Weekly Magazine

To participate, click HERE

DEAR SUBSCRIBERS AND VISITORS:

On March 9 our website was hacked, preventing our access to make updates and other changes to our Performing Arts Monterey Bay pages, until now. We apologize for any inconvenience and expect trouble-free service going forward ~ Editor

NEW THIS WEEK

APRIL IN SANTA CRUZ at UC Santa Cruz presents the UCSC Percussion Ensemble on Friday and Quinteto Latino on Saturday. TAP YOUR TOES! evening on Broadway from St Ignatius Parish on Thursday. PERCUSSION MASTERCLASS by Patti Niemi of the SF Opera Orchestra on Saturday morning. A.R. GURNEY’S SYLVIA, free on demand now at Jewel Theatre Company’s website. ARIA WOMEN’S CHOIR new Spring concert ready to stream now. WINDS IN THE WINERY to livestream from Ensemble Monterey on Sunday. KUUMBWA JAZZ presents Pamela Rose & Terrence Brewer on Monday. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE

TERRY GROSS INTERVIEWS DANCER TWYLA THARP

ON FRESH AIR. Includes video clips with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Click HERE  

FINDING AFRICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC

THE STORY OF REBECA OMORDIA’S concert series as told by retired cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. Click HERE

TIME TO HONOR GEORGE BRIDGETOWER

THE VIOLINIST for whom Beethoven composed his great “Kreutzer” sonata deserves long-overdue recognition. Click HERE  

ASIANS IN AMERICA

HOW STEREOTYPES negatively impact theater. As told to American Theatre by Diep Tran. Click HERE   

AMERICAN PIANIST DEREK HAN (1957-2021)

ACCLAIMED ARTIST died unexpectedly at 63 last week in Florida. He was music director of the Trieste Concerts Society in Italy and leaves a huge discography on several record labels, including the complete Mozart piano concertos. He played with an understated restless urgency that breathed fresh life into the classics.

RONN McFARLANE, LUTE

THE MAN WHO HAS EMERGED as one of America’s premiere lutenists played a recital for the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society on Saturday. It was live-streamed for, among others, the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival. Before the concert began (and about 15 minutes after the published start time) McFarlane was interviewed by Festival founder Linda Burman-Hall. That chat revealed McFarlane’s moment of truth when, as a rock guitarist, he realized that he could no longer divide his career between guitar and lute. His choice led him to become a key member of the acclaimed Baltimore Consort, founded in 1980 to focus on the music used in Shakespearean plays. What that revealed, and still reveals, is the close relationship between concert and Celtic folk music of the 16th and early 17th centuries. McFarlane’s program straddled the divide between the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras but remained Celtic on both sides while he used different instruments to represent each. A key figure of that history was Turlough O’Carolan, a blind Irish harper, composer and singer whose gift for melody left a widely influential mark on Celtic music of his time and later. McFarlane added his own verbal observations and comments on the music he played. Since the lute is so indelibly associated with the music of an historic period, it must have come as a surprise for some to learn that new lute music is always emerging from the pipeline. Indeed, McFarlane’s playing style still echoes his early years in rock bands. SM 

RECREATING THE YAZH

IT’S  2,000-YEAR-OLD harplike instruments from the ancient courts of India. Click HERE  

ANTONIO ITURRIOZ OFFERS A GIFT

CUBAN-BORN artist, now resident of Sonoma County, plays a program of transcriptions by Liszt and Godowsky, a composer Iturrioz champions in his documentary film “The Buddha of the Piano: Leopold Godowsky.” Giving his first concert at 9, he played the Liszt First Piano Concerto for his orchestral debut at 15. Iturrioz in 2013 gave the world premiere performance on one piano of Gottschalk’s complete two-movement symphony La Nuit des Tropiques having transcribed for the first time the second movement, “Fiesta Criolla,” for one piano. The Steinway & Sons label released Gottschalk and Cuba in September 2018. On the album is the world premiere recording of this historic work. Andre Watts has called Gottschalk and Cuba an “extraordinary album of music!” 

