MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Homecoming for the Grand Teton Music Festival

Photo (c) Jorge Gustavo de Araujo Elias. Pictured: Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp; Mercedes Smith, flute; Zach Boeding, oboe; Marci Gurnow, clarinet; Madeline Sharp, viola

It’s only my first time in these parts, but already I can understand the deep, magnetic sense of connection that draws people back here again and again. Upon passing through the elk antler arch at Jackson Hole Airport (the only U.S. airport located within a national park, incidentally), I soon began to feel the charm of a place that hasn’t been flattened out by plastic predictability. Even with lingering smoke from the latest Western fires imposing a thin pall, the capacity for this landscape to inspire awe was undimmed.

With its marriage of valley and dramatic, looming scarps, it’s obvious how the Jackson Hole area beckoned as an ideal spot to make music. The Grand Teton Music Festival opened on 2 July, following the all-too-familiar hiatus, and is now into Week 4 of a seven-week season — which also marks the Festival’s 60th anniversary.

Last night I began with the first of the week’s offerings, a chamber music evening at Walk Hall, GTMF’s home performance space. It was decently attended, taking into account the reduced-capacity seating plan and a sudden shift in mask policy. (Just last night, in the wake of the new CDC announcement, the official recommendation switched to suggesting that vaccinated and unvaccinated people both wear masks indoors.)

Part of a series curated — and engagingly introduced by — Adelle Eslinger Runnicles, the concert presented a flavorful sampling of periods and instrumental formations, starting with a transcription by Phil Brink for low brass of J.S. Bach’s D minor Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 for solo violin (Michael Mulcahy, trombone; Jared Rodin, trombone; Craig Mulcahy, trombone; Jay Evans, trombone; JáTtik Clark, tuba). The Baroque fondness for transcription aside, Bach’s masterpiece sounded of a different era — not Romantic exactly, but funereal, ritualistic, the opening to new vistas in the later variations remarkably fluid and gentle.

Unmistakably Romantic phrasing beguiled in Saint-Saëns’s Fantaisie for Violin and Harp, Op. 124, featuring
Eunice Keem on violin and Elisabeth Remy Johnson on harp. Exquisitely balanced and fully engaged in playing off each other, the duo cast a spell throughout this late-period piece’s range of moods.

Johnson also performed in Kimberly Osberg’s Just Another Climb,* joined by colleagues Mercedes Smith on flute, Zach Boeding on oboe, Marci Gurnow on clarinet, and Madeline Sharp on viola. If the Saint-Saëns suggested a leisured dreamscape, Just Another Climb packed the punch of an involving musical short story, its impact belying the brevity of the piece’s duration (about four minutes) — and making this a real highlight of the evening.

The young, Portland, Oregon-based Osberg, who was present in the audience, was inspired by the feat of the first “manless” ascent of the Grand Teton made in 1939 by Margaret Bedell, Anne Sharples, Margaret Smith Craighead, and Mary Whittemore — upon which achievement Craighead remarked: ” Craighead wrote: “This may have been of importance to the record of events, but to us it was just another climb.”

This first performance before a live audience emphasized Osberg’s colorfully individualistic writing for each component of the ensemble. The result was an assuredly paced musical storytelling that found freshness in a diatonic idiom, using evocative gestures to hint at but not dictate a plausible narrative. I’m eager to learn more about this composer and hear what she can accomplish with a longer form.

The program’s brass theme sets the stage for the main new work on this week’s orchestral concert,  Five Hallucinations for Trombone and Orchestra by Carl Vines. It returned in John Stevens’s Triangles for horn (Josh Phillips), trombone (Jay Evans), and tuba (JáTtik Clark), a piece from 1978 that (not always convincingly) juggles with jazz vernacular.

Concluding the program was a rendition of Beethoven’s C minor String Trio from the Op. 9 set by violinist Louise Morrison, violist Chiara Kingsley Dieguez, and cellist Thomas Carpenter that reveled in the tension between the first movement’s ominous energies and the halcyon release of the Adagio. The long time away from live performance could be sensed in some issues of balance and phrasing, but the richness of this score — Beethoven declared these trios among his finest compositions of the period — came through, most notably in the spidery enigma of the concluding measures.

–(c) 2021 Thomas May All rights reserved

*

Filed under: Grand Teton Music Festival, music news

Opera in Latin America: San Francisco Opera Talks

San Francisco Opera’s Opera Aficionado virtual conversations in July will focus on Opera in Latin America in a series of live, 75-minute Zoom discussions.

  • Sunday, July 11, 1 pm: The Zarzuela

Speaker: Stage Director Emilio Sagi

Originating at a palatial, 17th-century hunting lodge near Madrid, the Zarzuela is a dramatic form of musical storytelling that once dominated the stages of Spanish-speaking counties in worlds both old and new. Opera stage director Emilio Sagi will lead us on a historical survey of an art form rarely appreciated—or even known—in modern-day America

  • Sunday, July 18, 1 pm: Baroque Opera in the New World

Speaker: Laura Prichard

The arrival of Spanish colonists in what they thought was a “new world” forever changed human civilization and its course in history. Laura Prichard will travel with us back in time to the Baroque Era in Latin America, where unique forms of classical music and opera flourished. From boy choirs singing a cappella to the lost operatic works of Mexican composers like Manuel de Zumaya, this lecture will have you yelling Bravo! for all things Mexican Baroque.

  • Sunday, July 25, 1 pm: Contemporary Latin Stage Works

Speaker: Albert Montañez

In today’s operatic landscape, the old classics still reign, and the roster of new works premiered by major companies is dominated by composers of European and American birth. Meanwhile, composers throughout Latin America continue to tell their own stories and heritage through our beloved art form of opera. Multidisciplinary artist Albert Montañez returns to Opera Aficionado to shine a spotlight on new stage works from the contemporary Latinx world.

TICKETS: $5–$40

Students, educators and individuals in need: $5/session.

General admission: $20/session, discount available for multiple-sessions order.

Enable another person to attend*: $40.

*This is not a tax-deductible contribution.

Tickets are available until noon on the day of each event at sfopera.com/aficionado.

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

In Memoriam Louis Andriessen

Louis Andriessen has died at the age of 82. His publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, announced the death this morning of the eminent Dutch composer:

Boosey & Hawkes is sad to announce the death of Louis Andriessen, one of the most original and influential composers of the contemporary era. He died this morning (1 July) in De Hogeweyk dementia village in Weesp, near Amsterdam, aged 82. Andriessen leaves behind a corpus of remarkable music including the ensemble work De Staat and the opera Writing to Vermeer. A generation of younger composers were taught by him or were indebted to his unique fusion of jazz and minimalist styles.

from NPR:

Andriessen wrote in a wide range of idioms, including orchestra and chamber works, songs, choral pieces, music for brass band and solo works for piano, bassoon, organ, harpsichord, violin, oboe, percussion and trumpet. Perhaps most visible were his collaborative theatre works and operas, which adapted an eclectic array of texts. For De Materie, a genre-resistant theater work created with Robert Wilson for the Netherlands Opera, Andriessen incorporates documents pertaining to 17th-century shipbuilding, a decree on Dutch independence from Spain, the diary of Marie Curie and the straight-lined art of painter Piet Mondrian. Near the work’s end, as staged in 2016 at New York’s Park Avenue Armory, a flock of 100 sheep joined the cast.

On The only one, the world premiere of which Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted with the LA Philharmonic in May 2019:

Two artistic discoveries influenced Andriessen as he wrote The only one. The first was a collection of poems by the Flemish poet Delphine Lecompte from The animals in me. “These witty, intelligent, experimental, and sometimes scabrous poems immediately fascinated me. My focus turned to faraway America, with its great tradition of songwriting,” he says.

His second discovery was the work of Nora Fischer, an Amsterdam–based singer known for developing dynamic creative projects that fuse classical and pop music. Andriessen says, “The depth of her versatility has strongly influenced the musical language of the piece.” He further explains that “the piece flirts a bit with certain kinds of pop songs and light music, and starts out with a beautiful song.”

“Andriessen used bits of old music, an allusion to the Dies Irae motif and some Minimalism, a jazz riff here and a Mexican brass allusion there, as he often has,” says the Los Angeles Times. “But he always remakes it into a complex and powerfully blatant new thing, and here edge-of-your-seat operatically so.”

Andriessen’s final work was May for choir and orchestra, a tribute to Frans Bruggen setting texts from the Dutch impressionist poem by Herman Gorter and premiered at the Concertgebouw in December 2020:

Filed under: Louis Andriessen, music news

Liederabend, Op. Worldwide (digital)

Tune in on Sunday 27 June 2021 at 8pm EST for a free livestream of 21c Liederabend, Op. Worldwide (digital)a new music project co-directed by Paola Prestini and Beth Morrison (also to be broadcast on WNET’s ALL ARTS).

21c Liederabend is the first program in a six-episode retrospective titled Contemplations from National Sawdust, celebrating the 5th anniversary of Brooklyn-based new music incubator National Sawdust.

The event is a contemporary take on the 19th-century Liederabend tradition and presents collaborative, multimedia vocal and instrumental compositions.  Op. Worldwide is the first to be exclusively presented as a broadcast/streaming event, featuring six world premieres that bring together a dozen talents from around the globe, in fields ranging from composition and poetry to fine arts and video. A conversation with soprano Renée Fleming on the future of the art form rounds out the program.

Of particular interest is Prestini’s new work Jarful of Bees, a multimedia, immersive short film created in collaboration with artists Natalie Frank and Erin Pollock, librettist Royce Vavrek, and mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti. The film weaves together Frank and Pollock’s animated painting, drawing, and claymation into a dreamlike visual landscape that elucidates Prestini’s vocal and electronic score and the ethereal voice of Gigliotti. 

Filed under: commissions, music news

San Francisco Opera Announces New Season

And it’s now been announced: San Francisco Opera returns to a season of live performances with Puccini’s Tosca on Saturday, August 21, inaugurating the tenure of Eun Sun Kim as the company’s new music director. The refurbished War Memorial Opera House will greet audiences with newly installed custom seats and accessibility enhancements.

This is being billed as a “transitional year” and includes three new productions: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio and, continuing the Company’s Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni. The season also includes a revival of Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber, a free Opera at the Ballpark simulcast, multiple concert programs, and a new livestreaming option for select performances.

From the press release:

Kim’s music directorship begins with Tosca, a masterpiece central to San Francisco Opera since it opened the War Memorial Opera House in 1932. Kim will also lead Live and In Concert: The Homecoming on September 10 and returns to the podium on October 14 to conduct a bold new production of Beethoven’s ode to freedom Fidelio, along with the annual Adler Fellows concert, The Future Is Now, and a Summer 2022 tribute to the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Eun Sun Kim said: “When I was appointed Music Director Designate in December 2019, it seemed certain that the time until I officially assumed the position would fly by. And then, of course, the whole world came to a standstill. I’m so proud of the way the entire San Francisco Opera family has worked to remain resilient during this time—we’ve created new ways to make music together and we’ve encouraged each other in strength. Now this steadfast faith will allow us to finally rejoin the audiences who have so patiently waited for our return to the War Memorial Opera House. I hope this is a joyful moment for our whole community, as we open this new chapter together with a sense of renewed hope and optimism.”

After making “a company debut of astonishing vibrancy and assurance” (San Francisco Chronicle) leading Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka in June 2019, Eun Sun Kim was appointed Music Director Designate in December 2019 in a move the New York Times called “pathbreaking.” The Seoul, South Korea-born Kim will help shape San Francisco Opera’s artistic vision as the Company heads into its second century. San Francisco Opera’s first two general directors, Gaetano Merola and Kurt Herbert Adler, both regularly conducted performances during the Company’s first six decades. In 1985, Sir John Pritchard was appointed San Francisco Opera’s first music director (1985–89). He was succeeded by Donald Runnicles (1992–2009) and Nicola Luisotti (2009–18). Kim is the fourth music director in the Company’s 99-year history.

San Francisco Opera Tad and Dianne Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “Opera gives us opportunities to gather and share in deep, collective, emotional expression. I have never felt more urgently the need for us to gather in this way. We need to be together again, and, on August 21, we will raise the curtain and do just that. But we are not returning unchanged. We emerge with a new music director in Eun Sun Kim! We emerge informed by the bold experiments of the last year, carrying them forward with our new livestreaming program. And we emerge with an even deeper understanding of the power of opera to connect us after the long winter of its absence.

“That all of our productions this season will be new or recently new to our stage is a testament to the local artisans who built them and to the local community which has supported this Company so magnificently during this year. We will return to the social history of the Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy, be welcomed back into the light of liberation with Beethoven’s Fidelio and enter into the great story of imperial China in Dream of the Red Chamber. But first we return to Tosca—the time-honored way that San Francisco Opera reopens, recommits to our community and reemerges with all of the thrilling energy of live grand opera. It is a moment I cannot wait to share.”

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

Piazzolla Music Competition Winners

The winners of the Piazzolla Music Competition were recently announced:

SOLOIST

GOLD: ANTON STACHEV, accordion – St. Petersburg, Russia  

SILVER: DANIEL ROJAS, piano – Sydney Australia

BRONZE: LYSANDRE DONOSO, bandoneón – Paris, France

BRONZE: MAXIMILLIAN NATHAN, vibraphone – Montevideo, Uruguay

SPECIAL PRIZE: ROSE WOLLMAN, viola – Evansville, Indiana

ENSEMBLES

GOLD: QUINTETO RESPIRO, Sebastien Innocenti (Bandonéon), Emilie Aridon-Kociolek (Piano), Sabrina Condello (Violin), Fabio LoCurto (Clarinet/Bass Clarinet), Dorian Marcel (Doublebass) – Paris, France

SILVER: DALÍ QUARTET, Ari Isaacman-Beck (Violin), Carlos Rubio (Violin), Adriana Linares (Viola), Jesús Morales (Cello) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

BRONZE: Zagrab Philharmonic Orchestra: QUINTETO EMEDEA, Mathias Naon (Violin), Lysandre Donoso (Bandoneon), Emilie Aridon-Kociołek (Piano), Adrien Merahi (Electric guitar), Lucas Eubel-Frontini (Double bass) – Paris, France

SPECIAL PRIZES

CONCERT: Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra /Quinteto Emedea

CONCERT: Grosseto Symphony Orchestra and Anton Stachev, St. Petersburg

CONCERT: Athens Philharmonia Orchestra and Rose Wollman, Indiana

MASTERCLASS Pablo Ziegler Award: Sonus Piano Trio, California

MASTERCLASSES iClassical Academy Award: Pianoduo LUSTRE, Osaka

MASTERCLASSES iClassical Academy Bonus Award: Gonzalo Esteban Antuña, Río Cuarto, Argentina

MASTERCLASSES iClassical Academy Bonus Award: Nada Brahma Graz, Austria

Proceeds from the competition, totalling $10,000, are being donated to the Playing for Change Foundation to support music and art education in under-resourced communities around the world.

Filed under: competitions, music news

Happy 80th Birthday, Martha Argerich!

There is simply no artist like her. The formidable Martha Argerich turns 80 today. Here’s a feature from Deutsche Welle:

At the age of 80, Martha Argerich remains an incomparable virtuoso, a performer marked by special charisma and nuanced, agile technique….

continue

Filed under: Martha Argerich, music news

In Memoriam Paul Taub

Today at 4:00 pm PDT, LoudSwell will stream a memorial concert for the irreplaceable flutist and musical visionary Paul Taub.  You can access the performances at Loudswell.com and on The Royal Room Facebook page.

Both sites will have a link to donate to the artists. Performed live on The Royal Room stage, following all Washington State Department of Health guidelines.

The lineup of performers includes:

Members of Seattle Chamber Players
Seattle Modern Orchestra
Laurie DeLuca
Dave Sabee
Mikhail Schmidt
Byron Schenkman
Angelique Poteat
Kin of the Moon (Heather Bentley, Leanne Keith, Kaley Eaton)
Cristina Valdes
Beth Fleenor
Chuck Deardorf
Wayne Horvitz
Jarrad Powell
Jovinos Santos Neto
Michael Partington
Agata Zubel
Claire Chase
And many more…

The obituary I wrote following Paul’s untimely death on 13 March is here.

Filed under: memorial, music news, new music

Pity These Ashes: Tulsa 1921-2021

Among the commemorations of the Tulsa Race Massacre — the horrible events of 31 May-1 June 1921 that took place in Tulsa’s Greenwood District — here’s a concert scheduled for 19 June/Juneteenth by the Harlem Chamber Players and featuring the world premiere Adolphus Hailstork’Tulsa 1921 (Pity These Ashes, Pity This Dust), an operatic retelling of the massacre.

The mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges will sing in this digitally streamed concert on Juneteenth at 7pm, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the massacre. She will be joined by the violinist Jessica (Lady Jess) McJunkins, WQXR host and author Terrance McKnight, harpist Ashley Jackson, and conductor Amadi Azikiwe leading the Harlem Chamber Players.

Also on the program are pieces by Jessie MontgomeryAlice Coltrane, and Trevor Weston.

COMPLETE PROGRAM:

Jessie Montgomery Starburst
Alice Coltrane Prema for Harp and Strings arranged by Tom Cunningham of Urban Playground Orchestra
Adolphus Hailstork TULSA 1921 (Pity Theses Ashes, Pity This Dust) for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Orchestra
*World Premiere – libretto by Herbert Woodward Martin
Trevor Weston The People Could Fly for Violin Solo, Narrator and Strings (based upon an African-American folktale by Virginia Hamilton; featuring dancers from Harlem School of the Arts)

FEATURING
Amadi Azikiwe, Music Director and Conductor
Terrance McKnight, Host and Performer
J’Nai Bridges, Mezzo-Soprano
Lady Jess, Violin
Ashley Jackson, Harp
With an orchestra comprising members of The Harlem Chamber Players
Also featuring dancers from Harlem School of the Arts

And here is J’Nai Bridges in  Daniel Bernard Roumain’s aria about the massacre, They Still Want To Kill Us:

Filed under: American music, music news

Tippett Rise on Tour

The Spring Festival Tippet Rise on Tour from April 16 to 18 will premiere 10 short films featuring eclectic music performances, readings of poetry, and live discussions with musicians. Highlights of the Spring Festival include flutist Claire Chase giving the world premiere of a new work by Bora Yoon, an homage to Surrealism by pianist Pedja Mužijević, and performances by violinists Benjamin BeilmanKatie Hyun, and Tessa Lark, cellist Gabriel Cabezas, pianists Richard Goode, and Baritone Tyler Duncan. The performances were filmed in sculptor Joel Shapiro’s studio and in the DiMenna Center for the Arts in New York City.

The three-day event will also feature Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko, who was recently appointed cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Arlen put an ask out on social media during lockdown to see if any composers would be interested in writing miniatures for solo cello that would be premiered on her Instagram in September 2020. This resulted in exhilarating collaborations with numerous composers and four of the works were subsequently filmed by Tippet Rise and will be offered during the Festival.

Each night of the Spring Festival will begin at 5:30PM MDT with a live backstage Zoom discussion before the evening’s performances.

Filed under: music news, Tippet Rise

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