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Music News: April 29, 2014

April 29, 2014

Generosity Honors Memory of Instrument Maker

April 29, 2014

Treble viols made by SkruznyIt's very difficult to find well-made period instruments and impossible to get them for a low price or — to qualified 501c3 nonprofit organizations — for free, but that's just what a generous reader in San Francisco is offering. Monique Skruzny writes:

My late father, Vaclav Skruzny, was a passionate musician and instrument maker. Early in life he played classical guitar, took a hiatus as a mechanical engineer working with Bechtel, and then followed his true passion of playing, woodworking and instrument-making, focusing on violas da gamba.

He experimented with various forms of the viola da gamba and we have trebles, tenors, bases, and a Violoni that he built along with their hard cases.

The instruments are located in San Francisco and anyone with an interest can email me at [email protected] for photos, more details or to view the instruments.

We are making about 15 instruments available that we would like to sell at an attainable amount or donate to qualified 501c3 organizations. I do have some detailed notes on each as provided by a Bay Area player and instrument maker, who has made these general observations:

* All of the instruments are well set up with excellent sizing on the finger boards
* Some instruments have movable, others permanent frets
* Some combine the shape of a viola and cello

She also called my dad "a magician."

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

From the Pit: A Paragon of Parallèle Orchestral Performance

April 29, 2014

Keisuke Nakagoshi: subbing for and working with the orchestra, shown here with the other half of ZOFO, Maria ZimmermannOn Sunday afternoon, as a semi-exhausted cast and crew performed wonders on the stage of Lam Research Theater (when will I get used to that name?), the Opera Parallèle Orchestra, squeezed into a shallow, narrow pit, reminding me of some of my best experiences with the music of Kurt Weill and, especially, Francis Poulenc.

When I was impressed and moved by the rehearsal of the Weill/Poulenc double bill of Mahagonny Songspiel and Les mamelles de Tirésias, the accompaniment came from Keisuke Nakagoshi's piano, filling in spectacularly for the orchestra. Once the production moved into Yerba Buena — three backbreaking performances in about 40 hours, taxing the singers to their utmost — the orchestra gave the work a whole new, even deeper and brilliant dimension.

Poulenc's unique sound, with those Straussian stretched-out deceptive faux-dissonances, was thrilling in this performance. The only description possible is from Ned Rorem's Setting the Tone:

Take Chopin's dominant sevenths, Ravel's major sevenths, Fauré's plain triads, Debussy's minor ninths, Mussorgsky's augmented fourths. Filter these through Satie by way of the added sixth chords of vaudeville (which the French call Le Music Hall), blend in a pint of Couperin to a quart of Stravinsky, and you get the harmony of Poulenc.

Of course, top acknowledgment goes to Music Director and Conductor Nicole Paiement. But SFCV has been featuring her so prominently of late that I thought she might want to speak about her musicians, rather than herself, and she agreed readily:

The orchestra had to be extremely nimble in the Poulenc to play such a cubistic score, where texture, tempo, and color change rapidly. Also, combining the Weill and the Poulenc added a demand to the orchestra since they each had a very specific sound world: Weill darker and heavier, Poulenc much lighter, even if the orchestra was twice the size for this piece and the brass doubled.

The concertmaster was Roy Malan, about whom there is a separate item below, paired with Stephanie Bibbo; add the viola of Evan Buttemer, Adaiha MacAdam-Somer on cello, Stan Poplin on contrabass, and there you have the string section of five, which sounded so big and sumptuous.

Nakagoshi was on board once again, along with Nicholas Matthiesen's percussion and Carla Fabris' harp. Woodwinds were relatively numerous: Carmen Lemoine (flute/piccolo), Laura Reynolds (oboe/English horn), Paul Miller and Lara Mitofsky (clarinet), Cory Wright (alto saxophone), and Erin Irvine (bassoon).

The brass acquitted themselves wonderfully, kudos to Alex Rosenfeld (French horn), John Freeman and Kai Takaara (trumpet), Hall Goff (trombone), and Tiffany Bayly (tuba).

Bravi per tutti!

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

Malan: Hanging Up His Symbolic Pointe Shoes

April 29, 2014

Roy MalanViolinist Roy Malan continues as concertmaster of the California Symphony and Opera Parallèle (above), remains with the S.F. Contemporary Music Players, and on the faculty of UC Santa Cruz, but he is retiring as concertmaster of the San Francisco Ballet.

Malan is the Ballet Orchestra's first and only concertmaster, coming on board 39 years ago when the permanent orchestra was formed, after years of employing musicians temporarily. When Davies Symphony Hall opened in 1980, separating orchestras for the symphony and opera, the autonomy of the Ballet Orchestra became even more delineated, sharing some musicians with the Opera Orchestra (whose season is in a different period from the Ballet), but none with San Francisco Symphony.

Through it all, Malan was concertmaster, playing hundreds of solo parts ballet scores specify for the first violin: "During my years with the S.F. Ballet I have seen plenty of memorable moments on stage and have collaborated with some wonderful colleagues in the pit, but for me the time has come to enjoy music making for its own sake, unencumbered by the often capricious fancies of our dear choreographers."

In addition to his remaining orchestral work, Malan says, "To fill in the gaps, I have a string quartet, a piano trio, and several music festivals, concertos and recording dates. I am also building an art gallery on my property in the Santa Cruz Mountains."

From SFB Orchestra Music Director Martin West:

"Roy's tenure as concert master is unlikely to be surpassed not only in the SFB Orchestra but in the entire musical world. He played an integral part in bringing me to the Ballet and I've enjoyed working with him for the past 10 years. I want to thank him for everything he's contributed to SFB and wish him a very well deserved rest."

One of Malan's longest-serving colleagues, double bassist Shinji Eshima, said:

Roy was a student and protege of Efrem Zimbalist and also the fine author of his biography. Roy is among the last of the Romantic Era violinists, those whose sound alone could identify the performer. He was also the former roommate of another member of the ballet orchestra, former principal cellist David Kadarauch, while they were students at Curtis.

Uniquely qualified to meet the special demands of a ballet concertmaster, Roy would be asked to perform several different concertos and orchestra solos within any given week. He managed this while maintaining a full teaching load, performing chamber music constantly, founder of the Telluride Chamber Music series.

Always a gentleman and stylish, true violinist, his is a life of music to be celebrated and remembered.

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

S.F. Ballet's Farewell to Martín, Smith

April 29, 2014

Damian Smith, with Muriel Maffre, in Yuri Possokhov's <em>Reflections</em>. Photos by Erik TomassonTwo outstanding stars of the San Francisco Ballet are retiring, and the company will bid farewell with a special program at the War Memorial where Rubén Martín Cintas and Damian Smith will give their final performances here.

The one night only event begins at 7 p.m. on May 11. Tickets are now available for purchase.

“Rubén and Damian have each made wonderful contributions to the company and I wanted to pay tribute to their great artistry with a special farewell performance,” says Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. “I am grateful to both of them for giving so much of themselves to San Francisco Ballet and to our audiences — they will be missed.”

Martín, whose career at S.F. Ballet spans 14 years, studied ballet in his native Spain and performed with the English National Ballet, before joining S.F. Ballet as a corps de ballet member in 2000. Three years later, he was promoted to soloist and in 2006, he became a principal dancer.

During his tenure, he has performed many lead roles such as Albrecht in Tomasson’s Giselle, Prince Siegfried in Tomasson’s Swan Lake, and the title role in John Cranko’s Onegin. Beginning with the next school year, he will join the S.F. Ballet School faculty.

Rubén Martín and Lorena Feijoo in Antony Tudor's <em>Les Jardins Aux Lilas</em>Smith, originally from Australia, trained at the School of American Ballet before joining S.F. Ballet as a corps de ballet member in 1996. He was promoted to soloist two years later and in 2001, became a principal dancer. Over his 18-year tenure, Smith has performed lead roles in numerous ballets by choreographers including George Balanchine, Val Caniparoli, William Forsythe, Mark Morris, John Neumeier, Yuri Possokhov, Alexei Ratmansky, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon, to name a few.

In addition to having a number of works created on him, he has performed a diverse array of character roles such as Drosselmeyer in Tomasson’s Nutcracker, Iago in Lar Lubovitch’s Othello, Tybalt in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, the Poet in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid.

The farewell program will include excerpts from Tomasson’s The Fifth Season, Hans van Manen’s Variations for Two Couples, “The Man I Love” an excerpt from Balanchine’s Who Cares?, a pas de deux from Wheeldon’s After the Rain, special video tributes to both artists, and Robbins’ In the Night.

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

Pene Pati: The Tenor Who Could Be King

April 29, 2014

Pene Pati, with Moses Mackay, and brother Amitai PatiIn the long, illustrious history of the San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellowships, Pene Pati is probably among the handful of singers with the greatest promise ... and the biggest need for the discipline and training the program provides, but we'll never know how that would have worked out.

Pati turned down the fellowship because his SOL3 MIO operatic/pop trio is sensationally successful in his native New Zealand, so this not-ready-for-prime-time tenor is already in a prime time hit parade.

Following the big impression he made in the Merola Program last year, Pati was awarded the Adler and a Schwabacher Debut Recital. Even while not taking the fellowship, he returned to San Francisco on April 28 to give the recital in Temple Emanu-El's Martin Meyer Sanctuary — an event both exhilarating and disconcerting with thoughts of what the future may or may not bring.

Pati's voice is amazing, with shades of Pavarotti's ping and Bergonzi's lyricism. He has a winning personality (a single tune-up chord on his guitar, followed by "that's close enough"), and an obvious talent for languages: He sang the recital in French (Fauré and Liszt), English (Roger Quilter), German (R. Strauss), Italian (Tosti), Basque/Spanish (Sorozábal), Samoan, and Maori.

Pati, with Zanda Svede, in a Merola Program concert Photo by Kristen LokenAccompanied with her usual splendid pianism by Sun Ha Yoon, Pati sang beautifully and with intelligent musicality, but small signs of the need for further coaching kept popping up. Just because he has a big voice, there was no need to go fortissimo in Liszt's "Oh! quand je dors" where a solid forte is needed. In the same song and also elsewhere, Pati's attempt to hold a semi-falsetto note at the end faltered — a strange problem when he has both the full voice and can hold the highest notes seemingly forever (listen to the end of his Lucia duet).

Needlessly high volume, especially at the end of songs ("Toujours," "Heimliche Aufforderung") and the middle of "Allerseelen," had its impact on Yoon, who launched into "Toujours" and even "Ruhe, meine seele" with the kind of bang I've never heard her use in the years of her important presence here.

I wasn't looking for chances to nitpick; the lack of maturity and finish just came up repeatedly. With this great voice and limitless potential, Pati should serve his time honing his artistry, instead of cashing in immediately.

The singer who could perform so impressively in school three long years ago, may do better than spend all his time on a Three Tenors shtick. But even so, that outsized personality comes through, as in (go to 5:30) and today in the hilarious delivery of Strauss' "Ach weh mir ungluckhaftem Mann" that had everyone in stitches. I admire Pati and I worry about him.

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

West Edge Opera Returns to Berkeley (for Now)

April 29, 2014

Christine Capsuto sings Musetta in West Edge Opera's <em>La bohème</em> Photo by Lucas KrechHomeless but enduring West Edge Opera will compact its 35th season into a summer festival of three productions, performed July 26 through Aug. 10 at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.

Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner will head what they call an "immersive" version of Puccini’s La bohème (with the action taking place all around and among the audience), followed by Philip Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox, and the Bay Area premiere of Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair.

Mounting a new season as we continue to search for a permanent home has presented many challenges," says Streshinsky, "which in turn means many opportunities. Our new mobility plays into my long desire for three things: to come back to Berkeley, to do opera in an alternative venue, and to do it in a festival format.

We found an exciting partnership with the Ed Roberts Campus, an internationally recognized facility dedicated to services for persons with disabilities. The building is a model of the new movement of universal architecture and is just an elevator ride from the Ashby BART Station beneath. We will present our entire festival of three operas in ERC's spacious and beautiful atrium."

Home for the homeless: the atriumStreshinsky will direct La bohème; Jonathan Khuner will conduct. Singers are sopranos Alexandra Sessler (Mimi) and Christine Capsuto (Musetta), tenor James Callon (Rodolfo), Jordan Eldredge (Schaunard), and bass Brandon Keith Biggs (Colline).

Hydrogen Jukebox, set to the poems of Allen Ginsberg, will be directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer and conducted by David Möschler. The cast includes tenor Jonathan Blalock, baritone Efraín Solís, bass Kenneth Kellogg, sopranos Sara Duchovnay and Molly Mahoney, and mezzo-soprano Nicole Takesono.

The End of the Affair is based on Graham Greene's eponymous novel. Streshinsky and Khuner will lead a cast headed by soprano Carrie Hennessey, baritone Philip Cutlip, mezzo-soprano Donna Olson, and baritone Philip Skinner.

Festival subscriptions are now on sale, priced from $120 for seniors and youth, to $135 for general admission. Single tickets will go on sale June 1.

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

Zoufonoun to Lead Oakland Youth Orchestra

April 29, 2014

Omid Zoufonoun Photo by Kathryn FriedmanOakland East Bay Symphony Music Director and Oakland Youth Orchestra Artistic Director Michael Morgan has announced the appointment of conductor, composer, and educator Omid Zoufonoun as new principal conductor of the Oakland Youth Orchestra. Zoufonoun takes the podium after Morgan and Bryan Nies have shared conducting duties for the orchestra’s just concluded 50th anniversary season.

“Omid Zoufonoun has long been a treasured member of the Oakland East Bay Symphony family,” Morgan said. “His gifts as composer are already known to our audience. What they have not seen is his great rapport with the youth orchestra students and the extraordinary musicianship that is on display when he conducts them. His imagination, humor, and gift for communication will serve the entire organization extremely well and I very much look forward to working with him in this new capacity.”

Omid Zoufonoun is a conductor, guitarist, educator, and award-winning composer. His compositions blend his Persian musical heritage, which he learned under the guidance of his father Ostad Mahmoud Zoufonoun, with western practices of counterpoint, harmony, and orchestration. Recent commissions include a Cello Sonata for the duet Martha & Monica, a guitar octet for the Guitar Foundation of America, a choral setting of four Rumi poems for the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, and a four-movement orchestral work for the Oakland Youth Orchestra.

The Youth Orchestra's 2014-2015 season will be announced mid-summer, and auditions will be held in early June.

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

Edwin Outwater to Direct SFS Summer Concerts

April 29, 2014

Edwin OutwaterEdwin Outwater, San Francisco Symphony Resident Conductor from 2001-2006 and former Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, is returning to the SFS, this time in the newly created position of director of summer concerts. For the next two years, he will curate and lead classical concerts in the summer, Music for Families concerts, and conduct the orchestra in the New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball concert featuring soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Next March, he collaborates with Bay Area composer Nathaniel Stookey to curate and perform two events in SFS's new alternative performance space, SoundBox.

Michael Tilson Thomas welcomed Outwater by saying that "he is one of the most innovative conductors on the scene today. The musicians of our orchestra always enjoy working with Edwin and I look forward to a new level of creativity in our summer programming."

Outwater says of his new role: "I am so honored to further my activities with the San Francisco Symphony in this new creative role. I hope that my conducting and programming here will add to the inspiring and visionary work that MTT and the orchestra have produced over the years."

Outwater is currently in his seventh season as Music Director of Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and regularly conducts the Chicago and New World Symphonies.

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

Osmo Vänskä Returns to Lead Minnesota Orchestra

April 29, 2014

Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra Photo by Greg HelgesonAfter more than a year of turmoil in and around the Minnesota Orchestra, last week the board of directors re-appointed Osmo Vänskä as music director. Vänskä resigned last October, after a decade-long tenure, when the orchestra's lockout continued against his demands to settle the contract dispute.

The new board chair, Gordon Sprenger, said: "Osmo Vänskä led the Minnesota Orchestra to great heights during his previous tenure as music director, and we are happy to be able to reunite Osmo and the orchestra to deliver outstanding musical performances for our community and to extend their celebrated musical partnership. We are delighted he is back."

Vänskä replied" "I am very pleased to have this chance to rebuild the Vänskä/Minnesota Orchestra partnership, and I look forward to getting back to music-making with the players and together re-establishing our worldwide reputation for artistic excellence."

Under the terms of the new two-year agreement, Vänskä will lead the orchestra for a minimum of 10 weeks in both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, and will accept the same reduction in compensation as agreed to by musicians.

The musicians welcomed the appointment as "a major step in rebuilding the trust and collaborative spirit within our organization as well as with our community. We very much look forward to further collaboration with Osmo, our Board, and our community to continue to build upon the Minnesota Orchestra's 110-year legacy of artistic excellence."

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

San Diego Opera Turmoil Continues

April 29, 2014

Minnesota might have settled a long, destructive crisis (above), but another great calamity in the music world, the San Diego Opera facing extinction, is far from resolution, with stakes raised, as reported by The Los Angeles Times:

San Diego Opera has placed its longtime general and artistic director Ian Campbell on paid leave after a three-decade tenure that has been rocked in recent weeks by public and internal criticism over his role in the decision to close the company. The opera said in a news release Friday that Campbell and his ex-wife, Ann Spira-Campbell, who is a high-ranking administrator in the company, have both been placed on leave.

A company spokesman said in an interview that the Campbells will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization, but they are still being paid and are technically still part of the company. Friday's announcement comes a week after an exodus of 13 company board members, including president Karen Cohn. The opera's board has been divided over the March decision to close, with a contingent of members working to raise money to save the company.

Neither Ian Campbell nor Ann Spira-Campbell responded immediately to a request for comment. The opera said that Keith Fisher has been named chief operating officer and that he will manage the staff and resources of the company at this time. Fisher has been with the company since 2002 and recently served as executive director.

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

S.F. Bach Choir to Select New Director

April 29, 2014

The San Francisco Bach Choir is near the selection of its fourth artistic director in a 78-year history, to succeed Corey Jamason, who stepped down from the position last month after a seven-year run.

The organization's search committee selected four final candidates: Katherine McKee, William Sauerland, Magen Solomon, and Robert Worth. The audition process is expected to conclude soon and the announcement made in May.

Jamason conducted his final concert on March 16, the last performance of SFBC's season.

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

World Pianist Invitational Application Deadline This Week

April 29, 2014

The World Pianist Invitational Foundation, with headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland, will have its next competition for classically trained pianists, ages 6 through 29, this summer. The finals will take place on July 12 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Application deadline is May 2, see the organization's website for information and the application form. Information is also available by e-mail from Ann Stahmer at [email protected]

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].