Weekly Magazine

 

NEW THIS WEEK    

BOB DANZIGER’S Brandenburg 300 Project goes Zoom on Wednesday. *See below. MEDITATIONS ON THE HARP by Jieyin Wu, from St Ignatius Parish on Thursday. STEINWAY SOCIETY HOME CONCERT HALL hosts pianist Alexander Sinchuk playing Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Božić’s Sacred Music for Piano, Friday through Monday. BALCONY SESSIONS presents Monterey Symphony principal flute Dawn Walker and cellist Mark Walker live from Pacific Grove Library, Saturday afternoon. VIRTUAL CHOREOGRAPHERS SHOWCASE from SpectorDance (above image) with new works by eight choreographers from four states, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. YOUTH MUSIC MONTEREY Junior Youth & Honors Orchestras perform online Sunday afternoon. On the program are works by Tchaikovsky, Themes from Capriccio Italienne with the Junior Youth Orchestra and Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio with the Honors Orchestra. The two orchestras present a joint performance of the final work, Advent Rising: The Bounty Hunter. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE

*BOB DANZIGER’S OBSESSION

CSUMB HONORARY LAUREATE BOB DANZIGER has drawn in music department chair Jeff Jones and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) to celebrate the 300th anniversary of JS Bach’s famous Brandenburg Concertos. While the actual date of those compositions is not reliably known, and includes material from instrumental works composed earlier, the collection, in Bach’s own hand, was given to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721. Danziger, who plays jazz and pop music, has subjected the six Brandenburg concertos to all manner of revisions, add-ons and personal liberties which, at the end of the day, have not really improved on the originals. To join the party, Wednesday, 2 & 7pm, click HERE     

THE WESTERN STAGE

WHEN THE PANDEMIC forced Hartnell College to close down its campus, The Western Stage had to go dark, along with a season of plays already in the works for 2020/2021. An email just in from Melissa Chin Parker brings the encouraging news that her appointment as TWS Artistic Director has been renewed for the year. It makes it clear that the stage, work spaces and dressing rooms may have been closed down to the public, but theater staff haven’t been idle. The season announced in the last quarter of 2020 is programmed to open with A Doll’s House Part 2 eight weeks after the college reopens. But while you wait and wonder when that will be, Western Stage is about to launch an online event they’re calling “In the Meantime in Between Time” designed, according to the season teaser, to “take you behind the scenes for a peek at the inner workings at TWS.” Those workings will be served up in four digital units – A View from the Casting Table, Alumni Symposium Series, Bite-sized Theatre and, for Hartnell students and TWS subscribers only, Works In Progress, an invitation to one of the theater’s digital rehearsals. Dates and times to be announced.  

NEW ALUMNI SYMPOSIUM SERIES AT TWS

STARTING MARCH 27 and running through May 2, a series of seven online sessions, including Q&A featuring professionals in stage management, properties, design engineering, film acting and screenwriting, filmmaking and editing, theater management and international/Latinx theater. All seven alums will share their stories of how they went from TWS to industry employment and will share tips and tricks of their trade, including how to keep working as an artist during the pandemic. Sessions are free for Hartnell students and TWS subscribers. General tickets are $5 per session or $25 for the entire series. Click HERE

JAMES LEVINE, 1943-2021

JOHN ROCKWELL, the long-serving New York Times cultural critic, observed James Levine at close quarters for most of his life.

“JAMES LEVINE was a great opera conductor, until he wasn’t. I don’t want to dwell here on his failings, or his personal peculiarities, his illnesses and his sad last years. I appreciated him as a member of the audience and as a critic and reporter, mostly at the Met but also elsewhere, especially Salzburg, and on his innumerable CD’s and DVD’s. I first heard him – probably heard of him, really—conducting Tosca at the San Francisco Opera in the spring of 1971, shortly before his Met debut with the same opera in June. It was a true announcement of a talent who was George Szell’s assistant for six years in Cleveland. But in 1971 he was still only 28, and everyone who heard those Toscas knew immediately that he was on his way.” To read Rockwell’s complete Levine memoir, click HERE 

TALIBAN VS GIRLS SINGING MUSIC

TRIBALISM that hates culture and its practitioners still holds sway in Afghanistan. Click HERE  

A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION

COMPOSER KRIS BOWERS celebrates his grandfather. Click HERE

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

LARA SOLNICKI’S The One and the Other, on the Canadian Outside In Music label, comes as close to sui generis as one (or the other) is likely to get. A vocalist with a fine, clear mezzo, she claims “music, poetry and texts” as her own. Yet her backup band musicians seem to have free reign. She and they announce themselves with “Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street,” a sprawling poem of indeterminate urban images and impressions that also lays out the musical elements that will reappear later, in or out of focus, foreground or background. After a pedal point is laid down, a cocktail lounge piano, squealing alto sax and thumping drums circle in. The mood remains lounge as Solnicki’s recitation is gently embraced by the rhythm section in an affectionate meander until suddenly a rock guitar bursts onto the scene briefly, portending clashing styles that will punctuate the other seven tracks, more or less. The relaxed second track, “Idée fixe,” adding reeds, gives the singer a wordless vocalise while liberating the musicians to pure sweet jazz. “The Embrace” continues Solnicki’s poetic self-indulgence, as does “Furling Leaf, Retrocede” with spoken words and more moody lounge jazz and another eruption of rock guitar in a now familiar juxtaposition; hard to understand but for the wash of sonorities and implicit visuals of the words. The title piece consists of three sections, “Pass a Glass,” “Awe of the Sea” and “Hollow the Need” in which Solnicki’s singing voice returns, alternating with the spoken word. As listenable as her poetry is about words—the essence of poetry—and her music tantalizing, Solnicki takes you to her own avant-garde, a unique adventure of the senses and thoughtful surprises. It’s an acquired taste that acquired me. SM   

MORE GOOD NEWS from our friends at Classical Music Communications: Zixiang Wang’s debut solo album, on Blue Griffin label, of the first piano sonatas by Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Wang, trained at Shanghai Conservatory, Juilliard and University of Michigan has already won numerous awards and his affinity for Romantic and Post-Romantic music of the late 19th and early 20th century is obvious in these two works from the Russian school. As this new CD also reveals, Wang has an appetite for some of the more underperformed repertoire by otherwise familiar composers. “Scriabin’s keyboard writing style evolved notably from late Romanticism to mysticism,” he writes. “However, in this early work we can hear some musical qualities that never left Scriabin—sensibility, colorfulness and philosophical musings.” This spirit infuses Wang’s playing with a sense of urgency, freshness and, especially in the Rachmaninoff, sweeping grandeur. The Scriabin (completed 1892) was written after the composer had injured his hand playing Balakirev’s technically fiendish Islamey. Its four short movements end with a funeral march, though in the major key. Rachmaninoff’s sprawling first sonata (1908) was composed at Dresden alongside the overinflated Symphony No 2. Its three movements introduce memorable themes spun into long-limbed melodies that the composer almost buries under washes of decorative fingerwork, among his most recognizable indulgences. Following an example by Liszt, the three movements take their cues from the programmatic trilogy of Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles (with a diabolical fugue in the latter, of course), and though that was probably more useful to the composer than the listener it did not go unnoticed by Wang. The pianist added Rachmaninoff’s rarely-excerpted Prelude in F from Op 2 (1891) to fill out the program. If these works are not in your library, here is a fine place to start. SM 

GRETA THUNBERG SET TO MUSIC

FINLAND’S TAPIOLA CHOIR sings out her UN speech with music by UK composer Tim Cain.

FRESH REVIEW

PHILIP PEARCE attended Howard Burnham’s First Knight, profiling Sir Henry Irving. Click HERE  

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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor

 

Weekly Magazine

NEW THIS WEEK

“THE BRITISH INVASION” tribute concert sponsored by PacRep at the Monterey Fairgrounds, Wednesday, 6:30 & 9pm. PORCH QUARTET at St Ignatius Parish performs Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on Thursday. SANTA CRUZ BAROQUE hosts violinists Edwin Huizinga and Grijda Spiri in works of JS Bach and JM Leclair on Saturday. HOWARD BURNHAM will recount the accomplishments of Sir Henry Irving in First Knight on Saturday. OUR CONCERTS LIVE hosts Rachel Barton Pine playing Mozart in her concerto series starting Sunday at 1pm. CAROLYN SILLS COMBO Western swing from Kuumbwa on Monday. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE

 

MONTEREY COUNTY COMPOSERS FORUM

MEMBER COMPOSERS honor one of their own, George Peterson, who died as the result of injuries sustained in a car crash. This concert was posted to FaceBook on March 7, 2021. Click HERE

 

MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL ONLINE 

EVOLUTION OF A GROOVE series of commissions quietly added to their website in late February. Click HERE 

 

PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE’S NEW COMPOSER-IN-RESIDENCE

TARIK O’REGAN IS ALIVE and not a Baroque composer. Click HERE  

 

CARMEL ASKS FOR FOREST THEATER INPUT

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA’s Sunset Center is seeking to withdraw from its management agreement with the city’s outdoor Forest Theater. The city invites residents to respond to a just-published user’s survey. Click HERE 

 

WIGMORE HALL LIVESTREAM SERIES

FROM LONDON’S premiere venue for recitals and chamber music; lineup for Spring 2021. Click HERE

 

BALLET TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

RUSSIAN BALLERINA dances Swan Lake on ice to protest the construction of a port in Batareinaya Bay, a popular beach about 100 km west of St Petersburg. Click HERE  

 

MEN EN POINTE

IN A TIME when barriers are coming down, why not? Click HERE  

 

LA OPERA TO STREAM NEW MAZZOLI OPERA

MISSY MAZZOLI’S BREAKING THE WAVES will stream free from March 19 until April 12. Cast includes Soprano Kiera Duffy and John Moore. Steven Osgood conducts.

 

PENDERECKI UNBURIED

A YEAR AFTER HIS DEATH the great Polish composer has yet to be interred or publicly memorialized because of COVID-19 restrictions. Click HERE   

 

MEET THE ITALIAN LIRONE

 

HUANG RUO PREMIERE

CABRILLO FEST composer’s new A Dust in Time, a solo passacaglia, played by Jennifer Koh. “A Dust in Time is written for the people affected by the pandemic, giving them a piece of music to reflect, to express, to mourn, to bury, to heal, to find internal peace, strength, and hope. This solo-violin version of A Dust in Time is created as part of the WPA Virtual Commissions. The piece is about 30-minutes in duration, unfolding a process and journey from darkness to light, from frozenness and motionlessness to full of life and energy.” Huang Ruo March 1, 2021

 

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

PIVOTAL ARC is one of the most astonishing new albums I have heard in years. It’s a program of three works by a Canadian-born saxophonist now working in New York, Quinsin Nachoff, in collaboration with Canadian-born violinist now working in Los Angeles, Nathalie Bonin. The two have been colleagues since the turn of the century. The major fruits of their labors take the form of a huge—46-minute, three movement—concerto for violin and jazz orchestra of dazzling virtuosity across the board. Nachoff’s writing for the band goes from strength to strength while Bonin shows there is nothing she can’t do no matter how technically demanding. (Nachoff calls her “super-intense.”) The three movements follow the classical model, with energized outer movements sandwiching a more circumspect “jazz ballad” where a lengthy solo cadenza for the violin elides into the finale. But unlike 20th century violin concertos, Nachoff turns the first and third movements into richly inventive worlds all their own, even while underpinned with ideas introduced at the start. This mastery of formal clarity gives them an organic wholeness that moves the focus in and out, from wide-range to close-up and back. The first movement draws its strength from Nachoff’s “deconstructed, transfigured tango,” while the 19-minute finale—the longest of the three movements—finds adventure in the complex rhythms of Balkan music. In both first and last, there are quiet, lyrical moments that break up the driving propulsions and give opportunities for the band members to shine on their own terms. There have been sincere attempts to synthesize jazz and classical music since, notably, Gunther Schuller’s “third stream” experiments of the late 1950s. (One of the most successful such works—a real tour de force—is David Amram’s Triple Concerto of 1970.) We’re easily back at the level of technical and artistic wizardry in Nachoff’s concerto, for which he gives credit to some of the giants of bebop.

At 17 minutes, Nachoff’s String Quartet, commissioned and performed here by the Molinari String Quartet, betrays no particular jazz influence, but instead a fully-formed classical piece made by as sure a hand as the concerto, and not least for its bracing display of every slick string trick from past history and modern practices too. The Whirlwind disc finishes up with the title piece, a kind of tone poem that flatters the musicians, bass and drums especially, but without the intensely high level of ambition as the concerto and the string quartet, allowing the listener the pleasure of hearing the musicians in a more relaxed context. Meanwhile, don’t wait to collect this breakthrough gem. SM  

PERHAPS IN ANTICIPATION of the 110th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death on May 18, this elegant collection, by the high, clear soprano Christiane Karg—her debut for Harmonia Mundi—draws on folk songs and love songs from early in the Austrian composer’s career: Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Lieder und Gesänge. It also includes the celebrated Rückert-Lieder that contains such haunting settings as Um Mitternacht and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. Karg partners with the sought-after lieder pianist Malcolm Martineau, except for the last two tracks in which Karg sings with the Welte-Mignon piano roll recordings made by Mahler himself, including Das himmlische Leben, well known from the Fourth Symphony. (That technology requires an 88-key, three-pedal ‘vorsetzer’ to play a piano afresh for each playback.) While I understand that a singer with ambitions to pursue a major career must work for years to perfect his or her technique, that is just the jumping off point. To become an artist that technique must serve a higher calling. Karg is not there yet. Within technique, for singing and many instruments as well, is the element of vibrato, where and when to use it, and how much. In this recital, Karg’s vibrato runs mostly on autopilot. The more famous the song—refer to the above named Rückert songs—the more obvious when sameness of vibrato calls attention to itself and away from the expressive character implicit in the words. SM 

 

THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR CLASSICAL MUSICIAN?

SO SAYS A uDISCOVER CLASSICAL 100 POLL. David Garrett and his clones are Happy

 

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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor