Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sacramento Choral Society does Brahms

This is an interesting week for me.  Last night the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra presented the Brahms Requiem, a piece I dearly love, at the Community Center Theater.  Monday night is the Saint Matthew Passion by Bach, my other favorite choral work. a/>

Donald Kendrick is the music director.  Here is the program with comments.

Serenade for Strings by Edward Elgar (1892).

This is a lovely piece in three movements for strings only.  They played it well.  The chorus sat behind but did not participate.

Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1911).

Trevor Scheunemann, baritone, was the excellent soloist.  This piece includes parts for chorus and winds.  I regret that I was less impressed with the work by the wind sections.  I have long been a fan of Ralph Vaughan Williams whose greatest contribution to western civilization is the Anglican/Episcopalian hymnal.  These pieces were new for me and were in Williams' usual English post-romantic style.  I liked them very much. 

Ein Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms (1868)

Again Trevor Scheunemann was the baritone soloist, and Carrie Hennessey sang the soprano solo.
  1. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen
  2. Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras
  3. Herr, lehre doch mich (baritone)
  4. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen
  5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (soprano)
  6. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt (baritone)
  7. Selig sind die Toten
Brahms' Requiem is not related to any mass liturgy, either Catholic or Lutheran, but is instead a set of biblical texts about death from Luther's translation.  The title comes from Brahms himself.

This lives deep in my memory and was performed here with devotion.  The orchestra was less than ideal.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Bayerische Staatsoper 2019-20 plus my picks

The first list is premiers.  Only one is a world premier.  The rest are production premiers


pre Korngold:  Die tote Stadt Jonas Kaufmann, Marlis Petersen
pre Abrahamsen: The Snow Queen Barbara Hannigan, Peter Rose
pre Bartok: Duke Bluebeard's Castle Nina Stemme, John Lundgren
pre Verdi: I Masnadieri Diana Damrau, Charles Castronovo
pre Abramovic:7 Deaths of Maria Callas 7 different women-world premier
pre Rameau: Castor et Pollux ? don't know these people
pre Verdi: Falstaff Wolfgang Koch, Okka von der Dammerau
pre Thomas: Mignon Opera studio

 Here is the rest of the opera repertoire.  Dates in front signify when this opera was streamed before.


Beethoven:  Fidelio:  Adrianne Pieczonka, Günther Groissböck, Klaus Florian Vogt

Berg:  Wozzeck:  Christian Gerhaher

Bizet:  Carmen Matthew Polenzani
2015 Donizetti:  L’elisir d’amore: Pretty Yende, Mariusz Kwiecien, Ambrogio Maestri
2015 Donizetti:  Lucia di Lammermoor Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Quinn Kelsey

Gluck:  Alceste Dorothea Röschmann,

Haydn:  Orlando Paladino Mathias Vidal, Tara Erraught

Humperdinck:  Hänsel und Gretel:  Tara Erraught

Johann Strauß:   Die Fledermaus: 
2019 Krenek:  Karl V. Bo Skovhus

Mozart:  Cosi fan Tutte Tara Erraught

Mozart:  Die Zauberfloete Pavol Breslik

Mozart:  Don Giovanni Erwin Schrott, Luca Pisaroni, Carmen Giannattasio

Mussorgsky:  Boris Godunow:  Dimitry Ulyanov

Offenbach:  Les Contes d’Hoffmann Michael Spyres

Puccini:  La bohème: 

Puccini:  La fanciulla del West Anja Kampe, Brandon Jovanovich

Puccini:  Tosca:  Anja Harteros

Puccini:  Turandot:  Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov

Rossini:  Guillaume Tell:  Gerald Finley, Michael Spyres

Rossini:  Il barbiere di Siviglia

Rossini:  La Cenerentola Teresa Iervolino
2019 Smetana:  Die Verkaufte Braut

Strauss:  Salome Marlis Petersen, Wolfgang Koch

Strauss:  Die sweigsame Frau

Tchaikovsky:  Eugen Onegin: Pavol Breslik

Verdi:  Don Carlo Charles Castronovo, Ludovic Tézier, Ildar Abdrazakov, Anja Harteros
2013 Verdi:  Il Trovatore Anja Harteros

Verdi:  Nabucco:  Placido Domingo, Liudmyla Monastyrska
2018 Verdi:  Otello:  Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros

Verdi:  Rigoletto:  Ludovic Tezier, Erin Morley

Verdi:  La traviata:  multiple

Wagner:  Der fliegende Holländer:  Michael Volle
2018 Wagner:  Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg:  Wolfgang Koch, Jonas Kaufmann, 

Wagner:  Lohengrin:  Klaus Florian Vogt, Anja Harteros
2018 Wagner:  Parsifal:  Anja Kampe

I would like to see Netrebko's Turandot and anything with Anga Harteros.  We have been promised over and over Die Meistersinger with Jonas Kaufmann.  Could we finally see it, please?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera 2019-2020

This is the official announcement.  It isn't completely working to paste this, but you should get the idea.

2019-2020 Season
The City is the Stage

The Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera is the capitol region's proud success storyplaying to sold out houses all season. The coming 2019-20 season will be especially excitingLook for your renewal packet coming in the mail this week.

As the Community Center Theater is being renovated for your comfort, all of Sacramento will become the Philharmonic's stage. Three venues have been selected
— showcasing music programmed specifically to the acoustic of each. In the coming year, you'll have the opportunity to experience music in:
MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM where Sacramento's first orchestra appeared, will resound with Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin and the season's opera to be announced this fall.
FREMONT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH with its grand and powerful organ, will thunder in Saint-Saëns' roaring "Organ Symphony," plus symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart.
CATHEDRAL OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT downtown Sacramento's jewel, will cradle Faure's tender Requiem, and intimate works of Vaughn-Williams and Thomas Tallis.
And your season concludes with the return to the renovated Sacramento Community Center Theater in Fall of 2020.

The deadline to renew is Saturday, April 27, 2019

Remember, by renewing now, you are assuring that you will be
the first to be seated in the renovated hall!

Ways to Renew:
  1. Mail in your renewal form (watch your mailbox for the renewal packet)
  2. Call the SP&O Box Office at 916-476-5975, Monday-Friday 10am-2pm
  3. Visit the SP&O Box Office in person, Monday-Friday 10am-2pm
  4. NEW! Click the button below to renew online
Season at a Glance
The 2019-2020 season is generously underwritten by Nancy McRae Fisher.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Andrew Grams, conductor
William Hagen, violin

WAGNER "Tannhäuser" March
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"

Friday, November 8, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019

Michael Christie, conductor

MOZART Operatic Finales from "Cosí fan tutte", "The Magic Flute", "The Marriage of Figaro"
MOZART Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter"

Saturday, February 1, 2020
Christopher Rountree, conductor

GERSHWIN Second Rhapsody
TIAN Transcend Commission for 150th Anniversary of Transcontinental Railroad
TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture

Friday, February 14, 2020
Saturday, February 15, 2020

Douglas Boyd, conductor

VAUGHN-WILLIAMS Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
TALLIS Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter
FAURE Requiem

Friday, March 13, 2020
Saturday, March 14, 2020

Robert Moody, conductor
James Jones, organ

Organ Recital with James Jones
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4
SAINT-SAËNS Symphony No. 3, "Organ Symphony"

Saturday, April 25, 2020
Christoph Campestrini, conductor

Opera to be announced in Fall 2019


Friday, March 15, 2019

Juditha Triumphans

Conductor: Andrea Marcon
Orchestra: La Cetra Barockorchester Basel 
Director: Floris Visser

Juditha, contralto, a Bethulian widow: Gaëlle Arquez
Holofernes, contralto, Assyrian general: Teresa Iervolino
Vagaus, soprano, eunuch, Holofernes's squire: Vasilisa Berzhanskaya
Ozias, contralto, high priest of Bethulia: Francesca Ascioti
Abra, soprano, Juditha's handmaid: Polly Leech
Jewish virgin: Gloria Giurgola

Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans (Judith Triumphs) was streamed from the Dutch National Opera on Operavision.  My usual source book says this was an oratorio in Latin, here performed in Italian and staged as an opera.  Interesting.  The story is from the book of Judith from the apocrypha, as it is called by protestants.  All of the singers are female, including the chorus, because Vivaldi taught at a girls' school.  There do seem to be quite a few male supers, many in NAZI uniforms, and occasionally they sing with the chorus of soldiers.  Holofernes and his troops are Assyrian while the people in mufti are Jews from Bethulia.  The timing of the original performance in Venice suggests that it is translated into an oratorio about the Turks invading Corfu in 1716.  So 3 time periods.
  • Book of Judith old testament era
  • Oratorio by Vivaldi 1716 not staged.
  • WWII Nazis 1940s for the staging.
The orchestration is astounding.  The same reference says: "The string orchestra is augmented by timpani, 2 trumpets, mandolino, 4 theorbos, 5 lyra viols (viols), 1 viola d'amore, 2 recorders, 2 chalumeaux (soprano) [ancestor of the clarinet], 2 oboes, organ."   I am hearing harpsichord.  Impressive.  It sounds much thicker than your average Baroque Italian orchestra.  In general Baroque scores don't show full orchestration, but to know more about these things, I would have to consult a Vivaldi specialist.

To begin we have the famous painting of Judith Beheading Holofernes (oops.  spoiler alert) by Caravaggio c. 1598.  People are shot.  Judith tries to persuade Holofernes that his power would be enhanced by clemency.

Structurally this is a Neapolitan opera with one florid da capo aria after another.  Maybe an opera would have more recitative.  The Assyrians are a bit creepy.  At about 1:40 the above painting is unveiled.  They are Nazis, so perhaps they are looting it.  This gives her the idea?  Yes.  She chops off his head.  At the end we are transported back to Venice, Judith regrets her deed and tears up the Caravaggio painting.

Musically this is a triumph.  The sounds are varied and fascinating.  We are hearing the real thing.  Vivaldi vocal music is seriously neglected by everyone except Cecilia Bartoli.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens

Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens came to visit at Mondavi to perform arias, spirituals, pop songs and whatever else they wanted.  They brought Myra Huang to accompany them on the piano.  She skillfully navigated the range of musical styles on this concert.  The whole concert was performed with the lid all the way up which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't.

The program was divided into two parts:  the operatic repertoire they are famous for and spirituals, pop songs, and gospel songs.  We'll begin with the classical.  The house lights remained up for this part.

Larry and Eric are at opposite ends of the male operatic voices.  Eric is a bass-baritone while Larry soars high above almost everyone in the coloratura tenor category.  Eric does Wagner and Gershwin while Larry does Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti.  There isn't a lot of overlap in their repertoire.

To represent his usual stuff Larry brought us:
  • Il mio tesoro from Mozart's Don Giovanni
  • Una furtiva lagrima from Donizetti's Elixir of love
  • Ah mes amis from Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment
This pretty much covers it.  The Donizetti arias are the main ones that receive encores these days, and he gave encore worthy performances.

"Una furtiva lagrima" came after they sang a duet from the same opera where the baritone conman sells the tenor a bottle of wine as a supposed love potion, "Voglio dire."  This is more fun when it's acted.

Eric sang
  • Se vuol ballare from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro
  • Infelice! E tuo crevedi from Verdi's Ernani
  • Le veau d'or from Gounod's Faust
They finished with "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Pearl Fishers, one of the greatest male duets in the repertoire.  I enjoyed all of this, but Larry in his high tessitura more successfully soared over the piano.

The lights went down for part 2.  The rest of the program started with spirituals such as Marian Anderson used to sing.  I thought of her when they performed a duet of "He's got the whole world in his hands."  This was her trademark song.  Eric excelled in "Deep River."

I didn't know all of the pop songs, but Eric Owens singing "Some enchanted evening" was wonderful.  The selection was puzzling.

They finished with two gospel songs.
  • I don't feel no ways tired
  • Every time I feel the spirit
It seemed like a concert as co-biography.  There was an encore but my memory has failed me.

It was a pleasure.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Monday, March 04, 2019

Joyce on

This is sort of bizarre.  Who would think of such a thing?  We all started out with a small blue book called Classic Italian Songs.  It came in different keys.  I got my first copy in a high school voice class where we sang, yes, "Caro mio ben."  I very quickly graduated to choir.

I haven't wandered too far off the subject.  Joyce DiDonato is singing them with a jazz ensemble backup.  They are originally scored for figured bass.  You knew that.  So why can't a jazz ensemble realize a figured bass as well as the next person?  This is in New York.

Now she's added one of those tango accordions to her ensemble.  She wanders off to other songs after a while.  It's fun.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

La Fille du Regiment

Conductor..................Enrique Mazzola
Production.................Laurent Pelly

Marie......................Pretty Yende
Tonio......................Javier Camarena
Marquise of Berkenfield....Stephanie Blythe
Sergeant Sulpice...........Maurizio Muraro
Hortentius.................Paul Corona
Duchesse of Krakentorp.....Kathleen Turner

Today's HD from the Met is La Fille du Regiment, a revival of the Laurent Pelly production.  I didn't think this was possible, but it was even more fun than with Natalie Dessay.

Tonio is a Tyrolean, and Marie is a found child raised by a regiment of the French army invading Tyrol.  Marie does laundry and peels potatoes.  She also wanders off into a neighboring village where she meets Tonio.  Pretty Yende does the best job ever of seeming to be a young woman raised by a troop of soldiers.  She swears, though I noticed they didn't translate this.

This was also an historic occasion:  we had the first bis (encore) in any HD performance.   Of course this was for Javier Camarena's performance of "Ah mes amis" with the famous 9 high Cs.  So with a bis that makes 18 high Cs.  Dare we say it?  He is the new king of the high Cs.

This is such a marvelous cast with gorgeous singing and lively acting that swept us along.  We laughed and cried and rejoiced when aunt/mother allows Marie and Tonio to wed.  Wonderful.

I missed the sprouted potato found with Marie's souvenirs in previous performances.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Telegraph Quartet

Jeremiah Shaw, cello, Joseph Maile, violin, Eric Chin, violin, Pei-Ling Lin, viola.  

The Telegraph Quartet came once again to play at my alma mater as part of the New Millennium Concert Series. 

They have delved deeper than Schubert and Mozart this time.  The three pieces below are all by Czech composers.

String Quartet No. 10, Opus 51 by Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904).  This is the most conservative of these three selections.
  • Allegro ma non troppo
  • Dumka:  Andante con moto - Vivace
  • Romanza:  Andante con moto
  • Finali:  Allegro Assai

Five Pieces for String Quarter by Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942).  He was a German jew born in Czechoslovakia and died in the holocaust.  I enjoyed this very much.  It might possibly be called a suite, though certainly not in the classical form.
  • I. Alla valse Viennese (Allegro)
  • II. Alla serenata (Allegretto con moto)
  • III. Alla Czeca (Molto allegro)
  • IV. Alla tango milonga (Andante)
  • V. Alla tarantella (Prestissimo con fuoco)
String Quartet No. 6, Op.35 by Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996)  I guess this guy is Polish and was born in Warsaw to a musical family.  When the war broke out, he fled to Minsk in the USSR.  Shostakovitch encouraged him to move to Moscow.
  • Allegro semplice
  • Presto aggitato
  • Allegro con fuoco
  • Adagio
  • Moderato comodo
  • Andante maestoso
The Telegraph Quartet is moving toward twentieth and twenty-first century works.  If they can bring us great style as we heard today, I encourage this.  After all, I'm a long time Kronos Quartet fan.

Les Troyens from the Paris Opera

I am viewing a film of Berlioz' Les Troyens from the Paris opera.

Conductor:  Philippe Jordan
Production: Dmitri Tcherniakov

The Trojans at Troy

Aeneas: Brandon Jovanovich
Cassandra: Stéphanie d'Oustrac
Coroebus, Cassandra's fiance: Stéphane Degout, bass

Something like a movie marquee announces in French and English that the Greeks have abandoned their positions around Troy, and the war is over.  The streets fill with celebrators.  This is a regie production of Berlioz' Les Troyens from the Paris opera.  The characters are introduced with text at the top of the screen.  Priam looks a lot like Generalissimo Franco.  The billboard clarifies the action as perhaps never before.

I found Act I very coherent.  We don't see a horse, but the death of Laocoon is vividly described.  Cassandra warns and laments, but no one listens.

Where Act II should begin, we see soldiers with automatic rifles enter and shake hands with Aeneas.  Hmm.  So are we to believe he is a traitor?  His wife is dead and sends him a note explaining she is ashamed by his betrayal.  This is unclear.  Perhaps I have completely misunderstood.  His own people still seem to honor him.

Priam and his wife are shown dead.  Stéphanie d'Oustrac is wonderfully intense.  The men all head off and leave the women to die or be taken into slavery.  They choose death, and Cassandra goes up in flames.  I seem to remember a play by Euripides called The Trojan Women which describes a somewhat different fate for them.

This part of the opera is well presented.

The Trojans at Carthage

Dido: Ekaterina Semenchuk
Aeneas: Brandon Jovanovich
Anna: Aude Extremo
Narbal: Christian Van Horn

A title announces that we are in a Psychological Center for Victims of the War.  The set looks a bit like a hotel lobby.  This is my third insane asylum opera after Carmen (also Tcherniakov) and Oberon.  This part of the staging has nothing to do with either Berlioz's opera or the staging of the first half.  Yes, people in war are often in need of psychiatric care, but the opera is about the triumph of Rome, not mental illness.  Perhaps it is better to just listen.  The audio is gorgeous.  This staging is definitely boo worthy.

I may never have realized before what a great opera for chorus this is.  Dido enters and the chorus holds up a homemade sign saying "Tu es notre Reine." [You are our queen.]  Aeneas's son holds up his cell phone to show pictures of Troy to Dido.  Ach!  One is interested in the translation because nothing in the visuals is giving you a clue.  I missed before that these people of Carthage are from the eastern Mediterranean, just like the Trojans.  That explains a lot.

A black guy comes in and Aeneas tries to beat him up.  Weird.  The essential feature of an insane asylum is the keepers who now enter in red vests and lead everyone out.  It is hard to imagine any other tenor besides Jovanovich playing this scene.  I'm determined to watch it to the end, but it gets goofier and goofier.

In Act IV the patients are in a circle, and enact a story.  They hold up signs to indicate where they are and what is going on.  The title of the story is "La Chasse Royale."  Perhaps you will recall that Dido and Aeneas go out into the country on a hunt.  "The forest" is next.  The audience for these signs appears to be Dido alone.  We have nymphs and naiads and satyrs.  When the sign says "The marriage of Dido" [you're not required to trust my translations], Aeneas is handed a bow and arrow which he waves around.  He shoots Dido's companion and Dido faints.  The arrow is theater, and the companion is fine.  We were wondering why they would give a mental patient a weapon.

Dido goes back to her room, and a ping pong table appears.  Two keepers in red vests then proceed to play ping pong and sing about triumphing over the Africans. These are Dido's advisers?  Oy.  They plot the marriage of Dido to Aeneas.  There has been nothing that even remotely resembles ballet.

This director seems to be under the impression that psychiatric treatment consists of arranging fantasy scenarios for the patients.  Problems arise because the patients react as though they were real.  This doesn't correspond to any therapeutic method I have heard of.  In a nuthouse apparently anything can happen.

When everyone else has left the stage, Dido and Aeneas sing a very gorgeous version of "Nuit d'ivresse," one of the most beautiful duets in all of opera.  The ending is kind of cool.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rhapsody in Blue at the Sacramento Philharmonic

Saturday's concert from the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera was made up entirely of American music.  We even had a living composer, Loren Loiacono, who said a few words about her piece.  Our guest conductor was David Alan Miller who conducted Beethoven's 9th here in 2016.
  • Sleep Furiously  . . . Loren Loiacono.  The idea comes from a sentence by Noam Chomsky, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."  This featured some lovely playing from the cello section interspersed with a lot of percussive chords.   Loiacono was a student of Stephen Stucky.
  • An American in Paris . . George Gershwin.  You will remember this piece from the Gene Kelly movie.  Gershwin is fun.
  • Concerto for Orchestra No.2  . .  Stephen Stucky.  He was composer in residence at the LA Philharmonic for many years, and it was there he composed this piece for them.  There  are codes in the first movement made up of people's names, but there is nothing about them that would let you know which notes they are.  He is most interested in the orchestration.
  • Rhapsody in Blue  .  .  George Gershwin with pianist Kevin Cole.  This piece is like a one movement piano concerto which in this instance was played as fast as possible.  Too fast.
Our pianist played a couple of piano arrangements of Gershwin songs:  "Fascinatin Rhythm" and "I got rhythm."  He showed the appropriate jazz style but seemed to think we would be most impressed with his speed.  When I hear that someone is playing a song, I like to imagine someone is singing it. 

I apologize for complaining.  It was a fun concert, if somewhat loud.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Metropolitan Opera in HD for 2019-2020

Turandot by Puccini (October 12),  We open our season with Christine Goerke.  This should be fantastic.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Franco Zeffirelli
  • Turandot Christine Goerke
  • Liù Eleonora Buratto
  • Calàf Roberto Aronica
  • Timur James Morris 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sopranos from Platea Magazine

Top row:  Anna Netrebko (m2-HD), Pretty Yende (y3-HD), Anja Harteros (m4)
Middle row:  Lisette Oropesa (y4-HD), Sondra Radvanovsky (m1-HD), Sabine Devielhe (y5)
Bottom row:  Nadine Sierra (y1-HD), Lise Davidsen (y2), Angela Meade (m5-HD)

Platea magazine is in Spanish.  They have subdivided these sopranos into mature and young and ranked them within each category.  Mature 3 is Nina Stemme who is missing from the picture.  I have heard Lise Davidsen only on YouTube and Sabine Devielhe not at all.  You will notice some people are missing, like Diana Damrau and Sonya Yoncheva.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

La Serva Padrona

Ferruccio Soleri | Stage director
Sigiswald Kuijken | Conductor

Donato Di Stefano | Uberto
Patrizia Biccirè | Serpina
Stefano Di Luca | Vespone

I tried to watch this version of Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona, 1733, roughly comtemporary with Handel's Orlando, but it was just people standing around singing with no translations.  The music is charming, but I wanted to know what was going on.

So I turned to this DVD from Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani.

Conductor:  Corrado Rovaris
Stage Director:  Henning Brockhaus

Carlo Lepore | Uberto
Alessandra Marianelli | Serpina
Jean Meningue | Vespone

We are at the beginning of the rococo.  This one staged the opera as though we were at a circus where Uberto was the manager and Serpina one of the acts.  She refuses to get his chocolate and then threatens to marry a nasty military man who will probably beat her.  The third character seems to be a mime.  The music is still charming with the usual mixture of arias and recitatives.  There was a huge war over this in Paris in the days when there was still opera rioting.  It had something to do with Jean Jacque Rousseau.  Serpina tricks Uberto into marrying her, turning la serva into la padrona.  From our perspective it doesn't seem like much to get excited over.

Calefax Reed Quintet

This ensemble, seen last night at CSUS, is a quintet consisting entirely of reed instruments, specifically:

Oliver Boekhoorn, oboe (English horn in at least 2 pieces and soprano recorder)
Ivar Berix, clarinet
Raaf Hekkema, saxophone (alto and soprano?)
Jelte Althuis, bass-clarinet
Alban Wesly, bassoon

They are from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and invented this particular arrangement of instruments.  There's a lot of this going around.  If you call it a Woodwind Quintet, the instruments are flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn.  There is repertoire for this set of instruments.  Calefax create arrangements for themselves and have started to print them.

They played an interesting set of repertoire taken from pieces for organ, piano, orchestra, etc., including a fugue by Cesar Franck and Gershwin's An American in Paris.  I won't pretend to expertise in this area, but I wasn't completely sold on the resulting sonority of their particular instruments.  There is too much overlap in the pitch range and overall sound.  Any standard ensemble has a default expected tone which I did not experience here.

This isn't a criticism of their playing which was excellent.  I'm not sure who composed it, but their encore number was choreographed with each player moving about the stage.  This was fun.  They might consider playing in different formations to see how it affects the sound.  Just saying.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Classical Music Grammy Nominees For 2019 Plus Winners

The Grammys are scheduled for Feb 10, 2019.  I have highlighted the winners.


Best Orchestral Performance

All from the USA.
  • "Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1"
    Manfred Honeck, conductor (Performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
  • "Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 & Symphony No. 4"
    Thomas Dausgaard, conductor (Performed by the Seattle Symphony)
  • "Ruggles, Stucky & Harbison: Orchestral Works"
    David Alan Miller, conductor (Performed by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic)
  • "Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1-4"
    Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (Performed by the San Francisco Symphony)
  • Winner:  "Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11"Andris Nelsons, conductor (Performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra

 Best Opera Recording

From many places, many styles.
  • John Adams, "Doctor Atomic"
    John Adams, conductor; Aubrey Allicock, Julia Bullock, Gerald Finley & Brindley Sherratt; Friedemann Engelbrecht, producer (Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Singers)  CD
  • Winner:  Mason Bates, "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" Michael Christie, conductor; Sasha Cooke, Jessica E. Jones, Edwards Parks, Garrett Sorenson & Wei Wu; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (Performed by the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra) CD
  • Lully, "Alceste"
    Christophe Rousset, conductor; Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro & Judith Van Wanroij; Maximilien Ciup, producer (Performed by Les Talens Lyriques; Choeur De Chambre De Namur) CD
  • Strauss, "Der Rosenkavalier"
    Sebastian Weigle, conductor; Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Günther Groissböck & Erin Morley; David Frost, producer (Performed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus) DVD
  • Verdi, "Rigoletto"
    Constantine Orbelian, conductor; Francesco Demuro, Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Nadine Sierra; Vilius Keras & Aleksandra Keriene, producers (Performed by the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra; the Men of the Kaunas State Choir) CD

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Arias in Modern Operas

There has been an argument on line about modern operas lacking arias. That was my complaint about It's a Wonderful Life. Here are some arias so you can judge for yourself



Monday, January 28, 2019

Orphée et Eurydice from Chicago

 Orphée, Amour

Harry Bicket Conductor
John Neumeier* Director, Choreographer, Set, Costume & Lighting Designer

Dmitry Korchak, tenor Orphée
Andriana Chuchman, soprano Eurydice
Lauren Snouffer, soprano Amour

PBS has brought us Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice from Lyric Opera of Chicago with the Joffrey Ballet.  It's rather more like a ballet with three singers. If you are annoyed by the presence of ballet in opera, this is not the version for you.  In the French version of 1774 which we are seeing here Orphée is sung by a high tenor, called a haute-contre. Each time you see this opera it's different, apparently.

The outfits should tell you it's regie.  We are at a rehearsal, and Eurydice is late.  When she finally comes in dressed as a dancer, Orphée berates her for wanting to show off her stills, and she slaps his face and goes off in a huff.  Then she dies in an auto crash.  After lamentation, Amour explains the bargain he must make with the gods.  Eurydice will return with him from hell as long as Orphée does not turn and look at her.  He rejoices in a really quite spectacular coloratura aria.

Hell is a ballet with chorus. The entire opera is in a way a solo for the tenor.  I wish I liked him better.  I think I like the production.  It is an excellent idea for the Joffrey.  During a long ballet our tenor is holding a score to the Italian version Orfeo ed Euridice.  About 54 minutes in, after a long ballet, the soprano has her first singing.  She tells us how peaceful it is in hell.  The singers are sometimes choreographed into the dances. 

I feel this opera requires a great star to pull it off.  The music is rather monotonous.  The resurrected Eurydice stays under her veil, and when he tries to remove it, she disappears.

News -- New Maestro for Philharmonia Baroque

British conductor Richard Egarr has been named to succeed Nicholas McGegan as conductor of the Berkeley orchestra Philharmonic Baroque.  Read here about McGegan's retirement, and read here for more information about Egarr.  I hope everyone will be happy with this change.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Sacramento Philharmonic does Beethoven

In Sacramento a Beethoven Festival has been created from a spectacularly disastrous concert in Vienna in 1808 where everything was composed and performed by Beethoven.  It was intended to be a benefit for Beethoven, but everything seems to have gone wrong.  For one thing it was freezing cold inside the venue.  It was Beethoven's final public appearance as a soloist because he was obviously going deaf.  Concerts that lasted 4 hours were not uncommon in Beethoven's time, but we are not so enduring and have divided it into two concerts.  It is important to remember that at this time Berlioz had not yet invented standing in front of an orchestra and waving a stick.  Beethoven would probably have sat at the piano the entire time.

Our series of two concerts are created around conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane.  People who conduct and play as soloists at the same time are regularly seen at the Sacramento Philharmonic.  This works better than you would think. 

First Concert January 19

Piano Concerto No. 4
Kahane, our conductor/pianist, was a definite hit in this piece and handled both his tasks well.  After the concerto, he played an extemporized solo version of "America the Beautiful." 

"Ah, Perfido" concert aria.
Soprano Mary Evelyn Hangley
She was fine in this piece, but I couldn't help thinking her Italian diction could have been better.

Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral”
This is a program symphony, which means there is an associated story.  Heiligenstadt, a town up the Danube from Vienna, was a favorite place for Beethoven to compose, and the story is sort of an homage to this place.  The ensemble became a bit ragged toward the end.

Second Concert January 26

Choral Fantasy
Conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane
Soprano:  Liisa Davila, Mezzo Soprano:  Julie Miller, Tenor:  Jonathan Smucker, Bass:  Phil Skinner,
Tenor:  Salvatore Atti, chorus.
The Choral Fantasy is a one of a kind piece.  It starts off like a piano sonata, then is joined by the orchestra for a while.  Just about when you are wondering why there is a chorus on the stage, a group of soloists join the group as a small ensemble.  Finally the chorus also sings to end in an impressive finale.  I can't think of anything like it.  This is a fun piece with nice work for the piano.  It was enjoyably performed.

Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus from Mass in C Major
Soprano:  Liisa Davila, Mezzo Soprano:  Julie Miller, Tenor:  Jonathan Smucker, Bass:  Phil Skinner
This is not the most fascinating mass, but all performed well.

Symphony No. 5
This concert was sold out, a first for the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera.  The presence of Beethoven's Fifth undoubtedly provides the explanation.  Believe it or not, it continues on after the famous 4 note theme.  This was the highlight of the concert.  It is an impressive piece, but you didn't need me to tell you that.  Kahane stood on the podium for this.  I enjoyed his work.  He forcefully prevented the audience from applauding between movements.

Performing this two concert series was a kind of musicological experiment in discovering performance practices in Beethoven's time.  The disasters found at Beethoven's original concert were entirely avoided.