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IN Music News THIS WEEK:
June 7, 2005

Volti Award, Season-to-Be

New Century's Sweet Season

No Aloha for Pastreich

Cliburn Winners

O No Canada!

The Thomasefsky Juggernaut

'Blomstedt Era' to End

LA County Museum: Yes, We Have No New Music

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By Janos Gereben

OEBS' Morgan Honored, Twice

Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony (and of the Sacramento Philharmonic), garnered two national awards in May. In the intriguing company of the Doobie Brothers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Morgan received the 2005 Governors Award for Community Service from the SF Chapter of The Recording Academy (the organization responsible for the GRAMMY Awards). Also, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) chose Morgan as one of its five 2005 Concert Music Honorees. He was recognized for his "tireless advocacy for the music of our time both on the podium and off" as well as "for his inspired leadership to expand minority access to the arts."

Michael Morgan

The other new ASCAP honorees are composers George Perle and Meredith Monk, opera administrator David Gockley (incoming director of the San Francisco Opera), and the commissioning organization Meet the Composer.

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Volti Award, Season-to-Be

Robert Geary's Volti (nés San Francisco Chamber Singers) received the ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award at the Chorus America Conference in Chicago last weekend for performances of music written within the past 25 years. Other top awards went to VocalEssence (Minneapolis) and Pacific Chorale (Santa Ana, CA).

Volti's next season is yet to be announced, but "reliable sources" speak of enough commissioned world premieres to earn several more "adventurous" awards: Alan Fletcher's No More to Hide (with soprano Christine Brandes), the revised version of Wayne Peterson's An e.e.cummings Tryptich, Stacy Garrop's Sonnets of Desire, Longing & Whimsey, Jacob Avshalomov's Blessings, Eric Moe's New Work, a yet unnamed work by Eric Lindsay (Volti's new Choral Arts Laboratory composer), and Mark Winges' Open the Book of What Happened. Whoa!

Also, works on whose scores the ink is already dry: Carol Barnett's The Last Invocation, Alvin Singleton's Gospel, Donald Crockett's Broken Charms, Irving Fine's The Hour Glass; and a collaborative concert with the SF Chamber Orchestra, featuring the music of Britten and Andrew Imbrie. Not yet, but in the near future, you can find information about the new season at www.voltisf.org.

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New Century's Sweet Season

On the menu for the New Century Chamber Orchestra's 14th season: madeleines for the audience. Will it be the small, whisked sponge cake, baked in an individual shell-shaped pan or the de luxe version, coated in raspberry jam, rolled in desiccated coconut, and topped with a glacé cherry? Specific information is not available at the time of our deadline, but we can explain how the cookie crumbles.

NCCO's chamber music series, in the Legion of Honor, will open with an all-French program in October, featuring pianist Jeffrey Swann. Entitled "Lost Paradise," the concert will include musically-related readings from the works of Marcel Proust, and the novelist's favorite pastry for the audience.

Orchestral concerts - in Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Rafael - start in November, presenting the world premiere of Gang Situ's Concerto for Cello (with Robin Bonnell), and works by Mozart and Dvorák. A typically eclectic NCCO concert in April will pair Beethoven and Puccini with Derek Bermel Soul Garden and Iosif Andriasov's Sinfonietta for Strings. For season information, see www.ncco.org.

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No Aloha for Pastreich

Peter Pastreich, former executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, seems to have run into a spot of trouble when he tried to advise the crisis-torn Honolulu Symphony. As a consultant in Hawaii, Pastreich had recommended a restructuring of the organization, which has been rudderless for some time, without effective administrative or musical leadership. Partially as the result of Pastreich's criticism of the present powers that be, and - more - his suggestion that he could run the show as interim president, three board members and the Symphony's CEO (former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano) resigned, and Pastreich told the Symphony to forget about him. They did, selecting Gideon Toeplitz, formerly with the Pittsburgh Symphony, as interim president. Pastreich, reportedly in Europe on vacation, could not be reached for comment.

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Cliburn Winners

Top winners at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition are Alexander Kobrin, 25, from Russia (gold medal); Joyce Yang, 19, from South Korea (silver medal); Sa Chen, 25 (China) (crystal medal); other finalists were Davide Cabassi, 28, and Roberto Plano, 26, from Italy; and Chu-Fang Huang, 22, from China. These winners among the 35 competitors received cash awards totaling $90,000, concert and recording opportunities.

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O No Canada!

Orchestras across Canada continue to struggle, Winnipeg, Calgary and Montréal in acute crises. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, with Kent Nagano is the incoming music director, has been on strike for a month now, its scheduled appearances canceled by summer music festivals that don't want to deal with the volatile labor situation there. Both the Festival de Lanaudière and the Mondial choral de Laval disinvited OSM.

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The Thomasefsky Juggernaut

Michael Tilson Thomas's grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were leading lights of New York's Yiddish theater almost a century ago, but during their lives, they were never in the national limelight as they are now. MTT led a tribute to them in April, in Carnegie Hall, called The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater, and last Friday, ABC-TV's Nightline devoted the entire program to the show, with a plug at the end for the San Francisco Symphony's performance on May 29. It's part of the festival called, at length, Of Thee I Sing: Yiddish Theater, Broadway and the American Voice.

A pleasant problem for the Symphony: that single show has been sold out for months, and now, after Nightline, the phone is ringing off the hook. Coming to the aid of the besieged box-office people: a bright idea from Marketing to sell tickets for the morning rehearsal of the show. For $30 and $50 a pop ('cept those calling on the dot at noon Sunday were told the $30 tickets are "gone"). Boris and Bessie should have had it that good!

Participating in the show: SF Opera Center's Eugene Brancoveanu, as Young Boris; Shuler Hensley, as Boris Thomashefsky; Ronit Widmann-Levy, as Young Bessie; Judy Blazer, as Bessie Thomashefsky; plus Judy Kaye and Debra Winger.

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'Blomstedt Era' to End

Two separate notes arrived today, both about former San Francisco Symphony music director Herbert Blomstedt stepping down from the same position with Leipzig's Gewandhaus Orchestra, on July 1. One note, from the Gewandhaus public relations, spoke of Blomstedt's seven-year stewardship of one of the world's oldest orchestras, which he conducted in 486 concerts with 243 works by 69 composers. (Blomstedt has also led THE oldest orchestra, Dresden's Staatskapelle.)

With Blomstedt's retirement, the press release stated, "one of the last of a generation of conductors whose achievements have influenced orchestra and concert life throughout the world for decades is leaving a leading orchestral post." True and important as that may be, there was this other note on the subject, from a friend visiting Leipzig:

"I'm not really certain about the circumstances behind Blomstedt's retirement as the Gewandhaus chief and his subsequent replacement, starting in September, by (Riccardo) Chailly. The massive 2005/6 subscription books were out for the free taking in the lobby yesterday, and a glimpse at the entire season shows not one gig by the former Kapellmeister. Is that the way most orchestras treat their outgoing conductors? [Note: certainly not in San Francisco, where Blomstedt has been engaged regularly in the 11 years since his departure.]

"One interesting item: Blomstedt will make some rare appearances in the opera pit, conducting six performances of Fidelio across the Augustusplatz in the Oper Leipzig (with undistinguished casts)."

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LA County Museum: Yes, We Have No New Music

"Signaling a decision to sharply curtail its sponsorship of classical music, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has announced that it had handed walking papers to two of the city's most important new-music groups," the Los Angeles Times reported last weekend. "Although it will no longer regularly present the California EAR Unit and Xtet as well the annual Rosalinde Gilbert Concerts, which cover a broader repertory. The museum will continue to sponsor the prestigious Monday Evening Concerts series, but only for one more year." That series has showcased such composers as Béla Bartók, Alban Berg, Pierre Boulez, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky and Anton Webern - only one of whom is still alive.

"This is a big blow to the development of a vibrant contemporary music scene in Los Angeles," former LA Philharmonic General Manager Ernest Fleischmann said. "It just sets us back terribly, and it is really unfortunate that a sister arts organization should take it upon itself to make such a negative statement about music."

(Janos Gereben, a regular contributor to www.sfcv.org, is arts editor of the Post Newspaper Group. His e-mail address is [email protected])

©2005 Janos Gereben, all rights reserved