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Music News: Aug. 20, 2013

August 20, 2013

Tenderloin's Center for New Music

August 20, 2013

Center for New Music Photos by Michael StricklandSan Francisco's Tenderloin is known for many things, not all felicitous, but the residence there of the Center for New Music is somewhat surprising — although not for Michael Strickland, proprietor of SF Civic Center blog.

Strickland's blog has been giving this "visionary new arts space," which opened almost a year ago, but has maintained a low profile, some well-deserved attention.

Located near the Golden Gate Theater, at 55 Taylor Street, the center has already offered 53 different concerts in its small performance hall, and supported, in various ways, composers of "new music." (Not all new music is "new music," but we will not go there at this time.)

Man-around-new-music Adam Fong is the center's executive director. His manifesto on the center website states:

What we’re proposing is protection for an endangered species: the creative musician ... I’ve felt a strong need for collaborative workspace, affordable rehearsal space, a small performance space for new music, and a platform for administrative support and collaboration.

Adam FongAlong with Brent Miller, the center's managing director, Fong has already welcomed to the building the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the San Francisco Cinematheque experimental film/video organization, and the Rova Saxophone Quartet. Fong says:

The programs we’re implementing are intended to bring in a spectrum of users: We have curated concerts, but anyone can join as an individual member and put on a show. There are private offices for established organizations, but there’s also co-working options for part-timers, and drop-in benefits if you just need to have a meeting or work for a few hours near a bunch of other musicians and producers.

Over time I believe the ethos behind all of this will become more apparent. Our theory is that all of this sharing and collaboration will build a stronger and more inviting new music community, a stronger new music scene, and ultimately more opportunities for everyone.

Crowden at 30

August 20, 2013

At a Crowden Very First Concert A school for children in grades four through eight, Crowden School has an exceptional record of producing musicians, and the school's Crowden Music Center has been hosting performances and rehearsals for countless musicians from the Bay Area for three decades.

Next month, the center's 30th season begins in the recently completed Jacqueline and Peter Hoefer Auditorium, the 200-seat venue for ensemble, choral, and chamber orchestra performances. It features the Meyer Sound Constellation system of 29 miniature MM-4XP and directional MM-4XPD loudspeakers, 14 MM-10 subwoofers, and 24 microphones.

As before, performers can use the stage, share the open floor with the audience, or the entire floor becomes a rehearsal stage for a full symphony orchestra.

Crowden's 30th anniversary season has a stellar trio of co-chairs: John Adams, Gordon Getty, and Michael Tilson Thomas — all three with years of participation in the school; Adams' children got their musical start at Crowden. Some of the season's events:

- 4 p.m. Oct. 6, "Sundays @ Four": The Baumer Quartet headlines dedication of the auditorium
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 20, Community Music Day
- 4 p.m. Jan. 19, 2014, Bonnie Hampton and Friends
- 4 p.m. March 23, Kenneth Renshaw and Arkadi Serper
- 5 p.m. March 29, Crowden 30th anniversary gala (Craneway Pavilion)
- 4 p.m. May 11, Alexander String Quartet
- 7 p.m. May 24, Crowden 30th anniversary concert (Hertz Hall)

SFS Is Orchestra of the Year, Says ECHO

August 20, 2013

Another award for SFS Adams recording Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony will receive the ECHO Klassik Award 2013 for "Orchestra of the Year" in the Berlin Konzerthaus on Oct. 6. MTT/SFS is honored for its hybrid SACD of music by John Adams, released on the orchestra’s own label, SFS Media, last year.

What is ECHO Klassik? Get ready for the official explanation: "The ECHO Klassik is one of the world’s most established and coveted music awards, presented since 1994. Each year the Deutsche Phono-Akademie, the cultural institute of the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (German Music Industry Association), honors outstanding performances by international artists with this award."

This is the second time a San Francisco recording is receiving an ECHO award. Charles Ives, an American Journey was named Symphonic Recording of the Year in 2004.

Future releases on SFS Media will include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and the Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II in November 2013, and the first recording of the SFS-commissioned Absolute Jest by John Adams in March 2014.

Among other award recipients:

- Female Singer of the Year: Joyce Didonato, Drama Queens
- Male Singer of the Year: Jonas Kaufmann, Wagner
- Instrumentalist of the Year (Piano): Martha Argerich, Lugano Concertos
- Instrumentalist of the Year (Trumpet): Reinhold Friedrich, Russian Trumpet Concert
- Instrumentalist of the Year (Cello): Sol Gabetta, Shostakovich And Rachmaninov
- Instrumentalist of the Year (Violin): Leonidas Kavakos, Beethoven Violin Sonatas
- Conductor of the Year: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Lutoslawski Symphonies

'Elevator Music' Rises to New Heights

August 20, 2013

Entrance to the QT Hotel, the way to the lifts Marketing for the new QT Sydney Hotel makes interesting reading:

It isn’t often that one brand goes so consciously against the market grain, especially in financial times like these, but if this is the beginning of an accommodation revolution, then QT is on horseback at the forefront.

