Weekly Update, Dec 3, 2013

Performing arts overload

DUE TO AN EXPLOSION OF LIVE PERFORMING ARTS THIS WEEKEND WE HAVE TEMPORARILY REDESIGNED OUR CALENDAR PAGE TO MAKE IT EASIER TO USE. We’ve separated holiday music from classical (based simply on our understanding of the program details) and collected those offerings, along with theater, according to which county they will be performed in.

Schedule conflicts have been a seemingly inevitable way of life among regional performing arts. Music presenters in particular seem content to remain oblivious to what their like-minded colleagues are up to, calendar-wise. This weekend’s offerings could hardly make the point more clear. Yet, like the theater community, each presenter has its own loyal constituencies—that sometimes look with suspicion on the others.

If you, on the other hand, count on just these kinds of seasonal events to put you in a warm holiday mood, but somehow haven’t figured out how to be in two places at once, at least the choice is yours. And what a choice: Choral music galore, from local as well as out-of-town choirs, plus dance at Cabrillo College and the Smuin Christmas program in Carmel, some pop and jazz plus a boatload of theater.

Meanwhile, the Trinity Chamber Players’ performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, heard yesterday at Monterey’s Wave Street Studios—see our Music Reviews page—will be reprised tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Carmel Foundation’s Diment Hall, 8th & Lincoln, at 2:30pm. Seating is limited.

If you’re one of those air conductors, who waves sticks or arms to recordings or music on the radio, former Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor (and successful composer) Esa-Pekka Salonen has some really good advice for you, on our Links of Interest page.   

CD Review: In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. Hilary Hahn, violin; Cory Smythe, piano. Deutsche Grammophon B00EPD3B2W (2 CDs).

Hilary Hahn has struck gold with her project to commission 27 “tiny pieces with a big attitude,” released just one month ago. The composers represented in this collection of pieces, two to six minutes in length, are hardly household names. Yet many of them are71rw1CrcEVL._SL1500_ respected veterans, like David Del Tredici and Valentin Silvestrov, both 76, and Einojuhani Rautavaara, now 85. Many more have launched careers to acclaim (if commissions are any indication) and, thanks to the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, gained recognition as well, like Paul Moravec, Avner Dorman, Mason Bates, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Jennifer Higdon (whose Echo Dash sounds just like its title, the one instrument sprinting after the other in high-speed imitation.) Still others will entice by their titles, like Du Yun’s When a Tiger Meets a Rosa Rugosa, Anton Garcia Abril’s Third Sigh, Christos Hatzis’ Coming To, Jeff Myers’ Angry Birds of Kauai, Elliott Sharp’s Storm of the Eye and Tina Davidson’s Blue Curve of the Earth. Eminent film composer James Newton Howard is represented by his 133-At Least, and Nico Muhly, composer of Two Boys, recently premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, by his Two Voices.

In her liner notes, Hahn writes, “For me, unwrapping a newly written work is like exploring a mysterious building with no apparent doors. I search for an entrance and then, once inside, I wander around, puzzling out what the design signifies and where I fit.” She continues, “Every one of these encores was fresh, free of interpretive tradition, and each spoke a different language” and “Often, I was pushed well past my limits.”

I made notes on each of the 27 pieces, but now realize that translating them into descriptions would drive me crazy and likely become tedious for you. That each of these pieces is different from the next is what gives the new album its richness, its treasure. Suffice to say, some are highly virtuosic, others hauntingly meditative, some feature drumming and knocking effects, cimbalom effects, guitar-like arpeggios, portamentos (slides) and quarter tones, bouncing syncopations and sheer ecstasy of execution.

For all her triumphs in the classical repertoire, Hahn has also shown a restless appetite for the new—her friend Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, for example—and different—her collaboration with Hauschka (pianist/composer Volker Bertelmann) in the Deutsche Grammophon CD Silfra, significantly named for the lake on the volatile Icelandic rift that separates the North American tectonic plate from its Eurasian counterpart. 

When it comes to unwrapping, In 27 Pieces under the tree will give any music lover with a streak of adventure a most Happy Holiday.

Scott MacClelland, editor