Weekly Update, Nov 12, 2013


Genuine heavyweights of pop and jazz are in town this week. You get Graham Nash on Saturday in Carmel and Lyle Lovett on Sunday at Santa Cruz Civic. Kuumbwa Jazz Center hosts sax-monster Joshua Redman on Friday and songstress Diane Schuur next Monday. These acts will probably sell out, if they haven’t already. Check our Calendar page for details. Classical music lovers have a rare opportunity to hear one of the great 20th century masterpieces when the Santa Cruz Symphony performs the First Cello Concerto by Shostakovich with soloist Austin Huntington, Saturday in Santa Cruz and Sunday in Watsonville.  

Finding a parking place for a Youth Music Monterey County concert has become a real hassle. You can blame YMMC’s success for making fans, supporters and family members get there earlier and walk farther to their performances at Sunset Center in Carmel and Sherwood Hall in Salinas. You can also thank the local media for getting on board in support of Saturday’s program in Carmel which featured Imamyar Hasanov, virtuoso on the Azeri kamancha, and YMMC music director Farkhad Khudyev (the K’s are silent to Western ears) for bringing Hasanov to town. YMMC alum David Arrivée, conductor of the orchestra at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Youth Orchestra Salinas (YOSAL) music director Juan Felipe Molano also came to hear the Youth and Honors orchestras and meet Khudyev for the first time. (YOSAL is one of YMMC’s newest colleagues with collaborative concerts expected later this season.)

Morocco 849Other YOSAL people were there, as were the cultural representative of the Azerbaijan attaché to the US and Monterey councilwoman Nancy Selfridge whose support spoke directly to Monterey’s Azeri sister city, Lankaran. Hasanov, who is also global director for the San Francisco World Music Festival, soloed in the introspective second movement from Haji Khanmammadov’s Concerto for Kamancha and Orchestra and Hasan Rzayev’s Cahargah Rhapsody. The pieces called for the solo instrument to play in the harmonic minor key—with “some quarter tones thrown in” Hasanov told me—which gave the music a deep soulful quality, at once masculine and nostalgic. Hasanov played on two kamanchas, the first with four strings, the second with five and a traditional fish skin top to the resonating gourd. Bowed like a cello, and using a long endpin to bring the smallish instruments up to the standing player, and amplified for balance with the orchestra, both instruments gave forth a deeply expressive and distinctive timbre. At least they did for Hasanov. Noticeably, the horsehair of the bow was extremely loose when compared with the tauter cello bow.

The Honors Orchestra then played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, rough in spots from a discipline point of view, but expressively intense. Khudyev has wasted no time defining his approach and strategy; he’s giving his young musicians a taste of what orchestral playing is in the ‘real’ world.

NEW CD RELEASE:  Clarinet Concertos No. 1 & 2, Concertino for Clarinet by Carl Maria von Weber, Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet, with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West, conductor. Bridge Records 9416

By Robert Reid

Carmel Music Society subscribers may remember clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein from the 2005-06 season. He appeared at Sunset Center with Alon Goldstein, piano, and Amit Peled, cello, in a program devoted to the music of Robert Schumann. The three young Israelis, all products of the America Israel Cultural Foundation system, have gone on to establish important classical music careers in the U.S. 

9416Fiterstein, a student of Charles Neidich at Juilliard, won a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant. He maintains an active career as soloist and chamber musician and has recently joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota.

The three clarinet works presented on the new release are among the finest and most popular works composed for solo clarinet and orchestra. Every clarinetist who aspires to a classical career will learn the Concertino at an early age. These mainstays of the clarinet repertoire were created in less than six months. Carl Maria von Weber, then 23, and clarinet virtuoso, Heinrich Baermann, age 26, first met in Darmstadt in early 1811. Weber was engaged to present concerts to the Bavarian Court and asked Baermann to join him. Baermann asked for a solo work from the young composer and Weber agreed to produce one. The short, one movement Concertino was completed in three days and performed three days later on April 5 to great acclaim. The success led to a commission from the King to compose two more works for Baermann. The first concerto was performed in June 1811 and the second in August of the same year. However, Weber was not finished with the clarinet. In September, he began work on a chamber work for clarinet and string quartet. But that is another story.

This is Alexander Fiterstein’s first solo album with orchestra, in this case the outstanding group from the San Francisco Ballet. Fiterstein’s singing tone is warm and colorful, his phrasing perfectly suited for Weber’s operatic style and his technique is impeccable. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra gives a sensitive performance as an accompanying partner, but could be more forceful at times. There are many fine recordings of the Weber works for clarinet and orchestra, but this is an important addition. Well performed and recorded, this is a highly recommended CD.

Robert Reid is an avid concert-goer and clarinetist. As a youth, he studied with Loris Wiles, principal clarinet of the Oklahoma City Symphony. In recent years, he has studied with Erica Horn of Monterey and published a review for PAMB of a master class at Hidden Valley presented by Mark Nuccio of the New York Philharmonic.

The new MPC production of Huck Finn is reviewed by Philip Pearce (see Theater Reviews page) and find my review of Sunday’s solo piano recital by Haskell Small in Santa Cruz (see Music Reviews page).

Scott MacClelland, editor