There is no beige here. No marble lobby, either. Indeed, the lobby is rather difficult to locate; tucked away off the street on the first floor of a fabulously unusual building. And though QT’s room rates start at an ambitious $450 — putting her on par with those more traditional upmarket peers — that’s about the end of their similarities.

Indeed, if Lady Gaga were to collaborate with a mischievous troupe of burlesque dancers, QT would be the net result. It’s hard to imagine an Intercontinental decorating their lobby with headless mannequins, or a Four Seasons programming their lifts to play a cheeky rendition of "All By Myself" each time someone takes a solo ride, but QT pulls it off with convincing panache.

It is this last item that caught our musical interest, and here is the skinny:

QT takes the hotel elevator experience way beyond "musak" with lifts that double as "interactive installations." Upon entering one of the hotel's five elevators, custom-designed software senses how many guests are occupying the space at any one time, and selects specific songs from rotating playlists to "match" the number of passengers, time of day and proposed mood.

If someone is taking a solo ride in a QT elevator, the one-person playlist kicks in with tracks like "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" by Elvis Presley or Eric Carmen's "All by Myself."

Upon a second guest's arrival, the QT Sydney elevator sensors will randomly select from the two-person playlist, including songs like "Just the Two of Us" by Bill Withers and "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor. And when the count reaches four people, the songs switch into party mode, with crowd-pleasers in the AM such as "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and "Poison" by Bell Biv DeVoe. In the evening, the party really gets going with dance classics like Prince's "1999" and "Groove Is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite.

Go ahead and take a ride.

Englishing Opera in the City of St. Francis

August 20, 2013

Ildar Abdrazakov will be San Francisco's Mefistofele or Mephistopheles Photo by Dario AcostaSan Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley — often acclaimed in this column for his righting the company's fiscal rudder and his frank explanations of the difference between producing fantasy opera (bring back Die tote stadt, produce Schreker's Der Schatzgräber, and so on) and reality — will receive only a frown for his excesses in using English titles for operas from foreign lands (meaning 80-90% of operas, alas).

Maybe there was something to be said ("opera for the people!") for the likes of The Montagues and the Capulets, but the season-opening "Mephistopheles" masquerading for Mefistofele (called by its rightful name previously in the War Memorial) is just wrong. Will the folk supposedly unable to figure out the Italian title be more comfortable with the Hebrew "mephiz" (destroyer) and "tophel" (liar)?

Are we to see "The Lost One," instead of La traviata or "The Bohemians" replacing La bohème or how about crazy "Lucy of Lammermoor"? And, is it "Don Carlo" or "Don Carlos"?

San Francisco Opera's own uncertainty is reflected in constant changes over the years, and the inconsistency between what's advertised and what goes into the official archive. What was performed as The Makropulos Affair/Case is listed there by the proper Czech title of Vec Makropulos. There one sees justification for the English title, but the archive disagrees.

Why not stop at The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, The Flying Dutchman, and leave Mefistofele alone? Thank heaven for Tosca and her kin, impervious to translationitis.

Speaking of, yes, Mefistofele, you can watch the entire 1989 San Francisco Opera production, now revived to open the SFO season. Enjoy the Spanish subtitles. Do they call it "Mefistófeles"? No.

Adventures in Russia's Necropolis

August 20, 2013

Arkhipova's tomb, not catalogued properly Photo by Ed GordonCircling the globe constantly, Berkeley sports writer Ed Gordon took time off from the Moscow World Athletics Championships to visit — what else — a cemetery. Not just any burial site, but Novodevichy, cemetery for some of the leading Soviet and Russian figures since 1904.

There, Gordon came upon the tomb of Irina Arkhipova, an internationally acclaimed mezzo, who never made it to San Francisco, as far as I know. What makes this an item of note is that Arkhipova's tomb, according to Gordon, is not among the 252 graves of notable Russians listed in the brochure for this place of interest, so he took a picture to provide proof.

While the brochure may be not current enough, somewhere on the Novodevichye website, the top names in alphabetical order are:

- Alexandrov, Alexander b. April 13, 1883 d. July 8, 1946 — conductor, composer. Founder of the famed Red Army Choir and composer of Russia's national anthem.

- Arkhipova, Irina b. December 2, 1925 d. February 11, 2010 — opera singer. A mezzo soprano, she was for many years a star of Moscow's Bolshoi Opera while earning acclaim in the world's leading venues.

- Chaliapin, Fyodor b. February 13, 1873 d. April 12, 1938 — Noted opera singer. [I'll say!]

Among the others at rest in Novodevichy: Ippolitov-Ivanov, Kabalevsky, Kogan, Myaskovsky, Oistrakh, Prokofiev, Richter, Rostropovich, Rubinstein, Scriabin, Shostakovich, Taneyev, Ulanova, Vishnevskaya...

Coming next in this new Music News sepulchral series:

- Père-Lachaise (Paris) — Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison...

- Zentralfriedhof (Vienna) — Beethoven, Schubert, Johann Strauss...

- Highgate (London) — Karl Marx, Douglas Adams (yes, of Hitchhiker), the Dickens family (but not Charles, whose tomb is at Westmister Abbey)...

Have Travel, Will Record — for Free

August 20, 2013

Mariachi band recording in the Doug Conner Studios The new Doug Conner Music Studios ("merging analog & digital") is being finetuned for full operation and Conner is inviting artists reading SFCV to participate by making a mixed and mastered demo, for free, during a weekend in August and one in September. "The benefit is mutual, and we ask for no money," says Conner:

We need high quality acoustic instrument and vocal performers for recording experimentation, the results of which will be used on our own website to demonstrate our sound. Our goal is to accurately capture the full true sound of each instrument and deliver tracks that are mixed and mastered to industry standards.

We combine ribbon, tube, dynamic and condenser mics, connected to high-end tube preamps. We will be experimenting with mic selection, mic placement and mic/preamp combinations. Hence, each session may take longer than normal to set up, but with good performers we should be able to complete capture in a four-hour time slot.

And here's the catch, at least for some geographically disadvantaged artists:

We are located by Folsom Lake, which is a considerable drive from San Francisco. However, we do have Bay Area clients. We hope that the offer of quality recording will adequately entice musicians.

The dates for free recording sessions are Aug. 23-25 and Sept. 13-15; there are six time slots each weekend, and — lacking a website — the studio may be contacted through Conner's e-mail, [email protected]

Curly-Haired Venezuelan Conductor Marries Weilerstein

August 20, 2013

Weilerstein and PayareNo, not Gustavo Dudamel (already married); it's his good friend Rafaél. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein and Rafaél Payare were married Sunday evening at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, N.Y. Larry J. Rosen, a cousin of the bride and a former Albany County Court judge, officiated. On Saturday, Yair Narvaez, a friend of the groom's family, will lead a nondenominational ceremony in Venezuela at Ranchos de Chana on Isla de Margarita. Both ceremonies incorporated Jewish elements.

The bride, 31, a 2011 MacArthur fellow, will continue to use her name professionally. She played this month with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill. Last November, she performed with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.

She is the daughter of Vivian Hornik Weilerstein and Donald Weilerstein of Boston. Her father, a violinist, and her mother, a pianist, are on the faculty of the New England Conservatory in Boston and the Juilliard School in New York. Her father was also the founding first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet.

The groom, 33, is a conductor. Earlier this month, he was the guest conductor at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic at the Konzerthaus. Last month he conducted the Youth Orchestra of Ireland and the Castleton Festival orchestra in Castleton, Va. Previously, he has been principal horn in the Simón Bolívar Symphony, often conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, an old friend, whom Payare now assists in Los Angeles.

Payare graduated from the Universidad Nacional Experimental de Las Artes in Venezuela, where he received a degree in music after studying conducting with José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema.

Watch Payare conduct Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, and Weilerstein playing the Dvořák Concerto, Dudamel conducting the Simón Bolívar.

Salary Reports From the World of Classical Music

August 20, 2013

LA Philharmonic's Gustavo Dudamel ($1 million) and Deborah Borda ($1.6 million) Drew McManus, who does the heavy lifting of compiling data from IRS Form 990 nonprofit tax reports in his Adaptistration.com, writes about his latest:

This year’s compensation reports are all about context. The data covers compensation for the 2010/11 season, which if you recall was the first really nasty year of austerity driven conflict between stakeholders. The Detroit Symphony went dark for nearly the entire season as did the Louisville Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra started walking...

In spite of general financial difficulties, there were some record salaries, including that of San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas: $2,412,662 (from SFS alone, not including the New World Symphony, London Symphony, others).

SFS's Alexander Barantschik pulled down $507,063 among concertmasters, on par with Boston, Cleveland, New York, but way below Dallas. The reason for many orchestras not reporting in this category is that the IRS doesn't require reporting compensation under the threshold of $100,000 unless the individual also sits on the board. (Why this rule? No idea.)

MacManus says the IRS raised the threshold from $50k to $100k a couple of years ago when they updated the 990 Form, and revised the reporting rules in dozens of areas. "I don't have any official rationale but you might find something at the IRS website." I'll let somebody else do that.

