Wrote the Marin Symphony review, below. Recorded Mice and Men, Act I, J ("No, look, Lennie"), plus Waiting for Godot, Act I, XII-XIV.
Harriet's birthday tonight, so heading out soon. We'll celebrate at home, since inadvertently we have a DSL guy showing up sometime this evening. Then H off to Modesto for a job... No rest for the artistic....
Dance Pop at Marin Symphony
by Mark Alburger
Dance may have been the unifying thread in the Marin Symphony's most recent
outings on February 25 and 27 at Veterans Auditorium in San Rafael. Beginning
with Zoltan KodÃ¡ly's "Dances of Galanta" and concluding with Ludwig van
Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7," which Carl Maria von Weber once described as "the
apotheosis of the dance" -- the program sandwiched a new version of Osvaldo
Golijov's "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," which itself provides many
"Galanta" is one of the highpoints of its composer's career, considerably
gentler than the rowdy "Hary Janos," and sweet to the ear in its exploration of
many things native Hungarian. As has been typical over the past few years
under music director Alasdair Neale, the ensemble allowed the music to shine.
The orchestral strings were joined by multi-clarinetist Todd Palmer in
"Dreams and Prayers," a dashing work first heard by this reviewer on January 19,
1996, with the Kronos Quartet and Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer at
Berkeley's Hertz Hall. At that time, Golijov was a relatively new voice on the
scene, in a program that also featured "John [Adams]'s Book of Alleged Dances,"
against which "Drams" certainly held its own. Here, as before, the clarinet's
prominent downward halfstep motive and wide vibrato set the stage for sudden
high octave snake-charmer leap out of the sonic basket of strings. There was a
George Crumb abruptness and a post-minimal sensibility to the mesmeric
figurations which suggested a kind of updated BartÃ³kian "Contrasts" -- nicely
connecting Golijov with KodÃ¡ly's Eastern European compatriot, BÃ©la BartÃ³k. Palmer
wailed and trilled and traded for a blustery bass clarinet which soon ascended
into a Bronx cheer -- like an E-flat castrato clarinet on steroids tugging at
the emotions. A Morton-Feldman-tinged section was a machine-gun marriage of
"The Godfather" and "Fiddler on the Roof," a classical crossover extravaganza,
with fragments of folk song violently broken off. There were glassy trills,
Crumb-accelerando one-note passages, and sheer joy.
Sheer joy was also the order of the evening in a resounding performance of
the Beethoven Seventh. From rhapsodic opening oboe arpeggiation and bumptious
Siciliana rhythms of the first movement, through the heartbreakingly poignant
counterpoint and snap-rhythm absurdities of the interior sections, to the manic
close -- this was a performance that captured the spirit.
Orchestrated XI. What Exactly from Act I of Godot and wrote the sfcv article below.
Will add sound clips to early Mice and Men excerpts plus record above orchestration.
Jon Russell's Up to Some Fine Music
First there was the legendary "Hat's off gentlemen, a genius," said to have
been said by Robert Schuman, in reference to the young Johannes Brahms. Then
there was the apocryphal "Keep your hats on gentlemen, an idiot," bestowed on
the spurious P.D.Q. Bach. The truth lies much closer to the former with regard
to Jonathan Russell, whose dynamic music was heard on February 24, at the
beautiful Recital Hall in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's impressive
new home at 50 Oak Street.
Russell is a welcome new voice in Bay Area music who has been "focused on
integrating . . . vernacular music of various sorts and minimalism" into his own
endeavors. The results were very happily displayed in an engaging recital
that enlisted many of the SFCM's circle of talent in addition to other first-rate
As a single-reed performer of note, Russell's music is, like many
composer-instrumentalists, informed by his hands on experience, in terms of timbres and
virtuosity. He began in home territory (although foreign to many) with a
sensitive yet pugnacious duet entitled "...and the Beast..." (2006), where he was
joined by fellow bass clarinetist Jeff Anderle as the Sqwonk Duo. Through five
motivically-linked movements, Russell found the beauty in the Beast, as well
as the malevolence and passion, in an essay that seemed to evoke the mysteries
of John Gardner's "Grendel" and other beasties. The interest in evoking
perfectly-tuned intervals of the fifth reflected at once a nice minimal (La Monte
Young, Philip Glass) and medieval consciousness.
"Three Lonely Piano Pieces" (2006) ushered in the highlight of the evening's
enterprises: "Techonobabble" (2007), one of the finest
Pierrot-ensemble-and-percussion pieces that has been heard in quite some time. Aiming to combine
"Latin American dance music, techno dance music, and Minimalist textures" in the
first movement, the composer largely succeeds. This is large-scale, ambitious
music that pleases and finds a balance that neither trivializes nor
de-vitalizes its various influences. Commendations are due all around to flutist Laura
Snodgrass (as our lady of perpetual dancing motion in the third movement);
clarinetist Anderle (who was provided by the composer with the most distinctive
and knowing colors); substantial percussionist Erika Johnson (proving equally
adept at trap set and mallets); and violinist Claude Halter, cellist Hanna
Addario-Berry, and pianist Kate Campbell for overall excellence. Russell proved
a capable conductor of his work in this capacity, and we look forward to his
future activities in this arena as well.
"Runion" (2006) proved to be another basso single-reed outing, in this case
upping the ante by doubling up to four bass clarinetists. The ensemble is
known as Edmund Welles, and consists of group founder Cornelius Boots, plus Aaron
Novick, Anderle, and the composer. They played like they have played for a
time together, and they have -- evincing that kind of ensemble-tightness that
comes from many happy hours in consort. "Runion" rollicked and burped its way
through a variety of territory, yet opened and closed with sustained beauty in
a chorale derived from Charles Mingus. J.S. Bach smiled gently over it all,
despite a title derived from a melding of "red onions" and "Rupelstiltskin."
"Reunion" and "rutting" also came to mind.
The second part of the program was given over to "Night Songs" (2007), which
despite the title and Federico Garcia Lorca settings, called to mind not so
much Bela Bartok and George Crumb, but Russell's own alternative musical
universe. Starting up, and often continuing appropriately enough, in the dark, this
is a dramatic piece that calls for commitment among its various players by
requiring memorized performances and hazardous performer processions in the half
light. It is perhaps a piece only its composer could pull off, being a rather
heterogeneous collection of his various ensemble enthusiasms, that being the
aforementioned Edmund Welles Bass Clarinet Quartet, in addition to Oogog
(Russell's alto sax, joined by electric guitarist Ryan Brown, Josh Campbell, and
electric bassist Damon Waitkus), Duo Fuoco (flutist Snodgrass and guitarist Jacob
Kramer), plus other new-music experts Eric Carter (baritone), Kelcey Gavar
(contralto), Johnson (percussion), Halter and Nicola Drake (violin), Matthew
Davies (viola), and Addario-Berry (cello), all conducted at times by Joseph
If the piece really didn't add up, perhaps it wasn't supposed to. The drama
of the differently-placed ensemble members (Edmund Welles initially in the
balcony, for instance) was intriguing, the opening "Prelude/Chant" evocative.
Various groups were set against each other, but even more convincing were the
more heterogeneously-blended moments, where virtually the entire membership was
allowed to soar or shriek. The composer otter stayed one step ahead of
listeners in terms of setting up and delightfully surprising or thwarting
We look forward to many more works from this fine young composer.
Wanted to stop by Diablo Valley College late Saturday night on way back from San Francisco but resisted.
Spent the morning organizing the chaos of CD's that has arisen since starting to record complete works two years ago, then some time getting ready for the composer-performer get-together at Goat Hall in SF.
Event was great -- fine-to-excellent singers, plus presentations from Steven Clark,
Dave (D.C.) Meckler,
John Partridge, and moi.
Steven's Dionyus sounds in fantastic exotic Grecian-tweaky form, while
Dave's Albion Deity is hilarious and beautiful in its language distortions (a computer attempting to interpret Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe into English by sheer analogous sounds alone). Also amusing and energetic material from Brian and John. Took a number of pics, but the camera does leave a bit to be desired re clarity and focus.
Performed the one-singer version of Two Thieves from Waiting for Godot plus
Nobody in There from The Playboy of the Western World, and gratified to have enthusiastic and talented casts lined up.
On a whim, driving in with Harriet, happened on a notion to perform Godot parody in all-female high-fashion version as Waiting for Bardot (thanks, Steven), with Vladimira and Estragonetta waiting for job interviews at an emporium, Pozzo as a Meryl-Streep-type in The Devil Wears Prada, Lucky as Ugly Betty, and the Boy as the Girl (maybe as the Boy).
Late to beautiful and peaceful U.C. Davis Library for research on orchestration of Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, for use in Bardot/Godot, since the I.S. is the troping source.
As it turned out, didn't record any Antigone vocals. Instead, added a few sounds to Cats, Dogs, and Divas: XVI. The Proposition, since Doug Michael liked the recording so much that he wanted to play it in class. Initially resisted, but, as I'll do just about anything for a performance, found a way. The deal was that for the presentation, the work had to utilize six audio files, and Maggie and my vocals only amounted to three. The solution here was to add three slide whistles from the BBC sound effects Comedy folder -- erased the ascents, and merely utilized contrapuntal descents. That was to be about all, but then happened upon the same collections' same folders' file entitled "Orgy." Couldn't resist. In truth it's rather jovial and tame, but certainly adds a certain licentious edge. Harriet cautions that it may not be in the spirit of the piece, and she's right....
Spent most of the day preparing Act II of The Playboy of the Western World, printed out a rough of III, then off to San Francisco in the eve to review John Russell's San Francisco Conservatory composition show for SF Classical voice.
Beautiful new building for SFCM -- 50 Oak Street -- in the heart of things musical in SF (Sym, Opera, Gr Rm in Veterans) -- fair walk in the rain with a hole-in-the- shoe from up Page Street, across from the Buddhist Center known from year's past w/ Darcy, now D'Arcy....
Recital Hall beautifully compact, simply as a legit grand hall on a miniscule level, holding c. 100. Nice to see the unflapable Harry Bernstein from SF Composers Orchestra and Steve Ettinger (and his brother, also a composer, who is studying with John) from NACUSA and Monterey composers group. Harry's chamber music for multiple alto flutes and Steve's Mihara Castle have been highlights in the last few years. John's show was great -- full report in sfcv.org and here soon.
Finished Tacitus's Histories (AD 105) somewhere in there -- intriguing writing re the seige of Jerusalem....
Feverishly preparing at least first act of The Playboy of the Western World at home this morning, and more tonight, for publication. Score was left in a complete, but not polished, state, several years ago. Have to have something ready for the composer/performer get-together at Goat Hall, this Sunday at 2pm, which is open to the public. Perhaps also Lot in Life, Waiting for Godot -- we'll see...
At lab now adding a few sound effects for beginning selections of Act I Mice and Men. Perhaps recording a bit of Antigone, too....
Emeryville ensemble proved to be a delightful and expert group -- had a great time conducting a read-through of the Bohuslav Martinu Nonet (a very late work), which they will perform on March 10 and 13 -- SFCCO will prevent my attendance at former date, of course, but perhaps I can attend the latter.
Ted Rust's studio, where the deeds were done, is in a warehouse almost directly under Powell Street in Emeryville -- intriguing -- somewhat akin to Paul Dresher's impressive space in Oakland....
In lab today to record Mice and Men, Act I, H ("I don't want no ketchup") -- full score still in manuscript, but planning to use Cubase keyboard entry to prepare a MIDI score, which would be pretty much a first for me...
Just heard from friend Eric Mitchko -- one of my former students at Westtown School -- who is brand new to myspace and now with Atlanta Opera. Wow!
Added some trains to Cats, Dogs, and Divas: III. Between Depression (since everyone tends to call it "The Train Song," anyway), and reposted.
Off to Emeryville to conduct a late Martinu piece for Ted Rust.
Have been playing The Proposition to a lot of folks (Theory Class, Doug Michael in the Lab, Aaron Urton the cellist, Aaron Webber at Kinko's Vacaville, David Chavez) and response seems good, although Kurt Erickson's not sure about the MIDI. Can't blame him...
Harriet in Reno visiting daughter, son-in-law, so left to my own devices most of the day. Prepared the full orchestra version of Worksong from Mice Suite No. 1 and will record tonight. Also finalized and printed new orchestrations of Helena Suite: I. Beautiful Women and San Rafael Hub: I. Fresno.
Wrote up the Herb Bielawa Friday show, below -- version appearing Tuesday at sfcv.org.
Composers now have the option of having their music featured on the popular
"Myspace" site, by establishing a free "Band" web destination (a rock locution
evidently good for individuals as well). As part of the set-up procedure,
artists must decide how to characterize their music -- "Classical" / "Classical -
Opera" / "Minimalist" are some of the possibilities. "Contemporary
Classical" and "New Music," locutions used by many current composers, are not part of
the option scheme thus far.
Sounds New, a fine East Bay Pierrot ensemble led by Herb Bielawa, obviously
subscribes to the latter term, but the former might even serve as a better,
although, admittedly, less catchy characterization. "Sounds Contemporary
Classical" is what this expert band of musicians offers: a classic, respectful
approach to recent music of an academic bent. True to the Arnold Schoenberg
tradition, instrumentation varied throughout the evening and vocal music was a
welcome part of the mix.
The three sung pieces, leading off with Greg Steinke's "To Get to Fresno,"
featured soprano delicacies from Ann Carol Dudley and were all
forest-from-the-trees detailed settings of texts that favored recitative-like word-painting
over melody and through-line. The long poem, by Lawson Fusao Inada, evidently
alludes to internment of individuals of Japanese heritage in American camps
during World War II.
James Jenson buys into another contemporary-classical tradition -- that of a
capella clarinet writing, so consummately established by Igor Stravinsky in
his 1919 "Three Pieces," with an identically-named work in 1997 -- and he is up
to the challenge of forward movement. While there is somehow an inevitable
lonely, sadness to unaccompanied monophonic presentations, the third movement in
particular danced off to delightful parts unknown under the dexterous fingers
of Richard Matthias.
Relatedly, Michael Golden's "Bidder to Better" stayed in the mind due to its
appealing animated interplay between violinist Brooke Aird and pianist Elinor
Armer, a lithe pair who made the music fly. Both contributed contrapuntal
alliterative (almost onomatopoeiac) whimsy in their rapid recitations of
fragments of the title and verse "You sold your treasure to the lowest bidder. Better
win it back."
Winning as well was the entire ensemble, including shining and velvety
contributions from flutist Deborah Schmidt and cellist Cathy Allen, in the only
fully-scored work, "Summer Solstice." The poem was that of Yiorgos Seferis, and
this serious work found composer John Thow in his usual element, with a strong
interest in color and line, in untouchable new-music-ensemble form.
Founder-Conductor (and pianist at other points in the recital) Herbert Bielawa carried
off all the proceedings admirably.
More kick-up-your-heels was Howard Hersh's "Dancing at the Pink House,"
referencing clarinetist Patricia Shands's unusual domicile in Stockton, here
dynamically performed by Mathias and Bielawa. By contrast, the considerably more
serious "Hibakusha," by Aaron Alon, offered a capella soloist Schmidt an
opportunity to perform beautiful memorial to survivors of the atomic blasts at
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Bielawa's "Sloppy Floppy Copy" provided a witty, upbeat disconnect, as its
title would suggest, in a three-musician free-for-all setting of a computer
clone derived from Dr. Seuss's "Fox in Sox." Solidly in the sprit of Leonard
Bernstein's recipe songs and other unexpected text-selections, this was a
delightful work that fulfilled the composer's intention to avoid rhythmic
"squareness," despite the fact that periodicity did seem part of point of the parody.
The most soaring contribution to the evenings excursion were the "Canopy
Dances" of Michael Djupstrom -- avian musical onomatopoeias that took flight in a
frenzy of fevered lines, notwithstanding a certain rhythmic evening coolness
underlying this essay of a night in the tropical rainforests. The scoring for
the non-keyboard elements of the Pierrot ensemble was brilliant, and each
instrumentalist was able to take soaring solo turns as well as demonstrating crack
ensemble interlockings that proved that these musicians were indeed together
as related birds of a feather.
Foxy playing that knocked the socks.
Have posted a rough draft of Cats, Dogs, and Divas, Op. 104: XVI. The Proposition, since Maggie did such a bang-up job with it in the studio -- lament that I neglected to take some snaps -- next time...
Amazing what a difference a few words can make, perhaps the experience of a conductor, but after an initial take that was arguably overly "classical," and not really the way she performed it live last month, Ms. Tennenbaum then really went for it, and "vamped" it up, as you can hear. Her voice is dead center, at a concert distance from the mike -- to this I added two disreputable old-man vocals, close in, panned extreme left and right -- live these lines were sung by Janet Lohr and Cynthia Weyuker in male personae -- undoubtably we will add them to final mix -- hope they will be comfortable with my addition....
Home and about town the rest of the day, preparing music for Halfway Mark, specifically xeroxing parts for Psalm 6, Ecclesiastes, Aerial Requiem...
Finished, perhaps second time, Tacitus's
Annals, continuing to plod away through the Britanica Great Books Series (Erling can testify it took me years to get through Plutarch), on to T's Histories, which may be quick sailing....
Realize that series, string-em-together, a big interest -- complete works; linked hikes on Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest, walking-to-Nevada....
Prepared and recorded Mice and Men, Act I, G (Interlude).
Then met Maggie Tennenbaum at Diablo Valley Music Technology Center to record some of her parts in Cats, Dogs, and Divas (the version performed last month at Dance Mission as part of the Women on the Way Festival in San Francisco) -- specifically II. Long Time, V. In the House of My Father, VII. Make a Man a God, XVI. The Proposition, XVII. Crazy, XXI. Love, and XXII. You Got That Right.
Prepared and about to record Mice and Men, Act I F (Interlude).
Added sound effects (small stream [a.k.a. Salinas River], frogs, a splash, and panned footsteps [unfortunately the closest I could get to were ones "in the snow" -- better than "on shingles" -- for squishy near-the-water padding)] for Act I E, as part of a project for Doug Michael's Music 173 class at Diablo Valley College.
Second FX outing... first being X. Come on Now from Antigone, a while past, and am intrigued....
Off to Marin after for typical business run to 21st-Century post box, then to SF for Sounds New (Herb Bielawa's ensemble) at Old First. Report for sfcv will appear anon.....
Learned how to do video on the camera phone, and post -- extremely low-end with 20-second limit, but a start....
Will record Mice and Men, Act I, E ("All right, gimme that mouse!"), this afternoon....
Successfully was able to transfer jpeg photos from phone to email to computer to website -- wow!...
Home to prepare Mice and Men, Act I, E; Ecclesiastes for Halfway Mark; Waiting for Godot for Fresh Voices VII; and
Playboy of the Western World for the August show -- then off to San Francisco for SF Composers Chamber Orchestra Board meeting....
Happy Valentines Day!....
Updated SFCCO press release, as below, then wrote up SFS February 9 show for Commuter Times and 21st-Century Music, also following....
Figured out how to make calls, take photos, and recharge on the new cell phone -- thanks to the booklet, phone guy, and David Chavez...
COMPOSERS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Mark Alburger, Music Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
February 1, 2007 SFCCO (707) 451-0714
SAN FRANCISCO COMPOSERS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA PRESENTS
"A SPRINGTIME ROMANCE"
8:00PM, SATURDAY, MARCH 10, OLD FIRST CHURCH, 1725 SACRAMENTO STREET
(AT VAN NESS), SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO AND WORLD PREMIERES OF WORKS BY
ALEXIS ALRICH, CHRIS CARRASCO, LOREN JONES,
LISA SCHOLA PROSEK, ERLING WOLD, AND KATRINA WREEDE
SAN FRANCISCO, February 1,, 2007 -- Though the winter rainy season just seems
to be kicking in, it's not too early to kick up your heels and engage in some
early sonic fertility rites with "A Springtime Romance" at the San Francisco
Composers Chamber Orchestra's 8pm, Sunday, March 10, show at Old First Church
(1725 Sacramento Street), in San Francisco.
The seductions of yore will be evoked in another installment of "Dancing on the Brink of the World" -- movements five through seven of Loren Jones's 12-movement evocation of the Cool Gray City of Love. "Barbary Coast March" romances Civil-War-Era melodies, juxtaposed against the festivities of a "Midwinter Exposition," while "The Outside Lands" calls forth that age-old command to be fruitful and multiply.
And multiplications there will be in a "Childrens' Garden" of delight from Katrina Wreede, were melodious sounds of the violist-composer join forces with soprano Lisa Scola Prosek and pianist Alexis Alrich, to gambol in a suite of "Foreign Lands," "Time to Rise," "The Wind," Unseen Playmate," and "The Whole Duty of Children." The dancing nature of the music spills over into Alrich's own essay in mallet percussion virtuosity with the second movement of her Marimba Concerto, which has been presented serially by the Orchestra over the past few seasons.
Of course not every romance results in a happy musical marriage and offspring. The Wedding Scene in "Belfagor," by Scola Prosek, is hardly one made in
heaven, but instead a delightful hell-on-earth of arresting melodies and glorious
harmonies that will presage the full presentation of this stimulating opera at Thick House from June 1-3 at Thick House in San Francisco. "Who is that guy?" asks the music -- it's the devil in "Your Hands."
In a related malevolent spirit, Erling Wold's "Baron Ochs" is an outrageous world of sexual innuendo and extravagance, where the music provides all the redeeming social value for which anyone could ask. Through five movements that may not pass the muster of Islamic censors, listeners will experience "The night before the festival," "Mohammed has a vision," "Confusion'; "the Baron arrives"; "all gather";"Mohammed speaks," "A moment passes," and "Valzaccho returns to
the forest." Perhaps there is nothing left but to chronicle the descent and dissent of men and women in "The Mind Suite" from Chris Carrasco, where "The March of Lucidity" devolves into the "Final Dance of a Decaying Mind" and "A Closer Look."
Clearly this is A Springtime Romance where anything can and does happen -- from a dramatic standpoint, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but it all comes out beautiful and engaging from the star performers of the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra, under the dynamic direction of Music Director Mark Alburger and Guest Director Alrich.
Tickets for the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra's "A Springtime
Romance" on Saturday, March 10, at 8.00 p.m. at Old First Church, 1725 Sacramento
Street (at Van Ness), San Francisco are $15 general, $12 students and
seniors. Tickets are available through the Old First Church Box Office at (415)
474-1608 and at the door. For more information, please call Old First Church Box
Office, or the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra at (707) 451-0714, or
visit the organizations' respective websites at www.sfcco.org and
www.oldfirstconcerts.org. Tickets are also available at www.ticketweb.com. Other links
to the show may be found at myspace.com/sfcco, myspace.com/erlingwold, and
CALENDAR EDITORS, PLEASE NOTE:
OLD FIRST CONCERTS PRESENTS
Saturday, March 10, at 8:00 p.m. Old First Presbyterian Church
1725 Sacramento Street at Van Ness
San Francisco, CA
A SPRINGTIME ROMANCE
San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra
Alexis Alrich Marimba Concerto
Chris Carrasco The Mind Suite
Loren Jones Dancing on the Brink of the World
Lisa Scola Prosek Wedding Scene from "Belfagor"
Erling Wold Baron Ochs
Katrina Wreede Children's Garden
Tickets:$15 general, $12 students and seniors, available through the Old
First Church Box Office at (415) 474-1608, at the door, and at www.ticketweb.com.
6.5 on the Scale
The San Francisco Symphony's "6.5" series denotes digitally a starting point
of 6:30 on Friday nights, but it could also approximately reflect the
proportion of music offered when compared to a more customary 8pm start time. Case in
point was the February 9 program at Davies Hall, which included only music by
Hector Berlioz and Paul Dukas, when compared to the previous Wednesday's
show, which was to have featured further Frenchmen with Claude Debussy and Charles
"Was to," since that program experienced a last-minute change to cut
Koechlin's intriguing "Les Bandar-Log," one of seven studies on Rudyard Kipling's
"Jungle Book." The absence was explained as due to insufficient rehearsal time
left after a beefed-up schedule for last week's "Fourth Concerto for Orchestra,"
a premiere from the pen of Robin Holloway.
So Friday's folks were two steps away from the most unusual work advertised
for the week, and had to remain content with a rousing reading of the Berlioz
"Roman Carnival Overture," not listed in the program, but shoehorned easily
into the short shift. All the colors and energy were in proper array and
balance. English horn soloist Adam Dinitz and the violists took star turns, and the
trombones were no slouches either -- certainly a performance which the
composer, long gone, would have met with favor.
More distant were the intimations of the same artist's "Les Nuits d'ete"
("Summer Nights," op. 7). On this late winter early evening, the solstice seemed
far removed in delicate washes from the orchestra, graced by the glories of
soprano Susan Graham. If Wednesday's accounts are any indication, Friday did
have its advantages by allowing the ensemble and soloist an extra "dress
rehearsal" to work out any problems of coordination. All the muted sentiments were
well in place, in a liquid work that almost made the loss of the Debussy
"Nocturnes" bearable. While it was wonderful to hear this side of Berlioz in
juxtaposition with his more demonstrative -- if not downright bombastic, popular
side -- this is an essay that is perhaps greater in its sum of parts than the
The same cannot be said of Paul Dukas's classic "Sorcerer's Apprentice," and
this popular work remains every inch a minor masterpiece of economy,
story-telling, glittering orchestration, whimsy, and progressive harmony for its day.
While three years short of the turn (1897) of the last century, this piece
still has a contemporary ring, and not just due to the strong association with
Mickey Mouse and Disney's "Fantasia." The music rings true and Music Director
Michael Tilson Thomas and the gang served as master magicians to coax the
wonder -- and yes, terror -- out of the goings on.
One was left hoping that the magic wand would have conjured up even a few
more warm repertory treats as we hustled out into the chill early evening air.
Noon to 4pm SF Cabaret Opera / Goat Hall Productions auditions, with Harriet, and John Partridge, for Easter Hangover, Fresh Voices VII, and Oakland Metro show + plus a bit of spiel for Halfway Mark.
Prepared and recorded Mice and Men, Act I, C ("God a' mighty, you're a lot of trouble"). Somewhere in there went to SF for Symphony concert, one of those ridiculous 6:30pm shows, where the parking is challenging and the program foreshortened.... Will write up for Commuter Times early next week and also post here.
Recorded Mice and Men, Act IB ("Now the ranch we're goin' to"). Once again, an inordinate amount of time setting dynamics, then two fairly quick audio takes -- one each -- for George and Lennie. Also, as before, reverb set to default -- very low/short for me (more appropriate for outdoors, since they're not singing in a cathedral) -- but Doug Michael says it's still too much echo. He's probably right... Most of the words decipherable, so perhaps Harriet will be pleased....
Revised the orchestration of Lyre's Melody from Orpheus Cycle. Previously there were only piano-vocal and Pierrot ensemble versions, with an initial sketch of the orchestral version. Revision modelled on the Richard Wagner Rheingold opening, plus no doubt Balinese, club jazz, and Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 1 finale sentiments.
Franco-Russian Craft Sails Into Bay
Despite competition from the Super Bowl and the Queen Mary II sailing into
the Bay (I know from close experience, having late-lunched at a sports bar in
San Francisco and then heading over the Golden Gate Bridge exactly as the ocean
liner sailed under), the Russian Chamber Orchestra drew a respectable crowd on
February 4 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Belevedere for its third
concert of the 2006-2007 Season.
While Music Director and Conductor Alexander Vereshagin characterized the
program, in brief accented remarks tot the audience, that this was "the Russian
Chamber Orchestra with a French accent," this mostly-French program had a
distinctly Russian accent. Sailing off with Camille Saint-Saens's Prelude from "Le
Deluge" (op. 45), the hall was flooded with rich sounds that bespoke of
European, rather than American, continental connections. If this relatively
unknown take on Noah's Flood bogs down in watery counterpoint, perhaps so much the
The Slavic, rather than the French or Spanish, overtones continued in the
conductor's own impressive orchestration of three dances from the George Bizet
psuedo-Hispanic "Carmen." In particular, the famous "Habenera" had a weighty
gravitas to it that was reinforced by the sonorous stillness of St. Stephens.
Violinist Leonid Igudesman and Larisa Kopylovsky engaged in rapturous
calls-and-responses in the duetting roles. Following this up with Claude Debussy's
"Danses Sacree et Profane," proved a delight for solo harpist Olga
Ortenberg-Rakitchenkov and the ensemble.
"Rondo" from a Luigi Boccherini C Major Quintet seemed less suitable for the
players and space, given that the intended medium was five players only, and
probably for secular, less-resonant, performing environment. This did not
prevent Victoria Ehrlich from giving here all, however, in the demanding obligato
In the rest of this entertaining program, Vereshagin continued to intrigue in
his duel role as leader and arranger, to which he added a third aptitude as
pianist in Maurice Ravel's beloved "Pavanne pour une infante defunte" (often
translated more poetically as "Pavanne for a Dead Princess," rather than "Dead
Child" -- still certainly not as devastating as the Mahler compound
"Kindertotenlieder" -- "DeadChildrenSongs"). Ravel's own 1910 orchestration of his 1899 piano is a tough act to follow, and Vereshagin proceeded carefully with the
The final and finally Russian "Fantasy on Russian Themes" (op. 33), by
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, was initially marred by a cherub in the front row, who was
too young to realize that heightened speech among audience members is not
exactly welcome during recitals. Returning soloist Igudesman turned in his most
wondrous performance of the evening, which lamentably had to include a welcomed
public admonition to the kindercaretaker, "it is time to leave, now."
But for the rest of us, we were sad to leave to leave on this eventful day,
extended just a bit with another French work for encore: the C.S.S. "Swan" from
"Carnival of the Animals." Originally scored for solo cello and piano, this
final Vereshagin scoring proved a Spruce Goose for full strings on the melodic
line, a liner proudly sailing into that large pond adjacent called San
SF Cabaret Opera / Goat Hall Board meeting mid-day at Douglas and Miriam's in SF, then Russian Chamber Orchestra at
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Belevedere (vaguely old Marin County stomping grounds) for Commuter Times (report soon). Familiar faces: Warner Jepson from NACUSA and Fresh Voices, who's moved from Noe Valley (SF) to Sonoma, the town, in county of same -- Katie Wreede, violist par excellence as one of the players, from SFCCO and elsewhere, who I hope will be able to do Halfway Mark with us -- just missed the bass player from Old MC group Hipbones, too....
At home preparing Act I, A ("Goddam it, Lennie") of Mice and Men for publication, then lunch with Harriet at the local Chevy's, where we discussed various nefarious schemes involving audio, video, and websites....
Back to DVC in evening to record above. Took forever to set dynamics in the MIDI tracks -- wrote the piece back in my careful markings days, so the calibration stretched over hours. Realized that, back then, forte meant just about as loud as possible and p the reverse, so after trying levels at 100-90-80-70-60 (f-mf-mp-p-pp), recalculated to 100-80-60-40-20, which worked much better.
Took only a take each for George and Lennie, in that order, panned left and right. Set the reverb (for an almost total change) at merely default (80 room, 1 second decay), since the scene is outdoors by a pond (as opposed to my normal love-affair-with-the-cathedral 100 room and anywhere from 2-12 sec fall-off)...
Sounds like a condusive environment for future.
A few lyric mistakes, and some overmodulated shouts, but reasonably powerful, so I left it as is for now....
Wrote a new little piece last night and this morning, or, rather, composed it directly into Cubase, and based on the only other exercise like it in my work thus far. First one was called Big Beat Remix, Op. 135 (2006), after the earlier
Big Beat, Op. 39 (1990, which states eight generic measures of rock-n-roll drum rhythms in orchestral pitches simultaneously at various temporal levels), but with MIDI-track content provided by an assignment in Mark Steidel's Music 172 at Diablo Valley College. The new one is Beat Beat Remix Count-Off, Op. 146 (2007), after an assignment in Doug Michael's Music 173, which requires a recorded vocal "1-2-3-4" stated in rhythm to MIDI tracks at least three times. 'Course I had to go overboard, and there are about a million (not really) repetitions of the count-off stated from quarter-note pulse, through a background ratio where the four counts take 64 measures to be heard, and beyond.... Sort of like Steve Reich's Slow-Motion Sound, except it's not....
Normally I don't like to assign an opus number to one small work (other than these, I can only think of The Lord's Prayer, Op. 5 ), but these little beat pieces have comparatively less to do with the other ideas with which I work, so there it is. Will probably collect them someday in a volume no doubt called Book II (Textbook) for Orchesrtra, and give it another opus number. Cheating...
OK, another idea: Let's put it back with Big Beat Remix, as second of two movements...
Big Beat Remix, Op. 135 (2006)
I. Big Beat Remix Midi
II. Big Beat Remix Count-Off
Recorded the Prelude to Act I of Mice and Men. Learned how to do the MySpace Slide Show + a bit of html thanks to Jose Martinez! Amazed by all the dead composers maintaining websites....