Weekly Magazine

THIS WEEK

THE SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY launches its new season with Mothership by Mason Bates, one of his generation’s most performed and commissioned composers. OLGA KERN opens the 2019-20 season of the Carmel Music Society with Van Cliburn gold-medalist in Beethoven’s “Waldstein” and works by her native Russian composers. PARAPHRASE PRODUCTIONS stages Our Town at the outdoor Jewell Park in Pacific Grove. MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN opens at Monterey Peninsula College. For links to these and dozens of other live performance events click on our CALENDAR 

SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY OPENS 2019-20 SEASON

“THE MOTHERSHIP FLOATS high above, an orchestra pulsing rapidly with a heart of techno. At several moments in the piece, various soloists dock with the mothership, dropping in with solos both virtuosic and lyrical.” The Santa Cruz Symphony’s “Ascendance” welcomes Mason Bates’ Mothership (see London Symphony video above) to launch its 2019-20 subscription season. Bates (pictured), a frequent composer-in-residence during Marin Alsop’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and a master of synthesizing electronica with symphony orchestra, will provide DJ narration in appearances at Santa Cruz Civic and Watsonville’s Mello. Van Cliburn gold-medalist Jon Nakamatsu tackles Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto of 1811, a masterpiece not matched in scope or grandeur until Brahms’ Concerto in D Minor, 47 years later. Music director Danny Stewart conducts, including Stravinsky’s vivacious fairytale Firebird Suite of 1910.

OLGA KERN LAUNCHES CARMEL MUSIC’S 93rd SEASON

A FRESH PROGRAM of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Balakirev and more. Kern (see video below) shared one of two gold medals—to date a one-time phenomenon—at the Van Cliburn in 2001, the first woman to do so in three decades. In 2016, the multi-award winning artist has established her own international piano competition in Albuquerque.

 

RUSHING TO HYSTERIA

QUITE RECENTLY SOMEONE COMPLAINED that tenor/baritone/conductor Plácido Domingo had sexually harassed her. Two things happened in rapid succession. First, the latest bandwagon rapidly filled up with fellow complainants, mostly anonymous, and second, all of the singer’s current contracted appearances were canceled. Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, announced he was standing with Domingo, just moments before the Met star was shot down like a clay pigeon. Meanwhile, Domingo withdrew from his storied careers at both the Washington National and Los Angeles Opera companies. Then he was off to Mexico to receive the prestigious lifetime achievement Batuta Prize, which was quickly withdrawn, then abruptly reinstated.

Domingo is just the most recent high-profile entertainment figure to have found himself set upon from all sides because of sexual misconduct charges. Actor Kevin Spacey was dropped from his theater and film career like a hot potato, yet, recently, one of his principal accusers recanted. Filmmaker Woody Allen has been in Mia Farrow’s doghouse for decades, still actress Scarlett Johansson remains his devoted colleague and friend.

In Domingo’s case, a substantial number of colleagues, including women, have taken his side. And in a larger context, the Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (left)—currently music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra—has registered a complaint of her own, on behalf of men. “My brother, studying composition in Vilnius, says there are more and more boys and men suffering under gender discrimination. Let us be careful not to forget them while focusing on the goal of giving the appropriate opportunities to girls and women.”

Carmel’s Susanne Mentzer (left), a Met leading lady who has performed opposite Domingo on many occasions, added her own perspective. “We all get sexual harassment training at opera companies now. Mandatory. I think the administrations are much more aware and open to complaints. Overall it is a much better atmosphere.” She went on, “I feel sad that someone like Domingo had a lapse in judgment years ago. But I have to say we all knew about it but looked the other way or, in his case, humored him and blew it off. I was far enough along in my career to know it was the way he and others were. I did not see it as a power thing as much as a Latin thing. Frankly, Italians are known for that as well. I never witnessed it firsthand but I did know some of the unnamed women in the Associated Press article. I was interviewed by AP and BBC over a year ago. The latter was about a tenor that I did not know but whose name was just revealed. The singers union is also on it all, and Opera America is setting up even more harassment training.” Mentzer concluded her thoughts with a PS. “By the way, in Santa Fe we even had ‘active shooter’ training. It has come to that.”

No doubt there remain plenty of jerks who abuse women—and men—and not only with unwanted sexual advances. But kneejerk reactions across the spectrum are no better than presuming ‘guilty until proven innocent,’ by which time careers have long since been torpedoed. SM

NY TIMES’ DAVID BROOKS MARRIES OFF BELL AND MARTINEZ

TO CLARIFY, Brooks officiated at the wedding of violinist Joshua Bell and opera soprano and longtime girlfriend Larisa Martinez at their home in Mt Kisco. She has toured with Andrea Bocelli. Bride and groom wore white. 

UNWRAPPING THEIR NEW STEINWAY

SOME ASSEMBLY WAS REQUIRED. The Vancouver Symphony receives a new Hamburg Steinway for its 100th birthday and its Orpheum Theatre. 

 

CAN IMPROVISATION BE CAPTURED?

OR, AS ERIC DOLPHY once remarked, “After it’s over, it’s gone in the air. You can never capture it again.” Click HERE 

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

IF YOU ARE READY for a good time, grab this collection of new string quartets by composers you’ve never heard of. Don’t fail to notice the title track, especially the date, “New World, Nov. 9, 2016,” which took the Grand Prize at the New York Philharmonic’s “New World Initiative” composition competition in 2017. Composer/violinist Gregor Huebner balances idyllic and hopeful themes of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (“New World”) with the fiercer passages found in the Shostakovich String Quartet No 8 that allude to tensions between the composer and the Soviet Union. The Sirius Quartet, violinist Fung Chern Hwei from Malaysia, Huebner from Germany, violist Ron Lawrence from the US and cellist Jeremy Harman from Canada, meets the criteria for being truly international, not to mention their international reputation across all continents except Antarctica. Further, most of the music on this CD bears the fingerprints of the quartet’s members. Fung’s Beside the Point goes from sweet to tart and represents the composer’s “declaration of struggle against discrimination.” Harman’s Currents, originally for guitar, banjo, bass, cello and drums, somehow retains the same character in its string quartet version. New World, Nov 9, 2016 “ominously refers to the shadow cast by the election of Donald Trump.” (Huebner’s own material suffers a bit between the haunting Dvořák and the aggressive Shostakovich.) Huebmer’s #STILL is a new arrangement of Abel Meeropol’s Strange Fruit, that frightening depiction of lynched black men in trees originally made notorious by Billie Holiday in 1939. Huebner’s Eleanor Rigby exquisitely captures the Lennon/McCartney original (also for string quartet) that appeared on the Beatles album Revolver. Harman’s More Than We Are celebrates the birth of the composer’s son. Fung’s To a New Day refers to May 9, 2018, when Malaysians worldwide rushed home to vote for political change and Hwei’s “wish for a healthy recovery.” 30th Night, Worshipping Heaven and Earth, with music by Yii Kah Hoe and words by Chong Keat Aun, invokes the Chinese New Year’s Eve, but with a twist; instead of praying for happiness and good fortune, this version, vocalized presumably by the composers, calls for a “just, clean and admirable government,” but sung in a taboo dialect given its setting. It is “unapologetically Chinese-Malaysian,” says Fung. Radiohead’s Knives Out follows in a Huebner arrangement. Cavatina by Stanley Myers was originally made famous for its use in the 1978 Vietnam War movie The Deer Hunter. This is Fung’s arrangement. There may be those for whom art is for art’s sake (MGM) but art is always still political, intentional or not. SM

ELEANOR RIGBY

BY LENNON & McCARTNEY, the original, 1966.

 

NEXT WEEK

THE MONTEREY SYMPHONY begins music director Max Bragado-Darman’s final season. SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS launch 2019-20 season with “Blowing in the Wind.” “COLORS OF SPAIN” returns to Hidden Valley in Carmel Valley. ANNA DMYTRENKO performs for Aptos Keyboard Series. PABLO CRUISE at CSUMB’s World Theater. MOMIX appears in Carmel. SANTA CATALINA SCHOOL opens Fiddler on the Roof.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor

 

Weekly Magazine

THIS WEEK

JOE ORTIZ, Capitola playwright, introduces his new CIRCUS: Knife, Blood & Fire at Kuumbwa this Thursday. KRONOS QUARTET joins a ‘thoughtful’ multi-media event at Henry Miller in Big Sur. ROCKER DAVE MASON “feelin’ alright” with Richie Furay at the Rio in Santa Cruz. JULIAN LAGE TRIO investigates American music at Kuumbwa. A TRIBUTE TO PAULETTE LYNCH celebrates the retiring executive director of the Arts Council for Monterey County this Sunday at 5pm in Carmel. For links to these and dozens of other live performance events click on our CALENDAR 

CORRECTION: Last week’s cover photo misidentified percussion virtuoso Evelyn Glennie. Sorry.

NEXT GENERATION JAZZ ORCHESTRA

21-MEMBER ENSEMBLE (pictured above) launched Monterey Jazz Festival 62 with a free Concert on the Lawn, Thursday from 11 to noon. Paul Contos conducted for the benefit of middle and high school students bused in from around the Monterey Peninsula. Pianist Esteban Castro from Bergen County Academies, New Jersey, won a place in the band. Vocalist Zion Dyson (left) from The Bishop’s School, San Diego, sang “Almost Like Being in Love” and “The Best Things in Life are Free.” The orchestra delivered a blistering 15-minute account of John Coltrane’s hugely challenging Giant Steps.  

AHMAD JAMAL, MASTER OF COOL JAZZ

HE WAS HONORED AT 2017 GRAMMYS, but was a no-show, probably because he was busy making music in France where he had finished this in-studio recording, just released. Now 89, Jamal’s style and ballades go together, hand in glove, the cool side of be-bop, a fellow traveler with Bill Evans and admired by the likes of Dizzy and Bird. For this album, Jamal is joined in three numbers by bassist James Cammack, and reprises music from his recent PIAS recording “Marseille.” The second of ten tracks, Because I Love You, was composed and recorded here simultaneously. The fourth track, Poinciana, has long since served as a Jamal signature. The ninth track, Spring is Here—Laurenz Hart’s saddest collaboration with Richard Rodgers—echoes the version by Evans himself, while Mandel & Mercer’s Emily rounds out the set. Cool on a warm day, Jamal can still warm up a cool one. SM  

ANOTHER SHOCKING DEATH

JESSYE NORMAN, American dramatic opera and recital soprano, dies at 74. She inspired generations of opera singers and left an enormous legacy of outstanding performances and recordings. Click HERE  

 

CLASSICAL MUSIC DEAD AGAIN?

NOT SO FAST says Aubrey Bergauer, the turnaround queen with the Midas touch. Click HERE 

THEN WHY IS IT STILL SO WHITE?

IT’S HAD PLENTY of opportunities to diversify, yet with little lasting effect. Joseph Horowitz updates the debate for NPR. Click HERE 

WHY MAKE ART IN TIMES OF HIGH ANXIETY?

PULITZER-WINNING NOVELIST Michael Chabon questions his own efforts during the present decade he has spent at the MacDowell Colony. “Perhaps the time to abandon hope for the redemptive power of art is long overdue.” Yet it’s the same challenge, the same agonizing distress, that tormented Matthias Grünewald, painter of the famous Isenheim Altarpiece during the Peasant Revolt of 1524-25, and that inspired Paul Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler during the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s. Click HERE   

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

THE LARK QUARTET disbanded last spring, after the 2018-19 season, their 34th. The all-female Lark tradition came to an end when violinists Deborah Buck and Basia Danilow, violist Kathryn Lockwood and cellist Caroline Stinson put paid to an outstanding legacy that will live on to attract new fans and stimulate more new music. For the occasion, the founding members, violinists Kay Stern and Robin Mayforth, violist Anna Kruger and cellist Laura Sewell joined to form an octet for commissioned Ce morceau de tissu by Andrew Waggoner. Not just the vibrant and vivid playing by these fine musicians, but their dedication to new music promises to keep opening doors to talented composers whose names are not yet well known. An exception to that point is John Harbison, whose String Quartet No 6 of 2016 opens the program. Harbison, now 80, has composed in every genre and won major prizes (including the Pulitzer in 1987 for his short cantata The Flight into Egypt.) His opera, The Great Gatsby, was premiered at the Met. His 19-minute Sixth Quartet is laid out in four concise classical movements, Lontano (from a distance), Canto sospeso (suspended song), Soggetti cavati (suggestion taken out), Conclusioni provvisorie (temporary conclusion). The piece finds original ideas among familiar procedures. Nigerian composer Kenji Bunch’s Megalopolis (2017) adds Yousif Sheronick’s Afro percussion to the strings, in playful adventures that gracefully take the Western string instruments off their familiar turf sure to arouse smiles. The pulsing percussion moves between atmospheric background and center stage. Anna Weesner’s Eight Lost Songs of Orlando Underground (2018) adds clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois to these eight brief pieces (25 minutes in total) that should surely make their way into the quartet (plus one) literature. Weesner’s program note is deliberately obscure, a wise move since it concentrates the listener’s attention on the music itself, a thoughtful, beguiling journey by an obviously well-qualified guide. Weesner’s collaborations read like a who’s who of contemporary classical music. The last movement, “Oh, to live in a world symphonic” is the longest and most ambitious of the set. The title of Waggoner’s octet, commissioned for Lark’s 30th anniversary and completed in 2016, comes from Le harem politique, “a visionary work by the great Moroccan feminist and sociologist Fatima Mernissi, who writes, “Every debate on democracy centers on the question of women, and on that small, ridiculous piece of fabric, often in very fine muslin, which fundamentalists today claim to be the very essence of Muslim identity.” This 16-minute piece flares with anger; recorded in live performance its unflagging intensity will be challenging to the first-time listener. A second or third audition is recommended to fulfill its expressive depths. This rich cultural, musical background gives Waggoner and the musicians a field day of opportunities, exploited equally in kind. In sum overall, this is one of those collections of new music that upon repeated hearings soon makes itself indispensible. SM    

THIS AMERICAN LIFE

AN INTERVIEW WITH IRA GLASS. Click HERE  

LEFT ALONE

JEANNE LEE sings Gene Lees, with Ran Blake

 

FRESH REVIEWS

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE in Carmel. MAMMA MIA! in Ben Lomond. Click HERE

NEXT WEEK

SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY’S “ASCENDANCE,” featuring pianist Jon Nakamatsu. PIANIST OLGA KERN opens Carmel Music Society season. FRANKENSTEIN opens at Monterey Peninsula College. OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder outdoors at Jewell Park in Pacific Grove. THIRD COAST PERCUSSION plays Glass & Elfman in Big Sur.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor