Classical Music News of the Week, March 3, 2013

Van Cliburn, Cold War Musical Envoy, Dies at 78

Van Cliburn, the American pianist whose first-place award at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow made him an overnight sensation and propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career, though a short-lived one, died on Wednesday at his home in Fort Worth. He was 78. His publicist, Mary Lou Falcone, confirmed the death, saying that Mr. Cliburn had been treated for bone cancer.

Mr. Cliburn was a tall, lanky 23-year-old, hailing from Texas, when he clinched the gold medal in the inaugural year of the Tchaikovsky competition. The feat, in Moscow, was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. He became a cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions and brought overdue attention to the musical assets of his native land.

When Mr. Cliburn returned to New York he received a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, the first musician to be so honored, cheered by 100,000 people lining Broadway. In a ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Robert F. Wagner proclaimed that “with his two hands, Van Cliburn struck a chord which has resounded around the world, raising our prestige with artists and music lovers everywhere.”

Mr. Cliburn was a naturally gifted pianist whose enormous hands had an uncommonly wide span. He developed a commanding technique, cultivated an exceptionally warm tone and manifested deep musical sensitivity. At its best his playing had a surging Romantic fervor, but one leavened by an unsentimental restraint that seemed peculiarly American. The towering Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a juror for the competition, described Mr. Cliburn as a genius — a word, he added, “I do not use lightly about performers.”

His last public appearance was in September, when he spoke at a concert, at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Van Cliburn Foundation. He is survived by Thomas L. Smith, with whom he shared his home for many years.

Mr. Cliburn leaves a lasting if not extensive discography. One recording in particular, his performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto recorded live at Carnegie Hall on the night of his post-Tchaikovsky competition concert, was praised by Mr. Schonberg, the critic, for its technical strength, musical poise, and “manly lyricism unmarred by eccentricity.”

Mr. Schonberg then added, prophetically, “No matter what Cliburn eventually goes on to do this will be one of the great spots of his career; and if for some reason he fails to fulfill his potentialities, he will always have this to look back upon.”

--Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

Bay Area Favorite Afiara String Quartet Makes Its Cal Performances Debut on Sunday, March 17, in Hertz Hall
The Afiara String Quartet makes its Cal Performances debut on Sunday, March 17 at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, Berkeley, California, playing a program that pairs two classic pieces of string quartet repertoire with a very personal work commissioned by the quartet in 2010. Afiara members Valerie Li and Yuri Cho, violins, David Samuel, viola, and Adrian Fung, cello, are no strangers to the Bay Area—they were quartet-in-residence at San Francisco State University’s International Center for the Arts from 2007 to 2009, and have returned to the region several times since. The San Jose Mercury News gave the ensemble high praise as “quicksilver and delicate, muscular, electric and filled with sentiment … blazingly beautiful.”

The Afiara String Quartet’s Berkeley concert opens with Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in F major, Op. 74 No. 2. An outgoing, almost symphonic composition, the work is deceivingly simple in its strong themes and listenable structure, both of which belie the complex ideas underpinning the music. Next on the program is the second String Quartet by Juilliard School graduate and Boston University faculty member Brett Abigaña. Commissioned by the Afiara String Quartet in 2010, the four movements of the work—Psalm, Berceuse, Vocalise, and March—capture different facets of the life of Betty Samuel, the late mother of the Afiara String Quartet’s violist and the dedicatee of the work. After an intermission the program will conclude with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Op. 59 String Quartet in C major, the third of his “Razumovsky” quartets. Written for Count Razumovsky in 1806, this set of three quartets includes different treatments of Russian folk songs, several of which are included in Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudonov and Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. To this day this Beethoven quartet is considered a long and technically difficult work, and is rarely approached by all but the finest professional string quartets.

