Weekly Magazine

THIS WEEK

PIANIST JON NAKAMATSU, Van Cliburn International Gold-Medalist, returns to Santa Cruz with longtime clarinet collaborator Jan Manasse for a program of Brahms and Bernstein for the Distinguished Artists Series in Santa Cruz. The two Jons (see above) are co-artistic directors of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival. BRANFORD MARSALIS at Sunset Center. PARAPHRASE PRODUCTIONS, up-and-coming Monterey theater company that has already won raves for their Man of La Mancha at Carmel’s Forest Theater, launches its 2019 season with a Broadway revue, Let Me Entertain You, at Paper Wing in Monterey. KEVIN LEE SUN won the 2018 Carmel Music Society biennial piano competition and, in reward, gets his own most-ambitious solo recital this Sunday. PIANIST KATE LIU graces the Aptos Keyboard Series with music by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Prokofiev. PAMELA ROSE presents “Blues is a Woman” at Kuumbwa. For links to these and dozens of other live performance events, click our CALENDAR

BEETHOVEN, MOZART & BERNSTEIN!

2018 COMPOSERS, in that order, according to BachTrack. Also, to borrow a phrase from Joni Mitchell, “anima rising.” Click HERE  

“FAMOUS FATHER GIRL”

By Susan Meister

JAMIE BERNSTEIN, eldest child of Leonard Bernstein and the only one so far willing to tell family secrets, in her witty and deeply felt memoir, does much to enhance her father’s considerable image in his many public incarnations: teacher, pianist, conductor, composer.  

On the other hand, she is unafraid to reveal the other LB, as he is frequently referred to in the book, the one who was at the center of everyone’s life however disempowering it might have been for them, the bisexual, the lover of fast cars that he drove recklessly, the chain smoker (cigarette smoke features prominently throughout the book), the inconsiderate husband who failed to notice that his beautiful Chilean-actress-pianist-artist wife, Felicia Montealegre, was withering under the weight of his relentless life force. To read more, click HERE  

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE OTHER MARY

COMPOSER JOHN ADAMS’ passion play will, on repeated hearings, gobsmack your grasp of modern classical music. In this gripping oratorio, Adams applies a coolly eclectic hand to the release of intensely dramatic results. For this collaboration, Adams’ librettist partner and stage director, Peter Sellars, cobbled together a text from Old and New Testaments, Hildegard von Bingen and several contemporary poets with both sacred and secular leanings. The latter make the passion of Jesus—not Christ—as urgently contemporary as a working-class protest over social and economic injustice. (Indeed, the piece begins with Mary Magdalene mounting protests and, with her sister Martha, tending to homeless, drug-addicted women.)

Mary, the ‘other’ of the title, Martha and their brother Lazarus, respectively Kelley O’Connor, Tamara Mumford and Russell Thomas, are the ‘stars’ of this passion story, deeply personal and expressively intense. The other familiar characters are aloof: Jesus is represented by a trio of countertenors, the events of his life and death remote, almost incidental, if contextually essential.

But for his personal remoteness—like most great artists across the arc of time—Adams displays a quicksilver response to Sellars’ choice of texts, fearless and beguiling, to say nothing of cinematic. (What a movie composer would he make!) The death and resurrection of Lazarus will make your skin crawl, like fingernails on a blackboard—assuming you can even remember a blackboard—or steel wheels on rail tracks at slow speed. Not less creepy is the Hungarian cimbalom, the sinuously serpentine solo oboe and the quasi-klezmer clarinet. These are minor but impactful details. It’s the way Adams’ music carries and enhances the narrative to remove the focus from Jesus to the Magdalene siblings. Magic or sleight of hand? Like the month of March, the work begins like a lion and ends like a lamb. (Get it?) The recording dates from 2013 soon after its premiere by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and LA Master Chorale, under Gustavo Dudamel. For what it’s worth, I’ve lately listened to it several times and am not done yet. SM     

AT ENO

 

HEAVENLY KORA & CONCERT HARP

SECKOU KEITA & CATRIN FINCH in Manchester.

 

PAUL CHIHARA’S ‘MATTER OF HONOR’

ONE DAY IN 1942 when film-scoring professor Paul Chihara was a child of four, the Seattle native and his family were rounded up and sent to live in the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Southern Idaho. Even though they were American citizens, Chihara and his family spent three years of his youth at Minidoka because they were Japanese-American. On a commission by the Royal Scottish Orchestra, Professor Chihara has composed a work for speaker and orchestra, A Matter of Honor, to be premiered on March 22, 2019, in Edinburgh. The work is based on the words of statesmen and politicians of the early years of World War II; its US Premiere will take place in Orange County at Soka University on April 3. The score of A Matter of Honor is a musical memory of those three years of Chihara’s childhood growing up behind barbed wire and surrounded by armed guards. It references the music he heard every day, the Big Band songs, the Japanese pre-War pop songs, and some classical music that his fellow prisoners managed to perform. Chihara and Jennifer Fagre wrote the libretto from the actual words of the most influential men of the era: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Earl Warren (later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), John DeWitt, Lieutenant General in charge of the defense of the West Coast, as well as contemporary words of Japanese-Americans interned at the time of the War. The title of the work is from a quote by the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who served in the 442nd Infantry regiment of the American military. “Minidoka was not Stalag VII,” notes Professor Chihara, “nor was the relocation of the Japanese Americans during World War II like the Holocaust. Our experiences were pale compared with those unspeakable tragedies. But it was a tragedy nonetheless, and a grave injustice to fellow American citizens, as well as a complete disregard for the Constitution or the hallowed laws of our land, somehow completely ignored by politicians, judges, free press, and the ACLU.”

WATCH AN EXCERPT from Chihara’s ballet Yulan.

 

GREATEST MARCHING BAND IN THE LAND?

JUST ASK ABRAHAM DUFFIE of Mississippi’s Jackson State University. Click HERE

FRESH REVIEWS

8 TENS @ 8 “A” theater festival, Santa Cruz. Click HERE

NEXT WEEK

CLARINETIST RICHARD STOLTZMAN joins the Borromeo Quartet in concert at Chamber Music Monterey Bay. WILD COAST BRASS quintet performs for Santa Cruz Chamber Players. EUPHORIC DEPARTURE opens at the Cherry.  

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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor