Thursday, May 16, 2019


[I just stumbled across this draft from more than a decade ago, and what the hell, I am going to publish it.]

Over the weekend, I attended an extraordinary event, a two-day extravaganza celebrating the 100th birthday of Elliott Carter, who at that amazing age is still composing great music. Ruth Felt's San Francisco Performances staged this marvel, and thank goodness for that, because the local orchestras and most performing organizations are doing nothing. 

The first day was dedicated primarily to his five string quartets, a body of work the equal of those of  Haydn, Beethoven, and Bartok. In the morning, there was a showing of the documentary film, Elliott Carter: The Labyrinth of Time, followed by a panel/Q&A with the weekend's performers and lecturer Robert Greenberg; in the afternoon, a three-hour lecture; in the evening, a performance of all five of the quartets. 

I can't say enough good things about the film, a most touching and informative document. Filmed in and around Carter's apartment, Greenwich Village, other New York City locations, and Paris, it shows the composer in his element. You see him at his desk, writing music, erasing, writing music, erasing, writing music. You see him working with musicians, including Ursula Oppens, Fred Sherry, and Pierre Boulez. You hear from a few of those musicans as well. He wanders the halls of the building where he studied with Boulanger, and walks across the Brooklyn Bridge. "Aha!" I thought. "That's how he lived to 100: he's a New Yorker who walks five miles a day." He chats with his wife, Helen Jones-Carter, who died in 2003.

Looming over the film, sometimes visible through the windows of the Carter apartment, is the World Trade Center. Carter feels his music is deeply connected with the world and humanity, and talks about his hope that humanity will learn how to solve problems so all humans can live together peacefully. Sometimes you can see the WTC in the distance; sometimes you can't. Sometimes there are shots of the Trade Center in ruins after that day.

You learn a bit about his working methods, and the world he grew up in: "When I was a boy, I could ride my bicycle from 114th street, where we lived, all the way down Manhattan, and see only a few automobiles."

The half-hour panel discussion/Q&A with the performers was, unfortunately, almost the only interactive portion of the weekend. The members of the Pacifica Quartet and pianist Ursula Oppens talked about their experience of learning Carter's music and working with him, and about what it means to them. 

The second day, less taxing, at least for the audience, consisted of a lecture on the piano music, a recital of the complete piano music - well, almost all - and a reception.


Whither San Francisco Opera?

War Memorial Opera House
Home of San Francisco Opera
Photo by Lisa Hirsch


Two years ago, it looked as though San Francisco Opera was in good shape, following the tenure of David Gockley, who got the Wilsey Center built, brought various functions into the Veterans Building, dealt well with the unions, increased the endowment greatly, hauled in some huge donations, and staged a new Ring production, not to mention spectacular (and expensive) productions of Les Troyens, Don Carlo, Die Meistersinger, and Jenufa.

Today, well, there's a lot to be unhappy about. The issues must have some roots; maybe Gockley didn't work quite enough magic to sustain the accomplishments, maybe the company is way behind in figuring out how to get more subscribers and donations, maybe there's stuff going on that we don't know about (yet). But there's an awful lot of belt-tightening going on at the War Memorial Opera House.

Janos Gereben has published two articles in SFCV that you should read:
Do click through, but, briefly, the company laid off their Director of Communications, Jon Finck; their Director of Development (person who plans strategic fundraising, especially around large gifts), Andrew Morgan; didn't fill the publications editor vacancy created in December by the departure of Matthew Erickson; and eliminated several other positions. I believe that more layoffs are coming, as well; watch this space.

Some of these layoffs don't make a lot of sense to me. Moving Communications under Marketing is rather like having technical publications under sales: the goals of the groups are in conflict and it's best to keep them away from each other.

At the Annual Meeting, the company announced the development of a strategic plan, but the details that've come out so far are basically corporate-speak: there are now vision and mission statements. The planning process took some time, and the statements are something that could have been written in, oh, an hour? so I hope there is more substance to come.

Putting together everything in these two reports, plus things that aren't happening, here's what I see:
  • No music director. I don't believe it's really "we are still at the dating stage", although I think more caution than went into hiring Luisotti is merited. I believe this is an easy way to save $450,000 to $600,000 or so a year. Yes, Luisotti made around $600,000 one year; it's right there in the 990s.
  • No productions in the Wilsey Center. Again, $$$.
  • Eight productions / year for the foreseeable future, again, money.
  • The layoffs we've seen
  • The layoffs that are probably coming
  • Anticipated reduction in chorus size
And just this week, a friend received this letter from the company, over Matthew Shilvock's signature:
Thank you for your support as a subscriber to the 2019–20 Season. Knowing that you are a subscriber who attends OperaVision-supported performances in the Balcony of the Opera House, it is with great sadness that I share, while we will have OperaVision this June, we will cease this service going forward.
OperaVision is a unique service that we have offered at select performances for the last decade and that has been made possible by the in-house media suite and robotic camera system installed in 2007. The equipment is now long past its expected life cycle and is becoming inoperable. Sadly, each year, we experience increasing challenges with its stability.
The purpose of the media suite was to provide both audience enhancement in the Opera House, and to facilitate commercial projects such as DVDs, cinemacasts and PBS broadcasts. We released several successful projects over the last decade, but the marketplace for commercial opera releases is exponentially harder now than in 2007. Rebuilding the media suite would cost millions of dollars and, without the commercial possibilities that existed in 2007, it does not make sense for us to further invest our financial resources into this area at this time.
It is imperative to me and the Company that our work on stage remains at a world-class level of excellence, which is our priority as we look at how best to allocate our resources. This has been a very hard decision for me and for all of us in the Company, but it is a necessary change if we are to ensure a strong, vibrant future for opera in San Francisco.
As a subscriber with seats in the Balcony for OperaVision performances, you have pre-paid a surcharge ranging from $5–$9 which was embedded into your ticket price. Due to the cancellation of this service, you have overpaid service funds that total [a figure in the mid-two-figures]. For your convenience, we have placed this amount on account in our ticketing system. You have three available options to manage your funds:
[section about logistics deleted]
Thank you for your understanding and your continued support of San Francisco Opera. With great sightlines and unsurpassed acoustics, the Balcony will remain a thrilling place from which to experience great opera in the War Memorial Opera House.
Unpacking this a bit: Shilvock is right about the difficulty of producing and selling opera releases. Unless you've got an in-demand rarity or a truly legendary singer or something special that allows to sell a DVD, it's just hopeless. SFO had some dreams about doing Met-HD-style theater broadcasts, but this came to nothing; basically, the Met got there first, and with their enormous schedule, star singers we don't get in SF, and the variety of operas they present, they nailed the market down very well.  David Gockley admitted this had been a mistake.

Also behind this: it's not just the cost of replacing equipment, however much that might cost. It's the cost of paying the people who run the media suite, the cameras, and direct operas for OperaVision. They make a huge difference; the only opera I've seen from the balcony in the last few years was one of the four Elektra performances I took in, and I tell you, the direction was great and added a lot to the performance.

This apparent poverty is really not a good thing at any time, but it's especially bad with the company's 100th season approaching. I figured there would be something special about that season; maybe more of the top-rank stars we're seeing fewer and fewer of or not seeing at all*, maybe a commission, maybe the return of a few important operas that had their US premiere here or that haven't been performed in decades (yes, I'm thinking of Die Frau ohne Schatten, Dialogues of the Carmelites, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and more). Maybe every last penny being saved in going into the anniversary fund, but it's a mighty odd way to proceed.

* Anna Netrebko, Sonya Yoncheva, Peter Mattei, for example. The SFO regulars are Brian Mulligan, Ellie Dehn, Heidi Stober, all of whom, I like, but I'm not exactly sure of their international stature. Yeah, we're far away from Europe, but look back at the days when Leontyne Price, Leonie Rysanek, etc. were regulars. Also exemplary of this: it was widely rumored that Sonya Yoncheva would be Donna Elvira in the upcoming Ernani, but when the season was announced, it was Michelle Bradley. Was Yoncheva ever on board? Did she withdraw? Prove too expensive? We will never know.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Museum Mondays

Bernardo Daddi, Annunciation, c. 1335
Museé du Louvre, Paris
February, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Conductor News Update

I'm still working my way through the list of openings, but here are some appointments I know of:
  • Osmo Vänskä will be the next music director of the Seoul Philharmonic,  starting in January, 2020, with an initial three-year contract. He retires from the Minnesota Orchestra in 2022. He will still be based in Minnesota (he is married to Erin Keefe, Minnesota's concertmaster); apparently there are now direct flights from Minneapolis to Seoul.
  • Nicolaj Szeps-Znaider will be the next music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon.
  • Omer Meir Wellber is Chief Conductor Designate of the BBC Philharmonic.
  • Joseph Young succeeds Joana Carneiro at Berkeley Symphony, effective immediately.
  • Richard Egarr succeeds Nicolas McGegan at Philharmonia Baroque, effective with the 2020-21 season. I don't know Egarr, but I'll miss Nic, whose most recent PBO performance, Handel's Saul, was fabulous.
  • Daniele Rustioni is the next music director of the Ulster Orchestra, succeeding Rafael Payare in September, 2019.
  • Daniel Raiskin succeeds Alexander Mickelthwate in Winnipeg.
Updated list of openings, etc.:
  • Opera North: open now, with Aleksandr Markovic's departure
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: 2017 2019? is Stephen Lord's final season as MD. (He's still listed on their web page, don't know what's going on here).
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda 
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie leaves this year 
  • Sao Paulo Symphony: Marin Alsop leaves at some point
  • San Francisco Opera, departure of Nicola Luisotti at conclusion of 2017-18
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which Leonard Slatkin leaves at the close of the 2017-18 season.
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre de Paris, when Daniel Harding leaves at the end of 2018-19
  • Sarasota Orchestra after Anu Tali  leaves at the end of 2018-2019
  • Melbourne Symphony: Sir Andrew Davis leaves at the end of 2019 
  • Richmond Symphony: Steven Smith leaves in 2019 
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra: David Robertson will be leaving the SSO at the end of 2019. So he really will be without an orchestral home as of 1/1/2020.
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Kent Nagano is leaving the OSM after 2019-2020. 
  • Fort Worth Symphony: Miguel Harth-Bedoya leaves in 2020 
  • Royal Opera, when Antonio Pappano leaves in 2020
  • Opera de Paris, when Philippe Jordan leaves in 2020
  • Atlanta Symphony, when Robert Spano leaves in 2020
  • Virginia Symphony: JoAnn Falletta leaves in 2020
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales when Thomas Søndergård leaves for his new job
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • Philharmonia Orchestra, when Esa-Pekka Salonen leaves at the end of the 2020-2021 season.
  • Oregon Symphony, when Carlos Kalmar leaves at the end of the 2020-21 season.
  • Minnesota Orchestra, when Osmo Vänskä leaves in 2022.
Conductors looking for jobs (that is, as of the near future, or now, they do not have a posting):
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Robert Spano
  • Juanjo Mena
  • Antonio Pappano
  • Ludovic Morlot
  • Sian Edwards
  • Jun Markl
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • Simone Young 
  • David Robertson
  • Peter Oundjian as of the end of 2017-18
  • Philippe Auguin
  • Kwame Ryan
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
  • Carlos Kalmar
And closed:
  • Daniele Rustioni is the next music director of the Ulster Orchestra, succeeding Rafael Payare in September, 2019.
  • Daniel Raiskin succeeds Alexander Mickelthwate in Winnipeg.
  • Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra: Richard Egarr named to succeed Nicholas McGegan, who steps down as music director in 2020 
  • Joseph Young takes the helm at Berkeley Symphony, which Joana Carneiro left at the end of 2017-18.
  • Omer Meir Wellber succeeds Juanju Mena at the BBC Philharmonic.
  • Nicolaj Szeps-Znaider will be the next music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, succeeding Leonard Slatkin.
  • To the astonishment of virtually everyone, San Francisco Symphony signs Esa-Pekka Salonen, starting in 2020-21, with a five-year contract.
  • Toronto SO: Gustavo Gimeno becomes MD in 2020-21.
  • Washington National Opera brings in Evan Rogister in a newly-created job, Principal Conductor, from this season, 2018-19, through 2021-22. 
  • Oslo Philharmonic: Klaus Makela becomes their chief conductor in 2020
  • Dresden Philharmonic: Marek Janowski becomes their chief conductor in 2019 
  • Royal Philharmonic has named Vassily Petrenko as their chief conductor, as of 2021
  • Ken-David Masur becomes MD of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20, announced November, 2018.
  • Zurich Opera: Gianandrea Noseda becomes music director in 2021, following the departure of Fabio Luisi.
  • Dallas Symphony: Fabio Luisi assumes the position of Music Director in 2019-20. He has an initial five-year contract.
  • Orchestra of St. Luke's: Bernard Labadie starts with the 2018-2019 season 
  • Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra: Thomas Zehetmair starts with the 2018-2019 season
  • BBC Concert Orchestra: Bramwell Tovey started in 2018 
  • Toledo Symphony: Alain Trudel starts with the 2018-2019 season
  • Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich: Paavo Jarvi starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Netherlands Radio Philharmonic: Karina Canellakis starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Sylvain Cambreling has replaced the late Sir Jeffrey Tate at the Hamburg Symphony
  • San Diego Symphony: Rafael Payare starts in 2019 
  • Yomiuri Nippon Symphony: Sebastian Weigle starts in April 2019
  • Vienna RSO: Marin Alsop starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Elim Chan becomes chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony in 2019-20
  • Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: Jaime Martin starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège: Gergely Madaras starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Kent Nagano is now the Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatsoper in Hamburg
  • WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne: Cristian Măcelaru starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Israel Philharmonic: Lahav Shani starts with the 2020-2021 season 
  • Bayerische Staatsoper when Vladimir Jurowski joins in 2021.
  • Vienna Symphony: Andrés Orozco-Estrada starts with the 2021-2022 season
  • Clarinetist Martin Frøst becomes chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in 2019 when Thomas Dausgaard leaves for Seattle.Thomas Zehetmair is going to the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in 2019
  • Matthias Bamert is going to the Sapporo Symphony in 2018 
  • Lorenzo Viotti was named music director of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, as of 2018
  • Joana Mallwitz appointed GMD in Nuremberg, effective 2018
  • Philippe Jordan to the Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)
  • Semyon! Bychkov! fills the vacancy at the Czech Philharmonic, following the death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Dennis Russell Davies becomes music director of the Brno Philharmonic, which had been open since 2015, as of the 2018-19 season.
  • Nicola Luisotti is now Associate Director of the Teatro Real, Madrid, not "assistant music director". My bad.
  • Seattle Symphony, where Thomas Dausgaard will succeed Ludovic Morlot in 2018-19; announced early October, 2016
  • Vancouver Symphony; Otto Tausk comes on in 2018
  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Vasily Petrenko becomes their music director in 2021
  • Dresden Philharmonic: Marek Janowski becomes their chief conductor in 2019 (round 2 for him there)
  • Oslo Philharmonic: Klaus Makela becomes their chief conductor in 2020

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The Dracula Opera Emerges from the Crypt

From an interview with composer Mark Adamo that must have taken place before 2006:
[Kathleen Watt:] David Gockley who takes over as general director of San Francisco Opera in 2006, has commissioned your third opera for the company. Can you tell us about it?
[Mark Adamo:] A grand-scaled free variation on Dracula: certainly for San Francisco, possibly with up to three co-producers. I believe (he said cautiously) I’ve located its fulcrum, but there are still a thousand questions to answer. The renown of the character is both a blessing and a curse—there are as many opinions as to what the myth is about as there people who know it, so I have a great deal of thinking to do. (I'll also have to steer between the Scylla of grandiosity and the Charybdis of kitsch.)
As we all know, what San Francisco Opera actually got was The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was not well received, as you can see from my media roundup. At some point before the MM premiere, I'd asked Adamo in email about the Dracula opera, because it was mentioned in various places the internet, and he basically said he couldn't discuss it.

Now we know: he wrote the libretto, but the music will be written by Adamo's husband John Corigliano, and it will makes its debut at Santa Fe Opera in 2021. It's called The Lord of Cries, and apparently it will be some kind of mashup of Dracula and Euripedes' The Bacchae.

(Personally, I think the Stoker novel alone could be the basis of a really good libretto and opera!)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Yes, Various People Did See This Coming, SFS/MGT Edition

An informal note from the San Francisco Symphony conveys the following news to the ink-stained wretches:
.....At this time, we can confirm that Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla has had to postpone her debut with the San Francisco Symphony (scheduled for April 30-May 2, 2020) due to maternity/family leave following the birth of her child.
That MGT was canceling two years of guest conducting contracts has already been in the news, and I can confirm that there has been talk about her scheduled SFS appearance among my friends, at least.

Let me speculate about the replacement: it'll be James Gaffigan, who leads the program immediately after MGT's, and who just happens to be in town this week if anyone at SFS wants to chat with him.

Or maybe Esa-Pekka Salonen would like to take this program, as he did this past January when MGT withdrew. His schedule for 2019-20 isn't posted yet on his web site, but that week the Philharmonia is being conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, so maybe Salonen is available. For obvious reasons he might be the first conductor to get offered the concert.

Performers have a total right to decide what schedule is best for them and their families, and they are going to come to different conclusions. I hope we'll see MGT in SF at some point.

NCCO's All-Male 2019-20 Season

New Century Chamber Orchestra has announced its 2019-20 season, and it's the kind of thing you just didn't see under Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg: an all-male season. Alas, because it's a good season with a lot of interesting and rarely-heard music, just that none of it was composed by women.

Fin de siècle 
September 26-29, 2019
Daniel Hope, Music Director & Concertmaster
Simos Papanas, Guest Concertmaster
Maxim Landos, piano

Thursday, September 26, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church Berkeley, Berkeley
Saturday, September 28, 2019, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Sunday, September 29, 2019, 3:00 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael

Ernest Chausson: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings
            Simos Papanas, violin
            Maxim Landos, piano

Edward Elgar: Chanson de Matin
Elgar: Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47
Christian Sinding: Adagio from Suite im alten Stil, Op. 10
Jules Massenet: Méditation from Thaïs
Arnold Schoenberg: Notturno for Strings and Harp
Richard Strauss: Morgen for Violin and Strings


Simone Dinnerstein Leads Bach
November 7-10, 2019
Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Thursday, November 7, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church Berkeley, Berkeley
Friday, November 8, 2019, 7:30pm, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday, November 9, 2019, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Sunday, November 10, 2019, 3:00 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael

Johann Sebastian Bach: Keyboard Concerto in E Major, BWV 1053
J.S. Bach/Busoni: Ich ruf zu dir
J.S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056
J.S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052
J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050


Christmas with Anne Sofie von Otter
December 18-20, 2019
Daniel Hope, concertmaster
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano

Wednesday, December 18, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Thursday, December 19, 2019, 7:30 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Friday, December 20, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Johann Sebastian Bach: “Schliesse, mein Herze, dies selige Wunder” from The Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
George Frideric Handel: “As with rosy steps the morn” from Theodora, HWV 68
Handel: “Cara sposa” from Rinaldo, HWV 7
Thad Jones: A Child is Born
Irving Berlin: White Christmas
Robert Wells: The Christmas Song
Traditional: O Tannenbaum
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano

Antonio Vivaldi: Winter from The Four Seasons
            Daniel Hope, violin

Handel: Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op. 6 No. 10, HWV 328
Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6 No. 8 "Christmas Concerto”


Beethoven in the Presidio
January 23-25, 2020
Daniel Hope, violin
Lynn Harrell, cello
Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Friday, January 24, 2020, 7:30 p.m., Presidio Theater, San Francisco

Ludwig van Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 102 No.2
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”
Beethoven: Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1 No. 1

Saturday, January 25, 2020, 7:30pm., Presidio Theater, San Francisco

Additional Performance:
Thursday, January 23, 2020, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Beethoven: Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
            Daniel Hope, violin
            Lynn Harrell, cello
            Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21


Music of the Spheres
May 13-17, 2020
Daniel Hope, concertmaster
San Francisco Girls Chorus

Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 7:30 p.m., Bing Concert Hall, Palo Alto
Thursday, May 14, 2020, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Saturday, May 16, 2020, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Sunday, May 17, 2020, 3:00 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael

Gabriel Prokofiev: Spheres
Johann Paul von Westhoff (Arr. Christian Badzura): Imitazione delle Campane
Philip Glass: Echorus
Michael Nyman: Trysting Fields
Karsten Gundermann: Faust
Arvo Pärt: Fratres
John Williams: Starkiller from Star Wars (Arr. for strings)
Gustav Holst: Mars and Jupiter from The Planets (Arr. for strings)

Gabriel Fauré (Arr. John Rutter): Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11
Aleksey Igudesmann: Lento
Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace: Benedictus
            Featuring the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Monday, May 06, 2019

Museum Mondays

"Paris Street, Rainy Day", by Gustave Caillebotte
Art Institute of Chicago
March, 2019

This is a very famous painting, one that I have seen reproduced and discussed many times. What I did not know, because I'd never seen it in person, is that it is enormous, measuring about 7 x 9 feet. It's a fabulous painting - you can see the rain glistening on the cobblestones - and wonderful to see in person from just about any distance.

Apologies for my lousy, crooked phone cam photo. My nice little Canon point & shoot, which has a level built into the display screen, had run out of battery by the time I got to the Art Institute, following an architectural tour. (My dSLR's battery is good for at least a thousand photos, but I didn't take it on this trip.)

If you want to read more about the painting, and see a better reproduction, the Art Institute has a web page for "Paris Street, Rainy Day".

Friday, May 03, 2019

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Solano Winds Concert

If you're in the Fairfield, CA area, Solano Winds has a nice program coming up:

The Solano Winds Ensemble wraps up its season spotlighting the talents within the ensemble. The Take Five presentation will feature not only a brass quintet but also a woodwind quintet Friday, May 10th at eight in the evening at the Downtown  Theatre in Fairfield.

Friday, May 10, 8 p.m.
Downtown Theatre 
1035 Texas St. 
Fairfield, CA 94533

  • Schubert, Allegretto
  • Novak, American Spiritual Medley and Pollack, That’s A Plenty (brass quintet)
  • Handel, arrange. Doherty, Suite from the Water Music

To buy tickets:

  • On the group's web site ( - go to the CONCERTS tab
  • On the Downtown Theatre website ( - go to the BOX OFFICE tab
  • By telephone or in person with the Downtown Theatre Box Office - see their website for hours, etc.

Tickets are $17 for adults, $13 for students and seniors.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lieder Alive! 2019-20 Season

Lieder Alive! has a nice season coming up, although I gotta point out that it appears to be an all-dead-white-male season and mostly 19th century. C'mon, singers and presenters. There are lots of great 20th and 21st century art songs too.

Sunday, September 1, 5pm
Artists: Sarah Cambidge, soprano; Peter Grünberg, piano
Program: Schubert, Strauss—Vier Letzte Lieder

Sunday, September 29, 5pm
Artists: Eugene Villanueva, baritone; Peter Grünberg, piano
Program: Settings of poems by Heinrich Heine

Sunday, October 6, 5pm
Artists: Pene Pati, tenor; Ronny Michael Greenberg, piano
Program: StraussTosti

Sunday, November 10, 5pm
Artists: Esther Rayo, soprano; Peter Grünberg, piano
Program: Schumann, Wolf—Spanisches Liederbuch, Obradors, Montsalvatge, Granados, De Falla

Sunday, January 19, 5pm
Artists: Kindra Scharich, mezzo-soprano; Jeffrey LaDeur, piano
Program: Schumann–Liederkreis, Opus 39; Waldszenen, Opus 82

Sunday, March 29, 5pm
Artists: Kirk Eichelberger, bass; Simona Snitkovskaya, piano
Program: Schumann–Dichterliebe, Tchaikovsky

Sunday, May 24, 5pm
Artists: Heidi Moss Erickson, soprano; Peter Grünberg, piano
Program: Schubert, Strauss, Neue Lieder

Sunday, June 28, 5pm
Artists: John Parr, piano; guest artist and program TBA

Ticket Information 
Subscriptions for the eight-concert series are $300 (reserved seating) or $200 (general admission).
Mini-subscriptions to any three concerts are also available for $150/$100. Single tickets for all
concerts are $75 (reserved seating), $35 (general admission) and $20 (students, seniors, and
working artists) in advance; tickets at the door are $40. All tickets include bubbly libations
and reception with the artists. Subscriptions and single tickets may be purchased at 
Eventbrite ( or by calling (415) 561-0100. For more information, 

Venue Information
Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez, between 23rd Street and Elizabeth, San Francisco [map]. 
Doors open a half hour prior to performance time.
Attachments area

Met Casting Update: Die Walküre

No explanation for this, so I'm hoping all is well with Jamie Barton; I liked Schuster a lot in Elektra last year:

April 24, 2019
Michaela Schuster will sing Fricka in tomorrow’s performance of Wagner’s Die Walküre, replacing Jamie Barton.
Schuster makes her Met role debut as Fricka, a role she has sung previously at Vienna State Opera. She made her Met debut last season as Klytämnestra in Strauss’s Elektra, and this season sings Waltraute in Götterdämmerung as a part of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. She sings regularly for all the leading German opera houses and for international companies including Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, La Scala, the Salzburg Festival, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Her wide repertory includes many other Wagner roles such as Ortrud in Lohengrin, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, and Kundry in Parsifal; 20th-century roles such as Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck and Judith in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, and several roles in operas by Richard Strauss and in Italian repertory, including Amneris in Verdi’s Aida, Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
The cast for Die Walküre includes Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Greer Grimsley as Wotan, and Günther Groissböck as Hunding. Philippe Jordan conducts.
Performances of Der Ring des Nibelungen run through May 11, 2019.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Joseph Young Named Berkeley Symphony Music Director

Joseph Young
Photo by Jeff Roffman

Cheery news from the Berkeley Symphony: Joseph Young has been named their next music director, succeeding Music Director Emerita Joana Carneiro, who stepped down at the end of the 2017-18 season. Young's first contract runs from the 2019-20 Season through 2021-22. 

He is a former Assistant MD of the Atlanta Symphony, where he conducted many concerts, and was also MD of their youth symphony orchestra; he served in Atlanta from 2014-17.

Below the cut, here's most of the press release, omitting only a sentence or two from the original.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Grist for the Web Site Basics Page

There's an organization in town whose performances I don't attend very often, but this season, there are a couple I'd like to see. I went to buy my tickets and discovered I hadn't saved my password, presuming I have an account there, and there's no guest purchase option.

So I tried the reset process. I clicked the link to request a password change email; I got the email; I copied the link into my preferred browser. I generated a password and typed it in, twice.

And I got a Token Expired error.

SO I tried again. This time, after I got the email from the organization, I just clicked the link and typed in the password I had generated.

I got a Token Expired error again. This means that the org has a time limit set somewhere that is too short for actually changing your password. There's a note to call the box office if you have a problem changing your password, but if I liked to make phone calls, I wouldn't be trying to order on the web site.

I emailed the box office instead, asking them to pass my email to IT so that the problem could be fixed. It's possible that I never had a password for this organization, but if that is the problem, that should be the error message I get: we can't find an account for you, so click this link to create one.

Le sigh. If I find myself in that neighborhood, I will buy at the box office. If not....well, maybe the org will fix this UX issue before the performance I'd like to see.

SFS Program Change

Received from SFS, not a press release but a program note; press release to follow:
The San Francisco Symphony’s June 27–30 semi-staged production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde—originally scheduled for performance alongside Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges—has been postponed to a future season. Noye’s Fludde will be performed at a later date as a community event featuring a wide variety of amateur musicians, and additional information will be announced when details are available. The semi-staged production of Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges featuring the dazzling Maestro Arts production<> will remain the headliner of the program; additional first half programming will be announced shortly.
LA Opera has led a number of community-based performances of the Britten over the years; community involvement is generally part of it, with performances at the cathedral, which is a few blocks from WDCH and the Dot. I'm personally disappointed because I've never seen Noye's Fludde, but I guess this might mean an amateur like me might be able to perform with SFS.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Léonin and Pérotin

Music by early masters of polyphony who worked at Notre Dame de Paris:



Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris
October, 2018
Photo by me

Notre Dame de Paris is on fire; the spire has collapsed and it seems that if the roof hasn't collapsed, it will very soon. There were renovations under way and it's possible that something went wrong with an electrical connection or something like that.

Two of the earliest composers for whom we have names, and whose compositions can be identified, worked at Notre Dame, Léonin and Pérotin. Their style is known in the US as Notre Dame polyphony.

On Flickr, I have a full album of photos I took last October of the great church. This is unimaginably sad, a tremendous loss for the world and for me personally.

Museum Mondays

Musée national des Monuments Français 
Paris, February, 2019

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Strike

View from the uppermost balcony
Orchestra Center, Chicago
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Updates, 4/13/2019:

1. I forgot to link to ICSOM's press release supporting the musicians.

2. The CSO has called off concerts through April 23.

I'm late in catching up with the CSO strike, but here goes.

The core issue is the orchestra's retirement plan. At present, the musicians have what's called a defined benefit plan: you receive retirement benefits as a pension, a fixed amount annually based on years of service and perhaps your salary during your employment. I believe that pre-retirement  contributions to the plan are made by the musicians and the orchestra, but maybe don't quote me on this; it could depend on the contract, etc.

The orchestra wants to change this to a defined contribution plan, a 401(K) type plan in which contributions are made by both musicians and orchestra, but what you can draw on during retirement is a crap-shoot because you make decisions about how to invest these contributions, and there is no guaranteed payment. Worst case: you make bad decisions and you have little or nothing. The bad decisions can include not contributing enough (or at all) and making bad investment choices. You can also be the completely innocent victim of a terrible economy and lose a lot of money in a stock market crash, even if you made good investment decisions. An event like that the year before you intend to retire (or after you have retired) will affect your financial position for a long, long time.

This week, the CSO made what it calls its last, best, and final offer, which the musicians voted on and rejected last night. Here's management's statement:

Last night, the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra voted not to accept the CSOA’s last, best and final offer for a new contract and continue their strike. The CSOA shared details of that offer publicly, and we encourage you to read the news release.
We have proposed a long-term agreement that would allow the parties to repair their working relationship, bring stability to the organization, support the musicians in a transition to a new retirement benefit and grow the annual base salary by 12%, retaining a contract that remains at the top of our industry.
The Association now faces the need to review the CSO season schedule and cancel additional concerts as needed due to the musicians’ decision to continue to strike. Today, we regret to inform you that all CSOA-presented concerts and related events scheduled through Tuesday, April 23 are postponed or canceled. For details on affected concerts, please visit We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.
Thank you for your continued support of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, and we look forward to seeing you back at Symphony Center soon.
Helen Zell
Chair, Board of Trustees
                                  Jeff Alexander

By stability, they mean "we are limiting the orchestra's responsibility to the musicians," because defined-contribution plans shift so much retirement responsibility from institutions to individuals. 401(k) plans are pretty well understood to be useful to high-earning individuals who are savvy investors, that is, people who can afford to max out their contributions.

Me, I support the musicians. Most large US orchestras have defined-benefit (pension) plans; in the last decade, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh's musicians agreed to a two-tier system in which musicians already in the orchestras stayed in an existing pension plan, and newcomers get a 401(k). This can cost a huge amount over a player's lifetime and makes those orchestras less attractive than those with traditional pension plans. I understand that orchestra jobs are so rare that the impact on hiring may not be entirely predictable, but in the case of Philly and Pittsburgh, the musicians threw future musicians under the bus.

Now, I am something of an amateur in talking about these issues. You'll want to follow Drew McManus's reports and commentary at Adaptistration for the perspective of a real pro. This link goes to posts tagged Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Before the Pulitzer Announcement

Two excellent articles this week about the Pulitzer Prize for Music:

Friday Photo

At the Grave of Claude Debussy
Cimitiere de Passy
Paris, February, 2019

I was on my way to the Palais de Chaillot and saw a sign for the cemetery, so I went to look for the graves of Debussy and Fauré.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Subscription Woes, San Francisco Symphony Edition, Part the 95th?

Photo by me.

I gave up some years ago on trying to subscribe to SFS before you can roll your own subscription, because the pre-packaged subscriptions 1) never have everything I want 2) always have concerts I would pay to avoid.

This year, the first appalling fact I want to surface publicly is that the only subscription that has both of Esa-Pekka Salonen's concerts on it is the 24-concert package on Friday nights. There are 21 different packages, but it's not obvious to SFS marketing, or whoever designs the subscriptions, that people who aren't ready to pay for a 24-concert sub might be interested in seeing both programs by the orchestra's incoming music director.

Similarly, only two series offer both MTT's semi-staged Flying Dutchman and Antonio Pappano's Act 1 of Die Walküre. Because it's a well-known fact that there just aren't many Wagner fans in the Bay Area.

This is the problem with having subscriptions that are strictly day-of-the-week- and length-based rather than interest-based. If SF Performances and Cal Performances can offer subscriptions for Early Music, New Music, Dance, Chamber Music, Theater, Pianists, and Vocalists, why can't San Francisco Symphony offer some interest-based subscriptions??? There's a handy listing of season highlights by category....which someone developed for the web site...but there aren't subscriptions based on these categories.

Also, I'm ready to buy tickets to 16 concerts, but because they don't fall on a single subscription, I either have to buy two or three short subscriptions to get close to what I want, then swap a bunch of tickets.

One of the principles I've espoused, on my Web Site Basics page, is "Make it easy for people to give you money." Why isn't SFS ready to take my money now rather than in June??

And, because I like to offer free advice, here's how ticketing should work for an organization such as SFS, beyond the fixed subscription packages.

1. You see a page listing the concerts, repertory, performers, and the dates of those concerts.

2. You pick a concert date.

3. You see a new page on which you pick your seat. (This exists already for every theater that uses Tessitura with the pick-your-own-seat module. SFS is one of them.)

4. When you accept the seat, the flow loops back to 1.

5. You go through this flow until you have every ticket you want. You click Review.

6. You see a page listing the concerts, seats, and prices, and the total price of your order.

7. You delete any tickets you're having second thoughts about and click Check Out.

8. You pay, make a donation, pay for parking, etc. And you're done!

(Consider this advice not only to SFS, but to Tessitura.)

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

New Philadelphia Orchestra Contract, 2019

The Philadelphia Orchestra has had some tough times in the last 20 years, including an ill-advised relocation, a terrible board, their hiring of a terrible chief executive, and bankruptcy. As I just noted in the previous post, they also have a two-tier contract.

You might expect more troubles, but last year, Matias Tarnopolsky became their President and CEO, and this year, the orchestra and musicians came to an agreement very quietly and without fuss. Here's the press release from last month; it contains a lot of good news:

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association
and the Musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra  
Invest in the Future with New Four-Year Contract

Agreement includes annual wage increase and addition of two members to the Orchestra

Sunday afternoon concerts to increase to 18 per season, in response to community interest

Agreement reached six months before expiration of current contract;
first early agreement in modern history of the Orchestra

(Philadelphia, March 12, 2019)—The Philadelphia Orchestra Association and the Musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra today jointly announce the ratification of a new four-year collective bargaining agreement, effective September 16, 2019, through September 10, 2023. Completed six months prior to the expiration of the current contract—a first in the modern history of the Orchestra—the new agreement represents a joint investment in the organization’s future. 

Under the terms of the new agreement, the Orchestra’s complement will increase by two positions over the course of the four-year term: one in 2020-21 and one in 2022-23. Additionally, musician salaries will increase over the term of the contract: 2% in year one, 2.5% in year two, 2.5% in year three, and 3% in year four. In response to community interest, the number of Sunday concerts will increase from 12 to 18 per season. 

“With this pathbreaking agreement, our intention is to position The Philadelphia Orchestra for an artistically exciting and financially robust future—for all the people of Philadelphia and the many, many fans of the Orchestra across the country and around the world,” said Richard B. Worley, chairman of the Board. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to thank all involved for their good faith negotiations and commitment to a strong and healthy institution.”

“This early agreement is the fruit of years of work invested in strengthening relationships among Musicians, the Board of Directors, Administrative Staff, Volunteers, and all of our stakeholders. This allows us to look to the future with confidence,” said William Polk, chair of the Negotiating Committee of the Orchestra. “I would like to thank Chairman Richard B. Worley and the Board of Directors of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association for their wise stewardship of our, and Philadelphia’s, treasured institution. I would also like to offer my thanks to President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky and his able administrative team for engaging with us in a straightforward and respectful process. The Musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra are proud to represent this great city by continuing to set the highest standards for music performance, both at home and on the world stage.”

“Through this unprecedented early and long-term agreement, the Musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Board of Directors and Administrative Staff of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association send a powerful message to the people of Philadelphia: this is your Orchestra, and together we are focused on creating our brightest future ever,” said Orchestra President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky. “My sincere thanks to all for moving swiftly and sincerely through the negotiation process, and for supporting fairness and stability. Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra are now poised to embrace an ever more exciting future.”

“The spirit of the process that brings us to this new agreement reflects the beauty of the musicians, of the people of the Association, and of The Philadelphia Orchestra as one whole passionate musical body that I have come to know and love, very much, in these seven years together,” said Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “We are here to engage in the joy of music, to be part of the heart and the soul of the beautiful communities of Philadelphia—and now we have a new, long horizon ahead of us. My deep thanks to all for this, for your generosity and commitment.”

Reflecting a commitment to collaboration and to building a bright future together, Association leadership and the Negotiating Committee of the Orchestra embarked on the negotiation process with goals of early ratification and equitable and responsible increases. The Negotiating Committee consists of chair William Polk, violin; Derek Barnes, cello; Holly Blake, contrabassoon; Gloria dePasquale, cello; David Fay, bass; and Joseph Parente, president of the Philadelphia Musicians’ Union, Local 77, American Federation of Musicians. Participating on behalf of the Association were President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky, Executive Director Ryan Fleur, and Director of Orchestra Personnel Marilyn Rife.