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Music News: Nov. 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

Lisiecki: More Than a Prodigy

November 12, 2013

Jan Lisiecki Photo by Chris Young/The Canadian PressProminent music eduucator Jim Meredith has heard, auditioned, taught, and mentored several hundreds of young artists, so I took note when he wrote of Jan Milosz Lisiecki a couple of years ago:

Do you know about this 16-year-old Canadian pianist? He is really something special. I’m sitting here in tears hearing his Verbier Festival recital.

Meredith in tears? A 16-year-old at Verbier? This, as Richard Dreyfuss says of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: "means something, this is important."

Even in the era of Yuja Wang (debut at 9), Alicia Witt (7), Conrad Tao (4), and other prominent artists starting in their pre-teens, Lisiecki is someone special, making his debut at 9, and maintaining a spectacular career ever since, giving hundreds of recitals, and performing with orchestras in Canada and internationally, including the New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, to name a few.

Lisiecki in action The topic is especially timely as Lisiecki is scheduled to make his San Francisco debut on Dec. 3 in the S.F. Conservatory of Music Concert Hall.

His attractive program includes Messiaen's Preludes Nos. 1-4 (La colombe, Chant d’exstase dans un paysage triste, Le nombre léger, Instants defunts); Bach's Partita No.1 in B-flat Major, BWV 82; Paderewski's Minuet Op. 14, No. 1, and Nocturne in B-flat Major, Op. 16 No. 4; Martinu's Trois Danses Tchèques, H. 154; and — in the concert's second half — Chopin's Études, Op. 10.

Now 18, Lisiecki (pronounced Li-SHET-skee) has a packed performance calendar in the 2013-14 season, and a coveted contract with Deutsche Grammophon, with which he signed at age 15. He was also just awarded Gramophone’s 2013 Young Artist of the Year.

An interview in the Montreal Gazette earlier this year painted this picture:

It's obvious immediately upon meeting piano phenom Jan Lisiecki — with his ramrod posture, pinpoint diction, and sage maturity — that he is not a typical teenager.

His lifestyle, certainly, is vastly different. For instance, when the 18-year-old received word of his Juno Award nomination for classical album of the year, he was navigating the powdery peaks of Aspen, Colo., with his dad. A couple days prior, he had been performing at an exclusive black-tie gala in Palm Springs, Fla. Less than a week earlier, it was a sold-out engagement at Tokyo's 2,000-seat Suntory Hall with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

When the Junos are contested Sunday in Regina, Lisiecki will regrettably not be in attendance — he's due for a week-long whisk through Germany. He plays more than 100 concerts annually.

Lisiecki's Chopin Etudes CD on Deutsche Grammophon marked the label's first recording of the work since Maurizio Pollini's in 1972.

Asked about following Pollini's performance, Lisiecki — who's in his second year of a bachelor of music degree at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto — offers a paraphrased quote from Glenn Gould: "If you have nothing new to say, then don't say it. Don't record it."

"I truly believe in that quote," he continues. "While my etudes aren't radical or earth-shattering, I think they bring lots of music — something which sometimes lacks from the etudes because people really get involved in the technical qualities."

His recording was completed in 343 takes. Lisiecki doesn't like excessive edits — "I don't like faking things that are impossible in real life," he explains — and wanted to ensure that everything on the new disc would be possible in a performance, albeit an optimal one.

And despite his obvious respect for Gould, this is an area in which Lisiecki is clearly different.

"Glenn Gould was all about making things from tiny pieces... and I don't like that, really," he said. "Glenn Gould was a studio artist, he was a recording artist. Myself, I'm a live performing artist. That's my main passion and recording's only a part of that, for me. So it's a little bit different.

"And maybe that'll change in time, but for now that's what I enjoy."

Word from a new Lisiecki fan, piano-maniac Charlie from Brno:

Don't you love the way this kid plays an old chestnut! It's like new again.

And here's his Messiaen, it's all about the touch. This is just gorgeous — there is one chord that appears twice (maybe three times) that is sooooo perfect — it's one of Messiaen's magic angel chords. I melt every time I hear it.

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

Beiser Extravaganza at Stanford

November 12, 2013

Maya Beiser Photo by ioulexWhen I first saw (rather than heard) cellist Maya Beiser perform, a dozen years ago at the Oregon Bach Festival, I was struck by her flaming red hair and dramatic/melodramatic stage presence. But unlike some "externalist" artists, Beiser is also a fabulous instrumentalist; music gains priority over everything else, resulting in performances of dedication and passion.

She just appeared with the Santa Rosa Symphony, performing in Osvaldo Golijov’s Mariel and Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, and now Beiser is heading to Stanford's Bing Concert Hall, where on Dec. 7 and 8, she will participate in the world premiere of Linked Verse, an evening-length work by Stanford composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, produced by the New York-based digital media collective OpenEndedGroup.