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

 

LONDON-BORN in 1951, Cecilia McDowall has racked up an impressive collection of awards and honorary doctorates for her compositions for a cappella choirs, and this new release on Hyperion only underscores her talent and achievements. Gramophone wrote that her music “constantly tweaks the ear with her range of spicy rhythms and colours, then suddenly produces a highly atmospheric and grippingly expressive interlude which is just as compelling.” To my ear she aspires to degrees of ecstasy reminiscent of Hildegard von Bingen but with a dimension of sophistication distinctly her own. Like Hildegard she brings solo flights to the fore against seductive, often dissonant choral fabric. It’s those dissonances that blur the sense of tonality, always to excellent effect. Chorusmaster Stephen Layton, one of the most distinguished of his generation, conducts the fabulous Choir of Trinity College Cambridge in a collection of eight standalone settings and a set of Three Latin Motets, composed between 2013 and 2017. (The two from the latter year, “God is light” and “Love incorruptible,” use texts from Psalm 139—the ‘darkness to light’ 11th verse—and words from the Book of Ephesians about love and kindness, respectively.) Among McDowall’s carols, song cycles, dramatic scenas, cantatas and operas, she has set words by Sean Street, Clara Barton, Tony Silvestri, Marconi and Hedy Lamarr, movie star and co-inventor of frequency-hopping spread spectrum, now used in WiFi and Bluetooth technology. The chosen words are often as fearless and defiant as her music for them. Harmonies and counterpoint are frequently as dense as a tapestry yet lucid to the attentive ear. Music like this makes me wish the Cabrillo Festival had as many choral resources as they have orchestral; McDowall entirely belongs in such company as the composers who star in Santa Cruz. The CD also contains a seven-part “O Antiphon sequence” (2018) for solo organ played by organist Alexander Hamilton. SM

I WAS TAKEN ABACK by this new album on the New Amsterdam label, because it makes no pretense at all to barnstorming the bastions of the avant-garde. On the contrary, composer Robert Honstein (b. 1980) has provided nine relatively short tracks of a domestic inflection—titles include Bay Window, Stairs, Hallway, Backyard (a fugue) and Driveway—for a tiny ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin and cello (Hub New Music ensemble) that turns out to embrace a most commodious, even familiar esthetic. In fact, it cleverly exposes for the first time in recent memory a niche that has been virtually abandoned by all other composers of our time. Tonality is so safe here that broken chords, repeating arpeggios, even a fugue are pure comfort food for the weary ear. The liner note opens with “Memory, nostalgia, longtime associations and enduring relationships: these are the raw materials from which Soul House…was constructed.” But this is no background music; charming and thoughtful instead come to mind. SM

TIME PASSES SLOWLY 

IF YOU’RE waiting for the rain to come

FRESH REVIEW

PHILIP PEARCE took in Howard Burnham’s Smith of the Titanic. Click HERE

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor

 

Weekly Magazine

AFTER A FULL YEAR, a live concert with a live and long-starved audience as cellist Michelle Djokic joined violinist Cindy Wu at her home in Corral de Tierra on Sunday afternoon.

NEW THIS WEEK

NEW RADIO PLAY from Jewel Theatre Company: The Whistler-Stranger in the House. APRIL IN SANTA CRUZ the annual series of new music at UCSC goes online Friday and Saturday. CABRILLO MUSIC FESTIVAL presents Vol 2 of its new series, Composers in Conversation, with Clarice Assad, Anna Clyne and Kevin Puts this Saturday morning at 11. MANHATTAN CHAMBER PLAYERS perform online Saturday through the Chamber Music Monterey Bay website, including Chris Rogerson’s Clarinet Quintet, Gideon Klein’s String Trio and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE

APRIL IN SANTA CRUZ AT UCSC

THE UCSC Music Department presents its annual April in Santa Cruz Music Festival, a month-long series of free concerts featuring works by UC Santa Cruz faculty and graduate students, April 2 through May 1. All concerts stream at 7:30 p.m. on the April in Santa Cruz Facebook Page  Click HERE  

LAST WEEK FROM ST IGNATIUS

A TECHNICAL GLITCH denied access to the harp recital by Jieyin Wu. To hear it on YouTube, click HERE  

PENDERECKI IN MEMORIAM

AN EXCELLENT PODCAST SERIES honoring the dominant Polish composer of the second half of the 20th century and first two decades of 2021 who died one year ago. Produced and hosted by Max Horowitz (pictured) of Crossover Media—one of our most valued suppliers of musical content and information. The series was created by Anna Perzanowska and presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York. The approximately 30-minute podcasts began a month ago with a bevy of major classical artists interviewed on their involvement with Penderecki’s music. Click HERE   

HILARY HAHN’S NEW ALBUM “PARIS”

THE ZOO AT HOLLYWOOD BOWL

RECORD SALES: CDs TUMBLE, VINYL RISES

IN THE UK at least. Click HERE  

HIMARI, 9 YEARS OLD, PLAYS PAGANINI

THE COMPLETE Violin Concerto No 1 in D with the New Japan Philharmonic.

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

WHEREVER HK GRUBER GOES mischief is sure to follow. This clever Austrian has made a career of playful, even naughty, tricks and games rarely found in classical music. (When he appeared with his toy instruments in the Santa Cruz Symphony’s production of his hellzapoppin’ Frankenstein!! in 2016, he actually got away with giving the audience the finger.) Percussion monster Colin Currie, well-known as a solo virtuoso—if a one-man orchestra of sticks, mallets, drums, metal, marimbas and bells can be deemed a soloist—has held star position in new 21st century music as percussion itself has risen in prominence. His dizzying displays of virtuosity have beguiled Cabrillo Music Festival audiences with his every appearance, infrequent as they have been. The first of the two works on Colin Currie’s own label is titled Rough Music (1982-83), its three movements respectively called Toberac, Shivaree and Charivari, the latter in homage to the French composer Henri Sauguet. Fortunately you can take in the fun and games without getting tangled up in that arcana. The BBC Philharmonic is conducted by Juanjo Mena, though the strings stay in the background in the first movement. This is charming, witty stuff with solo flights on the brass and woodwinds. The second movement gets aggressive (rough, I suppose) with piano, strings, motoric high winds and thudding then explosive percussion. Toward the end all goes quiet with gentle bell tones and marimba. The final movement is almost a lullaby with violent eruptions and ends with circus music. What’s not to like? (If you do want to get down in the weeds, you’ll find pinches of Charles Ives, Alban Berg and Erik Satie.) The second piece, of about the same duration, is the single-movement into the open…, “more of a symphony with solo obbligato percussion leading the drama.” It is also a tribute to David Drew, the composer’s alter-ego, and close associate of Currie, who died in 2009. The piece opens with mysterious gongs and goes on to a purposeful adventure of discovery. On the one hand, you will hear Gruber’s ever-active eclecticism, from Romantic to Avant-garde, from deeply felt expression to parody. (In this case Kurt Weill’s Alabama Song appears in fragments.) Yet there is a coherency that manages to remain, well, coherent, even relevant. This performance, with John Storgårds conducting, was of the work’s world-premiere at the Albert Hall in July 2015. The album is a keeper. SM    

IF YOU’RE A CLASSICAL MUSIC FAN chances are you have heard Orion Weiss in person. He performed in Santa Cruz as part of John Orlando’s Distinguished Artists Series, for the Carmel Music Society and with the Monterey Symphony. Now he partners with the conductor Leon Botstein, a man well-known for trodding the path rarely taken. The Orchestra Now joins the adventure with Korngold’s Concerto in C-sharp (for one hand), Chopin’s brilliant but fairly silly variations on “Là ci darem la mano, the duet” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto in C-sharp Minor. You could safely add this CD to your collection without worrying about duplicating any of these pieces. The Korngold was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, of that well-known and fairly dysfunctional family, after having lost his right arm in World War I. (Wittgenstein notoriously made changes to the many concertos he commissioned from the leading composers of his time—Richard Strauss, Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Hindemith, Maurice Ravel—but not this one.) For all the grand sweep of Rimsky’s orchestral and operatic scores, his piano concerto is remarkably compact, its three movements played straight through in under 14 minutes. Meanwhile, Weiss’s reputation continues to flower, meaning his fees keep rising. Can our local presenters keep up? Hopefully. SM 

BALCONY SESSIONS

MONTEREY SYMPHONY musicians Dawn and Mark Walker, with Symphony ED Nicola Reilly, performed live online on Saturday from the renovated Pacific Grove Library. The next Balcony Sessions live concert will spotlight clarinetist Sarah Bonomo in late May. 

HOLY WEEK

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor