Music News: July 15, 2014
July 15, 2014
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July 15, 2014
I have known Philip Wilder for years, writing about artists and events he represented as a vice president of the mighty 21C Media Group in New York. Unlike the often tenuous, fragile relationship between journalists and public relations people, with Wilder I was always able to get answers to questions instead of just another press release. The fact that this would often happen at night and weekends only made me appreciate him more.
And so when word came on Monday that Wilder has been named executive director of New Century Chamber Orchestra — succeeding Parker Monroe, whose tenure ran 18 years — I asked Wilder to tell me about the appointment, rather than going the "official release" rout. True to form, he complied promptly:
It's a thrill to be returning home to San Francisco. I began my career in music here 24 years ago at age 21, when I won a spot as a singer with Chanticleer. That appointment began a 13-year journey and education with that great ensemble, and my deep love for San Francisco.
I found the Bay Area to be an amazing place to begin a life in the arts, and to see first hand how musician/entrepreneurs can create a lasting legacy and a home for the next generation. Organizations like the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Chanticleer, Philharmonia Baroque, and the Kronos Quartet are just a few examples that reflect that Bay Area entrepreneurial spirit which has had a huge impact on the international music scene.
It was a great education to be accepted into such an important community of musicians and administrators, and that spirit of invention has been my guiding star ever since.
Coming back home to work with such an innovative and dynamic ensemble like New Century is dream come true. I have been a long-time fan of the orchestra, and have been following its steady rise in national and international stature under Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg's leadership. The orchestra has all of the elements that excite me about a musical ensemble. They're energetic, open, dedicated to creation of new work, and possessing the skill and virtuosity to achieve anything they aspire to achieve.
Going against the dubious San Francisco preference for importing talent from afar of supposedly greener grass, New Century seized the opportunity to recruit a true and tried homey.
Wilder had some big-name clients at 21C Media Group — including Yefim Bronfman, Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato, Steven Stucky, and Jeremy Denk. He advised organizations, such as the Dallas Opera, the Grand Teton Music Festival, and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. In the Bay Area, he was involved with Festival del Sole from the beginning, and helped local artists.
As a countertenor, he sang with Chanticleer in more than 1,000 concerts around the world, became artistic administrator, assistant music director and founding director of education. He launched the annual Chanticleer Youth Choral Festival for San Francisco Bay Area high school students.
Most recently, Wilder served as executive director of communications for the Eastman School of Music, and was founding artistic and executive director with Sing With Haiti, a not-for-profit organization supporting the Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince. He is a producer of new media content for Music Makes a City, a PBS documentary film and arts advocacy project.
In 17 concerts around the Bay Area in 2014-2015, beginning Sept. 11, New Century performs a wide range of repertoire spanning four centuries, including Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, Mahler’s transcription of the Schubert String Quartet D. 810 “Death and the Maiden,” Brahms’ Sextet for Strings in Bb Major, Mozart’s Divertimento K. 136, and Arvo Pärt’s Fratres.
On July 26, a quartet of musicians from New Century will perform in Asian Art Museum galleries from 1 to 3 p.m. in conjuction with the museum's Gorgeous exhibit; the performance is free with museum admission.
July 15, 2014
Looking through the varied wealth of Music@Menlo offerings, the 12th annual festival running July 18 through Aug. 9, you will find some especially attractive string quartet programs.
The Escher Quartet, which made such an impression at its debut here in 2007, just two years after its formation at the Manhattan School of Music, has a concert not to be missed on July 23: all of Alexander von Zemlinsky's string quartets (except the pre-No. 1 String Quartet in D Major), spanning time between 1896 and 1936 — as well as Brahmsian neoclassicism to Schoenberg and to an homage to the composer's pupil and friend, Alban Berg.
The Zemlinsky set has been recorded by the Escher on the Naxos label. The ensemble currently consists of Adam Barnett-Hart, Aaron Boyd, violins; Pierre Lapointe, viola; Dane Johansen, cello. Barnett-Hart and Lapointe are the two remaining original members.
The Escher will join the Danish String Quartet and seven festival notables (including Wu Han on timpani) at the July 19 festival-opening "Dvořák in Context" concert, to perform the Bartók Divertimento for String Orchestra. The concert also features the Quartet in Dvořák's String Quartet No. 10 with the Escher; Mozart's Serenade in D Major, K. 239, and Martinů's Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola
The Danish Quartet — of Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, violins; Asbjørn Nørgaard, viola; Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin, cello — will have its night on July 25, in the "Lobkowicz Legacy" concert, performing Haydn's String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1, Beethoven's String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1, and Beethoven's No. 10 in E-flat Major ("Harp").
The first of the always-fascinating Prelude Performances starts at 3:30 p.m. on July 19, featuring young artists in the Dvořák String Quintet No. 3 ("American") and Beethoven's Trio in C Minor. Prelude Performances are still free, but tickets should be obtained either at Will Call beginning one hour prior to the start of each concert or reserved online in advance on the day of the event after 9 a.m.
July 15, 2014
ODC/Dance's Summer Sampler, July 31-Aug. 2, is part of ODC Theater’s Music Moves Festival, which celebrates the relationship between music and dance.
The series begins with a benefit performance for ODC collaborator cellist Zoë Keating, whose husband was recently diagnosed with metastatic cancer. The company performs Breathing Underwater, the 2012 collaboration between founding artistic director Brenda Way and Keating, in addition to Lifesaving Maneuvers, Way’s work set on an original score by Jay Cloidt.
Magik*Magik Orchestra’s Erin Wang joins ODC in this one night only performance to support the benefit. All proceeds go to Keating’s family.
In addition to Breathing Underwater and Lifesaving Maneuvers, the program on August 1-2 features Scramble, the 2007 work by KT Nelson set to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 D major, recorded by Yo-Yo Ma.
The choreographers and artists will be on hand after the performances for talkback sessions with the audience.
July 15, 2014
A prominent conductor for an amazing seven decades of his 84 years, Lorin Maazel, who died at his Castleton, VA, home on Sunday, was a major, often controversial figure on the international music scene.
Lorin Varencove Maazel was born in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine on March 6, 1930. His parents were American music students studying there — Lincoln Maazel, a singer, and Marie Varencove Maazel, a pianist. The child prodigy started conducting at age 9, appeared with major orchestras as a teenager, and became music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony and, until his death, the Munich Philharmonic.
Allan Kozinn writes in Maazel's New York Times obituary:
Mr. Maazel was a study in contradictions, and he evoked strong feelings — favorable and otherwise — from musicians, administrators, critics, and audiences.
He projected an image of an analytical intellectual — he had studied mathematics and philosophy in college, was fluent in six languages (French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, as well as English) and kept up with many subjects outside music — and his performances could seem coolly fastidious and emotionally distant. Yet such performances were regularly offset by others that were fiery and intensely personalized.
He was revered for the precision of his baton technique, and for his prodigious memory — he rarely used a score in performances — but when he was at his most interpretively idiosyncratic, he used his powers to distend phrases and reconfigure familiar balances in the service of an unusual inner vision.
The NPR obituary quotes Alex Ross' profile in The New Yorker: "He is unpredictable: Performances of his that I have heard over the years have ranged from the propulsive to the repulsive, with few subtle shades in between."
The Guardian obituary says of the end of his career:
Only at the beginning of this year did Maazel have to start making cancellations in a still-full conducting schedule; the reason given was an unspecified illness, which would eventually lead to his death from complications due to pneumonia. Having already conducted one Mahler cycle with the Philharmonia orchestra decades back, he had embarked on another. Critics were mostly baffled by the uniformly slow tempi and lethargic approach, which made singing very difficult indeed for a great artist such as the mezzo-soprano Alice Coote in a vocally extraordinary interpretation of Das Lied von der Erde.
In June Maazel resigned from his post as music director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and ceded to Semyon Bychkov what would have been a lavish celebration around Richard Strauss's 150th birthday with the Berlin Philharmonic. Maazel's own achievement as a composer remained on a level with his contemporary André Previn. In interview he remarked that, for composers, "there is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been used and done, so it's not the means you use, but how you use them."
July 15, 2014
More than 26,000 flocked to AT&T Park on July 5 to see a free, live simulcast of San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi's La traviata, the eighth such event since David Gockley became general director of the company. (He pioneered free open-air simulcasts while heading Houston Grand Opera.)
The production, which concluded the SFO summer season on July 13, starred husband-and-wife team Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello as Violetta Valéry and Alfredo Germont, and baritone Quinn Kelsey as Giorgio Germont. The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus was conducted by Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi.
July 15, 2014
The New York Times was impressed enough with Romeo Santos selling out 50,000-seat Yankee Stadium on two consecutive nights last weekend to put the story on the front page.
I, on the other hand, took special note of what bachata is ("a genre born in the sugarcane fields of the Dominican Republic, refined in New York City and characterized by rippling guitars, a gently pulsating beat and, in contrast to salsa, an absence of horns") and this demographic item:
Mr. Santos’s success is a testament ... to the growing influence the nation’s Hispanic population of more than 50 million ... one video from [Santos'] most recent CD has been viewed 345 million times on YouTube, compared with 185 million for Beyoncé’s Drunk in Love — [although] he is all but unknown to Americans who speak only English.
By infusing a traditional Latino sound and its subject matter — romance — with R&B and inflections of hip-hop, Mr. Santos, 32, has created a genre that bridges traditional differences of taste between the Caribbean and Mexican-American worlds while appealing to young Latinos growing up listening to American music.
Here's a bachata primer, an excerpt from Bachata Dance Festival Bachatu 2014, and bachata songs, but be careful looking for "bachata Romeo Santos" — some of those websites use viruses, perhaps to encourage buying Santos' recordings, rather than sampling them for free.
July 15, 2014
As the curtain rises, a gray-suited figure looking suspiciously like Russian President Vladimir Putin stands in front of a huge map of Crimea and reads a poem titled "My Crimea." Later, groups of happy children dance and sing Crimean Tatar songs.
On July 10, the St. Petersburg Opera Theater debuted Crimea, a new production based on a 1946 opera called The Sevastopolians by Marian Koval.
Koval, who died in 1971, was a laureate of the prestigious Stalin Prize, and well known for his role in the Stalin-inspired campaign against fellow composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
The new production is billed as an "opera-rally." According to the publicity, it is "an operational meeting with the public" in which the audience takes an active part and, in one scene, viewers are asked to "express their civic position." In the finale, a choir of Crimeans turns to the audience and sings "Take us with you!"
Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea region of Crimea in March over the protests of Kiev and most of the international community.
Art director Yury Aleksandrov removed all the hymns to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and the romantic subplot of the original, leaving behind only love for the Motherland.
"Our main position is clear and principled," he said. "We have Crimea. It is ours. We will not surrender it to anyone. No one ordered this work. No one paid for it. We did it ourselves with our own resources. We couldn't be silent," Aleksandrov adds.
Aleksandr Kobrinsky, a professor at the Herzen Pedagogical University, sees ominous historical parallels:
"Our intelligentsia is acting just like it did in 1914," he said. "Then it was joyfully shouting 'The Bosporus and Dardanelles are ours!' and 'Long live the Russian Army!' Everyone loved the tsar and the government, while shamefully ignoring the pogroms against Germans that were taking place at that time in Petrograd. Just two years later, in 1916, the views of the Russian intelligentsia and the public toward the government changed 180 degrees. Unfortunately, this is a common phenomenon with us."
July 15, 2014
KALW-FM is broadcasting performances from the 2014 Spoleto Chamber Music Monday evenings at 9. Participating musicians include cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan, flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, clarinetist Todd Palmer, and the members of the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Here are programs for the next three broadcasts.
* July 21: Livia Sohn, violin; Anthony Manzo, double bass; Pedja Muzijevic, harpsichord; St. Lawrence String Quartet: (Geoff Nuttall, violin; Scott St. John, violin; Lesley Robertson, viola; Christopher Costanza, cello) — Vivaldi, Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 8, RV269, "Spring" / Hsin-Yun Huang, viola; Pedja Muzijevic, piano — Bax, Sonata for Viola in G Major / Todd Palmer, clarinet; Pavel Koleskinov, piano — von Weber, Grand Duo Concertant, Op. 48
* July 28: Pedja Muzijevic and Pavel Kaleskinov, piano — Ravel, La Valse / Geoff Nuttall and Livia Sohn, violin — Bartok, Selections from Duo, Op. 44 / Chris Costanza, cello — J. S. Bach, Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007, for solo cello / James Austin Smith, oboe; Todd Palmer, clarinet; Livia Sohn, violin; Hsin-Yun Huang, viola; Anthony Manzo, double bass; Pedja Muzijevic, piano — Guillame Connesson, Sextet (1998)
* Aug 4: Daniel Phillips and Livia Sohn, violin — Jean-Marie Le Clair, Sonata for Two Violins in A Major, Op. 3, No. 2 / Tara Helen O'Connor, flute; Daniel Phillips, violin; Hsin-Yun Huang, viola; James Austin Smith, oboe; Peter Kolkay, bassoon — Couperin, Concerts Royaux in D Major, No. 2 / St. Lawrence String Quartet — Haydn, Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5
July 15, 2014
For four hours between 4 and 8 p.m. on July 17 the Grand Lobby of the Yerba Buena Center for Arts will host a free performance of ConVerge: Water, "an experimental, participatory dance deeply engaged with water movement and meaning expressed through the physical medium of bodies."
Performance artist QinMin Liu and her ensemble are presenting an "experience centered on the fluidity of the medium and dimension." She is an interdisciplinary artist from China, who uses choreography, performance art, and visual art as tools to explain what she calls "unseen forces." She explains:
After 15 years of dance training and performing, body language becomes an irreplaceable element in my art creating. I have been exploring a new art concept (4A concept) after I discovered my own unique body language. 4A concept describes my creative motivation and inspiration, which represents “anywhere,” “anyone," “anything," and “anytime."
Straightforward dance movements, improvisation, non-traditional theatrical spaces and unrestricted creating styles are my tools to describe our daily lives and explain modern society’s unspeakable problems. It is my responsibility to vocalize in art people's voices and concerns through my works. Making art becomes a process of questioning social issues and answering them at the same time. Paying attention to public art reminds me of the connection between artist and audience. As an artist, my hope is remove the line that separates us.
I clash, intertwine and fuse with unpredictable elements, whether they are visible or not. I long to connect with one point and any other points that don’t have traits of the same nature. My art and movement explodes in the middle of such dynamic and infinitely connections. My work is not an end product of any kind, but yet pertains to a flammable energy always seeking to invade diverse entranceways and exits. These dot-connecting movement of mine doesn’t simply draw lines; instead, it floods out a dimension, a map that’s overspilled by my rawest human desire.