The multimedia concerto, commissioned by Stanford Live, will bring together sho (Japanese bamboo mouth organ) master Ko Ishikawa and Beiser in what is described "a visually immersive performance environment featuring live 3D stereoscopic video. The soloists will exchange musical passages while sounds and images recorded in Japan and the U.S. undergo an evolving, interlinked transformation." The audience will be provided with 3-D glasses to wear.

Beiser in <em>Linked Verse</em> Image by Studio ScottMulti-everything is a hallmark of Beiser, born in Galilee, Israel, surrounded with the music and rituals of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. She is a graduate of Yale University and a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. In addition to performance of classics with major symphony orchestras, she has collaborated with artists across a wide range of musical styles, including Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Tan Dun, James Newton Howard, and Carter Burwell, among many others.

In 2011, Beiser gave a TEDtalk, watched by over half a million people and translated to 32 languages on the TED website. She was also invited to perform in NPR's Tiny Desk Concert Series this summer.

Last month, a new art film featuring Beiser performing music for solo cello by David Lang, created by artists Allora and Calzadilla, screened in Paris at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. The film deals with the Venus of Lespugue, an ancient nude female figure from the Upper Paleolithic period, and explores the speculative theory that the exaggerated proportions of the female form embodied by the Venus can be represented musically.

Among her other film work, Beiser was the cello soloist this summer on the soundtrack by James Newton Howard for M. Night Shyamalan’s science fiction film After Earth, starring Jaden and Will Smith. Her discography includes five solo albums and numerous studio recordings and film music collaborations.

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

Glorious — If Disputed — Past of Opera Broadcasts

November 12, 2013

Listening to opera in 1893 "We often think of the scheduled broadcasting of news, information and entertainment as having begun in the 1920s. But we're wrong," says last week's BBC program on the subject. (The program itself is available at this address for a couple of more days.)

It was in 1893 in Budapest that Theodore Puskás opened his telefonhírmondó or "Telephone Newspaper." Subscribers to this telephone service could enjoy a daily timetable of foreign, national and local news, sport, weather, fashion, stock market reports, language lessons, music, theatre and much more.

It was delivered by a team of journalists, copy-writers, editors, announcers, and engineers which would be familiar to any radio station today. To our ears, Telefon Hirmondo would have sounded uncannily modern. For example, there would be live relays of church services, theatre productions, concerts, and opera performances and reports direct from parliament and sports events.

Laurie Taylor travels to Budapest to uncover this extraordinary story of "radio before radio." He visits a special exhibition at the city's postal museum and takes a look inside Hungarian State Opera, whose performances were broadcast live via Telefon Hirmondo from the 1890s.

Watching opera today: Michael Mayer’s Met production of <em>Rigoletto</em> set in Las Vegas Not so fast, says Mark Schubin, who has been giving us the fascinating history of the surprisingly ancient roots of today's HD opera telecasts:

While BBC gave full credit to Puskás for the Paris demo, it was actually devised by Clement Ader. The first commercial opera-delivery service was in Dundee, Scotland in 1882; the first involving payment to the opera company was in Lisbon in 1884 — both long before the Budapest service.

Puskás deserves big credit for two things: the first newscast (and the journalistic infrastructure to support it) and the most effective distribution system (which, unfortunately, he never fully described).

Schubin's full treatment of the subject can be found at his website on "Media Technology and Opera History."

Puskás (1844-1893) had a fascinating, relatively brief life, criss-crossing the world and associating with some of technology's giants. Of Transylvanian ancestry, at a young age he became engineer for an English railroad company, then lived in Vienna, moved to Colorado at a late phase of the Gold Rush (not having much luck), moving on to London and Brussels, later joining Thomas Alva Edison in Menlo Park, helping to develop telephone exchanges.

Called by some the father of the internet's forerunner, Puskás opened the first Hungarian telephone center in 1881, with 25 subscribers. An unsubstantiated story says Edison visited Puskás in 1911, and credited him with the invention of telephone centers. The established pioneer was French engineer F. M. A. Dumont, whose British patent for telephone exchange is dated 1851, long before both Edison and Puskás.

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

Adams: Another Star From Ulloa's Treasure House

November 12, 2013

César Ulloa coaching soprano Julie Adams The Metropolitan National Council Grand Finals Concert will take place on March 30, but there are already some regional winners who will participate in the semifinals — among them is soprano Julie Adams, from the S.F. Conservatory of Music, winner in the Los Angeles District.

She has something in common with Nadine Sierra (First Place in both the Monserrat Caballe International Competition and the Neue Stimmen International Competition), Daniela Mack (finalist in this year's Cardiff Singer of the World Competition), Ao Li (First Place at Operalia this years), and a dozen more rising stars.

They and many, many more singers have been coached by Cesar Ulloa, who says of Adams:

I am so happy for her, she has worked very hard these past five years with me, and now she is starting to take flight. I am looking forward to hearing her in New York on the Met stage, like I did with [another Ulloa student] Efrain Solis last year.

The unstoppable Ulloa has teaching affiliations with the S.F. Conservatory of Music; San Francisco Opera Center's Adler and Merola Programs; the S.I.V.A.M. Young Artist Program of Mexico City; Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program; International Vocal Arts Institute in Israel, Montreal, Puerto Rico, China, and Italy; Dolora Zajick Institute for Dramatic Voices; L'Atelier Lyrique de L'Opera de Montreal; and Palm Beach Opera Young Artist Program.

