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Music News: April 23, 2013

April 23, 2013

The Era of Lera

April 23, 2013

In Jeff Dunn's photo illustration, Lera Auerbach appears as the incarnation of Parvati, a goddess with the number of heads and arms that would explain the composer's productivityWhere in the world is Lera Auerbach?

The world's new manifestation of John Adams-type fecundity/success is constantly in motion and in demand. Reaching her on Monday was possible only through the persistence of her crackerjack publicist, Joseph Correia, who found her even as Lufthansa's one-day strike stopped Auerbach from her appointed rounds, trying to find an alternative flight to Switzerland where she is due on another of innumerable tours.

The result: information from the composer herself about the world premiere of her work on the May 24-26 New Century Chamber Orchestra's programs — see next item.

Who is this flying Russian-American, Valeria Lvovna Auerbach, levitating between a dozen premieres in coming months around the world, emerging as perhaps the busiest contemporary composer? And I don't even have to get into the matter of gender because "female composer" is virtually immaterial at this point, thank goodness.

Born in the Urals, bordering Siberia, Auerbach wrote her first opera at age 12, went on to obtain dual degrees from the Juilliard School, where she studied piano with Joseph Kalichstein and composition with Milton Babbitt, and later graduated from the piano soloist program of the Hochschule für Musik Hannover.

Lera Auerbach Photo by F. ReinholdWhile not busy writing poetry and prose in Russian and English (six volumes published already), painting, going on concert tours, or acting as a member of the forum of Young Global Leaders at the World Economic Forum, Auerbach composes.

Among those performing her works: Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica, David Finckel, Wu Han, Vadim Gluzman, the Tokyo, Kuss, Parker and Petersen String Quartets, the SWR and NDR symphony orchestras, and the Royal Danish Ballet.

Auerbach’s music has also been commissioned by and performed at Caramoor International Music Festival, Lucerne Festival, Lockenhaus Festival, Bremen Musikfest, and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. Her opera, Gogol, premiered in Vienna last year.

In the Bay Area, we have had a good sampling of Auerbach's work already — works played by New Century Chamber Orchestra, the visiting Aviv String Quartet, and San Francisco Ballet's pastiche-y The Little Mermaid, but until Thursday of what I heard up to that time — except for her stunning Russian Requiem — I was only moderately impressed.

Auerbach in a <em>Little Mermaid</em> frame of mind The click came in Herbst Theatre, with Auerbach's String Quartet No. 6 at the Tokyo String Quartet's farewell concert, and I instantly became an esurient fan. Here, sandwiched between Mozart's "Hoffmeister" and the Brahms Op. 51, No. 1, no less, the Auerbach piece hit home: a substantial, vital, intriguing, dramatic work, making a big impression on first hearing, and demanding to be heard again.

It is one of the most impressive new chamber works I have heard recently — especially as Kurt Rohde seems too busy teaching at UC Davis, and Mark Volkert is all tied up as assistant concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony.

This is how the Tokyo's cellist, Clive Greensmith, has described String Quartet No. 6, subtitled "Farewell":

We’d already talked to the [commissioning] 92nd Street Y and the promoter in Madrid, and when she heard we were retiring, she responded with an ambitious piece to tell the story of the life of a string quartet, which is quite a bit to ask in terms of the demands she places on performers and listeners.

It starts with a strong declamatory opening, with the first violin, in some senses, pitted against the three others. Then other relationships are explored, and rather than smoothing over and creating a homogenous sound, there’s more a sense of disparate personalities. I think she was trying to say we have to try to understand each other’s differences and work to find a way through conflict.

Along the way, there are these quasi-cadenzalike passages, so she exploits the range of timbre of each instrument. In the end, everything is resolved, and we hit this beautiful, tranquil C Major.

Auerbach's oil painting, <em>The Birth of Sound</em> When you look, you shall find, and the Herbst experience was followed immediately by coming upon an amazing bunch of Auerbach's upcoming premieres, beginning today (if she finds a flight) with Theatre de Vevey's at-home and on tour (Germany and Greece) performances of Auerbach's Arcanum, a sonata for viola and piano. Commissioned for the 850th anniversary (that's the correct number) of Vevey's Arts & Letters organization, the sonata is performed by Auerbach and Kim Kashkashian.

