Weekly Magazine

DID I HEAR AN ECHO?

Daniel_Stewart_Santa_Cruz_asideDANIEL STEWART ANNOUNCED the Santa Cruz Symphony’s 2017-18 season, during last weekend’s concerts in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. FIRST program: Holst’s The Planets, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, featuring concertmaster Nigel Armstrong. SECOND: John Adams’ The Chairman Dances, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (just heard that in Carmel) and Beethoven Symphony 7 (heard last year in Carmel). THIRD: Wagner’s Meistersinger Prelude, Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (just heard that in Carmel). FOURTH: Mozart Marriage of Figaro overture, Lou Harrison’s Marriage at the Eiffel Tower, a doublebass concerto by Giovanni Bottesini featuring the 2016 Klein String Competition winner and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K364 (heard that in January in Carmel). FIFTH: Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection.” Plus a STUNNING SURPRISE in June which will be announced officially tomorrow.

COMING UP THIS WEEK

47TH NEXT GENERATION JAZZ FESTIVAL starts Friday, 7pm, at the Golden State Theatre, and continues Saturday and Sunday, starting 9am, at various downtown Monterey venues. ESPRESSIVO ORCHESTRA plays Charles Ives’ Unanswered Question, Ned Rorem’s Eleven Studies for Eleven Players and the original chamber orchestra version of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, in Santa Cruz. SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS survey vocal and instrumental works by French composers, music by Enriquez Valderrabano and a world premiere by Chris Pratorius-Gomez, in Aptos. SIX CURRENT STAGE PRODUCTIONS continue on both sides of the bay, plus an opening on Sunday of Paul Rudnik’s I HATE HAMLET. Click our CALENDAR for links these and other events of the week.

MONTHLY JAZZ JAM SUSPENDED

HOST LEE DURLEY has sent around a notice that the popular jazz jam held every last Sunday afternoon at Embassy Suites in Seaside is on hold. He explains that the Cypress Lounge is included in a major renovation that may, or may not, result in its future use as the venue for the jazz jam. Just in case, he is evaluating alternatives.

REPUBLICAN MIKE HUCKABEE

PLEADS TO SAVE NEA FUNDING in a Washington Post op-ed. Click HERE

WHAT THE HECK IS MUSICAL ANHEDONIA?

IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE who don’t get music at all. Click HERE

SHOSTAKOVICH IN FICTION

NoiseJULIAN BARNES’ recent novel, The Noise of Time, works up three events that pivot off Solomon Volkov’s “Testimony,” a collection of interviews with the great composer that, from when it first appeared in 1979—long before the collapse of the Soviet Union—inspired great controversy. In Volkov, Shostakovich talks at length about his fear of being ‘disappeared,’ of being set up by Stalin as a stooge, yet is often very petty in his comments about colleagues. (The terrible legacy of Josef Stalin’s ‘reign of terror’ still prevailed; indeed, it seems to still.) The three chapters that make up Barnes’ book are titled “On the Landing,” “On the Plane” and “In the Car.” The first portrays Shostakovich spending his nights next to the elevator in his apartment building, suitcase packed, waiting for the men he expected on any night to take him away. (He didn’t want those men to frighten his children.) The second deals with the composer’s trip to New York as a representative of Soviet ‘values’ in opposition to those of bourgeois America. (He hated it, and himself for the things he said in public.) The third describes the composer’s induction into membership in the Communist PaTestimony_(book)rty. (Instead of speaking truth to power, he became so paranoid that he repeatedly violated his own conscience.) Yet Barnes never acknowledges Volkov’s book, notwithstanding so many of the stories, names and situations that he freely paraphrases. (I met Shostakovich’s son, conductor Maxim in 1981 in San Luis Obispo, and all he would admit to me then was that Volkov’s account “was a book about my father.”) But the Volkov continued to add both detractors and believers, among the latter such well-known Russian musical artists as Mstislav Rostropovich, Rudolf Barshai, Kirill Kondrashin, Gidon Kremer, Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter. Maxim Shostakovich, who originally rejected it, has joined them, and his sister Galina, in supporting Volkov’s portrait of their father. What comes from both books is the image of a musical genius who could never manage to square his personality with his fame, at great personal cost.

RARE SHOSTAKOVICH DOCUMENTARY

1966 FILM of composer Dmitri Shostakovich and his son, conductor Maxim Shostakovich, including such performing luminaries as Leonid Kogan, Sviatoslav Richter, Galina Vishnevskaya, Mstislav Rostropovich, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Evgeny Mravinsky and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEBORAH BORDA, SYMPHONIC RAINMAKER

MIRACLE WORKER went from the New York Phil to the Los Angeles Phil, a step down, and now back to the NYP, another step down. Alex Ross ponders her magic touch. Click HERE

DANCING WHILE DEAF

ANTOINE HUNTER, dancer, director, founder of the Bay Area Deaf International Dance Festival, feels his own beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRESH REVIEWS

SMUIN BALLET on March 25. Click HERE

YMM CONCERT at Hidden Valley, and SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY in Watsonville. Click HERE 

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca RC Brooks, associate editor

Santa Cruz Symphony, March 26

By Scott MacClelland

THE SMATTERING of empty seats at Watsonville’s Mello Center on Sunday was doubly a shame since Daniel Stewart and the strings of his Santa Cruz Symphony gave one of their best shows of the current season. I don’t remember when this ensemble of violins, violas, cello and basses sounded better, most stunningly in the expanded arrangement by Gustav Mahler of Franz Schubert’s great “Death and the Maiden” D Minor String Quartet. Honestly, I was skeptical that this immensely powerful original would actually gain from being enlarged to a full string orchestra. And I might have been right but for Stewart’s commitment to and skill in preserving the character of the string quartet itself and modulating the dynamics accordingly. Likewise the musicians’ response to his subtle phrasing and molding of the nearly 45-minute score that is notorious for undoing less than the most-seasoned ensembles who take it on. The range of dynamics ran from fortissimo to pianissimo, back and forth, as well as the ‘mezzos’ in between.

Credit to Mahler for respecting Schubert’s scale of sound. For example, the fourth variation on the “Death and the Maiden” theme in the second movement—from a song Schubert had composed years earlier—was preserved in its original form, allowing concertmaster Nigel Armstrong to take the lead unencumbered in his fanciful dancing atop the underlying harmonies, with softly seductive mute in place. Indeed, Mahler often called for the use of mutes adding, in effect, another level of tenderness sandwiched in among the other degrees of loud/soft, AKA ‘forte’ and ‘piano.’

Stewart opened the program with Arvo Pärt’s Fratres in the string orchestra version. The 11-minute piece starts and ends pianissimo but builds to a fully sonorous climax about two-thirds the way through. In this version—one of many the composer made—drum and woodblock added small bits of punctuation. The title of the now-40-year-old piece refers to brothers in a monastery. Personally, I prefer the version for violin and piano. But it was a fine choice for this program and probably introduced Pärt to local audiences—even though he was once a guest composer at the Cabrillo Festival and whose large corpus of works have been performed and recorded for decades.

Oliver-HerbertThe other welcome surprise here was cellist Oliver Herbert, winner of the 2015 Irving Klein International String Competition. Fortuitously, Herbert, like the Klein itself, is a product of the SF Bay Area, and though not yet 20, he put on a display of virtuosity and artistry that stunned the house. His chosen vehicle was the D Major concerto of 1783 by Joseph Haydn. (As scored, two oboes and two horns joined the string orchestra.) I don’t recall a performance given with such fire and absolute mastery of the instrument. And did I mention artistry? This young man is already a fully formed musical personality ready to take on the world. Obviously he and Stewart had worked out an interpretation that was good for both, yet even so Herbert continually found miniscule spaces to change the pace or flavor a phrase to his own lights. His control of dynamics was a wonder to behold. He already understands what many musicians never learn: when you have the audience on your side you can play softer and softer and still pull them further in.

After the concert, Herbert told me he was heading directly to Chicago to play chamber music. And I lately found out that he has been selected for the Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland this summer. That is a big deal; the Verbier is one of the world’s most prestigious festivals and attracts the top classical musicians from everywhere. It will give Herbert a great ensemble experience, but ultimately he is a soloist’s soloist, a star aborning.

Having gone after Stewart for beginning his concerts with long-winded, ill-prepared speeches, mainly about his own enthusiasm, I must applaud him for Sunday’s opening remarks. Instead of puff, they were all about useful information, specifically details of the 2017-18 season. (See Tuesday’s WEEKLY MAGAZINE.) Next season’s Klein Competition winner, from 2016, is contrabassist William Langlie-Miletich, a first for the Klein and a chance to hear a virtually unknown concerto by 19th century virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini. As Klein Competition chief Mitchell Sardou Klein told me earlier today, “You can imagine how impressive he had to be to top all the violinists, violists and cellists. He is remarkable.”