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

Free and Grand: Morrison and Mill Valley

November 12, 2013

Mill Valley Philharmonic's concerts this week Starting with hundreds of events at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, the Bay Area is blessed with free concerts; here are just two prominent ones this week:

The Morrison Artists Series of the San Francisco State University, free concerts since 1956, has a grand event coming up on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m. in the university's McKenna Theater: the St. Petersburg String Quartet and pianist Mack McCray perform Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Eb Major, Op. 44 (1842) and Cesar Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor (1864); the quartet adds Britten’s Three Divertimenti for String Quartet (1936).

Note: These concerts require reservations, easy to get online. Reserve early as this concert is sure to "sell out" completely.

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, another organization continues its own 14-year-old program of free concerts. Laurie Cohen conducts the Mill Valley Philharmonic in Debussy's Danses sacrée et profane, with harpist Bertina Mitchell; Honegger's Pacific 231, and Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World").

Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, and 4 p.m. on Nov. 16 at Mill Valley's Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church; at 2 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael. The JCC concert alone requires (free) pre-registration online.

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

Wind Orchestra Rocks

November 12, 2013

Contra Costa Wind Symphony's classically trained musicians get into classic rock at their next concert, at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 in Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts.

Duane Carroll and Terry Miller Photo by Laurie HindesHeadlined with the U.S. premiere of a new arrangement for Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra, the concert also features the music of Queen, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. There is free admission for students.

Wind Symphony founder and conductor Duane Carroll says his background is firmly rooted in classical music, and until recently unlike his peers, who have stacks of well-worn rock albums, Carroll had none.

His rock affinity started just three years ago, when CCWS gave the U.S. premiere of The Queen Symphony, an hour-long suite of the music of the rock band Queen, with a 180-voice chorus.

Carroll calls the concerto on the Sunday program "a fusion of classical and rock musicians uniting in an evening of classic rock favorites," which also includes several Beatles tunes, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, and music from Led Zeppelin.

The 50-piece wind symphony will be joined by well-known rock musicians, including bassist Terry Miller, who currently tours with the Zac Brown Band. "Terry's Kids," a group of young musicians trained by Miller, will perform music of Deep Purple in rock band style.

The classical-rock blending of the concerto goes back 44 years, when Deep Purple and London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed it together. It paved the way for other rock/orchestra performances, such as Metallica's S&M concert and Roger Waters' The Wall: Live in Berlin.

The new transcription for wind symphony and rock band was composed by Deep Purple's Jon Lord, with lyrics by Ian Gillan.

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

Bharatanrityam from France to San Jose

November 12, 2013

Dominique Delorme Dominique Delorme, an Indian dancer from France, is both called Bharatanrityam and is also the performer of Bharatanrityam. It is the title of a performer of the classical Indian dance form that is popular and nurtured in the state of Tamil Nadu.

San Jose's Abhinaya Dance Company will feature Delorme at its fall concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, in the School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza (yes, true multiculturalism: India, France, Mexico ...)

A disciple of Padma Subramanyam and Muthuswamy Pillai, Delorme incorporates karanas in his performance, dance structures that are integral to all world dance forms and the martial arts.

The concert includes Mythili Kumar's portrayal of the earth goddess Bhu Devi, and stories of Andal who weds Ranganatha and Padmavathi who weds Srinivasa.

Rasika Kumar will perform excerpts from her solo presentations of Maya — the Mystery of Krishna and Courage, including The Call of the Flute and The Legend of Savitri.

Live musical accompaniment by Malavika Kumar on nattuvangam (cymbals), Asha Ramesh (vocal), Shanthi Narayan (violin) N. Narayan (mridangam [double-headed drum] and kanjira [tambourine]), and Mohan Rangan Govindaraj (flute).

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

Tavener Dies at 69

November 12, 2013

John TavenerA leading figure in a contemporary musical genre that has been called "holy minimalism" has died, the BBC News reports on Tuesday

Sir John Tavener, one of the leading British composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, has died at the age of 69. Sir John was known for music that drew on his deep spirituality.

In 1992, The Protecting Veil topped the classical charts for several months and in 1997 his Song For Athene was played at the funeral of Princess Diana.

He had suffered ill health for much of his life, culminating in a heart attack in 2007 that led him to spend six months in intensive care. Previously, he had suffered a stroke in 1979, and in 1990 was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a hereditary condition that can cause heart defects.

His other well-known works included A New Beginning, which was chosen to see in the new century at the end of 1999 in the Millennium Dome in London.

James Rushton, managing director of Sir John's publisher Chester Music, described him as "one of the unique and most inspired voices in music of the last 50 years."

"His large body of work ... is one of the most significant contributions to classical music in our times," he said.

"For all of those fortunate enough to have known him, John was a man of strong beliefs, huge personal warmth, loyalty, and humour. He will be much missed."

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].