Thursday, August 26, 2021

Emerson Quartet to Retire

The Emerson String Quartet, among the most famous and honored quartets of the last several decades, has decided that it's time to retire. The members will continue to perform together until the end of the summer of 2023, two years from now.

The group was formed 47 years ago, when the founders were students at the Juilliard School in NYC. The current members are violinist Philip Setzer, 70, a founder; Eugene Drucker, violin, 69, also a founder; Lawrence Dutton, 67, violist, who joined in 1977, and cellist Paul Watkins, who joined in 2013 and replaced David Finckel.

I only heard the Emerson live once, in a stupendous program that included works by Martinu, Saariaho, and Sheng. I loved it all. A string-playing friend later mention to me that their sound - which was huge and definitely scaled to large concert halls - was somewhat controversial, and that the smaller, more intimate sound I heard from another quartet around the same time was often thought to be closer to the ideal for a quartet.

There's a NY Times article with this news, and it includes the following quotation from Setzer:

“At a certain point you think, ‘Let’s end when we’re all really playing our best and the group sounds good.’ And when people are going to be surprised we’re stopping and not, ‘Oh, you’re still playing?’ ”

This is an issue for all performing artists as they age, because humans have physical limits. If you play a string or wind instrument, changes in your hearing might make it harder to tell whether you're in tune. If you're a dancer, your body takes a constant pounding. Singers' voices change over time and perhaps high notes get harder to hit. After a concert in which at least one member of a different string quartet had obvious-to-the-audience technical issues, I blogged about this question. It really, truly, wasn't the Emerson; it was a distinguished, but less-well-known quartet. Still, one commenter guessed that it might have been the Emersons. I was surprised, but I hadn't heard them in several years at that point, and I couldn't speak to how well they were playing.

The group leaves a large recorded legacy of around 50 sets, if I'm reading their web site correctly, and many, many students from master classes, individual teaching, and the Emerson String Quartet Institute at Stony Brook University.  (They will continue their teaching work as a group and individually, as I understand it; their Institute will continue.) I am sure that they will be greatly missed.

UPDATED 27 August 2021: Added NY Times link and clarified the group's continuing activity as teachers.

Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan
Photo courtesy of Oakland Symphony

Truly terrible news; Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland Symphony for 30 years, has died of an infection at age 63. He was widely respected and deeply loved; he did great work on the podium and in the community.  The Oakland Symphony had great programming throughout his tenure, with an amazing variety of work performed that wasn't from the "core repertory". He was a good opera conductor; I saw him lead The Marriage of Figaro, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Ariadne auf Naxos with Festival Opera. From all accounts, he was also a thoroughly decent and kind human. RIP, Michael Morgan; you were one of the good ones.

Here's the announcement from the orchestra:

It is with a breaking heart that we inform you that Michael Morgan, Music Director and Conductor of Oakland Symphony since 1991, died peacefully today, August 20, 2021 at Oakland Kaiser where he had been admitted last week for an infection. He was 63.

In May of this year, Michael Morgan underwent successful kidney transplant surgery at UCSF.  He resumed conducting last month for the San Francisco Symphony and Bear Valley Music Festival. 

Micahel was born in Washington, D.C., where he attended public schools and began conducting at the age of 12. While a student at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, he spent a summer at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, studying with Gunther Schuller and Seiji Ozawa. He first worked with Leonard Bernstein during that same summer. His operatic debut was in 1982 at the Vienna State Opera, conducting Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. In 1986, Sir Georg Solti chose him to become the Assistant Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for seven years under both Solti and Daniel Barenboim. In 1986, he was invited by Leonard Bernstein to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic. As guest conductor, Morgan has appeared with most of America’s major orchestras, as well as the New York City Opera, St. Louis Opera Theater, and Washington National Opera.

In addition to his duties with the Oakland Symphony, Maestro Morgan served as Artistic Director of Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, Music Director at Bear Valley Music Festival, and Music Director of Gateways Music Festival. He was Music Director Emeritus of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera and was on the boards of Oaktown Jazz Workshops and the Purple Silk Music Education Foundation.

In 2020, he began an association with the San Francisco Symphony as the first curator of their Currents online series, and he recently led the Orchestra on July 23 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco in what the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman said, “Some conductors use a guest appearance with a major orchestra as an opportunity to show what they can do. Michael Morgan uses it to show what the orchestra can do. I like his way better.”

His programming engaged new audiences and many returned for subsequent concerts. Notable personalities like W. Kamau Bell and Dolores Huerta were invited to share the “Playlist” of music that shaped their lives and values.  Michael’s “Notes From…” concerts explored the music and musicians of such specific communities as Vietnam, Korea, Native American and LGBTQ+.  “Lost Romantics” gave deserving, neglected works of the late 19th century a new hearing.   And “American Masterworks” presented performances of such seminal stage works as “West Side Story,” “Candide,” “Street Scene,” “Porgy and Bess,” and “Show Boat.”  The San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed, "In his 30 years as music director of the Oakland Symphony, Morgan has made that orchestra a vibrant hotbed for innovative programming.”

"Our entire organization is grieving a profound loss,” Jim Hasler, the Symphony’s Board Chair said.  “Michael’s impact on our community and the national orchestra field cannot be overstated - and he has left us too soon.  We have been blessed over the past 30 years, as Michael built the foundations of an Oakland Symphony dedicated to diversity, education, artistic collaboration and a celebration of music across genres and cultures.  His vision of orchestras as service organizations was a beacon locally and nationally.  This vision is his legacy, and the Oakland Symphony, Chorus and Youth Orchestra will renew his commitment for years to come.”  

“This is a terribly sad moment for everyone in the Oakland Symphony family.  We have lost our guiding father,” said Executive Director Mieko Hatano.  “Michael’s plans and ambitions were set for several seasons to come.  He made his Orchestra socially authentic, demanded equality, and he made his Orchestra our orchestra.  He fashioned a unique, informed artistic profile that attracted one of the most diverse audiences in the nation. His music reflected his beliefs:  reverence for the past, attuned to the future, rooted in his adopted home of Oakland.  His spirit will always guide the enduring future of the Oakland Symphony.” 

Michael Morgan is survived by his mother Mabel Morgan, and sister Jacquelyn Morgan. A memorial service will be announced in the near future.

UPDATED with various additional remembrances and obits


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Tosca, SFO, Media Round-Up

Ailyn Pérez as Tosca and Michael Fabiano as Cavaradossi 
in Puccini's Tosca
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Well, that was a terrific Tosca; bravo to Eun Sun Kim, Ailyn Pérez, Michael Fabiano, Alfred Walker, Solomon Howard, Joel Sorensen, Dale Travis, and more. I've got a review coming out, but not for a while. Here's what everyone else thinks.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Monday, August 23, 2021

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Rolling My Eyes

Yesterday, San Francisco Symphony sent around this press release:


—The San Francisco Symphony today announces that Ragnar Bohlin will step down as the Orchestra’s Chorus Director at the end of August 2021. 
Bohlin began his tenure as Chorus Director of the San Francisco Symphony in March 2007. Under his leadership, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus received a Grammy for Best Choral Performance for the recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. With the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, Bohlin has conducted such works as J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Mass in B minor, Handel’s 
Messiah, Arvo Pärt's Te Deum, and a cappella works such as Poulenc’s Figure Humaine. Bohlin is also the founding Artistic Director of the professional chamber choir Cappella SF with which he has recorded four CDs. In March 2013, he was awarded the Cultural Achievement Award from the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco, and in 2018 the Michael Korn award from Chorus America. 

“In his fourteen years as Chorus Director, Ragnar has been a vital part of the San Francisco Symphony’s artistic leadership,” said San Francisco Symphony Interim CEO Matthew Spivey. “He is a gifted and expressive musician and has led the San Francisco Symphony Chorus through countless artistic achievements and memorable performances. He will be greatly missed, and we wish him well as he embarks on his next chapter.”

San Francisco Symphony Chorus performances in the 2021-22 Season include Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9; George Frideric Handel’s Messiah; Johannes Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, NänieGesang der Parzen, and Schicksalslied; Jack Perla’s arrangements of “Give Me Jesus,” “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord”; and semi-staged productions of Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex and his Symphony of Psalms. The San Francisco Symphony will engage guest chorus directors to prepare these performances; more information about guest directors will be announced at a later date.

I thought that this was unfortunate in multiple ways; first, that with such a short notice period, SFS is without a chorus director with the season opening in around a month, second, that he has been an outstanding chorus director. Under his direction, the already-excellent SFS Chorus became more precise, diction improved, and general musicality seemed to get better.

But when I looked around for more information, I found Lily Janiak's Chron article, in which the headline and subhead say it all:  San Francisco Symphony Choral Director Ragnar Bohlin resigns over vaccine mandate;  Bohlin has been outspoken about his anti-vaccination views on his Facebook page.

Big sigh. The article has quotations from Bohlin, whom Janiak phoned, and SFS confirmed that this was why he resigned. I mean, a choir rehearsal was an early super-spreader event in this pandemic! There could be immunocompromised people in the SFS chorus! The room they rehearse in is not huge and I don't know how good the ventilation is. So, a lot of sighing and eye-rolling from here. (Including at the "critical thinker" over on Twitter who admired Bohlin standing up for his beliefs. I don't find it all that admirable when someone is willing to endanger others in the middle of a pandemic.)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Friday, August 13, 2021

Music at Kohl Mansion

The chamber music series Music at Kohl Mansion returns to live programming for 2021-22. 

Sunday, October 31:  Harlem Quartet with pianist-composer Aldo López-Gavilán 

Program of Schumann and works to be announced in early October.

Noted for its “fresh, bracing, and intelligent” attitude towards classical music, vibrant programming, collaborations across genres, and fundamental commitment to outreach and education, the Grammy Award-winning Harlem Quartet returns for its third visit to Music at Kohl. Cuban pianist and composer Aldo López-Gavilán, brother of the Quartet’s first violinist, Ilmar López-Gavilán, joins the ensemble (with Melissa White; violin, Jaime Amador; viola; and Felix Umansky, cello) for a program full of exuberance, color, and spirit in a happy marriage of classical mastery and virtuoso jazz. The Harlem Quartet was founded in 2006 by the Sphinx Organization, and has played the world’s leading concert venues – including Carnegie Hall and The White House across North and South America, and Europe. The musicians are currently Quartet-in-Residence at London’s Royal College of Music.  


Sunday, November 21:  Rolston Quartet (MAKM Debut)

Program of Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Gabriela Lena Frank

Hailed as a “bright star in the string quartet sky,” the Rolston Quartet has received rave reviews and accolades since its founding in 2013 at Canada’s Banff Centre. After winning first prize in several prestigious competitions, the ensemble’s debut recording was named a “best classical album released in 2020” by BBC Music Magazine. This engaging foursome, (Luri Lee and Jason Issokson, violin; Hezekiah Leung, viola; and Yoshika Masuda, cello) is currently at work on a multi-year Haydn recording contract, some of which will be reflected in their Music at Kohl Mansion debut.


Sunday, December 12, 2021 - The Lee Trio (MAKM Debut)

Program of Beethoven, Schumann and Edmund Finnis (World Premiere)

An award-winning piano trio of three virtuosic performers, educators, and sisters hailing from San Francisco, the Lee Trio (Lisa Lee, violin; Angela Lee, cello; Melinda Lee Masur, piano) is recognized as one of the premier chamber ensembles on the international stage. The sisters bring their special synergy to the mainstage at Music at Kohl with a program of renowned classics punctuated by the world premiere of a work written for them, specifically composed to precede the great Beethoven Trio No. 7, “Archduke”.


Sunday, January 16, 2022 - Mesa-Yakushev Duo (MAKM Debut)

Program includes Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Andrea Casarrubios, Joaquin Nin & Lera Auerbach

Cuban-American cellist Thomas Mesa, one of the most charismatic, innovative, and engaging performers of his generation and first-prize winner of the 2016 Sphinx Competition, is joined by Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev, with many world-wide awards and honors to his credit, including concerts with the SF Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas. The pair performs magnificent sonatas by Brahms and Rachmaninoff, as well as a few exciting surprises, including the California premiere of a work by Spanish cellist-composer Andrea Casarrubios, a tribute to the essential workers during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday, February 13, 2022 – Ida Kavafian and Peter Wiley with Curtis on Tour (MAKM Debut)

Violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Peter Wiley, world renowned soloists, chamber musicians, and esteemed faculty members of Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, lead a quintet of string players (ensemble members to be announced) in Schubert’s masterful String Quintet in C Major, paired with Curtis-composer Richard Danielpour’s A Shattered Vessel. Co-commissioned by Ida Kavafian in 2019, the piece was composed as a companion to be played alongside the Schubert.

Sunday, March 6, 2022 - Musicians from the San Francisco Symphony

Five string players from our own San Francisco Symphony travel from Davies Hall to our Great Hall to offer an evening that begins with one of Rossini’s youthful string sonatas written when the composer was just 12, showcases two celebrated African American women composers of past and present, and concludes with Dvořák’s superb String Quintet. Wyatt Underhill and Jessie Fellows, violins; Matthew Young, viola; Barbara Bogatin, cello; Daniel Smith, bass. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022 - Quatuor Danel (Debut Live)

Program includes Tchaikovsky and César Franck

The French-Belgian Quatuor Danel transported viewers with their performance during MAKM’s virtual season and will travel to the Kohl Mansion to close the 39th Season live and in person. The quartet is famous for its bold, concentrated interpretations of major string quartet cycles. Its lively, fresh vision of the traditional quartet repertoire has earned the Quatuor Danel praise for vivid and intense performances that keep audiences “on the edge of their seats.” Marc Danel and Gilles Millet, violins; Vlad Bogdanas, viola; Yovan Markovitch, cello.

TICKETS: Season tickets for the full 7-concert series are now available; subscriptions are $307 (General), $292 (Senior) and $107 (age 30 and under). Single tickets for individual concerts will go on sale beginning Aug. 20; tickets are $52 (General), $49 (Senior) and $22 (age 30 and under). To purchase tickets, please visit or call the Music at Kohl Mansion Box Office, (650) 762-1130.


PRE-CONCERT TALKS: In lieu of in-person pre-concert talks for the fall concerts, all ticket holders will receive in advance informative pre-recorded remarks. 

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS: With a return to live, indoor performances in the Kohl Mansion’s Great Hall, all audience members will be required to show proof of full vaccination either at the time of purchase or prior to entry to the live concert. All staff and members of the public are required to wear a facial covering at all times while indoors. In order to allow for social distancing, Music at Kohl Management will reduce its indoor seating to a maximum of 60% of capacity. Convenient public hand sanitizing stations will be provided. 

All programs, artists and COVID-19 health and safety protocols are subject to change. Music at Kohl Mansion is located at 2750 Adeline Drive, Burlingame. For additional information about Music at Kohl Mansion, visit or phone (650) 762-1130.

Yes, There is Racism in Classical Music

It's 2021, and if there's anything that white people in the US should have learned in the last couple of years, it's that racism is pervasive and systemic across American society. It doesn't matter that any individual doesn't consider themselves racist or that any particular person doesn't behave in racist ways. That's what "systemic" means.

Here are some articles about this that have run in the Times recently, about what Asian and Asian-American musicians face in their lives and careers. It's especially dismaying that the only person of color on a DEI committee at San Francisco Symphony resigned from the committee. That tells you a lot about how effective and useful he thought the committee was.


Resonance Lines

Hannah Collins
Photo by John Paul Henry, courtesy of the cellist's web site

If you like the cello and especially if you like the music of Caroline Shaw, Kaija Saariaho, and/or Benjamin Britten, you'll want to check out Resonance Lines, a very beautiful CD of works for solo cello, performed by Hannah Collins, that will be published next month. For a sample, see the web page for Resonance Lines at Sono Luminous.

Friday Photo

Paris street Allee Verte; buildings across the street, a line of colorful, slender bollards running down this side.

Allée Verte, Paris 
February, 2019


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Juraj Valčuha to Houston

I hadn't even realized this was an open spot, but Juraj Valčuha will succeed Andrés Orozco-Estrada as music director of the Houston Symphony in the 2022-23 season.

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.
  • Opera de Paris, when Philippe Jordan leaves in 2020. No successor 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):
  • Andrés Orozco-Estrada 
  • 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:
  • 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: Rafael 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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Department of Déjà Vu

A to-the-point press release that came in this morning:


San Francisco, CA, August 11, 2021 – The inaugural Golden Gate Jazz Festival—announced for August 27-29, 2021 at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco—has been postponed, and new dates will be announced. The Festival is being rescheduled out of concern for health and safety amid ongoing changes in local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements for public events. Tickets will be automatically refunded by the ticket vendor, City Box Office. Ticket buyers can contact City Box Office for more information about refunds by emailing

Dammit. It didn't have to be this way. 

Sunday, August 08, 2021

A Reminder from the Past

If you're tempted to tangle with Heather MacDonald, directly or indirectly, over her recent awful article (part 1 of 2!), I advise ignoring her. Folks with her beliefs can't be persuaded; the only reason to engage with her or what she writes is for bystanders.

Around ten years ago, she and Greg Sandow had a dust-up and Greg wound up writing five articles, a tremendous waste of his time. I wrote about that exchange myself and mentioned her here and here. Seriously, don't bother.

Friday, August 06, 2021

News about MTT

Michael Tilson Thomas
Photo by Brandon Patoc, courtesy of San Francisco Symphony

Well, damn: a note sent by the San Francisco Symphony brings the unfortunate news that MTT has been diagnosed with a brain tumor:


After a series of tests, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required an immediate operation. The operation at the UCSF Medical Center was successful. He is now embarking on a course of therapy for the next several months which necessitates curtailing his public appearances through the end of October. MTT is being cared for by the excellent team at UCSF who are continuing to explore all possible options for treatment.

“I deeply regret missing projects that I was greatly anticipating,” said Tilson Thomas. “I look forward to seeing everyone again in November.”

Previously scheduled engagements from which Tilson Thomas is withdrawing are performances with the National Symphony Orchestra for the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
I hope that he has the easiest possible course of treatment with the best possible outcome. He'll be in my thoughts.


Thursday, August 05, 2021

Belated Friday Photo

I was there, and I kept the program.

(Photo is a NY Philharmonic program from an early 1970s Rug concert, conducted by Pierre Boulez and including works by Telemann, Stockhausen, Debussy, Haydn, and Stravinsky. I found the program in one of my bookcases. I am sure I hadn't seen it since I moved into my house in the 1990s, and I had forgotten that I kept it.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

New Century Chamber Orchestra 2021-22

Season announcement from New Century Chamber Orchestra:
New Century Returns
September 30 – October 3, 2021
Daniel Hope, Music Director & Concertmaster

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church Berkeley, Berkeley
Friday, October 1, 2021, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday, October 2, 2021, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Sunday, October 3, 2021, 3:00 p.m., St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Belvedere Tiburon
Mark-Anthony Turnage: Lament, for solo violin and string orchestra (U.S. Premiere, New Century Co-Commission)
Mieczysław Weinberg Concertino for Violin and Strings, Op. 42
Josef Suk: Serenade for Strings, Op.6


Adamo Premiere with Jeff Zeigler
November 4-7, 2021
Jeff Zeigler, Guest Leader & Cellist
Thursday, November 4, 2021, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church Berkeley, Berkeley
Friday, November 5, 2021, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday, November 6, 2021, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Sunday, November 7, 2021, 3:00 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael
Paola Prestini: From the Bones to the Fossils
Mark Adamo: Last Year (World Premiere, New Century Co-Commission)
William Grant Still: Phantom Chapel
Andy Akiho: Oscillate

Hope Leads Appalachian Spring
January 20-23, 2022
Daniel Hope, Music Director & Concertmaster
Leah Hawkins, Soprano
Thursday, January 20, 2022, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley
*Friday, January 21, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park
*Saturday, January 22, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Bing Concert Hall, Stanford
Sunday, January 23, 2022, 3:00 p.m., Presidio Theatre, San Francisco

*Presented by Green Music Center and Stanford Live, respectively

David Diamond: Rounds for Strings
Florence Price (Arr. Paul Bateman): Adoration for Violin and Strings
Various: Songs of the Harlem Renaissance, for Soprano and Orchestra
Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring (Suite for 13 Instruments)
Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante
May 12-14, 2022
Daniel Hope, Music Director & Concertmaster
Paul Neubauer, Viola
Thursday, May 12, 2022, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Friday, May 13, 2022, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday, May 14, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony in B-flat Major K. 45b
W.A. Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for Violin, Viola and Orchestra K. 364
W.A. Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor K. 550

Subscriptions to the New Century Chamber Orchestra are on sale now. Three and four-concert subscriptions range from $81 to $244 and can be purchased by calling (415) 357-1111, ext. 303, or visiting
Single tickets range in price from $30 to $67.50 and will go on sale September 7, 2021 through City Box Office: and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $10 single tickets are available for students with a valid ID and $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35.

Single tickets for New Century’s performance at the Green Music Center on January 21, 2022 will go on sale August 31, 2021 and will be available directly from the venue at
Single tickets for New Century’s performance at Bing Concert Hall on January 22, 2022 will go on sale at a later date and will be available directly from Stanford Live at
For further information on New Century, please visit

Monday, August 02, 2021

West Edge Opera 2022

Well, OKAY, this is a good-looking 2022 season:

  • Giulio Cesare, Handel.
  • Coraline 2018, Marc-Anthony Turnage
  • Ariane et Barbe-Bleu, by Dukas
Always happy to see anything by Handel, have never heard an opera by Turnage, and Ariane et Barbe-Bleu? It's an opera I never thought I would see, so I'm happy.

West Edge Opera 2021

I've been to two of this year's three operas at West Edge Opera. I can't report on the third because I'm attending its last performance and my report will be worthless to you. But here's what I thought of the first two:

Elizabeth Cree, by Kevin Puts to a libretto by Mark Campbell. 

This was fantastic in every way. I mean, I can't believe every company in the country isn't performing it. It's got a tightly-constructed and often funny libretto and excellent music; it's in English; it seems very singable; it lends itself to a range of stagings. 

Set in Victorian London, it's about....murder. And yes, it's very funny despite, or because, of that. The entire cast is terrific, with Katherine Pracht as the title character (she is on trial for killing her husband as the opera opens), Keith Phares as John Cree, Samuel Faustine as real-world character Dan Leno, a music-hall performer, Simon Barrad as Inspector Kildare, Leslie Katter as Aveline Mortimer, Christopher Job as Uncle, Ashley Dixon as Doris, J. Raymond Meyers as Victor Farrell, Glenn Healy, Linda Baird, Solas Burke-Lalgee, and Andrew Green as the Ensemble (they had various smallish roles, as a judge, Karl Marx, and George Gissing). 

Everyone was great! The direction is great! (By Sam Helfrich; I hope he'll be back!) Honestly, you want to see this, especially if you're a fan of Sweeney Todd or Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Katya Kabanova, by Leoš Janáček. 

Do I need to do anything beyond naming the composer? Because we should all attend every Janáček opera we can, among other things to persuade opera companies to program his works as much as they program the popular Verdi and Puccini operas. 

That said, I have only seen Katya once before, in a weird SFO production in the 2002-3 season, starring Karita Mattila, and something that didn't stick was what a beautiful score it is.* WEO's physical production is a little clunky, involving a lot of moving scenery around the stage and carrying potted plants on and off stage, but musically about all it lacks is a big orchestra. That's likely not logistically possible, given the venue, and the 29-piece orchestra is likely a financial stretch. 

The music and dramatic values are fine, the singing really superb. Carrie Hennessey was a truly gripping and expressive Katya, Alex Boyer a sweet-voiced Tichon (Katya's weak-willed husband), Kristin Clayton chewing the scenery, in a good way, as his impossible mother Kabanicha, Christopher Oglesby as Katya's lover Boris, the always-great Philip Skinner as Bori's awful uncle Dikoj, Sarah Coit as a gorgeous Varvara, Tichon's sister, and Chad Somers a delightful Kudrjas. Jonathan Khuner conducted, Indre Viskontas directed.

So yeah, I haven't seen Cavalli's Eliogabalo yet, but you know, when are you going to have the opportunity to see anything by Cavalli again? Get a ticket, don't worry about what the published reviews say, and have fun at it.

* Let me note that SFO has only produced this opera three times, and the conductors were Rafael Kubelik, Christoph von Dohnanyi, and Donald Runnicles. Opera doesn't get better than that.