Monday, October 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Albert Lortzing (1801-1851)
Miriam Gideon (1906-1996)
Denise Duval (1921-2016)
Ned Rorem (1923)
Lawrence Foster (1941)
Toshio Hosokawa (1955)
"Weird Al" Yankovic (1959)
Brett Dean (1961)

and

Robert Bridges (1844-1930)
Johnny Carson (1925-2005)
Nick Tosches (1949)
Laurie Halse Anderson (1961)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Sir Donald McIntyre (1934)
Elizabeth Connell (1946)

and

John Reed (1887-1920)
John Gould (1908-2003)
Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

From the Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1883 that the Metropolitan Opera House opened with a performance of Faust. The opera was based on Goethe's German poem, and it was composed in French, but it was sung in Italian. The New Yorkers who designed the opera house wanted it to have an Italian feel, so they had it built with a palazzo on Broadway, and Italian was the language of choice.

There was already an opera house in New York, the Academy of Music, near Union Square. It was one of the main gathering places of the city's high society, who watched each other from the opera boxes as eagerly as they watched the opera itself. But there were only 18 opera boxes at the Academy of Music, and in the 1870s a whole generation of industrial millionaires were emerging in New York. These nouveau riche were not so welcome at the Academy of Music, or in any of the social circles of old money. But they wanted a place to display themselves, so they decided to build their own opera house. Seventy people got together and pooled $1.7 million to buy land and build a concert hall. They put in three levels with 36 box seats in each, more than enough for everyone.

In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton wrote:
"On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.

"Though there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan distances 'above the Forties,' of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendor with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy. Conservatives cherished it for being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the 'new people' whom New York was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the musical for its excellent acoustic, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing of music."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957)
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974)
Howard Ferguson (1908-1999)
Alexander Schneider (1908-1993)
Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997)
Dizzy (John Birks) Gillespie (1917-1993)
Sir Malcom Arnold (1921-2006)
Marga Richter (1926)
Shulamit Ran (1949)
Hugh Wolff (1953)

and

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Baldur Brönniman and the Oregon Symphony deliver a nuanced Shostakovich 5th Symphony

Baldur Brönniman
Guest conductor Baldur Brönniman led the Oregon Symphony for the first time in a riveting concert on Monday, October 16th at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. A varied program featuring works by Portuguese composer Ângela da Ponte, Saint-Saëns and Shostakovich, it was a fun and yet deep evening of music.

Da Ponte, who grew up in the Azores, wrote The Rising Sea based upon a poem called Ídilio by Antero de Quental.  An OSO premiere, the piece was a mysterious, largely atonal sound painting, with susurating entrances and exits, strange quacking mutes in the brass; densely textured and programmatic it was a worthy piece to hear.

Cellist Johannes Moser, last with the OSO for the Schumann concerto in 2014, returned as soloist for Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor.  Moser was charismatic and even dashing; holding the audience and orchestra alike in the grip of his intensity, he seemed simultaneously to be having way too much fun. Displaying a deft, even delicate touch even in the bold exposition, he interpreted the melodies lovingly--heroic when called for, yet not bombastic. In the Allegretto he made the moment feel like a strophic song somehow, leading a marvelous balancing act with the orchestra. Much of this work was high up on the instrument, yet his technique in the lower registers was affective and moving. An effortless technician, he succeeded in bringing out the very heart of this piece.

Swiss conductor Baldur Brönniman had a difficult challenge with the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 in D Minor. There is a tendency to make this piece weighty and ponderous, yet all the material is there for an interpretation that is almost the exact opposite, and Brönniman elicited this from the OSO.

In the first movement, the dialogue between high and low strings was profound and direct--no equivocating here. The clarinet solo was not haunting, yet somehow austere and lonely. The ominous intrusion of the piano and brass set off a fine frenzy with the rest of the group, and later as the hubbub receded, the flute and horn duet was a moment of singular beauty.  In the second movement the bassoon solo was saucy, like a grand, grave, darkly humorous waltz, and in the third movement the trio with two flutes and harp was spare and sonorous, followed by a broad elegy from the strings.  Like a fierce Slavic folk dance, the grand arrival at the finale was the fulfillment of the long promise beforehand.

Brönniman was brilliant all evening, but especially so in the Shostakovich. There are so many gems large and small in this monumental work, and the conductor expertly picked them all out, deftly shepherding the players through this task. A deeply pensive work like this could trend toward the dull, yet it never went there; Brönniman and the OSO were constantly engaging and energetic, and the Saint-Saëns and Shostakovich were nothing short of a triumph. One hopes to see Baldur Brönniman at the helm of the OSO again soon.


Today's Birthdays

Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
Adelaide Hall (1901-1993)
Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991)
Adelaide Hall (1909-1993)
Robert Craft (1923-2015)
Jacques Loussier (1934)
William Albright (1944-1998)
Ivo Pogorelich (1958)
Leila Josefowicz (1977)

and

Christopher Wren (1632-1723)
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
John Dewey(1859-1952)
Robert Pinsky (1940)
Elfriede Jelinek (1946)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Sidonie Goossens (1899-2004)
Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966)
Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968)
Emil Gilels (1916-1985)
Robin Holloway (1943)
Robert Morris (1943)

and

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Auguste Lumière (1862-1954)
Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899-1974)
Jack Anderson (1922-2005)
John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell) (1931)
Philip Pullman (1946)
Tracy Chevalier (1962)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Luca Marenzio (1553-1599)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Lotte Lenya (1898-1981)
Alexander Young (1920-2000)
Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
Chuck Berry (1926-2017)
Wynton Marsalis (1961)

and

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811)
Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)
Ntozake Shange (1948)
Rick Moody (1961)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)
Rolando Panerai (1924)
Reiner Goldberg (1939)
Stephen Kovacevich (1940)

and

Georg Büchner (1813-1837)
Nathanael West (1903-1940)
Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to singer Marian Anderson.

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1933 that Albert Einstein officially moved to the United States to teach at Princeton University. He had been in California working as a visiting professor when Hitler took over as chancellor of Germany. Einstein’s apartment in Berlin and his summer cottage in the country were raided, his papers confiscated, and his bank accounts closed. He returned to Europe and handed in his German passport, renouncing his citizenship. He considered offers from all over the world, including Paris, Turkey, and Oxford. Einstein eventually decided on Princeton, which offered him an attractive package teaching at its Institute for Advanced Study — but he had his hesitations about the university. For one thing, it had a clandestine quota system in place that only allowed a small percentage of the incoming class to be Jewish. The Institute’s director, Abraham Flexner, was worried that Einstein would be too directly involved in Jewish refugee causes, so he micromanaged Einstein’s public appearances, keeping him out of the public eye when possible. He even declined an invitation for Einstein to see President Roosevelt at the White House without telling the scientist. When Einstein found out, he personally called Eleanor Roosevelt and arranged for a visit anyway, and then complained about the incident in a letter to a rabbi friend of his, giving the return address as “Concentration Camp, Princeton.” In 1938, incoming freshmen at Princeton ranked Einstein as the second-greatest living person; first place went to Adolf Hitler.