Music News: June 18, 2013
It might have been well anticipated, but the big news is that the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is being honored today with a 2012-2013 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. It's the 32nd consecutive annual award for the 51-year-old festival.
The awards ceremony is being held at the League of American Orchestras’ 68th annual conference in St. Louis. The honor goes to orchestras of all sizes for programs that "challenge the audience, build the repertoire, and increase interest in music of our time."
The next Cabrillo Festival, under the direction of Marin Alsop for the 22nd year, will take place in Santa Cruz, Aug. 2-11, featuring world premieres by Sean Friar and Kevin Puts, U.S. premieres by Brett Dean and Philip Glass, West Coast premieres by Christopher Rouse and George Walker, and a special 40th anniversary celebration of the Kronos Quartet.
Alsop is presenting works by 13 composers, with nine in residence: Friar, Puts, Walker, Derek Bermel, Enrico Chapela, Anna Clyne, Thomas Newman, Andrew Norman, and Gregory Rians Smith.
Tickets for the festival go on sale today. In case you were holding off, awaiting word from ASCAP, now it's safe to proceed.
Modern-music scribe Jeff Dunn says he is looking forward to Cabrillo especially because of Rouse's Third Symphony on Aug. 2.
Emblematic of the world-class stature of this composer, it was commissioned by the St. Louis, Stockholm, and Shanghai symphonies. Inspired by the form of Prokofiev's Second Symphony and Beethoven's last piano sonata, it was characterized by one critic as an "aggressive mix of wild cacophony and surprising lyricism." It received a standing ovation at its premiere in St. Louis in 2011. Rouse is now completing a Fourth Symphony for the New York Philharmonic, to be premiered next season.
But I'm also anxious to hear the U.S. premiere of Brett Dean's Fire Music the following night; it represents the composer's take on the devastating conflagrations that hit Australia in 2009. California has already had a hefty dose of the same, and more may be in store. An Australian critic called it a "towering masterpiece," or was he thinking "towering inferno"? In any case, Dean is one of the greatest composers writing today, essential listening for anyone claiming to be abreast of contemporary music.
Knowing that musical accompaniment for Hitchcock's The Pleasure Garden was played by Stephen Horne alone, I was puzzled to no end Sunday evening in the Castro Theater when I heard a flute join the piano, to be followed by a piano-accordion duet. I couldn't possibly tell in the dark, but Horne confirmed later that he was playing the instruments simultaneously.
"There is a way to play the accordion with one hand and the piano with the other," he explained, "and five notes on the flute can also be played using one hand."
Consider that playing multiple instruments (including the glockenspiel and planning to add theramin — "a very difficult instrument") is the least of the magic Horne performs days after day. (During two days of the "Hitchcock-9" festival weekend, he played music for four different films.)
Going around the world, from his London home-base to Italy's famed Pordenone Giornate del Cinema Muto, Bologna's Festival di Cinema Ritrovato, and special events in Cannes, Horne plays accompaniment for silent film. He always plays without a score, improvising while watching the screen, and usually without light over the keyboard, "playing by touch." And also playing the flute, accordion, etc.
At one point, during a suspenseful ghost scene of The Pleasure Garden in the Castro, Horne even provided some heavy-breathing special effects on the accordion, using the bellows without keys.
Born in Essex, Horne received a music degree from Nottingham, and played piano in pubs and for ballet school classes and rehearsals (something he still does). Silent movies entered his life with a bang almost 30 years ago. (I questioned that because he looks late 30-ish/early 40-ish, but he says he turns 50 in October.)
A woman running a small film society in London asked Horne to play for a screening in Essex of Carl Theodor Dreyer's famed 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc — and there was only one reel available to show to Horne before the screening. So there he was, his first silent-film gig, for a great, difficult film he had not seen before the event — a kind of of triple improvisation.
He says today that he regards Joan of Arc as a great challenge, and he managed the music back then "only because I didn't know what I was doing."
He got into silents accompaniment in a big way when getting assignments for the British Film Institute's frequent screenings of old classics, something he is still doing.
This is the seventh year for Horne's San Francisco performances, and he is returning this summer to play music in the Castro for SFSFF's Augusto Genina's 1930 Prix de Beauté (July 18), Miles Mander's 1928 The First Born (July 19), John Canemaker's biography of Winsor McCay (July 20), Boris Barnet's 1928 The House on Trubnaya Square (July 20), and Emory Johnson's 1925 The Last Edition (July 21) — five films in four days.
At times, Horne is commissioned to write, perform, and record a score. He did so for some BFI restorations, using a quintet; himself playing piano, flute, and accordion, others playing oboe, oboe d' amore, fiddle, viola, lever harp, and percussion.
As he explained before the Hitchcock festival, his accompaniments are "a combination of planned improvisation and compositional elements — what I like to call an improvised score."
His most experimental score came with Downhill, a film which Horne characterizes, rightly, as "a gloriously strange combination of the kitsch, ridiculous, and downright weird."
Pianist Vadym Kholodenko, Gold Medalist at last week's Van Cliburn Competition finals, will be among featured artists of the Bear Valley Music Festival.
The 26-year-old Ukrainian-born resident of Moscow will be the soloist in a concerto, yet to be named, on Aug. 3, under the direction of Michael Morgan, the festival's new music director. Running July 26 through Aug. 11, the festival will also feature nine-time Grammy Award winning country and western group Asleep at the Wheel, jazz composer/pianist Taylor Eigsti, pianist Richard Glazier, "violinist/comic" Dawn Harms (I always knew this exceptional musician was funny, but never saw the designation before), a Bollywood-themed gala, and much more.
The Delphi Trio will be in residence, giving community concerts and master classes. The trio, formed at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, consists of pianist Jeffrey LaDeur (M.M., chamber music, 2011), former student of Yoshikazu Nagai; violinist Liana Bérubé (M.M., chamber music, 2010), former student of Axel Strauss; and Michelle Kwon (M.M., cello, 2009), former student of Jennifer Culp.
The UC Santa Cruz music professor and former music department chair (1988-1992) is expected to have a memorial event on campus where the event (still being planned) will include some of Lieberman's compositions, with Mickey Hart's participation.
Ever since the Tokyo String Quartet's farewell tour, I've been wondering about the rank of seniority among existing quartets. This list, compiled with the help of Lisa Hirsch and Michelle Dulak Thomson, may only approximate a full picture — feel free to add and correct in Comments below.
Borodin String Quartet, 1945
Fine Arts Quartet, 1946
Juilliard String Quartet, 1949
Allegri Quartet, 1953
Talich Quartet, 1964
Tokyo Quartet, 1970
Kronos Quartet, 1973
Arditti Quartet, 1974
Takács Quartet, 1974
Emerson Quartet, 1976
Lisa added: "The oldest of them all is the Gewandhaus String Quartet of Leipzig, founded in 1808."
Oakland-born Anne Hege, who has a master's degree from Mills College, returns from Princeton University doctoral studies to become artistic director of the East Bay choral group Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble. She succeeds Jude Navari, who has led the ensemble for the past 14 years.
Hege currently works as a vocalist, composer, improviser, and electronic musician, and performs original works with her duo New Prosthetics, the laptop ensemble Sideband, and the Carrie Ahern Dance Company.
In 2000, she founded and directed the Albany Community Chorus, and she has led various sacred and secular vocal and performance ensembles in the Bay Area, Mexico City, New Jersey, and New York.
For her doctoral research at Princeton, Hege developed a "body-centered theory of musical and multimedia analysis." Music News will try to follow up on that intriguing subject later.
The 20-voice Voci Ensemble last year celebrated its 20th anniversary. The ensemble, which champions music by and for women, was invited last year to participate in the International Tapestry Festival in Vancouver, B.C. Voci will be holding auditions for new advanced choral singers in August.
East Palo Alto housing advocate William Webster appears in a new role, as the composer of The Little Match Girl, to receive its world premiere on June 20 at a Montparnasse music festival in Paris.
Webster composed the opera, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, in the 1970s, when studying music at Stanford.
Sharon Davis and Julia Wade recorded the opera in Webster's studio, a copy of which was sent to a former Stanford schoolmate friend, American poet Roger Dickinson-Brown, who lives in Paris. He advocated the work and eventually got it produced, to be performed by French singers.
Webster told Daily News columnist Bonnie Eslinger that he would like to see his composition performed locally, with proceeds benefiting East Palo Alto residents.
"This story of The Little Match Girl is so relevant to the themes of struggling for survival and existence and homelessness," Webster said.
Getting ready for the end of San Francisco Symphony's 101st season this month, turn your attention to the internet, where there is a wealth of SFS performances.
Let's begin with the last, centennial, season whose gala opening featured Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas leading a performance of John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine.
An amazing free recording online is the entire MTT/SFS performance at the Proms of Mahler's Seventh Symphony in Royal Albert Hall.
From the Keeping Score series, watch the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 featuring SFS principal oboe Bill Bennett (1956-2013).
Very timely this week, as the orchestra is giving four concerts of Stravinsky's music, watch the MTT/SFS performance of The Rite of Spring.
In 1944, to honor the Allied victory in Italy, Arturo Toscanini conducted Verdi's Hymn of the Nations, built on the national anthems of Britain, France, and Italy. In order to honor all four of the major Allies, Toscanini decided to add "The Star Spangled Banner" and the "Internationale" for the Soviet Union.
The music was performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra, with the Westminister Choir, and Jan Peerce as soloist. It was filmed as a featurette to be shown in movie theaters and was narrated by Burgess Meredith.
In the early 50's, at the height of McCarthyism, U.S. censors excised the portion of this performance that featured the "Internationale."
For more than a half a century, the sequence in the original featurette was missing, but recently a copy was found — it's worth watching.