Weekly Magazine

early-bird

PERFORMING ARTS MONTEREY BAY publishes our Calendar for the coming week every Sunday. And we publish our Weekly Magazine, including each week’s Coming Events and Fresh Reviews every Tuesday. Why wait for the Thursday and Friday daily and weekly newspapers before making your weekend plans when PAMB has already beat those guys to the punch? And why not invite your friends to also subscribe? It’s free, it’s early and we’ve got you covered!

COMING UP

10th ANNIVERSARY OF MUSIC IN MAY takes over Cabrillo Samper Recital Hall on the weekend, with world-class chamber music artists playing Schumann, Pärt, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Dohnanyi and a world premiere by TJ Cole. PIANIST JURA MARGULIS brings Scarlatti, Scriabin and Brahms to Hidden Valley on Wednesday. SANTA CRUZ AMERICAN MUSIC FESTIVAL in Aptos and CALIFORNIA ROOTS in Monterey promise a musical overload for the region. Luis Valdez’ ZOOT SUIT opens at UCSC, while several area stage productions wrap up. For details and links, click our CALENDAR or on ads, left.

THE RED GUITAR

Bruce FormanJAZZ MASTER BRUCE FORMAN returned to Carmel’s intimate Cherry Center stage on Saturday for two performances of his one-hour “jazz libretto” to the delight of full-house audiences. “It’s all about the story,” he said of both his entertaining anecdotes and yarns and his music. He launched his one-man show about ten years ago, and took narrative ideas from the films The Red Shoes and The Red Violin. His personal starting point was that moment in his young life when he was infected by the music bug—most liberating of all the be-bop bug. Musically he surveyed the jazz masters who inspired and guided him, guitarists Django Reinhardt—including an homage demo of playing with only two fingers of the left hand—Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel, and such other masters as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Ray Brown. He took us all back to childhood with a revival of Shenandoah. He had us rolling in stitches with his rewrite of the lyrics from Mr. Sandman (“Mr. Soundman.”) He played the blues: “brothers get the blues; white men get depressed.” While sleeping off some jetlag, he remembered a phone call his wife took from Cornelius Wood. He called the number and asked for Cornelius. “Who?” came the reply. He asked again. Same result. Then, “Cornelius Wood?” The voice said, “This is Clint Eastwood…” Seems the film legend needed some help with his score for Million Dollar Baby. Look for Forman’s name in the credits.

NEW S.T.A.R. GRANTS ANNOUNCED

$5,000 EACH go to DANCE KIDS, YOUTH ORCHESTRA SALINAS (YOSAL) and DUAL LANGUAGE ACADEMY OF THE MONTEREY PENINSULA. Also, $1,000 performing arts scholarships given to nine 2017 high school graduates, now added to the 35 recipients since S.T.A.R. began this program in 2012. For more info, click HERE

KLEIN INT’L STRING COMPETITION

IF YOU’VE EVER WONDERED how the Santa Cruz Symphony features a Klein prize-winner each season, you might want to go to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on June 3 and 4 to witness the judging of this year’s nine semifinalists, talented musicians from all over the world, with most trained in the US. Each contestant gets a 25-minute program that includes some JS Bach and a new commission. The top three winners then get a 35-minute recital and awards. If you go, make a point of introducing yourself to competition director Mitchell Sardou Klein, a former Santa Cruz Symphony music director/conductor. The Conservatory is located at 50 Oak Street in San Francisco. (Next season the SC Symphony will feature the first-ever Klein double-bass winner.) Click HERE

SINGING WITHOUT SOUND

MANDY HARVEY was on track to become a professional singer, until she lost her hearing. She is now working on her fourth album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORT WORTH’S MUSICAL CHAOS

THE SYMPHONY and opera have been through shocking upheaval. On top of that, the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition begins this week. There are positive signs. Click BELOW

Is Fort Worth’s Classical Music Scene On The Mend?

ODP JAZZES RAVEL’S BOLERO

ORCHESTRE DE PARIS players swing; Ellington would approve. Click HERE

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

TOOK ITS LAST BOW on Sunday in New York. You may still run away and join a circus, but it won’t be Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey. Performers reflect HERE  AS DOES the Ringmaster HERE

CITIES THAT SPEND MOST ON CULTURE

2017 REPORT LISTS TOP TEN in order: Amsterdam, Brussels, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul. See the research HERE

RICOCHET: THE PING PONG CONCERTO

ANDY AKIHO’s concerto for ping pong players, percussion and orchestra, as slapped about by the Hong Kong Philharmonic. And don’t miss the unique finish. Click HERE

FRESH REVIEW

MONTEREY SYMPHONY’s season finale featured Michael Noble in the regional premiere of Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G Minor. Click HERE

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca RC Brooks, associate editor

Monterey Symphony, May 21

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By Scott MacClelland

SAVORING Otto Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor overture, finding the tasty morsels of  Antonín Dvořák’s rarely heard Piano Concerto in G Minor and finally chewing through Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor made for an oddly unbalanced meal in Max Bragado-Darman’s last Monterey Symphony concert of the current season. In their Sunday afternoon performance in Carmel the orchestra and soloist Michael Noble could not be faulted for delivering the scheduled three course menu in excellent fettle. The appetizer sparkled with light Viennese operetta character. The main course, the Franck, inherently dark, ponderous and top-heavy with brass, recalled the long-haul symphonies of Anton Bruckner—though there is no evidence that Franck ever heard any of those writhing Wagnerian serpents who inhabit the forests of upper Austria between the low-lying Danube and the alpine headwaters of the Rhine. In between came the Dvořák, a misfit that promised—or at least proposed—more sizzle than its composer gave it. (“I see that I am unable to write a concerto for a virtuoso,” he wrote. “I must think of other things.”)

In his defense, the piano was not Dvořák’s instrument. Of course he played it competently, in public, and made marvelous use of it in his chamber music with strings. Moreover, it was his first foray in the concerto form. (His violin concerto, four years later, and the great cello concerto of 1895, lay to rest any doubt as to his mastery of virtuoso writing.) Further, no one familiar with his mature works could fail to recognize the composer’s fingerprints, right from the start, including some Bohemian folkloric allusions. Unlike the concert program notes, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Brahms’ earlier First Piano Concerto was a template; that work was the German composer’s first attempt at a symphony. And anyway, Dvořák does subscribe faithfully to the classical concerto form, safely building the long first movement around two major themes. (Various pianists have made emendations to the original, including Czech pianist Rudolf Firkušný, its most-determined 20th century champion, but who finally went back to the original. “For all the so-called clumsiness in the piano writing the original is far purer than any subsequent revision and more truly characteristic of the young Dvořák.”)

The andante sostenuto was a lovely seduction, more urban than rural in flavor. The boldly robust finale sounded closest to the familiar Dvořák, coming as it did just before the music that would put him on the map, the Slavonic Dances. Noble, who played his part from the complete score—hence the rapid-fire page turning—told me during the interval that the piece is not so easy to play. That no doubt explains why this was its regional premiere. For an encore, he sensitively offered the second intermezzo, in E, from Brahms’ Fantasien, Op 116.

The Nicolai and the Franck have nothing in common, save that both composers died soon after the premieres, Nicolai from a stroke at age 38 in 1849 two months after his charming Shakespearean singspiel was first staged, and Franck, from pleurisy and related illness at age 67 in 1890, a year and half the premiere of the symphony.

The Nicolai overture was commonly heard on classical pops concerts of years ago, a neat fit with light fare from such contemporaries as Franz von Suppé, Adolphe Adam, Johann Strauss and—from a later generation Emil von Řezníček and Franz Lehár—for whose music the goal is always clean, snappy playing and gaiety of spirit.

Franck’s ultimate claim to fame is his remarkable economy of means, his ability to recycle ideas throughout a piece, not unlike Beethoven of the Fifth Symphony, only more so. In the Symphony in D Minor, every new idea—many derived from earlier ones—reappears in ever-mounting iterations. The last movement is chockful of everything that came before. Perhaps ironically, the heavy orchestration seems at odds with French aesthetic sensibilities of the delicate touch and transparency of textures. Those qualities run true from the Baroque though the 20th century. There are exceptions of course, Berlioz was capable of great bombast, though he didn’t make a dungeon out of it. Saint-Saëns likewise on both counts. D’Indy and Lalo could get swept away. And certainly Olivier Messiaen, in the 20th century, “piling up decibels as if he were jealous of the sonic boom,” quoting the words of Igor Stravinsky. The most magical moment in the Franck was the beginning of the middle movement, with the solo harp, cor anglais, violas, horn and bassoons. But the sustained dark passages, thick textures, chromatic melodic lines and loud brass put Franck in a place all his own. Only the inflated grandiosity of Franz Liszt’s orchestral music compares. And, by the way, Franck right at the start helped himself, without attribution, to the first theme from Liszt’s symphonic poem Les Preludes. Having died a couple of years earlier, Liszt didn’t care.