Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Marin Marais (1656-1728)
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)
Billy Mayerl (1902-1959)
Alfred Deller (1912-1979)
Akira Ifukube (1914-2006)
Shirley Verrett (1931-2010)
Peter Yarrow (1938)
Bruce Adolphe (1955)
Marty Ehrlich (1955)


Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853)
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Clint Eastwood (1930)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 31, 1921, emigre composer Edgard Varèse founded the International Composer's Guild in New York City to perform and promote music by contemporary composers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Recommended classical performance for this summer in The Oregonian

The Oregonian's website has published my list of recommended performances for this summer. You can access the article here.The printed version will appear this weekend.

Today's Birthdays

Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944)
Benny Goodman (1909-1986)
George London (1920-1985)
Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012)
Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)
Zoltan Kocsis (1952)
Anne LeBaron (1953)

Howard Hawks (1896-1977)
Colm Toibin (1955)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 30, 1923, 26-year-old composer and conductor Howard Hanson, who would later be one of the founders of the American Music Center, led the world premiere performance of his Nordic Symphony, the first of his seven symphonies and still one of his best-known works, in Rome during his residence as first holder of the American Rome Prize.

and from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1723,Bach's first cantata performance in Leipzig (Cantata No. 75, "Die Elenden sollen essen") was presented at St. Nicolai Church, the day before his official induction as Cantor in that city.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Astoria Music Festival to embark on 15th season

Festival dates: June 11 – 25, 2017, Astoria or 503-325-9896

From the press release:

SUNDAY, JUNE 11, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
Gala reception with Ms. Meade follows recital (premium tickets)

Metropolitan Opera superstar Angela Meade returns to Astoria for her Oregon Debut Recital make her Oregon debut recital accompanied by highly acclaimed pianist Danielle Orlando. Prog ram includes art songs and arias by Handel, Liszt, Bellini, Verdi, and Strauss.

Ms. Meade joins us after a whirlwind spring and winter of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera (New York), Verdi (Bilbao, Spain), and Donizetti (Sevilla, Spain).

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 7:30 pm, Grace Episcopal Church
Astoria Music Festival Baroque Soloists Period Instrument Ensemble
An evening of magical Baroque music. Acclaimed Baroque trumpeter Kris Kwapis and soprano Arwen Myers join the Festival period instrument ensemble for Purcell’s Sound the Trumpet and music from King Arthur, featuring Noah Strick and Hannah Leland, Baroque Violins, Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, Baroque Cello and Julia Brown, harpsichord. Concert is at Astoria's gorgeous historic landmark Grace Episcopal Church.

THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
3 LEG TORSO with post-concert Tango Party
Back by popular demand, Oregon’s hip band brings their special blend of fun and flair in an eclectic night of Tango, Klezmer, Latin, and Roma (Gypsy) music. Equal parts ravishing melodies and toe-tapping rhythms played on violin, accordion, percussion, and cello.
Special guest vocalist Minntah Haefker, Astoria’s own 12 year-old singing sensation.

FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
Pianist and Director of Chamber Music, Cary Lewis leads a exquisite evening featuring Ukrainian violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv, prizewinning cellist Sergey Antonov, with prizewinning pianist Ilya Kazantsev, and Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Mayer.  Program of chamber music including Xaver Scharwenka’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Franz Schubert’s Duo for Violin and Piano, Robert Schumann’s monumental Piano Trio in D minor, and vocal music by Richard Strauss.

SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
Come early for a concert preview, 6:30 pm 
Michael Foster Memorial Concert
With the Portland Symphonic Choir and North Coast Chorale
Two choirs, international soloists and enlarged orchestra join conductor Keith Clark in memory of lifelong Astoria arts advocate Michael Foster. Program includes the Festival Debut of Italian violin virtuoso Roberto Cani, prizewinner in the Genoa International Paganini Competition.
PAGANINI  Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.9 in D minor “Choral Symphony” 

SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
Symphonic Sunday Matinee
Oregon Premiere
What a concert! Three conductors 
lead Russian masterpieces by Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, plus the Oregon Premiere of Philip Glass’ Icarus At The Edge Of Time, a multi-media extravaganza combining large orchestra, film, and narrator that transforms ancient myth into a sci-fi spectacular.
Icarus at the Edge of Time is a stunning orchestral work with animated film and live narration that tells a mesmerizing musical tale of space, time and a journey to the very edge of understanding—composed by Philip Glass, based on the award-winning book by physicist Brian Greene, adapted by Greene and David Henry Hwang, film created and directed by Al + Al.

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 7:30 pm, Grace Episcopal Church
with Sergey Antonov & Festival Baroque Soloists
An evening of Bach in the lovely setting of the Pacific Northwest’s second-oldest church. Sergey Antonov continues his survey of Bach unaccompanied Cello Suites. Festival period instrument ensemble features violinist Noah Strick, viola da gambist Adaiha MacAdam-Somer and Julia Brown, harpsichord in Solo and Trio Sonata

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater 
FESTIVAL CHAMBER PLAYERS: Wagner as Others Heard Him
Cary Lewis, Director of Chamber Music
Debussy giggles at Tristan and Isolde’s overwrought love-death with a Cakewalk. Liszt probes the depths of Das Rheingold. Program includes Wagner’s beautiful Wesendonck Lieder sung by Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Mayer, plus music by Faure, Chabrier, and a chamber transcription of the Tristan Prelude by Portland composer Jeff Winslow.

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 7:30 pm, Performing Arts Center
Meet the artists at post-concert onstage reception 
An intimate recital by Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Zeller and international classical guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan
A rare recital by one of America’s foremost baritones, Richard Zeller and one of the leading classical guitarists of his generation, Aaron Larget-Caplan in the intimate setting of Astoria’s Performing Arts Center. Program includes Art Songs and guitar solos by Franz Schubert, Manuel De Falla, J.S. Bach, John Cage.
Baritone Richard Zeller is internationally acclaimed for his sonorous dramatic voice, compelling stage presence and outstanding musicianship. His career has included 12 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera.
Noted for his “astounding technical proficiency and artistic delicacy” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), classical world guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan is an international touring and recording artist. He has performed solo and chamber music in Russia, Europe and across the United States.

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
A French comedy by Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais, 1775
In anticipation of Sunday’s Grand Finale operatic concert -- Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Sen Incavo introduces scenes from the comedy that launched the French Revolution and inspired Rossini’s opera. Plus the Oregon premiere of Tchaikovsky’s little known Couplets for Beaumarchais’ play, and even the Looney Tunes classic The Rabbit of Seville. What’s up, Doc? Find out in this entertaining afternoon.

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 7:30 pm, Liberty Theater
Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Sarah Kwak returns for a night of virtuosity, Spanish flair, Hungarian Gypsy fire, and a monumental Brahms masterpiece.

SUNDAY, JUNE 25, 4:00 pm, Liberty Theater
Come early for a free opera preview, 3:00 pm
Semi-staged concert. Sung in Italian with English supertext.  

Sensational Mexican baritone Luis Ledesma as Figaro heads a world-class cast in the funniest opera of them all!  Filled with soaring Bel Canto melodies, goofy jokes, and brilliant orchestral virtuosity.



Today's Birthdays

Francesco Fanciulli (1853-1915)
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)
Helmuth Rilling (1933)
Michael Berkley (1948)
Linda Esther Gray (1948)
Melissa Etheridge (1961)


G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Steven Levitt (1967)


from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1913, Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps" (The Rite of Spring) received its premiere performance in Paris, by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, Pierre Monteux conducting.


from the New Music Box:
On May 29, 1954, the Louisville Orchestra, under the direction of Robert S. Whitney, premiered the Eleventh Symphony of Henry Cowell. The seven-movement work, subtitled "Seven Rituals," was one of the most successful of Cowell's 21 symphonies.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Arne (1710-1788)
Josiah Flagg (1737-1795)
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914)
Sir George Dyson(1883-1964)
T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)
Nicola Rescigno (1916-2008)
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
John Culshaw (1924-1980)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)
Richard Van Allan (1935-2008)
Maki Ishii (1936-2003)
Elena Souliotis (1943-2004)
Levon Chilingirian (1948)


Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
Ian Flemming (1908-1964)
May Swenson (1913-1989)
Walker Percy (1916-1990)

and from the New Music Box:

On May 28, 1957, after several discussions, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NARAS) was born at a meeting at Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby Restaurant.

[NARAS sponsors the Grammys.]

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Halévy (1799-1862)
Joseph Joachim Raff (1822-1882)
Louis Durey (1888-1979)
Claude Champagne (1891-1965)
Ernst Wallfisch (1920-1979)
Margaret Buechner (1922-1998)
Thea Musgrave (1928)
Donald Keats (1929)
Elizabeth Harwood (1938-1990)
James Wood (1953)


Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876)
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
John Cheever (1912-1982)
John Barth (1930)
Linda Pastan (1932)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Al Jolson (1886-1950)
Eugene Goossens (1893-1962)
Ernst Bacon (1898-1990)
Vlado Perlemuter (1904-2002)
Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) (1916-1999)
François‑Louis Deschamps (1919-2004)
Peggy Lee (1920-2002)
Joseph Horovitz (1926)
Miles Davis (1926-1991)
Teresa Stratas (1938)
William Bolcom (1938)
Howard Goodall (1958)
Armando Bayolo (1973)


Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837)
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Frankie Manning (1914-2009)
Alan Hollinghurst (1954)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 26, 1953, Aaron Copland appeared before the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) of the U.S. House of Representatives

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Thomas "Blind Tom" Bethune (1849-1908)
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)
Jamaica Kincaid (1949)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1944, Arturo Toscanini conducts the combined NBC Symphony and New York Philharmonic in a benefit concert of music by Wagner, Verdi, and Sousa at the old Madison Square Garden. The concert raised $100,000 for the Red Cross. During an intermission auction, New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia auctioned off Toscanini's baton for $10,000.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

OSO takes Portland audiences on a journey with the Mahler 2 'Resurrection' Symphony.

Elizabeth DeShong.
Photo by Dario Acosta
Saturday night, May 20, the Oregon Symphony began the weekend that wrapped up its 2016-17 season at the Schnitz with Mahler's grandiose Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, the 'Resurrection' Symphony. It featured soloists Tamara Wilson, soprano, and Elizabeth DeShong, mezzo-soprano, as well as the Portland State University Choirs.

With Maestro Kalmar conducting, this was an amazing journey. The orchestra was on fire, suitably sensitive to the incredible range of dynamic contrasts and varying timbres required to make this work a success.

Right from the start, the orchestra exuded a feeling of intense focus, one that drew the listener immediately. There was a peripatetic feel to the movement, with the extended crescendo that built from the lower strings wringing every bit of tension possible. The whispering tremolando from the strings was exciting to hear.

The group handled the emotional displacement to more pastoral themes deftly, and the almost hypnotic shift into a dreamy brass-world was beautifully organic and completely convincing. The orchestra consistently displayed clarity and succinctness in the multiple and vital pianissimos. The more folksy portions were engaging and somewhat disjointed from the weightiness of the overall work--exactly as felt right.
There were many gradual and protracted crescendi throughout the work that ended in a titanic fortissmo, and these the orchestra played well by and large. The only sour spot was in the high woodwinds, flutes and piccolos, that often did not agree on a pitch when the ultimate dynamic was reached, and these moments stood out a number of times.

The vocal portions of the symphony were all spectacular. DeShong displayed a magnificent, show-stopping low alto register, and the Portland State University choirs (PSU Chamber Choir, PSU Man Choir and PSU Vox Vemina) were dignified and solemn, singing with reverence and clear diction. All in all, despite the seriousness of the work, the performers were clearly having fun, and with this composition, how could they not?

Today's Birthdays

Paul Paray (1886-1979)
Joan Hammond (1912-1986)
Hans‑Martin Linde (1930)
Maurice André (1933-2012)
Harold Budd (1936)
Bob Dylan (1941)
Konrad Boehmer (1941-2014)
Fiona Kimm (1952)
Paul McCreesh (1960)


William Trevor (1928)
Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Declan Kiberd (1951)
Michael Chabon (1963)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 24, 1939, then 30-year-old composer Elliott Carter (b. 1908) had his first major performance of his music in New York. The work was the ballet Pocahontas composed in a populist style far different from the music for which Carter would later become internationally known and revered.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Andrea Luchesi (1741-1801)
Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870)
Louis Glass (1864-1936)
Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
Alicia de Larrocha (1923)
Robert Moog (1934-2005)
Joel Feigin (1951)


Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)
Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952)
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Johann Schrammel (1850-1893)
Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Sun Ra (1914-1993)
George Tintner (1917-1999)
Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008)
Claude Ballif (1924-2004)
John Browning (1933-2003)
Peter Nero (1934)


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 21, 1893, in an lengthy article published in the New York Herald titled "Real Value of Negro Melodies," Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak, during his three-year sojourn in the United States, prognosticated that the future of American music should be based on "negro melodies" and announced that the National Conservatory of Music, where he was serving as Director at the time, would be "thrown open free of charge to the negro race." It was to be the first of a total of seven articles in the Herald in which Dvorak expounded these ideas which provoked comments ranging from incredulity to denunciation by composers and performers around the world including Anton Bruckner, Anton Rubinstein and John Knowles Paine.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Thomas "Fats" Waller (1904-1943)
Gina Bachauer (1913-1976)
Heinz Holliger (1939)
Rosalind Plowright (1949)
Linda Bouchard (1957)


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989)
Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981)
George Hurst (1926-2012)
Karl Anton Rikenbacher (1940-2014)
Tison Street (1943)
Joe Cocker (1944-2014)
Cher (1946)
Sue Knussen (1949-2003)
Jane Parker-Smith (1950)
Emma Johnson (1966)


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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stunning production by Michael Curry breathes new life into "Persephone"

Photo credit: Oregon Symphony/Brud Giles
The Oregon Symphony and puppeteer-production designer Michael Curry blew away a standing-room-only audience with a breathtaking, magical performance of Stravinsky’s “Persephone.” This rarely performed melodrama came to life via sophisticated lighting, puppetry, and evocative sets not to mention the dance, spoken monologue, and music created by the orchestra, adult chorus, children’s chorus, and tenor soloist. Curry’s visual imagery and skillful direction of twelve black-clad puppeteers absolutely enhanced the story-telling and the music to make “Persephone” a very memorable event.

Curry has been acclaimed for his work with Disney’s “The Lion King” as well as for his collaborations with Cirque du Soleil , The Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal National Theatre, the International Olympic Committee. The production of “Persephone” marked his first collaboration with a symphony orchestra, and it became the third installment in the Oregon Symphony’s unique “Sight and Sound” series. The audience knew right away that it was in for something special, because a specially-built stage behind the orchestra featured a very large moon-like disc centered between two large gnarly trees with intertwined roots.

André Gide, the Nobel Prize winning poet wrote the libretto for “Persephone,” which retells an ancient Greek myth that explains the seasons of the year. However, Gide changed the story to give Persephone a Christ-like character. In the original, Persephone is abducted by Pluto and brought to Hades, but in Gide’s retelling, Persephone has compassion for the people of the underworld and goes there to provide some sense of happiness. She can do this because she is the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and agriculture. Unfortunately, Demeter really misses her daughter. This causes the earth to be dominated by the cold, harsh winter so that no crops can grow and everyone above ground is miserable. So Persephone returns to the earth and accepts Triptolemus, the tiller of soil, as her husband, but because of her obligations to Pluto, she returns to hades for half of the year.

Although "Persephone" dominated the evening, the concert began with an impeccable performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 ("Little Russian"). The woody sound of the clarinets, the immaculate exchange of pizzicato lines between the strings, the big brass chorale, and the lovely melodic passages were augmented by the sensitive playing of Joseph Berger on the French horn and Carin Miller Packwood on the bassoon.

In Curry’s production, the character of Persephone was split three-ways: as a life-size marionette, a dancer (Anna Marra), and as an actress (Pauline Cheviller). This may have caused some confusion initially, but it became clear as the story progressed. Marra’s graceful aerial dance at the end of a large boom was spectacular, doing cartwheels in slow motion above the stage and over the orchestra – briefly dangled above the timpani and trumpets. At times, her movements were accompanied by the ghostly spirits of the underworld and she also dallied with Pluto, which was represented by a fibrous 14-foot tall puppet.

Cheviller deftly conveyed the text with emotion, reaching a high point when Persephone became distraught as her mother search fruitlessly for her. In the role of the priest Eumolpus, tenor Paul Groves narrated each scene with a stentorian recitative. The Portland State Chamber Choir (expertly prepared by Ethan Sperry) and the Pacific Youth Choir (expertly prepared by Mia Hall) conquered the challenging music with panache.

Cheviller, Groves, and all of the singers were amplified, which was a necessity due to the Schnitz’s poor acoustic. Stravinsky’s music sounded ancient and modern at the same time, and the orchestra, guided by Carlos Kalmar, handled all of it terrifically. The musicians were positioned on a stage that extended over the first few rows of the hall.

Among the many wonderful moments of Curry’s production was a stag that transported Persephone to the underworld and later brought in a pomegranate that she ate and made her long to return home. A group of women whose braided hair extended from the roots of the tree was also very striking as were the images projected on the moon-like disc.

Representatives from other orchestras were in attendance to watch the show. Seattle Symphony has Curry’s production of “Persephone” already scheduled for next April. The magical vision of Curry makes me wonder what he would do with Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” Hmmm…..

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)
Nellie Melba (1859-1931)
Kerstin Thorborg (1896-1970)
Sandy Wilson (1924-2014)
Pete Townshend (1945)
Stephen Varcoe (1949)


Malcom X (1925-1965)
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)
Nora Ephron (1941-2012)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1886, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (11 selections) was given during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The next documented performance (12 sections) was given in Boston on February 27, 1887, by the Handel and Haydn Society, with Carl Zerrahn conducting a chorus of 432 and an orchestra of 50. In both the 1886 Cincinnati and 1887 Boston performances, the famous 19-century German soprano Lilli Lehmann appeared as one of the soprano soloists. The first complete performance of the work was apparently given either at the Moravian Church in Bethlehem on Mar 17, 1900, by the Bach Choir under J. Fred Wolf, or at Carnegie Hall in new York on April 5, 1900, by the Oratorio Society, Frank Damrosch conducting.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667)
Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876)
Karl Goldmark (1830-1915)
Ezio Pinza (1892-1947)
Henri Sauguet (1901-1989)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Sir Clifford Curzon (1907-1982)
Perry Como (1912-2001)
Boris Christoff (1914-1993)
Mikko Heiniö (1948)


Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Walter Gropius (1883-1969)
Frank Capra (1897-1991)
Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991)
Tina Fey (1970)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 18, 1981, the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies premiered Joan Tower's very first composition conceived for symphony orchestra, Sequoia. Since then, Sequoia, has been performed by more than 40 orchestras around the world. The recording by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony, which was part of the Meet The Composers Orchestra Residency Series CDs for Nonesuch Records, has recently been reissued on First Edition Music.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Werner Egk (1901-1983)
Sandor Vegh (1905-1997)
Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005)
Dennis Brain (1921-1957)
Peter Mennin (1932-1983)
Taj Mahal (1942)
Paul Crossley (1944)
Brian Rayner Cook (1945)
Bill Bruford (1949)
Ivor Bolton (1958)


Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957)
Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959)
Gary Paulsen (1939)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 17, 1846, Belgian-born instrument builder and clarinetist Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone, an instrument that would have a profound impact on American jazz. Over a century later, on May 17, 1957, a computer was used to make music for the first time.

and from the Writer's Almanac:
Beethoven’s famous Kreutzer Sonata was first performed on this day in 1803 at Augarten-Halle in Vienna, Austria. Beethoven had been asked to write a sonata by George Bridgetower, a handsome and ambitious half-West Indian violin virtuoso who wished to perform the piece with the great composer. But Beethoven hated writing custom pieces, and so he put off writing it until the last minute, leaving the pianoforte copy almost entirely blank. For the finale, a resentful Beethoven simply tacked on a finale from an earlier work.

But when Beethoven and Bridgetower began to play at the 8:00 a.m. concert, both performed beautifully, and Beethoven was so impressed with Bridgetower’s performance — Bridgetower improvising much of it — that he jumped up and hugged the violinist midway through the performance.

Later, however, Bridgetower and Beethoven quarreled (scholarly opinion differs on the nature of the argument — some say it was about a man they both knew, some say it was about Beethoven doing such a last-minute job on the original composition) and Beethoven angrily undedicated the sonata to Bridgetower and rededicated it to Rudolph Kreutzer, a prominent Parisian violinist who had recently traveled to Vienna. It is rumored that when Kreutzer first saw the composition, he proclaimed the part written for violin too difficult to play. He is believed to have never played the sonata that now carries his name.

What became of Bridgetower after the Augarten concert is lost to history.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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)
Betty Carter (1930-1998)
Donald Martino (1931-2005)
Robert Fripp (1946)
Monica Huggett (1953)
Andrew Litton (1959)


Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)
Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)
Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912-2008)
Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

and from the New Music Box:
On May 16, 1907, Miller Reese Hutchison filed an application at the U.S. Patent Office for his invention, the motor-driven Diaphragm Actuated Horn and Resonator, for use in automobiles. The patent was granted on May 3, 1910. The carhorn would later be used as a musical instrument by numerous composers ranging from George Gershwin in An American in Paris (1928) to Wendy Mae Chambers who developed a Car Horn Organ in 1983.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Michael William Balfe (1808-1870)
Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986)
Arthur Berger (1912-2003)
John Lanchbery (1923-2003)
Ted Perry (1931-2003)
Richard Wilson (1941)
Brian Eno (1948)


L. Frank Baum (1856-1919)
Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931)
Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980)
Peter Shaffer (1926-2016)
Jasper Johns (1930)
Laura Hillenbrand (1967)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 15, 1972, the Concord Quartet premiered George Rochberg's String Quartet No. 3 at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. Rochberg, an established serialist composer, shocked the compositional scene by returning to tonality in this composition. Many cite this premiere as the birth of neo-romanticism.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

PYP and cellist Zhang shine in season finale

Photo by Brian Clark
The Portland Youth Philharmonic concluded its 93rd season with a concert that more than demonstrated the orchestra’s continuing high level of achievement. The colorful and meaty program featured Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a symphony by Antonín Dvořák, and the world premiere of an electro-acoustic piece by American composer Debra Kaye. Each selection was performed outstandingly with incisive commitment by the orchestra under the baton of its music director David Hattner.

Elgar’s Cello Concerto put the spotlight on Annie Zhang, who won the orchestra’s annual concerto contest. Although only a high school freshman, Zhang showed stellar technique and artistic talent that made music sing from her cello. She fearlessly dug into the very exposed opening statement, quickly establishing the melancholic and soulful mood of piece. Whether plunging into the lowest register of her instrument or the highest, she held nothing back throughout each of the four movments. Her passionate playing, wonderfully accompanied by her orchestral colleagues, gave Elgar’s music depth and an immediacy that resonated throughout the hall.

The orchestra gave a scintillating performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, excelling with dynamic phrasing yet never losing sight of the music’s Slavic nature. Particularly rich and strong were the melodic passages delivered by the cello section, which had 16 members. Exchanges by woodwinds and brass went smoothly and the trumpet fanfare in the fourth movement was executed exceptionally well. The violins played impeccably, including some solos by concertmaster Fumika Mizuno. Several principals played their solo passages and duets very well, and the entire ensemble put a polished and glorious stamp on the finale.

The concert began “Ikarus Among the Stars,” a new work by American composer Debra Kaye in honor of Benjamin Klatchko, a PYP violist whose life was cut short at the age of 17. Inspired by the music and life of Klatchko , Kaye, who teaches at the Mannes School of Music, created a one-movement piece that blended recorded segments of Klatcho’s techno-pop music into the orchestral fabric.

The piece began with a somber viola solo that transitioned to a lighter segment involving the entire orchestra. The brass, woodwind, and string sections exchanged the leading line deftly and all was merged with electronic music that had a pronounced rhythmic drive. The combo seemed to launch the orchestra into a more energetic gear, which was then interrupted by another recording, this time with vocals. Two more exchanges between the orchestra and recorded passages seemed suggest that one inspired the other until it all ended at a higher, grander elevation –alluding to the ancient legend of Ikarus.

It seemed like the graduating class of musicians – marked by wearing a rose boutonniere – was very large. It looked as if almost all of the woodwinds will be leaving. Fortunately, the PYP organization will have a new crop of talented young musicians rising through its ranks. With Hattner in charge, the orchestra is in excellent hands going forward.

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)
David Byrne (1952)


Hal Borland (1900-1978)
Mary Morris (1947)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Northwest Art Song presents Monteverdi 450

Monteverdi 450, Wednesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Church Concert Hall
From the press release:

The musicians of Northwest Art Song may usually -- appropriately, given their name and stated mission -- stick to the chamber song repertoire, but this year, they'll be closing their season with something a little different. May 2017 marks the 450th birthday of Claudio Monteverdi, who is arguably one of the most innovative composers in all music history, and these stellar singers will be marking the occasion with a birthday celebration!

So how did this concert come about? Northwest Art Song co-Artistic Director Arwen Myers, along with a collection of some of Portland's finest vocalists, sang a handful of Monteverdi's Book IV madrigals on 45th Parallel's Voice of Innovation this spring, and the need to present more of Monteverdi's music in Portland became obvious. After hearing an enormous amount of positive feedback about the madrigals from the both the audience and her fellow singers following that concert, she decided to mount an extra project this season to celebrate his incredible work.

And how does Monteverdi's music fit into the art song world? Although it's certainly not "art song," Myers doesn't think it's too much of a stretch. "While Monteverdi's madrigals are certainly not art song in the traditional sense," she says, "it's quite a natural fit for us. His text setting, or the way he expresses the meaning of the text in the music, is second to none, and the emotional content of both the words and the music is incredibly poignant. These pieces may not technically be art songs, but they exhibit so many of the things that make art song the incredible genre it is."

The concert will feature a collection of some of the finest vocalists in the Portland scene -- Arwen Myers, along with her fellow NWAS Artistic Director Laura Beckel Thoreson, will join with soprano Catherine van der Salm, mezzo soprano Emily Lay, tenor Chris Engbretson, and bass Aaron Cain. They will be joined by Seattle theorist John Lenti, who is a consummate musician often heard with Portland Baroque Orchestra and other early music ensembles in Portland and around the world. The program will focus on Monteverdi's madrigals from Book IV onward; we these mid- to late-career pieces best showcase his wholly unique compositional voice, in their sheer brilliance, are sure to excite and energize a wide Portland audience. The audience is invited to join the performers for a reception following the concert... and rumor has it that there may be birthday cake.

Northwest Art Song performs Monteverdi 450, Wednesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Church Concert Hall. $5-20 advance, $5-$25 door. Available at http://www. 2903940.

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Constantin Silverstri (1913-1969)
William Schwann (1913-1998)
Gareth Morris (1920-2007)
Ritchie Valens (1941-1959)
Jane Glover (1949)
Stevie Wonder (1950)
David Hill (1957)
Tasmin Little (1965)


Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)
Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989)
Kathleen Jamie (1962)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1875, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's "Magnificat" took place during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The Cincinnati Commercial review of May 14 was not favorable: "The work is difficult in the extreme and most of the chorus abounds with rambling sub-divisions. We considering the ‘Magnifcat' the weakest thing the chorus has undertaken . . . possessing no dramatic character and incapable of conveying the magnitude of the labor that has been expended upon its inconsequential intricacies. If mediocrity is a mistake, the ‘Magnifcat' is the one error of the Festival". Thomas also conducted the next documented performance in Boston on Mar. 1, 1876 (for which composer John Knowles Paine performed as organ accompanist to a chorus of 300).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Baptist Wanha (Vanhal) (1739-1813)
Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812)
Giovanni Viotti (1755-1824)
Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
Burt Bacharach (1928)
Anthony Newman (1941)
Dalmacio Gonzalez (1945)
Doris Soffel (1948)


Edward Lear (1812-1888)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Rosellen Brown (1939)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jan Václav (1791-1825)
Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914)
Alma Gluck (1884-1938)
Irving Berlin (1888-1939)
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
Ross Pople (1945)
Judith Weir (1954)
Cecile Licad (1961)


Martha Graham (1894-1991)
Mari Sandoz (1896-1966)
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Francisco "Paco" Umbral (1932-2007)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Portland Opera's La Bohème gets lively and solid treatment by young cast

Liverman, Lucà, Isiguen, Zaremba, and Thorn | photo credit Cory Weaver
There’s nothing like young artists portraying young artists and that was one of the most appealing aspects of Portland Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” on opening night (May 5) at Keller Auditorium. The cast of young professionals thoroughly embraced their roles as impoverished yet carefree denizens of the Latin Quarter of early Nineteenth Century Paris. That included impressive singing by Italian tenor Giordano Lucà, who made his American operatic debut as the poet Rodolfo, and American soprano Vanessa Isiguen as the seamstress Mimi. Directed by Kathleen Belcher, a longtime member of the directing staff at the Metropolitan Opera, the entire ensemble worked well together to create a straightforward and lively retelling of one of the most popular operas in the repertoire.
Isiguen and Lucà | photo credit Cory Weaver
Lucà filled the house with his refulgent voice. His singing of “Che gelida manima” was a highlight of the evening and elicited thunderous applause. Isiguen poured out the soul of Mimi with a warm, rich soprano. Her “Si, Mi chiamano Mimi” was touching and heartfelt and also drew ecstatic applause. Yet, in spite of their delicious voices, Lucà and Isiguen didn’t quite mesh convincingly as passionate lovers.
Zaremba, Lucà, Thorn , Guidi, and Liverman | photo credit Cory Weaver
Will Liverman was thoroughly convincing as the hot-headed painter Marcello and Jennifer Forni had a field day as Marcello’s impulsive, mercurial lover Musetta. Forni’s enticing, show-stopping performance of “Musetta’s Waltz” was another highlight of the production.
Forni | photo credit Cory Weaver
Rodolfo and his roommates had a great time with the light-hearted scenes, clowning around with an excellent sense of comic timing. Ryan Thorn’s animated Schaunard added an extra level of energy that was athletic at times. Christian Zaremba fashioned a good-natured Colline, and his somber farewell to his old coat (“Vecchia zimmarra”) elicited a warm response from the audience.

Deac Guidi excelled in the role of the Benoit, turning him from a crotchety landlord into a lovable and laughable buffoon. Damien Geter created a clueless and infatuated Alcindoro. Aaron Short spread a bright layer of joy as Parpignol, the toy vendor. Gregory Brumfield as the Custom House Officer and Anders Tobiason as the Sergeant showed the requisite gruffness for their characters.

Effective lighting by York Kennedy accented the huge painted backdrops provided by Seattle Opera evoked the Paris of the Nineteenth Century. They were complimented well by traditional costumes that were designed by Susan Memmott Allred for the Utah Symphony and Opera.

The street scene in front of Café Momus offered a swirl of colorful activity with the Portland Opera Chorus, a charming children’s chorus, and a small marching band taking turns in the spotlight.

Conductor George Manahan chose to keep the tempos brisk but was very attentive to any singer who wanted linger over a phrase. Here and there the orchestra got a tad too loud for the singers – with the exception of Liverman whose expressive and resilient baritone was stellar throughout the performance.

Attendance at the Keller seemed to be a little down, which was dismaying since “La Bohème” is one of the best-loved operas ever written. Perhaps word about the fine singing will inspire more to come hear the final two performances on May 11 and 13.
Photo credit Cory Weaver

Today's Birthdays

Jean‑Marie Leclair (1697-1764)
Max Steiner (1888-1971)
Dmitri Tiomkin (1894-1979)
Maybelle Carter (1909-1978)
Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
Richard Lewis (1914-1990)
Milton Babbit (1916-2011)
Maxim Shostakovich (1938)
Lori Dobbins (1958)


Karl Barth (1886-1968)
Fred Astaire (1899-1987)
Barbara Taylor Bradford (1933)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 10, 1987, David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe produced the first-ever Bang on a Can Marathon, a twelve-hour concert at the SoHo gallery Exit Art combining music by Milton Babbitt, Steve Reich, John Cage, George Crumb, Lois V Vierk, Lee Hyla, Aaron Kernis, Phill Niblock and others.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816)
Adolph von Henselt (1814-1889)
Jacques Singer (1910-1980)
Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005)
Nigel Douglas (1929)
Billy Joel (1949)
Michel Beroff (1950)
Joy Harjo (1951)
Linda Finnie (1952)
Anne Sofie von Otter (1955)
Alison Hagley (1961)


James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937)
Alan Bennett (1934)
Charles Simic (1938)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 9, 1967, avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman gets a suspended sentence from a criminal court judge in New York City for appearing topless during a performance of Nam June Paik's Opera Sextronique on February 9, 1967

Monday, May 8, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Carl Philipp Stamitz (1745-1801)
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869)
Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)
Heather Harper (1930)
Carlo Cossutta (1932-2000)
Keith Jarrett (1945)
Felicity Lott (1947)


Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
Edmund Wilson (1895-1972)
Gary Snyder (1930)
Thomas Pynchon (1937)
Roddy Doyle (1958)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1874, the American premiere of J.S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" took place at the Music Hall in Boston by the Handel and Haydn Society with Carl Zerrahn conducting. The performing forces included a chorus of 600, and orchestra of 90, and a 60-voice boy's choir. For this performance, the first 12 numbers of Part II were omitted. The complete Passion was not performed by the Society until 1879. About half of Bach's Passion was given its New York City premiere at St. George's Church on March 17, 1880, by the New York Oratorio Society under Leopold Damrosch. Theodore Thomas conducted the next documented performance in Cincinnati on May 17, 1882, during that city's May Festival.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Anton Seidl (1850-1898)
Edmond Appia (1894-1961)
Elisabeth Soderstrom (1927-2009)
Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981)
Philip Lane (1950)
Robert Spano (1961)


Olympe de Gouge (1748-1793)
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Archibald MacLeish (1892-1962)
Angela Carter (1940-1992)
Peter Carey (1943)

and from The New Music Box:
On May 7, 1946, Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering is founded with about 20 employees. The company, later renamed Sony, would eventually invent the home video tape recorder, the Walkman and the Discman, as well as take-over Columbia Records, later CBS Records, which under the leadership of composer Goodard Lieberson (1956-1973) released numerous recordings of music by American composers.

and from the Composers Datebook:
On this day in 1824, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 ("Choral") was premiered at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna, with the deaf composer on stage beating time, but with the performers instructed to follow the cues of Beethoven's assistant conductor, Michael Umlauf.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973)
George Perle (1915-2009)
Godfrey Ridout (1918-1984)
Murry Sidlin (1940)
Ghena Dimitrova (1941-2005)
Nathalie Stutzmann (1965)


Robert Peary (1856-1920)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Gaston Leroux (1868-1927)
Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
Orson Wells (1915-1985)

And from The New Music Box:
At the second of the Copland-Sessions Concerts of Contemporary Music, which was held at the Edyth Totten Theater in New York City on May 6, 1928, pianist John Duke premiered the first three movements of Roger Sessions' First Piano Sonata. Although the program announced a fourth movement, it was not finished in time for the concert. Also on the program were premieres of works by Copland (Two Pieces for String Quartet), Quincy Porter (Piano Quintet), Robert Delaney (Sonata for Violin and Piano) as well as solo piano pieces by Aldoph Weiss, Dane Rudhyar and Ruth Crawford.

In his review of the concert for the Boston Evening Transcript (published on May 11, 1928), Nicolas Slonimsky praised Copland as a "poet" who "works wonders" and Sessions as "a persistent and scholarly searcher for a new style" and one its "chief masons." But he called Rudhyar's music "a Naught to the Nth power." He was somewhat critical about Crawford as well but conceded that "there may be a chance for her in the future." Slonimsky also pointed out that the concert was nearly sold-out, claiming it proof that "there are several hundred persons actively interested in modern music."

Friday, May 5, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-1872)
Hans Pfizner (1869-1947)
Maria Caniglia (1905-1979)
Kurt Böhme (1908-1989)
Charles Rosen (1927-2012)
Mark Ermler (1932-2002)
Tammy Wynette (1942-1998)
Bunita Marcus (1952)
Cédric Tiberghien (1975)


Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Nellie Bly (1864-1922)
Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
James Beard (1903-1985)
Kaye Gibbons (1960)

From the New Music Box:
On May 5, 1891, Walter Damrosch led the New York Philharmonic in the very first concert in the large auditorium at Carnegie Hall, now called Stern Auditorium. The program consisted entirely of European repertoire: Beethoven’s "Leonore Overture No. 3," Berlioz’s "Te Deum," Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky "Festival Coronation March" (with the composer making a guest appearance on the podium), the hymn "The Old One Hundred" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (then America's unofficial national anthem although the tune is that of the British anthem "God Save The Queen").

This was not actually the first concert in the building, however. On April 1, Liszt-pupil Franz Rummel had already given an all-European solo piano recital in the space that now holds Zankel Hall. The oldest known program for the third of Carnegie's stages, what is now called Weill Recital Hall, a chamber music concert produced by the Society for Ethical Culture, dates back to October 31, 1891 and included the song "At Twilight" by the American composer Ethelbert Nevin.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Marianne (Anna Katharina) von Martínez (1744-1812)
Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731)
Emil Nikolaus Von Reznicek (1860-1945)
Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960)
Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993)
Roberta Peters (1930)
Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (1931)
Marisa Robles (1937)
Enrique Batiz (1942)
Peter Ware (1951)


Horace Mann (1796-1859)
Frederick Church (1826-1900)
Graham Swift (1949)
David Guterson (1956)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Article published in Early Music America magazine

Last December and January, I wrote an article for Early Music America magazine about the Berwick Academy, which puts the finishing touches on young professionals bound for the historical performance arena. The three-week institute's faculty offers Monica Huggett, Rachel Podger, Debra Nagy, and other eminent artists. All of the students receive a fellowship to participate in the academy. One of the students that I interviewed is violist Kim Mai Nguyen who now plays with the Portland Baroque Orchestra and is a member of the Oregon Symphony. The Berwick Academy is part of the Oregon Bach Festival, and in fall, it will have its own recital hall in a new building that will also house the OBF offices. My article is fairly substantial - 2,000 words, and the editor put it on the cover. So, I took a photo of it on my laptop.

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682)
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 (1919-2014)
John Lewis (1920-2001_
James Brown (1933-2006)
Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012)


Niccol Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
May Sarton (1912-1995)
William Inge (1913-1973)
Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

From the New Music Box:
On May 3, 1943, William Schumann received the very first Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Secular Cantata No. 2 - A Free Song, a work published by G. Schirmer and premiered by the Harvard Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky on March 26, 1943.

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1971, debut broadcast of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" was made with an electronic theme by composer Don Voegeli of the University of Wisconsin (In 1974, Voegeli composed a new electronic ATC theme, the now-familiar signature tune of the program).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
Jean‑Baptiste Barrière (1707-1747)
Ludwig August Lebrun (1752-1790)
Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)
Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843-1922)
Lorenz Hart (1894-1943)
Alan Rawstorne (1905-1971)
Jean‑Marie Auberson (1920-2004)
Arnold Black (1923-2000)
Philippe Herreweghe (1947)
Valery Gergiev (1953)
Elliot Goldenthal (1954)


Jerome K Jerome (1859-1927)
Dr. Benjamin Spock (1904-1998)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1936, Prokofiev: "Peter and the Wolf" received its premiere at a children's concert by the Moscow Philharmonic, conducted by the composer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643)
William Lawes (1602-1645)
Sophia Dussek (1775-1831)
Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960)
Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)
Jón Leifs (1899-1968)
Walter Susskind (1913-1980)
Gary Bertini (1927-2005)
Judy Collins (1939)


Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Joseph Heller (1923-1999)
Bobbie Ann Mason (1940)

And from The Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1786 that Mozart's first great opera, The Marriage of Figaro, premiered in Vienna. It was based on a French play, and it tells the story of a single day in the palace of Count Almaviva. The count spends the day attempting to seduce Susanna, the young fiancée of the court valet, Figaro. Susanna and the Countess conspire to embarrass the count and expose his infidelity.

Lorenzo da Da Ponte wrote the libretto in six weeks and Mozart was paid 450 florins for his work, a comfortable sum at the time. He directed the first performance himself, seated at the keyboard. He had his detractors in Vienna, some of whom padded the theater with hecklers. They were no match for Mozart’s composition, though, and the performance inspired so many encores that Habsburg Emperor Joseph II was forced to issue a decree “to prevent the excessive durations of operas, without however prejudicing the fame often ought by opera singers.”

It was a light-hearted, comic opera, but the musicians and singers could hardly believe the quality of the music. One singer, an Irish tenor named Michael Kelly, later wrote: "I can still see Mozart, dressed in his red fur hat trimmed with gold, standing on the stage with the orchestra at the first rehearsal, beating time for the music. ... The players on the stage and in the orchestra were electrified. ... Had Mozart written nothing but this piece of music it alone would ... have stamped him as the greatest master of his art."

Johannes Brahms said, “In my opinion, each number of Figaro is a miracle; it is totally beyond me how anyone could create anything so perfect; nothing like it was ever done again, not even by Beethoven.”