Thursday, December 14, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Maria Agata Szymanowska (1789-1831)
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
Georges Thill (1897-1984)
Spike Jones (1911-1965)
Rosalyn Tureck (1914-2003)
Dame Ruth Railton (1915-2001)
Ron Nelson (1929)
Christopher Parkening (1947)
Thomas Albert (1948)
John Rawnsley (1949)

and

Shirley Jackson (1919-1965)
Amy Hempel (1951)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alexis de Castillon (1838-1873)
Josef Lhévinne (1874-1944)
Eleanor Robson Belmont (1879-1979)
Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976)
Victor Babin (1908-1972)
Alvin Curran (1938)

and

Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882)
Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)
James Wright (1927-1980)
Lester Bangs (1948-1982)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1836, at a musical soiree at Chopin's apartments in Paris, the female writer "George" Sand, determined to make a good impression with her host, arrives wearing white pantaloons and a scarlet sash (the colors of the Polish flag). Paris Opéra tenor Adolphe Nourit sings some Schubert songs, accompanied by Franz Liszt. Liszt and Chopin play Moschele's Sonata in Eb for piano four-hands.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Watts stumbles with Grieg in all-Nordic program with the Oregon Symphony

André Watts has been one of the most popular artists over many, many years with the Oregon Symphony. I can still recall him riveting the audience with an electrifying performance of one of Beethoven’s piano concertos with the orchestra when they still played in Keller Auditorium (then called Civic Auditorium). Watts has consistently been one of the very best soloists to play with the orchestra. That’s why it was sad to see him experience problems in playing Grieg’s piano concerto with the orchestra at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Saturday (December 2), due to apparent memory slips.

According to Wikipedia, Watts suffered from a subdural hematoma in 2004 and has more recently recovered from prostate cancer, but whatever the reason, the famous piano encountered noticeable problems when he got lost in the cadenza in the first movement. He recovered and found his way out of it, receiving encouraging applause after finishing it. But his playing in the slow second movement had some missed notes and he was not to be able to get into the flow of the lyrical music. In the third movement he continued to struggle with passages, and seemed to get angry with himself, making some of the quieter phrases too loud. Conductor Carlos Kalmar took care of the situation by giving Watts a few helpful cues just in case. After the piece concluded someone from the audience brought a bouquet of flowers to the stage, and there was plenty of applause, but there was a lot of talk during the intermission as to what had happened. Being one of America’s favorite pianists, one can only how that the performance was just a brief aberration to an otherwise brilliant career.

The Grieg was to centerpiece of an all-Nordic program with works by Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, and Joonas Kikkonen. British conductor Leo Hussain was scheduled to lead the program, but a family emergency interrupted. So Kalmar, the Oregon Symphony’s music director, stepped in to save the day.

The surprisingly delightful piece on the program was Kokkonen’s “Symphonic Sketches,” a short work in three movements that began with a slow, unrelenting heartbeat from the percussion section, which stayed in the background as the strings painted a lush landscape that became slightly exotic – accented by the bassoon (Evan Kuhlmann) in an oddly high register. The second movement was brief and agitated with lively rhythms that bounced along. The third created a ponderous atmosphere with a high, spun sound from the strings, a stately brass choir, followed by long lines from the strings and the return of the quiet heartbeat in the percussion.

The orchestra superbly performed Sibelius’s “Valse triste” with the softest, most exquisite tone – as if playing in a faded, grand ballroom from a bygone era. They followed it with an incisive performance of Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony. A relentless, bristling march impelled by the snare drum (Niel DePonte), signaled the ominous threat of war in spite of the calmer and more harmonious sounds from the orchestra, such as the woodwinds evoking the sound of fluttering birds. That exchange of peaceful and warlike sounds continued throughout the first movement, ending with a plaintive glimmer from the clarinet (James Shields) against the warning of an offstage snare drum. The second movement escalated into a near cacophony of sound with trumpets rising above it all. The strings were scintillating as they flew through lightning-fast passages. A wild ride by the clarinet (Shields) cried out in jubilation followed by alovely, lyrical melody for the strings, indicating a triumph of the good and positive.

Today's Birthdays

Andrey Schulz‑Evler (1852-1905)
Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974)
Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)
Philip Ledger (1937-2012)
Donald Maxwell (1948)
Margaret Tan (1953)
Jaap van Zweden (1960)
David Horne (1970)
Evren Genis (1978)

and

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
John Osborne (1929-1994)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909)
Leo Ornstein (1893-2002)
Elliott Carter (1908-2012)
David Ashley White (1944)
Neil Mackie (1946)

and

Grace Paley (1922-2007
Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006)
Grace Paley (1922-2007)
Jim Harrison (1937-2016)
Thomas McGuane (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1918, Russian-born conductor Nikolai Sokoloff leads the first concert of the Cleveland Orchestra at Gray's Armory, presented as a benefit for St. Ann's Church. His program included Victor Herbert's "American Fantasy," Bizet's "Carmen" Suite, two movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, Liadov's "Enchanted Lake," and Liszt's "Les Préludes".

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

César Franck (1822-1890)
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Morton Gould (1913-1996)
Sesto Bruscantini (1919-2003)
Nicholas Kynaston (1941)
Julianne Baird (1952)
Kathryn Stott (1958)
Sarah Chang (1980)

and

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)
Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

PSU Opera recreates a Parisian salon and blends poignancy with humor in “Cendrillon”

Maeve Stier and Luke Smith
With charming ingenuity, Portland State Opera created the atmosphere of a fin de siecle Parisian salon and topped it off with fine and spirited production on Friday evening (December 1) of Pauline Viardot’s “Cendrillon” (“Cinderella”). The cozy confines of the Lincoln Studio Theater was the perfect place for the cast of young singers to engage and enchant a full house with a rare operetta that probably had never before been performed in Portland. Directed by Brenda Nuckton with an arrangement for piano trio by Chuck Dillard, the singers delivered an outstanding performance that put a smile on the faces of the audience.

Viardot (1821-1910) was a famous mezzo-soprano who studied singing with her mother, piano with Franz Liszt, and composition with Antoine Reicha. She enjoyed a successful career in Europe and Russia and set up a renown intellectual salon in Paris, hosting the eminent composers and writers of the day from Berlioz and Chopin to Dickens and Turgenev. In her later years, Viardot taught singing and composed around 200 songs and a number of operettas. Her “Cendrillon,” which she wrote in 1894, is an elegant and witty retelling of "Cinderella."
Maeve Stier and Megan Uhrinak
Dressed in period costume, PSU Opera’s singers invited the audience into the studio theater with its stage set as Viardot’s Parisian salon. One of the singers witty announced that the space was renamed the “Potato Theater where a single potato can be a veritable feast” and encouraged listeners to donate to the PSU food pantry. That worked perfectly with the Cinderella story later in the show, because Cinderella was generous with the poor.

The salon continued in the spirit of a variety show. Cellist Hasan Abualhaj gave an outstanding performance of the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suit No. 1 in G major. This was followed by a series of charades in which the audience guessed which opera was pantomimed (“Tosca,” “The Barber of Seville,” “Carmen,” and “Romeo and Juliet”). An elegant dance featuring two PSU students and a game musical chairs involving to participants from the audience then led to Madame Viardot (Megan Uhrinak) handing out sheets of music for an impromptu performance of “Cendrillon” to her salon guests.
Jereme Wilkie
As the scores were gradually discarded, the operetta unfolded, magically drawing everyone into the Cinderella story. Led by the splendid singing and acting of Maeve Stier in the title role, the entire cast gave an outstanding performance. Sisters Magelonne (Rebecca Yakos) and Armelinde (Kaitlyn Lawrence) were convincingly haughty, and Baron Pictordu (Jonathan Roberts) had just the right degree of superficiality and arrogance. The dashing and perfect Prince (Luke Smith) was countered by the swagger of Barigoule who wonderfully got carried away venturing into a row of audience members. The Fiary Godmother (Uhrinak) delivered her lines with a wink and a nod, and Footman (Eric Olson) made sure that everything was served up with a dash of élan.

At one point, the freeze-frame action added a touch of poignancy, but that was balanced with excellent humor throughout the production, including a reverse-dance sequence, disco-mirror-ball projections, stuffed mice instead of horses, and toy lizards for footmen. Excellent diction by the singers conveyed the text, in English, very clearly so that no projected titles were needed, and the piano trio (pianist Dillard, violinist Jonathan Gray, and cellist Abualhaj) accompanied the singers with great sensitivity.

The production of “Cendrillon” once again proved that Christine Meadows, director of PSU Opera, has an uncanny ability to find works that match up very well with each new crop of students in the PSU Opera program. She has the magic wand!

Today's Birthdays

Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
Conchita Supervia (1895-1936)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006)
Dennis Eberhard (1943-2005)
Christopher Robson (1953)
Donny Osmond (1957)
Joshua Bell (1967)

and

John Milton (1608-1674)
Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908)
Léonie Adams (1899 - 1988)
Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938)

From the Writer's Almanac:

Milton coined more than 600 words, including the adjectives dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, and feverish; as well as the nouns fragrance, adventurer, anarchy, and many more.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Claude Balbastre (1724-1799)
Frantisek Xaver Dussek (1731-1799)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Gérard Souzay (1918-2004)
Moisei Vainberg (1919-1996)
James Galway (1939)

and

Horace (65-8 B.C.)
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
James Thurber (1894-1961)
James Tate (1948)
Mary Gordon (1949)
Bill Bryson (1951)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Bernardo Pasquini (1637 - 1710)
Hermann Goetz (1840-1876)
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Ernst Toch (1887-1964)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Richard Franko Goldman (1910-1980)
Daniel Jones (1912-1993)
Helen Watts (1927-2009)
Harry Chapin (1942-1981)
Daniel Chorzempa (1944)
Tom Waits (1949)
Kathleen Kuhlmann (1950)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)

and

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
Willa Cather (1873-1947)
Joyce Cary (1888-1957)
Noam Chomsky (1928)
Susan Isaacs (1943)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605)
Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)
Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)
Tomas Svoboda (1939)
John Nelson (1941)
Daniel Adni (1951)
Bright Sheng (1955)
Matthew Taylor (1964)

and

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529)
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1768)
Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)
Vitezslav Novák (1870-1949)
"Little" Richard Wayne Penniman (1935)
José Carreras (1946)
Krystian Zimerman (1956)
Osvaldo Golijov (1960)

and

Christina (Georgina) Rossetti (1830-1894)
Joan Didion (1934)
John Berendt (1939)
Calvin Trillin (1935)
Lydia Millet (1968)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1704, George Frideric Handel (age 19) refuses to turn over the harpsichord to Johann Mattheson (age 23) during a performance of Mattheson's opera "Cleopatra," leading to a sword duel between the two. It is said that during the swordplay, Handel was saved by a button on his coat that deflected Mattheson's mortally-directed blade. The two reconciled on December 30 that year, dining together and attending a rehearsal of Handel's opera "Almira," becoming, as Mattheson put it: "better friends than ever."

On this day in 1837, Berlioz's "Requiem," in Paris premiered with François Habeneck conducting (Berlioz later claimed that at one point he had to jump on stage and take over when Habeneck stopped to take snuff, but some eyewitnesses denied this happened).

Monday, December 4, 2017

Today's Birthdays

André Campra (1660-1744)
Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667-1737)
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1949)
Alex North (1910-1991)
Yvonne Minton (1938)
Lillian Watson (1947)
Andrew Penny (1952)

and

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1891)
Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968)

And from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1885 took place the American premiere of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 in d, at the Old Metropolitan Opera House in New York, during an afternoon public rehearsal by the New York Symphony Society, with the 23-year old Walter Damrosch. The “official” concert occurred the following evening. This was the first time any Bruckner Symphony was performed in America. In his Preface to a 1942 book by Werner Wolff entitled “Anton Bruckner: Rustic Genius,” Damrosch incorrectly states it was Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony (in E-flat Major, subtitled “Romantic”) that he performed on Dec. 5, 1885.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Nicolo Amati (1596-1684)
André Campra (1660-1744)
Antonio Soler (1729-1783)
Émile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Anton Webern (1883-1945)
Halsey Stevens (1908-1989)
Nino Rota (1911-1979)
Irving Fine (1914-1962)
Charles Craig (1919-1997)
Paul Turok (1929-2012)
José Serebrier (1938)
Matt Haimovitz (1970)

and

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Anna Freud (1895-1982)
Zlata Filipović (1980)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949)
Rudolf Friml (1879-1972)
Harriet Cohen (1895-1967)
Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970)
Robert Moevs (1920-2007)
Maria Callas (1923-1977)
Jörg Demus (1928)

and

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891)
T. Coraghessan Boyle (1948)
George Saunders (1958)
Ann Patchertt (1963b)

And from the Composers Datebook: On this day in 1717, J.S. Bach is allowed to leave the Duke’s Court at Weimar. He had been imprisoned since Nov. 6th by his former employer Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar for accepting a new post at Prince Leopold’s court at Cöthen without first asking permission.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Today's Birthdays

François‑Xavier Richter (1709-1789)
Ernest (Louis-Etienne-Ernest) Reyer (1832-1909)
Agathe Grøndahl (1847-1907)
Gordon Crosse (1932)
Lou Rawls (1933-2006)
Bette Midler (1945)
Rudolf Buchbinder (1946)
Leontina Vaduva (1960)

and

Alicia Markova (1910-2004)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Carl Loewe (1796-1869)
Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
Sergei Liapunov (1859-1924)
Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907)
Ture Rangström (1884-1947)
Ray Henderson (1896-1970)
Klaus Huber (1924)
Gunther Herbig (1931)
Walter Weller (1939-2015)
Radu Lupu (1945)
Semyon Bychkov (1952)

and

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
L(ucy) M(aud) Montgomery (1874-1942)
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Jacques Barzun (1907-2012)
David Mamet (1947)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967)
John Brecknock (1937)
Chuck Mangione (1940)
Louise Winter (1959)

and

Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
Pamela Harrison (1915-1990)
Berry Gordy Jr. (1929)
Randy Newman (1943)
Diedre Murray (1951)

and

John Bunyan (1628-1688)
William Blake (1757-1827)
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942)
Nancy Mitford (1904-1973)
Rita Mae Brown (1944)
Alan Lightman (1948)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-1678)
Anton Stamitz (1750-1798 or 1809)
Franz Krommer (1759-1831)
Sir Julian Benedict (1804-1885)
Viktor Ewald (1860-1935)
Charles Koechlin (1867-1950)
Leon Barzin (1900-1999)
Walter Klien (1928-1991)
Helmut Lachenmann (1935)
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
David Felder (1953)
Victoria Mullova (1959)
Hilary Hahn (1979)

and

Anders Celsius (1701-1744)
Charles Beard (1874–1948)
James Agee (1909-1955)
Marilyn Hacker (1942)
Bill Nye (1955)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Oregon Symphony plays Beethoven and themes inspired by ancient masters

Sunday November 19 saw the Oregon Symphony perform a night of Beethoven music and music inspired by the master, under the direction of guest conductor Johannes Debus, and featuring guest ensemble the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

The Viennese master's Symphony No. 2 in D Major comprised the first half of the concert. Its appropriately stentorian opening was followed by suitable delicacy when called for; the sort of work that is the OSO's bread and butter. In the Larghetto the strings groaned and breathed like a single great mellifluous organ, and later in the fourth movement they managed rapid acrobatics nicely. There were some good sounds here, but the overall interpretation felt a bit restrained, perhaps missing something personal that a straightforward work like this really needs in order to feel fresh.

John Adams enormous Absolute Jest from 2012 began the second half. This work consisted of a series of quotations of Beethoven (mostly the late string quartets) that were reworked (often intensely reworked harmonically) and stretched into an elaborate set of variations. In the form of a concerto for string quartet, the St. Lawrence String Quartet did the heavy lifting here. Following an extensive preview of some themes from the monumental Op 131 quartets, the group challenged the audience to find the 8 other Beethoven themes used throughout the work (Sidenote: I was able to identify a few, but nowhere near all 8. Intense Beethovenians would do much better at it than I.)  In the Presto, the work produced a disquieting sensation when a spritely scherzo by the quartet was played over a see of dissonant, vaguely ominous chordal motives from the orchestra. The piece at times became a confusing welter--alarming warbling exclamations from horns clomping around like the footsteps of some immense monster, blatting and burbling away in brutal syncopation.

The string quartet deserves high praise: this was an incredibly difficult rendering of incredibly difficult underlying music, and their lively, precise and enthusiastic interpretation was quite something. A tricky piece indeed to hold together--such was the character of the piece it felt close to careering off the rails at times but of course never did. Without particularly enjoying the overall effect, I felt profound respect for both Adams, the OSO and the St. Lawrence String Quartet at not shying away from a difficult challenge.

Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis of Carl Maria von Weber closed out the evening. The strings had a fascinating, insect-like sul ponticello scritching and the winds managed a difficult fughetta seamlessly. It was difficult to top off an afternoon of fireworks like this with a suitable bang, yet somehow the March at the end of the work achieved it. The concert was a bit of bold programming; it was fascinating to hear modernizations in such drastically different styles by composers of the high classical era.

Today's Birthdays

Earl Wild (1915-2010)
Eugene Istomin (1925-2003)
Alan Stout (1932)
John Sanders (1933-2003)
Craig Sheppard (1947)
Vivian Tierney (1957)
Spencer Topel (1979)

and

Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994)
Charles Schulz (1922-2000)
Marilynne Robinson (1943)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Franz Gruber (1785-1863)
Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991)
Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)
Paul Desmond (1924-1977)
Sir John Drummond (1934-2006)
Jean-Claude Malgoire (1940)
Håkan Hagegård (1945)
Yvonne Kenny (1950)
Gilles Cachemaille (1951)

and

Andrew Carnegie (1835- 1919)
Helen Hooven Santmyer (1895-1986)
Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
Murray Schisgal (1926) Shelagh Delaney (1938-2011)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1934, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler's article "The Hindemith Case" defending Hindemith's music appears in several German newspapers. A response attacking both Hindemith and Furtwängler appears in the Nazi newspaper "Der Angriff" on November 28. Furtwängler resigns all his official German posts on December 4 and leaves Berlin for several months. On December 6 Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels denounces Hindemith as an "atonal noisemaker" during a speech at the Berlin Sport Palace.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Licad stirs up a strong recital for the PSU Steinway Piano Series

The powerful and persuasive playing of Cecile Licad would have gone a lot further if she had found some true pianissimos her interpretations of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor last Friday (November 17) at Lincoln Recital Hall. Because Licad kept the volume between mezzo forte and double forte, the sonic effect was a bit overwhelming for the relatively small space. Fortunately, she recalibrated the dynamics after intermission and returned to the stage to deliver a totally brilliant performance of Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit.”

Licad’s appearance was part of the PSU Steinway Piano Series, which has brought some of the world’s best pianists to Portland for a weekend of recitals and master classes. Licad, a native of the Philippines, demonstrated incisive and committed artistry for all three pieces on her program. Her interpretation of the Liszt gave special prominence to the bass line, which vied wonderfully against the fantastic flights of fancy that the composer gave to the treble line.

But in the Ravel, Licad was able to lift all of the unusual sonic effects into another realm. The sudden shifts of sound in “Ondine” were absolutely enchanting. The unrelenting bell tone in “Le Gibet’ acquired a haunting and mysterious luster. The tempestuous and scattershot nature of “Scarbo” gave a dizzying presence that swept up the audience. Licad graciously embraced the cheers and applause with two encores. The first was a cheerful rendition of Gottschalk’s “Souvenirs d’Andalouse,” and the second a waltz by Chopin.

Today's Birthdays

Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
Willie ("The Lion") Smith (1897-1973)
Norman Walker (1907-1963)
Erik Bergman (1911-2006)
Emma Lou Diemer (1927)
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
Maria Chiara (1939)
Chinary Ung (1942)
Tod Machover (1953)
Jouni Kaipainen (1956)
Edgar Meyer (1960)
Angelika Kirchschlager (1965)

and

Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677)
Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
Margaret Anderson (1886-1973)
Nuruddin Farah (1945)
Arundhati Roy (1961)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1850, the legendary soprano Adelina Patti makes her operatic debut at age 16 in New York City, singing in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor."

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Pierre Du Mage (1674-1751)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
André Caplet (1878-1925)
Guy Reginald Bolton (1884-1979)
Jerry Bock (1928-2010)
Vigen Derderian (1929-2003)
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933)
Ludovico Einaudi (1955)
Thomas Zehetmair (1961)
Nicolas Bacri (1961)
Ed Harsh (1962)

and

Nirad C. Chaudhuri (1897-1999)
Paul Celan (1920-1950)
Jennifer Michael Hecht (1965)
and from the Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1889, the first jukebox was unveiled in a saloon in San Francisco. It was invented by Louis Glass, who had earlier worked as a telegraph operator for Western Union and then co-founded the Pacific Phonographic Company. He was fascinated by the phonograph technology and saw a market for charging people to listen to them, since phonographs were still too expensive to buy for your own home. He installed the machine in the Palais Royal saloon simply because he knew the owner and it was close to his house, so he didn’t have to carry the machine very far.

The word “jukebox” wasn’t invented until the 1920s. Glass called his machine the “nickel-in-the-slot phonograph,” since you had to pay a nickel to hear a song play. In today’s money, a nickel was about $1.27 at the time. The first machine had four different stethoscopes attached to it that functioned as headphones. Each pair of headphones had to be activated by putting in a nickel, and then several people could listen to the same song at once. There were towels left by each listening device so people could wipe them off after using. As part of his agreement with the saloonkeepers, at the end of each song, the machine told the listener to “go over to the bar and buy a drink.”

His phonograph was a huge hit and, at a conference in Chicago, Glass told his competitors that his first 15 machines brought in over $4,000 in six months. This led to other manufacturers making their own machines. Shortly after, Thomas Edison designed a phonograph people could buy for their homes, which also cut into the market. Glass’s invention eventually made the player piano obsolete, and competitors updated the jukebox with new technologies from record players to CDs. Now there is such a thing as a digital jukebox, but they never really caught on, since they come with the size and expense of a regular jukebox, without any of the charm of flipping through the records and watching the moving parts of the machine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Oregon Bach Festival still sinking

Bob Keefer at the Eugene Weekly has published another article about the Oregon Bach Festival and a similar firing that took place a year earlier. The role of OBF executive director Janelle McCoy in all this is starting to be scrutinized.

Today's Birthdays

St. Cecilia
Frantisek Benda(1709-1786)
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849)
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965)
Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Gunther Schuller (1925-2015)
Jimmy Knepper (1927-2003)
Hans Zender (1936)
Kent Nagano (1951)
Stephen Hough (1961)
Sumi Jo (1962)

and

George Eliot (1819-1880)
André Gide (1869-1951)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the feast day of Saint Cecilia, who was the patron saint of musicians because she sang to God as she died a martyr’s death. She was born to a noble family in Rome near the end of the second century A.D.

It wasn’t really until the 1400s that people really began to celebrate her widely as the patron saint of music. Then, in the 1500s, people in Normandy held a large musical festival to honor her, and the trend made its way to England in the next century. Henry Purcell composed celebratory odes to honor her, and the painter Raphael created a piece called “The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia.” Chaucer wrote about her in the Second Nonnes Tale, and Handel composed a score for a famous ode to her that John Dryden had written.

Today, Saint Cecilia is often commemorated in paintings and on stained glass windows as sitting at an organ.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)
Bernard Lagacé (1930)
Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003)
James DePreist (1936-2013)
Idil Biret (1941)
Vinson Cole (1950)
Kyle Gann (1955)
Stewart Wallace (1960)
Björk (1965)

and

Voltare (1694-1778)
Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944)
Mary Johnston (1870-1936)
René Magritte (1898-1967)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)
Marilyn French (1929-2009)
Tina Howe (1937)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)
René Kolo (1937)
Gary Karr (1941)
Meredith Monk (1942)
Phillip Kent Bimstein (1947)
Barbara Hendricks (1948)

and

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)
Maya Plisetskaya (1925-2015)
R.W. Apple Jr. (1934-2006)
Don DeLillo, (1936)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1805, Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" (1st version, with the "Leonore" Overture No. 2) was premiered in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712)
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935)
Jean‑Yves Daniel‑Lesur (1908-2002)
Géza Anda (1921-1976)
Maralin Niska (1926-2010)
David Lloyd-Jones (1934)
Agnes Baltsa (1944)
Ross Bauer (1951)

and

Allen Tate (1899-1979)
Sharon Olds (1942)

and from The Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was four and a half months after the devastating battle, and it was a foggy, cold morning. Lincoln arrived about 10 a.m. Around noon, the sun came out as the crowds gathered on a hill overlooking the battlefield. A military band played, a local preacher offered a long prayer, and the headlining orator, Edward Everett, spoke for more than two hours. Everett described the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail, and he brought the audience to tears more than once. When Everett finished, Lincoln spoke.

Now considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, the Gettysburg Address ran for just over two minutes, fewer than 300 words, and only 10 sentences. It was so brief, in fact, that many of the 15,000 people that attended the ceremony didn't even realize that the president had spoken, because a photographer setting up his camera had momentarily distracted them. The next day, Everett told Lincoln, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

There are several versions of the speech, and five different manuscript copies; they're all slightly different, so there's some argument about which is the "authentic" version. Lincoln gave copies to both of his private secretaries, and the other three versions were re-written by the president some time after he made the speech. The Bliss Copy, named for Colonel Alexander Bliss, is the only copy that was signed and dated by Lincoln, and it's generally accepted as the official version for that reason.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Todays Birthdays

Jean‑Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941)
Amelita Galli‑Curci (1882-1963)
Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985)
Lillian Fuchs (1901-1995)
Compay Segundo (1907-2003)
Johnny Mercer (1909-1976)
Don Cherry (1936-1995)
Heinrich Schiff (1951)
Bernard d'Ascoli (1958)

and

Louis Daguerre (1787-1851)
Asa Gray (1810-)
W.S (William Schwenck) Gilbert (1836-1911)
George Gallup (1901-1984)
Margaret Atwood (1939)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1928, Mickey Mouse debuts in "Steamboat Willie," in New York. This was the first animated cartoon with synchronized pre-recorded sound effects and music -- the latter provided by organist and composer Carl Stalling of Kansas City. Stalling would later provide memorial music for many classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Portland Youth Philharmonic uncorks 94th season with terrific opening concert

Works by Beethoven, Chopin, and Dvořák received polished performances by the Portland Youth Philharmonic, which opened its 94th season on Saturday evening (November 11) to a fairly large audience at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. While the spotlight fell on Natalie Tan, who played Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with grace and élan, the orchestra under music director David Hattner excelled with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Dvořák’s “Hussite Overture.”

It was interesting to find out that this was the first time that the PYP had performed Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, one of the most popular in the repertoire. The program notes suggested that the concerto’s heavy emphasis on the piano and its relatively light orchestration might have been the reason for the delay. In any case, Tan, winner of the 2016-2017 PYP Piano Concerto Competition, tossed off numerous runs and beautiful melodies with a keen sense for color and line. In her hands, the keyboard sang with a bel canto flourish, and the mazurka in the finale sparkled. Her artistry, aided by wonderfully sensitive accompaniment from the orchestra, swept up the listeners so much that vigorously applauded at the end of each movement. At least three bouquets were given to Tan after the piece ended.

Hattner and his forces held absolutely nothing back in its performance of Beethoven’s Fifth. They got off to a quick start that featured sharp and pinpoint attacks. Within a few bars, the musicians were rocking and rolling with the piece, and electrified the audience. The strings – including the large cello section – deftly negotiated a number of wickedly fast passages with remarkable panache! A couple of listeners in front of me had never heard the PYP before and just couldn’t believe that a youth orchestra could play so well. They were among the first people to jump out of the seats and applaud and cheer. Although there were some missed notes, the performance was exceptional for its power and energy. Playing by the principal oboist and clarinetist and the French horns highlighted the performance.

With its first-ever performance of Dvořák’s “Hussite Overture,” the orchestra also delivered a committed and thoroughly engaging performance. The stately hymn established by the woodwinds and strings was supported solidly by the French horns. Outstanding dynamic contrasts with crescendos and decrescendos coupled with a crisp series of sforzandos and a quickening pace turned the piece in an exciting Bohemian barnburner.

The concert featured a different timpanist for each piece. Each player had a different style that was fun to watch, and each of them contributed outstandingly. In general, all of the musicians played at the very high level that Hattner demanded, which made the concert a joy to hear.

Today's Birthdays

Ernest Lough (1911-2000)
Hershy Kay (1919-1981)
Leonid Kogan (1924-1982)
Sir Charles Mackerras (1925-2010)
David Amram (1930)
Gene Clark (1941-1991)
Philip Picket (1950)
Philip Grange (1956)

and

Shelby Foote (1916-2006)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831)
Alfred Hill (1869-1960)
W. C. Handy (1873-1958)
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Burnet Tuthill (1888-1982)
Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960)
Earl Wild (1915-2010)
David Wilson-Johnson (1950)
Donald Runnicles (1954)

and

George S. Kaufman (1889-1961)
José Saramago (1922-2010)
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Andrea Barrett (1954)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Sir William Herschel (1738-1822)
Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-1980)
Petula Clark (1932)
Peter Dickinson (1934)
Daniel Barenboim (1942)
Pierre Jalbert (1967)

and

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946)
Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960)
Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986)
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1926, the first broadcast of a music program took place on the NBC radio network, featuring the New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch, the New York Oratorio Society, and the Goldman Band, with vocal soloists Mary Garden and Tito Ruffo, and pianist Harold Bauer.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Fanny Hensel (1805-1847)
Rev. John Curwen (1816-1880)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Leonie Rysanek (1926-1998)
Jorge Bolet (1914-1990)
Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)
Robert Lurtsema (1931-2000)
Peter Katin (1930-2015)
Ellis Marsalis (1934)
William Averitt (1948)

and

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002)
William Steig (1907-2003)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jan Zach (1699-1773)
Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817-1870)
Brinley Richards (1817-1885)
George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931)
Marguerite Long (1874-1966)
Joonas Kokkoken (1921-1996)
Lothar Zagrosek (1942)
Martin Bresnick (1946)

and

St. Augustine (354-430)
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
George V. Higgins (1939-1999)
Eamon Grennan (1941)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1937, the first "official" radio broadcast by the NBC Symphony Orchestra took place with Pierre Monteux conducting. Arthur Rodzinski had conducted a "dress rehearsal" broadcast on Nov. 2, 1937. Arturo Toscanini's debut broadcast with the NBC Symphony would occur on Christmas Day, 1937

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887
Jean Papineau-Couture (1916-2000)
Michael Langdon (1920-1991)
Lucia Popp (1939-1993)
Neil Young (1945)

and

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Roland Barthes (1915-1980)
Michael Ende (1929-1995)
Tracy Kidder (1945)
Katherine Weber (1955)

From the New Music Box:

On November 12, 1925, cornetist Louis Armstrong made the first recordings with a group under his own name for Okeh Records in Chicago, Illinois. The group, called Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, recorded his original compositions, "Gut Bucket Blues" and "Yes! I'm In The Barrel" (Okeh 8261) as well as "My Heart" composed by his wife Lil Hardin who was the pianist in the band. (The flipside of the 78rpm record on which the latter was issued, Okeh 8320, was "Armstrong's composition "Cornet Chop Suey" recorded three months later on February 26, 1926.) Armstrong's Hot Five and subsequent Hot Seven recordings are widely considered to be the earliest masterpieces of recorded jazz.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Musica Maestrale features the Schneiderman- Yamaya duo playing Beethoven on guitar

Hideki Yamaya and John Schneiderman
From Musica Maestrale:

Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017; 7:30PM

Beethoven for Two Guitars

John Schneiderman, terz guitar
Hideki Yamaya, Romantic guitar, terz guitar, Milanese mandolin



MM welcomes back guitar virtuoso John Schneiderman for a program of all Beethoven for two guitars! The Schneiderman - Yamaya Duo just released a CD of arrangements of Beethoven for two guitars by the German label hänssler CLASSIC, which was reviewed very favorably by Classic Guitar Magazine (you can read it here).  The duo is presenting this same program at the prestigious Yale Collection of Musical Instruments in December.  Also included in the program is Beethoven's lesser known works for mandolin and piano, arranged for mandolin and terz guitar. Here's a look at us rehearsing the Sonatine for mandolin and piano (arranged by me for mandolin and terz guitar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d9eP3XHW_0&feature=youtu.be

First Christian Church
1314 Park Ave.
Portland, OR 97201

Admission:
In advance: $18 general; $16 senior; $8 student
At the door: $20 general; $18 senior; $10 student
Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3094209

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841)
Frederick Stock (1872-1942)
Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969)
Jan Simons (1925-2006)
Arthur Cunningham (1928-1997)
Vernon Handley (1930-2008)
Harry Bramma (1936)
Jennifer Bate (1944)
Fang Man (1977)

and

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)
Mary Gaitskill (1955)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1898, shortly after it was finished, the painting “Nevermore” by Gaugin is purchased by the English composer Frederick Delius. The painting was inspired by Poe’s famous poem and is now in the collection of London’s Cortland Gallery.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
François Couperin (1668-1733)
John Phillips Marquand (1873-1949)
Ennio Morricone (1928)
Graham Clark (1941)
Sir Tim Rice (1944)
Andreas Scholl (1967)

and

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
Vachel Lindsey (1879-1931) John Phillips Marquand (1893-1960)
and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1900, Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch makes his Carnegie Hall debut in New York City during his first American tour. In 1909 he married contralto Clara Clemens, the daughter of the American writer Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Toradze elevates Vancouver Symphony concert with stellar playing

Salvador Brotons, Alexander Toradze, and Dimitri Zhgenti
Playing the piano quietly and with intense emotion and depth, Alexander Toradze had the audience at Skyview Concert Hall on Sunday evening (November 5) so focused on every note that you could have heard a pin drop. That happened while Toradze performed Scarlatti’s Sonata No 32 in D minor in honor of the victims of the massacre that had happened earlier in the day at a church in Texas. The impromptu gesture from Toradze struck a chord with listeners, and it was followed by his brilliant playing of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto.

Toradze’s mastery of the Prokofiev allowed him to sculpt each tone so that the piece sounded totally new and unique. His playing was ingeniously filled with all sorts of nuances. He would lean into a series of notes or sometimes even one note in a way that made a phrase sound more interesting. On the big screen, it was fun to watch his hands move together up and down the keyboard. Using his incredible artistry, he found something deeper in the music and brought it out. His accellerandos were lightning fast and the lyrical passages were golden.

The audience responded with thunderous applause and the orchestra joined in enthusiastically. Toradze didn’t want to take all of it for himself; so after he went backstage he put his arm around music director Salvador Brotons and dragged him to the front of the stage. Then Toradze decided to give an encore, the pulsating and exciting “Precipitato” from Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7. That electrified the audience once again and more applause erupted from all over the hall.

The orchestra led off the second half of the program with a fine performance of the Divertimento from Stravinsky’s ballet “The Fairy’s Kiss.” Individual members of the orchestra negotiated the tricky passages very well. The principal trombonist and the principal horn player, in particular, gave standout performances, and the principals in the strings and woodwinds had several shining moments as well. Highlights in the fourth movement included a lovely clarinet, cello, and harp combination and the solo by principal flutist Rachel Rencher.

The Suite from Stravinsky’s ballet “The Firebird” also received an outstanding performance from the orchestra. From the ominous sounds of King Kaschei and his cohorts to the majestic glory of the magical Firebird and the final triumphant dance of the prince and princess, the orchestra wonderfully recreated the storyline of the ballet. The playing of principal oboist Alan Jurza was particularly evocative, and the woodwinds and strings, in general, were excellent throughout the piece. Brotons conducted the entire piece from memory, which was an outstanding accomplishment in itself. There are few conductors anywhere who would attempt such a thing, because Stravinsky loved to change meters all over the place.

The concert began with the “Dance of the Persian Slaves” from Mussorgsky’s opera “Khovantschina.” Kris Klavik played the English horn especially well, which may have helped the orchestra to develop a lush and full sound that embraced the lightly exotic music. I noticed that Brotons had rearranged the cellos and violas with the cellos on the outside. We will see if he keeps this arrangement in future concerts.

I spoke with Toradze during intermission, and he asked me to let readers know that he was very upset with the massacre of churchgoers in Texas. He could not fathom how such an event could happen, and the tragic event caused him to ask Brotons if he could play something before the Prokofiev Concerto began. He was very appreciative of Brotons’s willingness to let him do that. The photo at the beginning of this review was given to me by pianist and VSO board member Dimitri Zhgenti, who studied with Toradze. The following photo is also from Zhgenti, showing his students, who came to the performance on Saturday afternoon.

Today's Birthdays

Burrill Phillips (1907-1988)
Pierrette Alarie (1921-2011)
Piero Cappuccilli (1929-2005)
Ivan Moravec (1930-2015)
William Thomas McKinley (1938-2015)
Thomas Quasthoff (1959)
Bryn Terfel (1965)

and

Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
Hugh Leonard (1926-2009)
Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Oregon Symphony explores theme of "Home" with evocative new play and music

Dipika Guha’s play “Azaan” nearly stole the show at the Oregon Symphony concert on Saturday evening (November 4). Guha’s story about an immigrant who turns up in a small American town but is unable to speak or communicate much of anything with the police was absolutely spellbinding. Probing the issues of what is “home,” “Azaan” fit in seamlessly with the piano concertos of Schoenberg and Gershwin, which were outstandingly performed by Kirill Gerstein.

Accompanied by original music by Chris Rogerson, “Azaan” was a unique world premiere that expanded the boundaries of what to expect at classical music concerts. Bernard White gave a near-visceral portrayal of The Stranger who had survived a horrific attack of mustard gas on his village in an unnamed homeland. His inability to talk frustrated the local policeman (C. J. Wilson) and the interpreter (Babak Tafti), but the policeman’s wife (Anna Belknap), who had lost a son, found a way to hear the thoughts of The Stranger. Rogerson gave the thoughts an memories an evocative outlet through the orchestra with musical lines that darted and drifted into the horizon. Guha’s words combined humor and tragedy to great effect, and the stage directions of Elena Araoz were spot on.

Gerstein delivered an exceptional performance of Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto. He didn’t take any chances, though, relying on an iPad or tablet that was placed inside the piano for the score. His playing brought out the lyrical aspects of the 12-tone piece as much as possible even though much of it seemed fragmentary and even fidgety.

The oddity the Schoenberg was followed by “Rhapsody in Blue,” which put the audience at ease. The cool thing about Gerstein is that even though he grew up in the former Soviet Union, he has always studied classical and jazz. Taking the piece at an electrifyingly fast pace, Gerstein added little jazz-inflected embellishments here and there. He even improvised a bit during one of the cadenzas, putting his own stamp on the piece and having a lot of fun with it.

The life-stories of Schoenberg and Gershwin fit the concert program’s theme of “what is home” perfectly. Schoenberg immigrated to America because of the Nazi repression and made a home in Los Angeles. Gershwin, the son of Jewish immigrants, developed a love for jazz that influenced his works, many of which are the most popular “classical” pieces ever created in America.

Stretching things just a bit further, the orchestra, under its music director Carlos Kalmar (himself an immigrant by way of Uruguay and Austria) gave a wonderful performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Overture on Hebrew Themes.” Prokofiev wrote the piece for the Zimro Ensemble in 1919 and premiered it with them in New York City a year later, then followed it up with an orchestral version in 1934. The Oregon Symphony’s principal clarinetist James Shields shaded his playing in wonderfully nuanced ways with woody and edgy sounds that put the audience in a club in New York City with a lively bunch of Jewish musicians.

Today's Birthdays

Friedrich Witt (1770-1836)
Sir Arnold Bax (1883-19530
Lamberto Gardelli (1915-1938)
Jerome Hines (1921-2003)
Richard Stoker (1938)
Simon Standage (1941)
Judith Zaimont (1945)
Tadaaki Otaka (1947)
Elizabeth Gale (1948)
Bonnie Raitt (1949)
Ana Vidović (1980)

and

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)
Raja Rao (1908-2006)
Kazuo Ishiguro (1954)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Ferenc (Franz) Erkel (1810-1893)
Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995)
William Alwyn (1905-1985)
Al Hirt (1922-1999)
Dame Joan Sutherland (1926-2010)
Dame Gwyneth Jones (1937)
Joni Mitchell (1943)
Judith Forst (1943)
Christina Viola Oorebeek (1944)

and

Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Benny Andersen (1929)
Stephen Greenblatt (1943)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Sax (1814-1894)
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
Don Lusher (1923-2006)
James Bowman (1941)
Arturo Sandoval (1949)
Daniele Gatti (1961)

and

Robert Musil (1880-1942)
Harold Ross (1892-1951)
Ann Porter (1911-2011)
James Jones (1921-1977)
Michael Cunningham (1952)

From The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the March King, John Philip Sousa, born in Washington, D.C. (1854). His father was a U.S. Marine Band trombonist, and he signed John up as an apprentice to the band after the boy tried to run away from home to join the circus. By the time he was 13 years old, Sousa could play violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone, and was a pretty good singer too. At 26, he was leading the Marine Band and writing the first of his 136 marches, including “Semper Fidelis,” which became the official march of the Corps, and “The Washington Post March.” In addition to those marches, he wrote nearly a dozen light operas, and as many waltzes too; and he wrote three novels. But he’s best known for “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today's Birthday

Hans Sachs (1494-1576)
Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961)
Walter Gieselking (1895-1956)
Claus Adam (1917-1983)
György Cziffra (1921-1994)
Nicholas Maw (1935-2009)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (1940-2010)
Art Garfunkel (1941)
Gram Parsons (1946-1973)

and

Ida M. Tarbell (1867-1944)
Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918)
Thomas Flanagan (1923-2002)
Sam Shephard (1943)
Vandana Shiva (1952)
Diana Abu-Jabar (1960)

and from the Composers Datebook

On this day in 1903, the first concert by a 50-member Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (the current Minnesota Orchestra), was conducted by Emil Oberhoffer, with Metropolitan Opera soprano Marcella Sembrich as guest soloist.

On this day in 1955, Karl Böhm conducts a performance of Beethoven's "Fidelio" at the gala re-opening of Vienna Opera House (damaged by Allied bombs on March 12, 1945). During the rebuilding of the Opera House, performances had continued in two nearby Viennese halls: the Theatre and der Wien and the Volksoper.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Muehleisen oratorio expertly sung yet an unsatisfying pastiche of musical sytles

Last Sunday (October 29), the Portland Symphonic Choir declared a passionate plea for empathy and peace with its performance of John Muehleisen’s “Pietá,” a hybrid oratorio. The 120-voice choir created some massive fortes that may have been heard outside the walls of First United Methodist Church and there were many touching moments in the 90-minute work in the series of exchanges between the choir, small vocal ensembles, and the fine soloists, soprano Arwen Meyers and tenor Branden Tuohy.

But I am still puzzled by the composer’s reworking of various musical styles. Instead of developing his own musical style, Muehleisen employed a pastiche of earlier music. For a small ensemble of men, he wrote a series of chants that were a blend of Byzantine and Russian Orthodox styles. The chorale sections were drawn right from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and some of the instrumental music from the “St. John Passion.” One of Tuohy’s solos, “Just before the battle, Mother” was a popular song from the American Civil War. The final piece was the hymn “O God of Love, O King of Peace,” in which the listeners joined in. Where was Muehleisen’s own style in all this? It seemed that the work was basically a very skilled arrangement.

Perhaps I got off to a negative start, because Muehleisen introduced his work with a 15-minute lecture that repeated most of the content of the program notes which he had written. I think it was terrific to have the composer speak about his work, but five minutes would have been plenty. In any case, the piece consisted of six scenes (or movements) that were shaped very symmetrically with a prologue and epilogue on the outside, two movements dealing with a son (John Kipling) who dies in a war (WWI) and the sorrow of his mother followed by two movements that retell the passion of Jesus, including the resurrection.

A core group of men sang a number of chants sections convincingly with one of the men singing and conducting the group. Guest conductor Erick Lichte guided the rest of the forces, which included some fine playing by Kelly Gronlin and Alan Juza (oboe and English horn), Jeff Peyton (timpani and percussion), Grian Gardiner (percussion), and Doug Schneider (chimes and organ). Twice during the piece, an ensemble of women from the choir moved to the right side of the stage area and fashioned an pure sound with zero vibrato that was absolutely angelic.

Arwen Myers sang her solos with passion and commitment, her vibrant soprano rising above the choir in a wail of anguish during “The Passion of the Mother.” Tuohy was equally effective, using his lyrical yet powerful tenor with terrific expertise. It would be great to hear them again in another PSC program sometime in the near future.

The climatic message of the piece, “Believe in a love that conquers all – even death,” was augmented by spoken text from Martin Luther King Jr. and cemented by a series of joyous alleluias from the choir. Yet it seemed odd that the Muehleisen chose not to write a new hymn for congregational to sing at the end. To me, that could have taken his “Pietá” up a notch.

Preveiw of this weekend's Vancouver Symphony concert with Alexander Toradze

The Columbian newspaper published my preview of the Vancouver Symphony concert with pianist Alexander Toradze. He will play Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, which is one of his specialties. Salvador Brotons will conduct

Today's Birthdays

Carl Tausig (1841-1871)
Arnold Cooke (1906-2005)
Elgar Howarth (1935)
Joan Rodgers (1956)
Elena Kats-Chernin (1957)
Daron Hagen (1961)

and

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
C. K. Williams (1936-2015)
Charles Frazier (1950)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
Vincenzio Bellini (1801-1835)
Vladimir Ussachevsky (1911-1990)

and

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571)
William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901)
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962)
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Terrence McNally (1939)
Martin Cruz Smith (1942)
Joe Queenan (1950)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692-1766)
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Count Andrey Razumovsky (1752-1836)
John Foulds (1880-1939)
Luchino Visconti (1906-1976)
Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001)
Harold Farberman (1929)
Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001)
Jeremy Menuhin (1951)
Marie McLaughlin (1954)
Paul Moravec (1957)

and

George Boole (1815-1864)
C.K. Williams (1936-2015)
Thomas Mallon (1951)

and

From the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1979, Peter Shaffer's drama "Amadeus" premieres at the National Theatre in London, directed by Peter Hall, starring Simon Callow as Mozart and Paul Scofield as Salieri. The British composer Harrison Birtwistle acted as Music Director for this production.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Eclectic Turnage piece - scintilating Barber and Mozart highlight Oregon Symphony concert

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s newest work had a lot of snap, crackle, and pop, but to what end? I couldn’t figure it out after listening to the world premiere of his “Symphonic Movements”, which was played with vigor and precision as far as I could tell, by the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on October 28. The 57-year old English composer already has written over 50 works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, choral ensembles, and solo vocalists, and is well known for his witty and sometimes jazz-inflected pieces. The piece that he wrote on commission for the Oregon Symphony, titled “Symphonic Movements,” was dedicated to the memory of English composer and pianist Richard Rodney Bennett, who died in 2012. But Turnage’s music had the barest of elegiac sentiment and was fairly celebratory in spirit.

Divided into five movements designated by beats per minute (quarter note = 69, 76, 96, 72, and 120), “Symphonic Movements” used the orchestra primarily as a percussion instrument. The music was sophisticated, often rhythmically propulsive, and frequently accented by slaps, whaps, and blats even during its few restive moments. In the fourth movement, one of the percussionists played an odd device called the lion’s roar harp. It created a sound that was ostensibly like a roar of a big cat, but if I hadn’t read the program notes for the instrumentation, it sounded for the world to me as if someone had a terrible case of flatulence.

Much more elegiac, at least in the traditional sense, was the “Andante” from Schubert’s Symphony No. 10 in the arrangement by Peter Gülke, the music director of the Brandenburg Symphony. The music was slightly sad, gentle, and noble at the same time. One can only wonder what Schubert would have done with that fragmentary work had he lived longer.

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson has been a frequent guest with the Oregon Symphony over the past 40 years. When his large frame settles in behind the keyboard, I am almost tempted to feel sorry for the piano, yet this bear of a man has one of the gentlest touches that any pianist could wish for. His playing of Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto was finely chiseled with impeccable technique from beginning to end. He articulated the opening phrases with verve, but they were never overstated. He captured the lyrical second movement, “Canzone,” deftly, giving it a sense of longing and elegance. The final movement veered wonderfully in the opposite direction with a wildly pulsating, spikey, and scattershot array of pyrotechnics.

The audience called Ohlsson to the stage several times and he obliged them with an encore, Alexander Scriabin’s “Poem” Opus 32, No. 1. The sound was lush and lovely, as if sculpting a poem of flowers.

The orchestra under the baton of music director Carlos Kalmar gave Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”) a crisp and energetic performance that was filled with dynamic contrast and nuance. Switching his baton to his left hand and guiding the musicians with his right, the orchestra created a delicious sense of weightlessness in the third movement. The fugue statement in the fourth with its five interwoven motifs wrapped up the piece gloriously.

P.S. The actual world premiere of the Turnage piece took place the night before in Salem. However, Turnage asked for a slight change afterwords; so the audience in Portland heard a revision of the world premiere.

MTT announces his final season with the SFO

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the 1919-2020 season will be the final one for Michael Tilson Thomas at the helm of the San Francisco Symphony.

From the SFO press release:

SAN FRANCISCO, October 31, 2017 — Michael Tilson Thomas today announced plans to conclude his distinguished tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in June 2020. The 2019–2020 Season will mark both his 75th birthday and his 25th year leading the Symphony in what is widely considered one of the most productive musical partnerships in the orchestral world. Tilson Thomas’ legacy with the SF Symphony began in 1974 with his debut at age 29, conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, and was solidified by his commencement as the Orchestra’s 11th Music Director in September 1995. Following the 2019–2020 Season, Michael Tilson Thomas will assume the title of Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and will continue to conduct the Orchestra for a minimum of four weeks each season in addition to other special projects. In anticipation of the celebratory 25th anniversary season of the MTT/SFS partnership, the next two years will feature signature recording projects, festivals, commissioning of new ­­works, staged productions, a two-week tour of the United States in 2018–2019, and a three-week European tour in 2019–2020.


Today's Birthdays

Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
Eugen Jochum (1902-1987)
Bruno Bjelinski (1909-1992)
Victoria de Los Angeles (1923-2005)
William Mathias (1934-1992)
Lyle Lovett (1957)

and

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
Grantland Rice (1880-1954)
A. R. Gurney (1930-2017)
Edward Said (1935-2003)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1830, Chopin’s friends in Warsaw throw a festival “bon voyage” dinner for the composer-pianist on the eve of his departure for Paris. As it turned out, he would never return to his native land.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Louise Talma (1906-1996)
August Everding (1928-1999)
Colin Tilney (1933)
Odaline de la Martinez (1949)
Naji Hakim (1955)

and

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675)
John Keats (1795-1821)
Susan Orlean (1955)

from The New Music Box:

On October 31, 1896, the Boston Symphony premiered the Gaelic" Symphony in E Minor by Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (Amy Marcy Cheney Beach), the first symphony by an American woman ever publicly performed.

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this date in 1933, Arnold Schoenberg, accompanied by his wife, baby daughter, and family pet terrier "Witz," arrives in New York on the liner Isle de France.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Peter Warlock (Philip Arnold Heseltine) (1894-1930)
Stanley Sadie (1930-2005)
Frans Brüggen (1934-2014)
Grace Slick (1939)
René Jacobs (1946)
James Judd (1949)
Shlomo Mintz (1957)

and

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)
André Chénier (1762-1794)
Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
Robert Caro (1935)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Six more composers named in Portland Piano International commissioning project

From the press release:

 Portland Piano International / SOLO is pleased to be a part of building piano repertoire for the 21st century by commissioning 12 new works for solo piano. In 2016, we announced the first six composers for this project, and we are pleased to announce the names of the six talented Oregon composers who are completing the Commissioning Project. Each new work is five to ten minutes long and must be inspired by an earlier composer’s work. Young Rising Star pianists from across the globe work closely with the composers and then premiere these new pieces in free, interactive concerts in Portland and around Oregon.

The composers who have been commissioned for the final six compositions are:
Jay Derderian, Portland, OR
Brent Weaver, Newberg, OR
David Schiff, Portland, OR
Darrell Grant, Portland, OR
Renee Favand See, Portland, OR
Kenji Bunch, Portland, OR

This past summer Rising Star Elisabeth Tsai premiered Jay Derderian’s work titled In the Tides I Break, a work inspired by Henry Cowell’s Tides of Manaunan (composed in 1917). In September, Rising Star Sam Hong premiered a composition by George Fox University professor Brent Weaver. Weaver’s work, Two Intermezzos, is inspired by the Intermezzos of Brahms, with a musical connection with American musical styles such as jazz, folk music and more recent popular styles.

“To make sure that these new pieces are documented and have a life beyond the performances, we record them at Westwind Farm Studio,” explains executive director Ellen Bergstone Wasil. “The video and audio recordings of the entire group of 12 new works will be released later in 2018. We’ll also link to where the sheet music can be purchased. The diversity of the commissions and the skill of the performers creates a rich musical landscape that highlights the breadth and depth of Oregon’s composers.”

The Commissioning Project is funded through a Creative Heights Grant from The Oregon Community Foundation. In August 2014 Portland Piano International was selected as one of only 13 organizations statewide for the first round of these new grants, which were established through the Fred W. Fields Fund.

-----
PS: The first six composers named in the commissioning project are
David Crumb
Jack Gabel
Sarah Zipperer Gaskins
Bryan Johanson
Michael Johanson
Greg Steinke

Today's Birthdays

Harold Darke (1888-1976)
Vivian Ellis (1904-1996)
Václav Neumann (1920-1995)
Jon Vickers (1926-2015)
James Dillon (1950)
Lee Actor (1952)
James Primosch (1956)

and

James Boswell (1740-1795)
Harriet Powers (1837-1910)
Henry Green (1905-1973)
David Remnick (1958)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Giuditta Pasta (1797-1865)
Howard Hanson (1896-1981)
Dame Cleo Laine (1927)
Carl Davis (1936)
Howard Blake (1938)
Kenneth Montgomery (1943)
Naida Cole (1974)

and

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
John Harold Hewitt (1907-1987)
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
John Hollander (1929-2013)
Anne Perry (1938)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Helmut Walcha (1907-1991)
Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997)
Dominick Argento (1927)
Julius Eastman (1940-1990)
Håkan Hardenberger (1961)
Vanessa-Mae (1978)

and

Lee Krasner (1908-1994)
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
Zadie Smith (1975)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758)
Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)
György Pauk (1936)
Christine Brewer (1955)
Natalie Merchant (1963)
Sakari Oramo (1965)

and

Andrei Bely (1880-1934)
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
John Arden (1930-2012)
Andrew Motion (1952)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Arnaldo Cohen no longer artistic director at Portland Piano International

Earlier this year, Portland Piano International and its artistic director, Arnaldo Cohen parted ways. Founder and longtime artistic director Harold Gray will step into the AD role and curate the 2018/2019 SOLO Piano Series. According to executive director Ellen Bergstone Wasil, PPI's board of directors will engage a guest curator for the 2019/2020 season. The guest curator will be announced in teh fall of 2018.

Today's Birthdays

Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623)
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Don Banks (1923-1980)
Galina Vishnevskaya (1926-2012)
Peter Lieberson (1946)
Diana Burrell (1948)
Colin Carr (1957)
Midori (1971)

and

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
John Berryman (1914-1972)
Anne Tyler (1941)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

List of Van Cliburn winners who have appeared with Portland Piano International

Two weeks ago I heard Van Cliburn winner Yekwon Sunwoo's performance at Portland Piano International. His concert was outstanding, and I wrote a glowing review for International Piano magazine. I then asked Portland Piano International's executive director, Ellen Bergstone Wasil, for a list of Van Cliburn winners who have been presented by PPI. Here is her answer:

Beginning in 1985 with pianist José Feghali, Portland Piano International has presented the Gold Medalist of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in the season following his/her win.

Vadym Kholodenko (2013)

Haochen Zhang (2009)

Alexander Kobrin (2005)

Stanislav Ioudenitch (2001)

Olga Kern (2001)

Jon Nakamatsu (1997)

Simone Pedroni (1993)

Alexei Sultanov (1989)

José Feghali (1985)

Five other Cliburn Gold Medalists performed for Portland Piano International but not during the season after they won.

Andre-Michel Schub (1981)

Steven De Groote (1977)

Vladimir Viardo (1973)

Radu Lupu (1966)

Ralph Votapek (1962)

Only two of the Gold Medalists have not graced our stage: Nobuyuku Tsujii (2009 co-winner with Haochen Zhang) and Christina Ortiz (1969).

Today's Birthdays

Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885)
Imre [Emmerich] Kálman (1882-1953)
Conrad Leonard (1898-2003)
Paul Csonka (1905-1995)
Tito Gobbi (1913-1984)
Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
George Crumb (1929)
Sofia Gubaidulina (1931)
Malcolm Bilson (1935)
Bill Wyman (1936)
George Tsontakis (1951)
Cheryl Studer (1955)

and

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)
Moss Hart (1904-1961)
Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
Norman Rush (1933)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Albert Lortzing (1801-1851)
Miriam Gideon (1906-1996)
Denise Duval (1921-2016)
Ned Rorem (1923)
Lawrence Foster (1941)
Toshio Hosokawa (1955)
"Weird Al" Yankovic (1959)
Brett Dean (1961)

and

Robert Bridges (1844-1930)
Johnny Carson (1925-2005)
Nick Tosches (1949)
Laurie Halse Anderson (1961)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Sir Donald McIntyre (1934)
Elizabeth Connell (1946)

and

John Reed (1887-1920)
John Gould (1908-2003)
Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

From the Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1883 that the Metropolitan Opera House opened with a performance of Faust. The opera was based on Goethe's German poem, and it was composed in French, but it was sung in Italian. The New Yorkers who designed the opera house wanted it to have an Italian feel, so they had it built with a palazzo on Broadway, and Italian was the language of choice.

There was already an opera house in New York, the Academy of Music, near Union Square. It was one of the main gathering places of the city's high society, who watched each other from the opera boxes as eagerly as they watched the opera itself. But there were only 18 opera boxes at the Academy of Music, and in the 1870s a whole generation of industrial millionaires were emerging in New York. These nouveau riche were not so welcome at the Academy of Music, or in any of the social circles of old money. But they wanted a place to display themselves, so they decided to build their own opera house. Seventy people got together and pooled $1.7 million to buy land and build a concert hall. They put in three levels with 36 box seats in each, more than enough for everyone.

In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton wrote:
"On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.

"Though there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan distances 'above the Forties,' of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendor with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy. Conservatives cherished it for being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the 'new people' whom New York was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the musical for its excellent acoustic, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing of music."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957)
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974)
Howard Ferguson (1908-1999)
Alexander Schneider (1908-1993)
Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997)
Dizzy (John Birks) Gillespie (1917-1993)
Sir Malcom Arnold (1921-2006)
Marga Richter (1926)
Shulamit Ran (1949)
Hugh Wolff (1953)

and

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Baldur Brönniman and the Oregon Symphony deliver a nuanced Shostakovich 5th Symphony

Baldur Brönniman
Guest conductor Baldur Brönniman led the Oregon Symphony for the first time in a riveting concert on Monday, October 16th at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. A varied program featuring works by Portuguese composer Ângela da Ponte, Saint-Saëns and Shostakovich, it was a fun and yet deep evening of music.

Da Ponte, who grew up in the Azores, wrote The Rising Sea based upon a poem called Ídilio by Antero de Quental.  An OSO premiere, the piece was a mysterious, largely atonal sound painting, with susurating entrances and exits, strange quacking mutes in the brass; densely textured and programmatic it was a worthy piece to hear.

Cellist Johannes Moser, last with the OSO for the Schumann concerto in 2014, returned as soloist for Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor.  Moser was charismatic and even dashing; holding the audience and orchestra alike in the grip of his intensity, he seemed simultaneously to be having way too much fun. Displaying a deft, even delicate touch even in the bold exposition, he interpreted the melodies lovingly--heroic when called for, yet not bombastic. In the Allegretto he made the moment feel like a strophic song somehow, leading a marvelous balancing act with the orchestra. Much of this work was high up on the instrument, yet his technique in the lower registers was affective and moving. An effortless technician, he succeeded in bringing out the very heart of this piece.

Swiss conductor Baldur Brönniman had a difficult challenge with the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 in D Minor. There is a tendency to make this piece weighty and ponderous, yet all the material is there for an interpretation that is almost the exact opposite, and Brönniman elicited this from the OSO.

In the first movement, the dialogue between high and low strings was profound and direct--no equivocating here. The clarinet solo was not haunting, yet somehow austere and lonely. The ominous intrusion of the piano and brass set off a fine frenzy with the rest of the group, and later as the hubbub receded, the flute and horn duet was a moment of singular beauty.  In the second movement the bassoon solo was saucy, like a grand, grave, darkly humorous waltz, and in the third movement the trio with two flutes and harp was spare and sonorous, followed by a broad elegy from the strings.  Like a fierce Slavic folk dance, the grand arrival at the finale was the fulfillment of the long promise beforehand.

Brönniman was brilliant all evening, but especially so in the Shostakovich. There are so many gems large and small in this monumental work, and the conductor expertly picked them all out, deftly shepherding the players through this task. A deeply pensive work like this could trend toward the dull, yet it never went there; Brönniman and the OSO were constantly engaging and energetic, and the Saint-Saëns and Shostakovich were nothing short of a triumph. One hopes to see Baldur Brönniman at the helm of the OSO again soon.


Today's Birthdays

Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
Adelaide Hall (1901-1993)
Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991)
Adelaide Hall (1909-1993)
Robert Craft (1923-2015)
Jacques Loussier (1934)
William Albright (1944-1998)
Ivo Pogorelich (1958)
Leila Josefowicz (1977)

and

Christopher Wren (1632-1723)
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
John Dewey(1859-1952)
Robert Pinsky (1940)
Elfriede Jelinek (1946)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Sidonie Goossens (1899-2004)
Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966)
Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968)
Emil Gilels (1916-1985)
Robin Holloway (1943)
Robert Morris (1943)

and

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Auguste Lumière (1862-1954)
Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899-1974)
Jack Anderson (1922-2005)
John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell) (1931)
Philip Pullman (1946)
Tracy Chevalier (1962)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Luca Marenzio (1553-1599)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Lotte Lenya (1898-1981)
Alexander Young (1920-2000)
Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
Chuck Berry (1926-2017)
Wynton Marsalis (1961)

and

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811)
Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)
Ntozake Shange (1948)
Rick Moody (1961)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)
Rolando Panerai (1924)
Reiner Goldberg (1939)
Stephen Kovacevich (1940)

and

Georg Büchner (1813-1837)
Nathanael West (1903-1940)
Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to singer Marian Anderson.

and from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1933 that Albert Einstein officially moved to the United States to teach at Princeton University. He had been in California working as a visiting professor when Hitler took over as chancellor of Germany. Einstein’s apartment in Berlin and his summer cottage in the country were raided, his papers confiscated, and his bank accounts closed. He returned to Europe and handed in his German passport, renouncing his citizenship. He considered offers from all over the world, including Paris, Turkey, and Oxford. Einstein eventually decided on Princeton, which offered him an attractive package teaching at its Institute for Advanced Study — but he had his hesitations about the university. For one thing, it had a clandestine quota system in place that only allowed a small percentage of the incoming class to be Jewish. The Institute’s director, Abraham Flexner, was worried that Einstein would be too directly involved in Jewish refugee causes, so he micromanaged Einstein’s public appearances, keeping him out of the public eye when possible. He even declined an invitation for Einstein to see President Roosevelt at the White House without telling the scientist. When Einstein found out, he personally called Eleanor Roosevelt and arranged for a visit anyway, and then complained about the incident in a letter to a rabbi friend of his, giving the return address as “Concentration Camp, Princeton.” In 1938, incoming freshmen at Princeton ranked Einstein as the second-greatest living person; first place went to Adolf Hitler.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
Franz [Ferenc] Doppler (1821-1883)
James Lockhart (1930)
Derek Bourgeois (1941)
Marin Alsop (1956)
Erkki-Sven Tüür (1959)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962)

and

Noah Webster (1758-1843)
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)
Günter Grass (1927-2015)
Thomas Lynch (1948)


And from the Writer's Almanac:

In 1882, during a tour across the US, Oscar Wilde lectured to coal miners in Leadville, Colorado, where he saw a sign on a saloon that said, "Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best," and called it "the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Article about violinist Tomas Cotik in The Oregonian

My article about violinist Tomas Cotik and his new album of music by Astor Piazzolla has been posted online in Oregonlive here. It will be in the print edition later this week. Cotik is a professor on the music faculty of Portland State University. One of the cool things that is doing is a concert and CD presentation in which the proceeds will help to fund a scholarship for string students at the university.

Today's Birthdays

Bernhard Crusell (1775-1838)
Dag Wirén (1905-1985)
Harold Blumenfeld (1923-2014)
Karl Richter (1926-1981)
Barry McGuire (1935)
Suzanne Murphy (1941)
Peter Phillips (1953)

and

Virgil (70 B.C.E.- 19 B.C.E.)
Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844-1900)
P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)
Varian Fry (1907-1967)
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007)
Italo Calvino (1923-1985)
Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Alexander Zimlinsky (1871-1942)
Gary Graffman (1928)
Rafael Puyana (1931-2013)
Enrico di Giuseppe (1932-2005)
La Monte (Thorton) Young (1935)
Sir Cliff Richard (1940)
Kaija Saariaho (1952)

and

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
Katha Pollitt (1949)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Art Tatum (1910-1956)
Hugo Weisgall (1912-1997)
Gustav Winckler (1925-1979)
Paul Simon (1941)
Leona Mitchell (1949)
Kristine Ciesinski (1950)
Melvyn Tan (1956)
Mark Applebaum (1967)

and

Conrad Richter (1890-1968)
Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Carlos López Buchardo (1881-1948)
Gilda Dalla Rizza (1892-1975)
Erich Gruenberg (1924)
Pilar Lorengar (1938-1996)
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)
Daryl Runswick (1946)
Penelope Walker (1956)
Chris Botti (1962)

and

Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985)
Alice Childress (1916-1994)
Robert Coles (1929)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Today's Birthdays

George Bridgetower (1780-1860)
Fernando De Lucia (1860-1925)
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Albert Stoessel (1894-1943)
Eugene Weigel (1910-1998)
Art Blakey (1919-1990)
Ennio Morricone (1928)
David Rendall (1948)

and

Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825)
Eleanor Roosevelt (1883-1962)
Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)
Thich Nhat Hanh (1926)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Vernon Duke (1903-1969)
Paul Creston (1906-1985)
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Gloria Coates (1938)
Sir Willard White (1946)
John Prine (1946)
Steve Martland (1959)
Evgeny Kissin (1971)

and

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the composer Vernon Duke, born Vladimir Dukelsky, in Parafianovo, Belarus (1903). He was a talented classical musician, educated at an elite conservatory, but his family fled Russia after the revolution and he wound up playing piano in cafés in Constantinople (now Istanbul). From there, his family rode steerage class on a ship to America, went through Ellis Island, and ended up in New York in 1921. There the teenage Dukelsky met George Gershwin, who was only a few years older, and the two became good friends. Dukelsky played Gershwin what he described as “an extremely cerebral piano sonata,” and Gershwin, who was also trained in classical music, suggested this: “There’s no money in that kind of stuff, and no heart in it, either. Try to write some real popular tunes — and don’t be scared about going low-brow. They will open you up.” He also suggested that Dukelsky shorten his name, as he himself had done — Gershowitz to Gershwin. So Vladimir Dukelsky came up with the name Vernon Duke, but he didn’t use it for a while.

First, he went to Paris. There, he met and impressed the great ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Dukelsky wrote later about their first meeting — that Diaghilev had drawled: “‘Ah, a good-looking boy. That in itself is most unusual. Composers are seldom good-looking; neither Stravinsky nor Prokofiev ever won any beauty prizes. How old are you?’ I told him I was 20. ‘That’s encouraging, too. I don’t like young men over 25.’” And so Diaghilev commissioned him to write a ballet, and he wrote Zephire et Flore, with sets by Georges Braque, choreography by Léonide Massine, and costumes by Coco Chanel. It got a great reception, and Dukelsky was taken in by the not-quite-as-good-looking Stravinsky and Prokofiev. For a few years he divided his time between Paris, where he continued to write classical music, and London, where he wrote show tunes and used the name Vernon Duke. Then in 1929, he decided to go back to America, and he wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1930s — “April in Paris” (1932), “Autumn in New York” (1934), “I Can’t Get Started” (1936), and “Taking a Chance on Love” (1940). And he wrote the music for the Broadway show and film Cabin in the Sky (1940). By that time, he had become an American citizen and officially changed his name to Vernon Duke.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954)
Carl Flesch (1873-1944)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Roger Goeb (1914-1997)
Einojuhani Routavaara (1928-2016)
Alfons Kontarsky (1932-2010)
John Lennon (1940-1980)
Jackson Browne (1948)
Sally Burgess (1953)
Roberto Sierra (1953)

and

Ivo Andrić (1892-1975)
Bruce Catton (1899-1978)
Léopold (Sédar) Senghor (1906-2001)
Belva Plain (1915-2010)
Jill Ker Conway (1934)
James Howe McClure (1939-2006)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Today's Birthdays

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Will Vodery (1885-1951)
Paul V. Yoder (1908-1990)
James Sample (1910-1995)
Kurt Redel (1918-2013)
Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)
Johnny Ramone (1948-2004)
Robert Saxton (1953)
Carl Vine (1954)
Tabea Zimmermann (1968)
Bruno Mantovani (1974)
and

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963)
Walter Lord (1917-2002)
Philip Booth (1925-2007)
R.L. Stine (1943)
Elizabeth Tallent (1954)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Today's Birthdays

William Billings (1746-1800)
Joe Hill (1879-1915)
Alfred Wallenstein (1898-1983)
Shura Cherkassky (1911-1995)
Charles Dutoit (1936)
John Mellencamp (1951)
Yo-Yo Ma (1955)
Li Yundi (1982)

and

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
Helen Clark MacInnes (1907-1985)
Desmond Tutu, (1931)
Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones) (1934-2014)
Thomas Keneally (1935)
Dianne Ackerman (1948)
Sherman Alexie (1966)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Today's Birthdays

William Bradbury (1816-1868)
Jenny Lind (1820-1887)
Julia Culp (1880-1970)
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Maria Jeritza (1887-1982)
Edwin Fischer (1886-1960)
Paul Badura-Skoda (1927)
Dennis Wicks (1928-2003)
Udo Zimmermann (1943)
Keith Lewis (1950)

and

Le Corbusier (1887-1965)
Caroline Gordon (1895-1981)

From the Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1600 that the opera Euridice was first performed, at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. It is the oldest surviving opera.

Euridice was performed for the wedding celebrations of Henry IV of France and Maria de' Medici. It was written by Jacopo Peri, a beloved composer and singer. He had already written Dafne a few years earlier, which is considered to be the first opera, but that music has been lost.

Euridice is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which the gifted musician Orpheus falls in love with the beautiful Eurydice, but just after their wedding she is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus is heartbroken, and he journeys to the underworld, to Hades, to try to bring her back. He charms the king of the underworld, also named Hades, and his wife, Persephone, and they agree to return Eurydice to Orpheus on one condition: that he get all the way back to the upper world without looking back to see if Eurydice is following. He almost makes it, but right as he is walking out into the sunlight he turns back, and Eurydice is still in the underworld, so he loses her forever. Peri not only wrote the opera, but he sang the role of Orpheus. The climax of the opera came during "Funeste piagge," or "Funeral shores," when Orpheus begs Hades and Persephone to release his beloved.

Peri wrote a long preface to Euridice, in which he explained the new musical form he was working in, which we now call opera. He said that he was trying to write the way he imagined the Greeks would have, combing music and speech into the ultimate form of drama. One of the people who came to Florence to see Euridice was Vincenzo Gonzaga, the Duke of Mantua. And he probably brought his servant, Claudio Monteverdi. A few years later, in 1607, Monteverdi premiered his first opera, L'Orfeo, which was also a retelling of the legend of Orpheus. Monteverdi elevated the opera form to new heights, and L'Orfeo is considered the first truly great opera, with all of the dramatic orchestration and lyrics that are so central to the drama.