August 23, 2013
September 3, 2013
Besides Classical Voice’s obituary, note San Francisco Opera’s own tribute to the company's fourth general director, and watch the hour-long video of an interview with Mansouri when he received an NEA award.
Reflecting Mansouri’s worldwide career in opera, tributes have come from far and away during the Labor Day weekend and there were substantial obituaries in the New York Times, Toronto Star, and elsewhere. Note especially Leslie Barcza’s "Canadian perspective" on Mansouri's career.
Others may argue about this, but I (and apparently the N.Y. Times) think initiating and championing Supertitles was perhaps his most important legacy, along with managing the seismic reconstruction of the Opera House. A testimonial by Charlie Cockey recalls his first experience with the titles: “I heard something I had never heard before: 3500 people vociferously laughing their heads off at the wonderful dialogue that accompanies the stage shenanigans and deliciously beautiful music. That was a ‘eureka’ moment as memorable as any in my life. Opera could not only be beautiful, it could be fun — and more, it could be outright laugh-loudly-out-loud funny. That experience completely changed my opera-going, and all for the better.”
September 3, 2013
Venerable and formerly dilapidated Nourse Auditorium has been rescued and spiffied up beautifully through a major investment and effort by Sydney Goldstein. It’s serving as the new home for her City Arts & Lectures, also rented out to refugee organization from the temporarily shuttered Herbst Theater, such as the 2013 Merola Opera Program and others.
But it will take the always-adventurous Symphony Parnassus to be the first orchestra to play there in about four decades. (I remember seeing Death in Venice and other Spring Opera productions in rehearsal in the already rickety auditorium in the 1970s.) By the way, it’s now neither Nourse Auditorium or Nourse Theater or Theatre — it's called “The Nourse.”
Stephen Paulson’s Symphony Parnassus will strike up the band there on Nov. 3, with yet another centennial tribute to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Holst’s arrangement of Bach’s Fugue à la Gigue, and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with Kevin Zhu, recent winner of the junior division of the Menuhin Competition, as the soloist.
The Parnassus season continues with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, and — thank you, Maestro Paulson! — Frank Martin’s 1951 Violin Concerto, with https://www.sfcv.org/article/music-news-july-27-2010#anchor1 Stuart Canin as soloist. The venue for this Jan. 19 concert is the S.F. Conservatory of Music.
On April 13, Parnassus will be at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and cellist E. Oliver Herbert featured in Ernest Bloch’s 1916 Schelomo, A Hebrew Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra. Herbert, winner of the 2012 Felix Khuner Concerto Competition, is a student at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. Paulson always selects his soloists in a wide range from students to famed veterans.
The season’s final concert returns to the Conservatory, where, on June 8, Parnassus principal violist Hélène Wickett shows her versatility as soloist in the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25. Also on the program: Debussy’s La mer and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.
Season subscriptions for this outstanding community orchestra are $75, available from www.symphonyparnassus.org or by calling (415) 728-5997. Here’s a bit more about Parnassus:
To many in the Bay Area, Symphony Parnassus is known as the Doctors’ Orchestra. And for its first 10 years, this was a fitting moniker: officially the UCSF Orchestra, the ensemble drew its talent from the medical professionals at UC San Francisco. When Jonathan Davis (a biophysics graduate student) started the orchestra in 1989, he found an enthusiastic, supportive community of music lovers.
Following budget cuts at UCSF in 1999, the orchestra was reorganized as a nonprofit and named Symphony Parnassus to honor its roots in the Parnassus Heights neighborhood. Though it’s no longer the Doctors’ Orchestra, Symphony Parnassus continues to attract top musical talent drawn from the local community: in addition to doctors, the roster also includes teachers, corporate executives, IT specialists, engineers, and scientists, as well as a number of professional musicians.
Over the years, the orchestra has collaborated with world-class musicians like pianist Robin Sutherland, violinist Geraldine Walther, oboist William Bennett and soprano Lisa Vroman. Ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev made his West Coast conducting debut with Symphony Parnassus, and famed jazz saxophonist and composer John Handy premiered his Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra with the group.
September 3, 2013
Because it's been well publicized before, this is just a reminder of the Sept. 29 Cal Performances Free-For-All. Also, briefly, San Francisco museums all have free days, and there is a good comprehensive guide to that.
Note the Yerba Buena Family Day on Sept. 15, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: four museums (3 1/2, actually), three stages, a big block party. Visitors get in free that day to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, Children’s Creativity Museum, and get to see SFMOMA On the Go (while the museum remains closed for reconstruction/expansion).
A highlight of the outdoor concert on the Esplanade Stage, beginning at 1 p.m., features 2013 Grammy winner Lila Downs and her band, reinventors of traditional Mexican music, fusing original compositions with blues, jazz, soul, and more.
September 3, 2013
Based on reports from South Korea and in English media, 12 well-known musicians were executed in North Korea on Aug. 20, including the popular singer Hyun Song-wol — supposedly ex-girlfriend of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un — and Mun Kyong-jin, concertmaster of the Unhasu Orchestra, now disbanded.
There is no comment from North Korea on this report. Alejandro Cao, a Spanish aristocrat who works with the DPR government, denied the report of Unhasu being disbanded and tweeted that the orchestra’s next appearance is in Pyongyang on Sept. 9.
Chinese sources say the charges were, variously, possessing pornography, making and selling sex videos, having Bibles in their possession, and being political dissidents. The victims were said to be members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians, and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band. Hyun was a singer with the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, one of North Korea’s most popular bands, which had released 150 CDs as of 2007.
Hyun Song-wol was seen in public with Kim Jong-un last year, but later disappeared, and the announcement followed of Kim’s marriage to Ri Sol-ju, also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra
The reports say all of the families of the executed have been sent to prison camps, the usual procedure in North Korea, where guilt by association is punished severely.
September 3, 2013
West Edge Music Director Jonathan Khuner will conduct, Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky is responsible for the production — he is well used to making the most of small spaces, witness his Legend of the Ring.
Soprano Marie Plette sings the title role of Vanessa, with tenor Jonathan Boyd as Anatol. Mezzo-soprano Malin Fritz is the Old Baroness and bass-baritone Philip Skinner is the Doctor. The production introduces young mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz as Erika.
Composed in 1956-57 to an original English libretto by composer Gian-Carlo Menotti (Barber’s life partner), Vanessa premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in January 1958. It was an unqualified success with the audience and it won Barber the Pulitzer Prize that same year. Although not often performed in recent years, it is considered an authentic American masterpiece, and excerpts such as “Under the Willow Tree” and “Must the Winter Come So Soon” have become popular concert pieces.
It has been said to have been inspired by Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales, though not taken directly from any of the short stories, but more likely inspired by the atmosphere of Dinesen’s tales. It is the story of two women who yearn for a love that is immortal. One is in denial; the other accepts her fate. Barber’s score is noted for its great beauty — moments of disquieting intimacy alternate with ferocious lyrical passion.
September 3, 2013
Goldfish, reports The Telegraph, have a reputation for possessing short memory spans, but it seems this does not prevent them from appreciating the arts:
A new study has revealed that goldfish are able to distinguish between classical music by two different great composers — a feat that even some humans will claim they struggle with.
Researchers found they were able to train the goldfish to indicate whether they could hear compositions by either Johann Sebastian Bach or Igor Stravinsky. The scientists played the fish either Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor or Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
The fish would bite and tug on a small red bead submerged beneath the surface of the water on a piece of line when they recognised one of the pieces of music.
Among many spirited comments: “So people are being paid to play music to goldfish. Nice work if you can get it.”
September 3, 2013
All the way back in the 16th Century, polyphonic practice developed into the fluid style which culminated in the works of great composers such as Palestrina, Lassus, and William Byrd. It is Byrd who will be featured in a Schola Adventus concert called “Sacred & Profane: English Music from the Renaissance.”
Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices and his best-known motet, Ave verum Corpus, will be sung in a madrigal setting, along with several by his contemporaries. The program emphasizes the range and variety of unaccompanied vocal music in Elizabethan England, pitting the daring of Byrd, a Roman Catholic composing a Latin Mass setting in Protestant England, against the skill of his student Thomas Morley, and contemporaries John Bennet, John Farmer, Giles Farnaby, and John Wilbye in the secular field.
The concert is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sept. 15, in Church of the Advent, 261 Fell Street, located across the street from the SFJAZZ Center. Following the concert, there will be a hosted reception in the adjoining garden hall. Tickets are $12, available at the door. The program will be repeated on Sept. 22, in First Lutheran Church, 600 Homer Ave., Palo Alto.
