Singer-songwriter Mads Langer is shown performing a drive-in concert in Aarhus, Denmark, on April 24. In the age of coronavirus, drive-in concerts are now proliferating in Europe and the United States.
NEW THIS WEEK
WILL WE EVER return to “normal” in the wake of COVID-19? Jewel Theatre’s Julie James is currently wondering while she works. (See her comments, below.) Bay Area composer Mason Bates seems to think so, but he raises a lot of tough questions about ‘curating’ concerts even by ‘normal’ standards.
CABRILLO CONDUCTOR GOES VIRTUAL
CRISTIAN MAČELARU has signed up for Interlochen’s virtual arts camp, held from June 28 to July 19. Măcelaru is Chief Conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester, Music Director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and Music Director Designate of the Orchestre National de France. “Interlochen set me on the path to create a life in the arts,” Măcelaru said. “It is a privilege to be able to help inspire the next generation of artists to follow their dreams and fulfill their potential, especially during this challenging time.” Trey Devey, President of Interlochen Center for the Arts said, “Cristi has an uncanny ability to energize and inspire our emerging young musicians. We are grateful for his leadership and thrilled that he will join us for Interlochen Online this summer.”
21st CENTURY OPERA’S midwife; a Serge Diaghilev for our time. Click HERE
SMUIN’S “TAKE FIVE” STARTING WEDNESDAY
SMUIN CONTEMPORARY BALLET presents choreographer/former Smuin dancer Rex Wheeler’s exuberant Take Five (photo above by Chris Hardy) as the next installment of its Hump Day Ballets series, which aims to brighten mid-week spirits with free video streaming of a ballet from the company’s archives. This delightfully witty work, set to the jazzy beat of Dave Brubeck, made its mainstage premiere last fall just in time for the celebrated musician’s centennial in 2020. Take Five will be offered beginning Wednesday, May 27, 2020, accompanied by video introductions by both Wheeler and current Smuin dancer Maggie Carey, who danced in the world premiere last September. The recorded performance will be available for 48 hours only, with streaming instructions announced through Smuin’s email list (sign up at smuinballet.org), or via Smuin’s Facebook (facebook.com/SmuinBallet) and Instagram (instagram.com/smuinballet).
JOIN ESTEEMED Monterey-area pianist Melinda Armstead for “Chopin in Quarantine,” a Zoom livestream, this Friday, 10am, for a lecture/performance that will illuminate Chopin’s life and music, with particular focus on the composer’s time spent in Majorca with George Sand during the winter of 1838. Click HERE
I WOULD like to thank Performing Arts Monterey Bay for its thorough coverage of the performing arts in the greater Monterey Bay Area. Thoughtful and insightful articles, views and reviews are rare to find these days. PAMB is not afraid to print something that “has teeth.” Honest expression will, ultimately, be useful for readers, in that, honest observations and educated criticism will, without fail, promote debate and further conversation. I look forward to each Tuesday’s edition for a good read on local, national and international news and opinion in the arts. Keep up the good work. ~ Reg Huston, S.T.A.R. Foundation of Monterey County
THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH
ON HEARING the first track from this new Delos CD—Basong Cuo for zheng and five players (2012)—I was convinced that composer Xiaogang Ye had studied in France. Though the instrumental ensemble, Les Temps Modernes (founded in Lyon), might justify that conclusion it turns out he never did. Ye was born (1955) and raised in China where he has over three decades made himself more or less indispensable, not least as a member of the Chinese Parliament entrusted with various cultural duties. (He is currently Chairman of China Musicians’ Association and Vice Chairman of the International Music Council. He has founded several festivals and competitions specializing in new music.) Les Temps Modernes—flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, harp and percussion—are deployed in various configurations, each in six individual works averaging ten minutes in performance time. The first, Basong Cuo (named for a ‘holy’ lake in Tibet, and the last, San Die, (2007), originally written for shakuhachi now in a transcription for flute, employ the zheng. Colorful Sutra Banner (2006), for piano trio, takes more inspiration from Tibet and some of the earliest Buddhist legends as represented by the iconic high mountain prayer flags. It ends with a pulsing pizzicato dance. The circumspect December Chrysanthemum for flute and piano (2006) was written in memory of the composer’s young daughter. For solo piano, Namucuo (2006) was commissioned by a young Chinese pianist for his Carnegie Hall debut; it is named for another lake on the Tibetan plateau and sparkles with flashing colors. Hibiscus (2005) was composed for the six primary Les Temps Modernes members, introduced by a solo flute; it’s alternately joyous and sad. With Chinese, Japanese, American (the composer studied at the Eastman School) and obvious French sensibilities, this enchanting music crosses borders in every direction, invites the listener to savor their delicate colors and robust energy. These pieces are confident, modal and often tonal, rhythmically impulsive, contemporary without being slave to any particular traditional classical or pentatonic practices. Yet they do not gush; Ye holds his personal emotions in reserve. SM
SHAI WOSNER, frequently acclaimed a “Schubertian,” adds yet another new release for Onyx, adding to several other Schubert CDs (not to mention a recorded repertoire that ranges from Haydn to Ligeti to Gershwin to Missy Mazzoli.) This latest in his Schubert series consists of four four-movement ‘late’ sonatas that fill up two CDs. As Wosner opens his deeply researched and considered program notes, “There is no composer who binds the intimate and grand as inextricably as Franz Schubert. In his music, they complement rather than contradict each other.” I agree, especially when put next to the music of his contemporary, Beethoven; they spoke the same musical language but so differently from each other as to represent two different stylistic eras. (Beethoven died in 1827 at age 57; Schubert was only 31 when death took him in 1828.) To add further perspective and reasons to acquire Wosner’s Schubert collection, it wasn’t until the great Ukrainian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) began to play the Schubert sonatas on the world stage in the 1970s, that these works, dismissed as also-rans next to Beethoven, were finally recognized for their historic uniqueness and current stature. Before Richter, it seemed the Schubert sonatas were somehow keeping secrets. In fact, with many of them in four movements, the temptation to construe them as symphonies for piano solo has led many a scholar down the Yellow Brick Road complete with gratuitous orchestrations. (For the record, Schubert left many works, for orchestra and piano alike, unfinished.) Meanwhile, the Sonata in A Minor, D845, begins with a quote from an earlier song, “The Gravedigger’s Longing,” though it spends much of its time in the major key. The development of that theme turns over stone after stone in search of the right path. The mood cheers up for an andante set of variations, teasing scherzo that contains a dreamy trio and a robust rondo. The mostly serene Sonata in G, D894 (1826) opens with a graceful cantabile of some 17 minutes, its wistful 12/8 melody in dotted rhythm and with occasional ominous accents. (Eccentrically, Richter found a way to stretch it to 27 minutes.) The andante second movement in D contains two trios. The minuet quotes from Schubert’s second piano trio. The finale yodels gaily but with views into lost memories. In sharp contrast, the Sonata in C Minor, D958, begins in a roiling storm, dotted rhythms this time aggressively asserted, with each reiteration striving like Sisyphus. Its contemplative adagio is tinged with pain. The restless minuet contains several full stops. The dark steeplechase finale whirls like a malign tarantella. Schubert’s final completed work, the Sonata in B flat, D960, like the D894, begins with a big-sky 22-minute reading here, its gentle melody, interrupted by ominous growls from the bass, and a great many full stops. The melancholy andante that follows is reminiscent of the adagio from the great String Quintet in C. A cheery Ländler theme bounces over a cockamamie left-hand accompaniment. The jaunty tune in the final movement is punctuated by the tolling of a bell that breaks up the forward allegro motion. Wosner’s notes end with a Schubert quote from 1822, “Whenever I tried to sing of love, it turned to pain, and when I tried to sing of pain, it turned to love.” These splendid works encapsulate that contradiction. This new release is highly recommended. SM
SWANS FOR COVID-19 RELIEF
AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE principal dancer Misty Copeland and her former colleague, Joseph Phillips, decided to launch Swans for Relief, a special video performance featuring dancers from ballet companies around the world.
CREATIVE PEOPLE SHELTERING-IN-PLACE
ACCLAIMED JEWEL THEATRE COMPANY’S Julie James (right, with colleagues in Starting Here, Starting Now) is hard at work with plans for the moment she can open her 16th Santa Cruz season of productions for the Tannery’s Colligan stage. “Honestly, I’ve been doing nothing but planning and considering various budget scenarios as I follow the news of the virus, and seeing how far out major theatres are cancelling shows, and the predictions about when theatres may open again, and when patrons will feel comfortable to sit together like that again,” she told us. “And in the meantime, not wanting to just pull out archive videos from past shows which weren’t filmed with public presentation in mind, we are creating new theatre for online consumption. I can’t go into detail at this point, but we are working on it and will put something out probably by next month. Thankfully my small core staff are technically savvy so it’s not outside our wheelhouse necessarily. Just a little different way of making our art.”
“MEDITATION” by Antonio Carlos Jobim; Andrea Motis & Joan Chamorro Quintet with Scott Hamilton
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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor