Music News: Jan. 29, 2013
Don't expect a piano recital here, but classical music may yet play a (limited) role in the 9,000-seat waterfront concert venue planned for the 34th America's Cup, on Piers 27-29. Besides the size, the facility is also newsworthy because of its construction schedule.
America's Cup Pavilion will open June 2, with a performance by Sting; construction is to begin in the spring, which may mean a lead time of just three months for completion.
Plans for San Francisco's first outdoor, waterfront concert venue are clear enough during the May-October Cup race — concerts, comedy, family friendly shows, Cup-related events — but it's unknown at this point what will happen to it after fall. Eventually, the pavilion will be dismantled, providing space for a major new cruise terminal, part of a plan to rehabilitate derelict Port of San Francisco properties on the Embarcadero, where the Warriors hope to build a new arena at nearby Piers 30-32 by 2017.
The Live Nation facility is about the same size as Berkeley's Greek Theatre, which is operated by rival concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment. Live Nation also operates the 22,000-seat Mountain View Shoreline Amphitheatre and 12,500-seat Concord Sleep Train Pavilion.
Original specifications, which may be altered during construction, called for a 44,000-square feet facility, with 40-foot tall removable bleachers; 70-foot tall concert stage/video display. Near the concert venue, another 1,000 bleacher seats arranged amphitheater-style will face the Bay for yacht race spectators.
The new pride of Stanford Live, Bing Hall opened just over two weeks ago, and news comes today that Stanford Live Artistic Director Jenny Bilfield is leaving the position she assumed in 2006 to become president and CEO of the Washington Performing Arts Society. She will take the position on April 1 to lead the organization "presenting the finest artists for classical, jazz, dance, and world music performances."
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a member of the WPAS search committee, praised the unanimous choice from a large list of candidates, saying that "This is an important moment in the performing arts in America, and under this new leadership, WPAS is in a great position to take advantage of it."
Before joining Stanford, Bilfield held numerous leadership roles in the arts throughout her 21 years in New York City. Best known for her specialized work in the strategic management, promotion, and presentation of contemporary music and cutting edge artists, Bilfield spent 12 years at music publisher Boosey & Hawkes where, as president, she was part of the international management team that led the company’s public-to-private transition.
As Executive Director of the National Orchestral Association and Founder of the New Music Orchestral Project, Bilfield launched new American orchestral works through readings and premieres at Carnegie Hall and Manhattan School of Music. For this work she received an Adventuresome Programming award from ASCAP, and an orchestra leadership award from the League of American Orchestras.
Bilfield will succeed Neale Perl, who has led WPAS since 2002 and will become President Emeritus. During Perl's tenure, WPAS presented some 600 performances (including 100 artist debuts), grew its endowment, tripled its education programs budget, created the Capital Arts Initiative in collaboration with DC Public Schools and Jazz at Lincoln Center, launched a series of free summer camps for underserved students, and expanded WPAS's programming to new venues including: The Music Center at Strathmore, the Atlas, Sidney Harman Hall, and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.
A well-known face is missing from the War Memorial lobby, but Eric Colby hasn't gone far, he is now in the back of the building, not the front. House Manager for the past eight years, Colby has been named San Francisco Opera's Technical and Safety Director, responsible for the supervision of the day-to-day operation of carpentry, properties, lighting, sound, shipping, and all other technical operations of the Production Department. He will oversee all crew calls and crew activities — a big job.
Colby has decades of experience in the production and security of large scale events, touring and production coordination; he spent some 15 years in production management for major concert tours, including some of those by the Grateful Dead, and 10 years in venue management. The previous Technical Director was Marc Scott, who was with the company since 1996.
Until a new House Manager is hired, the position is filled by George Windstrup, head usher for the orchestra section. Incidentally, while checking the company roster, I found a position named "Show Maid." It turns out to be a pleasantly archaic title for a custodian on duty during performances.
Decades ago, San Francisco Ballet's late, beloved Music Director Denis de Coteau came to Hawaii on tour with the company, and conducted the Honolulu Symphony for Michael Smuin's Romeo and Juliet, set to Prokofiev's music.
I was well familiar both with the conductor (who led the S.F. Ballet Orchestra 1974 to 1998) and the fine local orchestra, so the poor musical performance came as a surprise, expressed in strong terms in the review I wrote at the time in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
In contrast, the review in the competing Advertiser praised the orchestra, but a couple of days later (this was before e-mail), there was a third opinion published, fully in agreement with mine.
It was a letter to the editor from de Coteau, who apologized for the problems in the performance, and explained that he was given only one rehearsal. The reason: While on tour the previous year, the San Francisco Nutcracker on tour received just one pre-performance run-through, and the orchestra manager could not be convinced that there is a difference between the two scores: "ballet is ballet." (He did not serve as manager much longer.)
Nothing similar occurred last week, but I remembered the long-ago variance between performances on stage and in the pit while at the SFB opening gala. More than any other organization — symphony, opera, ball teams, and so on — San Francisco Ballet always takes off from the starting gate in mid-season form.
At the Thursday gala in the War Memorial Opera House, dancer after dancer showed his and her best. The secret is not only Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's consistent building of one the prime companies in the world, and the excellence of the artists — it's also because of a schedule unique to ballet.
I learned this years ago, but still have trouble believing it: Training and rehearsal for the January-May season begins ... in July! So, opening, premiere, debut, all the "new" things the audience sees have six months hard work behind them, including the tough, intensive "Nutcracker month" of December.
