Articles by this Author
Shadows are necessarily murky entities. They create spaces in which edges soften and distinctions blur. The program title “Flowing Shadows,” therefore, suited a concert emphasizing convergence between multiple artistic disciplines. This concert, given Saturday in the San Francisco Conservatory’s Hume Concert Hall, was the fourth of five performances in this year’s BluePrint series, a new-music program under the direction of Nicole Paiement. The overriding theme of BluePrint’s current season is “Crosscurrents ... where arts converge.”
Even though atonal music has existed for a long time, the composer Helmut Lachenmann has observed that many listeners are still so accustomed to tonal music that tonality continues to govern their listening habits. Such listeners might regard tonality as an intrinsic or “natural” musical system, against which contemporary music sounds, by contrast, “unnatural.” But Monday in Herbst Theatre, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players performed a concert that associated contemporary music with nature. The concert did not, however, associate the natural with the familiar.
The music of Steve Reich can sound deceptively simple. After all, for about 50 years, his name has been associated with so-called minimalism. The term vaguely denotes music built from the repetition and layering of simple musical modules over harmonies and temporal pulsations that remain relatively constant. Yet at Stanford University’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Saturday, an all-Reich concert performed by So Percussion, a percussion quartet, made the virtuosic complexity of Reich’s music abundantly clear.
Since Christmas celebrates the birth of the Holy Son, a piece about the death of an earthly girl might seem out of place on a holiday concert. This weekend, though, the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, the Grammy-nominated chorus directed by Lynne Morrow and Richard Grant, delivered a winter concert that revolved around precisely such a piece.
His music is the subject of “The Prokofiev Project,” a four-day festival primarily sponsored by Stanford Lively Arts. The program, running Nov. 12-15, will bring renowned scholars and artists together on the Palo Alto campus for a series of discussions and concerts. Joseph Horowitz, a cultural historian who is serving as the project’s artistic director, also curated last year’s similar “Stravinsky Project.” This year’s Prokofiev festival also features visiting pianist Alexander Toradze, noted for his interpretations of Prokofiev’s music. Horowitz describes him as “a torrential and subversive artist whose own Russian/American odyssey is anything but simple.”
The Project’s first event will occur on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Campbell Recital Hall of Stanford’s Braun Music Center. Horowitz and Toradze will join faculty pianists Kumaran Arul and George Barth in a discussion comparing historical recordings and films of the composer performing his own works to modern-day renditions of his music. Arul will perform Visions fugitives, Op. 22 (1915-1917), and Toradze will discuss two works: the Seventh Piano Sonata and the Second Piano Concerto. Arul and Toradze will also perform these pieces during subsequent concerts of the festival.
The first formal concert will be a piano recital by Toradze, Arul, and Barth, given in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 13, at 8:00 p.m. Commentary will explain some differences between Prokofiev’s various musical styles. The pieces being performed also illustrate the composer’s stylistic breadth.
Although Prokofiev himself was a pianist, he hardly limited himself to composing keyboard works. On Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8:00 p.m., the Stanford Symphony Orchestra will perform some of his orchestral music. Horowitz will lead a preperformance talk in Dinkelspiel, and, under the baton of Jindong Cai, Toradze will perform the Second Piano Concerto with the orchestra. The program also includes tunes from Prokofiev’s most famous ballet, Romeo and Juliet. Prokofiev actually wrote three orchestral suites of numbers from the ballet, and this program features pieces from all three. Additionally, the concert will feature life-size puppetry by Robin Walsh.
The Project’s final event, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15, at 2:30 p.m. in Dinkelspiel, is intended for families. The Stanford Symphony will perform Romeo and Juliet again, along with Walsh’s puppets and a narrator. Significantly, this version of the lover’s tale features a family-friendly, happy ending.
Stanford Lively Arts is committed to supporting collaborations between scholars and performers. Especially because this particular collaboration surveys the composer’s varied output, “The Prokofiev Project” should appeal to a wide audience — one that includes children and adults, as well as novices and even experts on the composer. Although Horowitz himself notes that some questions about Prokofiev “in fact can never be solved,” they likely will be productively explored by this multiday extravaganza.More about Stanford Live (formerly Stanford Lively Arts) »