Music News: Jan. 21, 2014
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Stanford's Pan-Asian Music Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary Feb. 1 through March 1. Festival founder and director Jindong Cai speaks proudly of the past decade:
We have explored many of the rich and diverse musical cultures from Asia; with the festival as our looking-glass, we hope to continue bringing people and traditions from East and West together through music.
One of the most important hallmarks of the festival is its originality. I go to the featured regions and seek talented musicians and then work with them to create our programs.
For example, this year’s performance by the 25 artists of the Tibetan Arts Troupe Of Qinghai presents a very rare opportunity to experience traditional Tibetan music, especially some of the dances and chanting are normally performed only in monasteries in Tibetan regions.
Similarly, the 30 performers from Mongolia rank among that nation’s best artists and represent diverse art forms, including traditional hoomi throat-singing and Mongolian dance as well as Western grand opera and ballet.
The festival begins on Feb. 1 with a Chinese New Year concert by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra with soloists Cong Zhao (pipa), Suli Xue (violinist) of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Rueibin Chen as the soloist in the Yellow River Piano Concerto.
The festival continues with weekend performances by the visiting ensembles from Tibet and Mongolia. Although not part of the festival, Feb. 28 and March 2 performances of the Verdi Requiem, with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus, will feature four soloists from the Mongolian National Opera.
The Qinghai company has visited Nepal and Thailand, but it is making its North America debut at the festival. Its programs include ceremonial chants and dances, some of which are mostly performed only inside Tibetan Buddhist temples, and folk dances, singing, and other traditional performing art forms.
A Mongolian gala event, on March 1, will present acclaimed performers from the country in both traditional folk music and dance and Western-style opera and ballet. The Pan-Asian Music Festival includes numerous free forums and symposia discussing art in China, Tibet, and Mongolia, with the participation of artists and officials from those countries.
As San Francisco Ballet is opening the 2014 season this week (see next item), I thought it would be a good idea to ask the prominent bassist, teacher, and composer Shinji Eshima about it, but the automated response was: "I'm out of town Jan 6-21 often without internet. Sorry for the delay replying," followed by a surprising message:
Teaching in Moscow. Also found out Joffrey will be doing RAkU this September. Also playing Trout as part of the Menuhin [Festival] in February at San Francisco State University ...
Looking at the photo Eshima sent, showing him with his class (of what appear to be graduate students) in front of the school, a knowledgeable friend identified it as the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music.
"In the past it was called Gnessin State Musical College, the elite and prestige music school in Moscow." Further spotted: "Shinji is holding a beautiful vodka gift box in his hand." Apparently, his work was well appreciated.
From the note, it appears the Joffrey Ballet is taking on RAkU, Yuri Possokhov's ballet for which Eshima composed the score. Premiered in 2011 by the San Francisco Ballet, and reprised the next year, the work is certain to be produced by other companies as well.
Right now, Eshima must be approaching the West Coast, ready to land in time for the S.F. Ballet's Wednesday gala.
After decades of exceptional service both in the Ballet and Opera orchestras, he will surely be on duty, jet lag or not.
San Francisco Ballet Music Director Martin West says, with justifiable pride, that his orchestra will perform "the most diverse repertoire of any company I know."
The Ballet season of new works and classics features a variety that certainly compares favorably with that of many symphony orchestras, never mind ballet companies.
West singles out "the Shostakovich 'tryptich' — three exceptional pieces of Shostakovich to show off the different styles of his art. For Stravinsky, both Firebird and Rite of Spring in the same season — is an impressive amount for the orchestra play. Rite of Spring calls for the largest orchestra ever assembled by the ballet.
After the season-opening gala on Wednesday and then from Jan. 25-Feb. 2 Giselle on the first program, here's what's coming:
John Neumeier's A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Feb. 12-13) is set on music by Mendelssohn and Ligeti; Program 2 (Feb. 18-March 1) offers Moritz Moszkowski's music for Alexei Ratmansky's From Foreign Lands and music by Joel Cadbury and Paul Stoney for Wayne McGregor's Borderlands. The world premiere on the program, by the musically always adventurous Val Caniparoli, is Steve Reich's Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards, commissioned and first performed by the San Francisco Symphony in 1980.
Program 3 (Feb. 20-March 2) will have the Yuri Possokhov Firebird to the Stravinsky score, Christopher Wheeldon's Ghosts to music by C.F. Kip Winger, and Act 2 of the Minkus Bayadère, set on Leon Minkus' music.
Wheeldon's Cinderella is to Prokofiev's score in Program 4 (March 11-23), followed by Program 5 and Alexei Ratmansky's Trilogy to Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony, Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor.
Stravinsky returns to Program 6 (March 11-23), with The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Possokhov, Mark Morris' Maelstrom, with Beethoven's music, and a world premiere by Helgi Tomasson, Symphonic Caprice, to Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 2, plus the Adagio from Symphony No. 3.
Program 7 (April 29-May 10) is especially varied: a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, to Philip Glass' Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; Tomasson's The Fifth Season to a Karl Jenkins score; and Serge Lifar's classic Suite en Blanc, set to music excerpted from the 1882 ballet Namouna by Èdouard Lalo.
The season-closer Program 8 (May 1-11) has two music-identifying titles: George Balanchine's Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet and Jerome Robbins' (Philip) Glass Pieces, plus Balanchine's Agon to the Stravinsky score.
Yes, Flash Mob videos have become dime a dozen, but I'd like to recommend heartily this one from a Brno shopping center.
It comes from bicontinental friend Charlie Cockey, a San Franciscan film-maven active in Europe (and at San Jose's upcoming Cinequest), who makes his home in Brno for most of the year. He writes:
Our own hometown Flash Mob, in the downtown Vanková Shopping Center, where the Modern and Experimental Music Festival used to be held, I met Louis Andriessen there when he was a guest for the local performance of his amazing piece De Staat.
This surprise concert is by the Brno Symphony, playing Smetana's Vltava (The Moldau) from Ma vlast (My Homeland), probably the single most known piece of classical music here ever since its 1882 premiere in Prague.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has named Robert Fitzpatrick interim provost and dean, as Mary Ellen Poole is stepping down after 10 years of service as dean. Fitzpatrick is former dean and chief academic officer of the Curtis Institute of Music. He will serve in an interim capacity until the search for a new permanent dean for the Conservatory is completed.
The dean is head of the faculty and in charge of curriculum; the provost is the senior academic administrator.
Conservatory President David H. Stull says Fitzpatrick "has a wealth of management and leadership experience and is a highly accomplished musician and teacher." Stull noted that Fitzpatrick’s guidance in post-secondary educational administration will be particularly useful for the Conservatory’s accreditation report to WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) due later this year. "He has led numerous accreditation processes with multiple agencies and organizations, including a site visit to SFCM in the 1990s."
Fitzpatrick has an extensive career as conductor, having served as music director of the Garden State Philharmonic, the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, and elsewhere. He was also principal clarinetist of several East Coast orchestras.
In the beginning, L'il Abner was Al Capp's comic strip about the hillbillies of Dogpatch, running for 43 years, from 1934 to 1977. I doubt many remember today the Yokums: Abner, Daisy Mae, pint-sized Poppy and Mammy, and L'il Abner himself, he of the ironic name — being 6'3" — and a perpetually 19, simple-minded, sweet-natured hillbilly. And then there was Lower Slobbovia and Sadie Hawkins Day, but never mind.
Perhaps memories of the 1956 Gene de Paul-Johnny Mercer musical and the 1940 and 1959 films made of it are just as hazy, except for Julie Newmar's Amazonian Stupefyin' Jones. None of which will come to play when the musical is presented by a cast of 46 — ages 9 through 14 — how could they know what even their parents don't remember?
The production is by the San Francisco Arts Education Project, Emily Keeler director. There will be eight performances between Feb. 14 and March 2, at the Eureka Theater. Tickets are $15-$25, and $40 ($20 for students and seniors) for the closing day reception and party, which includes include drinks, hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and benefits the SFAE Project.
Danny Duncan directs the show, the set is designed by the technical theater students at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts under the guidance of the program’s co-director Paul Kwape and the school’s resident artist Jenny King Turko; Tiersa Nureyev is creating the costumes.
Musical highlights? "If I Had My Druthers," "Jubilation T. Cornpone," and "The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands." Ah, memories!
The Arts Education Project was founded in 1968 (as the Alvarado School Arts Workshop) by artist Ruth Asawa; its programs include numerous projects for high school students, and apprenticeships for college students.
Paul Ellison, organist and music director at Church of the Advent of Christ the King of San Francisco, has joined an international recital challenge for organists from around the world playing in a year-long recital series in celebration of the Royal College of Organists’ 150th anniversary.
Ellison, a native of Liverpool, England, was educated at the Royal Academy of Music in London, London University, Queen’s College, Cambridge, San Jose State University, and Cardiff University. In addition to his duties at Church of the Advent, he is a member of the faculties of San Francisco State University and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School in San Mateo.
He played a recital at Church of the Advent of Christ the King on Sunday, performing music by Bach, Brahms, de Cabezón, Karg-Elert, Krebs, Jongen and Walond.
The recital is part of a series of events taking place throughout 2014, as the Royal College of Organists celebrates 150 years of working for the advancement and promotion of the best in organ playing and choral directing.
RCO President Catherine Ennis says:
The organ has been with us in its various forms for more than 2,000 years. The instrument, which Mozart so famously praised as "the King of instruments," has influenced and shaped music, inspired the great composers, played an essential part in supporting worship in churches and adorned our concert halls.
Today the organ sounds as brightly as ever through the rhythms of all of our lives, from christenings, weddings and funerals to our Christmas celebrations, great occasions of State and much more besides.
We are extremely proud that the Royal College of Organists has reached this significant anniversary, and through the 150 for 150 Recital Challenge we hope to share our celebrations with everyone who has an interest in organ and choral music, whether through playing the organ, directing or singing in a choir, or through simple enjoyment of the music.