Thursday, April 30, 2009

Portland Opera presents a mock audition

Auditioning seems to be a hot topic lately, and Portland Opera will give you a glimpse into what goes on during an audition at a free event on Friday (May 1). Here's the scoop:

On May 1st the Portland Opera Studio Artists will share their best audition pieces, belting out glorious arias as they vie for that coveted contract in a mock audition. Bring your lunch and enjoy all the musical treats an audition has to offer and get a peek into a very important aspect of producing opera: the audition. Portland Opera’s Director of Artistic Administration Clare Burovac will host this mock audition, and Principal Accompanist Thomas Webb will accompany the artists on the piano.

WHAT: Portland Opera’s “Would you like an aria with those fries?” lunchtime presentation. May topic: The Opera (Mock) Audition

WHEN: Noon – 1:00pm, Friday, May 1, 2009.
WHERE: Multnomah County Central Library (801 SW 10th Ave) in the U.S. Bank room.

Seattle Opera looking for Ring rookie

Seattle Opera is looking for a complete opera novice to attend its Ring cycle this summer and be the host of a video that will take people behind the scenes in a new way. Interested participants will have to submit video and then be subjected to online voting a la reality-show style. Seems like a cool, new idea!

Here are the details from the Seattle Opera's press release:

Seattle Opera Seeks a Star for a Reality-Style Video Project:

Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer

Video Application between May 1 and May 22

Live Casting Call at McCaw Hall on May 15

Online Voting Opens June 1

Seattle—Seattle Opera announced today it is searching for someone to host a reality-style video project titled Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer. The company is looking for an opera novice who has never seen a production of Wagner’s Ring to spend some time with Seattle Opera—taking a behind-the-scenes peek into the creation of the Ring, meeting and mingling with long-time Ring lovers and artists, and attending Seattle Opera’s renowned production of the Ring—to create a reality-show style 10-minute documentary at the end of the summer chronicling the host’s experience.

This video is one of the first projects Seattle Opera is implementing as a recipient of a Wallace Foundation Excellence Award grant. The four-year grant from The Wallace Foundation focuses on building relationships with the community through technology. To create Confessions, Seattle Opera is partnering with Reel Grrls, a Seattle-based media and technology training program for young girls. Members of Reel Grrls will comprise the film crew for the host’s summer adventures, and will be responsible for editing and creating the final product.

The Confessions host must be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old and new to the Ring. Extensive operagoing experience is not required; in fact, the company is looking for someone who has only previously attended a handful of operas, or even fewer. The ideal Confessions host is comfortable on camera and eager to experience and learn about the Ring. Love of social networking—whether it’s through blogging, Facebook, or Twitter—and a desire to share his or her experiences through those media is essential. The host should be available to attend performances of the four Ring operas on August 9, 10, 12, and 14, as well as at least seven separate days throughout the summer for supplementary activities, such as scene shop tours or discussions with seasoned Ring fans.

Interested applicants will need to fill out an application form and submit a 1-2 minute video explaining why they should be selected as the host of Confessions. Between May 1 and May 22 (Richard Wagner’s birthday) applications may be submitted by mail or in-person to Seattle Opera Administrative Offices, Attn: Confessions Application, 1020 John Street, Seattle, WA 98109. Videos may also be uploaded to Seattle Opera’s Facebook page.

For those who don’t have access to a video camera, a live casting call will be held during the Friday, May 15 performance of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. The auditions will take place in the Kreielsheimer Promenade at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, starting at 5 p.m. Application forms will be available and a camera crew will be present to record the videos.

Starting June 1, Seattle Opera will post the top five videos on its website,, for a public vote. Voting will take place on Seattle Opera’s blog,, and a winner will be announced on June 6.

For more information, or to download an application form, visit

Today's Birthdays

Franz Lehár (1870-1948)
Louise Homer (1871-1947)
Frank Merrick (1886-1981)
Robert Shaw (1916-1999)
Günter Raphael (1903-1960)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939)
Garcia Navarro (1940-2002)
Vladimir Tarnopolsky (1955)


Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967)
John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974)
Winfield Townley Scott (1910-1968)
Annie Dillard (1945)
Josip Novakovich (1955)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Composer John Paul talks about writing new music for silent film

Composer John Paul, who heads the music department at Marylhurst University, has written a score for the silent film "City Girl," which will be shown at the Oregon Sesquicentennial Film Festival. The festival will show 10 films in ten days and " John Paul's score will accompany "City Girl" at 7 pm on May 8 at the James Ivory Theater, Villa Maria, on the campus of Marylhurst University. Tickets are $10.

I talked with John Paul a couple of weeks ago about this intriguing project.

How did you get to write music for a silent film?

John Paul: We at Marylhurst are hosting an Oregon Sesquicentennial Film Festival. The idea for the festival was ten nights of film that was connected to Oregon somehow. For example, the director was born here or the movie was filmed here. The curators and organizers of the festival, Dennis Nyback and Anne Richardson, have an incredible wealth of knowledge and they knew about this silent film called “City Girl,” which was shot in 1928 and released in 1930. It was filmed in the wheat country of eastern Oregon near a town called Athena.

Of course, the question with silent film is what are you going to do about the music. When silent films were released there was always live accompaniment. So I advocated for some homegrown music to be played by a local group. That would be in keeping with the thrust of the festival. So, I volunteered to write the music and get local musicians involved. And here we are!

So how do you go about writing music for this film? Do you watch it a few times and mull it over?

John Paul: Initially, I was worried that I wouldn’t like this film. But I watched a DVD of “City Girl” last summer and I liked it. I found the subject matter interesting. The story involves the market crash at the end of the 20s and the ensuing economic downturn. A farm boys goes to the big city and marries a waitress – much to the consternation of his dad. And how she is ill treated. But she is a strong woman and has an interesting character. I thought that I could do this.

I didn’t know silent movies all that well. I’ve seen the Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, but I didn’t know drama. F. W. Murnau was the director, and the first film that he ever made, called “Sunrise,” won an Oscar at the first Academy Awards ceremony. In any case, “City Girl” was lost for many years because the studio wanted Murnau to make it into a Talkie, because silent films were becoming passé. But he refused. The studio modified it for sound later, but the silent version was lost for many years.

How did you figure out what instruments to use for the music that you’ve created?

John Paul: That was somewhat dependent upon time and resources. I know that we are going to show the film in a fairly small space that has only 90 seats and doesn’t have an organ or a piano. So I hit upon the idea of writing the music for string trio, and I thought of the Free Marz String Trio and of the fact that I’m a violinist. The idea of adding a clarinet also struck me as a good thing. So the music will be played by for instrumentalists. That should give some variety for 90 minutes, which is the length of the film.

There is the sense that the clarinet represents the city girl herself and its character has some jazzy-like things. The violin, viola, and cello sort of represent the home and warm-based. The film has four main characters and they each have been defined by an instrument – to some degree.

This works because I couldn’t have all four instruments playing all the time for 90 minutes.

Who are the instrumentalists?

John Paul: We’ve got violinist Jule Coleman, violist Joel Belgique, cellist Justin Kagen, and a clarinetist Barbara Heilmair.

How long have you been working on the score?

John Paul: I began in earnest on the day after New Years and with 90 minutes of music I realized that I had to average one minute of music every day, because I wanted to finish the score on April 1st, and that would give me a couple of weeks to do the parts. Some days I wrote more and some days less and some days nothing at all.

It was a great project. I had to figure out the sound I wanted, the tension level, and how it goes with the story. Sometimes I had an idea that didn’t work: so I had to come back to it later and find a better idea. There are some beautiful scenes that have almost no action at all – out in the wheat fields. Those are almost documentary in style.

I think that this film and concert would go over real well in Eastern Oregon.

John Paul: Yea, I've thought about that and am looking into a way to get the movie shown and music played there. Murry Sidlin took his version of Copland’s “The Tender Land” to the farming communities of Minnesota, and that was received well.

Best of luck with your premiere!

John Paul: Thanks!

The Oregon Sesquicentennial Film Festival runs from May 1 to May 10. Opening night speakers are James Ivory and Gus Van Sant. For more information about the film festival click here.

Today's Birthdays

Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)
Sir Malcom Sargent (1895-1967)
Edward "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974)
Peter Sculthorpe (1929)
Klaus Voormann (1938)
Leslie Howard (1948)
Eero Hämeenniemi (1951)
Gino Quilico (1955)


Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933)
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)
Yusef Komunyakaa (1947)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Virtuoso guitarist, Peter Fletcher, to perform in Tualatin

Peter Fletcher, a virtuoso classical guitarist who is based in New York City, will perform a free concert this Sunday in Tualatin of selections from his most recent recording. Entitled “Peter Fletcher Plays Baroque Music for Guitar,” this CD features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Esaias Reusner, and Sylvius Leopold Weiss.

In this album, Fletcher uses impeccable playing to express each piece fully. Some numbers, like the Prelude and Allegro (from “Prelude, Fugue and Allegro” BWV 998) of Bach seem to fly by magically. Other works, like the Sarabande and Variations of Handel have a regal bearing. The Prelude No. 1 (from Bach’s “Well Tempered Clavier” Book I) is crisp and spot-on, and Fletcher’s deft rendition of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 (BWV 1009) embraces the expressive scope of this music with joy and depth.

Fletcher transcribed all of these pieces except Bach’s Chaconne (from “Violin Partita II in D minor” BWV 1004), which was transcribed by Segovia. None of the pieces have been dumb-down in any way; so you get the real deal, only with the guitar.

This Sunday (May 3) at 2 pm, Fletcher will play selections from this recording at the Tualatin Public Library (18880 SW Martinazzi in Tualatin). Other pieces that he might include in the program are Bach’s “E minor Lute Suite,” Fletcher’s transcriptions of music by Erik Satie and Edvard Grieg, Nikita Koshkin’s “Usher-Waltz,” Andrew York’s “Sunburst,” and Crolo Domeniconi’s “Koyunbaba.”

The “Peter Fletcher Plays Baroque Music for Guitar” CD was released on the Tower Hill Recordings label and is Fletcher’s fourth recording. He is working on an all-Grieg album for Centaur.

Today Birthday's

Paul Sacher (1906-1999)
Zubin Mehta (1936)
Jeffrey Tate (1943)
Nicola LeFanu (1947)
Elise Ross (1947)
Jeffrey Tate (1948)
Michael Daugherty (1954)


James Monroe (1758-1831)
Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
Harper Lee (1926)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bach Cantata Choir ends season on triumphant note

Mendelssohn and Bach go together extremely well, and that shouldn’t be a surprise since Mendelssohn was the primary person who led the rediscovery of Bach’s music. Yet I haven’t attended many concerts in which their music was performed together until I heard the Bach Cantata Choir in its season finale on Sunday afternoon (April 26), which also featured the music of the early American composer William Billings. The choir, under the direction of Ralph Nelson, sang with excellent diction and blend in its performance before a large and appreciative audience at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church.

The concert got off to a dramatic start with all of the men singing very strongly in the opening bars of Mendelssohn’s “Richte mich, Gott” from Psalm 43. If that didn’t wake up the audience, nothing ever will. This piece didn’t have the light, frothy music that we usually associate with Mendelssohn. This was in your face Mendelssohn, and the choir expressed the words “Harra auf Gott” (“Hope in God) with beauty and boldness.

The chorus also gave a robust performance of Billings’ “Three Fuguing Tunes.” The three pieces sounded more like rounds than fugues, but their rugged-sounding four-part harmonies lifted everyone’s spirit. I also liked the way that the choir, in the last piece, “Be Glad Then America” built the Hallelujah from a contained, quiet sound to an exulting one that ended with the words “Praise the Lord.”

Bach’s Cantata #112 “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt” (Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd) featured some fine singing from alto soloist Irene Weldon, bass Jacob William Herbert, soprano Nan Haemer, and tenor Byron Wright. Herbert’s singing of “Und ob ich wandelt im fenstern Tal” (“And though I wander in the dark valley”) stood out, in particular, because of its resonant and urgent tone. The horns in the chamber orchestra struggled with their notes at the beginning of the cantata, but the strings and woodwinds played well.

The choir also captured the lively and spirited sound of Bach Motet No. 2 Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf” (“The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness”). Bach wrote this piece for the funeral of the rector of the St. Thomas School in Leipzig, and its upbeat atmosphere is due to the fact that Bach really liked that fellow. This motet for 4-part double choir has three sections, and the second seemed a little unsteady at times. Yet in the final section, the ensemble regained solid footing and resounded through the church.

For its last number, the chorus assembled itself around the perimeter of the sanctuary and gave a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s “Heilig, Heilig, Heilig” (“Holy, Holy, Holy”), a motet for 4-part double choir. I loved the way that traveled from an ethereal quietness in the first part of the piece (the “Heiligh, Heilig, Heilig”) to the full-throttle, let’s bring the house down “Hosianna in der Höh” (“Hosanna in the highest”) at the end. It was thrilling to hear and a real crowd pleaser as well.

With this concert, the choir performed its 26th Bach cantata. As Nelson noted in his remarks to the audience, the ensemble still has about 200 more cantatas to go. Let's hope that they include some more Mendelssohn and Billings in the future as well.

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883)
Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Guido Cantelli (1920-1956)
Igor Ostriakh (1931)
Hamish Milne (1939)
Christian Zacharias (1950)


Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
Samuel Morse (1791-1872)
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
C(ecil) Day Lewis (1904-1972)
August Wilson (1945-2005)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Compete in the twitter #operaplot contest!

Opera fans now have the chance to apply their twitter skills to their opera knowledge, because Marcia Adair, a freelance classical music journalist from Canada aka Miss Mussel, has organized this twittery competition, which sounds like a lot of fun. Here is the lowdown from her e-mail today:

Starting tomorrow morning (April 27) at 9am, the Twitter #operaplot contest will be reprising its role as the most fun opera nerds can have in 140 characters or less.

The premise is very simple:

1) Summarize an opera in a Tweet using the hashtag #operaplot - 140 characters or less
2) Win a prize if yours is better than everyone else's.

The dates
: 9AM EST Monday 27th April to Midnight EST Sunday 3rd May.
Who can enter: Anyone, any country
Judge: Danielle De Niese, soprano

Over 30 opera houses (32 confirmed, ~5 tying up details) in Canada, Australia, the UK and the United States have partnered with the contest and contributed premium tickets or similar to the prize pool.

The Washington National Opera was the first company to join in the fun and is offering a weekend opera prize pack worth upwards of $1000 including two premium tickets to Turandot as well as two passes to the Opera Ball.

Participating American houses include Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of San Francisco, Portland Opera, Utah Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Theater St Louis, Cincinnati Opera, Glimmerglass, Sarasota Opera, Opera New Jersey, Opera Tampa, Wolf Trap Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Florentine Opera in Wisconsin, Atlanta Opera, Opera Boston, Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Metropolitan Opera.

A full list of participating houses worldwide is available here. It is anticipated that additional houses will sign on before the competition begins on Monday, so please check for the latest updates before going to press.

Three winners will be chosen by judge Danielle De Niese, with the prizes being awarded on a first right of refusal basis. Full rules and a short FAQ are available here.

Today's Birthdays

Erland von Koch (1910-2009)
Teddy Edwards (1924-2003)
Wilma Lipp (1925)
Ewa Podleś (1952)
Patrizia Kwella (1953)


William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
David Hume (1711-1776)
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Bernard Malamud (1914-1986)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Ella Fitzgerald (1918-1998)
Astrid Varnay (1918-2006)
Siegfried Palm (1927-2005)
Digby Fairweather (1946)
Truls Mørk (1961)


Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)
Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965)
David Shepherd (1931)
Padgett Powell (1952)

Friday, April 24, 2009

ASCAP suspends Deems Taylor Awards

Musical America reports that the ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for 2009 will be suspended for the first time in 40 years because of financial problems. Here's part of the article:

The ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards, which last year celebrated their 40th anniversary of recognizing outstanding music writing in an array of media, have been suspended for 2009. Under “Submission Guidelines” on the Deems Taylor Award section of the ASCAP website, a notice indicates that “the competition is on hiatus.”

Generally applications are accepted by April and the awards announced the following fall.

ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento cited budgetary reasons. Asked when the program would return, he responded, “We will be discussing its future as we go forward, but at this time we have no definitive projection."

Here's a link to the article in Musical America.

Bach Canata Choir concert this Sunday

The Bach Cantata Choir presents the final concert of its 2008-2009 season on Sunday, April 26th at 2 pm at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church (NE 45th and Sandy in Portland).

The concert, led by BCC's artistic director Ralph Nelson, features:

Mendelssohn: Psalm 43: Richte mich, Gott
Mendelssohn: Heilig, Heilig, Heilig
William Billings: Three Fuguing Tunes
J.S Bach: Cantata 112, Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt
(Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd)
J.S. Bach: Motet #2: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf
(The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness)

Incidently, the two Mendelssohn motets and Bach's motet are scored for double choir.

The concert is presented free of charge; free-will offerings are accepted.

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Martini (1706-1784)
Charles O'Connell (1900-1962)
Violet Archer (1913-2000)
John Williams (1941)
Barbara Streisand (1942)
Norma Burrowes (1944)
Ole Edvard Antonsen (1962)
Catrin Finch (1980)


Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
Willem De Kooning (1904-1997)
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)
Stanley Kauffmann (1916)
Clare Boylan (1948-2006)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Van Cliburn jury

For those of you who may be wondering who will be part of the panel of judges for the Van Cliburn Competition, here's the lineup:

Marcello Abbado*, former director of the Milan Conservatory and founder of the Symphonic Orchestra Verdi in Milan

Dmitri Alexeev, internationally acclaimed pianist and the first Russian artist to become the first-prize winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition (1975)

Michel Beroff, pianist and faculty member of the Paris Conservatoire, he is credited with more than fifty recordings and is establishing a career as a conductor

Hung-Kuan Chen*, chairman of the Shanghai Conservatory piano department and director of its International Piano Academy, is a gold medal winner of both the Arthur Rubinstein and Busoni Competitions and was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1991

Richard Dyer*, writer, lecturer, former chief music critic for the Boston Globe for thirty-three years, and two-time recipient of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for distinguished music criticism

John Giordano, Chairman*, jury chairman for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition since 1973, former music director of the Fort Worth Symphony and Chamber Orchestras for twenty-seven years, music director of the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra

Joseph Kalichstein, the first chamber music adviser to the Kennedy Center and a founding member of the acclaimed Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio

Yoheved Kaplinsky*, chair of the piano department at the Juilliard School in New York, as well as professor of piano at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth

Jürgen Meyer-Josten, former head of music of Bavarian Radio in Munich for more than two decades, and director of the International Music Competition of the Broadcasting Companies of Germany in Munich since 1967

Menahem Pressler, pianist and founder of the Beaux Arts Trio

Tadeusz Strugala, prominent Polish conductor, professor at the Krakow Music Academy, and guest conductor of orchestras in Warsaw, Prague, and Vienna

(*denotes member of screening audition jury)

Today's Birthdays

Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1858-1919)
Albert Coates (1882-1953)
Barry Douglas (1960)


Joseph Turner (1775-1851)
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
George Steiner (1929)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Dame Ethel Smyth (1856-1944)
Eric Fenby (1906-1997)
Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953)
Lord Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)
Charles Mingus 1922-1979)
Jaroslav Krcek (1939)
Joshua Rifkin (1944)
Peter Frampton (1950)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste (1956)


Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
Louise Glück (1943)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Special ticket offer from Chamber Music Northwest

Chamber Music Northwest is offering a special deal for Oregon Symphony subscribers:

Special 2-for-1 offer from Chamber Music Northwest!

Robert McDuffie, Lawrence Dutton, Ralph Kirshbaum
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Reed College, Kaul Auditorium 7:30 pm

Chamber Music Northwest extends a special offer to patrons of the Oregon Symphony – get two tickets for the price of one! Next week, three distinguished artists return to CMNW for an evening of favorite string trios and duos by Schubert, Ravel and Beethoven. Violinist Robert McDuffie is a Grammy-nominated artist with a busy international career; violist Lawrence Dutton plays with the renowned Emerson String Quartet, and cellist Ralph Kirshbaum performs world-wide as a soloist, chamber musician and recitalist. Program notes and information are available from the CMNW website.

To take advantage of this special offer:

Purchase your tickets through the Chamber Music Northwest Box Office and mention this offer; call 503-294-6400, 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday. Tickets start at $22. This offer expires Thursday, April 30 at 12 noon.

Todays Birthdays

Randall Thompson (1899-1984)
Leonard Warren (1911-1960)
Bruno Maderna (1920-1973)
Lionel Rogg (1936)
John McCabe (1939)
Richard Bernas (1950)


Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
John Muir (1838-1914)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Arnica String Quartet plays free concert at the Old Church

At high noon this Wednesday, April 22nd, the Arnica String Quartet will perform on the Old Church’s Sack Lunch concert series (SW 11th and Clay). The program features two works of the 20th century: Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello (1922) and Bela Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4 (1928).

Check out Charles Noble's web site for more information, including YouTube samples.

Steve Reich wins 2009 Pulitzer

Steve Reich won this year's Pulitzer Prize for his "Double Sextet," which premiered on March 26, 2008 by the ensemble Eighth Blackbird in Richmond, Virgina. According to the Boosey & Hawkes web site, "Double Sextet" is a "22-minute work has two performing options, either as a live sextet of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano playing against a pre-recorded sextet on tape, or as an ensemble of 12 instrumentalists."

The New York Times states this about Reich's "Double Sextet:" is "a major work that displays an ability to channel an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event, built with masterful control and consistently intriguing to the ear."

Today's Birthdays

Nikolai Miaskovsky (1881-1950)
Lionel Hampton (1908-2002)
Christopher Robinson (1936)
Sir John Eliot Gardiner (1943)


Pietro Aretino (1492-1556)
Joan Miró (1893-1983)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

DePreist, Ohlsson, and Oregon Symphony elevate with Beethoven, Theofandis, and Sibelius

On Saturday evening (April 18), the near-capacity audience at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall got a far superior deal to the one that greeted the sold-out crowd at the Rose Garden. That’s because the concert goers heard an outstanding concert by the Oregon Symphony under its former conductor James DePreist and guest soloist Garrick Ohlsson while the basketball fans had to endure a poor performance by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. That’s the breaks of the game, I suppose.

It was great to see the Schnitz so full, and the audience gave DePreist one of the warmest welcomes that has ever been given to a conductor in Portland. He then led the orchestra in a vibrant performance of “Rainbow Body,” which was written by Christopher Theofandis, a 41-year-old composer who was recently appointed to the music faculty at Yale University. In 2003, “Rainbow Body” won the Masterprize, an international competition for symphonic music, and since that time it has become the most popularly performed symphonic work by a living composer.

Near the beginning of “Rainbow Body” I heard various sections of the orchestra play sort passages that reminded me of birds suddenly flying away. At times in the piece, one section, for example, the second violins, would sustain a note while other sections played a lyrical theme. Sometimes the trumpets would fade in and out while the bass violins held a drone-like chord. The piece created an ethereal and mystical atmosphere that was full of light and optimism, and it received enthusiastic applause from the audience.

James DePreist and the orchestra then collaborated with Garrick Ohlsson to deliver an exceptional performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Ohlsson showed superb technique and artistry throughout this. His playing was impeccable and very expressive, but never overstated or fussy. During the long cadenza in the first movement, Ohlsson had the entire audience under his spell. No one in the house coughed or made any kind of extraneous noise, and spontaneous applause broke out when he came to the end.

The calmness of Ohlsson’s playing in the second movement was gracious and inviting and seemed to soothe the argumentative voice of the orchestra. The light-hearted frolic in the third movement in the hands of Ohlsson and the orchestra was incredibly joyful. The audience erupted with a standing ovation, and Ohlsson returned to the piano to play an encore, the second movement from Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 (Sonata Pathétique). Again, his playing was absolutely terrific.

The final piece on the program was the Symphony No. 1 by Jean Sibelius. In his initial remarks at the beginning of the concert, DePreist mentioned that some critics found too much influence from Tchaikovsky in this work, and then DePreist added “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” That made me chuckle and reflect at the same time because it contains some truth.

The orchestra really sank its teeth into the Sibelius and expressed the music to the fullest. I loved the majestic chords in the first movement, the melancholy (and somewhat Tchaikovsky-like flavor) tone of the second, the wandering and then rhythmic pulse of the third, and the dynamic ups and downs of the fourth. The orchestra conveyed the muscular quirkiness of Sibelius with depth and great expressiveness. That high level of music making helped to create a memorable concert that elevated the audience. (Better luck next time for the Blazers!)

Fear no film music - review

With varying degrees of success, the Fear No Music ensemble paired new music with new films at its most recent concert on Friday evening (April 17) at the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church in Southeast Portland. Entitled “Parallaxis,” the concert showed 14 brief films (although one used a slide projector) that were accompanied by 14 music works. Many of the films were very abstract. Sometimes they only projected blurry or grainy images, but nothing more than that. For those selections, the Fear No Music ensemble played abstract pieces that matched up pretty well. There was no way to tell if the music was in sync with the video or not – except perhaps if the music ended exactly when the video stopped. That happened sometimes and more often it didn’t. No matter, the event had a fragmentary quality that does speak to our lives. People seem to live in fragments, whether they are tuning in to part of a meeting at work, or spending 15 minutes of “quality time” with their kids, or listening to a few minutes of music on their iPods. Yet each fragment can be experienced in a genuine way, and that’s where it counts.

Selecting 14 films from visual artists and finding the right pieces of music that would work with them was a collaborative effort between the Fear No Music ensemble and Leo and Anna Daedalus of the HELSINQI media studio. The music varied from pieces written for soloists to those written for sextets. In this concert, the Fear No Music ensemble (violinist Inés Voglar, violist Joël Belgique, percussionist Joel Bluestone, and pianist Jeff Payne) were joined by violinist Paloma Griffin, cellist Nancy Ives, flutist Alicia Didonato Paulsen, clarinetist Carol Robe, and bass clarinetist Philip Everall.

The music piece that struck me the most was three selections for solo cello from “Sept Papillons” by Kaija Saariaho. Nancy Ives got the most amazing and really weird sounds from her cello, and it was mesmerizing – especially all of the overtones. I had to ask her after the concert, what the heck she was doing. She showed me the score and how Saariaho wrote notes that caused overtones and which “overtoned” notes would result. Well, I have to admit that even if I could ever learn how to play the cello, it would take me another lifetime to learn how to play that score and even come within spitting distance of approximating the music that Ives can make.

Another piece that hit me was “Rebonds B” by Iannis Xenakis, which featured Joel Bluestone. This was in your face music, and Bluestone was in his element, keeping a constant heartthrob of a beat while striking all sorts of percussive instruments. The drumming became more intense with the speed of the film, but it had a lighter touch when the movie showed a snippet of a volleyball game.

Bass clarinetist Philip Everall played a wild and woolly piece called “King Friday” by Michael Lowenstern. This music seemed to verge on be-bop or may just the bop, because Lowenstern could reach down a grab all sorts of basement-jangling notes that jolted the audience with positive energy.

I also enjoyed the selection from Reza Vali’s “Folk Songs” for string quartet, which had a Middle Eastern flavor. Composer Steve Ricks made an impressive debut in conducting his piece entitled “Mild Violence,” and its music (written for sextet) did violently reflect the crash dummies and roadkill in the film.

Other works by Karim Al-Zand, Gyorgy Ligeti, Matthew Burtner, Gyorgy Kurtag, Morton Feldman, Robert Parris, Benedict Mason, Mary Wright, and Anton Webern received fine performances. Wright’s “Buttercup in Space” had a humorous element that nicely matched the video which depicted the composer’s dog Buttercup in space travel.

Review of the Vancouver Symphony's young artists concert

On Saturday afternoon, I heard the Vancouver Symphony (WA) in its young artists concerts. After the concert, I have about an hour to write something intelligible about it. Well, at least that review is over with, and it appeared in today's Colombian newspaper here.

Today's Birthdays

Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)
Ruben Gonzalez (1919-2003)
Bernard Klee (1926)
Dudley Moore (1935-2002)
Kenneth Riegel (1938)
David Fanshawe (1942)
Murray Perahia (1947)
Yan-Pascal Tortelier (1947)


Etheridge Knight (1931-1991)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Neah-Kah-Nie Project String Quartet performs free concert this Sunday

The Neah-Kah-Nie Project String Quartet plays the music of Ferdinand Sorenson and Sorenson's grandson Dana Carlile this Sunday at 2 pm at the Multnomah County Central Library (801 SW 10th Ave) in a free concert. Sorenson's music was featured in the documentary "Susie Fennell Pipes and the The Neah-Kah-Nie String Quartet."

The composer Ferdinand Sorenson was born in Denmark in 1882. After studying music in Utah and New York City he eventual settled in Portland, Oregon in 1924 after working in Boise, Idaho and Spokane, Washington. Sorenson played both string and brass instruments, conducted theater, community and student orchestras and taught dance as well as music over the years. He composed over 16 works for string quartets. Sorenson also wrote the inaugural march for Idaho Governor Frank Gooding in 1905 and the American Desert for string orchestra performed by the Spokane Symphony in 1922.

The current members of the quartet are four Oregon Symphony Orchestra string players: violinists Julie Coleman and Erin Furbee, violist Brian Quincey and cellist Justin Kagan. The original 1930 The Neah-Kah-Nie String Quartet included the founder Susie Fennell Pipes, Russian violist Alexander Vdovin, Dutch cellist Michel Penha and Ferdinand Sorenson's son Hubert Sorenson.

After the concert NW Documentary presents a short documentary about the composer Ferdinand Sorenson and the documentary "Susie Fennell Pipes and the The Neah-Kah-Nie String Quartet" at 3:30pm in the U.S. Bank Room.

For more information, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Franz von Suppé (1819-1895)
Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995)
Sylvia Fisher (1910-1996)
Penelope Thwaites (1944)
Catherine Maltfitano (1948)


Clarence Darrow (1857 - 1938)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fear no film music

Tonight, the Fear No Music ensemble plays a lot of new pieces that were written for new silent films. The concert involves 8 musicians, 14 new compositions, and 20 videos. The concert starts at 8 pm at the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, which is located at 2828 SE Stephens St. (between Hawthorne and Division) in Portland.

Here's the program:

Music and Composers

Film/Video Artists

Music Box Prelude by Karim Al-Zand Pardis Bartejteh
String Quartet No. 2 by Gyorgy Ligeti
II. Sostenuto, molto calmo
V. Allegro con delicatezza

Samuel Miller
James Coker

In the White Light by Matthew Burtner Sandre
String Quartet No. 1 by Gyorgy Kurtag
VI. Adagio

João Ricardo
3 Piano Pieces by Morton Feldman Nico Vassilakis
The Book of Imaginary Beings by Robert Parris
IV. A Bao A Qu

Anna & Leo Daedalus
String quartet No. 1 Part 3. Observing (Standing Still) by Benedict Mason
Part 3. Observing (Standing Still)

Eric Matchett

- Brief Intermission -

Mild Violence (2005) by Steve Ricks Ethan Vincent
Rebonds B by Ianis Xenakis Thanos Chrysakis
Buttercup in Space by Mary Wright Bruce Golla
Sept Papillons by Kathia Saariaho
I. Dolce, Leggiere, Libero
V. Lento, Misterioso
VI. Sempre poco nervoso, senza tempo

Charles Buckingham
Ryan Glenn + Ricardo Hernandez
Eric Ostrowski

Folk Songs (Set No. 11b) for String Quartet by Reza Vali
II. Folk Dance

Larry Buskey
Fünf Sätze op. 5 by Anton Webern Konrad Steiner
King Friday by Michael Lowenstern Koen Dijkman

Young artists concerts with the Vancouver Symphony (WA) coming up

I published a preview of the Vancouver Symphony's annual young artists concert in the Columbian. The winners of the competition (which was held a couple of months ago) are pianist Stephanie Cai, saxophonist Ted Schaller and violinist Kelly Talim. Each of them received $1,500 and the opportunity to play with the orchestra, and that concert takes place this weekend. To read a preview of the concert, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Artur Schnabel (1882-1951)
Dame Maggie Teyte (1888-1976)
Harald Saeverud (1897-1992)
Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976)
Pamela Bowden (1925-2003)
James Last (1929)
Anja Silja (1940)
Siegfried Jerusalem (1940)
Cristina Ortiz (1950)


Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
Brendan Kennelly (1936)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Met Opera's new film, "The Audition" takes you behind the competition finals

It’s always interesting to get behind the scenes in a high-stakes event, and in the world of opera the finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions has to rank as one of the most pressure-packed contests of all. How do singers prepare themselves? What are they feeling? How do they behave in front of their rivals? Well, you can find out, because a new feature-length documentary, “The Audition,” takes you back stage and gives you a glimpse into the lives of several singers who participated in the finals of the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Although “The Audtion” is being released this weekend at 400 movie theaters around the nation, I got the opportunity to watch the entire film ahead of the release date, and I can tell you that it is riveting.

After some short introductory remarks by Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, and Thomas Hampson (all of whom won the National Council Auditions), you quickly dive into the last week of the competition when the 22 finalists are paired down to the final eleven. From that point onward in the story, it is fun to try to figure out which singers will win the final prize of $15,000 and the possibility of singing in a Met production. You also get to see some of the techniques of the Met’s vocal coaches and listen to the jury discuss the singers.

For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, we can watch the progress of soprano Angela Meade, who is a native of Chehalis, Washington and picked up her BA at Pacific Lutheran University. Also, Speight Jenkins, general director of the Seattle Opera, makes a cameo appearance near the beginning of the film while talking with Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met.

One of the biggest gambits is taken by tenor Alek Shrader, who uses the finals week to learn and perform “Ah! Mes Amis,” the aria with the nine high Cs from Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Just when you start pulling for him, you can get swept up by the story of African-American tenor Ryan Smith, who had stopped singing for three years, because he couldn’t financially afford the lessons.

The film runs over two hours and includes highlights from the arias that the finalists sang with the Met Orchestra. An additional twenty-minute segment includes reminiscences and reflections by Fleming, Graham, and Hampson. The pace of the documentary and the quality of the filming are superb, so you have the feeling that you were there.

“The Audition” opens this Sunday in Oregon at high noon at the following locations:

- Cinemark Cedar Hills Crossing 16 in Beaverton
- Regal Old Mill Stadium 16 in Bend
- Cinemark Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley
- Cinemark Tinseltown in Medford
- Regal Lloyd Center 10 in Portland
- Cinemark Cinemark 17 in Springfield

If you want to see a preview of the film, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Mischa Mischakov (1895-1981)
Lily Pons (1898-1976)
Henry Mancini (1924-1994)
Herbie Mann (1930-2003)
Dusty Springfield (1939-1999)
Stephen Pruslin (1940)
Leo Nucci (1942)
Richard Bradshaw (1944-2007)
Dennis Russell Davis (1944)
Peteris Vasks (1946)


John Millington Synge (1871-1909)
Merce Cunningham (1919)
Sir Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tito Capobianco talks about stage directing

Portland State University’s music department has been very fortunate to secure the services of Tito Capobianco for several opera productions, including it current production of Falstaff, because Capobianco is one of the most acclaimed stage directors to have ever worked in opera. From the late 1950s until the end of the 1990s, he staged over 250 productions in Europe, Australia, and America I all of the major opera houses, including 24 productions at Lincoln Center in New York City. He has collaborated with such stars as Pavarotti, Domingo, Nilsson, Sutherland, Sills, Caballe, Milnes, Verret, Horne, Van Dam, Gedda, and Tucker to create some of the finest productions on record.

I recently caught up with Capobianco for a cup of coffee and peppered him with a few questions.

How many Falstaffs have you directed? And when was your first one?

Capobianco: This will be the seventh production. The first one was in 1968 with Ramón Vinay, Regina Resnik, Vinay was a favorite of Toscanini. He was famous for his Falstaff and in the Flying Dutchman.

Did you ever study voice?

Capobianco:Yes, I did. But at the early stage I studied ballet, too. I was very lucky. I was guided in the right direction by some great teachers.

How do you work with professionals like Richard Zeller and students to create a production?

Capobianco: When I came to Juilliard to teach back in the late 60s and early 70s, I mixed professionals with students. Sometimes the conductors were Bernstein, Leinsdorf, Schippers. We brought the master to the students. That was also the way I worked in Bloomington, Indiana where resident artists performed with the students.

This is Richard Zeller’s first Falstaff. He can be totally relaxed and free to learn his role. It’s not like having to do it for the first time at the Met where he works a lot. And for the students, the receive a great benefit to work with him. You have no idea. You will see how they are happy to work with him. He inspires them to come up to his level.

What makes a great stage director?

Capobianco: The greatest thing in my profession is the imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Imagination leads you to everything. I try to find in the student whether or not they have intuition. Many times it’s not there, and sometimes it’s never there. Some singers have the voice, but they don’t have intuition. But Aristotle was the first one to tell us that we can find the truth from within us. You have to press, press, press to find it. If you cannot discover that, then after that I can help you. But I have to see the parameters of your talent first. You have to give me the chance to know you in that process. I used to teach psychology for actors. Opera is a fascinating profession.

When I teach a class for people who want to become stage directors, you have to be able to close your eyes and have a movie of what the singers will do on stage. Same thing for conductors; you can tell who is a real conductor because he can open a score and hear the music without the orchestra. Some conductors have the technique, but not the gift.

Acting in opera is different than for theater because of the projection, the space that is created, and time in the music is different. Even music without text brings a different dimension. Hearing Shakespeare in text only as the theater piece is different than in Verdi’s Falstaff. With Boito’s text and the music, Verdi’s Falstaff becomes more of a farce. Shakespeare’s text is comedy, but the opera moves it towards a farce.

Some people have problems in directing opera, because they let the image overtake the art form, which combines music and the visual. You have to find a balance. The human voice has to be there or else everything is lost.

Teaching is fun because you are making the future. It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve retired from the professional stage.

Where do you teach besides here at Portland State?

Capobianco: I teach at master classes at Indiana University, Northwestern University, Tampa Florida, University of Puerto Rico, Mexico, and sometimes Spain and Italy. I’m a freelancer, and I get to work according to how I feel.

Thanks for putting Portland State on your schedule.

Capobianco: It’s always a pleasure to come here.

Oregon receives money from the NEA!

Every drop of good news helps! Here's the press release that I just received from the Oregon Arts Commission:

Oregon Arts Commission to Receive and Distribute Federal Stimulus Funds for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced $19.8 million in one-time grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations to support the arts sector of the economy. The Oregon Arts Commission will receive $307,600, which it will regrant to Oregon arts organizations to preserve jobs in the arts that are threatened or have been recently eliminated due to the economic downturn.

“Jobs in the arts are a vital part of Oregon’s creative economy,” said Governor Ted Kulongoski. “Nonprofit arts organizations employ artists, directors, managers, technicians, designers and workers in a variety of trades. They’ve helped brand Oregon as a state where creativity and innovation are important to all sectors of the economy.”

“We’re pleased the arts are recognized in the Recovery Act,” commented Christine D’Arcy, Arts Commission executive director. “These one-time grants will help preserve up to 25 jobs, helping arts nonprofits weather the current economic storm. Those jobs will support arts organizations as they continue to offer high quality programs to Oregonians and bring visitors to the state. The economic stimulus plan acknowledges the role that the arts play in state and national recovery, employing artists and arts administrators in this difficult time.”

“This is a good example of ‘The Oregon Way’ for recovery,” D’Arcy added, citing the state’s coordinated approach for stimulus activity focused on pioneering, green and creative investments.

The Arts Commission will invest Recovery funds in projects that assist arts organizations in retaining critical staff. Oregon Arts Stimulus Grant guidelines will be posted online at by April 17, 2009. Requests for funding will be accepted through an online application process until May 15, 2009.

Shannon Planchon, Oregon Arts Commission, (503) 229-6062
Christine D’Arcy, Oregon Arts Commission, (503) 986-0087

Today's Birthdays

Karl Alwin (1891-1945)
Sir Neville Marriner (1924)
John Wilbraham (1944-1998)
Michael Kamen (1948-2003)
Lara St. John (1971)


Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Henry James (1843-1916)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zeller and Portland State Opera team up for hilarious Falstaff

It might seem odd to place a seasoned professional in the midst of fine young opera singers who are still getting their ears wet, but Richard Zeller and the opera students at Portland State University performed Verdi’s “Falstaff” with gusto. Zeller, who has sung many times at the Met and other stages around the world, made the most of his debut in the title role, one of the choice plumbs for any baritone. His colleagues from Portland State showed some unevenness, but they more than held their own. As a result, the performance on opening night (April 13) at St Mary’s Academy (Portland State’s Lincoln Hall is still undergoing renovation) satisfied the senses.

Whether he sauntered about in a bathrobe or donned a dandy’s costume (with a huge Muskateer's hat and gaudy outfit), Zeller commanded the stage with his presence. He could easily throw his ample weight around but never carelessly. He always used it to his advantage, even when pursuing the fairer sex.