Paul Ellison, musical director of Schola Adventus for two decades, is a native of Liverpool, England, educated at the Royal Academy of Music in London; Queens’ College, Cambridge; San José State University, where he took an M.A. in musicology; and Cardiff University, where he holds a Ph.D. degree in musicology. He is currently High Holiday Choir Director at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, and a member of the faculties of San Francisco State University and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School, San Mateo. He is Associate Editor of The Beethoven Journal and editor of The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians.
The concert will feature soprano Jennifer Ashworth, contralto Lauren Carley, tenor Kevin Baum, and bass Jim Monios. Jonathan Hampton is guest tenor.
September 3, 2013
On Oct. 7, in the Kammermusiksaal of the Berlin Philharmonie, a protest/benefit concert will take place that should really sell out a stadium, not a 1,180-seat chamber music hall.
The lineup is stellar: pianists Martha Argerich, Khatia Buniatishvili, and Daniel Barenboim; flautist Emmanuel Pahud, trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov, composer Giya Kancheli, cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, bayan player Elsbeth Moser, the Ukrainian children’s choir Shchedryk, conductor Roman Kofman and Gidon Kremer’s Kremerata Baltica — with more to come.
Before the concert, Amnesty International and several other organizations are participating in a symposium called “We Will Not be Intimidated: Russia’s Civil Society Under Pressure.” Kremer told Die Welt:
“I’m very concerned that more and more freedoms that we take for granted — such as the freedom of speech and artistic freedom — are being curtailed in Russia. It’s like it was in the Soviet Union, but of course with different methods and not as draconian as in Stalin’s time. Jail sentences such as the two years for Pussy Riot are unjust and disproportionate.”
Kremer commented, without naming names, on such staunch supporters of Putin as soprano Anna Netrebko, conductor Valery Gergiev, and violist Yuri Bashmet:
“I couldn’t and wouldn’t do what such people do. They call it patriotism. But for me, it’s more like opportunism and its only aim is to look after their own interests. As an artist, it’s not only my right, but also my duty to show my true colours and draw attention to such problems.”
He said he had great respect for such late artists as Pablo Casals and Mstislav Rostropovich, and violinist Yehudi Menuhin who were not afraid to “take a stance and fight for freedom.”
Kremer himself was born in Soviet-occupied Latvia, in 1947. His father was Jewish and had survived the Holocaust. From 1965, Kremer studied with David Oistrakh at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1967, he won third prize at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels; in 1969, second prize at the Montreal International Violin Competition, followed by first prize at the Paganini Competition in Genoa and first prize in 1970 at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
September 3, 2013
L'shanah tovah! Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is observed from sunset of Sept. 4 through Sept. 6 this year, the earliest since 1899. The date occurs 163 days after the first day of Passover. In terms of the Gregorian calendar, the earliest date on which Rosh Hashanah can fall is September 5 (night of September 4).
Thanks to Rudi van den Bulck, editor of Opera Nostalgia, here are some musical ways to observe the holidays: uploaded recordings include rare and never before available “Jewish recordings,” such as the 1918 “Eili, Eili” and an unpublished Yiddish song (courtesy Steve Smolian) by Turandot role creator Rosa Raisa, arias from the first Israeli opera ever written, a rare cantorial from pre-war Berlin by Mahler specialist Hermann Schey, and much more.
September 3, 2013
Aleron Trio, a much traveled and superstition-free ensemble, a product of the S.F. Conservatory of Music, is opening the season Friday, The Thirteenth, in Old First Church with a spectacular program.
Violinist Solenn Séguillon and cellist Anne Suda started Aleron three years ago, while still Conservatory students, joined last year by pianist Sophie Xuefei Zhang, who is getting her certificate in chamber music from the Conservatory.
The novelty on the concert is the Aleron-commissioned world premiere of contemporary Persian composer Shahab Paranj’s first piano trio, A Bitter Letter. “We have thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in the sounds and culture of classical Persian music,” says violinist Séguillon, “and are thrilled to bring this exciting new work to our San Francisco audience.”
Also on the program will be Beethoven’s Ghost Trio as well as Dvorák’s Dumky Trio, which explores themes from traditional Czech music.
Paranj, born in Tehran in 1983, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Known for championing Persian music and culture throughout the world, Paranj’s style blends Persian rhythmic and melodic influences with Western texture and form.
