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Janos Gereben

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

Articles by this Author

Music News
April 7, 2009

Carneiro's Debut Season in Berkeley

In her first season as music director of the Berkeley Symphony Joana Carneiro will not only uphold the Kent Nagano tradition of championing new music, she will go one better than the orchestra's former music director (who often featured music from Berlin and London), by providing more opportunity to local composers than that mega-Symphony across the Bay.

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Opera Review
April 2, 2009

Yes, they can: The Conservatory kids can, though somewhat cautiously, and certainly staying away from the climactic splits, while still conveying the buoyant spirit of the dissolute French, avec plaisir. On Thursday night, the first of four performances at Cowell Theater, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music presented Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld in a delightful admixture of a cute school production and a first-class musical performance.

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Music News
March 31, 2009

They Came to Play

As luck would have it, the first four items of today's column share a fascinating subject: musical contests. These stories may also remind the reader of American Idol, but be assured: They Came to Play, Every Little Step, The Audition, and the global Internet contest for participation in the YouTube Orchestra have nothing to do with TV's overblown, grotesque exploitation of young talent.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
March 18, 2009

Valery Gergiev, one of the heavyweights on the international music scene, does have his detractors. Just within the context of his Sunday-Monday appearances in Davies Symphony Hall, leading the London Symphony Orchestra in two eventful concerts, there were numerous items possibly contradicting what may well be a general enthusiasm about the conductor.

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Kids & Families Feature
March 24, 2009

San Domenico School’s Virtuoso Program, which will travel from its San Anselmo home to San Francisco for a showcase program here on March 29, goes back to Venetian girls’ orphanages in the 17th century. That, at least, is what the program’s founder, Faith France, told me many years ago. She was teaching music at San Domenico, a small independent school in Marin (which originally opened in Monterey in 1850), when she had an epiphany while visiting Venice.

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Music News
March 24, 2009

Gaffigan: Putting It Together

When James Gaffigan makes his last subscription-concert appearances with the San Francisco Symphony as the orchestra's associate conductor (April 1-4), he will lead a program of the 2005 Thomas Adès Violin Concerto, Haydn's 1772 Symphony No. 52, and Mozart's 1788 Symphony No. 39.

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Upcoming Concert
March 23, 2009

The Trojan War, history books tell us (without too much certainty), took place “in the 13th or 12th century B.C.E.,” and Troy must have been somewhere in Turkey, near the Dardanelles.

Yes, it’s difficult to know details of events taking place three millennia ago — especially so when our question is: “What kind of music did Achaean Greeks whistle while bashing in Trojan skulls?”

Fortunately for the fast-approaching world premiere of Lillian Groag’s War Music at the American Conservatory Theater, the composer for what the playwright calls a “groundbreaking fusion of language, music, and movement” does not worry about authenticity, else the curtain may not go up for a long time in the Geary Theater.

Says John Glover, War Music composer, musician, saxophonist, and operations manager for the American Composers Orchestra:

 

In straight theater, music is usually incidental. It’s for set changes, scene changes, and a little bit of underscoring, but it’s not intrinsic to the fabric of the work. War Music is unique in that music plays a fundamentally important role in the piece.

The word “music” is half of the title, so obviously the aural aspect of sound to convey story and characters is very important, too. This story [Homer’s Iliad] was originally told orally, and the text really reflects that. It demands to be heard out loud.

This production also brings us back to the ideals of ancient Greek theater in which music, drama, and movement were completely integrated and played at an equal level.

Glover’s music contains a wide range of styles and sounds, with some classically composed pieces and others referencing Turkish court music, 1930s vaudeville, and even Haitian voodoo chanting. Take a listen.

Premiering on April 1, with previews beginning March 26, War Music takes its text from the 2,800-year-old Iliad, about the clash between the warrior Achilles and Agamemnon, the leader of the Greekexpedition during the Trojan War. The play uses an English translation of the classic by Christopher Logue, who has put 45 years into the project.

Over the years, Groag has specialized in adapting and directing large-scale dramas, such as Blood Wedding and A Triumph of Love. Her directing work spans theater and opera; she is creating War Music in collaboration not only with composer Glover, but also with choreographer Daniel Pelzig (who set the movement in Mary Zimmerman’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor for the Metropolitan Opera).

A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff draws a parallel between Groag’s play and the United States’ current foreign policy entanglements this way: “As a country engaged in several wars of attrition simultaneously,” she remarks, “we are desperate to understand how we got into the mess we are in. War Music is the perfect catalyst for conversation on these difficult questions and promises to be bold, ambitious, and unforgettable.”

The production features a top-notch cast, including René Augesen, Anthony Fusco, Gregory Wallace, Jud Williford, Jack Willis, Charles Dean, Lee Ernst, Sharon Lockwood, David A. Moss, and Andy Murray. Also participating are members of A.C.T.’s Master of Fine Arts Program, class of 2009, Nicholas Pelczar, Christopher S. Tocco, and Erin Michelle Washington.

Daniel Ostling is responsible for the scenic design, Beaver Bauer for the costumes, Russell H. Champa for the lighting design.

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Music News
March 17, 2009

West Bay Opera Marches On, 'Shooting Freely'

Understandably enough, even the more adventurous opera companies are cutting back on expenses ... and adventure. West Bay Opera — little (dollarwise) and old (California's second, and turning 54) — is handling this conundrum by sandwiching an unusual work between two great warhorses.
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Music News
March 10, 2009

Where There Is a Will, There Is Festival del Sole

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Artist Spotlight
March 10, 2009

When you conduct the San Francisco Symphony March 12 and 14 (and at the March 13 "6.5" concert), you are leading your own suite from the Shostakovich opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. What is your interest in the work?

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Artist Review
March 5, 2009

Recession be damned: for the second week, new, complex, "heavy" music and Ravel have filled the 2,743-seat Davies Symphony Hall. Last week, it was Gubaidulina's Second Violin Concerto and Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales; tonight, György Ligeti Requiem and Martha Argerich, playing Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto, were San Francisco's American Idol winners.

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Modern Classical Review
March 3, 2009

The North American premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s 2007 Violin Concerto No. 2, In tempus praesens (In the present time), arrived Thursday as an important musical event, revealing a strong, compelling, unusual, and rewarding work.

The soloist, Anne-Sophie Mutter (who had commissioned the concerto), gave a stunningly brilliant performance, with the highest of notes (some close to scraping the instrument’s bridge) coming across rock solid, overtones swirling in the air … all without visible or audible effort.

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Upcoming Concert
March 2, 2009
For a "modern-dance company," ODC feels like an old friend. Actually, it's more than just a matter of sentiment. Known as the Oberlin Dance Collective when Brenda Way formed the troupe in Ohio in 1971, the now-geographics-free ODC took an old yellow bus to San Francisco in 1976, and became a vital part of the city's cultural fabric.

The upcoming spring season, ODC/Dance Downtown, takes place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, March 12-29. It offers new music, new choreography, and a repertory of five recent favorites.

Way (winner of an American Academy in Rome Residency) is the choreographer for the world premiere of Memory of the Forest, to a score by Jay Cloidt, and Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson is introducing another premiere: Grassland, to music by Marcelo Zarvos.

Memory of the Forest is inspired by the life of Way's late mother-in-law, Iza Erlich. As a teenager in 1941, she walked away from the Warsaw Ghetto, traversing Poland, Germany, and Russia to find her future husband who had departed months earlier. Brenda Way

Erlich recorded her memories on a set of four audiotapes and always imagined that her story might be material for a dance. "Iza, a social worker by trade, believed in the power of art to communicate emotional experience," says Way. "Her story of intrigue, grit, and humor offers a hopeful note in our own tumultuous times." Working with Way are video artists David and Ha-Jin Hodge, and lighting designer and visual artist Elaine Buckholtz.

Creating the piece, Way says, has been "both a personal journey and an invigorating choreographic exploration. Working with dancers who put their amazing capacity on the line every day is a powerful way to explore meaning in my life."

Chin-Chin Hsu, Anne Zivolich, and Yayoi Kambara

Zarvos's score for Nelson's abstract Grassland is performed live by violinist Ren Mandel (long associated with dance, having married San Francisco Ballet star Joanna Berman), former Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist Gianna Abondolo, Berkeley Symphony concertmaster Franklyn D'Antonio, San Francisco Opera Orchestra violist Joy Fellows, with Zarvos on piano.

Works repeated from the last season include Way's Unintended Consequences: A Meditation, set on music by Laurie Anderson, and Origins of Flight, to music by Heinrich Biber, Arcangelo Corelli, and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. Also on the program is Way's 1996 Weird Weather, to music by the Hohner Percussion Ensemble.

Also scheduled: Nelson's 2008 Hunting and Gathering, to music by Bryan Eno and David Byrne, and They've Lost Their Footing to music by the Swedish rock-folk group Hoven Droven.

A $20 "Small Plates" event is offered on March 19 at 6:30 p.m., featuring an hour-long performance, with complimentary drinks and appetizers.

 

 

The company consists of 11 dancers: Daniel Santos, Anne Zivolich, Yayoi Kambara, Corey Brady, Quilet Rarang, Elizabeth Farotte, Jeremy Smith, Aaron Perlstein, Vanessa Thiessen, Robert Dekkers, and Dennis Adams (apprentice).

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Music News
February 27, 2009

Teenage Composer at SFSYO Concert

On the program of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra's March 8 concert: the premiere of 17-year-old Preben Antonsen's Thresh of Gear. The conductor is Wattis Foundation Music Director Benjamin Shwartz; the concert also includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite.

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Archive Review
February 3, 2009

On Sunday, at Alek Shrader's Schwabacher Debut Recital in Temple Emanu-El, presented by the San Francisco Opera, I was wondering about the tenor's response if Barbara Walters should ask him what kind of tree he would be. Not knowing the answer, I came up with a question to which the answer is obvious. What kind of drinking glass would Shrader be? Tall, clear, gracefully simple, and full. This is a transparent tenor, an extraordinarily ordinary singer — "ordinary" in the sense of plain, simple, unadorned, straightforward. Would that there were more like him!

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Upcoming Concert
January 30, 2009
Now in her absolute prime, Cecilia Bartoli has established herself as one of the greatest singers of this or any age. It’s not just her phenomenal technique and unique, rapid-fire coloratura, both of which will be amply demonstrated in her presentation of María Malibrán’s Salon Romantique. Nor is it simply a matter of vocal beauty, which she supplies in abundance. Rather, it is the fact that she employs her gifts with consummate musical intelligence. With Bartoli’s singing, the art of bel canto, which depends upon subtle nuance and inflection, has been given a new lease on life. While the recital is sold out, there is always a chance that tickets will be turned in, released, or scalped at the last minute. If you’ve never heard Bartoli in person, there’s nothing like it. The spirit in the hall will be tremendous. As is her graciousness. More »
Upcoming Concert
January 30, 2009
Stanford Lively Arts has been at the forefront of local Messiaen centenary year celebrations. In their last presentation, Christopher Taylor returns to the Bay Area with Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus for solo piano, a lyrical, mystical, and profoundly virtuosic meditation on the nature of the Christ child. More »
Upcoming Concert
January 30, 2009
It has been more than 20 years since the debut of Helgi Tomasson’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake for the San Francisco Ballet. This time around the most-cherished and well-known of ballets gets a complete restaging featuring scenery and costumes by European designer Jonathan Fensom, who will try to avoid that “museum piece” feel. For this full-length premiere, one of the few this season, Tomasson says he was intruigued by working with Fensom, a newbie to ballet, but a Tony Award nominee (for Journey’s End in 2007) who has created costumes and sets for dozens of plays in London’s West End and on Broadway, plus some opera. More »
Upcoming Concert
January 29, 2009
The late James Schwabacher established a debut recital series 26 years ago, providing performance opportunities for young singers many of whom have gone on to great fame. The 2009 series features tenor Alek Shrader (Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions winner, and making several impressive War Memorial appearances last month), baritone Quinn Kelsey, tenor James Benjamin Rodgers, and Steven Blier’s “New York Festival of Song,” with soprano Leah Crocetto, mezzo Renée Tatum, and tenor Andrew Bidlack. More »
Upcoming Concert
January 29, 2009
Allan Shearer’s new opera The Dawn Makers is based on the ancient Greek myth of Eos, goddess of the dawn and her human lover, Tithonys, who is made immortal but not eternally youthful. In this comic updating, the couple are joined by a pool man who knows enough to decline the offer of immortality, and two Valley girls who double as the horses of the Goddess’ chariot. Composers, Inc.’s fully staged production (in honor of their 25th anniversary) boasts a distinguished cast, including Christine Brandes, John Duykers, and Eugene Brancoveanu. More »

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