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.

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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor