Music News: Nov. 13, 2012
Cal Performances' thrilling Esa-Pekka Salonen/Philharmonia residence over the weekend was a 72-hour blur of performances, rehearsals, masterclasses, various kinds of collaboration with the university.
Other than the audience at Saturday's superb concert performance of Berg's Wozzeck, main beneficiaries of the residence were members of the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus.
After the performance in Zellberbach, they, members of the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir, and of the UC Berkeley Symphony accompany the Philharmonia to Los Angeles. The UC Berkeley Symphony members continue on to New York.
The Berkeley instrumentalists have a relatively meaty role as the offstage military band, but the chorus ... well, first and foremost, they sit upstage, where there is the best viewpoint; get a modest fee, and perform very well, but — how to say it? — minimally.
The men sing during the tavern scene, but the women rise to the occasion only at the end of the opera, when sopranos sing six and a half bars, and the altos three bars. Total. All on the page of the score shown here.
A blissful job, to be envied not for lack of work, but for the opportunity it affords to be the audience at such a memorable event.
Transportation and lodging of the Berkeley participants for the rest of the tour are provided by Cal Performances, whose Director, Matías Tarnopolsky, says "These kinds of experiences for our UC Berkeley students are life-changing."
The 1925 Wozzeck, one of the earliest and most influential atonal operas, has never been an easy sale.
Even Salonen, who has called the work in a San Francisco Chronicle interview "central to my life and repertoire," admits that "it's a difficult piece — not exactly the 'Nessun dorma' experience."
That alone might not have explained the many empty seats Saturday night in Zellerbach Hall, but there was also the game. On any football-crazy university campus an event conflicting with a late-season game (the Golden Bears losing to the Oregon Ducks 59-17) is likely to keep students out of the concert hall, no matter what — and the traffic/parking jam might have further helped exclude numerous less adventurous or mobile visitors.
If not ticket income, what's making the tour of the 100-plus orchestra possible?
Cal Performances PR associate Joe Yang says:
The Philharmonia Orchestra's principal supporter, The Meyer Foundation, and British Airways were mostly responsible. Support to bring the orchestra to Berkeley came from, in part, Ann and Gordon Getty, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and our patron sponsors Shirley D. and Philip D. Schild.
Up next, on Nov. 28-29, funded in part by Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem: Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Donors' gifts just keep giving.
Fortuitously, Dario Marianelli's splendid soundtrack for Anna Karenina is being released today, providing an opportunity to talk about the film even before it arrives in theaters on Friday.
Joe Wright's film, with Tom Stoppard's masterful script, and a dynamite cast, will go into hundreds of Year's Best lists.
Stoppard, whose first successful play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, 46 years ago, did wonders for Hamlet; the playwright whose Arcadia concatenates centuries and wildly divergent subject as no one else could, here is rewriting and enhancing Tolstoy.
Regardless of how many times you might have read the novel, you will experience something unexpected and yet completely faithful to the novel's essence.
The cast too is a surprise, a good one, including Keira Knightley's Anna, Jude Law's Karenin, Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Vronsky, Kelly Macdonald's Dolly, Matthew Macfadyen's Oblonsky, and more.
Still, a review will have to wait until the Nov. 16 release date, so let's focus on the music and choreography.
Marianelli, 49, Pisa-born, and composer of orchestral music, along with soundtracks for Brothers Grimm, The Soloist, and Pride and Prejudice, provided a great soundtrack for Karenina, well worth hearing by itself.
The Italian composer somehow managed to write "Russian music" that's not imitative or artificial — it is worthy accompaniment to the film: charming, ominous, and dramatic, in turn. The music for the crucial ballroom scene is especially striking.
In the ballroom and several other scenes, the film presents strange and memorable choreography and movements. The artist responsible for that is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. (An S.F. Chronicle article describes the actors' struggle realizing Cherkaoui's vision, somehow manages to neglect naming him.)
The Moroccan choreographer, increasingly active in Europe and the U.S., has a hypnotic style, fusing elements of tai chi, belly dance, flamenco, while reinventing Mark Morris the way Stoppard reimagined Tolstoy.
Cherkaoui's signature intertwining arm movements, helping the lovers-to-be becoming one, can be glimpsed in a profile about the choreographer.
Just in time for the opening of the San Francisco Opera production of Tosca on Thursday, Angela Gheorghiu's performance in the title role last year at Covent Garden is being released on DVD and Blu-ray.
This is the Jonathan Kent production, featuring Gheorghiu as Tosca, Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi, and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. Antonio Pappano conducts.
The Observer review of the production said:
In a top performance of Tosca, Puccini’s black thriller which reeks of religiosity and has an ever-shattering score, the earth can move in several ways. With a cast led by three of the greatest singers in the world, the stampede of applause alone makes the floorboards tremble.
The New Millennium Chamber Orchestra, founded by Dagmar Dolatschko and James R. Frieman just this year, is giving its second concert on Nov. 16, in Trinity Presbyterian Church in San Carlos.
Hollywood composer Joachim Horsley is attending performance of his new work, Brothers, based on the film My Kingdom.
The eclectic, unusual program includes the newly arranged overture to The Who’s rock opera Tommy, and music by Mozart, Purcell, Schumann, Schubert, Dvorák, and Brahms. Suggested donation at the door is $10/person, students are free.
Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony opened their Asian tour in Macau on Wednesday, participating in the Macau International Music Festival. Tickets were sold out two months in advance.
On the next stop, in Hong Kong, they got a headscratcher of a review in the South China Morning Post:
The fundamental challenge of both Rachmaninov's Second Symphony and Mahler's Fifth Symphony is that they use too many notes to deliver their message, necessitating strategies to oil their clunky construction and make time glide by. Thursday's performance of the Rachmaninov work lacked such momentum, sounding altogether more played through than thought through.
Tilson Thomas' account of Mahler's voluble five-movement symphony, however, was out of a different drawer. Between the work's serial climaxes lie lengthy, repetitive blocks that drag under most batons.
Apparently taking a leaf from the Emperor Joseph II complaint about Mozart's "too many notes" in The Marriage of Figaro, reviewer Sam Olluver still allowed that the Mahler was rather well managed, and then rhapsodized about the concerto [which, truth to tell, appears to have an even greater excess of notes than the two symphonies]:
Yuja Wang's performance of Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto was an absolute cracker. Her electrifying technique was put at the service of unusually rich characterisations, from the subtlest colours in the first movement's opening bars, for example, to its towering cadenza that brilliantly fused ferocity and clarity with other-worldliness.
Of the Friday concert in Hong Kong, Alan Yu reported in bachtrack.com:
The orchestra’s decision to include works by American composers who draw their inspiration from this part of the world is a masterstroke of cultural diplomacy. [Harrison's Pacifika Rondo: Family of the Court and Cowell's Music 1957 preceding Mahler's Symphony No. 5]
The singular focus of Family of the Court is regality. The ponderous rhythm that underpins the weighty melody is characteristic of a royal procession, with a lone flute providing occasional relief from solemnity. Sometimes bordering on irreverence, Cowell’s Music 1957 surveys emotional expressions ranging from exuberant vivacity to demure introspection with the help of traditional Chinese motifs and pointed percussion. In both, the San Francisco Symphony excelled in bringing out the unique colour and timbre of the "Asian sound."
If it's Sunday (11/11), it must be Taiwan; here's a brief video report, by the orchestra's Yun Chu and Shu Yi Pai.
The orchestra arrived in Shanghai on Monday, and continues the tour with concerts on Wednesday and Thursday in the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center; Friday in Beijing's National Centre for the Performing Arts; next Monday in Tokyo's Suntory Hall, and Tuesday in Bunka Kaikan.
The League of American Orchestras has published its survey ("not meant to be comprehensive") of American orchestra premieres in the 2012-2013 season: It's an interesting and somewhat depressing reading.
According to LAO, "the list demonstrates the artistic vitality of orchestras across the continent," but if you look up San Francisco Symphony, you will see two (2) world premieres — Mark Volkert's Pandora and the Debussy/Robin Holloway Poems of Paul Verlaine for Renée Fleming — and two U.S. premieres, no more.
Meanwhile, smaller and poorer Seattle Symphony lists seven (7) world premieres. Where does artistic vitality reside?
- Wed May 29, 2013 8:00pm
- Sat June 1, 2013 8:00pm
- Wed June 5, 2013 (All day)
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