the way of the story, and it placed the singers far from the audience. On top of that, one of the panels creaked loudly during the beginning of Act II when the countess expressed her sadness because of her philandering husband.

Superb singing by Chinese bass-baritone Shengyang made the role of Figaro memorable. From the top to the bottom of his range, his resonant voice radiated, often with a bit of extra ornamentation thrown in. He could also switch to a lovely head tone for a high and then emphasize the same note later with full-throttle vigor. Unfortunately, Nuccia Focile’s Susanna suffered in comparison with a tonal quality often was uneven and sometimes slightly pinched.

Morgan Smith’s baritone voice wonderfully complimented his swaggering Count Almaviva. Bernarda Bobro’s Countess Almaviva sang with impeccable clarity but was a bit too restrained. Karin Mushegain created delightful chaos as the carefree Cherubino. Margaret Gawrysiak’s matronly Marcellina and Arthur Woodley’s conniving Dr. Bartolo were delightfully spot on. Steven Cole was a cutup as Don Basilio, devising a unique character voice that sounded like someone singing through a flutophone. Charles Robert Austin excelled as the grumbling gardener Antonio. Alasdair Elliott chimed in expertly as the notary Don Curzio, and Amanda Opuszynski made the most of her role as Barbarina.

The action had humorous moments, but some of the funny moments were tempered by reality, such as presence of a very pregnant Barbarina, and the scene in which a crippled war veteran helped to dress up Cherubino as a soldier. The funniest person was Smith whose facial expressions as the frustrated Count were priceless. Mushegain created numerous hilarious moments and got tons of laughter when Cherubino was discovered by the Count. The astonished looks from all of the characters when Figaro’s parents were revealed drew a big reaction from the audience.

The costumes were cleverly designed by Elizabeth Whiting, but, except for those audience members who sat in the first few rows, it was hard to tell that they were made of denim.

Under the baton of Gary Thor Wedow, the orchestra ripped along with a lithe and balanced sound. Philip Kelsey added outstanding accompaniment from the keyboard of a fortepiano replica of an instrument from Vienna circa 1795.
Nuccia Focile (Susanna), Morgan Smith (Count Almaviva) and Karin Mushegain (Cherubino) in The Marriage of Figaro. Photo by Tuffer

Today's Birthdays

Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
Józef Hofmann (1876-1957)
Huddie William Ledbetter (Lead Belly) (1889-1949)
Walter Piston (1894-1976)
Eva Jessye (1895-1992)
Yvonne Loriod (1924-2010)
David Tudor (1926-1996)
Antonio de Almeida (1928-1997)
Iván Fischer (1951)


Alexandra Danilova (1903-1997)
Edward Hirsch (1950)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Former orchestra violinist homeless in Portland

Two reports, one from KATU and the other from Slipped Disc, have mentioned that a classically trained violinist has lost all of his possessions in a car fire in SE Portland. It looks like he is David Wright, who played for 28 years with the Minnesota Orchestra. He was apparently a casualty of the lockout that the orchestra went through a couple of years ago. If you look at the comments in Slipped Disc, you will find some more information.

Today's Birthdays

Fritz Reiner (1885-1963)
Erwin Nyíregyházi (1903-1987)
Edith Piaf (1915-1963)
Dalton Baldwin (1931)
Elliott Schwartz (1936)
Phil Ochs (1940-1976)
William Christie (1944)
Olaf Bär (1957)


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Italo Svevo (1861-1928)
Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943)
Julian Barnes (1946)
Edwidge Danticat (1969)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Local pianist thrills Vancouver Symphony audience with Prokofiev concerto

Dimitri Zhgenti in concert - photo by the Vancouver Symphony
Dimitri Zhgenti gave an outstanding performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony on Sunday evening (January 17). Zhgenti, who recently earned his Masters in Music from Indiana University, South Bend, deserved every decibel of applause from the appreciative audience at Skyview Concert Hall, which was packed. The large crowd was due in part because Vancouver is Zhgenti’s home town, and the concert marked his debut with the orchestra. VSO music director Salvador Brotons conducted all of the works on the program, which included Béla Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra” and Franz Liszt’s “Prometheus.”

Zhgenti generated a brilliant tone from the Steinway grand. In Zhgenti’s hands, the concerto danced brightly and its many fleet, tricky passages skipped along effortlessly. His stirring cadenza punctuated the first part of the piece before it transitioned to the moody and slower middle section. He also demonstrated ample power so that the piano could be heard over the loudest orchestral accompaniment, including the finale when the musicians wound up the piece an exciting roar.

The audience immediately gave Zhgenti a standing ovation that brought him back to the stage three times. He responded with a lovely encore, Rachmaninoff’s “Études-Tableaux” (“study pictures”) in G minor, Opus 33.

The orchestra played Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra” with intensity and attention to the technical details. From the opening bars of the piece, in which they created an atmosphere of mystery, the orchestra was really with the conductor, following him closely as the music unfolded through its many tempo changes and tricky passages. Excellent ensemble work by the individual sections of the orchestra made this piece really enjoyable. Highlights from the second movement included the unusual pairings for the winds, the lovely brass choir, the intriguing horn and tuba passage, followed by the bassoon trio, and finally a duet for two harps. The third movement soothed things a bit with the woodwinds chirping about like forest birds and a restful ending. The fourth movement featured a jokey polka that interrupted the sweeping melodic line of the strings. The fifth engagingly transitioned from percolating bursts to a continuous movement of sounds. The principals of the orchestra led their sections with distinction, and after the piece concluded, Brotons waded into the orchestra to acknowledge various sections for their contributions.

The orchestra evoked the heroic nature of Liszt’s “Prometheus,” contrasting the lovely and introverted melodic themes with the extroverted, urgent and pell-mell sections. The muffled horns, lively brass combined, and sudden pauses contributed to the thrilling performance.

Overall, this was the best concert of the season so far, because the orchestra played each piece with more expertise, expression, and attention to detail than they had shown in earlier concerts. Hopefully, also, Zhgenti will be invited for a return appearance sometime in the near future. As a final note, the concert was dedicated to the memory of Joanna Hodges, who was a longtime symphony supporter and teacher of Zhgenti.

Today's Birthdays

César Cui (1835-1918)
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)
John Laurence Seymour (1893-1986)
Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996)
Anthony Galla-Rini (1904-2006)
John O'Conor (1947)
Anthony Pople (1955-2003)
Christoph Prégardien (1956)


Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869)
Rubén Darío (1867-1916)
A. A. Milne (1882-1956)

FYI: Roget's "Thesaurus" has never been out of print since it was first published in  1852.

Oregon Bach Festival's new executive director takes over

Last month, in this press release, the Oregon Bach Festival announced the appointment of Janelle McCoy as its executive director. She has now started in her position in Eugene where she will team up with artistic director Matthew Halls to coordinate OBF's 45th year and its 2.8 million dollar budget. For the past 18 months, McCoy was the executive director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and prior to that she served for four years as the executive director of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. McCoy's background as a professional singer (mezzo-soprano) will certainly bring some insight into her job with the OBF. She replaces John Evans, who held the position of OBF's general director and president for seven years. Over the past year, Michael Anderson served as interim executive position. He is now OBF's director of artistic administration.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728-1788)
François‑Joseph Gossec (1734-1829)
Oscar Morawetz (1917-2007)
Annie Delorie (1925)
Jean Barraqué (1928-1973)
Dame Gillian Weir (1941)
Anne Queffélec (1948)
Augustin Dumay (1949)
Nancy Argenta (1957)
Gérard Pesson (1958)


William Stafford (1914-1993)
Benjamin Franklin (1906-1790)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Daisy Kennedy (1893-1981)
Roger Wagner (1914-1992)
Ernesto Bonino (1922-2008)
Pilar Lorengar (1928-1996)
Marilyn Horne (1934)
Richard Wernick (1934)
Gavin Bryars (1943)
Brian Ferneyhough (1943)
Katia Ricciarelli (1946)


Anthony Hecht (1923-2004)
William Kennedy (1928)
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Breathtaking performance by oboist virtuoso mesmerizes the Oregon Symphony audience

François Leleux signing CDs in the Schnitz lobby (photo by JB)
François Leleux is a name that few local concert goers knew, but after his breathtaking performance last Sunday (January 10th) with the Oregon Symphony, everyone in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was probably asking themselves when the orchestra will be able to get him back. Leleux was in town to play Richard Strauss’s “Oboe Concerto,” and his mesmerizing performance was was the highlight of an outstanding concert that featured a Mozart symphony and symphonic poems by Franz Liszt and American John Alden Carpenter.

When Leleux stepped into the spotlight, some folks in the audience probably thought that they could catch a good nap, but Leleux wonderfully made his oboe sing and enjoyed moving about in a way that was thoroughly engaging. Sometimes he would turn towards music director Carlos Kalmar and take a step or two towards the podium. Or he would turn to concertmaster Sarah Kwak or to the orchestra in general. At times, he would lift his chin and his oboe high – well, it didn’t matter what he did because his playing was off the charts. He commanded his instrument with such nuance and artistry that he made the music beguiling with quick passages that never seemed rushed, and dynamics that could instantly change. Playful sections seemed to bounce joyfully all over the hall. Poignantly lyrical lines were absolutely tender.

After being transfixed by Leleux’s performance, listeners rewarded him with demonstrably loud applause that brought him back to the stage several times. He quieted them down by offering a heavenly encore, a solo version of the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Gluck’s opera “Orfeo ed Euridice.”

During intermission, crowds flocked to purchase Leleux’s recordings in the lobby, and the line for his autograph was quite long. I’m sure that there was at least one young person who heard him and decided then and there to try to learn how to play the oboe.

Listening to Carpenter’s impressionistic “Sea Drift,” one had the feeling of being adrift in the ocean under a vast sky. A hypnotically changing wash of sound drifted in from various sections of the orchestra. Early on the cellos, violas, and timpani established a rhythm of waves only to be overtaken by large swells emanating from another parts of the orchestra. In calmer passages allowed us to hear some wonder for pairing, such as the celeste and the bassoon or the flute and harp, which dabble like seabirds upon the waves. The brass section evoked a scene of rocky shoals and sea foam, and in the end the musical voyage ended with the vibraphone softly fading into the background.

It’s astonishing to think that Mozart wrote his 28th symphony when he was just 18, but such was his genius. Combing irrepressible flair with sophisticated styles, the piece counts as one of Mozart’s earliest mature symphonies. For that work, the orchestra scaled back to a chamber ensemble and then proceeded to show off its expertise in playing in a refined but not prissy style. Under the baton of Kalmar, the musicians created a taught yet lithe, and dance-like atmosphere. Even the repeats were refreshing to the ears. Joseph Berger, associate principal French horn, elicited a wonderful polished sound that he accented delightfully on the last beat. The second violin section immaculately handled numerous fleet passages and was acknowledged by Kalmar and the audience with a round of applause after the piece concluded.

Liszt’s “Les Préludes" expresses the Romantic ideal of the hero rising from the depths, falling in love with someone out of reach, and conquering adversity. The orchestra painted this image with a slightly lighter touch than I recall from the last time they played in 2008, but the piece still had the same satisfying effect. Impressive was the lovely melody from the cellos, the choir of horns, the stirring trumpets, the contrasting quiet passages in which the harp could be heard, and the majestic, triumphant windup with the entire orchestra sawing away.

Preview of VSO concert in The Columbian newspaper

Over the past decade or so, I have been writing preview pieces of Vancouver Symphony concerts for the Columbian newspaper.This weekend, the VSO will perform Prokofiev's First Piano Concerto with Dimitri Zhgenti, Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra,” and Liszt's "Prometheus." If you would like to read the preview of this concert, simply click here.

Today's Birthdays

Ivor Novello (1883-1951)
Elie Siegmeister (1909-1991)
Malcolm Frager (1935-1991)
Don "Captain Beefheart" Van Vliet (1941-2010)
Aaron Jay Kernis (1960)


Molière (1622-1673)
Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872)
Andreas William Heinesen (1900-1991)
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Brass and organ ensemble recording chockful of world-premieres, including one from Portland newcomer William White

Just like chocolate and coffee, music for brass and organ is one of those confections that seems to be made for each other. So perhaps it is no wonder that a new recording of the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble sounds terrific. Entitled “Flourishes, Tales and Symphonies,” this album features a bunch of world-premiere recordings. That’s because The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, which attributes its name to the stony figures on top of the gothic buildings at the University of Chicago, has commissioned a number of works and arrangements. Its CD, released under the MSR Classics label, contains pieces by Carlyle Sharpe, David Marlatt, Peter Meechan, Craig Garner, and William White, who is the interim music director of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony in Portland, Oregon.

“The Dwarf Planets” was written by White in 2012 while he was based in Cincinnati, Ohio, serving as the assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It has the feel of a tone poem, and, reminiscent of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” each of its five movements represents a god or goddess associated with a dwarf planet – which is a celestial body that revolves around the sun but lacks enough mass to be considered a planet. While the Hawaiian-inflected “Haumea” sounded rhythmically straight-forward, “Pluto” revealed a more sophisticated and nuanced style. “Ceres” contrasted a barnyard dance with a lullaby, and “Eris” created mildly dissonant atmospheres. The piece ended with a lightly bombastic “Makemake,” which depicted an unusual and exciting race from the Rapa Nul people of Easter Island.

Canadian composer David Marlatt’s “Earthscape” (2011) also had a celestial quality, depicting earth as a restful planet that rotates slowly in the emptiness of space. Marlatt’s piece had appealing melodic lines and plaintive cantabile passages for trumpet and horn

Carlyle Sharpe’s “Prelude, Elegy and Scherzo” (2012) started with stately pace and a broad, American almost Copland-esque sound. The meditative “Elegy” was expertly juxtaposed with the bubbly “Scherzo.” “Flourishes” (revised in 2010 in order to add timpani) brilliantly displayed many of the colors of the organ – played deftly by Jared Stellmacher – in a playful exchange with the brass.

The album contains three arrangements by Craig Garner. The first was the famous drinking song, “Liblamo ne’leti calici” from Verdi’s “La Traviata.” The trombone, trumpet, organ, and tuba took over the singers’ passages with gusto. The second was an arrangement of Jaromír Weinberger’s “Polka and Fugue,” which displayed beguiling interwoven lines. Garner’s arrangement of the “Adagio and Maestoso” movements from Camille Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony (“Organ”) was straight-forward but a bit ponderous.

Peter Meechan’s “Velvet Blue” (2012) took the ensemble in an entirely different direction, laying down a hot, sweltering jazzy number – complete with snarling trumpet and swaggering trombone – before transitioning to a rock and roll like finale. That was refreshing! Who would’ve thought that a British-born Canadian would have uncorked such a wonderful twist?

Today's Birthdays

Ludwig von Köchel (1800-1877)
Jean de Reszke (1850-1925)
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
Louis Quilico (1925-2000)
Zuzana Ruzickova (1927)
Siegmund Nimsgern (1940)
Mariss Jansons (1943)
Kees Bakels (1945)
Nicholas McGegan (1950)
Ben Heppner (1956)
Andrew Manze (1965)


John Dos Passos (1896-1970
Maureen Dowd (1952)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)
Vassili Kalinnikov (1866-1901)
Richard Addinsell (1904-1977)
Daniil Shafran (1923-1997)
Renato Bruson (1936)
Paavo Heininen (1938)
William Duckworth (1943-2012)
Richard Blackford (1954)
Wayne Marshall (1961)
Juan Diego Flórez (1973)


Horatio Alger (1832-1899)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)
Jacques Duphly (1715-1789)
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948)
Pierre Bernac (1899-1979)
William Pleeth (1916-1999)
Morton Feldman (1926-1987)
Salvatore Martirano (1927-1995)
Anne Howells (1941)
Viktoria Postnikova (1944)
Lori Laitman (1955)


John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Jack London (1876-1916) 
Haruki Murakami (1949)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Christian Sinding (1856-1941)
Reihold Glière (1875-1956)
Maurice Duruflé(1902-1986)
Mark DeVoto (1940)
York Höller (1944)
Drew Minter (1955)
Alex Shapiro (1962)


William James (1842-1910)
Alan Paton (1903-1988)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Jean Martinon (1910-1976)
Sidney Griller (1911-1993)
Dean Dixon (1915-1976)
Max Roach (1924-2007)
Sherrill Milnes (1935)
Rod Stewart (1945)
James Morris (1947)
Mischa Maisky (1948)
Rockwell Blake (1951)
Charles Norman Mason (1955)


Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)
Philip Levine (1928-2015)
Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Today's Birthdays

John Knowles Paine (1839-1906))
Rudolf Bing (1902-1997)
Herva Nelli (1909-1994)
Henriette Puig‑Roget (1910-1992)
Pierre Pierlot (1921-2007)
Joan Baez (1941)
Scott Walker (1944)
Jimmy Page (1944)
Waltraud Meier (1956)
Hillevi Martinpelto (1958)
Nicholas Daniel (1962)


Karel Čapek (1890-1938)
Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935)
Richard Halliburton (1901-1939)
Brian Friel (1929) 
Michiko Kakutani (1955)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Jean Gilles (1668-1705)
Hans von Bülow (1830-1894)
Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967)
Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988)
Giorgio Tozzi (1923-2011)
Robert Starer (1924-2001)
Benjamin Lees (1924-2010)
Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
Zdeněk Mácal (1936)
Evgeny Nesterenko (1938)
Elijah Moshinsky (1946)
Paul Dresher (1951)
Vladimir Feltsman (1952)


Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Clara Haskil (1895-1960)
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
John Brownlee (1900-1969)
Nicanor Zabaleta (1907-1993)
Günter Wand (1912-2002)
Ulysses Kay (1917-1995)
John Lanigan (1921-1996)
Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000)
Tommy Johnson (1935-2006)
Iona Brown (1941-2004)
Richard Armstrong (1943)


Hugh Kenner (1923-2003)
Nicholson Baker (1957)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Georges Martin Witkowski (1867-1943)
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
Karl Straube (1873-1950)
Earl Kim (1920-1998)
David Bernstein (1942)
Alexander Baillie (1956)


Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Constanza Mozart (1762-1842)
Frederick Converse (1871-1940)
Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951)
Reginald Smith-Brindle (1917-2003)
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920-1995)
Laszlo Heltay (1930)
Alfred Brendel (1931)
Maurizio Pollini (1942)


Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990)
Umberto Eco (1932)
Charlie Rose (1942)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736)
Josef Suk (1874-1935)
Frank Wess (1922)
Grace Bumbry (1937)
Joseph Turrin (1947)
Margaret Marshall (1949)
Ronald Corp (1951)
Peter Seiffert (1954)
Boris Berezovsky (1969)


Sir Issac Newton (1642-1727)
Jacob Grimm (1785-1863)
Louis Braille (1809-1852)
Augustus John (1878-1961)
Doris Kearns Goodwin (1943)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Operabend celebrates New Years with frothy, fun Fledermaus

Guest review by Jared Rasic

OperaBend has had a stellar run since they made their grand debut back in October of 2013 with their “La Premier Notte Grande” and the showcase of Seattle mezzo soprano Sarah Mattox. However, it was OperaBend’s production of “Les Miserables” at the Tower Theatre in 2014 that really put them on the map. The show wasn't just good for Central Oregon, it was one of the finest productions of any musical I have ever seen and set a new watermark for what small town theater is really capable of.

Thus my expectations were high for OperaBend's New Year's Eve production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Die Fledermaus” at the Pinckney Center for Performing Arts. Since the opera was to be performed in English with orchestra and some damned fine singers, and since I had never seen an opera in English, I was much more excited than a grown man should be about anything. Luckily, I was in safe hands.

After its premiere 1874 in Vienna, Austria, “Die Fledermaus” has been a fairly regular staple of opera houses. Besides offering a fun and breezy night of opera, it is also easily staged without much pageantry needed for the set or effects. Even the orchestra can be stripped down as long as the deck is stacked with powerful singers and actors, and fortunately OperaBend's bench goes very deep.

“Die Fledermaus” tells a few different stories and then throws them all together in the end to see what sticks. Let me see if I can break it down quickly: Rosalinda Eisenstein is married to Gabriel, who is set to go to prison for a short stint. Rosalinda still has feelings for her former lover, Alfred, and is excited to spend a few days with him while her husband is in the slammer. The Eisenstein's maid, Adele, has been invited to a bacchanalian ball being thrown by the rich, powerful and bored Prince Orlofsky, where Rosalinda and Gabriel are both making appearances in disguise, unbeknownst to anyone. What we have is partly a mistaken identity farce, partly a peek into the lives of the Viennese bourgeoisie, and partly a drama about being unfulfilled in life. Combined with Strauss’s music, the story makes for a fast moving and hilarious piece.

OperaBend's inspired production was directed by David Malis, who also sang the role of Dr. Falke, Gabriel's friend and instigator of the entire play. Malis has fully taken his cake and eaten it too, by not only by shaping an adaptation that even the most casual opera-goer can enjoy and follow, but also in the way that he filled out the cast with such powerhouses that even the most devout opera purist would enjoy

Kari Burgess as Rosalinda and Jocelyn Claire Thomas as Adele were staggeringly brilliant, with Burgess' incandescent soprano floating across the stage magnificently and Thomas' ethereal soprano causing a tear or two more than once or twice. While entire cast is magnificent, when these two were on stage there was truly magic in the air. I also have to mention Abigail Dock in the trouser role of Prince Orlofsky and Scott Carroll as Alfred. Dock was so subtle in playing the opposite sex that when her voice burst forth it was as refreshing and virtuosic as anything I've heard in a theater in quite some time. Carroll was having so damn much fun as Alfred that the house was giggling at almost every wink, nod or twitch of an eyebrow. His performance was reminiscent of Nathan Lane in his heyday.

It's downright depressing that this show only ran for two performances because it was something very special. All of those beautiful operatic voices and performances combined with Maestro Michael Gesme flawlessly conducting a delectable orchestra, an astounding mic drop of a marimba jam with two percussionists absolutely nailing “Flight of the Bumblebee” during Prince Orlofsky’s ball, and me in my seat, breathless.
Jared Rasic is the arts and culture editor of "The Source," a weekly paper out of Bend, Oregon. He likes eating, sleeping, falling asleep while eating, opera, movies, music and puppies... not in that order. Puppies always come first.

Today's Birthdays

Victor Borge (1909-2000)
Ronald Smith (1922-2004)
Sir George Martin (1926)
HK Gruber (1943)
David Atherton (1944)


William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Mily Balakirev (1837-1910)
Michael Tippett (1905-1998)
Barbara Pentland (1912-2000)
Irina Arkhipova (1925-2010)
Alberto Zedda (1928)
Peter Eötvös (1944)
Janet Hilton (1945)
Vladimir Ovchinnikov (1958)
Tzimon Barto (1963)
Robert Fertitta (1970)
Eric Whitacre (1970)


Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Christopher Durang (1949)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Charles Racquet (1598 - 1664)
Frederick William Gaisberg (1873-1951)
Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958)
Erich Schmid (1907-2001)
Trude Rittmann (1908-2005)
Richard Verreau (1926-2005)
Maurice Béjart (1927 - 2007)
Bernard Greenhouse (1916)
Alberto Portugheis (1941)


E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
J. D. Salinger (1919-2010)