The richness of Zeller’s voice, as well as its agility and heft seemed to be tailor made for this role. The way that he could grumble, demand, accuse, and tease was spellbinding, and they were just a few of the vocal qualities that he employed in the first scene. But he topped it all with a cooing falsetto that almost tickled the ears.

On the student’s side of the ledger, Anna Viemeister gave a stellar performance as Mrs. Alice Ford, the primary object of Falstaff’s desires. Viemeister’s enticing soprano combined power and beauty to soar above the orchestra.

Michael Miersma was outstanding in the role of Ford, who as Alice’s husband tries to ensnare Falstaff. Miersma's shining moment came during a long aria in the second act when he sang of his jealousy. His baritone remained gorgeous even as he greatly increased its volume towards the end of the solo.

Lucas Tannous, a young professional tenor who sang in PSU’s production of “La Boheme” last year, created a passionate Fenton, the young man who is in love with Ford’s daughter Nanneta. Her character was charmingly sung by soprano Jennifer Davies.

In the role of Dame Quickly, mezzo Claire Craig-Sheets showed a superb sense of comic timing whenever she interacted with Falstaff. Other student singers who distinguished themselves in the cast were Alison Nordyke as Mrs. Meg Page, Michael Sarnoff-Wood as Doctor Caius, Jeremy Griffin as Pistola, and Carl Moe as Bardolfo.

The orchestra, conducted by Ken Selden, struggled at times with the Verdi’s challenging score, but they conveyed the spirit of the opera and supported the singers gallantly.

Tito Capobianco provided crisp directions that aided the storytelling. The near-seduction scene between Alice and Falstaff was a hilarious. Another very funny scene occurred when Falstaff wedged his body into the largest laundry basket in Portland. Near the end of the opera, when the villagers were mocking Falstaff, I thought that they might force him into a weight-watchers program, but fortunately no one was that serious, and we, in the audience, went home laughing.

Today's Birthdays

Jean Fournet (1913)
Paavo Berglund (1929)
Loretta Lynn (1935)
Claude Vivier (1948-1983)
John Wallace (1949)
Julian Lloyd Webber (1951)
Barbara Bonney (1956)
Mikhail Pletnev (1957)
Jason Lai (1974)


Christian Huygens (1629-1695)
Arnold Toynbee (1853-1882)
Anton Wildgans (1881-1932)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Violinist Lindsay Deutsch energizes Portland Chamber Orchestra in concert at Kaul Auditorium

Four diverse chamber works received fine performances from the Portland Chamber Orchestra at Kaul Auditorium on Saturday evening (April 11th). Led by its music director Yaacov Bergman, the ensemble played music by Wojciech Kilar, Dmitri Shostakovich, Antonio Vivaldi, and Astor Piazzolla. Guest violinist Lindsay Deutsch inspired the orchestra with vivacious interpretations of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Season” and Piazzolla’s “Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas” (“The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”).

The concert began with Kilar’s “Orawa,” a very rhythmic and pulsating work that refers to the Orawa River and the mountainous region near the border of Poland and Slovakia. The constant musical motion of this piece and shifting key changes made it very easy to imagine water rushing around boulders and plunging down crevices. A few of the highlights included the thrumming sound of the violins before the rough-hewn exchange near the end of the piece when the ensemble picked up speed and the water rushed maddeningly. After the final chord, the audience (prepped by Bergman before the piece began) made a splash by yelling “Hej” (aka hey)!

The exuberance of that first piece was cooled off to a simmer by the somberness of the next work, Shostakovich’s “Chamber Symphony for Strings.” This work was originally composed by Shostakovich as his Quartet No. 8, but Russian conductor and violist Rudolf Barshai arranged it for chamber ensembles. Somehow the idea was spread that this work expressed Shostakovich’s fear and dread of fascism because of the bombing of Dresden during WWII, but scholars have determined that the music is intensely autobiographical and its despairing tone reflected Shostakovich’s suicidal mental state at the time when he composed the quartet in 1960.

More intensity from the Portland Chamber Orchestra would’ve helped to give this work more bite, but the ensemble did a fine job overall, and its principal cellist Katherine Schultz played soulfully during her solo passages.

Wearing a red dress, Deutsch backed up her dramatic presence with a finely honed performance of the “Summer” movement from Vivaldi’s well-loved masterpiece, “The Four Seasons.” It was fun to watch Deutsch turn to her fellow musicians and gamely challenge them to keep up with her during the fast sections that depict a violent summer storm. The orchestra could’ve played a little more cleanly, but it had plenty of vigor and esprit de corps to stimulate the audience which erupted in enthusiastic applause.

The concert concluded with Piazolla’s “Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas” (“The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”), which is infused with the atmosphere of Argentinean tango yet also contains a number of quotes from Vivadi’s “The Four Seasons.” Deutsch put passion on the front burner and delivered her solos in full flambé style. She put a searing zing on the high notes and played the slow, sensuous passages with ardor. Several fine cello solos by Schultz added measurably to the evocative blend and the audience rewarded each movement with applause.

I had not heard the Portland Chamber Orchestra in many years, and I have to say that this ensemble has made tremendous strides in improving the quality of its sound. The PCO also took a big gamble to perform on Easter weekend, but it looked as if this concert drew over 300 people, and I noticed a lot of young people in the audience. So, hats off to the Portland Chamber Orchestra.

Today's Birthdays

Sir William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875)
Milos Sadlo (1912-2003)
Frederic Rzewski (1938)
Dame Margaret Price (1941)
Della Jones (1946)
Al Green (1946)


Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Eudora Welty (1909-2001)
Seamus Heaney (1939)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Johnny Dodds (1892-1940)
Imogen Holst (1907-1984)
Thomas Hemsley (1927)
Herbert Khaury (aka Tiny Tim) (1932-1996)
Montserrat Caballé (1933)
Herbie Hancock (1940)
Ernst Kovacic (1943)
Christophe Rousset (1961)


Beverly Cleary (1916)
Alan Ayckbourn (1939)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Sir Charles Hallé (1819-1895)
Karel Ančerl (1908-1973)
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
Gervase de Peyer (1926)
Kurt Moll (1938)
Arthur Davies (1941)


Christopher Smart (1722-1771)
Mark Strand (1934)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Victor de Sabata (1892-1967)
Harry Mortimer (1902-1992)
Luigi Alva (1927)
Claude Bolling (1930)
Jorge Mester (1935)
Sarah Leonard (1953)
Lesley Garrett (1955)
Yefim Bronfman (1958)


William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)
David Halberstam (1934-2007)
Paul Theroux (1941)
Norman Dubie (1945)
Anne Lamott (1954)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Theodor Boehm (1794-1881)
Paolo Tosti (1846-1916)
Sol Hurok (1888-1974)
Paul Robeson (1898-1976)
Antal Doráti (1906-1988)
Tom Lehrer (1928)
Aulis Sallinen (1935)
Jerzy Maksymiuk (1936)
Neil Jenkins (1945)


Charles-Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Jørn Utzon (1918-2008)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oregon Symphony invited to the big dance - Carnegie Hall!

The Oregon Symphony has been selected to perform at Carnegie Hall in 2011 as part of the new Spring for Music Festival. The orchestra is one of seven that will play in Carnegie in this new music series that is "designed to spotlight the artistic vision of orchestras dedicated to distinctive and adventurous programming." Festival organizers are calling this festival “a high-profile artistic laboratory for programming and concert experimentation in the world’s most competitive and visible musical environment.”

The 2011 festival includes seven concerts over nine night nights, May 6-14. The Oregon Symphony, with Music Director Carlos Kalmar conducting, will perform on Thursday, May 12. Also invited are Albany, Atlanta, Dallas, Montreal, Oregon and Toledo Symphony Orchestras and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

“The invitation to appear at the first Spring for Music festival is a tremendous endorsement of what the orchestra has achieved over the past six years under music director Carlos Kalmar”, said Oregon Symphony Association president Elaine Calder. “This gives us a chance to show to the rest of the country what a great orchestra we have here. Playing at Carnegie Hall is the dream of every classical musician and ensemble – it’s simply the venue, and the ultimate testing ground. This is a terrific opportunity to build morale and support at home, and burnish our national reputation."

“We hope many of our friends and supporters will join us on the trip to New York, and we’ll be starting work immediately to raise the money to go, and to organize some very special events both in Portland and in Manhattan.”

Wow! This is great news and a triple-depth-charge espresso for the Oregon Symphony. Congratulations to the everyone at the OSO!

Click here to read all about this in the New York Times.

Today's Birthdays

Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983)
Josef Krips (1902-1974)
Franco Corelli (1921-2003)
Walter Berry (1929-2000)
Meriel Dickinson (1940)
Dame Felicity Lott (1947)
Diana Montague (1953)
Anthony Michaels-Moore (1957)


Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)
Seymour Hersh (1937)
Barbara Kingsolver (1955)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pianist Susan Chan releases two CDs

Susan Chan, pianist and music professor at Portland Status University will celebrate the release of two recordings at Sherman Clay/Moe's Pianos (131 NW 13th Avenue in Portland's Pearl District) on Saturday, April 11 at 4:00 - 5:00 pm.

Aptly nameed "East West Encounter I" and "East West Encounter II," these recoreding feature music from the Occident and Orient. They were released in February and March, 2009 by MSR Classics.

The CD release party is free and open to the public. Chan will perform selections from the recordings and sign the CDs. Sherman Clay/Moe's Pianos is hosting the event and will provide a wine and cheese reception.

East West Encounter I - Works by Beethoven, Ning-Chi Chen, Chopin, Franck, Liszt, Alexina Louie

East West Encounter II - Works by Bach, Chopin, Doming Lam, Alexina Louie, Somei Satoh

Today's Birthdays

Charles Burney (1726-1814)
Robert Casadesus (1899-1972)
Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
Ravi Shankar (1920)
Ikuma Dan (1924)


William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Donald Barthelme (1931-1989)
Daniel Ellsberg (1931)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ingrid Fliter gives uneven recital for Portland Piano International

When a pianist places a score in the piano (on the inner frame) as sort of a security blanket for an important piano recital, I become suspicious and begin to wonder what might be wrong. That was a recurring theme running loose in my noggin during Ingrid Fliter’s concert on Sunday afternoon (April 5) at the Newmark Theatre as part of the Portland Piano International recital series. Fliter, the 2006 winner of the Gilmore Artist Award (with its $600,000 in monies) has established herself as one of the world’s preeminent pianists, but on Sunday afternoon she delivered a concert that was subpar for the most part.

The entire affair got off to good start with a nuanced performance of Bach’s “Italian Concerto” in F Major (BWV 971). Yet in the faster passages Fliter often would tap her shoes on the floor. She did turn a page on her Bach score, but didn’t seem to refer to it all that much.

After the Bach came a series of Chopin waltzes, six in all: the Waltz in C-sharp minor (Op. 64. No. 2), the “Grande Valse Brilliante” in A-flat Major (Op. 34, No 1), the Waltz in F minor (Op. posth.), the Waltz in A minor (Op. posth.), and the Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat Major (Op. 18). Fliter played these pieces very smoothly with a lot of control and very little flair. None of them stood out all that much and in the third waltz (the one in F minor), she seemed to have a lapse and replay a phrase.

For the second half of the program, Filter performed Schumann’s “Symphonic Etudes” in C-sharp minor (Op. 13). She showed a lot more freedom of expression in the first half of this long set of etudes and variations. The pieces had drama, but I wasn’t convinced of the overall arc of her interpretation. And again, in the midst of this complex work, and despite having the score in the piano, Fliter suffered a memory lapse that caused her to replay a phrase.

The finale was exuberant and grand, and the audience responded with loud applause, but they didn't jump out of their seats. Fliter returned and gave two encores: a Schubert “Impromptu” and another Chopin waltz.

Overall, though, I wonder what may be bothering Fliter. I heard her a year ago with the Oregon Symphony, and she was superb (see my review here), but this recital seemed subpar.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Kuhnau (1660-1772)
Edison Denisov (1929-1996)
André Previn (1929)
Felicity Palmer (1944)
Pascal Rogé (1951)
Pascal Devoyon (1953)
Julian Anderson (1967)


Joseph Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lintu, Gutiérrez, and Oregon Symphony deliver terrific concert of music by Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Lindberg, and Ravel

Guest conductor Hannu Lintu and the Oregon Symphony presented an interesting concert that featured works by Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Lindberg, and Ravel on Saturday evening at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. This appearance by Lintu marked the fourth time he has led the orchestra, and he again seemed to strike a harmonious chord with the orchestra. All in all, this program has something for everyone, and the audience responded to each piece enthusiastically.

The concert began with Mozart’s Symphony No 36 in C major, which is known as the Linz Symphony, because he composed this work while staying near that Austrian city. He wrote the entire work in five days between October 30th and November 4th, 1783 at the ripe age of 27, and it’s a work a pure beauty.

All of the strings, but especially the violins, played with a lot of precision and polish in this work. Led by concertmaster Jun Iwasaki, the entire ensemble conveyed lots of dynamic contrasts and made the music glow. Lintu used some unorthodox conducting techniques – like crossing both hands on the beat – to add his own stylistic stamp to the performance. All in all, this was a top-notch performance of Mozart and a pleasure to hear from beginning to end.

Guest pianist Horacio Gutiérrez collaborated with the orchestra to sweep the audience of its feet with a very fleet performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” It seemed to me that Gutiérrez rushed things a bit here and there and sacrificed some of the emotion of the piece for the sake of speed. But with some terrific assistance from the orchestra, the piece sparkled and the audience responded with a big burst of applause after the final variation concluded with a twinkle.

Before playing Magnus Linberg’s “Feria,” Lintu said a few words about the composition, which was composed in 1997. He explained that this piece doesn’t have any stated movements, but can be understood as having five sections. The first section serves as an introduction to the piece, the second shows off some of the string players before the rest of the orchestra joins in, the third section has big slow chords, and a trumpet solo – which quotes Monteverdi – occurs before the fourth section, which is a concerto grosso. In the fifth section everyone in the orchestra plays at full tilt and “we’ll see which part of the orchestra wins.”

I liked the bright and quick sounds from the trumpets and brass section at the beginning of the piece. This musical urgency was matched at times by furious playing from other sections of the orchestra, and I recall that the violins ignited some of the festivities. After a lot of sonic business, things gradually calmed down, and that exposed some very closely threaded tones in the brass section. I like the way that principal trombonist Aaron LaVere used a mute to make a brief wail that punctuated that passage. I recall a wild solo for concertmaster Iwasaki, fluttering woodwinds, and piano notes that randomly seemed to be sprinkled on top of it all. Everything seemed to end in a loud conflagration of sound that perhaps signaled an end to the festival (“feria”).

Before motioning for the entire orchestra to stand, Lintu directed applause to pianist Carol Rich, and that became one of the first time that I’ve ever seen a conductor recognize the orchestra’s pianist for special commendation. I think that Rich turned several shades of red, and that made the evening that much more special.

The concert concluded with Ravel’s “Bolero.” I haven’t heard this piece played in a concert for many years; so it was very refreshing to hear the orchestra and Lintu perform it. Lintu used very small hand gestures without a baton to shape the first section, and then gradually built the rest of the piece with larger gestures and finally he reached for his baton to signal the big, splashing ending. I loved the way that the orchestra played this work. There were so many finely-wrought solos by many members that the list of names would be rather long. Suffice it to say that members of the woodwinds and the brass really stood out, and LaVere once again was terrific on the trombone. Thunderous applause and a standing ovation greeted the players at the glorious finale, and everyone left the concert hall in a happy mood.

Portland Piano International scales back progrmaming for next season

At the Portland Piano International concert today, everyone received a flier in the program that announced the lineup for next season. PPI will be bringing six pianists, but they will only play one concert instead of two. I have heard that the PPI has experienced some financial strain over the past year, and, therefore, is scaling back the series.

Of note in next season's series is the concert that will be given by Benjamin Kim, because he a local kid who won First Prize in the 2006 ARD International Music Competition in Munich. Not much has been made of this fact in Portland, but Kim is the foremost pianist that Portland has produced in recent years.

Here's the season schedule - all concerts take play at the Newmark Theatre:

Gold Medalist of the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 4 pm

Jonathan Biss
Sunday, November 1, 2009 - 4 pm

Anton Kuerti
Sunday, February 7, 2010 - 4 pm

Benjamin Kim
Sunday March 7, 2010 - 4 pm

Fredrik Ullen
Sunday, April 11, 2010 - 4 pm

Antonio Pompa-Baldi
Sunday, May 16 2010 - 4 pm


PS: A review of today's PPI concert will be forthcoming

Today's Birthdays

Louis Spohr (1784-1859)
Albert Roussel (1869-1937)
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989)
Goddard Lieberson (1911-1977)
Evan Parker (1944)
Julius Drake (1959)


Thomas Hobbs (1588-1679)
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

CD Review: Romanza--Works for Trumpet, Corno da Caccia, Bassoon and Orchestra

In a new release from MSR Classics, Nicholas McGegan conducts the Toronto Chamber Orchestra and soloists Guy Few (trumpet, corno da caccia) and Nadina Mackie Jackson (bassoon) in works by Hummel, von Weber, and Ignaz Lachner (1807-1895.)

The opening of the Hummel Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major seems merely concise and professional: virtuoso Guy Few plays in a mellifluous legato, but if one is looking for a radical new interpretation of this old chestnut, this CD is not the place to find it. Instead there is a well-polished gem that should please those familiar with the work but offer no brand-new insights. The Andante, however, is particularly luscious and lingers in the senses like the memory of a gourmet meal long after it has been consumed.

Hummel's Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in F Major delivers all the excitement and freshness one could hope for. Jackson's chops are fantastic, and the occasionally audible click-clacking of keys adds a delightful verisimilitude to the recording. Her playing can be described as nothing short of saucy and supremely confident; those who love the bassoon would be hard-pressed to find more liquidity and precision of articulation. Jackson removes all doubts as to the bassoon being a born solo instrument: the Romanza contains the most delicious, heart-achingly sincere bassoon cadenza I’ve ever heard.

In a unique offering, the two virtuosi pair up for Lachner's Concertino in E-flat Major for Corno, Bassoon and Orchestra (Op. 43). This work, sometimes nobly Beethovenian in character and other times reminiscent of a Rossini overture, presents a canvas that allows the masterful concertino free reign; their lightning-quick parallel runs are breathtakingly exact. To McGegan's credit, the maestro's fingerprint is nowhere too distinct—the immensely capable soloists constantly shine through the even texture.

The CD ends with a short Andante and Hungarian Rondo for Bassoon and Orchestra (Op. 35) by von Weber. Everyone seems to expect nothing but the best from McGegan, and thanks to the wonderful soloists this recording certainly lives up to that standard.

Today's Birthdays

Bettina Brentano von Arnim (1785-1859)
Hans Richter (1843-1916)
Pierre Monteux (1875-1964)
Muddy Waters (1915-1983)
Sergei Leiferkus (1946)
Thomas Trotter (1957)
Jane Eaglen (1960)
Vladimir Jurowski (1972)


Marguerite Duras (1914-1996)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hidden messages in Ravel's works

Ravel expert David Lamaze argues that Ravel coded some of his works with hidden messages. Here's a quote from the BBC article that discusses this idea:
The French composer, Maurice Ravel may have left a hidden message - a woman's name - inside his work.

A sequence of three notes occurring repeatedly through his work spells out the name of a famous Parisian socialite says Ravel expert David Lamaze.

He argues that the notes, E, B, A in musical notation, or "Mi-Si-La" in the French doh-re-mi scale, refer to Misia Sert, a close friend of Ravel's.

Well known in art circles, she was painted by Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.

This interesting speculation on the part of Lamaze is helped by the fact that Ravel kept his personal life under wraps. So, musicologists will probably be debating this matter for many years to come.

Today's Birthdays

Sir Neville Cardus (1888-1975)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Louis Appelbaum (1918-2000)
Sixten Ehrling (1918-2005)
Kerstin Meyer (1928)
Garrick Ohlsson (1948)
Mikhail Rudy (1953)


Washington Irving (1783-1894)
Herb Caen (1933-1997)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Kurt Adler (1905-1988)
April Cantelo (1928)
Raymond Gubbay (1946)


Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
Émile Zola (1840-1902)
Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oregon Symphony musicians perform chamber music in special concert

The musicians of the Oregon Symphony put together a fine program of chamber music for folks who have donated money. This concert was the annual Evelyn Nagel Donor Appreciation Concert, and it took place - for the first time - at the Newmark Theater.

The musicians played superbly, but the acoustics in the Newmark - which was built for speech rather than for music - presented a real barrier, because sound seemed far away, especially for the upper strings. Every time the musicians tried to increase the volume, it barely made a dent. Of course, the decrescendos sounded very weak as well. In a much better space, the music would've slapped our faces silly. Take the Mendelssohn Octet for strings (Movements 3 & 4), which received an outstanding performance. It was easy to tell that all of the musicians really got into a grove and were playing their hearts out, but the Newmark just sucks the sound into the ceiling and leaves it there.

I was sitting in the third row of the first balcony. Maybe I should've tried the second balcony. That's where I usually sit for the Portland Piano International performances. I think the the sound goes straight up to the confounded dome (which nobody looks at). Perhaps one way to get around this is to bring the musicians as close as possible to the audience - maybe even build and extension - so that they are in front of the proscenium, and then cover up that dome (or bring the ceiling down) with surfaces that would reflect the sound back to the audience and liven up the place.

In general, pieces that had some brass and woodwinds worked better than those without. The first piece, Britten's "Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury" calls for three trumpets and that number came across pretty well. I kind of wanted some flags - like for a Medieval jousting tournament - to spring out at the very end. But hey, maybe there should be a special OSO flag. Surely, one of the art schools in town should be able to whip up something for the orchestra.

Next came Mozart's "Adagio and Fugue," which was played by orchestra members who are also known as the Arnica Quartet. This was the one piece in which the sound seemed bottled up, despite the beautiful playing. Heather Blackburn's cello did project well, and I wonder if that had to do with the angle in which the cello is positioned.

Ron Blessinger, Niel DePonte, and Joël Belgique teamed up to create an intriguing performance of Chen Yi's "Yangko." Before playing, Blessinger told the audience that this music is based on ancient dances from Northeast China. The rhythmic and vocally percussive parts of this piece looked really challenging, but Belgique and DePonte did a masterful job. Belgique, in particular, deserved extra praise because most of us normally associated him with the viola and had no idea that he is a frustrated percussionist.

Flutist Alicia DiDonato Paulsen and cellist Nancy Ives created a stir with their interpretation of "Assobio a Jato" ("The Jet Whistle") by Villa-Lobos. This piece worked very well and both musicians played with passion. The audience even broke into applause after the first movement and gave them sustained applause at the end.

The wonderful Mendelssohn Octet wrapped the first half, and I enjoyed a glass of wine during intermission and drew up quick conclusions in my mind regarding how to fix the acoustics in the Newmark.

The second half began with Stravinsky's Octet for winds (Movements 1, 2, & 3). Top notch playing by the musicians made this piece very enjoyable, especially the section in the second movement that sounds like a circus-clown-waltz and the two (too) brief bassoon duets, which Carin Miller and Evan Kuhlmann played.

Next came Runswick's "Suite and Low" (Movements 1 & 2) which showed off the fingerstyling handiwork of three double basses (Jason Schooler, Jeffrey Johnson, and Tommy Thompson) and the virtuosic playing of JáTtik Clark on the tuba. I hope that these guys get together somewhere soon to do this piece again.

The concert ended with a tour-de-force piece performance of Strauss' "Don Juan" in an arrangement by Evan Kuhlmann. I heard superb playing from everyone in the group, and kudos all around with some extra stars for oboist Martin Hebert and flutist Alicia DiDonato Paulsen. Kuhlmann's arrangement was pretty incredible, capturing the mood and the nuances of Strauss' famous work in wonderful and unique ways.

All in all, I really enjoyed this concert. It gets the players closer to the audience as individuals, and I hope that the Oregon Symphony does this again.
Post Script: At the very end of the concert all of the musicians come on stage to receive a hearty round of applause, then they applauded the audience. That was cool and classy.

New statistics - no April Fools joke

March has been the best month ever for this blog, because it received 3,555 visits from 2,216 unique visitors. So, things keep rolling along, and more postings will be coming soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Today's Birthdays

Ferrucco Busoni (1866-1924)
F Melius Christiansen (1871-1955)
Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
William Bergsma (1921-1994)


Milan Kundera (1929)
Francine Prose (1947)