Superstar pianist Yuja Wang at age 9
NEW THIS WEEK
‘THIS WE ASK: PRAYERS IN OPERA,’ Thursday evening live concert from St Ignatius Parish in San Francisco. INTERVIEW WITH JOANN FALLETTA Longtime Buffalo Philharmonic music director/conductor hosted online Saturday morning by Youth Music Monterey. SANTA CRUZ BAROQUE FESTIVAL LIVE: A recital by recorderist Claudia Liliana Gantivar on Saturday evening. SPECTORDANCE VIRTUAL CHOREOGRAPHERS SHOWCASE, complete concert from last weekend. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE
OREGON SHAKESPEARE FEST SPARED
THE SUSPECTED ARSON FIRE that wrought destruction in the Rogue River Valley of Southern Oregon has left the popular Shakespeare Festival unscorched. Click HERE
“AT LEAST A YEAR” AFTER VACCINE
DR ANTHONY FAUCI tells actor Jennifer Garner that safe public theater events are still a long way off. Click HERE
STAGE-SCREEN STAR DIANA RIGG DIES AT 82
SHE SINGS SONDHEIM’S “Every Day a Little Death”
GOOD NEWS FOR MUSICIANS
NEW BILL SIGNED BY GOVERNOR NEWSOM loosens ‘gig’ economy restrictions. Click HERE
LAST WEEK’S WEEKLY MAGAZINE essay on musical textures (our review of a new CD of recent works by James MacMillan), composer Josef Sekon of Aptos writes: “This is but the tip of the iceberg on this fascinating musical exploration. Texture in modern music is more kaleidoscopic in which the orchestration explores many possibilities: Strings vs winds, vs brass vs a unique combination of all the above and beyond. I would suggest Lutoslawski, a Master! I hope someday you have the opportunity to hear at least one of my two new works for orchestra in which texture is one of the main objectives. Glad you touched on the subject.”
LAST WEEK’S email to our subscribers, for want of a comma, suggested that jazz pianist Keith Jarrett had died. Sorry: he’s alive and well. Thanks to Earleen Overend of Aptos for pulling up our socks.
LANG LANG’S NEW ‘GOLDBERG’ VARIATIONS
FROM BEIJING, and deeply personal.
WHAT IS AN ‘EQUITY’ ACTOR?
WE HAVE OFTEN BEEN ASKED this question by our readers. So we passed it along to Equity actor Julie James, founder and artistic director of the widely acclaimed Jewel Theatre Company in Santa Cruz. She provided us with a comprehensive reply.
“PRODUCERS AND DIRECTORS want the best actors for their productions and those actors are more often likely to be “Equity” (a member of the Actors Equity Association or AEA), the union for stage actors and stage managers in the U.S. Equity actors are usually more extensively trained and more experienced at a higher level of theatre, are dedicated to a full-time career as an actor, and therefore more proficient. Having studied more extensively and having continued their training throughout their careers, having “paid their dues” doing small roles, working in non-union community and/or “street” theatre, and moving up to productions on a professional level, Equity actors’ experience is usually broader than non-union actors.” For her complete response, click HERE
MEANWHILE here is The Hitch-Hiker, one of Jewel Theatre’s virtual radio plays, now being offered in this time of C-19.
THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH
IT’S CALLED TAPHOPHOBIA, the fear of being buried alive. Several historical figures are thought to have felt it. Frédéric Chopin requested that his heart be cut out to ensure his death. George Washington asked that his body be “laid out” for three days. Hans Christian Anderson and Alfred Nobel wanted their arteries cut open. Gustav Mahler insisted that his heart be pierced before burial.
THE SWISS COMPOSER Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) adapted a set of 14 poems, collectively titled Lebendig begraben (1846) by Gottfried Keller (1819-1890), another Swiss. Critic Paul Griffiths described the work, in which singer and orchestra elide from one verse to the next without pause, as more “monodrama” than song-cycle. Indeed, it takes its place in the romantic line of composers from Mahler to Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and Korngold. But don’t expect to find tunes you can hum. All of those composers, and Kurt Weill as well, used techniques associated with Sprechstimme (half speech, half song) and the cabaret songs of early 20th century Berlin. Nevertheless, the 45-minute work is a virtuoso tour-de-force for the baritone—bass baritone actually—who in this case is Michael Nagy. (The last recording of it dates from 1962, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the notes suggest.) The texts are not so much an expression of terror but as rumination on life itself, favorite memories (trees, Christmas), the tolling of bells from a nearby church counting time by quarter hours, thoughts of a boat smashing on rocks. For all the images conjured by the words, the piece never quite finds itself in the safe embrace of tonality, although, strangely, the final chord is in the major. The texts tell of voices and yelling, twitching tendons (a piano appears in the orchestra), a glimpse of the sunset sky and March snow on the ground as the coffin lid is briefly lifted one last time. Thoughts of a gravedigger finding the entombed, or of a girl come to mourn, flit through the narrator’s head. In the grotesque 8th song, “I even ate the rose in my hand.” Closing in a final Farewell, a wordless chorus appears as another orchestral choir. Schoeck did a masterful job in reconciling the texts with extraordinary orchestrations, all sustaining a tonal ambiguity. I would not want to pore over it just before going to bed.
Rounding out the program are Paul Honegger’s Rugby (1928), a wild scrimmage between two teams (one in 3/4 time, the other in march time), and Concerto Grosso (1928) by a man much better known as one of the great 20th century conductors, Dimitri Mitropoulos. The latter piece, in four movements, draws on Baroque era procedures, including dotted French overtures, lots of counterpoint and fugues, the kinds of practices popular with the 20th century German master composer Paul Hindemith. The Orchestra Now—young musicians hand-picked from the world’s “leading” music conservatories, and, in the Schoeck, the Bard Festival Chorale, are conducted by Leon Botstein, a maestro with a penchant for the rare and unusual, as recorded last November at Bard College. SM
RAGAZZI BOYS CHORUS
USING ZOOM and new tech they can make all the pieces fit rightly together.
MUSIC AND BIOLOGY
IS THERE A QUESTION HERE? “The goal of this essay is to reignite a conversation with the Post Carbon Institute’s own Richard Heinberg about music and change in planetary systems, a conversation which began in the fall of 2017.” Click HERE
SEPTEMBRE BY BARBARA, 1930-1997
EXCEPTIONAL CHANTEUSE, née Monique Andrée Serf
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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor