Weekly Update, Nov 19, 2013

Coming soon: a performing arts explosion

If you think there’s a lot going on in Monterey Bay live performing arts, fasten your seatbelt. In the run-up to Christmas, over the next three weeks, choral concerts will proliferate and students will be trotting out their holiday and seasonal concerts and events. Consult our Calendar page every Monday, then later each week for added attractions.

This weekend (Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) the Monterey Symphony is pairing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. Some of us who saw the original 1951 NBC telecast of Amahl are still around, recalling the small TV screen in black and white—actually a washed out blue and white. The composer introduced the one-act piece, which was commissioned by NBC for its once-new opera program. It was seen by some five million viewers on 35 NBC affiliated stations. The premiere was conducted by Thomas Schippers and starred 12-year-old Chet Allen as Amahl, the crippled shepherd boy who receives a visit from the three Magi, on their way to celebrate the Christ Child.

AmahlYou can watch the original telecast on YouTube by clicking here (or later on our Links of Interest page.)

Menotti provided this note about how the work came to be. “I had been commissioned by NBC to write an opera for television, with Christmas as deadline, and I simply didn’t have one idea in my head. One November afternoon as I was walking rather gloomily through the rooms of the Metropolitan Museum, I chanced to stop in front of the Adoration of the Kings by Hieronymus Bosch, and as I was looking at it, suddenly I heard (again), coming from the distant blue hills, the weird song of the Three Kings. I then realized they had come (back) to me and had brought me a gift.”

Well known local theater director Walt deFaria is staging the Symphony’s production.

CD Review: Liszt, Vol. 2. Original works plus transcriptions of Bach and Beethoven. Garrick Ohlsson, piano. Bridge 9409

9409Garrick Ohlsson’s exploration of Franz Liszt for Bridge Records has just reached Volume 2, two years after the first volume celebrated the composer’s bicentenary in 2011. (If the popular Ohlsson is going after Leslie Howard’s record of the complete piano music of Liszt on Hyperion label, he now has only 97 CDs to go.) Ohlsson is one of the most versatile and satisfying pianists alive. He excels in every repertoire I’ve heard him play, live and on recordings, with rock-solid technique and equal measures of personality and artistry. Count on them all in this new release which also catches the subtle intimacies and power of a Boesendorfer Imperial, as recorded in July last year, in Theater C, at SUNY Purchase (a favorite studio of the Bridge production team).

As a preface to auditioning this new CD, read Allan Kozinn’s excellent interview with Ohlsson in the New York Times: click here, or find the link on our Links of Interest page. 

Unlike the first in the series, devoted to the great Sonata in B Minor and Ad nos Fantasie & Fugue, Vol. 2 contains a mixed bag, from early to late in the composer’s life. It begins with Liszt’s transcription of the unique Beethoven love song, Adelaide. (You can find an unforgettable recording of the original by Swedish tenor Jussi Bjoerling on YouTube.) Next is Liszt’s transcription of Bach’s Fantasy & Fugue in G Minor (made in Weimar at the same time Mendelssohn was resurrecting the mostly forgotten Bach in Leipzig.) The rest of the program consists of Liszt originals, Fountains at Villa d’Este, Benediction of God in Solitude, Funerals (in memory of the just-passed Chopin and of the 13 Martyrs of Arad), the atonal Nuages gris, a curious little piano piece in A-flat and the best known of the Mephisto waltzes.

Ohlsson has recorded for more record labels than he has fingers, yet he just seems to get more out of his playing all the time. Highly recommended.  

Now posted are reviews of last Sunday’s Santa Cruz Symphony (Music Reviews page) and Magic Circle’s Social Security (Theater Reviews page).

Scott MacClelland, editor