Friday, May 30, 2008

San Francisco Performances/Advice Sought

I saw the San Francisco Performance press release for next season a couple of months ago, and didn't comment at the time. Now the brochure has dropped into my mailbox, and YUM.

At the top of the must-see list, of course, is the Carter Centenary Celebration, starring the Pacific Quartet, which plays all five of the string quartets, and Ursula Oppens, who plays all of the piano music. The weekend also includes a long talk by Robert Greenberg, a film, and a reception. Okay, well worth missing jujitsu camp for.

But that's not all. A recital by Leif Ove Andsnes and Christian Tetzlaff, a joint recital by the retiring Guarneri Quartet and the Johannes Quartet, sundry other chamber groups and soloists, and an evening I need advice on: a traversal of Philip Glass's Music in Twelve Parts. Should I go? Will it drive me crazy?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things Do Change

The Boosey & Hawkes email newsletter brings word of a new program, the Boosey & Hawkes Emerging Composers, a new sponsorship program. Here's what they say about the program:
In order to foster and develop the next generation of innovative composers, B&H is providing publishing, promotion, and career support to a select group of emerging composers for a specified cycle. B&H inaugurates the program with artists Oscar Bettison, Anna Clyne, and Du Yun, with future signings to be announced.
Two of the three of the inaugural composers are women.


I've got the 2008-09 season press release from New Century Chamber Orchestra, that gem of an ensemble. The upcoming season will be NCCO's first under its new music director, the virtuoso Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Some interesting works appear on the program, but then there's the Christmas concert, with a couple of Brandenburg concertos - could anything be more predictable? Okay, Messiah - and carols and Channukah songs sung by the wonderful Melody Moore. Her last appearance with NCCO was singing Les Illuminations.

There are a couple of interesting-looking commissions from Claudia Assad, but this description gave me pause:

Clarice Assad is the daughter of Sergio Assad, one of the world's preeminent guitarists and composers, and has performed professionally since the age of seven.
Describe a woman in terms of her father, thank you; is he really one of the world's preeminent composers?

The whole season seems top-40-ish:

Nadja Plays Piazzolla: The Sounds of Brazil & Argentina
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin

Thursday, Sept. 11 at 8pm, First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley
Saturday, Sept. 13 at 8pm, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
Sunday, Sept. 14 at 5pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 8pm, First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto

Clarice Assad: Impressions, Suite for Chamber Orchestra (NCCO Commission, World Premiere)
Alberto Ginastera: Glosses on Themes by Pablo Casals
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Piazzolla (arr. Leonid Desyatnikov): Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Heitor Villa-Lobos (arr. Clarice Assad): Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5

Celebrate the Holidays
Melody Moore, soprano
Schola Cantorum San Francisco

Thursday, Dec. 11 at 8pm, St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., Berkeley
Friday, Dec. 12 at 8pm, First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
Saturday, Dec. 13 at 8pm, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
Sunday, Dec. 14 at 5 pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael

Handel: Solomon, Overture and Entrance of the Queen of Sheba
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050
Holiday Songs and Carols (arr. Clarice Assad)
Melody Moore, soprano
Schola Cantorum San Francisco

The Glory of Russia
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano

Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 8pm, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
Friday, March 6, 2009 at 8pm, First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley
Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 8 pm, First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 5 pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael

Prokofiev (arr. Rudolf Barshai): Visions Fugitives, Op. 22
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence

Shadows and Light
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin

Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 8pm, First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley
Friday, May 15, 2009, at 8pm, First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 5pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 8 pm, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Bernard Herrmann: Psycho Suite
Borodin: Nocturne
Clarice Assad: Dreamscape (NCCO Commission, World Premiere)
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Strauss (arr. Mats Lidstrom): Die Fledermaus Suite

I'm interested in only two of the four programs; the last and the Christmas, excuse me, holiday concert lack meat (except for the commission). Compare and contrast with 2007-08:

September 2007, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, guest concertmaster

Kreisler (arr. Assad): Praeludium and Allegro
Bach: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041
Nadja-Salerno Sonnenberg, violin
Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 10 in B minor
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48

November 2007, Margaret Batjer, guest concertmaster

Francesco Geminiani: Concerto Grosso No. 1 in D major
Handel: Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 6, No. 11
J. S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049
C. P. E. Bach: String Symphonie in E major Wq 182/6
Haydn: Symphony No. 8 in G major, Le Soir

January 19, 2008, REWIND
Paul Haas, conductor
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Raushan Akhmedyarova, violin
Mason Bates, DJ

Schnittke: Concerto Grosso for 2 Violins, Harpsichord, and Strings
Soloists include Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Raskatov: 5 Minuten aus dem Leben WAM
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
James MacMillan: As Others See Us (T. S. Eliot)
Stravinsky: Suite from Pulcinella
Villa-Lobos: Bachianas brasileiras No. 4
Stravinsky: Suite for Small Orchestra No. 2
Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht
Mozart: Divertimento K. 136
Corelli (arr Greenstein): Concerto Grosso in C minor, Op. 6, No. 3
Soloists include Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Biagio Marini: Passacaglio
Purcell: A Bird’s Prelude from A Faerie Queen

April 2008, Stuart Canin, NCCO Founding Music Director, guest concertmaster

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219
Stuart Canin, violin
Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony for Strings, Op. 110a
Mendelssohn: Octet for Strings, Op. 20

June 2008, Rachel Barton Pine, guest concertmaster

Saint-Georges: Violin Concerto in A Major
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: Sinfonietta No. 2, Generations
Brahms: Sextet in B-flat Major, Op. 18

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Different Kind of Summer Sing

Mostly Motets is having a combination concert and sing-along, featuring works by Dufay, Desprez, Tallis, Palestrina, Byrd, Victoria, and others, and does it ever sound like fun.

Here's how it works, from the email I received:
Mostly Motets will first perform each piece with the audience listening. Immediately after that, members of the audience who wish to will be welcome to sing the same piece together with the ensemble. Music selections will range from relatively familiar and easy to more unusual and challenging.

Sunday, June 8, 2008 at 1:30 p.m.

First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley (Channing & Durant; Dana & Durant)

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit the Mostly Motets web site to buy tickets.

The email also says this:
Auditions for the 2008-2009 season will begin the week after this performance. If you are interested, please visit the Membership part of our web site and contact Steve Moore at, at (707) 575-7400, or after the concert.

American Music Festival 2

In my previous posting, I called attention to the absence of women from the press release for the 68th Annual American Music Festival. David Bukszpan wrote back with more information, and to say he could see why I was concerned about the press release: the Festival will include music by Mahaia Jackson, Bessie Smith, Billy Holiday, Amy Beach, Margaret Bond, Mary Lou, Barbara Hendricks, Kathleen Battle, Marian Anderson, Gospel Harmonettes, Bernice J. Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Update, May 29: Yes, that's Mary Lou Williams. And the playlists for this festival were drawn up late, and the press release thus didn't include everyone.

Friday, May 23, 2008

68th Annual American Music Festival

I've received a press release about the 68th Annual American Music Festival, presented by WNYC. The blurbage starts this way:
The 2008 American Music Festival will explore “America’s Classical Music” by examining it in contrast to the established forms of Western European traditions. Recordings, interviews, and critical commentary will coalesce into an examination of the processes, styles, ensembles, and folk traditions that are uniquely and arguably authentically American. Oratorio will give way to spiritual, Pavarotti to Paul Robeson, string quartet to jazz combo, Beethoven to Ellington, waltz to rag, and bel canto to the blues.
All well and good, but here are all the names mentioned in the press release as participants or composers/performers to be discussed:

Charles Mingus, Paul Robeson, John Fahey, Frank Sinatra, William Bolton, Terrance McKnight, David Garland, William Bolcom, Jason Moran, Gunther Schuller, John Zorn, Grey Reverend (LD Brown), J. J. Johnson, Charles Mingus, George Handy, Duke Ellington, Bill Smith, Joe Venuti, Earl Hines, John Fahey, Glenn Jones, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, John Rockwell, Charles Ives, Les Baxter, Lennie Tristano, The Beach Boys, Ornette Coleman, Jerry Goldsmith, The Velvet Underground, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra, Captain Beefheart, Jimmy Durante "and others."

Guests for one program are TBD.

I sent email in response:
Serious question - does "America's Classical Music" include women in any capacity? If not, why not? If so, why isn't there a single female name in this press release? Will music by American women composers even be mentioned in this festival?

Matthew Sperry Memorial Concerts, Hillside Club, Berkeley

Sixth Annual Matthew Sperry Memorial Concerts

The Berkeley Hillside Club is proud to host the Sixth Annual Matthew Sperry Memorial Concerts. Matthew Sperry was a talented bass player and beloved member of the local avante garde music community who was tragically killed while bicycling in 2003. Since then his friends and fans have gathered annually to honor his memory in music.

Thursday, June 5th at 8:00 pm

John Butcher - saxophone
Solo, duo, trio, and quintet
with special guests John Shiurba - guitar, Tom Djll - trumpet,
Tim Perkis - electronics, and Gino Robair - percussion.

Friday, June 6th at 8:00 pm

Carla Kihlstedt - violin & vocals
Solo songs and duets
with special guests Marika Hughes, Chris Sipe, and Fred Frith

For more info, Matthew Sperry Concerts.

Admission (per performance) $15 ($10 for HSC members and Seniors)
The Berkeley Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street
Berkeley 94709
Info: (510) 845-1350

Just Another Day in the Death of Classical Music

Alex Ross reports that 62% of the audience members at Fringe, an alternative chamber-music series in Atlanta, were under the age of 40.

I'll take a not-very-wild stab in the dark about why: tickets are $15 ($10 for students). Perhaps high prices at major musical institutions are a major reason the audience is aging at symphony orchestras and opera houses. Older people have the money to pay $225 for the best seats at San Francisco Opera.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

On the Air

My mailbox brings news of some radio broadcasts:

eighth blackbird will be on Performance Today on Monday, May 19. Check your local listings, or Performance Today's web site, or Public Radio Fan for details.

Los Angeles Opera performances will be broadcast starting today at 10:30 on KUSC and WFMT. There's Internet streaming, yes. Here's the schedule, with cast details, from their press release:

KUSC: Saturday, May 17, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, July 5*

Music Director James Conlon conducts; Starring Anja Kampe, Klaus Florian Vogt, Matti Salminen, Eike Wilm Schulte, Oleg Bryjak, Rebekah Camm and Greg Fedderly.

Verdi Requiem
KUSC: Saturday, May 24, 10:30am

IPlácido Domingo conducts the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus, with soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz and bass René Pape.

KUSC: Saturday, May 31, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, July 12*
Conducted by James Conlon, starring Karita Mattila, Eva Urbanová, Kim Begley, Jorma Silvasti, Elizabeth Bishop and Jason Stearns.

Don Giovanni
KUSC: Saturday, June 7, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, July 19*

Conducted by Hartmut Haenchen, starring Erwin Schrott, Kyle Ketelsen, Alexandra Deshorties, Maria Kanyova, Charles Castronovo, Lauren McNeese, James Creswell and Kangliang Peng.

La Bohème
KUSC: Saturday, June 14, 10:30am
Giacomo Puccini's beloved opera is conducted by Plácido Domingo, starring Maija Kovalevska, Massimo Giordano, Laquita Mitchell, Luca Salsi, Oren Gradus, Brian Leerhuber and Philip Cokorinos.

Tristan und Isolde
KUSC: Saturday, June 21, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, July 26*
James Conlon conducts, with Linda Watson and John Treleaven in the leading roles, joined by Lioba Braun, Juha Uusitalo, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Gregory Warren, Brian Mulligan and Matthew Moore.

KUSC: Saturday, June 28, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, August 2*
Conductor James Conlon leads a cast including Ian Storey, Cristina Gallardo-Domas, Mark Delavan, Derek Taylor, Ning Liang and Eric Halfvarson.

The Broken Jug / The Dwarf
KUSC: Saturday, July 5, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, August 9*
James Conlon conducts a cast that includes James Johnson, Rodrick Dixon, Mary Dunleavy, Steven Humes, Bonaventura Bottone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Bishop, Melody Moore, Jason Stearns and Richard Cox.

KUSC: Saturday, July 12, 10:30am
Sir Richard Armstrong conducts a cast that includes Adrianne Pieczonka, Neil Shicoff, Juan Pons and Dale Travis.

La Rondine
KUSC: Saturday, July 19, 10:30am
WFMT: Saturday, August 16*
Keri-Lynn Wilson conducts, and the cast includes Patricia Racette, Marcus Haddock, Amanda Squitieri, Greg Fedderly and David Pittsinger.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Women Composers Today

There hasn't been an addition to the reviews sidebar in months, and that's because I was working on a long article for New Music Box. The article was published today, and Molly Sheridan gave it a most wonderful title: Lend Me a Pick Ax: The Slow Dismantling of the Compositional Gender Divide.

I started working on this article back in early January, and quickly discovered that the current status of women composers is a huge subject. Check Google Scholar and you'll see what I mean. And there's plenty more to be reported.

Deepest thanks to everyone I wrote about in the article, a great group of composers: Linda Dusman, Pamela Z, Caroline Mallonée, Kyle Bartlett, Elaine Fine, Alex Shapiro, Sheila Silver, and Alice Shields. Check out their music!

Brahms Two Ways

San Francisco Symphony is in the midst of a big Brahms Festival, and one of the pieces they're doing is Ein deutsches Requiem, a favorite of choristers and conductors, which contains some of the most beautiful and comforting music ever written. They're pairing it with the Opus 17 Songs for Women's Chorus, Two Horns, and Harp. I sang Op. 17 long ago, and have never even seen the set on a program since then. Go, because you'll never have another chance to hear Op. 17 - and harpist Douglas Rioth is one of the unsung geniuses of the Symphony.

But then again, you should also come see Chora Nova performing the Requiem, with considerably smaller forces, in Brahms's own arrangement for two pianos. You'll also get to hear the short choral work Begraebnisgesang and Vier ernste Gesang (Four Serious Songs) sung by Paul Flight, countertenor and Chora Nova artistic director.

Saturday, May 24, 2008 8:00 p.m.
First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Dana and Durant Streets
Tickets: $18/$15/$10 online or at the door

Summer Workshop Taught by Pamela Z

The dynamic composer/performer Pamela Z is teaching what sounds like a fantastic workshop this summer:

Tuesdays July 1-August 12, 2008 6pm-9pm

A seven-week sound and performance workshop exploring experimental music, audio art, and interdisciplinary performance practices. Participants will be exposed to the work and ideas of new music composers and sound art practitioners, receive hands-on instruction with tools (software, hardware etc) and techniques for the creation of sound and performance works, and create and present works of their own.

The workshop will meet weekly for group sessions which will include lecture/demonstration and group listening and performance activities. There will be weekly assignments to create small works based on principles covered in the sessions, and a final meeting in which participants will each present a final project – a recorded or performed sound work, experimental music composition, or sound installation.

Participants will also sign up for private sessions for individual help with sound recording and editing software and equipment, and help with planning, composing and creating works.

Drawing on her own experience as a composer and performer of experimental music, sound, performance, and installation works, and the works of other notable artists in this broad-ranging field, Pamela Z will present sessions exploring elements of sound, and expermimental music including the use of sound in performance, sound with image (video & film), experimental composition techniques, the use of sampled sounds, found text and found objects, electronic processing of voice and other acoustic sound sources, synthesized sound, digital sound recording and editing, and the physics of sound. Participants will also receive a comprehensive list of recommended reading, listening, and viewing in addition to works presented in class.

SoundWORK will meet Tuesday nights July 1- August 12, 2008 6pm-9pm at Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa Street (with additional sign-up hands-on sessions in Pamela Z's nearby studio).

For workshop and enrollment information, email or call 415 861 EARS.

Or enroll now through PayPal.

Full workshop price $350
(workshop without private hands-on: $275)
(some scholarships available)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


From my inbox and other places:
  • Goodbye, Bernard Holland. Not that I think the downsizing of the Times newsroom and culture pages is a good thing, mind you.
  • Joshua Kosman has some thoughts on Holland.
  • Stanford has yet another interesting symposium that I wish I'd heard about a month ago, on Music & the Brain. It's this weekend.
  • Tony Tommasini speaks at Stanford at noon tomorrow today, May 14. This I ought to have made time to get to, but alas. It's up to you to ask him about Holland.
  • The English National Opera has a nifty digital opera guide on its web site.
  • Goldstar is offering half-price tickets to two San Francisco Symphony Brahms Festival concerts. (I was shocked by the number of empty seats at last week's program, with the wonderful Leif Ove Andsnes playing the Second Piano Concerto.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Berkeley Opera Double Bill: Just Go

I've seen somewhere between eight and twelve Berkeley Opera productions over the last decade plus. The best have been superb, including the marvelous Legend of the Ring, Falstaff, a Magic Flute directed by Barbara Heroux, and David Scott Marley's hilarious adaptations Bat Out of Hell and Riot Grrl on Mars. Others have been worthy forays into very rare repertory, such as Faure's Penelope; some productions haven't worked well (Otello) or have been weakly cast.

In the mid-90s, there was a memorable concert double bill of Bartók’s Bluebeard's Castle and a reconstruction of Debussy's Fall of the House of Usher. Opera houses generally aren't big on double bills, other than the ubiquitous Cav 'n Pag, and it's easy to understand why: each half typically costs much more than half of a standard production to stage, rehearse, costume, and so on. It's a shame, really; there are so many wonderful one-act operas that hardly ever get performed, including the Bartók and the three short Puccini operas making up Il Trittico (also recently staged by Berkeley Opera).

So when Berkeley Opera's 2008 season was announced, I was hugely excited to see a double bill of Bluebeard's Castle and, of all things, Ravel's delightful L’enfant et les sortilèges, which I'd last seen around 1975 in a production at the Manhattan School of Music. The Ravel is more or less in the Metropolitan Opera's repertory, as part of a triple bill, and apparently no one else's. San Francisco Opera did perform it a few times in 1930, on a double bill with....Hansel und Gretel?

In any event, I cited the Berkeley Opera performances in the SFCV season preview in January. I was able to attend a preview of the Bartók the same month, and thought the production promising based on what I heard and saw: solid singing and marvelously fluid playing from conductor Jonathan Khuner.

I caught last Saturday's opening performance and I am thrilled to report that the two productions are a complete triumph. I will try to get some details down tomorrow, but I want to plug the two remaining performances above all.

They're on Friday, May 9, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 11, at 2 p.m., at the Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Avenue (at Derby), Berkeley. Call 925-798-1300 for tickets.

And just go.

Podleś Out, Prina In

Argh: a press release from San Francisco Opera announces that Ewa Podleś has withdrawn from the upcoming Ariodante, to be replaced by Italian contralto Sonia Prina.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Batter Up!

Coming up at The San Francisco Giants, "Lucia di Lammermoor," in a free,live simulcast from War Memorial Opera House.

It's on Friday, June 20, at 8 p.m., doors open at 6:30 if you have advance
tickets. To get tickets (up to four per patron), click here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Archiving and Formats

Check out this interesting New Music Box article, by Frank Oteri, and the very long comment thread, on the subject of composer archives.

Music to My Ears

Steve Smith on Elliott Carter, in his Times review of Tuesday's Juilliard Quartet/Charles Neidich concert:
Too much time and ink have been spent talking about how challenging, rigorous and difficult Elliott Carter’s music is, and not nearly enough on how lively, vigorous and even funny it can be.

A hint from here on how to approach Carter: attend concerts and listen to the music before you look at the scores. His notation makes my head hurt, even when I'm following a recording, because I try to count it. My eyes cross and everything! But the musical narrative is easy to follow if you're putting your ears first.

Compare and Contrast 9

The Brentano Quartet's Late Style concerts:I realize this is not an entirely fair comparison, given the paltry space allotted Holland - but other Times reporters, including Alex in his stint there, somehow make much better use of that space.