Even if some new works for the gala which are not part of the repertory get only a few weeks of rehearsal, the dancers are in prime condition.
The Ballet Orchestra, although part of the Nutcracker blitz, does not have a similar ramp-up to the subscription season. In fact, I suspect the musicians do their part at the performance after only one rehearsal with the dancers plus participating in the dress rehearsal on the morning of the gala — certainly better than the old Honolulu model, but still something difficult.
Consider the further challenge to Martin West's orchestra: a dizzying variety of music from such standards as Tchaikovsky, Drigo, Minkus, Sousa, to Arvo Pärt, Bizet, Wojceich Kilar, and Eduard Lalo. Throughout it all, the orchestra, concertmaster Roy Malan, pianist Michael McGraw excelled; at times West got slightly ahead of the dancers, leading them, less frequently falling a bit behind — nothing a few rehearsals wouldn't fix.
On stage, one of the company's new stars, up from the corps, Sasha DeSola, appeared both in the first work (Balanchine's Tarantella with the wonderful Pascal Molat) and the program-closing excerpts from Serge Lifar's 1943 Suite en Blanc, to Eduard Lalo's music. In the large cast of Lifar's work, Sofiane Sylve, Vanessa Zahorian, Tiit Helimets, and Davit Karapetyan had leading roles.
The work, scheduled in its entirety for the company's first subscription series, is a neoclassical spectacle, with flashes of humor and whimsy, very endearing.
Among tried-and-true works at the gala, there was the Act 1 pas de deux from John Cranko's Onegin (to be reprised from last year in Program 5 of the 2013 repertory), with Maria Kochetkova and Vitor Luiz; and the barn-burner pas de deux from Balanchine's Stars and Stripes, with Zahorian and Karapetyan, getting a big audience response.
Gennadi Nedvigin was in rare form, partnering Clara Blanco beautifully in the classic Bournonville pas de deux from the Flower Festival at Genzano.
Company Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's Trio is among his best, most lasting work, performed on the gala by Sarah van Patten, Helimets, and Vito Mazzeo.
Among standouts in the orchestra were principal cello Eric Sung, acting principal trumpet John Pearson in Stars and Stripes, with the baritone solo by Paul Wellcomer, on loan from SF Symphony because Jeff Budin is on paternity leave. Principal flute Barbara Chaffe excelled in Suite in Blanc.
Recorder virtuoso Michala Petri, a 2013 Grammy nominee, joins cellist Christopher Costanza of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, oboist Allan Vogel, and harpsichordist John Gibbons for a performance of rarely heard chamber music by Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann, Beethoven, and Tartini, on Feb. 10, in the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton.
Petri, a Danish artist, has been sought after as a soloist with many noted orchestras, including the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. She began playing the recorder at age three, has specialized in both Baroque and contemporary repertoire. Among dozens of works she premiered are those by Malcolm Arnold, Gordon Jacob, Richard Harvey, Daniel Börtz, Erik Haumann, Hans Kunstovny, Erling Bjerno, Thomas Koppel, Ove Benzen, Vagn Holmboe, Piers Hellawell, Gary Kulesha, Asger Lund Christiansen, many others.
In advance of the concert, on Feb. 6, at the Martin Family Hall at Menlo School, Music@Menlo Artistic Administrator Patrick Castillo presents an exploration of the music to be presented on the "Baroque Journeys" program. This event is free and open to the public. Watch a preview of the concert, and read a Q&A with Petri.
Designed by the architectural faculty of Hefey University of Technology of Huainan in China, this building — surprisingly not a concert hall — has a violin-shaped entrance, and an escalator leading visitors into the "grand piano" of the bulk of the building.
Made of black and transparent glass, piano and violin have been built to a scale of 50:1. Inside, disappointingly, are displays of "various city plans and development prospects in an effort to draw interest into the recently developed area."
Gushes the guide: "Tourists can admire the king and queen of musical instruments, which stand proudly in a classic contrast of black and white, rising up and praising the city in all over the world. This landmark leads you to a dizzying musical world." Which is where?
You can pick just about any program Michael Tilson Thomas leads with his New World Symphony in Miami and break out in invidia, one of the deadly sins. Last weekend's program there, as reported by Lawrence Budmen in South Florida Classical Review, was both challenging and rewarding.
It included Schoenberg's Theme and Variations, Berg's Violin Concerto (with Rainer Honeck), Fitzenhagen's Concert Waltzes for Four Cellos, and Schumann's Symphony No. 1.
The originally scheduled Schoenberg-Monn Cello Concerto was replaced by another rarity, Concert Waltzes for Four Cellos by 19th-century German cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen. Hungarian-born Tamás Varga, principal cellist with the Vienna Philharmonic, who was to be soloist in the Schoenberg, joined New World players Meredith McCook, Alexandra Thompson, and Kevin Kunkel in the Concert Waltzes.
A John Cage centennial festival in February features Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, Jessye Norman, Marc-André Hamelin, and dancers from New World School for the Arts in a lineup reminiscent of the SF Symphony centennial Mavericks event; beyond that, there will be concerts exploring 26 rarely-performed Cage works. Looks like Miami is a year-round maverick site.
- Wed June 5, 2013 (All day)
Recent CD Reviews
Gardiner: Bach Cantatas
John Wilson Orchestra: Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies
Gordon Getty: Piano Pieces
Emanuel Ax: Variations