For administrative compensation, San Francisco's Brent Assink, with $511,923 was substantially behind his peers at New York, Philadelphia, Toledo (?), his salary only one-third that of the Los Angeles Philharmonic executive director Deborah Borda's $1,602,228.

Be in Berlin for Philharmoniker's Season Opener

August 20, 2013

Simon RattleWhen the Berlin Philharmonic's season opens at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Aug. 23, you can watch it in San Francisco live and free. All it requires is free registration. Once that's done, you can log in at the beginning of the concert and "be there," with the orchestra's superb Digital Concert Hall.

Simon Rattle will open the season with Mozart's last three symphonies — No. 39 in E-flat Major, No. 40 in G Minor, and No. 41 in C Major (Jupiter) — great masterpieces regarded by some as one coherent work. From the Philharmonic's program notes for the event:

"Representing no occasion, no immediate purpose, but an appeal to eternity" is how his biographer Alfred Einstein characterized the creation of Mozart’s last three symphonies, which will open the Berliner Philharmoniker’s new season under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. The transfiguring image of the immortal Mozart, "darling of the gods," who wanted to erect a symphonic monument for himself and the history of music, has stubbornly persisted.

Probably he composed them for the three "academies in the casino" he mentioned in a letter to his friend and lodge brother Michael Puchberg. What is certain is that he created three of the crowning masterpieces of classical symphonic writing, works that differ from one another in every aspect, even instrumentation. It is as though Mozart wanted to display the entire spectrum of the artistic means at his disposal. The E-flat Symphony, K. 543, in the words of E. T. A. Hoffmann, leads "into the depths of the spirit realm" — its astonishing radiance and its high spirits notwithstanding, touching on the dark and demonic sphere as well.

The beloved G-Minor Symphony K. 550, by comparison, is a locus classicus of architectonic balance, its Andante acting as a lyrical island between the dramatically charged minor-key movements. And the mastery of form and compositional technique exhibited by the "Jupiter" Symphony K. 551 suggests the quintessence of every apparent possibility for instrumental music during Mozart’s lifetime.

Program information for Berlin's 131st season is available here.

Conservatory Concert Season Revs Up

August 20, 2013

Soprano Rebecca Plack as Poppea San Francisco Conservatory of Music's performance season opens on Sept. 6 with a special concert of compositions by alumni: Mark Ackerley '10, Ian Dicke '04, Mario Godoy '13, Joseph Stillwell '10, Kevin Villalta '13, and Frank Wallace '74. Their works will be performed by the Arden Quartet, Friction Quartet, Mobius Trio, New Keys, Valinor Winds, and others.

Conservatory faculty takes the stage for a string of concerts: In a recital peppered with discussion, soprano Rebecca Plack '03 and pianist Curt Pajer explore how Wolf, Debussy, and Schumann interpreted identical poems; Jean-Michel Fonteneau presents the Brahms cello sonatas; Ian Swensen and guests perform chamber works by Chopin, Enescu, and Beethoven.

For his faculty recital debut, baritone Daniel Mobbs offers renditions of songs by Fauré and Strauss with pianist Darryl Cooper '98.

Young People's Chorus a Hit in Japan

August 20, 2013

New Yorkers perform in Japan Youth orchestras and youth choruses from the Bay Area enjoy their share of globetrotting: just take the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra or Young People's Symphony Orchestra, which toured Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna — after China in 2006, and Australia and New Zealand in 2008.

But today, it's time for the wondrous Young People's Chorus of New York City, led by Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez, which recently completed a month-long tour of Asia, its fifth trip to the continent, with performances in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and five Japanese cities, including Tokyo, where YPC made its Tokyo Philharmonic debut.

They were artists-in-residence of the Hong Kong International Youth and Children's Choir Festival, joined by more than 100 choirs from Estonia, Romania, America, the Congo, South Africa, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Philippines, North Korea, New Zealand, and Macao.

The YPC performance in Hokuto, Japan, was streamed live on Ustream TV, and it's still available. Click on No. 5 on the right side, among "Videos" or go directly to the concert. The program, after four minutes of speeches, is:

Samuel Barber, "Heaven-Haven"
Bright Sheng, "Boatmen’s Song"
Traditional American, "Take This Hammer"
Luis Kalaff and Bienvenido Brens, "Guayacanal"
Dominican Folk Song, "Chanflin"
Yoshinao Nakada, "Natsu No Omoide"
M. Samuragochi, "Hiroshima Requiem"
Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story Medley
Spiritual, "Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel"
Paul Simon, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

And two encores: Kanno Yoko, "Hana wa saku" (with the audience singing along) and Jim Papoulis, "Oye" (with the audience singing and dancing along).

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