The four Canadian musicians of the Afiara String Quartet came together in 2006 and quickly made a name for themselves on the chamber music scene, winning the 2008 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. The Afiara String Quartet, which takes its name from the Spanish word fiar, meaning “to trust,” has performed at multiple venues in New York City (including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center), Cincinatti, Washington DC (at the Kennedy Center), Montreal, Banff, San Francisco, Silicon Valley (including Google and Facebook headquarters), as well as many cities in Europe. The Afiara String Quartet spent two years as the graduate resident string quartet at the Juilliard School in New York and have taught at the University of Alberta, Edmonton; Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music; Chamber Music of the Rockies; Indiana University’s Summer String Academy; and Canada’s Southern Ontario Chamber Music Institute. The group’s first CD, released in 2009, includes the Mendelssohn Octet recorded with the Alexander String Quartet. The Afiari Quartet’s official Web site is www.afiari.com; @afiarasq is the group’s lively, very personal Twitter feed.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Afiara String Quartet on Sunday, March 17 at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall are $42.00 and are subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door.  Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets.  For more information about discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.

Cal Performances presents:
Sunday, March 17, at 3:00 p.m.                                 
Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
Bancroft Way at Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, California

Program:
Haydn: String Quartet in F major, Op. 74, No. 2
Abigaña: String Quartet No. 2
Beethoven: String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3

Tickets: $42.00, subject to change; they are available through the Cal Performances Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at calperformances.org; and at the door.

--Christina Kellogg, Cal Performances

On Site Opera & Harlem Opera Theater Present Gershwin’s Blue Monday at Harlem’s Historic Cotton Club
Tuesday, June 18 & Wednesday, June 19, 2013
7pm: Cocktails & Dancing
8pm: Blue Monday
The Cotton Club, 656 W 125th St., New York, NY
Tickets: $20 (cocktails not included) at http://onsitebluemonday.eventbrite.com 
For more information: www.osopera.org or 917.243.8340

On Site Opera and Harlem Opera Theater invite you to take a trip back to the roaring ‘20s as they present Gershwin’s Blue Monday at the historic Cotton Club (656 W 125th St.). Performances are Tuesday, June 18, and Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 7pm with an hour of cocktails and dancing before the curtain at 8pm. The production marks a dynamic collaboration between On Site Opera and Harlem Opera Theater. The artistic directors of both companies (Eric Einhorn, On Site Opera; Gregory Hopkins, Harlem Opera Theater) will be at the helm of Blue Monday, bringing their unique visions to this unforgettable event. Joining Einhorn and Hopkins on the production team are Tony Award-winning choreographer George Faison, costume designer Candida K. Nichols, members of the Harlem Chamber Players and the Cotton Club All Stars.

Thirteen years before George Gershwin wrote his landmark opera, Porgy and Bess, he wrote a one-act opera that fused Italian opera with a truly American style. The result was Blue Monday. This 30-minute jazz opera gem is set in a 1920’s Harlem jazz club where a lover’s spat turns murderous to the music of Gershwin that audiences adore.

With Blue Monday at The Cotton Club, On Site Opera continues its mission of presenting site-specific opera outside the walls of a traditional opera house. This production also works perfectly in conjunction with Harlem Opera Theater’s mission of promoting opera in Harlem. When audiences step into The Cotton Club, they will be transported back in time to the musical height of the Harlem Renaissance. The Cotton Club All Stars (lead by Alvin Pazant) will play popular jazz and swing standards, and audience members can join the cast on the dance floor to celebrate Harlem’s heyday. String players from the Harlem Chamber Players then join the band to perform Gershwin’s lush score.

The talented African-American cast spins the themes of love, jealousy, and murder through this short opera. Soprano Alyson Cambridge will star as Vi, an object of many men’s affections. Cambridge recently debuted the role of Julie in Show Boat at Chicago Lyric Opera, where critics noted that her “sensual, smoky readings were revelatory” (Opera News). Young American tenor Chase Taylor, a recent Metropolitan Opera National Council regional finalist, plays Joe, Vi’s gambling boyfriend.

Veteran baritone Lawrence Craig, reprises the role of Tom, the club headliner, which he recorded in 1998 with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops. Versatile bass Alvin Crawford (last seen on Broadway in The Lion King) and vibrant bass-baritone Clayton Mathews round out the cast as club employees Sam and Mike, respectively.

About On Site Opera:
On Site OperaIn their inaugural season last year, On Site Opera (the brainchild of celebrated director Eric Einhorn,) presented Shostakovich’s The Tale of the Silly Baby Mouse amongst the animals of the Bronx Zoo, and received rave reviews from the New York Times, who exclaimed, “Now and then you witness a debut so happy and so rich with potential that you can’t wait to share the news.” On Site Opera is a new opera company built around the idea that exciting performances can happen outside the walls of a traditional theater. Through immersive, site-specific productions, performers and audiences will experience great music and drama as never before in some of New York’s most exciting spaces.

In addition to site-specific productions, On Site Opera's mission is to forge community partnerships in order to bring opera to new and under-served audiences, as well as to foster the development of emerging talent through performance and production opportunities.  For more, click on

About Harlem Opera Theater:
Under Artistic Director, Gregory Hopkins, internationally acclaimed tenor, conductor, organist and pianist, the Harlem Opera Theater performances include all types of musical offerings: opera, oratory concerts, recitals, Negro Spirituals and varied forms of American music, in keeping with our mission to provide performance opportunities for gifted professional and developing singers, as well as other musicians of exceptional potential for an operatic career in the local, national and international forums. To offer operatic performance, education and develop audiences for the art form in underserved communities. To present a competitive venue for the encouragement and promotion of exceptional talent within that same community. To give a particular, though not exclusive emphasis on the music about the African-American experience.

Founded in 2001, Harlem Opera Theater has presented over 90 artists to an audience of 11,000 patrons. The repertoire includes “Opera for Beginners” literacy project for young scholars in New York City public schools and after school programs. Collaborations with other organizations and an international tour of the Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition winners to several countries in South America are among a growing list of achievements. www.harlemoperatheater.org

About The Harlem Chamber Players:
Thew Harlem Chamber PlayersThe Harlem Chamber Players is a multi-ethnic collective of professional musicians dedicated to bringing affordable and accessible live classical music to people in the Harlem community and beyond. The Harlem Chamber Players not only bring live chamber music to underserved neighborhoods in the Harlem community, but also create opportunities for classically trained minority musicians.

The Harlem Chamber Players was founded in 2008 by clarinetist Liz Player and violist Charles Dalton, who met while performing at a Black History Month gala concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and was encouraged by Janet Wolfe, founder of the New York City Housing Symphony Orchestra and long-time patron of minority classical musicians. The Harlem Chamber Players have since been bringing live chamber music to Harlem and beyond through its acclaimed “Music at St. Mary’s” series at the historic St. Mary’s Church of Manhattanville and various free outdoor and other community outreach concerts.


--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Music Institute Spotlights Chicago Symphony Orchestra Musicians: Lincoln String Quartet Performs April 7
Two of Chicago’s leading music institutions, Music Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, come together when the Music Institute presents the Lincoln String Quartet Sunday, April 7 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

Since its founding in 1997, the Lincoln String Quartet has been a staple of the Chicago music scene. Comprising current and former Chicago Symphony Orchestra members, the renowned quartet includes violinists Lei Hou and Qing Hou, violist Lawrence Neuman, and cellist Stephen Balderston.

The April 7 program includes Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 33, No. 2 “The Joke”; Smetana’s String Quartet No. 1 “From My Life”; and Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 59, No. 3 “Razumovsky.”

Music Institute of Chicago
The Music Institute of Chicago believes that music has the power to sustain and nourish the human spirit; therefore, our mission is to provide the foundation for lifelong engagement with music. Founded in 1931, the Music Institute has grown to become one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation. Offering musical excellence built on the strength of its distinguished faculty, commitment to quality, and breadth of programs and services, the Music Institute is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Each year, the Music Institute’s teachers and arts therapists reach more than 10,000 students and clients of all ages and experience levels at campuses in Evanston, Winnetka, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Lake Forest and Downers Grove, as well as through its longstanding partnership with the Chicago Public Schools. The Music Institute offers lessons, classes, and programs in four distinct areas: the Community School, Academy, Institute for Therapy through the Arts, and Nichols Concert Hall.

Lincoln String Quartet performs Sunday, April 7 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Opera Parallele Presents Double Bill Featuring Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge
Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and Production Director Brian Staufenbiel lead a talented cast including Eugene Brancoveanu, Lisa Chavez, Krista Wigle, Andres Ramirez and Randall Bunnell.

Following the company’s February 15, 16 and 17 performances of Golijov’s Ainadamar at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA, Opera Parallèle turns its attention to its second production of the season: a double bill of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge. Opera Parallèle’s orchestra is conducted by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement. Concept Designer and Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel brings both stories to life with a backdrop inspired by the 1960’s Mad Men gestalt, magazine covers of the period and the bygone era of B movie classics. Performances will take place 8 p.m. April 26 and 27 as well as 2 p.m. April 28 at Z Space located at 450 Florida Street in San Francisco. Opera Parallèle’s community engagement activities continue with an Open Rehearsal offered to the public free of charge 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday April 20 at Z Space.

Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti from 1951 offers a candid portrait of the troubled marriage of a young suburban couple and features some of Bernstein’s most haunting music. The cast is led by baritone and former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Eugene Brancoveanu as the disillusioned Sam with mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez as his estranged wife Dinah. Krista Wigle, Andres Ramirez and Randall Bunnell are featured in a sort of jazz chorus of bystanders providing satirical commentary.

Trouble in Tahiti, a one-act opera in seven scenes, draws upon popular songs styles to deliver an uncompromising critique of post-war American materialism. Beneath Sam and Dinah’s marital discord is a profound longing for love and intimacy. Their spiritual emptiness, in contrast to a veneer of happy consumerism, creates the heart of the drama. The opera received its first performance in 1952 at Bernstein’s Festival of the Creative Arts on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to an audience of nearly 3,000 people. These performances mark the San Francisco premiere of Garth Sunderland’s re-orchestration.

Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge will be presented before Trouble in Tahiti as a prologue, introducing similar concepts of marital discord and disharmony and featuring Eugene Brancoveanu, Lisa Chavez, Krista Wigle and Andres Ramirez. With a running time of approximately ten minutes, A Hand of Bridge features two couples, in various stages of boredom and dissatisfaction, playing their customary game of bridge. During the game, each character has a short arietta reflecting on the state of his or her life and relationship. With a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, the first performances of A Hand of Bridge took place at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto in 1959.

Opera Parallèle continues the Opera on Display program where the public is invited to look behind the scenes at events that serve as introductions to works currently in progress. From 5 to 6:30 p.m. April 20 at Z Space, Opera Parallèle presents its popular Open Rehearsal. Viewers are invited to watch the director, conductor and singers work together in an actual staging rehearsal in preparation for performances the following week. At the conclusion of the rehearsal, Nicole Paiement and Brian Staufenbiel will lead the cast and audience members in a lively question and answer session. Pre-reserved seating is available for donors; the general public can attend on a first-come, first-served basis.

For further information, please phone (415) 503-6279. Tickets, priced from $40 to $75, are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting operaparallele.brownpapertickets.com or call 1(800) 838-3006, ext. 1.

--Karen Ames Communications

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival Announces 2013 Season, July 14 - August 19, 2013
Garrick Ohlsson returns to the Festival after ten years as Artist-in-Residence.

“Years of Wonder” Mini-Festival highlights prolific years of Gesualdo, Mozart and Schumann, with special appearances by The Santa Fe Desert Chorale in Gesualdo’s Book V madrigals

The Festival launches a week-long young composers string quartet workshop that culminates in three world premieres presented alongside Marc Neikrug’s String Quartet No. 4.

Commissioned world premiere of Thierry Lancino’s String Quartet and the co-commissioned New Mexico premiere of Marc-André Dalbavie’s Piano Quartet

 “Bach Plus” series includes multimedia presentation “Reflection and Revolution: Music in the Time of Goya,” along with excerpts from The Art of Fugue arranged for string quartet and wind quintet.

Baritone Matthew Worth in Schumann’s song cycle Dichterliebe and Mahler’s Songs of A Wayfarer, and soprano Lucy Shelton in Pierrot lunaire.

Mexican composer Mario Lavista’s atmospheric Marsias for Oboe & Eight Crystal Glasses with surprise guest “crystalists.”

7th Annual Chefs’ Gala Benefit on July 16.

Expanded series in Albuquerque allows more audiences to experience the Festival’s distinguished artists and repertoire. Returning performers include pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Jeremy Denk, Inon Barnatan, Anne-Marie McDermott and Shai Wosner; violinists Daniel Hope, Ida Kavafian and Lily Francis; flutist Tara Helen O’Connor; and the Orion, Johannes, Miami, and Shanghai String Quartets, among many others.

Artists making Festival debuts include pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, violinist Benjamin Beilman, and clarinetists Carol McGonnell and Patrick Messina.

Subscription packages for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival are on sale now. Ticket information is available through the Festival website at www.SantaFeChamberMusic.com, and tickets can be purchased by calling 888-221-9836 or 505-982-1890. Single tickets for individual concerts will be available for sale on Monday, February 25.

--Ashlyn Damm, Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival

Music Institute and Back Week Festival Present Pianist Sergei Babayan
April 21 concert celebrates Nichols Hall 10th, Bach Week 40th, and Evanston 150th Anniversaries.

The Music Institute of Chicago presents acclaimed pianist Sergei Babayan performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, co-sponsored by the Bach Week Festival, in a joint celebration of the 10th anniversary of Nichols Concert Hall, the 40th anniversary of the Bach Week Festival, and the 150th anniversary of the City of Evanston Sunday, April 21 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinios.

Sergei Babayan studied in Moscow with Mikhael Pletnev before settling in the U.S. in 1989. Within a span of three years, he took first prize in four top international competitions, including the Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition. Since then his New York recitals at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall and performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Detroit Symphony have met with huge critical acclaim, as have his numerous subsequent recital and concert performances throughout the U.S. His concert schedule has included performances and broadcasts in major European cities as well as extensive tours of Japan, including such prestigious venues as the Salle Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall and Barbican Hall in London, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Severance Hall in Cleveland, the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, the Herkulessaal in Munich, the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, the Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Johannes-Brahms-Saal in Karlsruhe, the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, and the Rudolfinum-Dvor(ák Hall in Prague. Artist-in-Residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he performs regularly with Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov, and Neeme Järvi.

The Bach Week Festival was founded in 1974 by Karel Paukert, then associate professor of organ and church music at Northwestern University and organist/choirmaster at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Paukert combined St. Luke’s renowned choirs with professional instrumentalists from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra and Northwestern University with the mission to showcase the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). Now in its 40th year, the festival has been directed by Richard Webster since its second year, now housed at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall.

Sergei Babayan performs Sunday, April 21 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Cal Performances Announces New, Fully Staged Opera Production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Choreographed and Directed by Mark Morris
Co-commisioned by Cal Performances, the world-premiere tkes place in Berkeley, CA, April 25-27, 2014.

Cal Performances announces the world premiere of a new, fully staged opera production of Mozart’s arrangement of Händel’s Acis and Galatea choreographed and directed by Mark Morris. Nicholas McGegan leads the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for three performances in Berkeley April 25-27, 2014.  Mark Morris is “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical” (The New York Times).

Morris, who considers Cal Performances his West Coast home, has partnered with the organization since 1987; numerous premieres have been given in Berkeley. This coming June, Cal Performances presents the world premiere of Morris’s new choreography to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as part of Cal Performances’ third annual Ojai North!  In recognition of his significant long-term collaborative relationship with the institution, Morris received the Cal Performances Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts in December 2012.

The popular Händel opera Acis and Galatea is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses with the libretto written by John Gay in 1739. Mozart’s arrangement, written in 1788, broadens Händel’s original orchestration through the addition of bassoon, clarinet, and horn which allows an expanded range of sound color. The two-act opera—a tale of great tenderness, rivalry, and eternal love—focuses on a triangle tragically tested by unrequited love between Acis, an Arcadian shepherd, Galatea, a sea nymph, and the cyclops Polyphemus, who jealously slays Acis.

This new production of Händel’s Acis and Galatea features visual artist and scenic designer Adrianne Lobel, fashion and costume designer Isaac Mizrahi, and lighting designer Michael Chybowski. Four lead singers will perform the work in English: Thomas Cooley as Acis, Sherezade Panthaki as Galatea, Douglas Williams as Polyphemus, and Zach Finkelstein as Damon.

Acis and Galatea is a Mark Morris Dance Group/Cal Performances/Celebrity Series of Boston production, in association with the Harriman-Jewell Series, Kansas City; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York. After the premiere at Cal Performances, the production will tour the commissioning partners’ cities through 2015.

Mark Morris was born on August 29, 1956, in Seattle, Washington, where he studied with Verla Flowers and Perry Brunson.  In the early years of his career, he performed with the Koleda Balkan Dance Ensemble, and later with the dance companies of Lar Lubovitch, Hannah Kahn, Laura Dean, and Eliot Feld.  He formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980, and has since created more than 140 works for the company.  From 1988-1991, he was Director of Dance at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the national opera house of Belgium.  Among the works created during this time were three evening-length dances: L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato; Dido and Aeneas; and The Hard Nut. In 1990, he founded the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Morris, much in demand as a ballet choreographer, has created eight works for the San Francisco Ballet since 1994 and received commissions from many others.  Now music director for the 2013 Ojai Music Festival, Morris is  noted for his musicality and has been described as “undeviating in his devotion to music” (The New Yorker). He has conducted performances for the Mark Morris Dance Group since 2006. He has worked extensively in opera, directing and choreographing productions for the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, English National Opera and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden.  In 1991, he was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation.  He has received eleven honorary doctorates to date.  In 2006, Morris received the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture and a WQXR Gramophone Special Recognition Award “for being an American ambassador for classical music at home and abroad.”  He is the subject of a biography, Mark Morris, by Joan Acocella (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Marlowe & Company published a volume of photographs and critical essays entitled Mark Morris’ L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: A Celebration.  Morris is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.  In recent years, he has received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement (2007), the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society (2010), the Benjamin Franklin Laureate Prize for Creativity (2012) and the Cal Performances Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts (2012).

The Mark Morris Dance Group was formed in 1980 and gave its first concert that year in New York City.  The company’s touring schedule steadily expanded to include cities in the U.S. and around the world, and in 1986 it made its first national television program for the PBS series Dance in America.  In 1988, MMDG was invited to become the national dance company of Belgium, and spent three years in residence at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. The company returned to the United States in 1991 as one of the world’s leading dance companies, performing across the U.S. and at major international festivals. Based in Brooklyn, NY, the company maintains strong ties to several cities around the world, most notably its West Coast home, Cal Performances in Berkeley, CA, and its Midwest home, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. MMDG also appears regularly in New York City, Boston, MA; Fairfax, VA; and Seattle, WA.  MMDG made its debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in 2002 and at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 2003 and has since been invited to both festivals annually. From the company’s many London seasons, it has garnered two Laurence Olivier Awards. MMDG is noted for its commitment to live music, a feature of every performance on its international touring schedule since 1996. MMDG collaborates with leading orchestras, opera companies, and musicians including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, percussionist and composer Zakir Hussain, jazz trioThe Bad Plus, pianists Emanuel Ax, Garrick Ohlsson, and with the English National Opera, among others. In September of 2001, the Mark Morris Dance Center opened in Brooklyn, NY, to provide a home for the company, rehearsal space for the dance community, outreach programs for local children and seniors, and a school offering dance classes to students of all ages.  For more information, visit www.mmdg.org.

Cal Performances, located on the campus of the nation’s finest public university, is a beneficiary of UC Berkeley’s renowned intellectual and cultural environment. Under the leadership of Director Matías Tarnopolsky, Cal Performances offers one of the world’s finest performing arts seasons reaching nearly 200,000 people each year through its programming and community outreach.  Local, national and international collaborations and partnerships allow Cal Performances the opportunity to combine a significant local impact with global.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Mark Morris’s Acis and Galatea April 25-27, 2014, will go on sale April 29, 2013. Ticket prices and other information will be available soon at calperformances.org or by calling the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall at (510) 642-9988. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For more information go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.

--Christina Kellogg, Cal Performances

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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.

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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