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Music News

May 18, 2010

Stay up to date with weekly classical music news from the Bay Area, across the US & around the World.

What's Black & White & Educational All Over?

The San Francisco Symphony's biennial Black & White Ball, to be held at the S.F. Civic Center Saturday, May 22, provides support for the Symphony's Adventures in Music (AIM) program. The ball, called "a party with a purpose" by event chair Patricia Sprincin, is essential for music education programs in San Francisco public elementary schools.

Working in partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District, AIM serves more than 22,000 students in public, independent, and parochial schools.

AIM was launched in 1988, a decade after Prop. 13 which decimated financing for California's public schools, creating a vacuum where a rich music and art education existed before.

The AIM program consists of in-school participatory performances by ensembles, a music-centered interdisciplinary curriculum, professional development sessions for teachers and principals, supplementary resources for teachers, and much more.

The evening component of the AIM program is a series of musical performances at selected school sites around the city. The performances are geared to parents and families of AIM students, and to members of the community in each participating school’s neighborhood.

The highlight of the program is the field trip to Davies Symphony Hall for a concert by the orchestra for the students.

What, in dollars and cents, is the Ball's contribution? Response from a PR company working on the event: "All proceeds from the Ball go to Adventures in Music, though the Symphony does not comment on income raised." As to SFS itself, word is that "We don't have that figure broken down."

With more than 10,000 participants and most tickets sold in the $200-to-$325 range (some much higher), the estimated gross income from the Ball is approximately $2.5 million. Expenses for this very large-scale event — in addition to volunteer and staff time — may be around $1.5 million, so the net is likely to be around $1 million.

It has been called "a relatively modest amount, yet its importance for the institution is hard to overstate. The ball generates widespread press attention, brings donors in contact with one another, and gives everybody a chance to celebrate the Symphony."

A peripheral hard figure from SFS, part of a job posting, is that The Volunteer Council — whose activities include the Opening Gala, Deck the Hall/Community Day, Chinese New Year Celebration, Black and White Ball, and the Symphony Golf Classic — "contributes in excess of $2.5 million on a net basis annually in support of the Symphony’s [$62.5 million] operating budget." Only the Opening Gala comes close to the Ball in scope.

So, on Saturday, live it up while helping a very good cause.

Gustavo the Good

Speaking of music education, if you missed Sunday's 60 Minutes, watch the segment online about Gustavo Dudamel working to establish El Sistema in Los Angeles, and elsewhere in the U.S. Now that he is the musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dudamel is dedicated to the work of transplanting here the Venezuelan system that changed his life.

It's impressive, even moving testimony that neither fame nor hype spoiled him — a great accomplishment all by itself, on top of all the good he does for disadvantaged young people.

Besides L.A., El Sistema USA is established in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Pasadena, and San Antonio. Will San Francisco, Oakland, San José, and other Northern California cities follow?

Further good deeds: When Dudamel and the Philharmonic reached Nashville on their national tour, they found the city and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center damaged by floods. They gave the concert in another hall, and donated $25,000 to the Nashville Symphony to help replace Steinway pianos lost in the floods.

Gustavo the Forgetful

Dudamel is very, very good at acknowledging his players, he always singles out individual musicians who have a solo part for taking the applause, and — as far as I know — he never takes a solo bow, always stands with the orchestra. All of which is good, but last Monday, at the Los Angeles Philharmonic concert in Davies Hall, he missed an opportunity to do something unusual, but well-deserved.

He should have acknowledged Aron Bateleur, who had a heroic, winning battle as the page-turner for pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in the Bernstein Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety). I have never seen such a disorderly score in many years of concert-going. A rather mysterious draft of air kept blowing pages back and forth, forcing Bateleur and even Thibaudet to keep straightening out the pages constantly. Remarkably, Thibaudet didn't once lose his place, although he should be faulted for not memorizing a work he is playing in several locations on the orchestra's national tour.

Bateleur, San Francisco Symphony Chorus librarian and singer (she is an alto), is one of the best-known page-turners in town, participating in San Francisco Performances and Conservatory concerts, always dressed in black, trying to be invisible, and always doing a great job.

She should have taken a bow on Monday.

Free Concerts End ... For the Summer

Mill Valley Philharmonic's always-free offerings conclude at the end of the 2010 season with concerts on June 4 (Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church), June 5 (San Rafael Community Center), and June 6 (Tamalpais Valley Community Center).

MVP Director Laurie Cohen will conduct the program "Celebrating All Things 10," on the orchestra's 10th anniversary, including — cleverly — music from 1810-born Robert Schumann (Symphony No. 3, Rhenish), 1910-written Cortege Solennel by Alexander Glazunov, and the 2010 Celebration Symphony by Katrina Wreede, Moses Sedler, and Alexis Alrich.

The commission to the three collaborating composers — supported by The San Francisco Foundation's Matching Commission Grant and individual donors — was for one movement each with the common theme of celebration. Actually a sinfonia concertante, Celebration Symphony has the composers soloing with the orchestra on viola, cello, and piano.

"A Play With Strings Attached'

TheatreWorks' next production, June 2-27, is Opus, about a string quartet. Michael Hollinger's play, in a regional premiere, tells the story of a "famous string quartet" forced to find a new member just days before an appearance at the White House. It's called a "behind-the-scenes look at the world of great music," a "dramedy" about art and life.

Klein String Competition's 25th Year

Led by a June 10 anniversary concert featuring Jon Nakamatsu, the Alexander and Cypress quartets, Michi Aceret, and past Klein winners David Requiro and Tessa Lark, the Irving M. Klein International String Competition will have its public semifinals on June 12 and finals on June 13 at San Francisco State University.

The program includes Ysaÿe's Sonata No. 4 in E Minor, Kreisler's Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice, Brahms' Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, and Brahms' Sextet for Strings No. 1.

The Klein Competition has developed into a career-making event for string players between ages 15 and 23, among them: Jennifer Koh, Mark Kosower, Vadim Gluzman, Alban Gerhardt, Frank Huang, and Francois Salque.

Mitchell Sardou Klein, director of the event since its inception in 1985, says, "It’s been extremely gratifying to be in touch with Klein Competition alumni who tell us what a difference we have made in their lives."

This year’s semifinalists were selected from 65 entrants from four continents. They are:

    Francesca dePasquale, 20, violinist from Philadelphia, studying at L.A. Colburn School of Music  
    Luke Hsu, 19, violinist from Shanghai, studying at Rice University
    Michael Katz, 22, cellist from Tel Aviv, studying at Juilliard 
    Fabiola Kim, 18, violinist from New Jersey, studying at Juilliard
    Philip Kramp, 23, violist from Springfield, Illinois, studying at the New England Conservatory of Music
    Taeguk Mun, 15, cellist from South Korea, a high school student in Westbury, N.Y.
    Hannah Sloane, 20, cellist from London, studying at Juilliard
    Xiang (Angelo) Yu, 21, violinist from China, studying at the New England Conservatory of Music (also a Klein semifinalist last year)
In the semifinal round, each performer plays an unaccompanied work of Bach, a major portion of a selected concerto, and a new commissioned composition by Dick Hyman (Decree for violin, Descant for viola, or Descent for cello). In the final round, they perform additional portions of their selected concerto and one major sonata movement.

The grand prize, the Marvin T. Tepperman Memorial Award, includes $14,000 and solo appearances with the Santa Cruz and Peninsula symphonies, Chamber Music Tulsa, Music in the Vineyards, a Bay Area benefit concert, and other performances. The second-place Elaine Klein Award is $3,000. The third-place Alice Anne Roberts Memorial Award is $2,500. There are also $1,200 Thomas and Lavilla Barry and Lena and Jules Flock Memorial awards.

QE/Brussels: Live, Free, Terrific

"Piano 2010" at the Queen Elisabeth Competition (Koningin Elisabethwedstrijd 2010) in Brussels is in full bloom, and you can pretty much attend it all from the comfort of your home.

Live finalists' recitals begin on May 24 at 8 p.m. Brussels time, 11 a.m. PDT.

The semifinals of last week are online now (select names or dates from the list on the left), and next week, the finals will be streamed live. Finalists are super-talented young musicians from all over the world.

There are two parts to the semifinals sessions, featuring four pianists. Two perform a Mozart concerto with the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, conducted by Paul Goodwin, followed by two other candidates performing their recitals.

The recitals include an unpublished work written for this competition by Jean-Luc Fafchamps, a classical sonata and one or more works chosen by the candidate. The jury chooses one of the two recital programs proposed.

The finals, May 24-29, will have performances of a sonata by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, or Schubert, and an unpublished work, written specially for the competition and chosen during the Queen Elisabeth Composition Competition 2009; the world premiere takes place on May 24. These performances will be with the National Orchestra of Belgium, conducted by Marin Alsop. Final results will be announced on May 29.

'À la recherche du Web sites perdu'

Unlike Proust, who was searching for lost time in Remembrance of Things Past, I sought only one specific Web site, which apparently disappeared. Stay with me on this because there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

While writing about the struggle with electronic debris last week, I remembered something Mike Richter wrote about the subject, so I went to where I found only an error message.

As chronicled in this column, he had a stroke a little more than a year ago, and of course discontinued his many activities, including the Web site and its brilliant weekly exploration of operatic gems.

Fortunately, he is now well enough to use e-mail and when I wrote to him about missing his Web site, he wrote back, suggesting the WayBack Machine. Ah ...

Not only did I find many editions of, but I realized that even on the Web: 

    Nothing of him that doth fade
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange
The Wayback Machine archives over 150 billion webpages, from 1996 to the present. When you go to the site, you can surf through the collection by typing in the web address, then selecting from the archived dates. Granted, you may have to keep trying to get to some specific material if you don't know the date, and sadly, there is no search possible by keyword.

But let's take this all the way home now. Classical Voice has undergone some major changes recently, and some past content appears to have been lost. Not even the Wayback Machine can help beyond May 2008, but if you enter in the Wayback Machine search field, there are dozens of issues well preserved.

If you happen to know, for example, that the San José Symphony disintegrated in October, 2001, going to and then to Music News will provide background to the story.

The pot of gold? It's where you need help with your own search for something in the Web Past.

National Award to WomenSing

Martín Benvenuto's WomenSing received the 2010 national Chorus America/ASCAP Alice Parker Award on Friday. The award recognizes a chorus "for programming significant recently composed music that expands the mission of the chorus and challenges the chorus’s audience in a new way" or a chorus that has "chosen to stretch itself to present some of this repertoire."

WomenSing has been performing for more than 40 years. It is a 55-member auditioned chorus with members from the San Francisco Bay Area, including Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Solano, and Sonoma counties.

As to their record of "stretching" to perform recently composed music, WomenSing's Christmas program, for example, included music by Britten, Debussy, Franz Grüber, and living composers Andrew Carter (b. 1939), Ko Matsushita (1962), Emma Lou Diemer (1927), and Christine Donkin (1976).

Patty Murray of WomenSing writes that application for the award highlighted the chorus' Youth Inspiring Youth project, a composition competition providing the opportunity for young composers to create new choral music. The project is mentored by Libby Larsen.

The commission was for writing treble choral works based on children's poetry from the River of Words project. Subsequent collaboration between Larsen, the chorus, and composers Elizabeth Lim and Joshua Fishbein helped mentor the young composers.

Fremont Opera's Bollywood Fund-raiser

Fremont Opera is honoring City Council member Anu Natarajan for her support of the city's arts with a fund-raising gala of Indian and Western music and food. The event is held 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. on May 23, at the Center Theater.

Performers include Elizabeth Russ, Eleazar Rodriguez, and Eugene Brancoveanu. The Grand Bollywood Finale features the Indian dance company Project Pulse, specializing in Indian Fusion, which incorporates elements of hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, and break-dance ... for starters.

'21st Century Baroque' Coming to the Conservatory

Four works by Berkeley composer Sheli Nan, described as "21st century Baroque," will be on a free program at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, beginning at 1 p.m., on  June 5, including the world premiere of String Quartet for the 21st Century.

The premiere is commissioned and performed by Bill Barbini and the Ariel Quartet — Barbini and Kineko Okumura, violins; Paul Ehrlich, viola;  and Victoria Ehrlich, cello. A veritable "house band" for the Sacramento Chamber Music society for many years, the quartet includes Conservatory faculty members.

(Another quartet by that name is based in Jerusalem; its members are Gershon Gerchikov, Alexandra Kazovsky, Amit Even-Tov, and Sergey Tarashchansky.)

The Conservatory concert will also feature baritone Zachary Gordin, singing Nan's "I Have a Constant Fever," accompanied by cello, piano, and Glen Shannon (recorder); and "Journey, the Song Cycle," accompanied by the composer on piano.

The fourth work is performed by choreographer/dancer Aviva Nan-Tabachnik, accompanied by violin and piano, in Absinthe avec mes amis.

New Dad Leads WBO Traviata

When John Kendall Bailey sends out notices about conducting the West Bay Opera production of Verdi's La traviata, he puts things in perspective by first trumpeting "the arrival of Eliana Miranda Bailey on Feb. 9," adding — without any claim to objectivity, but most likely based on objective fact — that "she is just adorable."

With all the adjustments to parenthood, Bailey has still continued his work with the Oakland East Bay Symphony and prepared his Voices of Musica Sacra for concerts in June.

Further down in his note, Bailey mentions that he will conduct Traviata in Palo Alto, May 21-30. The cast features Karen Slack as Violetta, Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai as Flora, Jesús León as Alfredo Germont, and Zachary Gordin as Giorgio Germont. Richard Harrell is stage director.

Conlon, Bemedaled

James Conlon was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame on Friday, at the opening concert of the Cincinnati May Festival. Also music director of the Los Angeles Opera and the Ravinia Festival, Conlon has headed the May Festival for 31 years, the longest tenure in the Festival's history.

Previously, he served as principal conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995-2004); general music director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989-2002), and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983-1991), among other posts.

Hall of Fame founder David Klingshirn presented Conlon with the medal, "in recognition of his significant contribution to American classical music." Other honorees include Leonard Bernstein, George Szell, Lorin Maazel, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Zubin Mehta.

Conlon’s other honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Los Angeles, the Music Institute of Chicago’s Dushkin Award, the Medal of the American Liszt Society, and Italy’s Premio Galileo 2000 Award. He was named an Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1996, and in 2004 was promoted to Commander. In 2002, James Conlon received the Légion d'Honneur, France's highest distinction, from President Jacques Chirac.

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