Then on Sunday (and to run though July), Munich's Bavarian State Ballet presents Helden (Heroes), by Terence Kohler, to music by Auerbach and Schnittke (what a "co-composer"!).

There is more: Auerbach's Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano will be premiered on May 3, in Colmar, France, commissioned by Les Musicales Colmar. Auerbach is allowing another pianist, Peter Laul, to perform the piece, with violinist Liana Gourdjia and cellist Marc Coppey.

Our own New Century Chamber Orchestra jumps (again) on the Auerbach bandwagon, with May 23-26 commissioned world premiere performances of her String Symphony No. 1, Memoria de la Luz. Auerbach will be in good company: Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, and Haydn’s Farewell Symphony. (See next item.)

At the end of May, Auerbach will be back in Germany for the WDR Radio Chorus world premiere of her Galbenlieder (Gallows Songs), for saxophone quartet and women's choir. The composer will be represented again at the July Lincoln Center Festival in New York, with an a cappella opera, The Blind, to her own libretto, after Maeterlinck's strange play about 12 depersonalized beings. (It preceded Waiting for Godot by 30 years.)

Then back to Switzerland, and another world premiere, at the Verbier Festival in July, of In Praise of Peace for soprano (Lisa Milne), mezzo (Lilli Paasikivi), tenor (Pavol Breslik), and baritone (Matthew Rose) ... and more.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

New Century's Symphonic Excursion

April 23, 2013

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg's New Century Chamber Orchestra has consistently adventurous programming, but the upcoming series may be the first (at least until I am corrected) of an all-symphonic lineup. Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Haydn’s Farewell Symphony will bracket the commissioned world premiere of Lera Auerbach's String Symphony No. 1, Memoria de la Luz (Memory of the Light). For much more about Auerbach, see the previous column item.

Movements of String Symphony are:

I. Primera luz (First Light)
II. Monólogo (Monologue)
III. Cuatro preguntas (Four Questions)
IV. Díalogo extatico (Ecstatic Dialogue)
V. Trágico (Tragic)
VI. Epilogo (Epilogue)

The composer says of String Symphony:

In this work, the boundaries between the secular and sacred are blurred. The work is structured in six movements that become six prayers. The act of praying, not in a traditional religious manner, but rather a most intense act of soul searching, a hard and honest look into oneself, questioning and searching for answers.

To pray is to relinquish defenses, pretenses, to quiet everyday noise, to accept the strength and fragility of one’s own naked soul. Musical gestures become symbols. A prayer is a way to connect to one’s own origins, to the distant memories of the primordial light. All the threads lead back to childhood, we are our memories.

The first movement is an attempt to find this forgotten melody that is still alive somewhere within — a simple yet longing sound from the past. The second movement begins with unsettled monologues followed by passionate replies. The four questions of the third movement return to the lonely, fearful, lost sense of the doubtful mind.

The fourth movement is agitated, and burning with hopeful fervor. It climaxes in the tragic intensity of the fifth movement. The unbearable tension protrudes between the sustained pedal points of the lower strings and the main thematic material is presented in parallel fifths in the violins. At the end of the movement, the ever-questioning viola brings the memory of the beginning.

The sixth movement is a postlude, which grows from the darkness of a lament to a quiet chorale that brings if not yet peace — a chiaroscuro sense of hope to find the lost harmony of the primordial light.

And, speaking about the String Symphony, Auerbach also quoted from her autobiographical novel, The Mirror:

In the beginning was the word. Music is speech. Speech that hasn’t yet named itself, unrealized and therefore not yet lost. In the beginning was music. The world was created with it. On the sacrament of loss, a sacrament, for while we lose we do not deplete, but make whole and acquire.

The world was born on the sacrament of the primordial melody of losses. And there was a loss before birth. For birth is a loss. And the infinite tenderness of this loss, this loss that gives, this abundant loss; it is tenderness, the tenderness of a return which creates the harmony holding the world together.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Flicka & Company at Noe Valley

April 23, 2013

Noe Valley Chamber Music hit the jackpot for the celebration of its 20th anniversary on May 19 in San Francisco's St. Mark's Lutheran Church: the event will feature Frederica von Stade, soprano Lisa Delan, tenor William Burden, baritone Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek, pianist/composer Jake Heggie, violinist Dawn Harms, and cellist Emil Miland.

The event will include the world premiere of Heggie's song cycle, From the Book of Nightmares, to the poetry by Galway Kinnell based on the horror, anguish, and brutality of the 20th century; and much happier music from musicals and operas such as Show Boat, West Side Story, La Belle Helene, and A Little Night Music.

Tickets, $60-$75,for the benefit of the organization which has been presenting chamber music since 1992, are available from Noe Valley Chamber Music, by calling (415) 648-5236, or at the door.

The event begins at 4 p.m. with a silent auction, followed by the concert at 5, and then a reception featuring wine, food, and an opportunity to meet the artists.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Solidarity With Twin Cities Orchestras

April 23, 2013

The musicians of the San Francisco Symphony will present a solidarity concert in support of the locked out musicians of the Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras at 7 p.m. April 29, in St. Ignatius Church, Parker at Fulton.

SFS principal bassoonist Stephen Paulson conducts the program, which includes Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Holst's St. Paul’s Suite, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.

Tickets — $15 to $100 — are available from or by calling (800) 838-3006. Funds raised will go to the musicians of the Twin Cities orchestras, some of whom will participate in the concert.

Cathy Payne, a member of the SFS Musicians' Negotiating Committee (who had expressed dissatisfaction with the new San Francisco contract when it was announced on April 12), said:

While we have a new contract, these world-class musicians in Minnesota have been locked out nearly seven months. This season, many orchestras have faced lockouts, strikes, and devastating cuts in personnel, wages and benefits.

It is important that we remain in solidarity with other musicians and support their efforts to maintain world-class music in Minnesota.

Tim Zavadil, chair of the Minnesota Orchestra Negotiating Committee, said:

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are deeply grateful for the support of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra musicians, as well as all of our colleagues throughout the country, for the support they have shown us during our continuing seven-month management-imposed lockout.

Furthermore, we congratulate the entire San Francisco Symphony on achieving an agreement that continues to invest in the artists that create the music.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

'Tis the Season of Season Announcements

April 23, 2013

They come at this time of the year, announcements of both summer festival programs and the fall seasons. Below, some of the highlights, beginning with what is paradoxically the closest to home, London's BBC Proms, available right where you sit, at your computer.

Other summer pleasures are available at Sonoma's Green Music Center (see below). Then come 2013-2014 season lineups for Cal Performances (see below), and San Francisco Performances (about which more in the next column, along with the program for [email protected]).

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

BBC Proms 2013

April 23, 2013

Marin Alsop will lead Last Night at the Proms Photo by rr jonesFrom the first concert, on July 12, to the Last Night at the Proms, on Sept. 7, conducted by Marin Alsop ("first woman conductor in charge of the big evening," headlined the BBC World News), and featuring Joyce DiDonato, it's something to read, ponder, put on your calendar.

The 11 a.m. PDT concerts are convenient for the West Coast; if you listen at work, use earphones.

Special events: a Proms Ring, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, on July 22, 23, 26, and 29 — with Tristan und Isolde taking a turn on July 27, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.

Verdi, Britten, and Lutoslawski — composers whose anniversaries are being marked this year — will also be explored during the 92-concert season. An unlikely institution to find itself becoming a regular Proms fixture is Doctor Who, whose 50 year anniversary is being marked. New initiatives this year include the first Prom dedicated to Gospel music,and an Urban Classic Prom.

Daniel Barenboim conducts the <em>Ring</em> New commissions this year include works from Thomas Adès, Julian Anderson, Diana Burrell, Anna Clyne, Edward Cowie, Tansy Davies, David Matthews, John McCabe, and John Woolwich.

If you see something especially appealing in the Proms program, please write and we'll have a People's Choice column item. SFCV's own Jeff Dunn has already done that:

I found at least 12 must-listen concerts, not counting the many great programs of more standard fare. The late-night contemporary concerts are especially appealing to me, like Stockhausen (Program 11, 7/19), Rzewski, Feldman (Program 50, 8/20), Zappa & Nancarrow (Program 25, 7/31).

Three Bantock works, and he's not even having an anniversary (Program 16, 7/24, Sapphic Poem, a masterpiece; Program 52, 8/21, Celtic Symphony; Program 64, 8/30, Witch of Atlas). Tippett's Midsummer Marriage (Program 45, 8/16) and Symphony No. 2 with Henze's Barcarolle (Program 26, 8/1). Also of interest are David Matthews' A Vision of the Sea (Program 6, 7/16), and Program 9, 7/18, with Stenhammar, Szymanowski, and Strauss' Alpine Symphony.

But most interesting of all to me is Ades' Totentanz, 45 minutes long! (Program 8, 7/17). Who could outdo Liszt? I am moving to London ...

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Green Music Center Summer Series

April 23, 2013

Yo-Yo Ma and the "Goat Rodeo" musicians For the first full summer series in its grand new Weill Hall, and under the direction of new Executive and Artistic Directors Larry Furukawa-Schlereth and Emmanuel Morlet, Sonoma's Green Music Center is announcing today MasterCard Performance Series Summer 2013.

Programs range from Yo-Yo Ma's "Goat Rodeo Sessions" (Aug. 24) to the San Francisco Symphony's "Music from the Movies" show (Aug. 4), conducted by Sarah Hicks, and for the best of summer pops: Pink Martini (July 14).

The Russian National Orchestra will feature Carlo Montanaro, Sarah Chang, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet (July 16), in partnership with Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole, where the RNO is an annual participant, and "pianoSonoma" workshop and festival will be held for the first time (culminating with a concert on Aug. 10), in association with the Juilliard School.

The El Gusto Orchestra makes its local debut (Aug. 11). Film director Safinez Bousbia had come upon the story of El Gusto, a group of Jewish and Muslim artists separated by war in Algeria more than 50 years ago, but brought together by a shared passion for Chaâbi — a musical blend of Berber, Andalusian, and Flamenco-influenced sounds meaning "of the people." The 20-piece El Gusto orchestra stars in Bousbia’s documentary, which will be screened at the concert.

Summer accomodations will take advantage of Weill Lawn, Green Music Center’s outdoor spaces seating an audience of up to 6,000.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Cal Performances, 2013-2014

April 23, 2013

ohn Malkovich returns to Cal Performances with The Giacomo Variations. PHOTO: Olga MartschitschJHighlights of Cal Performances director Matías Tarnopolsky's announcement today of the next season include the world premiere of a new, fully staged production of Mozart’s arrangement of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, choreographed and directed by Mark Morris; 40th birthday celebrations for the Kronos Quartet, with a world premiere commission from composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and filmmaker Bill Morrison.

There will be more than a dozen multiperformance residencies, including the return of the Vienna Philharmonic for three concerts (conducted by Danielle Gatti, Andris Nelsons, and Franz Welser-Möst); a personal journey by Emanuel Ax into the music of Johannes Brahms with colleagues Yo-Yo Ma and Anne Sophie von Otter; John Malkovich exploring the legend of Casanova; and Jeremy Denk curating the fourth season of Ojai North.

Also, seven prominent early music ensembles and musicians, including Jordi Savall, Hespèrion XXI, and Stephanie Blythe with Les Violons du Roy; the Bay Area’s Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra in a salute to Duke Ellington; and the Barefoot Divas bringing alive the indigenous music of Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea.

Christianne Stotijn comes to Cal Performances. PHOTO: Marco Borgrreve Tarnopolsky continues to champion contemporary music, bringing more than 20 new works to the Bay Area from prestigious commissioning partners, including Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Ojai Music Festival.

The season opens on Sept. 29, with Fall Free for All, a free, daylong festival to introduce new audiences to music, dance, and theater presentations. Since its inception in 2010, Fall Free for All has featured more than 500 artists and ensembles performing for audiences totaling more than 30,000. Participating in the event will be, among others, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, La Tania Baile Flamenco, Theatre of Yugen, Los Cenzontles, Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz, and a family stage with percussionist Keith Terry.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].