Weekly Update

Good news opportunity for MPC Theatre Company

In Philip Pearce’s review of MPC Theatre’s new Taming of the Shrew, (Theater Reviews page), he writes,In a brief pre-curtain speech, (director) Gary Bolen gave out the encouraging news that the S.T.A.R. Foundation has awarded a $10,000 matching grant to Monterey Peninsula Community Theatre Company Charitable Trust. Donations made now will effectively double, and can be mailed to MPC Theatre Trust, P.O. Box 761, Monterey, CA 93942, or made online at www.mpctheatreco.com

Felix Mendelssohn’s missing symphonies

German composer Felix Mendelssohn, scion of an exceptional Jewish family whose father ultimately foreswore the faith of his fathers in favor of reformed Calvinist Protestantism, wrote three symphonies: the Third “Scottish”, Fourth “Italian” and Fifth “Reformation.” Did I miss something? Like maybe a First and a Second?

Between the ages of ten and fourteen Master Felix completed a dozen symphonies for strings, evidencing a precocity that eclipsed even Mozart. He composed his fully orchestrated and startling Symphony No. 1 at age fifteen and conducted its premiere in London at age twenty.

71bx1OgUQLL._SL1500_Just now, Harmonia Mundi has issued an exciting new CD of Mendelssohn’s rarely performed Symphony No. 2 “Lobgesang” (Hymn of Praise) which was commissioned by the city of Leipzig to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of moveable type. But let me clear up some real confusion. The “Lobgesang” was actually the penultimate of Mendelssohn’s symphonies, coming between the “Italian” of 1833 and the “Scottish” of 1842. For the record, the “Reformation” dates from 1830, making it the true second of the composer’s mature symphonies; it, like “Lobgesang”, was commissioned to celebrate an historic moment, the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession.

But calling “Lobgesang” a symphony is dicey. The CD jacket asks “Symphony, cantata or oratorio?” Lasting just over an hour, it begins with three symphonic movements, the first opening with a stentorian motto on trombones that is echoed on the orchestra then repeatedly throughout the entire work and fully punctuating its finale. What follows the three movements is more an oratorio than a cantata in scale and drama; the title, Hymn of Praise, conceals the fact that most of the texts come from the psalms. The heart of the piece is the extensive tenor scene that uses texts from Psalm 126 “The snares of death…”, Ephesians 5:14 and Isaiah 21:11 & 12, “We called out in darkness, Watchman, is the night soon past?” This marks the dark nadir of the work and is deeply dramatic; those final words are repeated numerous times against an ominous orchestra until, at last, the chorus, in gleaming D Major, announces “The night is over.” In effect, the piece conflates Johannes Gutenberg as John the Baptist. The Spanish rising star Pablo Heras-Casado conducts the chorus and orchestra of Bavarian Radio, with sopranos Christiane Karg and Christina Landshamer and widely-known tenor Michael Schade. There is nothing ponderous here (as I have encountered in previous recordings); this is full of youthful energy which proves once again that this immensely talented composer, who died of a stroke at 38, was always young.      

Jazz Kiln improvisation Workshop Series at Kuumbwa

Noted jazz educator Eddie Mendenhall and bassist Dan Robbins will lead six weekly evening workshops for musicians of all ages at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, from March 25 through April 29. Enrollment is limited and advance registration is required. Full details at http://kuumbwajazz.org/education/jazz-kiln/

Free piano offer

A reader of KimmelPAMB in Carmel has offered a Kimball baby grand piano free “to a school, community organization or senior residence.” The instrument (pictured) needs some repair work and a proper tuning. If you are interested, please respond to editor@performingartsmontereybay.com

Critics at Large

Music reviewer Robert Reid ran a marathon from Los Angeles to San Francisco to hear the LA Phil and Bolivar Symphony under “the Dude” at the Disney, then the St. Petersburg Philharmonic conducted by Yuri Temirkanov at Davies. Find his report on our Music Reviews page. And Heather J. Morris has contributed her review of Ensemble Monterey’s Santa Cruz performance of last Sunday to the same page.

Performing Arts People

This week’s PAP person is Santa Cruz County philanthropist Rowland Rebele. Meet him here, or on the PAP link on the toolbar above.

Scott MacClelland, editor