Monday, April 26, 2021

Family Connections

If a couple of names in my previous post seemed familiar, you can consider yourself alert and on top of things: the conductors Ken-David Masur and Joshua Weilerstein, who will be appearing at San Francisco Symphony in the near future, come from musical families. Masur is the son of the late Kurt Masur, who led the NY Philharmonic and the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Weilerstein's parents are Donald Weilerstein, distinguished teacher and longtime first violin of the Cleveland Quartet, and Vivian Hornick Weilerstein, pianist. His sister is the cellist Alicia Weilerstein.

Coming from such families gives you a leg up, in exposure to music, in early training, in name recognition, in the people you meet socially and in the business, contacts most of us just haven't got access to. The brilliant Kate (McMansion Hell) Wagner wrote an article in 2019 about what it's like to try to make it even in the lower echelons of classical music if you come from a less-privileged family. Think about it: classical music just isn't a meritocracy, owing to the different access and privilege that different people have.

The Return of San Francisco Symphony

Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Welcome news from Davies today: starting in May, San Francisco Symphony will present concerts again. They will be about 90 minutes, with reduced attendance and a small orchestra, with every masked, and you'll have to present evidence that you have been vaccinated. Esa-Pekka Salonen (our new! music! director!) and guest conductors will lead these programs.

I think I might be up for this! The announced programs are certainly tasty.

Here's the schedule as of today; full programming will be announced next month:

Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, May 7, 2021 at 7pm
San Francisco Symphony

JEAN SIBELIUS Rakastava (final version)

GEORGE WALKER Lyric for Strings

CARL NIELSEN Little Suite for Strings


EDVARD GRIEG From Holberg’s Time Suite

Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, May 14, 2021 at 7pm
Jeremy Denk piano, director
San Francisco Symphony

WILLIAM GRANT STILL Out of the Silence

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052

GERALD FINZI Eclogue for Piano and Strings

WOLFGANG AMADÈ MOZART Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major, K.449

Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, May 21, 2021 at 7pm

James Gaffigan conductor
San Francisco Symphony
FREYA WALEY-COHEN Talisman [U.S. Premiere]


SAMUEL BARBER Adagio for Strings

Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, May 28, 2021 at 7pm

Ken-David Masur conductor
San Francisco Symphony
Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, June 4, 2021 at 7pm

Joseph Young conductor
San Francisco Symphony

Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, June 11, 2021 at 7pm

San Francisco Symphony

Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, June 18, 2021 at 7pm

San Francisco Symphony

Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 7pm
Friday, June 25, 2021 at 7pm

San Francisco Symphony

Christa Ludwig

Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano, died on Saturday, age 93. She was the best of the best, one of the greatest of postwar singers, with a beautiful voice, temperament, sensitivity, musicality. She had it all and was outstanding in every repertory she sang: Mozart, Strauss, Wagner, Lieder. I have one oddity around that is...not...quite....right: a Rossini aria, in German, made during the years when you heard opera in the vernacular in many European countries. But of all her recordings that I know, that's the only even slightly off item. 

There are a couple of Immolations, delivered with such force and imagination that you realize that had she been a soprano, she would have been on the same lofty plateau as Varnay and Nilsson. Of course, you can tell this from her Brangäne, her Fricka, her Ortrud, her Dyer's Wife, and on and on; from her Mahler, especially on Klemperer's Das Lied von der Erde; her Mozart, where I first heard her on Klemperer's Magic Flute, as one of the Queen of the Night's ladies; as the Witch in Hansel und Gretel, which she said was her favorite role.

To my great regret, I never heard her live; she retired from opera around when I got seriously interested, and sang at San Francisco Opera only once anyway, in an early-70s Rosenkavalier. I'm grateful for her enormous recorded legacy, even though it's not the same.

RIP Christa Ludwig; you were one of the giants.

Museum Mondays

Former Marciano Foundation Museum, Los Angeles
June, 2019


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

(Belated) Museum Mondays

Artificial Leg
Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret Museum, London 
November, 2019


Friday, April 16, 2021

Dudamel to Paris Opera

The NY Times reports that Gustavo Dudamel will become the next music director of the Paris Opera. Well....uh....he has comparatively limited opera experience and my general impression is that the Paris job is complicated, with two houses and a huge schedule. The appointment also overlaps with his music directorship at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he has an excellent orchestra, a great hall, and a fantastic, forward-looking administration to work with. The Times article notes that he's not great with languages, and while things have changed a lot in France, I think you'd better speak French if you're working there.

Lastly, does he get to keep the LA Phil job?! As I've noted repeatedly, there's so much musical talent and skill in the world that it's ridiculous that anyone has more than one major appointment. No, YN-S should not have the Met and Philly; Andris Nelsons should not have the Boston Symphony and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, etc., etc.

I had thought that there was a good chance of the Paris job going to Susanna Mälkki. She is the principal guest conductor of the LA Phil, so I guess this further cements the possibility of her become their next music director, should two jobs ten hours apart not actually work for Dudamel.

 Open positions:

  • Royal Opera, when Sir Antonio Pappano leaves for the LSO in September, 2024.
  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, when Robert Spano leaves at the end of 2021-22. 
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, when MGT leaves at the end of 2021-22
  • Baltimore Symphony, because Marin Alsop did not renew her contract there
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra following the firing of Daniele Gatti
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: Stephen Lord resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. OTSL has not named a new music director.
  • Michigan Opera Theater: Stephen Lord resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. MOT has not named a new music director.
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda. the Teatro Regional's has not named a new music director.
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie has left. MO has not named a new music director. 
  • Sarasota Orchestra after Anu Tali  leaves at the end of 2018-2019. Jeffrey Kahane is "artistic advisor" but whether that means he is conducting the orchestra....I do not know.
  • Melbourne Symphony: Sir Andrew Davis leaves at the end of 2019. No new music director has been named.
  • Virginia Symphony: JoAnn Falletta is now laureate, but nsuccessor has been named.
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • 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):
  • Miguel Harth-Bedoya
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Juanjo Mena
  • Ludovic Morlot
  • Sian Edwards
  • Jun Markl
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • David Robertson
  • Peter Oundjian
  • Philippe Auguin
  • Kwame Ryan
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
  • Carlos Kalmar
And closed:
  • Paris Opera signs Gustavo Dudamel to succeed Philippe Jordan.
  • London Symphony Orchestra: Sir Antonio Pappano becomes Chief Conductor Designate in September, 2023, Chief Conductor the following year.
  • Fort Worth Symphony: Robert Spano to succeed Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
  • Oregon Symphony: David Danzmayr succeeds Carlos Kalmar at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Maxim Emelyanychev has succeeded Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre de Paris, Klaus Mäkelä to succeed Daniel Harding
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Raphael Payare has succeeded Kent Nagano.
  • Richmond Symphony: Valentina Peleggi succeeds Steven Smith.
  • Singapore Symphony: Han Graf succeeded Lan Shui.
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales: Ryan Bancroft succeeded Thomas Søndergård
  • BRSO hires Sir Simon Rattle to succeed the late Mariss Jansons, effective 2023.
  • Jader Bignamini is now Music Director of the Detroit SO, succeeding Leonard Slatkin.
  • Opera North: Garry Walker is music director designate
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra names Simone Young their chief conductor; she takes over in two years, succeeding David Roberts.
  • San Francisco Opera appoints Eun Sun Kim its music director, starting August 1, 2021. She succeeds Nicola Luisotti.
  • Philharmonia Orchestra names Santtu-Matias Rouvali as its next Principal Conductor, starting in 2021-22.

Friday Photo


Davies Symphony Hall
February 29, 2020

The Program

I do realize that I should have run this a few weeks ago.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Museum Mondays

Facade of Sir Paul Pindar's House
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, November, 2019

This facade is all that's left of Sir Paul Pindar's house, one of the great Elizabethan private houses in London's Spitalfields neighborhood. The structure, or part of it, survived well into the 19th century before being demolished, with this bit saved.


Monday, April 05, 2021

Museum Mondays

Virgin and Child
Relief in limestone ("Verona marble")
Italian, c. 1160-80
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, November, 2019


Friday, April 02, 2021

Friday Photo

Eggs from Full Belly Farm
Each one is a different color.
March, 2021
Oakland, CA


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Spring at OTSL

Opera Theatre of St. Louis has a very nice spring season on offer, all performed outdoors:

  • Gianni Schicchi, Puccini
  • Highway 1, U.S.A., William Grant Still
  • La Voix Humaine, Poulenc
  • New Works, Bold Voices (three new short works)
  • I Dream a World, a Celebration of Juneteenth
Patricia Racette is singing Elle and directing the Poulenc; the wonderful baritone Will Liverman is in Highway 1, as is soprano Nicole Cabell. The new short works look great, as well; they're by Damien Sneed, Laura Karpman, and Steven Mackey. Leonard Slatkin conducts the Puccini and Still works.