Noel Verzosa is a visiting assistant professor at California State University in Sacramento.
Articles by this Author
To celebrate the newly renovated, reopened, and renamed Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Concert Hall at Mills College, various ensembles and musicians gathered on Saturday evening to perform the music of one of the college’s many musical luminaries: Darius Milhaud, the French composer who took up a post there after fleeing the Germans in 1940.
Last Thursday, the Berkeley Symphony welcomed Joana Carneiro, the last of six candidates to appear at Zellerbach Hall and make a case for their being appointed as music director. Carneiro's selection of pieces was probably the least eclectic of all the candidates' programs, though she chose hers strategically. A Bay Area premiere of a new composition, a work by a hometown hero, and a warhorse of the repertoire not only provided a diverse offering of music but also allowed Carneiro, the assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, to play to her strengths.
Not the least fascinating aspect of Other Minds' series of Saturday performances at San Francisco's Church of Swedenborg, at least for me, was the discovery that there is a Church of Swedenborg. The church, in the city's Cow Hollow district, is named for the 18th-century philosopher and theologian whose spiritual vision was equal parts Christianity, metaphysics, and mysticism.
On Sunday in Berkeley, the Jerusalem Symphony offered an evening of music by 20th-century Jewish composers, performing old favorites alongside works that have disappeared from the canon. The first half of the concert, which was presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall, highlighted works by émigré composers who made their home in the United States, while the second half presented an orchestral warhorse by a composer whose music has become synonymous with Americana.
In a tribute to the composer Elliott Carter's centenary birthday, Earplay devoted part of last Monday's concert at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre to his music and the rest to American composers. Although all but one of the works on the program were composed in the last seven years, they represented a diverse sampling of styles with which American composers have experimented since the start of the 20th century.
For the 12th year running, New Music Bay Area and Lifemark Group Arts sponsored the Garden of Memory, an annual celebration of the summer solstice through new music and sound installations. For four hours on Sunday, more than three dozen artists took over the labyrinthine Chapel of Chimes, a mausoleum on the edge of Oakland's Rockridge district.
In a fitting conclusion to a season that has featured works like Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose Suite and William Bolcom's Fairy Tales, the Gold Coast Chamber Players ended their 2008 cycle with a program of musical knickknacks both familiar and obscure. Works by Franz Schubert were paired with a rarely heard suite by Bohuslav Martinů in an afternoon of informal pleasantry, enhanced by the ski-lodge-like comfort of the Soda Center at St. Mary's College in Moraga.
Last December, Kent Nagano and Stuart Canin unveiled the Berkeley Akademie Ensemble, a project designed to cultivate "explorations of style" and "develop ensemble technical skills" (as the organization describes its goals). Thursday marked the Akademie's second concert, held in Berkeley's First Congregational Church.
"Indigenous Instruments," composer Steve Mackey writes of one of his pieces, "is vernacular music from a culture that doesn't actually exist." But at UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall on Friday, the audience was able to catch aural samples of familiar vernacular music. Echoes of rock and jazz jostled with idioms of 20th-century art music in four works by Mackey, performed by Citywater and the Sacramento State Percussion Group.
“Intoxicated and With Fire” is the title of the third movement of Schumann’s Phantasiestücke for cello and piano, written five years before the composer’s attempted suicide and seven years before his death in an insane asylum. Listening to pianist Aleck Karis and cellist Charles Curtis’ Music at Meyer performance at the Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on Monday night, however, you would never have guessed that the piece was composed by someone courting madness.
Last Friday marked the final concert of Oakland East Bay Symphony’s 2006-2007 season, but it also marked the beginning of its newest initiative, the "American Masterworks Series," which will continue in upcoming seasons. Choosing works that live up to this title is a trickier task than you might expect, as the Pulitzer Prize committee found out three years ago when it controversially expanded the scope of the music prize to include the more “popular” genres of jazz, Broadway, and film music. What should be included in "American" music?
Achieving the right balance of sound in Debussy’s music is a challenge because of the composer’s sense of timbre. Sometimes he uses a single instrument to provide an imperceptible nuance of color, which requires the conductor to make the effect audible enough to matter but subtle enough to avoid undue attention. This is where many Debussy performances fail — accompaniment figures are given too much emphasis and sound arbitrary.
You could tell, from the moment she took the stage, that soprano Laura Aikin is accustomed to much larger venues than the 333-seat Florence Gould Theater in San Francisco's Legion of Honor. A quick glance at her bio confirms that she has performed at most of the world's major opera houses, from La Scala to the Opéra Bastille to the Metropolitan Opera. On Saturday afternoon she offered a modestly proportioned recital program, featuring song cycles by Richard Strauss and Ned Rorem, yet presented with all the bravura of an operatic coloratura.