Shahab Paranj’s Piano Trio No. 1 is composed in three movements, influenced by traditional classical Persian music.
Only a very small portion of music from ancient Persia is known. The primary reason that the body of surviving works is so small is the repeated invasions of Iran throughout history. Music, being one of the most fragile elements of any culture, is often the first to be lost.
Of these invasions, that of the Islamic Arabs was the most damaging to Persian culture and music. The raison d’etre of Persian music after this invasion became almost exclusively that of religious mourning or Taazie. Thus surviving lyrics and melodies from this era are mostly sad and sorrowful.
The traditional, classical Persian melodic system, raa-dif, consists of seven dast-gah, which organize melody into a number of different “tonal spaces.” The specific characteristics of raa-dif are twofold: The pitch structure is microtonal and the rhythm tends to be “limping” in uneven or additive meter. These two elements give a predominantly monophonic texture great variation.
Paranj’s Piano Trio No. 1 is based on two dast-gah: chahar-gah and homayoun. Each follows a specific melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic syntax. Movement I is based on chahar-gah, which emphasizes a vocal, parlando style with very free, almost a-metrical, rhythmic phrasing.
Movement II is based on an ostinato, presented in the piano, above which is juxtaposed Azeri folkloric and Persian chahar-gah melodies in the violin and cello. Instead of the mournful Taazie feeling of the previous two movements, in Movement III motives from the first two movements are combined with new material in the homayoun dast-gah, to create a vibrant rhythmic and jubilant, and ultimately triumphant finale.
September 3, 2013
Opera Parallèle has named Tod Brody as the company’s first executive director, says Board of Directors Chair Robert Ripps.
Brody — former executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum — will work with founder and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement “to create a professional administrative structure to support Opera Parallèle’s operations,” with primary responsibility for financial matters, marketing, fundraising, and working with the Board on strategic planning and organizational development.
Brody is also known as an advocate for 20th and 21st century opera, having performed on flute and piccolo with the San Francisco Opera, Earplay, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and others; he has been on the music faculty at UC Davis since 1991.
September 3, 2013
This is what is known in journalism an “inviting lead”:
Breaking Pointe, a reality-television show about Ballet West, is breaking my heart. So You Think You Can Dance is as feckless as ever. And Amy Sherman-Palladino’s wise, snappy Bunheads was canceled. When it comes to dance on television, the best move is to reach for the remote.
Now that dance on TV is beginning to rival NFL jousts and cooking shows, but not doing justice to ballet, Gia Kourlas of the New York Times is taking a jaundiced but precise survey of the scene, from which we’ll quote only a few references to what’s breaking the writer's heart (with a personal note from This Column — I am fond of Ballet West, the company that's a sort of cousin to the San Francisco Ballet, if not at all of the TV show):
There’s more football on Friday Night Lights than there is ballet on Breaking Pointe. Even when it’s shown, it’s virtually ignored. Last season, the company worked on George Balanchine’s haunting ballet Emeralds, but I can’t recall having heard his name mentioned once. This time, the company is gearing up to perform Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella.” I’m fairly sure that a dancer mentioned “Ashton” under her breath, but that’s about it for context.
Unfortunately, there are many things I do know, as they are repeated to the breaking point of nausea. The marriage between Christiana Bennett and Christopher Rudd, two principals, is on the rocks. Allison DeBona is struggling with her decision between moving to Detroit to join her doctor-boyfriend or continuing to perform and possibly getting back together with Rex Tilton, a dancer whose monotone pining for Ms. DeBona is disturbing to witness.
The current season also unveiled a rivalry between two dancers in Ballet West 2 competing for contracts in the main company. Zachary Prentice, the shorter, stockier of the two, got the job. A born busybody, he is the Perez Hilton of Ballet West. “I love petty drama,” he said once with his usual assurance of knowing that the line would make the cut.
Yet most of the drama in Breaking Pointe is conveyed through a series of recaps with a sparkly line thrown in here and there. “Ballerinas are crazy,” Mr. Tilton said in the last episode. Nice. He had just been talking about Ms. DeBona, who, relationship choices aside, seems to have more wits about her than most. In a recent Facebook post, she even defended her decision to appear on the program: “I hope I don’t offend anyone, but we are human and not glass dolls.”
She has a point, but where is the art? Sometime in the late fall, the reality-ballet bug will bite closer to home with city.ballet, a Web series for AOL about the New York City Ballet, produced by the actress Sarah Jessica Parker, a board member. Until then, there is great pleasure to be had in re-watching the dances of Bunheads on YouTube.
September 3, 2013
Medici.tv and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are carrying, live and free, the Banff International String Quartet Competition, which not only presents outstanding ensembles, but provides an example of promoting the country’s new music. There are 11 new works co-commissioned for the competition by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The Banff Centre (see list below).
The BISQC Awards disburse $200,000 in cash and prizes, including the offer of a Banff Centre residency with a compact disc recording, a set of bows from internationally-renowned Canadian bow maker François Malo, and a recital tour of Europe and North America arranged by The Banff Centre.
This year’s winner: Houston’s Dover Quartet. Formed at the Curtis Institute of Music in 2008, when its members were just 19 years old, the Dover draws from the musical lineage of both the Vermeer and Guarneri Quartets. The Dover consists of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and Camden Shaw.
The Dover Quartet will participate in the 2013-2014 Morrison Artists Series, with the following free events on May 2, 2014: master class, 2-4 p.m.; pre-concert talk, 7 p.m.; concert, 8 p.m.
For over 30 years, the Banff competition showcased young musicians on their way to the big time, including some of these now-famous quartets, well known in our neck of the woods: St. Lawrence String Quartet (1992), Miró Quartet (1998), Daedalus Quartet (2001), and Jupiter String Quartet (2004).
The competition is open to quartets of all nationalities whose members are all under the age of 35. Unidentified copies of quartets’ audition recordings are reviewed by a preliminary jury of three, who pick 10 quartets to come to Banff to play for a second jury of seven. Both juries consist of members (or former members of) the world’s leading quartets. Jurors of past competitions have included members of the Alban Berg, Colorado, St. Lawrence, Orford, Budapest, Juilliard, Prague, Kolish, Takacs, Tokyo, Vermeer, Cleveland, Smetana, Borodin, and Quartetto Italiano, among others.
During preliminary sessions the quartets perform works from the classical, romantic, and contemporary repertoires, as well as the co-commissioned works:
Vivian Fung, String Quartet No. 3
Ana Sokolovic, Commedia della Arte
Kelly Marie Murphy, Dark Energy
Stewart Grant, String Quartet No. 2, Banff Variations
John Estacio, Test Run
Chan Ka Nin, Quartet No. 3
Heather Anne Schmidt, Phantoms
Marjan Mozetich, Lament in the Trampled Garden
Allan Bell, Arche II
John Hawkins, Three Archetypes
Harry Somers, Movement for String Quartet
After hearing each quartet play five complete works in the preliminary rounds of the competition, the jury selects three quartets to go onto the final round. They perform once more on the finals, after which the jury announces a winner.
During the week-long event, audiences can stay at The Banff Centre along with the competitors. The BISQC resident audience program has grown significantly since 1998, and has helped to create the festival-like atmosphere during the competition.
September 3, 2013
BBC Radio and Television start a season of programming dedicated to the composers, songs, and film scores that form the soundtrack to the big screen. The Sound of Cinema season will have programming on Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, and 6 Music for three-four weeks in September and October.
Some of the series:
- BBC Four, starting Sept. 12 — Silent film composer Neil Brand presents a three-part series Sound Of Cinema: The Music That Made the Movies, featuring some of the biggest directors of past and present, including Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Scorsese, alongside film scores of cult and blockbuster movies like Star Wars, Inception, Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Gladiator.
- BBC Radio 3, starting Sept. 13 — Three weeks of programming including director Ken Loach and composer George Fenton discussing their 20-year partnership, and a live program with the spookiest scores in cinema from the BFI on Friday the 13th. Two icons of cinema, Terence Stamp and Sir Tom Courtenay, present their music choices in Saturday Classics. The BBC’s Performing Groups play film music Live in Concert; conductors featured in the season include Carl Davis, John Wilson, and Robert Ziegler.
- BBC Radio 6 Music — In a five-part series, big names from cinema including actor Cillian Murphy and Bond film composer David Arnold discuss their favorite film music moments. In a five-part series called Sound of Cinema in the Sunday midday slot, iconic names from the movie world will host a series of one-hour shows picking their favorite film music moments.