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Music News: Sept. 25, 2012

September 25, 2012

Bartoli Sings Steffani, You Listen for Free

September 25, 2012

Cecilia Bartoli on <em>Mission</em> album cover: yes, it's her, air/hair-brushedCecilia Bartoli's virtuosity in the service of a great and yet virtually unknown composer, Agostino Steffani, is featured on National Public Radio's free online program, "First Listen." It's yours for the clicking, even now, a week before its commercial release.

"First Listen" streams — of entire CDs, not just samples — available this week include:

  • Flying Lotus: Steven Ellison's original mix, incorporating hip-hop, jazz and electronic sounds
  • Sugaring Season: Beth Orton, a folk/electronic music artist taking an acoustic turn with her first new album in six years
  • Kaleidoscope Dream: R&B artist Miguel's second album, "gleefully smashing together pop and rock to make love songs about the early days"
  • Piramida: new album from the Danish band Efterklang, recorded in the abandoned Russian mining settlement that gives the album its name

Mission is a revelation. The music by Steffani (1654–1728) is passionate, abandoned, rhythmically exciting — reminiscent of Purcell, Vivaldi, and Rameau. Bartoli's fabulous performance will create new fans for Steffani, and it's high time.

Agostino Steffani: unknown Baroque giantFrom the NPR note on his life, Steffani:

... wrote reams of well-built vocal music a generation before J.S. Bach and led an extraordinary life. When Steffani wasn't composing some 15 operas and 75 chamber duets, he accepted missions throughout Europe as a priest, diplomat, and political operative. He rubbed elbows with German royalty, the Austrian emperor and the Pope. His life, according to Bartoli, was shrouded in mystery and conspiracy.

All of which is great fodder for Bartoli's record company, Decca, which must be having a blast promoting the album. Photos feature a bald Bartoli as a Steffani stand-in whispering secrets to heads of church and state. The label had a secret of its own: Months before the album's Oct. 2 release, the company imposed a gag rule on naming the composer of Mission. In a nod to Steffani's James Bond-ish life (he was indeed tangentially connected to a murder he didn't commit), the company launched a kind of Internet scavenger hunt via video webisodes, each of which would reveal a secret word.

So, with all the intrigue and promotional bluster, what does Steffani's music actually sound like? It's wonderful and remarkably wide-ranging. Bartoli thinks of Steffani as an important missing link between Monteverdi and high Baroque composers like Vivaldi and Handel. She has a knack for ferreting out unsung composers and making their music shine, and this Steffani disc is right in line with her illuminating recordings of music by Porpora, Graun, Caldara, and Salieri. Out of the 25 selections on Mission, 20 are appearing on CD for the first time.

Another NPR freebie is ACME In Concert: Steve Reich's Complete String QuartetsDifferent Trains (1988), Triple Quartet (1998), WTC 9/11 (2010). ACME — violinists Caroline Shaw and Ben Russell, violist Nadia Sirota, and cellist Clarice Jensen — recorded the works live on Sept. 11, 2012.

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

Nancarrow Celebration at Cal

September 25, 2012

Conlon Nancarrow Photo by Charles Amirkhanian Check Cal Performances' November schedule for a wealth of music celebrating the centennial of Conlon Nancarrow.

On Nov. 2, it's Trimpin: Nancarrow Percussion Orchestra MATRIX 244, a sculptural sound installation that pays tribute to the composer’s rhythmically complex and intensely layered studies, as well as a separate event, the screening of Don’t Shoot the Player Piano.

Nov. 3 brings a Nancarrow panel discussion, moderated by Other Minds Artistic Director Charles Amikhanian, with the participaton of Yoko Sugiura-Nancarrow, Felix Meyer, Kyle Gann, Peter Garland, and Trimpin; and featuring performances of Nancarrow’s Study Nos. 12 and 25.

Player Piano II, or piano vorsetzer On the same day, it will be Trimpin on vorsetzer and Rex Lawson, pianola, performing Nancarrow's Study Nos. 5, 6, 11, 21, 26, 37; Study No. 41c for two pianos; Grainger's Molly on the Shore; Rachmaninov's Prelude in E-flat, Op. 23 No. 6; and Grémillon's silent film score to Un tour au large (Voyage on the Open Sea).

A bunch of events (see calendar, above) will culminate with a 7 p.m. concert on Nov. 4 in Hertz Hall, with Chris Froh, percussion; Rex Lawson, pianola; Graeme Jennings, violin; and the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo (Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams) performing Nancarrow works and Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps.

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

Kronos Wants to Play Your Music

September 25, 2012

Kronos Quartet Photo by Jay BlakesbergKronos Quartet aims to make an emerging composer's dream come true with the fifth annual Kronos: Under 30 Project. The selected artist receives a commission, mentoring, a high-profile premiere, and a recording of the resulting work. Composers in any genre or location are welcome to apply, as long as they haven't reached 30 by Nov. 16, 2012. The premiere will take place in Spring 2014 in San Francisco as part of Kronos’ 40th anniversary season.

To date, four composers have received commissions through the project, after nearly 1,000 applications, coming from 49 countries on six continents, were reviewed by the quartet. The composers are Alexandra du Bois and Dan Visconti (USA), Felipe Pérez Santiago (Mexico), and Aviya Kopelman (Israel).

Applications should be sent to Kronos: Under 30 Project, 1032 Irving St., #603, S.F., CA 94122. Applications must be received by Nov. 16. Note, this is not a postmark deadline.

Kronos is performing Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 in Berkeley; Oct. 6 and 7, as one of the first ensembles to appear in the new Weill Concert Hall of Rohnert Park's Green Music Center.

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

Salome in HD Telecast Thursday on KQED

September 25, 2012

Nadja Michael and Greer Grimsley in <em>Salome</em> Photo by Cory WeaverFrederica von Stade hosts the third season of high-definition telecasts from San Francisco Opera's recent performances.

This series consists of 2009 productions, the telecasts taking place at 8 p.m. on Channel 9.

On Thursday, it's Strauss' Salome, with Nadja Michael in the title role, Nicola Luisotti conducting.

Puccini's Il trittico, with Patricia Racette's memorable performance in all three operas, will be seen on Oct. 4; and Verdi's Otello, with Johan Botha, Zvetelina Vassileva, and Marco Vratogna — on Oct. 11.

In addition to numerous repeats on KQED Life, Ch. 9 encores follow the Thursday evening showing on Friday mornings at 2. No comment.

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

Mary Magdalene Everywhere

September 25, 2012

In the beginning, sort of, there was The Da Vinci Code (no, actually, it was Edgar Saltus' 1891 Mary Magdalene: a Chronicle or even the Gospel of Luke), then came John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary.

In the works and coming to San Francisco: Mark Adamo's opera The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and today — papyrology.

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

Early Betting on the Adlers Race

September 25, 2012

The 2012 Adler Fellows Photo by Kristen LokenAny day now, the San Francisco Opera will announce the list of the 2013 Adler Fellows, the program — named for the late great SFO General Director Kurt Herbert Adler — That provides a few of this year's Merola Opera Program participants advanced training and performance opportunities.

Current Adlers — some of whom will continue for another year — are:

Marina Harris, soprano
Nadine Sierra, soprano
Laura Krumm, mezzo-soprano
Renée Rapier, mezzo-soprano
Brian Jagde, tenor
Joo Won Kang, baritone
Ao Li, baritone
Ryan Kuster, bass-baritone
David Hanlon, coach and accompanist
Robert Mollicone, coach and accompanist

(Likely holdovers are Kang, Krumm, Rapier.)

From the 2012 Class of Merolini, based on listening to performances in the summer, these are some of my candidates for "promotion," and only so few because of the program's space limitation, else I'd have them all stay with the company:

Hadleigh Adams, bass-baritone, New Zealand; Jennifer Cherest, soprano, Maryland; AJ Glueckert, tenor, Portland, OR; Chuanyue Wang, tenor, China; Erin Johnson, mezzo-soprano, New Jersey; and Sun Ha Yoon, apprentice coach, South Korea

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

Diablo Symphony Season Opener, Hofman Debut

September 25, 2012

Matilda Hofman Photo by Christoph TrestlerMatilda Hofman will make her debut on Oct. 14 as the Diablo Symphony’s new music director, conducting the season-opening concert featuring her predecessor, trumpet virtuoso Joyce Johnson Hamilton, who retired last year after 31 years of leading the orchestra.

The concert, the first in Diablo's 50th anniversary season, will begin at 2 p.m. in the Lesher Center for the Arts.

Hofman, 33, a lecturer in the UC-Davis music department, was selected in June to lead the Diablo Symphony, the oldest orchestra of professionally trained musicians in Contra Costa County. Hofman is also conductor and artistic director of the Bay Area-based Kreisler Ensemble she founded in 2003.

Hofman is the sixth individual and the second woman to lead the symphony since it was established in the fall of 1962. Like Hamilton, she is one of only some 50 women to hold the music director title among more than 1,000 symphony orchestras in the U. S.

Hamilton will solo in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto. She will return on March 22 to premiere her composition celebrating the Diablo Symphony’s anniversary.

The progam includes Dances from Ballet Suite No. 1 and Polka from the Age of Gold by Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

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

Chinese American Experience in Dance

September 25, 2012

Scene from Lenora Lee's <em>The Escape</em> Photo by Robbie Sweeny Lenora Lee Dance opens its fifth season Oct. 12-15 in Dance Mission Theater, with a trilogy of works about key experiences in the Chinese American narrative, combining contemporary modern dance, Chinese and Japanese martial arts, Chinese classical dance, dragon and lion dance.

Passages: For Lee Ping To (2010) tells the story of Lee's grandmother's immigration through Angel Island during the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It utilizes historical documents as source material and includes transcripts of Lee Ping To's interrogation during her incarceration on the island.

Reflections (2011) delves into the experiences of three generations of men in their search for a sense of place in American society. The work was developed through the support of the CounterPULSE Artist Residency Commissioning Program. Music is by composer/saxophonist Francis Wong, with Kei Lun Martial Arts, Tatsu Aoki (bass, taiko), Melody Takata (taiko), and Karen Stackpole (drums, gongs).

Lenora Lee in <em>Reflections</em> Photo by Cody T WilliamsThe Escape (2012) is inspired by stories of women who had become vulnerable upon arrival into the U.S. during the early 20th century. The project seeks to shed light on the experiences of women in the context of the social history of the period for Chinese in America as well as for women in the society as a whole. Music is by Wong with Wayne Wallace (trombone), Stackpole (gongs, drums), Kat Parra (vocals), Genny Lim (vocals), and Corey Chan (Chinese drum).

Kei Lun Martial Arts & Enshin Karate and South San Francisco Dojo will participate in the show, directed by Lee, with media design by Olivia Ting, text by Genny Lim, and videography directed by Tatsu Aoki. A dozen local art and community organizations are co-presenting the production, which is supported by the Zellerbach Family Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, California Arts Council, Grants For the Arts/SF Hotel Tax Fund, WKK Donor-Advised Fund, San Francisco Foundation, and individual donors.

The multimedia projection highlights re-creations of experiences in Cameron House, a historic five-story building in San Francisco's Chinatown from the period explored in the works. From its founding as the Mission Home for Girls in 1874 until the 1930s, Cameron House assisted more than 2,000 women who sought shelter and education or refuge from forced domestic labor or servitude.

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

Into the Abyss: Fusion to the Max

September 25, 2012

Janelle Ayon, masked, in <em>Mystical Abyss</em> Photos by Charline FormentyJapanese Noh, Iroquois creation legend, Aztec mitote, Mexican folkloric dancers, a Catalan actor, Mohawk dancers, and more ...

That's the stuff of Mystical Abyss, a cosmic tale from Yuriko Doi. The founder-director of Theatre of Yugen is pulling together a wide range of talent from various disclipines, to produce a fusion of Japanese dramatic arts, Native American legends, Noh choreography, and world theater. Performances are scheduled in ODC Theater, Sept. 27-30.

The work ends with Sky Woman, of Iroquois legends, falling into the void, birds and animals breaking her fall, until she lands on a giant turtle and creates the continent of North America. Doi doesn't think small.

Appropriately enough, Mystical Abyss is presented as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival's 10th anniversary. The script is by John O’Keefe, the work is choreographed by Japan's famed Noh master Shiro Nomura. His son, Masashi Nomura, portrays the goddesses Izanami and Amaterasu, who make their own cosmic journeys, to the accompaniment of flutist Narumi Takizawa and drummer Yoshio Ueno.

Mohawk dancers and singers Kenny and Roger Perkins are joined by Aztec mitote performance artist Cuauhtemoc Peranda and Mexican folkloric dancers Jesus Jacoh Cortes and Janelle Ayon. Catalan-American actor Lluis Valls plays the roles of the Turtle and Narrator.

Masashi Nomura, masked, in <em>Mystical Abyss</em> Japanese CG animators Taketo Kobayashi and Koya Takahashi are responsible for images inspired by prehistoric Japanese Jomon art to complement Renta Kouchi’s set. Noh masks are by Hideta Kitazawa.

Doi says Mystical Abyss is "an intellectual yet widely accessible theatrical work that evokes powerful images of unity and harmony across different generations, cultures and traditions." The message of this "cyclical story of death and re-birth," Doi says, is the "quest for balance" between good and evil.

Besides Theatre of Yugen and the festival, a co-producer of the work is the U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network.

There are commonalities between Japanese and Native American cultures — such as respect for ancestors, deeply embedded spirituality and love of nature — but apparently Doi is the first to explore these connections in a work of art. After a long career of focusing on Japanese Noh and Kyogen, she started working with Native American material in 2001, creating a work about Crazy Horse.

At age 70, Doi says this is her final major theatrical production: "I have spent my life building bridges across false divides, and as a mother, who hoped for a better world for her children. I see Mystical Abyss as a metaphor for our need to be reborn, to go back to the beginning and move forward on a path of peace and respect for our world and each other."

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].