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Music News: Aug. 26, 2014

August 26, 2014

The Biggest, 500-Event, Concert Series in Town

August 26, 2014

Susan Graham featured in the new Conservatory seasonThe full headline should read: "Least Expensive, Even Free Concerts." That's the venerable/youthful San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 97 years old, and getting ready for a varied, distinguished, and rich 2014-2015 season, including the traditional (free) student recitals, and the large Faculty Artist Series, also now gratis. Over 500 events constitute the season.

The school's Concert Hall will be the venue to 12 orchestra concerts ($15-$20) under the baton of Music Director Scott Sandmeier, with student and guest soloists, some big projects, such as Holst's The Planets, with Ragnar Bohlin's Conservatory Chorus.

Also on tap: three staged operas — Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, and Britten's Albert Herring — premieres by nationally-known and home-grown composers (several duplications here, of course), and an expanded faculty artist series of chamber works, early music, and solo recitals.

A quick name-dropping for the Conservatory season: Susan Graham, Jennifer Koh, SFCM alumni Warren Jones ('77) and Elza van den Heever ('02); Geoff Nuttall, David Russell, many local music organizations, and many more.

Nicole Paiement conducts new music, including premieres by Kaija Saariaho and John GloverThe school continues to champion new music by commissions, competitions, residence, and performances. Nicole Paiement, artistic director of the BluePrint New Music Series, leads the New Music Ensemble in world and West-Coast premieres of works by Kaija Saariaho, John Glover and alumnus Robin Estrada ('05), winner of the Conservatory's $15,000 Hoefer Prize in composition.

Conservatory President David H. Stull says of the season:

We are tremendously excited by our new season and look forward to presenting the young artists who will occupy the professional stages of tomorrow. Our world-class faculty and superlative guest artists will be with us for both performances and master class opportunities this year, and witnessing this level of artistry in the intimacy of our concert hall is a unique experience.

The school's downloadable season calendar has all the information, although it takes a bit of getting used to the small font and UniFlip turning two pages at a time. Search produces three lines from each entry, not necessarily containing the information you're looking for.

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

San Francisco Opera on Public Television

August 26, 2014

Patricia Racette in Mefistofele, which will be seen on KQED on Sept. 25Recorded in high-definition and in 5.1 surround sound at the War Memorial Opera House, a series of television specials, beginning on Sept. 4, will bring back some of the most memorable productions of the 2013 season. The telecasts on KQED are hosted by Frederica von Stade. The lineup:

  • Bellini's The Capulets and the Montagues), 8 p.m. Sept. 4; with Joyce DiDonato and Nicole Cabell
  • Verdi's Attila, 8 p.m. Sept. 11; with Ferruccio Furlanetto
  • Boito's Mefistofele, 9 p.m. Sept. 25; with Ildar Abdrazakov and Patricia Racette
  • Verdi's Rigoletto, 8 p.m. Oct. 2; with Željko Lucic and Aleksandra Kurzak
  • [On PBS nationally] The Gershwins® Porgy and Bess, 9 p.m. Oct. 17 [on KQED]

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

Cappella SF Records, Performs

August 26, 2014

SFS Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin's Cappella SF is recording a Christmas CD, and will give a concert in All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, on Oct. 4, and St. Mary's Cathedral on Oct. 5

The concert, called "Autumn Light," features Bach's Singet dem Herrn, Rheinberger's Mass in E-flat, De Profundis by Lidholm, Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen by Pärt, and music by Schnittke.

In addition to his work with SFS and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Bohlin is "looking forward to an unusually busy year," which includes guest music directing Chanticleer this fall and guest conducting their youth choir festival next March; making his debut with the Stavanger Symphony and chorus with Poulenc's Gloria; making debut with the Edmonton Symphony and chorus in December; and "reinvited several times for productions with Sao Paulo Symphony for 2015-2016."

Bohlin adds to that list involving lots of travel: "Glad I have a supportive family!"

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

Brant's Ice Field Returns to Davies Symphony Hall

August 26, 2014

Charles Amirkhanian of Other Minds, Henry Brant, and MTT at the premiereBass steel drums in the orchestra seating, a jazz band in the mezzanine, shrieking piccolos high in the second tier, and fantastic growls from a massive pipe organ. American spatial music composer Henry Brant's Pulitzer-winning Ice Field: Spatial Narratives for Large and Small Orchestral Groups is returning to Davies Hall, where its world premiere took place 13 years ago.

Once again, MTT will lead the performances, on Sept. 18-21; the program also features Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. A special invitation has gone out to Other Minds, the organization commissioning the work, which has been performed only once.

Composed specifically for the architectural configuration of Davies Hall, what SFS calls a "polystylistic musical blowout" certainly cannot be appreciated from a recording, so to satisfy curiosity, presence in Davies Hall is required.

Brant (1913-2008) played the organ at the premiere, this time Cameron Carpenter will be in charge of the 8,264-pipe Ruffatti concert organ. Brantt said of his work:

I had come to feel that single-style music, no matter how experimental or full of variety, could no longer evoke the new stresses, layered insanities, and multi-directional assaults of contemporary life on the spirit. [Spatial music would] speak more expressively of the human predicament.

As a witness to the 2001 performance, I wonder if the work will make a different impression this time. Back then, unfortunately, it was an emphatic thumbs down:

Entertaining at best, the composition's only distinction was being one of the most pointless and frustrating concert experiences in my memory. On the plus side, this musical "curiosity," performed by 120 musicians scattered around the huge hall, benefitted from Michael Tilson Thomas' passionate advocacy and Brant's own organ virtuoso, however off his beat might have been as MTT waved his arms frantically, Brant never looking in the conductor's direction.

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

Stanford Fall Season Highlights

August 26, 2014

More about Stanford Live later, for now just calling attention to the season and a trio of highlights:

  • Kronos Quartet, 7 p.m. on Oct. 5, Bing Concert Hall, Stanford; works by Missy Mazzoli, Santa Ratniece, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Geeshie Wiley (arr. by Jacob Garchik), Margarita Lecuona (arr. by Osvaldo Golijov), Mary Kouyoumdjian: Bombs of Beirut; tickets: $30-$65.
  • Philharmonia Baroque, 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9, Bing Concert Hall, Stanford; works by Mozart, Boccherini and C.P.E. Bach (with cellist Steven Isserlis), Haydn; sold out, sign up for returns at this and other events.
  • St. Lawrence String Quartet 25th anniversary concert, 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, Bing Concert Hall, with cellist David Finckel; works by Haydn, Jonathan Berger, Schubert.

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

Music of the Sunset


August 26, 2014

Stained glass windows of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in the Sunset, home to a new concert seriesSunset Music | Arts is opening a series of free concerts to the community, but the next event will be an exception. Beginning at 5 p.m. on Sept. 20, $35 tickets will enable attendance at a gala, marking the centennial of the program's home, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation.

Performers include members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus: soprano Elisabeth Rom Lucio, mezzo Sally Porter Munro, tenor Norman DeVol, baritone Frederick Matthews, accompanied by Bryan Baker in a program of opera and Broadway show tunes.

Then among free concerts, note the appearance of the Rimsky-Korsakov String Quartet from St. Petersburg, at its first stop of a U.S. tour, on Sept. 26.

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

Bolshoi Ballet HD Casts in Local Theaters

August 26, 2014

Yuri Grigorovich at the 2011 reopening of the Bolshoi Theater, with Dmitry Medvedev, who is either president or prime minister of Russia, depending on what Putin is notRussia’s celebrated dance company will be seen with more works, in a wider selection of U.S. theaters than ever before. Of seven programs from the Bolshoi Ballet’s 2014–2015 season will be screened live productions of Sunday matinees, captured earlier the same day from Moscow.

With only one exception, all choreography in the series is by Yury Nikolayevich Grigorovich, 87, a Soviet and Russian dancer and choreographer, who dominated the Russian ballet for 30 years. Grigorovich was born into a family connected with the Imperial Russian Ballet. From the iconic The Stone Flower on, Grigorovich always collaborated with designer Simon Virsaladze.

The live productions in this series include:

  • The Legend of Love, one of Grigorovich’s earliest choreographies, to music by Arif Melikov on Sunday, Oct. 26
  • The Nutcracker, danced in the Grigorovich version, on Sunday, Dec. 21
  • Svetlana Zakharova in the Bolshoi's La Bayadere," with fellow principal dancers Maria Alexandrova, Dmitry Belogolovtsev and Alexander Fadeyechev.
  • Swan Lake, Grigorovich, on Sunday, Jan. 25.
  • Grigorovich's Romeo and Juliet, previously recorded, will be exhibited as a part of the cinema series on Sunday, March 8.

Other HD casts include Pierre Lacotte's The Pharaoh's Daughter, to Cesare Pugni's music, on Nov. 23; the Petipa-Grigorovich La Bayadere, to Ludwig Mankus' music, on Dec. 7; the Grigorovich-Prokofiev Ivan the Terrible, on Apr. 19.

Participating Bay Area theaters include:

Century 9 San Francisco Centre
Daly City 20
Bay Street 16
Pleasant Hill Downtown 16
Mountain View Cinemas 16
Century Pacific Commons
Century Silverado
Hacienda Crossings 20 Plus Imax
Cupertino 16

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

Schroeder Hall Opens in Sonoma

August 26, 2014

Schroeder Hall's Brombaugh organ, with organist James David ChristieSchroeder — the Peanuts' piano-playing, Beethoven-worshipper, pursued by Lucy van Pelt — now has his name on a new building in Sonoma's Green Music Center

Philanthropist Jean Schulz named the building in recognition of her late husband, cartoonist Charles Schulz.

After gala concerts and special event, the past weekend featured some 100 artists in 10 free concerts, including pianist David Benoit, performing a "Tribute to Charlie Brown"; Santa Rosa Symphony Conductor Laureate and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Artistic Director Jeffrey Kahane, playing Beethoven and Chopin; recitals by Sonoma State University; and the christening of the hall's Brombaugh Opus 9 organ by James David Christie of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Center's description:

Schroeder Hall's gently curving stone exterior and distinctive, swooping roofline punctuate the south perimeter of the Green Music Center grounds. Thousands of concertgoers have dined and danced in its shadow since the opening of Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall and Lawn in 2012, and students have strode past its doors to classes in the Music Education Hall. For nearly 20 years, a dedicated group of founding donors and visionaries has championed the conception, construction, and completion of this landmark building for Sonoma State University.

Among its many uses, Schroeder Hall will host Sonoma State University Music Department's classes and concerts.

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

Mario Opera: Take a Look

August 26, 2014

mario operaJonathan Mann, the musician who created the Mario Opera nearly a decade ago, has put the rock opera's first act on YouTube.

The work is a tribute to Donkey Kong/Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto, whom Mann calls a creative role model and personal inspiration. Mann performed the musical another 30 times over the next 18 months before ending the show, citing burnout and concerns over licensing.

The Mario Opera returned for a single night in August 2013. The video is of that performance. Until now, there hasn't been a way to see more than just excerpts from the show online. The opening number, "The Welcome Song," is above. The remainder of the first act, including his ode to Miyamoto, can be viewed at this playlist.

"I'm really proud of the Mario Opera," Mann writes. "I think it's a great show that anyone who grew up playing Mario will appreciate and enjoy, and there are moments that will give you genuine feels." While bringing the show back for one night in 2013 was an "amazing" experience, he felt that to attempt to fund ongoing production of the show with a Kickstarter would force a confrontation with Nintendo.

The Mario Opera is not Mann's only noteworthy venture; he has been writing and performing a song a day on YouTube, doing so continually since January 2009. (He's currently on song number 2,051). His work has earned him about 26,000 subscribers and nearly 14 million views, has been featured in major mainstream media and even was recognized by Apple with an appearance in an iPhone advertisement.

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].