Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it.Changed your life is too big, but sucked in for months, days, whatever, so that you remember where and when you heard them....okay.
1. Mozart, "Madamina," Ezio Pinza
2. Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, Karajan
3. Stravinsky, Petrouchka, Dorati?
4. Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
5. Holly Near, Fire in the Rain
6. Beethoven, Missa Solemnis
7. Enya, Watermark
8. Verdi, "Ritorna vincitor!", Eva Turner
9. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Boehm
10. Beethoven, "Harp" Quartet, op. 74
11. Rachmaninov, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Horenstein/Wild
12. Villancicos y Danzas Criollas, Hesperion XXI
Hmm, only 12. Maybe I'll think of more. Some of my obsessive listening is too far in the past for me to remember!
Monday, February 23, 2009
- Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, in a new adaptation by David Scott Marley, at Berkeley Opera, playing on Feb. 28 (8 p.m.), March 4 (7:30 p.m.), March 6 (8 p.m.), and March 8 (2 p.m.) at the Julia Morgan Theater on College Avenue.
- Other Minds Festival, March 5 - 7 at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco.
- California Bach Society performs music of Biber and Steffani, March 13 to 15, in SF, Palo Alto, and Berkeley.
- Chant Camp! Really! A day of chant practice with Susan Hellauer and Marsha Genensky of Anonymous 4, sponsored by San Francisco Renaissance Voices, on Saturday, April 18, at Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church, SF. $60 for the day. The announcement says that "topics covered in the workshop include: singing from original notation; medieval Vespers hymns; Frankish tropes and sequences; Hungarian plainchant; Hildegard of Bingen; chant for St. James from the magnificent Codex Calixtinus; prayer tones; the Marian antiphons of Compline; and plenty of group singing to solidify what you learn." Um, wow.
Friday, February 20, 2009
- Mendelssohn (Felix), String Quartets. Cherubini Quartet, EMI. Good, sharp performances with plenty of momentum. Also, a bargain. I paid $21 for the three-CD set.
- Mendelssohn, Italian Symphony, Overture and incidental music from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Mackerras/Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Veritas. Ask me when I've heard them on my stereo; I've heard the set on phones and in the car.
- Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto & some other stuff. Daniel Hope, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
- Ninon Vallin, recital, Preiser. Just put it on. "Casta Diva:" no. Not for her. "L'altra notte" is fine, but I'm waiting for her to get to French music, which was her strong suit.
Previously, once you found the door, you entered a cramped vestibule and then walked down several steps to a low-ceilinged, carpeted lobby that felt like a basement.That puts me in mind of the box-office area at Davies. I like entryways to have some sense of grandeur. Davies has this, but in the orchestra-level lobby, which is one floor up from the box office, which is a cramped, mean, low-ceilinged space that makes me want to run away.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The performance was this past Monday night. I can't tell you what the encore was, because I only made it through part 9. Srsly, I hope there wasn't an encore.
Under different circumstances, I might have made it all the way through. I felt run down at the beginning of the weekend and still do. I reviewed a concert Saturday morning, and that night made a 2 a.m. trip to the ER with my mother (she's fine; it was nothing serious).
I had two problems with the Glass: amplification and sheer boredom. The piece was too fucking loud and the volume, which varied somewhat through the evening, eventually became intolerable. It's just not possible for me to fully enjoy or get lost in a concert when I'm worried about damage to my hearing.
I can't help but thinking that the amplification contributed to the boredom. Amplification flattens music by equalizing all voices; details disappear and you lose directionality. And amplification flattens how people listen because they simply don't pay attention the way they must to unamplified music.
In the case of Music in Twelve Parts, the engineers or producers or Glass himself balanced the amplification so that the keyboards completely dominated the ensemble. You could barely hear vocalist Lisa Biewala or the three wind players. Presumably this was an aesthetic decision, but I believe strongly that it was a bad decision.
But more on the boredom: jeez, what a repetitious piece. I know, I know, this could have been predicted - I did predict it, after all - but I was surprised to re-read the comment from last May and see the high opinions people have of Music in Twelve Parts. People! The newer Glass works I heard in 2007 were so much better.
Yes, Music in Twelve Parts was hugely radical for its time; yes, it's the Glass aesthetic and he is committed to it; yes, yes, yes, but I have to exercise some critical judgment here.
In the end, I wondered if the very formal concert hall presentation was a mistake. I see no way for the keyboard players to survive if acoustic instruments were used, but perhaps the amplification would have been saner in a small venue. Because of some kind of miscalculation about how many people would pick up their tickets at will call, the tiny Davies box office lobby was mobbed before the performance and many people were seated late. I think the piece is well suited for some kind of experiment that Greg Sandow would like. It would be intolerable for, say, Carter or Beethoven or, of course, Feldman: take out the seats, put down cushions, and let people come and go and talk all they want.
For that matter, you could turn the space into an opium den for the duration. That's probably the perfect state in which to hear this piece.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
- Were those really wax platters inside, not metal masters or shellac pressings?
- This business about the cleanup, digitizing, etc.: all of the recordings were and are commercially available. They were not made especially for the Paris Opera vault.
- The author appears unaware that Ernestine Schumann-Heink was one of the great stars of her time, including at the Met, where she sang 282 performances between 1898 and 1932. She was also a radio star; my mother remembers hearing her on radio during the 1920s and 30s.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I have not tried it out; if you do, please let me know how it goes. The next streamed Bargemusic program is this Saturday, February 21, at 8 p.m. EDT, String Trio in NYC.
- San Francisco Symphony still has tickets available for the Masur/Bruckner, Gubaidulina program this week.
- Paul Dresher Sensemble and the amazing Steven Schick, Schick Machine, Stanford Lively Arts, March 7, 8 p.m., Dinkelspiel, Stanford, $34-$38 for nonstudents.
- Clerestory, Ye Sacred Muses: Music of the Chapel Royal. March 7, 8 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, March 8, 5 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran, San Francisco. $17 in advance, $20/10 at the door.
- Kitka, International Women's Day concert, St. John's Presbyterian, Berkeley, 4 p.m., $20/10.
- S. F. Bach Choir, Bach cantatas, motets, March 21, 8 p.m., March 22, 4 p.m., Cavalry Presbyterian, S.F. Advance $28/$24 ($15 Student), Door $35/$30 ($20 Student).
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The initial statements regarding this decision did not accurately reflect the Board’s decision authorizing the administration to conduct “an orderly sale or other disposition of works from the university’s collection.” The statements gave the misleading impression that we were selling the entire collection immediately, which is not true. The University may have the option, subject to applicable legal requirements and procedures, to sell some artworks if necessary. The Museum will remain open, but in accordance with the Board’s vote, it will be more fully integrated into the University’s central educational mission. A faculty committee is expected to make recommendations on this issue shortly.To paraphrase: we screwed up our original announcement. To take this apart a bit:
- "The University may have the option, subject to applicable legal requirements and procedures, to sell some artworks if necessary" means "we'll sell what we can when the lawyers get done looking at the documents."
- "The Museum will remain open, but in accordance with the Board’s vote, it will be more fully integrated into the University’s central educational mission" means "The Rose won't be a museum any more."
Monday, February 09, 2009
- When are you going to stop calling people who want technical proficiency in fioritura "purists"?
- Are you planning to replace "hunky," "strapping," and "dusky" with other descriptive terms?
- Are you thinking of seriously looking into ticket sales and finances at the various institutions in NYC?
Sunday, February 08, 2009
However, they've been a fixture on the scene for decades and are now in their last season of performances, having announced their retirement at the end of 2009. Sony has made a number of albums that appeared only on LP available digitally, meaning these are recordings that were long, long out of print. They're being distributed by Sony as downloads (available at iTunes and Amazon, for example) and at ArkivMusic as CDs. You can find these albums on a special page at Arkiv. The sets include works by Bartok, Brahms, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and others; very tasty repertory. In addition, the Guarneri is releasing a new recording, called The Hungarian Album, which features works of Dohnanyi and Kodaly. That is also delicious.
My only question: are they recording the big Octet William Bolcom wrote for them and the Johannes Quartet?? That would be a fitting capstone to a long career.
[Corrections posted Monday, Feb. 9]
Friday, February 06, 2009
The Rose web site has lots of information. Their own Board was not informed that closure of the museum was under consideration until the University BOD told them it was happening. You can sign a petition they link to, and join a mailing list.
Here's the letter I sent to Jehuda Reinharz and various other people:
Judah Reinharz, President of Brandeis University
Allen Alter, President of the Brandeis University Alumni Association
cc: Peter French, Jacob Bockelmann, Nancy Winship
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453
Re: Rose Art Museum Closure
Dear President Reinharz and Mr. Alter:
Last week, I received email from both of you about the Board of Trustees' decision to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its collection. I am extremely disturbed by this for several reasons.
First, it's wrong to close the museum, which would require dispersing its collection, a strong and important one. These works of art may never be seen in public again or be available for study, if they are sold into private hands. How many donors would have given art to the Rose without an assurance that the works had a home in perpetuity?
Second, the University has been anything but transparent in making this decision and in providing information about why it's necessary. According to the NY Times, the director of the Rose, Michael Rush, heard about the possibility only after the decision was made. In other words, he never got to respond before being presented with a fait accompli.
Please re-read the letters you sent. There are no numbers, no specifics about the financial problems Brandeis is facing, such as current and future shortfalls, the exact shrinkage in the endowment, etc. There is nothing about the alternatives that were considered or why they were rejected in favor of this extremely drastic step. There is nothing in your communications reflecting the fact that the Rose has its own endowment and that Brandeis would take it over upon closing the Rose. And Michael Rush reports that the Rose is financially self-sustaining. The latter two points are especially disturbing: it is apparent that Brandeis is making a raid on the Rose and its free-standing endowment.
Further, President Reinharz's letter includes the outrageous statement that "Board members stressed that the museum decision will not alter the university's commitment to the arts and the teaching of the arts." Closing the Rose and selling its collections are in and of themselves changes in the university's commitment to the arts.
Here's a relevant story. Many years ago, the instructors of the martial arts school where I studied decided, without consulting the students, to close the school. They didn't succeed, because we, the students, bought the equipment and recruited our own instructors. Had there been more transparency in the teachers' process, much angst could have been avoided.
Brandeis is in a similar situation now. By failing to consult the greater community, you lost the opportunity to draw on our collective wisdom (and bank accounts). The university's standing and reputation are suffering greatly from the decision to close the Rose. I urge you to take the following steps to correct the errors you have made:
- Release to the public all financial information the Board of Trustees used to make this decision. This shouldn't violate confidentiality,considering that as a nonprofit institution, you must publicly disclose a great deal of financial data annually.
- Release to the public information about the Board's decision-making process and alternative considered.
- Call upon the Brandeis community and ask for ideas about how to fundraise the money Brandeis needs to maintain its programs,
including the Rose, at their current levels. I expect you would find many individuals, including myself, willing to increase their donations for the next several years, for example.
- Reverse the decision, which is so damaging to the University and its reputation.
CONTEMPORARY CHAMBER MUSIC FOR THE HUMAN VOICE
Robert Geary, Artistic Director
30th Anniversary Season
SINGING WITHOUT A NET
Friday, February 27, 2009 - 8 pm
Berkeley: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way
Saturday, February 28, 2009 - 8 pm
San Francisco: St. Gregory of Nyssa, 500 De Haro Street
Tickets: General - $25 in advance/$30 at the door
Seniors - $18 in advance/$22 at the door
Student rush - $10 at the door only, subject to
Call 415.771.3352 or visit
for tickets and info
Eric Moe The Crowds Cheered As Gloom Galloped Away
World Premiere, VOLTI commission
Mark Winges The Assembling Landscape
World Premiere, VOLTI commission
Ruby Fulton The Ballad of James Parry
World Premiere, VOLTI commission
Winner of Volti’s young composer competition, Choral Arts Laboratory
Frank Ferko Two Hildegard Motets
Elliott Gyger Dancing in the Wind (World Premiere of
With the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir
Co-Commissioned by Volti and the Piedmont Choirs, 2007
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Saturday February 21, 2009, 8:00 P.M.
St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, 500 De Haro Street , San Francisco , CA 94107 (415) 255-8100
Sunday February 22, 2009, 4:00 P.M.
St. Paul 's Episcopal Church, (510) 834-4314
Admission: $40 preferred seating, $25 general admission, $20 for seniors, $10 for students and music professionals. Tickets are available online (presumably at http://www.pacificcollegium.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
- Brahms, Piano Sonata no. 3 and Variations on a Theme of Handel, Bruno Leonardo Gelber on Denon. Gelber is one of the great unknown pianists of his generation, which is the generation of Argerich, Barenboim, Goode, and Kovacevich. These performances are tremendous, I can't think of any other word. Splendid musicianship and pianism, beautiful playing all around.
- Busoni and His Legacy, Arbiter 105. Performances by the legendary pianist & composer Ferruccio Busoni and his students Rosamond Ley and Egon Petri. Again, tremendous playing, and I cannot tell you how much I love Liszt's Totentanz in a partial, previously unpublished performance by Petri.
- New Century Chamber Orchestra
- San Francisco Symphony
- San Francisco Opera (watch last week's press conference!)
Any other Bay Area groups have their own channels? There are lots of individual videos for the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Kronos, and Philharmonia Baroque...
- Try the Alexander String Quartet's Mendelssohn series, which started on January 17.
- Philharmonia Baroque does A Midsummernight's Dream. It looks as thought they'll include"You spotted snakes," yay!
- There's plenty on YouTube. Try the MSND scherzo, with Arturo Toscanini and the NYPO, or practically anyone in the violin concerto.
And don't miss Matthew Guerrieri's take on the great composer.
Monday, February 02, 2009
- Frank Rich sticks it to the obstructionist Republicans but good. I add to what he says that President Obama has an approval rating right now of 80%. That means a lot of people who voted for John McCain approve of his performance and want him to succeed. The Republicans could get with the program - saving the country - and start offering real ideas, considering that they have prided themselves on being the party of ideas for quite a while. (Of course, the ideas were 1. tax cuts. 2. tax cuts 3. tax cuts, if you get my drift.)
- Why we need national single-payer health care: to help small businesses. Well, that's not the only reason.
- Paul Krugman notes that the Bush tax cuts will cost the U.S. Treasury $2 trillion. Gosh, that could go a long way to help fix things right now, eh?
There's been outrage throughout the art world. The Boston Globe had an article up almost immediately and has had a couple more since (use the search box at boston.com to find them all). The Times had a news story last week, and also an editorial in today's paper. ArtsJournal has a Q&A with Michael Rush, the Rose's director.
Times art critic Roberta Smith closes her article, published yesterday, with this zinger:
The message out of Brandeis University last week — to its own students and to the world — was that when the going gets tough, none of this matters. Art is dispensable.You bet. I've got an outraged letter of my own going to Brandeis in tomorrow's mail.
- Lotfi Mansouri: Donizetti, Russian opera (Ruslan and the Prokofiev operas); quite a bit of Britten; several weak and mostly forgettable commissions (Harvey Milk, Dangerous Liaisons, Streetcar, Dead Man Walking)
- Pamela Rosenberg: Handel and Janacek; Donizetti limited to a Lucia revival (I think....); only one commission, but it was a doozy, John Adams's Doctor Atomic
- David Gockley, to the extent that one can tell so far: lots and lots of Italian opera, mostly mainstream, from what he said at the press conference last week; a range of commissions of varying degrees of potential.
I would love to hear some Respighi and late Mascagni, but I asked and at the moment they're not looking at those composers. I just hope we will continue to have a varied repertory, including Handel, Janacek, and Britten.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
It's easy to see a lot of great classical music in the Bay Area without spending a lot of money, however. In general, you will be able to hear the music well from the lower-priced seats in the house, so it's reasonable to economize by buying less-expensive tickets. There are many excellent choruses (amateur, semi-pro, and professional) whose concerts cost no more than $20 to $30 per seat for general admission. Most organizations make discounts available for seniors and students. Same-day rush seats are available from many organizations, too. San Francisco Opera has $15 rushes for students, $30 for seniors and military personnel, plus $10 to $15 for standing-room tickets. Berkeley Opera offers side seats for $16 [2009: might be $18] one hour before the performance. San Francisco Symphony's center terrace seats are sold for $15 to $20 two hours before the performance; additionally, student rushes may be available for $20. (Call the organization's box office the day of the performance to ask about the availability of rush tickets.)I will reiterate that Old First is about the best bargain in town for great chamber and contemporary music. Right up there with Old First would come programs at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where the immensely talented faculty and students are on glorious display, conveniently located in Civic Center down the street from the opera and SFS. Stanford, Cal State East Bay (former Hayward), Mills College, San Francisco State, and UC Berekeley all have good music departments that put on good concerts. Don't forget San Francisco Symphony's current sale (all seats $25 or $55 through Monday, Feb. 2) or their Wednesday morning open rehearsals. Watch for organ recitals, at venues such as Grace Cathedral, and for the concert series at Seventh Avenue Presbyterian and St. Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco; the parallels in the East Bay might be St. John's on College and St. Mark's on Bancroft.
Some organizations simply feature low prices: For example, Old First Church in San Francisco offers a well-programmed series, Old First Concerts, featuring excellent local and visiting musicians for the bargain price of $15 general admission and $12 seniors/students. University and conservatory music departments often have inexpensive or free concerts given by faculty members and students.