Classical Music News of the Week, September 30, 2012

Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony Open 2012-2013 Season with a World Premiere by Paul Dresher October 4

Music Director Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony open their 2012-2013 Season on Thursday, October 4 at 7 PM in Zellerbach Hall with the world premiere of Concerto for Quadrachord and Orchestra by acclaimed Bay Area-based composer Paul Dresher. The work also features Dresher in performance on his unique invented Quadrachord, a stringed instrument resembling a guitar that can be plucked or bowed. The Paul Dresher commission is made possible in part by grants from the Creative Work Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Continuing its commitment to combining new works with masterworks, the orchestra will also perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question.

Immediately following the concert, Berkeley Symphony will host an Opening Night Gala Dinner honoring Paul Dresher in the Zellerbach Hall Mezzanine. Guests will be joined by the composer, Joana Carneiro, and musicians of Berkeley Symphony.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 was given its first performance in 1813 in a series of benefit concerts. These performances also featured his Wellington’s Victory, a work honoring the victory against Napoleon and the French army at the Battle of Vittoria that same year. At the time, the success of the Seventh Symphony was largely attributed to the popularity of Wellington’s Victory which marked an important moment in his career. This was the first time that public recognition for Beethoven’s music spread beyond the narrow circle of aristocrats and reached a much wider audience.

Many interpretations have been brought forth to explain Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question since its first performance in 1946. Originally titled The Unanswered Perennial Question, Ives pared down the title to its current, more open-ended form with the intention of treating the piece as an invitation to inquiry rather than attaching any specific meaning. Ives was a keen observer of the world around him and his music reflects this trait; many of his works feature multiple sonic events occurring simultaneously, often multi-layered in texture, keys and meter.

Paul Dresher is an internationally active composer noted for his ability to integrate diverse musical influences into his own personal style. He pursues many forms of expression including experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral composition, live instrumental electro-acoustic music performances, musical instrument invention, and scores for theater, dance, and film. As an experienced collaborator with artists from all performing disciplines, he also has been actively involved as a producer in the realization of collaboratively-created opera, music theater and new media projects.

A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2006-07, he has received commissions from the Library of Congress, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival USA, Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Symphony, California EAR Unit, Zeitgeist, San Francisco Ballet, Meet the Composer, Seattle Chamber Players, Present Music, Chamber Music America, and Berkeley Symphony. He has performed or had his works performed throughout North America, Asia, and Europe with New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Lincoln Center, Berkeley Symphony, the Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Arts Summit Indonesia ’95 and Festival Interlink in Japan.

Dresher has created new works in collaboration with such directors as Robert Woodruff, Rinde Eckert, Tony Taccone, Richard E.T. White, Les Waters, and Chen Shi Zheng. He has also worked extensively with many choreographers including Margaret Jenkins, Brenda Way/ODC San Francisco, Nancy Karp, Wendy Rogers, and Allyson Green.

Recent performances include the December 2009 performance of his invented instrument work Glimpsed From Afar on two programs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Disney Hall. In March of 2009 at Stanford University, Dresher premiered Schick Machine, a music theater work performed on a set comprised entirely of invented musical instruments/sound sculptures and created in collaboration with writer/director Rinde Eckert, percussionist/performer Steven Schick and mechanical sound artist Matt Heckert. In April 2008, the San Francisco Ballet premiered Dresher’s orchestral score for Thread, his collaboration with choreographer Margaret Jenkins, commissioned for the Ballet’s 75th anniversary. In May 2006, Dresher’s solo chamber opera The Tyrant, for tenor John Duykers and with a libretto by Jim Lewis, premiered in five performances at Opera Cleveland and has now been produced in eight other US cities. In 2012, an entirely new production was premiered by the Teatro Comunale di Bolzano in Bolzano, Italy.

He has had a longtime interest in the music of Asia and Africa, studying Ghanaian drumming with C.K. and Kobla Ladzekpo, Hindustani classical music with Nikhil Banerjee as well as Balinese and Javanese music. For more information about his work and the work of the Paul Dresher Ensemble go to: www.dresherensemble.org and for the Berkeley Symphony: www.berkeleysymphony.org.

--Karen Ames Communication

Remarkable Theater Brigade Presents its Fourth Annual "Opera Shorts”: An Eclectic, Electric Evening of Opera Miniatures at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on October 19
Opera Shorts 2012 features ten 10-minute operas by a powerhouse line-up of living composers including Carlisle Floyd, Bern Herbolsheimer, Seymour Barab, Graham Robb, Ben Bierman, Richard Burke, Patrick Soluri, Randolph Coleman, Christian McLeer and David Morneau • including eight world premieres

The Remarkable Theater Brigade’s delectable evening of Opera Shorts returns for its fourth annual edition on October 19, 2012, at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall at 7:30pm. This year’s collection of ten-minute operas packs a punch, delivering emotional knockouts by Carlisle Floyd, Randolph Coleman and Remarkable Theater Brigade co-founder/artistic director Christian McLeer, as well as funny-bone-ticklers from Bern Herbolsheimer, Seymour Barab and David Morneau. Works by Opera Shorts veterans Ben Bierman and Patrick Soluri plus newcomers Richard Burke and Graham Robb round out the evening, which boasts seven world premieres, many written especially for the passionate RTB performers.

“When writing a three-hour opera, a composer can take his time with a lot of different musical ideas, incorporating passionate moments, beautiful moments and funny moments. But in ten minutes it all happens at once,” says RTB co-founder and general director Monica Harte. “When composers have only 10 minutes, they tend to make the entire piece very accessible.”

The format, which thoughtfully juxtaposes different emotional tones and musical styles into what amounts to an entire opera season condensed into a single evening, has been enormously popular with audiences. “One of the reasons it works so well is because if something isn’t to your taste, you aren’t committed to it for the next two or three hours.” says Harte. “Also, the incredible variety is fun for the audience.”

To accommodate the overflow audiences, this edition is being moved from its previous home at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall to Carnegie’s decidedly hipper space, Zankel Hall. In addition to more seats, Zankel has the added advantage of supertitle capabilities, which will make the ever-changing kaleidoscope of new sounds and stories even more audience friendly.

In past seasons, Opera Shorts has presented operas of 10 minutes (or less) by composers including Pulitzer-winners John Corigliano and William Bolcom, as well as Tania León, Mark Adamo and Jake Heggie. Opera Shorts began in 2009 when Patrick Soluri showed Harte and McLeer his 10-minute opera Figaro's Last Hangover. Harte says, "We adored it. And it was so inspiring that we decided to produce an entire evening of 10-minute operas. Christian and I really want to return to the era when people went to see the composer’s work. It’s the composers who take the final bow in Opera Shorts."
Another 2012 highlight is the premiere of a staged version of Pilgrimage, a powerful Biblical setting by elder statesman of American music Carlisle Floyd. Harte, whose parents founded the Nevada Opera in 1968, remembers her first encounter with Floyd’s music. “I met him when I was a little girl, so I’ve known his work for a long time. The opera was Of Mice and Men, which remains one of my favorite operas; it is one of the most dramatic operas ever written. To have Carlisle come and participate in Opera Shorts is really a great honor,” says Harte. “Pilgrimage is an outstanding piece, so emotional, and we have opera star Chris Trakas singing it.”

“I’m also excited to have a really fun new opera, Quartet, from Bern Herbolsheimer in this edition,” Harte adds. “I met Bern and sang one of his arias when I was in a young artists’ program back in the 80s. I loved his music so much that I introduced him to my parents, who ended up commissioning an opera from him for Nevada Opera’s 25th Silver Anniversary. That was the first time I was intimately involved in the creation of a new opera and it’s when I got the new music bug.” 

Other premieres include operas by Christian McLeer (to be directed by tenor/actor Anthony Laciura of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), Patrick Soluri, Seymour Barab, Ben Bierman, Randolph Coleman, David Morneau and Graham Robb. While the focus of the October 19 show is firmly on the composers, there are some exceptional singers on board as well including Metropolitan Opera baritone Chris Trakas, soprano Danya Katok who recently debuted at New York City Opera and operatic baritone and Broadway actor Dewey Moss. The instrumentation ranges from colorful chamber ensembles to the exotic Peruvian percussion box, the cajón. Richard Burke made a special arrangement of his opera Sacred Tree for this evening’s performance including piano, string quartet and woodwinds.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

Music Institute Celebrates Jazz Master Billy Strayhorn October 26-28
Performances by Terell Stafford Quintet, Music Institute jazz faculty, Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble, vocalist Tammy McCann; and a screening of Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life.

Honoring the work and legacy of one of the great jazz composers and collaborators, the Music Institute of Chicago presents a Billy Strayhorn Festival October 26–28. The festival, presented in partnership with Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc., a family corporation of the Strayhorn heirs, includes two star-studded concerts featuring trumpet great Terell Stafford and a screening of the award-winning film Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life followed by a panel discussion. The festival takes place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

The Music Institute is forming an honorary committee for the festival, co-chaired by jazz advocate and Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. President Alyce Claerbaut and world-class jazz musician and educator Clark Terry. Other jazz luminaries on the committee include Ann Hampton Callaway, John Clayton, Michael Feinstein, Manny Fox, Victor Goines, David Hajdu, Herbie Hancock, Dr. Nelson Harrison, Hermene Hartman, Quincy Jones, Robert Levi, Tonie-Marie Montgomery, Terell Stafford, Richard Steele, and Dr. Richard Wang.

Billy Strayhorn (1915–67) was one of the greatest composers in the history of American music, the creator of a body of work that includes such standards as “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “Lush Life.” Yet, all his life, Strayhorn was overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Duke Ellington, with whom he worked for three decades as the Ellington Orchestra’s primary songwriter and arranger. While composing some of the most gorgeous American music of this century, Strayhorn labored under a complex agreement whereby Ellington took the bows for his work; until his life was tragically cut short by cancer and alcohol abuse, the small, shy black composer carried himself with singular style and grace as one of the few jazzmen to be openly homosexual. (This text is courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

Friday, October 26, 7:30 p.m.—Film Screening and Panel Discussion
The festival kicks off with a screening of Robert Levi’s recently updated, highly acclaimed documentary Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, which uncovers the mystery behind the complex life of this pioneering African-American composer, arranger and pianist. The film features world premieres of his music featuring singers Elvis Costello and Dianne Reeves, pianists Hank Jones and Bill Charlap, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and guitarist Russell Malone. With interviews, performances, and archival footage, Lush Life showcases Strayhorn’s gifts and illuminates the issues that deprived him of deserved recognition. In 2008, Lush Life became the first program in broadcast history to receive three important awards in one year: the Emmy Award for Best Documentary of the Year, the George Foster Peabody Award for Broadcast Excellence, and the Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay. The film was also one of three documentaries to make New York Magazine’s Top Ten Best Television Events list.

For the post-screening discussion, panelists include Henry Louis Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University; filmmaker Robert Levi; Victor Goines, director of jazz studies at Northwestern University; Strayhorn biographer David Hajdu; trumpeter Terell Stafford; and WBEZ 91.5 FM broadcaster Richard Steele.

Saturday, October 27, 7:30 p.m.—Terell Stafford Quintet: This Side of Strayhorn

Inspired by his own recording of the same name, jazz trumpeter Terell Stafford and his ensemble pay tribute to one of the 20th century’s greatest jazz composers and collaborators—Billy Strayhorn. The quintet also features Tim Warfield Jr., saxophone; Bruce Barth, piano; Peter Washington, bass; and Dana Hall, drums.

Terell Stafford is a gifted and versatile trumpeter with a voice all his own. His newest release, This Side of Strayhorn (MAXJAZZ 2011) has been called “the first must have album of 2011” and “genius.” Stafford is a member of the Grammy Award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Grammy-nominated Clayton Brothers Quintet, and the Frank Wess Quintet; he has performed with Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, the Kenny Barron Sextet, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, and the Jon Faddis Orchestra. Stafford is professor of music and director of jazz studies at Temple University and recently received its Creative Achievement Award. He is also a former member of the faculty at the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies. He appears on five albums as a lead trumpet player, including his debut album Time to Let Go (1995), critically acclaimed Centripedal Force (1997), Fields of Gold (2000), New Beginnings (2003), and Taking Chances (2007). Between 2006 and 2007, Stafford played an integral part on Diana Krall’s Grammy-nominated From this Moment On, joining with the Hamilton-Clayton Jazz Orchestra. In celebration of Jimmy Heath’s 80th birthday, Stafford recorded with the Jimmy Heath Big Band for the album Turn Up the Heath (2006). As a sideman Stafford has been heard on more than 90 albums.

Sunday, October 28, 3 p.m.—Terell Stafford, Music Institute jazz faculty, and special guests

Grammy-winning trumpeter Terell Stafford collaborates with the Music Institute’s acclaimed jazz studies faculty, including trumpeter Victor Garcia and percussionist Ernie Adams, joined by guest reedist Victor Goines, vocalist Tammy McCann, and the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 2012 U.S. Tour
U.S. Theatrical premiere of Josh Aronson’s Orchestra of Exiles at Quad Cinema October 26.

As the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra embarks on its 28th tour of the United States, the U.S. theatrical premiere of Orchestra of Exiles is scheduled to take place on Friday, October 26 at The Quad Cinema in New York City. The screening will follow the Orchestra's Carnegie Hall benefit on October 25, presented by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and co-chaired by Adrienne Arsht and Lauren and John Veronis. Written, directed and produced by Oscar-nominated writer/director Josh Aronson (and featuring interviews with Pinchas Zukerman, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell), this First Run Features release chronicles the development of the ensemble that was to become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman's vision and resolve to save Jewish families from antisemitism and Nazism brings to light the amazing story of the founding of one of the most culturally enterprising musical organizations in the world. The film will also be coming to Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles, opening November 2.

The Quad Cinema: 34 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011
Laemmle Theaters, Music Hall 3: 9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Laemmle Theaters, Town Center 5: 17200 Ventura Boulevard, Encino, CA 91316

Along with Grammy Award-winning baritone Thomas Hampson, Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient Yuja Wang and The Collegiate Chorale, tenor Carl Hieger joins the roster of participating artists in a unique sacred music program with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on October 25. The benefit concert recently saw a program change: after the heartfelt response the IPO received for its performance at the Salzburg Festival in July—and after front-page coverage of the concert in The New York Times—the Orchestra quickly restructured the program for Carnegie Hall. Arnold Schoenberg's Kol Nidre and the New York premiere of Israeli composer Noam Sheriff's Mechaye Hametim (Revival of the Dead)—two works performed in Salzburg—bookend a concert that also features internationally celebrated pianist Yuja Wang performing Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1. This benefit concert is being generously underwritten by Adrienne Arsht. Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic will travel across the country with Yuja Wang, performing in New York, Palm Desert, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Benefit tickets may be purchased by contacting American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra online or by phone at 212-697-2949 or at events@afipo.org. Concert tickets may be purchased through Carnegie Hall's box office, website or by phone at 212-247-7800 (tickets from $21 - $137).

"Abetted by Mr. Hampson's tour de force, in which he also served as narrator in the Schoenberg and spoke and sang in the Sheriff, the evening's performances were everywhere excellent...The concert was greeted warmly, even clamorously..." — The New York Times

The concerts in Palm Desert (October 28), Las Vegas (October 29) and Los Angeles (October 30) all feature Schubert's Symphony No. 3 in D major, Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor (with Yuja Wang) and Brahms's Symphony No. 1 in C minor (for the complete schedule, click here.) The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra acts as Cultural Ambassador for the State of Israel during this tour to the United States.

Pianist Yuja Wang opens the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's 77th season in Tel-Aviv with a gala on October 4, performing Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1.

--Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa