Monday, September 25, 2017

Marvelous ”Two Yosemites” makes a passionate plea for the environment

Campsite setting of "Two Yosemites"
“Two Yosemites” proved to be a surprisingly fine opera that resonated with a large audience at the outdoor amphitheater of the Lewis and Clark Law School on Friday, September 15th. Written by Justin Ralls and presented by Opera Theater Oregon, “Two Yosemites” marvelously conveyed the story of a transformative camping trip in 1903 involving John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt that led to the creation of one of America’s most iconic national parks. Outstanding performances by Nicholas Meyer as Muir and Aaron Short as Roosevelt, combined deftly with a taut chamber ensemble, conducted by Ralls, to create 60 minute, one-act opera that was emotionally satisfying and not preachy.

Ralls, a young composer who is pursuing a doctorate in music at the University of Oregon, really outdid himself with “Two Yosemities,” his first foray into the world of opera. The music was mostly harmonic accompanied by a deft ability for word painting. He evocatively used the piccolo to depict the song of a thrush and used a colorful pallet to paint an array of outdoor scenes on an intimate or grand scale. When Muir waxed eloquently about the beauty of nature, the music became rhapsodic but never syrupy. When Roosevelt described his love of hunting and his disdain for political wrangling, his line became punchy and aggressive. Yet, neither man was a one-dimensional cartoon. Ralls gave each man emotions and a complexity that, we, in the audience, could identify with.

Short did a masterful job of communicating the vibrancy of Roosevelt. Strutting about the campfire with a cocksure attitude of a man of action, he mesmerized the audience with an expressive tenor could be edgy when needed and then quickly transition to a legato of Mozartian elegance.

Nicholas Meyer superbly captured Muir’s dignity and vision for the great outdoors with a calm demeanor that was an excellent counterweight to Roosevelt. Meyer’s beautiful mellow baritone was at its best in the upper range, but it needed a bit more bite when Muir confronted Roosevelt.

The chorus of four women (Joannah Ball, jena Viemeister, Jocelyn Claire-Thomas, and Catherine Olson) sounded terrific except that their text (from an American-Indian language) needed supertitles. All of the singers and the orchestra were amplified because of the bucolic outdoor setting, and for the most part, that worked very well. To top off the evening, the voices of tree frogs seemed to add to the applause after the opera concluded.

“Two Yosemites” is an opera that deserves to be heard again and again. Perhaps the Astoria Music Festival might product it. Hats off to Ralls for writing such a marvelous opera on his first try. I hope that he writes another one in the near future.

Today's Birthdays

Johann Nikolaus Hanff (1663-1711)
Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897)
Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970)
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)
Glenn Gould (1932-1982)
Stella Sung (1959)

and

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929)
Sir Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991)
Vaclav Nelhybel (1919-1996)
Cornell MacNeil (1922-2011)
Alfredo Kraus (1927-1999)
John Rutter (1945)
Marc Neikrug (1946)

and

Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Eavan Boland (1944)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1947, German-born composer Hans Eisler is questioned about his former membership in the Communist Party by the House Committee on Un-American activities. Eisler had been a member of the Party in the 1920s, left Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933, and had been working in Hollywood on film scores and as the musical assistant to Charlie Chaplin. He left the U.S. in 1948 and settled in East Germany - where he composed that country's national anthem.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jacques Féréol Mazas (1782-1849)
William Levi Dawson (1899-1990)
Jarmila Novotná (1907-1994)
Soulima Stravinsky (1910-1994)
Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012)
Ray Charles (1930-2004)
John Coltrane (1926-1967)
Robert Helps (1928-2001)
Bruce Springsteen (1949)
William Shimell (1952)

and

Euripides (ca 480 BC - 406 BC) - today is the traditional day for Greeks to celebrate his birthday.
Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947)
Walter Lippmann (1899-)
Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ear Trumpet listing of concerts featuring new music

Courtesy of Bob Priest:

EAR TRUMPET
PDX New Music Calendar
Ensembles Edition
September 2017 - May 2018 Season

---------

SEPTEMBER
19 - 21: Third Angle
20: Creative Music Guild

---------

OCTOBER
4, 8 & 18: Creative Music Guild
9: Fear No Music
14: Cascadia Composers
19 & 20: Third Angle
21: Sound of Late
30: Fear No Music

---------

NOVEMBER
1: Creative Music Guild
3 & 18: Cascadia Composers
10 & 11: Third Angle
27: Fear No Music

---------

DECEMBER
Dark

---------

JANUARY
8: Fear No Music
11 & 12: Third Angle

---------

FEBRUARY
8 & 9: Third Angle
17: Cascadia Composers

---------

MARCH
5: Fear No Music
10: Sound of Late
14: Friends of Rain
23 - 25: March Music Moderne

---------

APRIL
12 & 13: Third Angle
29: Fear No Music

---------

MAY
7: Fear No Music
19: Sound of Late

=========

All dates are current as of 19 September

Please visit individual WEBSITES to double-check dates & for more info:

Cascadia Composers
cascadiacomposers.org

Creative Music Guild
creativemusicguild.org

Fear No Music
fearnomusic.org

Friends of Rain
https://college.lclark.edu/departments/music/ensembles/friends_of_rain/

March Music Moderne
marchmusicmoderne.org

Friends of Rain
https://college.lclark.edu/departments/music/ensembles/friends_of_rain/

March Music Moderne
marchmusicmoderne.org

Sound of Late
soundoflate.org

Third Angle
thirdangle.org

=========

ET's CD PICK OF THE SEASON:
Dobrinka Tabakova
String Paths
ECM New Series
ecmrecords.com

=========

WEST COAST TRAIL FESTSPIEL OF THE YEAR:
International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM)
World Music Days
2 - 8 November
Vancouver, BC, Canada
27 Concerts in 8 Venues
128 Composers from 48 Countries
iscm2017.ca

=========

Although this edition of ET is devoted to ensembles, groups & orgs that
focus exclusively on new music, there are others in PDX that sometimes
include new music on their programs:

Oregon Symphony
Portland Youth Philharmonic
Chamber Music Northwest
Friends of Chamber Music
Classical Revolution PDX
Arnica String Quartet
45th Parallel
Portland Piano International
PSU Music Dept
Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan
PDX Jazz Composers Ensemble
Resonance Ensemble
Mousai Remix
Agnieszka Laska Dancers
Portland Chamber Orchestra
Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Cappella Romana
Opera Theatre Oregon
Portland Opera
In Mulieribus
The Ensemble
 
 

Today's Birthdays

Arthur Pryor (1870-1942)
Mikolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911)
Henryk Szeryng (1918-1988)
William O. Smith (1926)
Hugh Bean (1929-2003)
Leonardo Balada (1933)
Anna Tomowa-Sintow (1941)
John Tomlinson (1946)
Vladmir Ghernov (1953)
Michael Torke (1961)

and

Fay Weldon (1931)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Music critic in Cincinnati gets the pink slip

Musical America has reported that veteran music critic at the Cincinnati Enquirer has been laid off. Janelle Gelfand, who has worked at the paper for 26 years, lost her job on Tuesday. Musical America is a subscription-based magazine, but you can read about it in the Facebook pages for Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Opera.

Today's Birthdays

François Francoeur (1698-1787)
Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
Meinrad Schütter (1910-2006)
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)
Jill Gomez (1942)
Andrei Gavrilov (1955)
Nina Rautio (1957)

and

Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498)
Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)
H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells (1866-1946)
Sir Allen Lane (1902-1970)
Stephen King (1941)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968)
Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (1885-1941)
Uuno Klami (1900-1961)
David Sheinfeld (1906-2001)
John Dankworth (1927-2010)
Jane Manning (1938)
Laurie Spiegel (1945)
John Harle (1956)

and

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)
Maxwell Perkins (1884-1947)
Stevie Smith (1902-1971)
Donald Hall (1928)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1954, Stravinsky: "In Memoriam Dylan Thomas," premiered in Los Angeles, conducted by Robert Craft. Stravinsky had met the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas the previous year, and they had discussed collaborating on an opera project, but Thomas died on November 9, 1953.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

George Takei hosts the Oregon Symphony's season opening.

George Takei
Photo: AP/Victoria Will
The Oregon Symphony opened its 2017-18 season Saturday night, September 16, with guest host and narrator George Takei introducing an evening of old favorites and American classics.

Portland seemed thrilled to have Takei in the house, known not only for his role as helmsman Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek but also as a pop culture icon and fighter for human rights. The opening piece was Beethoven's Egmont Overture; appropriately grandiose and stentorian (a suitable opening motif for an entire season), the OSO executed ably as the work graduated into a heroic gallop to the finish.

The second work was an OSO premier of Twill by Twilight, by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.  Set in the form of a tone poem, Takei mentioned that on a personal note he considered the work an elegy for his cousin and aunt who died in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. The work contained many harsh dissonances that were somehow rendered mellow in effect by the subdued timbre. The symphony imparted to the work a strange dream-like quality, somehow hypnotic and vaguely unsettling simultaneously.

Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks was next, and the orchestra was clearly having fun with this one. Consistently marvelous sound production from the winds throughout the work and a short but brilliant solo from concertmaster Sarah Kwak highlighted this piece, which unfortunately suffered from an out-of-balance brass choir that completely subsumed everything else during the fortissimos.

The second half started with Liszt's Les Preludes, a well-played chestnut, with a properly Jovian crescendo during the famous theme. Morton Gould's American Salute was bombastic and brassy, a spritely set of interesting variations on the folk tune 'Johnny come marching home.' With this well-known tune as the whole basis of the work it could have been dull and uninteresting; however Kalmar and the OSO managed to infuse this oddly peripatetic work with great imagination.

The highlight of the evening was Copland's Lincoln Portrait, an iconic work well known to filmgoers as the opening theme from Saving Private Ryan. This iconic composition required a keen insight into the emotional as well as acoustical dynamics--alternately bold and statesmanlike, small and folksy--and the OSO got this one just right. Takei's rich baritone in the text reading, as well as his stature as an American who has been through some of the worst and best this nation has to offer, lent the work a splendid sense of decorum and purpose, the final ingredients required to make this piece perfect.

Oregon Bach Festival mess reaches the New York Times

The New York Times has reported on the recent OBF mess here. Also Bob Hicks of the Oregon Arts Watch has written his thoughts on the matter here. The Eugene Register-Guard has printed an astute opinion piece here. Music insider Norman Lebrecht has issued his thoughts on Slipped Disc here.

Thanks to Mark Mandel and Bob Priest for forwarding some of these links.

Today's Birthdays

Gustav Schirmer (1829-1893)
Allan Pettersson (1911-1980)
Kurt Sanderling (1912-2011)
Blanche Thebom (1918-2010)
Arthur Wills (1926)
Bonaventura Bottone (1950)

and

William Golding (1911-1993)
Amalia Hernández (1917-2000)
Roger Angell (1920)