Lisa Petrie is a writer and specialist in marketing and public relations for arts and education organizations. She earned a DMA in flute performance from SUNY, Stony Brook, and is the mother of two musical kids. Lisa was the Content Manager for the Kids and Families section of San Francisco Classical Voice during 2011.
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The "Darkness" in the program is a Requiem Mass by the Veronese priest Giovanni Matteo Asola (c. 1528-1609) for men's a cappella voices — a piece described by J. Jeff Badger, executive director and founder of the group, as having an "almost modal, antico style with a very dark, dense sound"; achingly beautiful voice crossings lend to its pathos. Although Asola was prolific in his lifetime, composing for St. Servero church in Venice and also writing a number of secular madrigals, he has fallen into obscurity and Badger believes this might be the first American performance of this contemplative work.
In contrast, the "Dawn" is music of the Milanese Benedictine nun Sister Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-c.1678) for women's voices, and presents a brighter, florid sound typical of the early Baroque. Cozzolani wrote four volumes of music, all within the confines of her convent, the Santa Radegonda. When she later became the Abbess, she stopped composing. It is thought that some of her motets might have been smuggled out of the cloister for publication, and in fact, more than a dozen nuns published sacred works in Italy at the time. She herself had a virtuoso alto voice and sang first alto in the choir. Cozzolani's music is written for women's voices, with tenor and bass parts that were most likely sung by women, as well.
The San Francisco Renaissance Voices take this opportunity to arrange the parts for mixed voices — a 17th-century impropriety, but one that is sure to bring a richness of timbre and broader register to the music. The singers will be joined by guest instrumentalists Steven Lehning on viola da gamba and harpsichordist Jonathan Rhodes Lee in this joyful music — the early rhythm section that enhances that special swing between duple and triple meter common in the era.
Katherine McKee, assistant music director, takes the podium for this concert, and provides this insight: "Our concert in no way seeks to re-create an order of worship, or even to imply a monastic atmosphere. Rather, we're seeking to illuminate one of the miracles of the world of music and art: That despite the strictly cloistered environment in which Cozzolani composed, and the service-oriented nature of Asola's writings, this music escaped the confines of church and convent to be enjoyed by listeners throughout the secular world, both in their own time and through the centuries down to us."
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Jane Glover, music director of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque since 2002 and recently named artistic director of Opera at London’s Royal Academy of Music, is a Baroque scholar, author, and opera conductor with a penchant for modern dance. However unlikely a combination that may seem, for the past decade Glover has been a collaborator in several of choreographer Mark Morris’ projects that brilliantly use modern dance to embody 18th-century music.
On Wednesday, May 20, and Friday and Saturday, May 22-23, the San Francisco Symphony unveils Bates’ pithy new work The B-Sides, commissioned and conducted by Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas. The work amalgamates Bates’ mastery of symphonic composition and his active career as DJ Masonic, mixing and spinning dance music in techno clubs, modern art museums, and art spaces. The B-Sides refers to Bates’ concept of the more alternative, edgy songs found on the flip side of a popular album, and serves to unify the five short movements.
Bates, who will trigger the electronic elements on his laptop from the percussion section, describes the piece as five sound environments based on texture and groove. The first section is “Broom of the System” and utilizes an actual broom in its pulsing rhythmic soundscape. The second, “Aerosol Melody (Hanalei),” is a purely acoustic evocation of the Northshore of Kauai and the softly undulating sea. “Gemini in the Solar Wind” is an example of how Bates uses electronica elements as “more than just a dance beat.”
He says: “Electronics add a totally different acoustic to the orchestra, such as the low sound of a subwoofer. In the case of this movement, I’m excited about the addition of voices, actual samples from the 1965 Gemini IV Voyage given to me by NASA. These are sounds you could not otherwise produce from an orchestra.” The fourth movement “Temescal Noir” (after the Oakland neighborhood) does not use electronics but adds a typewriter and an oil drum to the percussion section. Finally, “Warehouse Machine” is what Bates describes as “an all-out tribute to Detroit techno.” Hear this last movement‘s trial run at Carnegie Hall on April 15 by the YouTube orchestra, also the brainchild of MTT.
The B-Sides is one in a series of successful commissions by this prolific young composer. In March Bates presented the premiere of his new work Sirens with Chanticleer, and a new work for the California Symphony where he is Young American Composer-in-Residence. His Music from Underground Spaces was premiered by the California Symphony in May 2008. Other recent projects are almost too numerous to mention. Liquid Interface was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center and later in Carnegie Hall. In the past five years he’s received commissions from notable orchestras such as The Juilliard School (celebrating its 100th anniversary in January 2006), the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the American Composers Orchestra in New York.
When Michael Tilson Thomas became aware of Bates’ music in 2007, he invited him backstage during intermission at Davies Symphony Hall to discuss the possible commission. During that short break in the concert the concept was born. Mason was thrilled to work with a conductor who is also a composer, and with musicians who are friends of his.
Bates is also excited about his DJ project Mercury Soul, which he says “superimposes a techno dance party on classical music”. He and a creative cast together with conductor Benjamin Shwartz present this extravaganza on May 28 at San Francisco’s Mezzanine. (Visit www.mercurysoul.org for more information.) Get a taste of this project at the Symphony’s “Davies After Hours” party, Friday, May 22, after the concert, free to all concertgoers.More about San Francisco Symphony »
Pianist Jonathan Biss talks about what it's like to grow up in a family of musicians, finding time for tennis and Philip Roth, and what's in store for Bay Area audiences.
Both of your parents are professional musicians: Your mother is violinist Miriam Fried, and your father is violist and violinist Paul Biss. What was family life like growing up?
The three are dedicated educators (Strauss and Fonteneau are professors at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sykes at Cal State University East Bay and at the Madison, Wisc.–based Opera for the Young); they also maintain busy performing and recording schedules. When I attempted to reach Strauss (a native of Germany) for a comment about this upcoming concert, he was in Berlin doing a stint as guest concertmaster with the Berlin Philharmonic. French-born Fonteneau regularly tours in South Korea and just issued a CD on Albany Records, playing new works by Korean composer Hi Kyung Kim. Sykes also has an impressive discography to his credit and performs chamber music throughout North America and Europe.
The concert in the intimate Noe Valley Ministry shares some significant signposts in the repertoire. It opens with Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1/1, not technically his first composition, but one he thought worthy enough for that tag. It was premiered by Prince Karl von Lichnowsky’s resident string quartet at one of Lichnowsky’s weekly soirées in 1794. The sound of the piece is still much indebted to Haydn, whom Beethoven admired a great deal, and shows Beethoven’s full mastery of the late Classical style. Axel Strauss quipped: “His admiration didn’t stop him from trying to outdo the master, at the same time. The piece is extremely quick and witty and bristles with energy.”
The next milestone presented is Piano Trio No. 1 by American composer Leon Kirchner, who celebrated his 90th birthday in January. Kirchner wrote the piece in 1954, one year after winning the Naumburg Award (won by Axel Strauss in 1998). Kirchner studied with Arnold Schoenberg and Ernest Bloch at UCLA and with Roger Sessions in New York. In this piano trio his musical language is closely related to Schoenberg’s, sans his 12-tone method. Kirchner’s music is quite dissonant at times, but always rhythmically engaging and highly expressive.
Closing the program will be Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor (1914), a piece requiring a high level of virtuosity for all instruments and widely regarded as technically brilliant. Ravel derived musical inspiration for this trio from numerous sources, including Basque dance and Malaysian poetry. Says Strauss, “The variety of tone colors and textures he gets out of a piano trio is just staggering. You can hear beautifully elegant melodies that seem to literally float through the air; in other places (the ending, for example), the music becomes downright orchestral. Even by Ravel’s highest standards, this is a masterpiece.”
Might we hear more from this trio in the future? We can only hope.More »
Anyone who enjoys their pears and Stilton or their ham-and-pineapple pizza appreciates the blending of complementary flavors. Why, then, not sample a few electronics along with your opera, or take in modern music played on traditional Chinese instruments? The second Switchboard Music Festival on March 29 promises to serve up exactly such an eclectic feast.
Building on the success of last year’s inaugural festival, founders Ryan Brown, Jeff Anderle, and Jonathan Russell have programmed a “come-and-go-as-you-like,” eight-hour marathon of what they term “genre-bending,” innovative music. The performers are musicians who play and compose outside the box, creating sounds and rhythms from world music, heavy metal, jazz, or klezmer on classical instruments. Some are classically trained virtuosos now making music on electric guitars, found objects, accordions, and even laptops.
According to cofounder Russell, a composer and bass clarinetist, little institutional support presently exists for this type of music. “This music typically happens in clubs and not in concert halls where the more academic form of ‘new music’ is given a place,” says Russell. “We founded Switchboard in order to give a framework, a venue, and a recognition to highly creative music that isn’t currently formalized.” Anderle echoes that: “We also want to bring like-minded audiences together. They might enjoy other interesting groups that they would not be exposed to otherwise.”
Part of Switchboard’s mission is to highlight Bay Area talent, with a healthy mix of established musicians on the scene such as Paul Dresher, Pamela Z, and Adorno Ensemble, as well as emerging artists like the heavy-metal bass-clarinet quartet Edmund Welles and guitarist/composer Ryan Brown. Also on the bill are Zoyres, with an exciting new twist on Eastern European folk; dada percussionist Moe! Staiano; a “French circus meets Willie Nelson and Mingus” mishmash from Japonize Elephants; new sounds on Chinese instruments from Melody of China; Ted Brinkley and Neptune’s Rogue Apothecary, the experimental jazz big-band; Classical Revolution; and music composed by Ken Thompson, Damon Waitkus, Max Stoffregen, and Jonathan Russell himself.
Think “Bang on a Can” in New York — an organization that has clearly contributed to a more hip and casual presentations of serious art music — and you have some idea of where Switchboard is going. In addition to the annual Switchboard Festival marathon, founders would like to eventually present additional concerts, form an in-house ensemble, and even launch a record label. For now, this quirky show promises music that’s anything but vanilla. This music will move you, surprise you, and satisfy a wide range of musical tastes.More »