Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lede by Johannes Brahms

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by me

I've got a review published today, in an unusual location: in Joshua Kosman's absence, I reviewed the San Francisco Symphony for the SF Chronicle. It was a fine program, with a terrific Brahms violin concerto that was quite different from the last time I heard it live, a more extroverted account by Christian Tetzlaff under MTT. The more I hear Augustin Hadelich, born in Italy to German parents, now a U.S. citizen, the more I like him.

I'm going to get up on a soapbox now: I was thrilled by the applause after the first movement, I joined in, and I think it's high time for a return to 19th century norms, where such applause was expected. I never want to have to sit on my hands after the first movement of Mahler's mighty Eighth Symphony again! And Salonen and Hadelich accepted the applause, looking pleased by it. More like this, and fellow audience members, no shushing, no finger-wagging, no protests!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

JFC: In 2021, Accessibility Should Be Automatic

I love it when I receive a "video preview of our season" from a major arts org that is so ham-handed that it is all visual, print and film combined, meaning that if I were, say, a person with no or reduced vision, I would hear a perky soundtrack but learn nothing about the season. 

JFC, it's 2021, major arts org, do better, will you?

Also, the visuals are...bad. There's a list of the season's presentation that is so short you can't read the whole thing even if you can see it; for each presentation, there's a visual that is too damn busy and piles on too much too fast.

San Francisco Opera: July Streaming

Christine Goerke as Elektra
Photo by Cory Weaver / Courtesy of San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera just announced its next round of streaming, which might as well be called Heavy Hitters of the 2010s or something like that. Nothing light or lightweight in this series.

  • July 10: JenufaJiří Bĕlohlávek; Malin Bystrom, William Burden, Karita Mattila, Scott Quin, Jill Grove. On my list of "greatest things I have ever seen," owing to the tremendous cast and conducting. From 2016.
  • July 17: Les Troyens; Sir Donald Runnicles; Anna Caterina Antonacci, Brian Mulligan, Bryan Hymel, Philip Skinner, Nian Wang, Susan Graham, Sasha Cooke, Rene Barbara, Chong Wang, Christian Van Horn. Loved the production (mostly); on my list of "greatest things I have ever seen," owing to the tremendous cast and conducting. From 2015.
  • July 24: Elektra; Henrik Nanasi; Christine Goerke, Adrianne Pieczonka, Michaela Martens, Alfred Walker, Robert Brubaker. Loved the production; on my list of "greatest things I have ever seen," owing to the tremendous cast and conducting. Sorry to be repeating myself, but....! From 2017.
  • July 31: Luisa Miller; Nicola Luisotti; Leah Crocetto, Michael Fabiano, Vitaliy Bilyy, Andrea Silvestrelli, Ekaterina Semenchuk. Very well sung and conducted, weakish early Verdi. From 2015.
As before, these programs go live on a Saturday and are available until late the next day. If you have a San Francisco Opera web site login, there's an extended period during which you can see these.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday Photo

South Kensington Tube Station
London, November, 2019

Not a great photo, but the area around this station will be radically redeveloped in the near future.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

San Francisco Opera Announces Date of Season Announcement

All right, here's news about the news we've all been waiting for: San Francisco Opera will announce the 2021-22 season in two weeks, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, at 4 p.m. Pacific Time:



In just a few short weeks, San Francisco Opera will announce its programming for this upcoming season. After well over 500 days out of our beloved opera house, we are beyond excited for the return of live opera on our own stage and Eun Sun Kim's inaugural year as music director.

We hope you will join us on June 22 for the reveal of this exciting season ahead!

You can register at this URL. Note that you will be asked to log in.

March, 2022, is Not That Far Away: BSO at Carnegie Hall

The Boston Symphony Orchestra just announced two performormances at Carnegie Hall in March, 2022, and hoo boy, they look great:

• The New York premiere of a new violin concerto by composer Unsuk Chin (a BSO co-commission), performed by soloist Leonidas Kavakos, paired with Ives' The Unanswered Question and Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, on March 14 

 A concert version of Berg's opera Wozzeck, featuring Bo Skovhus in the title role and Christine Goerke as Marie, on March 15

Chin is a terrific composer, so that violin concerto is a noteworthy new work. Skovhus was sensational in Michael Jarrell's Bérénice in Paris three years ago, and I have the highest regard for Goerke. That will be a Wozzeck to remember. 

Monday, June 07, 2021

Museum Mondays

Edge of a Wooden Panel (I think)
Bavarian National Museum, Munich
August, 2015


Sunday, June 06, 2021

Ojai 2021

Good news from southern California: the Ojai Festival, music director John Adams, will take place this year, in September rather than June. There will be several world premieres (Sunt Lacrimae Rerum (these are the tears of things) by Dylan Mattingly and the revised version of Gabriela Ortiz’s La Calaca, along with the West Coast Premiere of Samuel Adams’ Chamber Concerto and the first concert performance of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Objets Trouvés) and a typically rich schedule, which is below the cut. The festival's dates are September 16 to 19, 2021.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

So Nu?

War Memorial Opera. House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Various musical organizations have announced when they will resume public, in-person performances:

  • LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl and at WDCH
  • Seattle Opera
  • LA Opera
  • Metropolitan Opera (if they can settle their various labor disputes)
San Francisco Symphony has been playing live to a reduced-capacity audience (and I really need to get tickets to see them!). San Francisco Opera....bupkis. The only live performances haven't even been socially distanced: they've been outdoors in a temporary facility with sound transmitted by radio to a small audience of people stuck in their cars.

It would be nice to know what's happening in the fall, which is....only three months off.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sunday Miscellaney

Several things make a post:
  • Bang on a Can has a marathon coming up on June 6, 2021, from 1 to 5 p.m.; for details, see the web site live.bangonacan.org.
  • Estonian composer Erki Pärnoja has an album of "cross-genre" choral music out.
  • Flutist of flutists Claire Chase and clarinetist Joshua Rubin have released an EP of Alvin Lucier's Monteverdi Shapero, in honor of Lucier's 90th birthday, and yes, that's my late teacher Harold Shapero in close company with Claudio Monteverdi. You can hear it at Chase's web site, complete with informative notes.
  • Opera Orlando's 2021-22 season includes La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Stella Sung's The Secret River (libretto by Mark Campbell).
  • The New York Opera Fest has been going on for a month and continues into June with a huge list of programs.
  • Congratulations to Douglas Kearney, who has been named the first recipient of Opera America's Campbell Opera Librettist Prize. Kearney is a poet, with seven books of poetry published, and the librettist of several operas, with others forthcoming: 
    • Crescent City and Sweet Land, both of which The Industry performed to great acclaim
    • Mordake
    • Sucktion
  • Call for scores from the string quartet Ethel, due date July 1, 2021. Read about it at HomeBaked Round V.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Friday Photos, Super Blood Moon Edition

May 26, 2021, around 3 a.m.

May 26, 2021
The streak is the lights of a plane.

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Edwin Outwater at SFCM

Conductor Edwin Outwater
Photo by David Kim, courtesy of SFCM

In April, 2020, Edwin Outwater was appointed to the position of Music Director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I meant to report on this at the time and, well, the pandemic and life caught up. Here's the press release; note that all dates not otherwise specified are 2020:

In the past two decades, savvy classical music presenters have focused on evolving the art form – through cross-genre collaborations, new audience engagement, and demonstrating relevance to modern-day life. In the past two months, this relevance has been thrown into sharp relief, as audiences worldwide have found comfort, escapism, and catharsis in digital performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s contribution to this movement is the Tiny Dorm Concert Series, an expertly curated whole-community effort connecting faculty, students, and alumni with audiences across the globe.
On Saturday, April 11, the series’ closing night will be hosted and curated by visionary conductor Edwin Outwater, announced today as the new SFCM Music Director. San Francisco audiences will recognize Outwater from his enduring relationship with San Francisco Symphony, where he has served as Resident Conductor, Director of Summer Concerts, and Music Director of its Youth Orchestra. Collaborations with living composers such as Mason Bates, Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Missy Mazzoli have been hallmarks of his career, as have projects with household names like Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, John Lithgow, Metallica, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Outwater has also enjoyed high-profile engagements with Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles, Seth MacFarlane, Tituss Burgess, and legendary drag performers Peaches Christ, Bob The Drag Queen, and Courtney Act.
“We knew SFCM’s next music director would need to have a rare combination of qualities,” said Conservatory President David Stull. “Essentially, we sought an architect for the ensemble of the future – someone with both a truly innovative mindset and extensive experience working with top-tier ensembles. After a two-year search, we have found this leader in Edwin Outwater.”
As music director, Outwater’s primary focus will be the conservatory’s broadscale musical objectives – shaping the large ensemble experience across orchestra, chamber, and contemporary music ensembles, striking a balance between canonical works and new initiatives, and guiding programmatic themes. His duties will also include direct mentorship of students in the conducting program.

“There is an incredible wave of growth happening at SFCM,” said Outwater. “I’m thrilled to be joining this dynamic and forward-looking institution. Under David’s leadership, the conservatory’s expansions, including creative technology and jazz, are creating new pathways for young musicians. I’m eager to help nurture these entrepreneurial students as they build careers for today’s musical landscape.” 

A California native, Outwater has forged his own inventive career at major orchestras and institutions throughout the world, where he has often premiered new commissions and introduced audiences to works beyond the standard repertoire. His stellar reputation as a curator has been built via the SoundBox series in San Francisco and the Intersectionsseries, which has connected orchestral music to quantum physics, neuroscience, film, food, and yoga, in the United States and Canada. His broad curiosity has resulted in collaborations with a diverse array of artists from all musical genres – from cellist Johannes Moser to Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq – and inspired the creation of Hack The Orchestra, a hackathon that challenges young programmers to create new content for the concert experience.

As the COVID-19 pandemic drives both higher education and arts institutions to embrace the agile mindset required for rapid innovation, Outwater’s vision can be expected to shape the SFCM student experience across programs and platforms.

“Ultimately, I hope our present circumstances can be a catalyst for greater ingenuity,” said Outwater. “SFCM makes it a priority to empower students to take an active role in creating their own musical futures, and this is the attitude the world needs to continue moving forward. Leonard Bernstein called it the lesson of the century: ‘as long as we insist on maintaining artistic vitality, we are able to hope in man.’”

I asked about the responsibilities that come with this position, and SFCM replied:

As music director, he conducts the orchestra, oversees the program, selects the personnel and identifies large scale projects. He also curates our contemporary music division, works with Historical Performance and the Opera Departments on large scale projects, identifies guest conductors (for all ensembles including the orchestra), coaches students, and works with the Assoc. Dean for Artistic Programming (Hank Mau) in crafting a season. He occasionally will teach a seminar and he runs the conducting program which comprises 2-4 students. 

Edwin will also lead a discussion that selects our artistic/academic theme for the year, which is part of an initiative we refer to as "Connected Learning." This year it was Music and Nature, and we witnessed academic courses revolving around the use of natural themes in art, literature, technology, and music. Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) undertook several projects in which data from the Livermore Labs measuring climate change was translated into a soundscape installation, and smaller projects such as the one we have moved to August 30th at the Lynmar estate, where we will show the parallels of mathematics that describe the natural world (Fibinnaci, Golden Section) and string instrument design. 

Interesting work!

Outwater's predecessors were:

  • Eric Dudley, currently Artistic Director of SF Contemporary Music Players, from 2016-2017 through 2017-18.
  • Scott Sandmeier, from 2013-14 through 2015-16

Monday, May 24, 2021

Monday, May 17, 2021

Friday, May 14, 2021

Monday, May 03, 2021