Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alfred Cortot (1877-1962)
Charles Munch (1891-1968)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Yvonne Levering (1905-2006)
Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966)
Salvatore Accardo (1941)
Dale Duesing (1947)

and

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
Jane Smiley (1949)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1957, 20 years after George Gershwin died, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. It was not immediately successful. It only became famous when it was turned into a film in 1961 and won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It’s based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, but it is set in the gang-ridden streets of New York.

During the weeks leading up to the opening of West Side Story, the news was full of stories of gang violence and racial confrontations. At the end of August, Strom Thurmond filibustered for more than 24 hours to try to prevent passage of the Voting Rights Act. The day before the show’s opening, federal troops forcibly integrated Little Rock High School.

In general, critics responded favorably to West Side Story, but all the major Tony Awards went instead to The Music Man, a bubbly, nostalgic musical about a small town in Iowa.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Marvelous ”Two Yosemites” makes a passionate plea for the environment

Campsite setting of "Two Yosemites"
“Two Yosemites” proved to be a surprisingly fine opera that resonated with a large audience at the outdoor amphitheater of the Lewis and Clark Law School on Friday, September 15th. Written by Justin Ralls and presented by Opera Theater Oregon, “Two Yosemites” marvelously conveyed the story of a transformative camping trip in 1903 involving John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt that led to the creation of one of America’s most iconic national parks. Outstanding performances by Nicholas Meyer as Muir and Aaron Short as Roosevelt, combined deftly with a taut chamber ensemble, conducted by Ralls, to create 60 minute, one-act opera that was emotionally satisfying and not preachy.

Ralls, a young composer who is pursuing a doctorate in music at the University of Oregon, really outdid himself with “Two Yosemities,” his first foray into the world of opera. The music was mostly harmonic accompanied by a deft ability for word painting. He evocatively used the piccolo to depict the song of a thrush and used a colorful pallet to paint an array of outdoor scenes on an intimate or grand scale. When Muir waxed eloquently about the beauty of nature, the music became rhapsodic but never syrupy. When Roosevelt described his love of hunting and his disdain for political wrangling, his line became punchy and aggressive. Yet, neither man was a one-dimensional cartoon. Ralls gave each man emotions and a complexity that, we, in the audience, could identify with.

Short did a masterful job of communicating the vibrancy of Roosevelt. Strutting about the campfire with a cocksure attitude of a man of action, he mesmerized the audience with an expressive tenor could be edgy when needed and then quickly transition to a legato of Mozartian elegance.

Nicholas Meyer superbly captured Muir’s dignity and vision for the great outdoors with a calm demeanor that was an excellent counterweight to Roosevelt. Meyer’s beautiful mellow baritone was at its best in the upper range, but it needed a bit more bite when Muir confronted Roosevelt.

The chorus of four women (Joannah Ball, jena Viemeister, Jocelyn Claire-Thomas, and Catherine Olson) sounded terrific except that their text (from an American-Indian language) needed supertitles. All of the singers and the orchestra were amplified because of the bucolic outdoor setting, and for the most part, that worked very well. To top off the evening, the voices of tree frogs seemed to add to the applause after the opera concluded.

“Two Yosemites” is an opera that deserves to be heard again and again. Perhaps the Astoria Music Festival might product it. Hats off to Ralls for writing such a marvelous opera on his first try. I hope that he writes another one in the near future.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Nikolaus Hanff (1663-1711)
Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897)
Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970)
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)
Glenn Gould (1932-1982)
Stella Sung (1959)

and

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929)
Sir Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991)
Vaclav Nelhybel (1919-1996)
Cornell MacNeil (1922-2011)
Alfredo Kraus (1927-1999)
John Rutter (1945)
Marc Neikrug (1946)

and

Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Eavan Boland (1944)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1947, German-born composer Hans Eisler is questioned about his former membership in the Communist Party by the House Committee on Un-American activities. Eisler had been a member of the Party in the 1920s, left Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933, and had been working in Hollywood on film scores and as the musical assistant to Charlie Chaplin. He left the U.S. in 1948 and settled in East Germany - where he composed that country's national anthem.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Féréol Mazas (1782-1849)
William Levi Dawson (1899-1990)
Jarmila Novotná (1907-1994)
Soulima Stravinsky (1910-1994)
Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012)
Ray Charles (1930-2004)
John Coltrane (1926-1967)
Robert Helps (1928-2001)
Bruce Springsteen (1949)
William Shimell (1952)

and

Euripides (ca 480 BC - 406 BC) - today is the traditional day for Greeks to celebrate his birthday.
Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947)
Walter Lippmann (1899-)
Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ear Trumpet listing of concerts featuring new music

Courtesy of Bob Priest:

EAR TRUMPET
PDX New Music Calendar
Ensembles Edition
September 2017 - May 2018 Season

---------

SEPTEMBER
19 - 21: Third Angle
20: Creative Music Guild

---------

OCTOBER
4, 8 & 18: Creative Music Guild
9: Fear No Music
14: Cascadia Composers
19 & 20: Third Angle
21: Sound of Late
30: Fear No Music

---------

NOVEMBER
1: Creative Music Guild
3 & 18: Cascadia Composers
10 & 11: Third Angle
27: Fear No Music

---------

DECEMBER
Dark

---------

JANUARY
8: Fear No Music
11 & 12: Third Angle

---------

FEBRUARY
8 & 9: Third Angle
17: Cascadia Composers

---------

MARCH
5: Fear No Music
10: Sound of Late
14: Friends of Rain
23 - 25: March Music Moderne

---------

APRIL
12 & 13: Third Angle
29: Fear No Music

---------

MAY
7: Fear No Music
19: Sound of Late

=========

All dates are current as of 19 September

Please visit individual WEBSITES to double-check dates & for more info:

Cascadia Composers
cascadiacomposers.org

Creative Music Guild
creativemusicguild.org

Fear No Music
fearnomusic.org

Friends of Rain
https://college.lclark.edu/departments/music/ensembles/friends_of_rain/

March Music Moderne
marchmusicmoderne.org

Friends of Rain
https://college.lclark.edu/departments/music/ensembles/friends_of_rain/

March Music Moderne
marchmusicmoderne.org

Sound of Late
soundoflate.org

Third Angle
thirdangle.org

=========

ET's CD PICK OF THE SEASON:
Dobrinka Tabakova
String Paths
ECM New Series
ecmrecords.com

=========

WEST COAST TRAIL FESTSPIEL OF THE YEAR:
International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM)
World Music Days
2 - 8 November
Vancouver, BC, Canada
27 Concerts in 8 Venues
128 Composers from 48 Countries
iscm2017.ca

=========

Although this edition of ET is devoted to ensembles, groups & orgs that
focus exclusively on new music, there are others in PDX that sometimes
include new music on their programs:

Oregon Symphony
Portland Youth Philharmonic
Chamber Music Northwest
Friends of Chamber Music
Classical Revolution PDX
Arnica String Quartet
45th Parallel
Portland Piano International
PSU Music Dept
Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan
PDX Jazz Composers Ensemble
Resonance Ensemble
Mousai Remix
Agnieszka Laska Dancers
Portland Chamber Orchestra
Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Cappella Romana
Opera Theatre Oregon
Portland Opera
In Mulieribus
The Ensemble
 
 

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Pryor (1870-1942)
Mikolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911)
Henryk Szeryng (1918-1988)
William O. Smith (1926)
Hugh Bean (1929-2003)
Leonardo Balada (1933)
Anna Tomowa-Sintow (1941)
John Tomlinson (1946)
Vladmir Ghernov (1953)
Michael Torke (1961)

and

Fay Weldon (1931)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Music critic in Cincinnati gets the pink slip

Musical America has reported that veteran music critic at the Cincinnati Enquirer has been laid off. Janelle Gelfand, who has worked at the paper for 26 years, lost her job on Tuesday. Musical America is a subscription-based magazine, but you can read about it in the Facebook pages for Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Opera.

Today's Birthdays

François Francoeur (1698-1787)
Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
Meinrad Schütter (1910-2006)
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)
Jill Gomez (1942)
Andrei Gavrilov (1955)
Nina Rautio (1957)

and

Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498)
Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)
H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells (1866-1946)
Sir Allen Lane (1902-1970)
Stephen King (1941)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968)
Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (1885-1941)
Uuno Klami (1900-1961)
David Sheinfeld (1906-2001)
John Dankworth (1927-2010)
Jane Manning (1938)
Laurie Spiegel (1945)
John Harle (1956)

and

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)
Maxwell Perkins (1884-1947)
Stevie Smith (1902-1971)
Donald Hall (1928)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1954, Stravinsky: "In Memoriam Dylan Thomas," premiered in Los Angeles, conducted by Robert Craft. Stravinsky had met the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas the previous year, and they had discussed collaborating on an opera project, but Thomas died on November 9, 1953.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

George Takei hosts the Oregon Symphony's season opening.

George Takei
Photo: AP/Victoria Will
The Oregon Symphony opened its 2017-18 season Saturday night, September 16, with guest host and narrator George Takei introducing an evening of old favorites and American classics.

Portland seemed thrilled to have Takei in the house, known not only for his role as helmsman Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek but also as a pop culture icon and fighter for human rights. The opening piece was Beethoven's Egmont Overture; appropriately grandiose and stentorian (a suitable opening motif for an entire season), the OSO executed ably as the work graduated into a heroic gallop to the finish.

The second work was an OSO premier of Twill by Twilight, by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.  Set in the form of a tone poem, Takei mentioned that on a personal note he considered the work an elegy for his cousin and aunt who died in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. The work contained many harsh dissonances that were somehow rendered mellow in effect by the subdued timbre. The symphony imparted to the work a strange dream-like quality, somehow hypnotic and vaguely unsettling simultaneously.

Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks was next, and the orchestra was clearly having fun with this one. Consistently marvelous sound production from the winds throughout the work and a short but brilliant solo from concertmaster Sarah Kwak highlighted this piece, which unfortunately suffered from an out-of-balance brass choir that completely subsumed everything else during the fortissimos.

The second half started with Liszt's Les Preludes, a well-played chestnut, with a properly Jovian crescendo during the famous theme. Morton Gould's American Salute was bombastic and brassy, a spritely set of interesting variations on the folk tune 'Johnny come marching home.' With this well-known tune as the whole basis of the work it could have been dull and uninteresting; however Kalmar and the OSO managed to infuse this oddly peripatetic work with great imagination.

The highlight of the evening was Copland's Lincoln Portrait, an iconic work well known to filmgoers as the opening theme from Saving Private Ryan. This iconic composition required a keen insight into the emotional as well as acoustical dynamics--alternately bold and statesmanlike, small and folksy--and the OSO got this one just right. Takei's rich baritone in the text reading, as well as his stature as an American who has been through some of the worst and best this nation has to offer, lent the work a splendid sense of decorum and purpose, the final ingredients required to make this piece perfect.

Oregon Bach Festival mess reaches the New York Times

The New York Times has reported on the recent OBF mess here. Also Bob Hicks of the Oregon Arts Watch has written his thoughts on the matter here. The Eugene Register-Guard has printed an astute opinion piece here. Music insider Norman Lebrecht has issued his thoughts on Slipped Disc here.

Thanks to Mark Mandel and Bob Priest for forwarding some of these links.

Today's Birthdays

Gustav Schirmer (1829-1893)
Allan Pettersson (1911-1980)
Kurt Sanderling (1912-2011)
Blanche Thebom (1918-2010)
Arthur Wills (1926)
Bonaventura Bottone (1950)

and

William Golding (1911-1993)
Amalia Hernández (1917-2000)
Roger Angell (1920)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748)
Lord Berners (1883-1950)
Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960)
Meredith Willson (1902-1984)
Josef Tal (1910-2008)
Norman Dinerstein (1937-1982)
Thomas Fulton (1949-1994)
John McGlinn (1953-2009)
Anna Netrebko (1970)

and

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault (1819-1868)
Paul Zimmer (1934)
Alberto Ríos (1952)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870)
Vincenzo Tommasini (1878-1950)
Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920)
Isang Yun (1917-1995)
Hank Williams (1923-1953)
Vincent La Selva (1929)

and

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
Frank O'Connor (1903-1966)
Ken Kesey (1935-2001)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Paul Taffanel (1844-1908)
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
Hans Swarowsky (1899-1975)
B. B. King (1925-2015)

and

John Gay (1685-1732)
Henry Louis Gates Jr. (1950)
Elizabeth McCracken (1966)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1920, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso makes his last records (selections by Meyerbeer, Lully, Bartlett, and Rossini) for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey. He would make his last operatic appearance at the old Metropolitan Opera House on Christmas Eve in 1920 (an evening performance of Halevy's "La Juive"), and die the following summer in Naples.

On this day in 1977, opera diva Maria Callas dies of a heart attack, age 53, in Paris.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Upshot of the Oregon Bach Festival debacle

The immediate upshot of the termination of Matthew Halls as artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival is that the festival's executive director Janelle McCoy is left with a chaotic mess. Now she has to find someone who is will to curate next year's festival and she has to do the fund raising. Imagine trying to rally the OBF board, which has been thoroughly run over by the U of O. This is going to be one tough act of McCoy to deal with.

Today's Birthdays

Horatio William Parker (1863-1919)
Bruno Walter (1876-1962)
Frank Martin (1890-1974)
Henry Brant (1913-2008)
Richard Arnell (1917-2009)
Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975)
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (1933)
Jessye Norman (1945)
Richard Suart (1951)

and

Robert Benchley (1899-1945)
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

U of O and Halls sign settlement

This morning's Register-Guard story states that Halls has signed a settlement with the U of O for 90k and will not sue the university in regards to his termination from the Oregon Bach Festival.

Thanks again to Mark Mandel for keeping us informed with the latest.

Today's Birthdays

Michael Haydn (1737-1806)
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)
Vittorio Gui (1885-1972)
Alice Tully (1902-1993)
Lehman Engel (1910-1982)
Rolf Liebermann (1910-1999)
Martyn Hill (1944)
Raul Gimenez (1950)

and

Eric Bentley (1916)
Ivan Klíma (1931)
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1934-2002)
Renzo Piano (1937)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra gives a concert in Beijing, the first American orchestra to perform in Red China. Eugene Ormandy conducts symphonies by Mozart (No. 35), Brahms (No. 1) and the American composer Roy Harris (No. 3).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Newspaper editorial asks U of O to come clean with Halls firing

This editorial in the Eugene Register-Guard asks for the University of Oregon to tell the truth about the firing of Matthew Halls from the Oregon Bach Festival. I suspect that the UO administration will not do this and will take its chances with its new curated festival, unloading whatever the "curator" comes up with and then having to sell it like mad to an uncommitted audience.

Update: Today, the U of O has made an official response in the Register-Guard here, but it contains no real explanation of Halls' dismissal.

Today's Birthdays

Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Bill Monroe (1911-1996)
Robert Ward (1917-2013)
Maurice Jarre (1924-2009)
Mel Tormé (1925-1999)
Nicolai Ghiaruv (1929-2004)
Werner Hollweg (1936-2007)
Arleen Auger (1939-1993)
Steve Kilbey (1954)
Andreas Staier (1955)

and

Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941)
J.B. Priestley (1894-1984)
Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Karl Doppler (1825-1900)
Herbert Lincoln Clarke (1867-1945)
Ernst Pepping (1901-1981)
Gideon Waldrop (1919-2000)
Tatiana Troyanos (1938-1993)
Phillip Ramey (1939)
Barry White (1944-2003)
John Mauceri (1945)
Vladimir Spivakov (1946)
Leslie Cheung (1956-2003)

and

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Alfred A. Knopf Sr. (1892-1984)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1910, Mahler's Symphony No. 8 ("Symphony of a Thousand") received its premiere in Munich, with the composer conducting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cathartic moment missing in Steve Jobs opera

Edward Parks | Photo credit: Ken Howard
The buzz from a standing-room-only crowd charged-up the atmosphere at Santa Fe Opera with heightened anticipation on the opening night (July 22) of “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” the first-ever opera written by American composer Mason Bates. Blending electronic and acoustic styles, Bates told the story of one of the most iconic figures in modern technology in a way that was engaging and easy to digest but still came up short. Sure the 90-minute, one-act opera succinctly conveyed that Jobs was a prime mover in the technological revolution, especially in regards to the smart phone, but I was not totally convinced that he evolved all that much from a hard-driving jerk to a real person. The opera didn’t have a big cathartic moment, so the emotional impact at the end – when Jobs accepted death – was stunted.

With a libretto written by Pulitzer-prize-winner Mark Campbell, “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” effectively used a series of scenes to jump forwards and backwards in time to relate the life of the brilliant and complex man. The first vignette took channeled back to Jobs’s childhood when his father gave him a tool box to make things. The next scene travelled to the 2007 product launch of the iPhone (called “one device” in the opera in order to avoid trademark litigation) and later scenes took place at Reed College, an apple orchard, the Los Altos Zen Center, Apple offices in Cupertino, Yosemite National Park, and the Stanford University Chapel. Along the way, we learned how Jobs drove himself and others ruthlessly, got married, became ill with cancer, and accepted his mortality, reconciling it all with his Buddhist faith.
Garrett Sorenson and Edward Parks | Photo credit: Ken Howard
Edward Parks portrayed Jobs exceptionally well, singing with vigor that you would expect from a Silicon Valley mogul. The audience – which had a lot of Apple enthusiasts – gave him thunderous applause when he stepped out on stage to promote the “one device” – almost as if he were the real Steve Jobs. Sasha Cooke in the role of Jobs’s wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Wei Wu in the role of Jobs’s spiritual mentor, Kōbun Chino Otogawa, created a steadying, warm, and thoughtful presence that became a counterweight to Jobs’s high-octane drive. Garrett Sorenson added some humor yet packed plenty of gutsy punch as Steve Wozniak, who co-invented the original Apple products with Jobs. Jessica Jones had all too brief a turn as Chrisann Brennan, the girlfriend of Jobs, and Kelly Markgraf had just the right amount of depth in voice and presence as Paul Jobs, the father of Steve Jobs.

Bates took full advantage with this opera to demonstrate his prowess in merging electronic and acoustic sounds. That meant, of course, that the voices would be amplified in order to be heard over the loudest sections. I am not a fan of voices that have been boosted artificially, but I have to admit that Santa Fe Opera did an outstanding job with the mics. Bates, himself, took a position in the orchestra, as master-on-the-fly mixer of the electronica. Michael Christie managed to conduct the musical enterprise outstandingly. The music was tinged with minimalism, especially whenever technology was described, but whenever the story tackled human relationships, Bates found his lyric side, which was refreshing.
Edward Parks and Jessica Jones | Photo credit: Ken Howard
Kevin Newberry’s stage directions worked well to reveal some truth of each character so that the audience didn’t get lost with all of the scene and time changes. It seemed that Newberry was limited by the libretto since there was no dramatic way to convey the evolution part of the story. The scenes, designed by Victoria “Vita” Tzykun were superb – with the best ones that depicted the “one device” launch and situations in the high tech world.
Wei Wu and Edward Parks | Photo credit Ken Howard
Bates and Campbell did fairly well with boiling down the story of a complex and driven man to create the opera, which was not meant to be a documentary, but in doing so, they had to leave out a lot of information about Jobs (such as the paternity lawsuit that he lost over the child that he had with Brennan) that might have helped to generate a bigger emotional lift or descent at the end. As an extra note of interest, after the opera, I talked with some Apple workers and found out that they revered Jobs to this day because he returned to Apple and saved the company. They were disappointed that the opera didn’t mention that. For them, he would always be a hero.
Edward Parks and Sasha Cooke | Photo credit: Ken Howard
In any case, because Santa Fe Opera co-produced “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” with San Francisco Opera and Seattle Opera, it will surely be tweaked and presented again by those opera companies.

Today's Birthdays

William Boyce (1711-1779)
Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832)
Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904)
Vally Weigl (1894-1982)
Harry Somers (1925-1999)
Arvo Pärt (1935)
Catherine Bott (1952)

and

O. Henry (1862-1910)
D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Reed Whittemore (1919-2012)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774)
Tor Aulin (1866-1914)
Mikolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911)
Judith Nelson (1939-2012)
Christopher Hogwood (1941-2014)
Sir Thomas Allen (1944)
Michael Schønwandt (1953)

and

Hanna Webster Foster (1758-1840)
Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961)
Franz Werfel (1890-1945)
Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)
Mary Oliver (1935)
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Univesity of Oregon gave Halls more money and new contract before firing him

This Eugene Register Guard report states that the U of O gave Matthew Halls a pay raise and a new four-year contract in June before firing him in August. So something went very sour in a hurry.

And now this report from The Telegraph in the UK. If that is true, then the matter should be cleared up and Halls reinstated.  Note that Bob Keefer in the Eugene Weekly had mentioned the same gossipy incident as a possible reason.

A thank you to Mark Mandel for alerting me of these articles (including the earlier ones in the Eugene Weekly).

Today's Birthdays

Joan Cererols (1618-1680)
Edwin Lemare (1865-1934)
Edward Burlingame Hill (1872-1960)
James Blades (1901-1999)
Olly Wilson (1937)
Otis Redding (1941-1967)
Miriam Fried (1946)
David Rosenboom (1947)
Adam Fischer (1949)
Rachel Masters (1958)

and

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Paul Goodman (1911-1972)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1995 was the premiere of Michael Torke's "Telephone Book" for chamber ensemble (consisting of "The Yellow Pages" from 1985 and two new pieces: "The Blue Pages" and "The White Pages" composed in 1995), at the Milwaukee Art Museum by the Present Music ensemble, Kevin Stalheim conducting.

Friday, September 8, 2017

More views on OBF and the Matthew Halls firing

You can area two of the latest opinion pieces in the Eugene Register Guard here and here.  Both pieces raise serious questions about the future of the Oregon Bach Festival in light of the dismissal of Matthew Halls.

Today's Birthdays

Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703)
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Ninon Vallin (1886-1961)
Lionel Salter (1914-2000)
Christoph von Dohnányi (1929)
Eric Salzman (1933)
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Dezső Ránki (1951)
Ilan Volkov (1976)

and

Wilhelm Raabe (1931-1910)
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)
Grace Metalious (1924-1964)
Ann Beattie (1947)
Michael Schermer (1954)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

François Philidor (1726-1794)
Joan Cross (1900-1993)
Sir Harry Secombe (1921-2001)
Arthur Ferrante (1921-2009)
Madeleine Dring (1923-1977)
Leonard Rosenman (1924-2008)
Hugh Aitken (1924-2012)
Sonny Rollins (1930)
Buddy Holly (1936-1959)
Jean-Yves Thibaudet (1961)
Angela Gheorghiu (1965)

and

Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951)
Edith Sitwell (1887-1964)
Joe Klein (1946)
Jennifer Egan (1962)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Anton Diabelli (1781-1858)
Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941)
William Kraft (1923)
Arthur Oldham (1926-2003)
Evgeny Svetlanov (1928-2002)
Joan Tower (1938)
Cynthia Haymon (1958)
Detlev Glanert (1960)
Shih-Hui Chen (1962)

and

Fanny Wright  (1795-1852)
Jane Addams (1860-1935)
Robert Pirsig (1928)
Alice Sebold (1963)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Brenda Rae in her element in Santa Fe’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Brenda Rae | Photo credit Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera
Santa Fe Opera’s production of Donizetti’s “Lucia de Lammermoor” (July 21) received a stellar performance from Brenda Rae in the title role. The Grammy-nominated soprano sang with superb control, relying on coloring and shading of vocal lines, yet always having plenty of power to create astounding dramatic moments. The best was Lucia’s mad scene, eerily enhanced by the wonderfully nuanced playing of the glass harmonica by Friedrich Heinrich Kern, which brought down the house. In addition to Rae, the production featured a very strong cast but seemed pushed a little far afield by the stage directions of Ron Daniels.

Zachary Nelson’s stentorian voice embraced the character of Lucia’s wicked brother Enrico with obsessive determination. His visceral expressiveness was matched equally well by Mario Chang in the role of Lucia’s lover Edgardo. Christian Van Horn’s basso profundo terrifically anchored the countenance of Chaplain Raimondo. Sarah Coit wonderfully conveyed steadfast yet cautionary advice as Lucian’s companion Alisa. Stephen Martin’s Normanno supported Enrico with loyal fervor. Carlos Santelli fulfilled the role of the bridegroom who was murdered by Lucia on their wedding night. Because of the excellent casting, all of the ensemble numbers, including the famous sextet at the ill-fated wedding, were stunning.
Mario Chang and Zachary Nelson| Photo credit Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera
The oddities in this production began in third scene, which was set in Lucia’s bedroom rather than in Enrico’s apartment at Lammermoor Castle. This heightened the idea that Enrico was in charge of Lucia’s body and sexuality and therefore her marriage. But it had a strain of creepiness, especially when Enrico sat on Lucia’s bed as if it were his. Somehow, it seemed a stretch that Lucia would have allowed him to prowl around her chambers with that kind of familiarity. Enrico’s obsessiveness boiled over at the end when he kills Edgardo. So Edgardo does not kill himself as the story states.

Also under Daniels’ direction, the chorus seemed completely disengaged when the blood-stained Lucia appeared in front of them. No one showed any sign of shock or surprise even briefly. It was as if they expected her to join them in a merry glass of brandy.

The scenic design of Riccardo Hernandez featured high walls on three sides of the stage, which conveyed the imposing yet prison-like confinement of the castes. But projections designed by Peter Nigrini that should have presented the outdoor scenes were not effective. Lighting designed by Christopher Akerlind deftly evoked a fountain of blood when Lucia related her dream of a murdered young woman.

The orchestra, led by Corrando Rovaris, sounded terrific, balancing deftly the voices throughout the evening, The star of the orchestra, though, was Kern, who is a magician with the glass harmonica.

Bottom line, Brenda Rae was in her element as Lucia. She has been making a name for herself in European opera houses and hopefully she will be back in the States soon.

Christian Van Horn and Opera Chorus | Photo credit Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera

Today's Birthdays

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)
Amy Beach (1867-1944)
John Cage (1912-1993)
Peter Racine Fricker (1920-1990)
Karita Mattila (1960)
Marc-André Hamelin (1961)
Lars Vogt (1970)

and

Frank Yerby (1916-)
Justin Kaplan (1925-2014)
Ward Just (1935)
Jonathan Kozol (1936)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
Frederic Curzon (1899-1973)
Rudolf Schock (1915-1986)
Irwin Gage (1939)
René Pape (1964)

and

Mary Renault (1905-1983)
Richard Wright (1908-1960)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634)
Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764)
Marcel Grandjany (1891-1975)
Francesco Mignon (1897-1986)
Robert Thurston Dart (1921-1971)
Rudolf Kelterborn (1931)
Valerie Coleman (1970)

and

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909)
Louis H. Sullivan (1852-1924)
Sally Benson (1897-1972)
Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)
Alison Lurie (1926)
Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)
Malcolm Gladwell (1963)
Kiran Desai (1971)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Santa Fe's "Golden Cockerl" still has a pointed message

Gimadieva and Mix | Photo by Ken Howard
Using a humorous approach and vibrant imagery, Santa Fe Opera’s production of “The Golden Cockerl” (July 19) showed that a fairly obscure opera can pack a punch, especially in regards to today’s political scene. Written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1909 to a libretto by Vladimir Belsky after a tale by Pushkin based on stories by Washington Irving, the “The Golden Cockerl” was not some insignificant fantasy. It was meant by the composer to be protest the Tsar and the direction of Russia following a disastrous war with Japan in 1905. Rimsky-Kosakov, in fact, as the director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory (Russia’s most prestigious musical academy) had protested the arrest of students during the 1905 Revolution and was consequently fired. As the Santa Fe Opera’s program notes (written by Inna Naroditskaya) pointed out, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote “The Golden Cockerl” because he was embittered with the imperial authority and its censors demanded revisions, but he refused any alteration. As a result, the premiere of his opera was banned and it was staged a year after his death (in 1908).

In the Santa Fe production of “The Golden Cockerl,” it was easy to interpret Tsar Dodon as Donald Trump – a self-declared autocratic, narcissistic ruler – who must climb-crawl like a child onto his oversized throne-chair. Baritone Tom Mix wonderfully conveyed the ineptness and bone-headedness of the Tsar. Tsar Dodon was matched by his sons: Prince Guidon (Richard Smagur) and Prince Afron (Jorge Espino) who managed to kill each other in an attempt to defeat the army of The Queen of Shemakha (Venera Gimadieva). And you could read Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. into the roles of Prince Guidon and Prince Afron if you wanted.

Although she started with slightly wayward intonation, Venera Gimadieva’s singing became very secure and enticing – as was her visual presence in the role of The Queen of Shemaka. She was accompanied by ten of the most comely attendants (apprentice singers of Santa Fe Opera) that I have ever seen. Mix’s voice needed a little more Russian heft in the basement department, but Meredith was absolutely golden as the housekeeper Amelfa, singing with a big, busty tone and acting with impeccable comic timing.

Kevin Burdette exhibited a terrific sense of military earnestness and a humorous bravado as General Polkan. Barry Banks created a stunningly effective Astrologer, handling all of the punishing tenor altino passages with élan. After Tsar Dodon dies, his character gets the queen who elegantly wears sunglasses and a modern white pants suite a la Melania Trump.

Kasia Borowiec’s high cries of warning in the role of The Golden Cockerl were spot on, but she had to sing from off stage. That’s because The Golden Cockerl was an image that was projected onto a slightly curved wall on the left side of the stage. The projected design, created by Driscoll Otto, worked pretty well but fell short during the scene when the Cockerl killed Tsar Dodon, because Dodon had to fall against the wall. That limitation marred the outstanding direction of Paul Curran a bit. Gary McCann’s slightly garish costumes – a blend of traditional and modern – and the scenic design worked well for the most part.

The Santa Fe Opera orchestra responded well to the expressive baton of Emmanuel Vilaume. The chorus was well prepared by Susanne Sheston and sounded terrific.

It should be noted that The Golden Cockerl” was co-produced by Santa Fe Opera and The Dallas Opera where Villaume is music director. It will be presented in Dallas in the near future. Perhaps it will still have some political zing. Time will tell.

Today's Birthdays

George Böhm (1661-1733)
Alphons Diepenbrock (1862-1921)
Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995)
David Blake (1936)
Greg A. Steinke (1942)
John Zorn (1953)
Paul Goodwin (1956)

and

Eugene Field (1850-1895)
Joseph Roth (1894-1939)
Grady Nutt (1934-1982)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Oregon Bach Festival debacle updates

In this article, Bob Keefer of the Eugene Weekly has dug deeper to find out why Matthew Halls was fired as the artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival. It seems that the firing came through someone on the University Oregon side of things and not from the OBF board. In the meantime, in this Eugene Weekly article, Thomas Morris, the artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival, has openly questioned the OBF's new direction to have a festival that is curated by different people each year, stating that you still have to have an artistic director for overall vision.

Bottom line: things look very shaky for the OBF right now.

PS: Those who want to learn more about Halls can read my interview with him here.

Today's Birthdays

Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812)
Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921)
Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957)
Conway Twitty (1933-1993)
Seiji Ozawa (1935)
Júlia Várady (1941)
Leonard Slatkin (1944)
Reza Vali (1952)