PERFORMING ARTS PEOPLE
This week it’s Kenny Hill, well-known guitarist, guitar maker, innovative guitar designer and globalized entrepreneur. Click HERE.
DAVID GORDON’S NEW BOOK
Two years in the writing/editing, “Carmel Impresarios” goes on sale this Saturday. In 400 pages with copious historic photos it is the first complete biography of Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous, pioneering Carmel impresarios (impresarias?) whose ongoing legacy includes the Carmel Bach Festival and Carmel Music Society.
CABRILLO’S MARIN ALSOP NAMED CHAMPION
JUST IN: Cabrillo Festival Music Director Marin Alsop was just presented with the “Champion of New Music” Award 2014 by the American Composers Forum. The award recognizes artistic leaders who support composers and new music.
NEW CD FROM PIANIST STEPHEN HOUGH
I’ve always liked Stephen Hough for his imagination, glibness and attitude. I could name any number of popular classical musicians, not limited to pianists, who bore me with their glamour, publicity and predictably safe playing.
Hough’s new Hyperion CD “In the Night” is a keeper. It opens with Schumann’s In der Nacht from the Fantasistucke, Op 12, four minutes of troubled turbulence, as if a nightmare, with a brief reflective interlude. Then comes Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, dreamy but restless in the first movement, whimsical in the second and manic to nail-biting hysteria in the stormy finale. Hough stamps all of it with his vivid impulses.
The two Opus 27 nocturnes by Chopin follow, the first in C-sharp Minor spooky in ominous shadows that promise and deliver a central eruption of muscle, and the more popular second, in D-flat, simultaneously flirtatious and comforting.
Then comes the pièce de résistance, Hough’s own Sonata No. 2 “notturno luminoso”, a visionary 18 minutes of explosive ecstasy, reminiscent of Olivier Messiaen’s celestial visions. It’s a brilliant piece, brilliantly played. Yet its mood changes as its narrative moves toward the dawn. Hough describes it “as about a different kind of night, the brightness of a brash city in the hours of darkness; the loneliness of pre-morning; sleeplessness and the dull glow of the alarm clock’s unmoving hours; the irrational fears which are only darkened by the harsh glare of a suspended, dusty light bulb. But also suggested are night-time’s heightened emotions: its mysticism, its magic, its imaginative possibilities.”
Lastly, Hough offers a probing exploration of Schumann’s Carnaval, its 21 brief movements refracting the composer’s monogram (ASCH) in a multitude of character studies and mini-portraits. These bits fall freshly on the ear.
MINNESOTA OPERA’S NEW WORKS INITIATIVE
Launched in 2008, the NWI “was designed to invigorate the operatic art form with an infusion of contemporary works,” its “first iteration” spread across seven seasons. At its recent annual meeting Minnesota Opera announced its commission of Dinner at Eight, a new comic opera by composer William Bolcom and librettist Mark Campbell, based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, slated for MO’s world premiere in the 2016-2017 season. Previously announced commissions include The Shining, by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, based on the novel by Stephen King, which will premiere in May 2016, and the co-commission with the Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia of Cold Mountain by composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer, based on the novel by Charles Frazier, and currently planned for the 2018-2019 Minnesota season.
So far the Initiative has successfully launched Silent Night by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell (2012 Pulitzer Prize winner; still scene right) and 2013’s Doubt by Douglas J. Cuomo and librettist John Patrick Shanley. (In 2007, Minnesota Opera premiered The Grapes of Wrath, based on the Steinbeck novel, composed by Ricky Ian Gordon to a libretto by Michael Korie.) March 2015 will see the premiere staging of The Manchurian Candidate, also by Puts and Campbell.
Scott MacClelland, editor