Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rademann Returns to the “Sacred Symphonies” for the Latest Carus Schütz Project Release

Those who followed my Examiner.com national site probably know that I have been following a major project to record the complete works on Heinrich Schütz since I first became aware of it in 2013. The project is the brainchild of German choral conductor Hans-Christoph Rademann, who is currently the Director of the Dresdner Kammerchor (Dresden chamber choir); and the recordings are being released by Stuttgart-based Carus-Verlag in coproduction with Deutschlandradio Kultur. (Carus-Verlag also has a parallel project to publish performing editions of Schütz’ complete works.) At the very least Rademann and his ensemble are “geographically suited” for this project, since Schütz was based, for the most part, in Dresden between 1615 and his death in 1672 after which he was buried in the old Dresden Frauenkirche. (His tomb was destroyed in 1727 when the church was torn down to build a new one.)

Nevertheless, Schütz time in Dresden was interrupted for a variety of reasons. The most notable of these was the Thirty Years War. Fortunately, he had previously traveled to Venice to study with Claudio Monteverdi in 1628; and, as a result, Venice served as a place of refuge when that war was at its worst. One result of these circumstances is that Schütz’ music tends to have a close kinship with the music of Monteverdi, both sacred and secular, as well as his other distinguished Venetian teacher, Giovanni Gabrieli. A corollary result is that the texts for Schütz’ vocal music cover not only good Lutheran German but also both Latin and Italian, reflecting the sacred and secular aspects of his influences. Thus, the first nineteen entries in the Schütz-Werke-Verzeichnis (SWV) catalog are five-voice Italian madrigals, published in Venice in 1611 as Schütz’ Opus 1.

At little over a week ago, Carus released the fourteenth volume in their Schütz project, the first of the three volumes that Schütz entitled Symphoniae sacrae (sacred symphonies). Schütz probably appropriated this title from Gabrieli, who used it for two of his own collections of liturgical music published in 1597 and in 1615 (after his death). Schütz published his own first volume in Venice in 1629, presumably for services held at St. Mark’s Basilica; and, as a result, all of the texts are in Latin. (The other two volumes were published in Dresden in 1647 and 1650, respectively; and they are all settings of liturgical texts in German.)

The noun “symphony” constitutes a major departure from current semantics. Basically, it entails the “concord of sound” (taken from the word’s Greek origins) arising when many parts, both vocal and instrumental, sound together with a sense of overall consonance. This particular collection involves vocal solos, duets, and trios performing with different collections of string and wind instruments, along with the consistent use of a keyboard continuum provided by an organ (performed by Ludger Rémy). As the booklet notes by Oliver Geisler (translated by David Kosviner) observe, Schütz was as specific in identifying instruments as he was in designating vocal ranges; and those instruments included cornets, recorders, trombones, violins, bassoons (or dulcians), gambas, and “fiffari.” (Scare quotes indicate that Geisler acknowledged that the denotation of that noun is uncertain; but it is like to be some cross-blown version of a flute or pipe.)

It would probably be fair to say that Schütz expected his listeners to be as moved by his “concords of sound” as by the denotations (and connotations) of the sacred texts he chose to set. For example, his use of four trombones (Sebastian Krause, Julian Nagel, Masafumi Sakamoto, and Fernando Günther) to accompany a solo bass voice (Felix Schwandtke) in a setting of David mourning the death of his son Absalom is as moving in its tragedy as it is ravishing in its sonorities. Furthermore, there is a crystalline clarity to the delivery of all of the vocalists on this album, which means that those with even a smattering of knowledge of Latin are likely to pick up on the semantic implications of each of the texts that Schütz set in this collection.

With fourteen volumes in this project released and another one scheduled for next month, it is unclear how to advise those who wish to establish a “first contact” with Schütz. However, those familiar with the Roman Catholic ritual can probably draw upon that familiarity to provide a frame of reference for this particular collection, since it represents so well Schütz’ productivity in the sacred music that he wrote while in Venice. Between the familiarity with the texts and the delightful instrumental diversity, it should not be difficult for such listeners to get quickly “hooked” on this composer, who definitely rose to the heights of his two major teachers, Gabrieli and Monteverdi.

Hard Choices for the Second Sunday in April

Weather permitting, April tends to be a good month for spending Sundays in the park. However, April 9 will provide several opportunities to lure serious listeners into a concert hall setting. As of this writing there will be three choices, each beginning at a different time in the afternoon. In chronological order the options are as follows:

3 p.m., Herbst Theatre: Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet will be making his San Francisco Recital Debut in the first of the four April concerts to be presented in the Chamber Music San Francisco (CMSF) 2017 season in San Francisco. Bavouzet is no stranger to those who frequent Davies Symphony Hall. He made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in October of 2012, performing Béla Bartók’s third piano concerto with visiting conductor Vasily Petrenko on the podium. Almost exactly two years later he performed in two separate programs during a visit by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with their Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski. His selections for those two concerts were Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 26 (second) piano concerto in C major and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Opus 43 rhapsody on the last of Niccolò Paganini’s 24 solo violin caprices. As a recording artist he released an impressive five-CD “collectors edition” of the complete piano music of Claude Debussy on the Chandos label.

That latter achievement will be represented when he will conclude his CMSF recital with Debussy’s “L’isle joyeuse,” which he has programmed to serve somewhat as an “appendix” to his performance of Maurice Ravel’s five-movement suite Miroirs, which includes the original piano version of “Alborado del gracioso” (the jester’s aubade), which is better known in the orchestral version that Ravel subsequently prepared. Bavouzet’s more recent recording projects have turned to the sonatas of Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, both of whom will be presented on the first half of his program. He will begin with Haydn’s Hoboken XVI/46 sonata in A-flat major. That will be followed by the first two of the three sonatas that Beethoven published as his Opus 10, the first in C minor and the second in F major.

The entrance to Herbst Theatre is on the ground floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Ticket prices are $51 (Orchestra and Boxes), $42 (Dress Circle), and $33 (Balcony). Tickets may be purchased online through a City Box Office event page, which includes a floor plan that shows the number of seats available in the different sections. In addition, it is still possible to save $4 on each ticket with the purchase of a mini-series of four or more concerts. The best way to do this will be to contact CMSF by phone at 415-392-4400, but there are also hyperlinks on the Subscription Packages Web page through which one can create a PayPal shopping cart of mini-series selections.

4 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church: Like this month’s concert, next month’s offering by the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) will feature artists based in the Bay Area. Hallifax & Jeffrey is the duo of Peter Hallifax and Julie Jeffrey, both viol performers. They have prepared a program entitled Big, Beautiful and French: Music for Several Viols and Continuo. The will be joined by two other gamba players, Josh Lee and Marie Dalby Szuts. Continuo will be provided by John Lenti on theorbo. The program will survey French composers with particular attention to Marc-Antoine Charpentier, as well as both Louis and François Couperin, Marin Marais, and Michel Corrette. This will be the final offering of the SFEMS 2016/17 concert season.

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. General admission is $40 with a $36 rate for seniors and $34 for SFEMS members. A Web page has been created for online purchases of single tickets.

5:30 p.m., Taube Atrium Theater: The third of the four concerts being offered in the 34th season of the Schwabacher Debut Recitals, presented jointly by the San Francisco Opera Center and the Merola Opera Program, will offer an interesting departure from the usual format. The vocalists will be mezzo Renée Rapier and bass Anthony Reed, both Merola alumni with experience as Adler Fellows; and they will be accompanied at the piano by the San Francisco Opera Head of Music Staff John Churchwell. The title of the program will be The Woods: A Rom-Com Recital. Reed has compiled a collection of songs by American composers of both art song and show tunes and structured them around a narrative for which he has provided original dialogue. That narrative will then be realized through staging by first-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Aria Umezawa. To the best of my knowledge, this will be the first time that a stage director has contributed to a Schwabacher Recital; but this will be an opportunity to take advantage of the flexibility of the Atrium Theater space.

The Taube Atrium Theater is part of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, which, like Herbst Theatre, is located in the Veterans Building (on the fourth floor) at the southwest corner of Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. General admission will be $30. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through an event page on the San Francisco Opera Web site. Note that, because much of the seating is raked, it is possible to select the option of Wheelchair Accessible seats. In addition, subject to availability, student rush tickets will go on sale at 5 p.m. at the reduced rate of $15. There is a limit of two tickets per person, and valid identification must be shown.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Discovering Late Hummel in the Tenderloin

I am a firm believer that anyone serious about listening to music should take an interest in discovering new works regardless of the period in which they were composed. There is too much of a tendency among recitalists to either adopt or commission recent or brand-new works while always falling back on the “same old same old” when it comes to any of the preceding centuries. This afternoon at the Cadillac Hotel the duo of cellist Rebecca Roudman and pianist Noel Benkman provided a striking opportunity for such discovery involving a “Grande Sonate” composed in 1824.

The composer was Johann Nepomuk Hummel; and, when one considers the scope of his life, it is more than a little disappointing that his music is not played more often. He was born on November 14, 1778 and showed a talent for music at a very early age. Indeed, that age was so early and the talent so notable that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart not only took him as a pupil when Hummel was only eight but also arranged for Hummel to stay in his house. While on tour in London, Hummel received instruction from Muzio Clementi; and, after he returned to Vienna, his teachers included Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Joseph Haydn, and Antonio Salieri. By 1824 he had a reputation in just about every city in Europe that had a serious commitment to the performance of music.

One of the interesting things about that year, however, is that it predates Frédéric Chopin’s move to Paris and the beginning of his notable reputation as a composer. Thus, Hummel’s “Grande Sonate” predates Chopin’s Opus 3, his C major “Polonaise brillante” with an introduction, by about half a decade. Yet there are so many adventurous moves in Hummel’s sonata that one has to wonder why the more conventional Chopin work gets so much more attention. The 6/4 metre of the opening Allegro cantabile e grazioso movement makes it clear from the opening gesture that this is not the sort of rhetoric one is used to encountering in “classical” sonatas. Less unconventional may be how the structural plan migrates from A major to A minor; but there are still any number of “stops along the way” at which the attentive listener will wonder why (s)he had not previously encountered this music.

That said, the lobby of the Cadillac is not the most ideal spot for encountering unfamiliar chamber music. The Patricia Walkup Memorial Piano, a fully-restored 1884 Steinway Model D Concert Grand, is always prepared for performance the previous day. However, the space is a lobby of a working hotel. One cannot avoid a fair amount of coming and going against a “background wash” of ongoing chatter. Nevertheless, where the seats are set out, there are always listeners intently focused on the performers; and, considering that one is in the heart of the Tenderloin, these tend to be audiences that show the performers more respect than might be encountered at free concerts in “better” parts of town.

Roudman and Benkman followed their “discovery offering” of Hummel with two more familiar composers. The first of these was Ludwig van Beethoven with the first (in C major) of his two Opus 102 sonatas. They then concluded their program with Johannes Brahms’ Opus 99 (second) cello sonata in F major. This made for a lot of music. Cadillac events usually run for about an hour. However, it was clear that the Brahms was going to exceed that limit; and there were occasional signs that Roudman and Benkman were trying to pick up the pace a bit. Nevertheless, both of these pieces said what they had to say with a suitably energetic rhetoric and the occasional surprising turn of phrase.

The Cadillac calls itself “The House of Welcome Since 1907;” and that welcome clearly extends to those who are serious about both making and listening to music.

Italian Pianist Beatrice Rana will Conclude the SFP Young Masters Series

At the beginning of next month, San Francisco Performances (SFP) will present the last of the three recitals in its Young Masters Series, designed to introduce audiences to rising talents. The recitalist will be Italian pianist Beatrice Rana, making her San Francisco debut. In 2013 Rana won both the Silver Medal and the Audience Award at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Warner Classics released her debut album in November of 2015, a concerto album that combined Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular Opus 23 in B-flat minor (the concerto that launched Cliburn’s own reputation for taking the Soviet Union by storm and winning the very first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958) with Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 16 in G minor.

Almost exactly a month ago Warner Classics released Rana’s first solo album. This was an ambitious undertaking for a solo album debut, since the recording consisted entirely of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 988 set of (“Goldberg”) variations on an Aria theme. Rana has decided that this will also be the program for her San Francisco recital debut. This music is best known for its namesake, the harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who, according to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, would play selected variations for his patron Count Hermann Karl von Keyserlingk, who had problems with insomnia.

“It may not be true, but it is a good story” is an old Italian saying. Rana probably knows it and sympathizes with it. However, it is probably the case that she is aware of and appreciates a less romanticized account of this music. That reality is based in Bach having published BWV 988 as the fourth and final volume of his Clavier-Übung (keyboard practice) collection, a project that suggests that, if Bach wanted to leave anything for posterity, it would be his wisdom as a pedagogue. In this particular case that wisdom had to do with the inventive art of variation on a simple theme. Rana’s notes for her recording booklet observe that the Aria theme can probably be traced back to a chaconne theme for which George Frideric Handel had composed 64 variations. Bach-the-pedagogue may have known about these and decided that the virtue of one set of variations is that it encourages the invention of another!

Nevertheless, there is a wide gulf between the depth of mastering the diverse inventiveness of 30 variations and the ability to translate that mastery into performing in front of an audience. Rana’s album makes a solid case that clarity of her understanding of what makes these variations tick can be translated to an equal clarity of execution. Nevertheless, a recording is never a substitute for those in-the-moment qualities that can only arise through the immediacy of establishing a relationship between the performer and the listener. Maintaining such a relationship for over an hour (Rana’s recording clocks in at almost 78 minutes) is never an easy matter, even when the music is familiar. If Rana’s album informs us of her cerebral and expressive skills in a studio, next month’s recital will allow us to appreciate how those skills translate into a concert setting.

Her performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 7. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, which is located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. All tickets are $40. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page. SFP may be contacted for further information by calling 415-392-2545.

Jeffrey Anderson Introduces a Delightful Tuba Concerto to Davies

Last night in Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), under the baton of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), presented the first North American performance of Robin Holloway’s Opus 121, “Europa & the Bull.” This was a result of a co-commission between SFS and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, which gave the world premiere on October 8, 2015, conducted by Andrew Manze. While it is not immediately apparent from the title, the work is basically a concerto for tuba and orchestra; and last night’s soloist was SFS Principal Tuba Jeffrey Anderson.

The title refers to the myth that concerns one of Jupiter’s many dalliances with beautiful young nymphs. He has his way with Europa after turning himself into a bull and the carrying her off to a secluded place to consummate his lust. The concerto is actually more of a tone poem, organized around seven seamlessly connected episodes. In many respects the tuba is a “natural” for the “male lead” of this tale, capturing the dominating massiveness of both Jupiter as the king above the other Olympic gods and the image of his transformation into a hyper-charged (not to mention rapacious) bull. Nevertheless, the tale of the seduction of Europa concludes with a birth that symbolically represents the origins of the European continent.

Thus, while there is no shortage of aggressive scoring for both soloist and orchestra, there is also no shortage of highly lyrical qualities. Igor Stravinsky supposedly once made a throw-away remark to the effect that even raw lust can result in a fruitful offspring; and the scenario behind Holloway’s score almost seems to be more interested in celebrating the “creation” of Europe than in providing a blow-by-blow (so to speak) account of the aggressive violence that led to that creation. From that point of view, Anderson was thoroughly engaging through the lyrical qualities he could bring to his performance.. Yes, he had to master some imposing technical challenges, particularly in the section marked “Quasi una Cadenza” (almost a cadenza); but it was his consummate skill in capturing the sweetness of many of the melodic lines that made his solo work so impressive.

(Holloway was not the first to explore this lyric side of the tuba; Ralph Vaughan Williams F minor concerto for the instrument, which he composed in 1954, achieved the same goal in a more conventional, and abstract, three-movement structure.)

Those lyrical qualities were anticipated by MTT opening the program with the score that John Cage wrote for Merce Cunningham’s ballet “The Seasons.” MTT had introduced this piece to current SFS audiences 2015. (Charles Wuorinen had conducted the first SFS performances in 1986.) This piece will probably continue to surprise those who associate Cage only with silence and noise. Like many of his earliest piano compositions, this score has a delicacy structured primarily around an uneven rhythmic structure in which sonorities reveal themselves through an exquisite sensitivity to instrumentation.

Last night the music for “The Seasons” was to be augmented with both lighting effects and video projected on five screens arrayed side-by-side in front of the Terrace area. Unfortunately, one of the power supplies died and could not be replaced on short notice, so the projections were confined to the center screen. This did not seem particularly detrimental.

From a philosophical point of view, the music is more “about” the smooth transitions between the seasons than it is about the seasons themselves. By including the text markers that identify the different movements, the projection brought clarity to how the music itself migrated through the course of a year, concluding with a repetition of the prelude to the quiescent Winter section with which it began. That sense of smooth transition was reinforced by the changes in the lighting sources, some of which were almost too subtle to be noticed while others were strikingly abrupt. The result was an account of Cage’s score that enhanced awareness of the underlying philosophy without detracting from the music itself.

The intermission was followed by Béla Bartók’s 1943 composition, which he entitled “Concerto for Orchestra.” As was the case during the first half of the evening, this was music that explored diverse sonorities; but Bartók’s approach to overall structure was far more conventional. Indeed, he wanted it to be conventional. He knew he was dying when he wrote the piece, and he hoped that music with greater audience appeal might lead to a revenue stream of royalties for his widow.

True to its title, this is music that explores a wide and diverse range of sonorities afforded by the many different instruments in a full orchestra. For the most part Bartók summons up those sonorities through combinations, rather than extended solo passages. Those combinations can just as easily involve sharp contrasts as blends of similar timbres across different registers. All those different sonorities play out through relatively conventional structural designs, culminating it a wild and wooly Presto Finale in which the whole ensemble erupts like one massive volcano of sonic energy. Almost as if to thumb his nose at more “progressive” elements, Bartók concludes his concerto with a triumphant perfect cadence that would have been just as comfortable in the late nineteenth century.

Nevertheless, this score was conceived as music to make you feel good about listening to music. MTT clearly felt good about presenting it to last night’s audience. After that final cadence if felt as if all of Davies vigorously responded in kind.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien will Return to SFP Next Month

The duo of violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien made its San Francisco Performances (SFP) debut in 2014 with a highly imaginative approach to programming. (Ibragimova had already given an SFP solo recital in 2012.) On that occasion two sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (K. 301 in G major and K. 304 in E minor) were separated by “Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard,” composed by John Cage in 1950, while Anton Webern’s Opus 7 (four pieces for violin and piano composed in 1910) separated Mozart from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 47 (“Kreutzer”) sonata in A major. (Those familiar with Cage’s opinions about music would probably recognize that his spirit would have been comforted by the distance from Beethoven!)

At the beginning of next month, Ibragimova and Tiberghien will return to SFP. Once again, they will use music from the twentieth century as “spacers” between their other selections. This time, however, those “spacers” will be solo performances. Tiberghien’s solo will be Alban Berg’s only piano sonata, his Opus 1, one of the first products of his studies in free composition with Arnold Schoenberg. (Berg had previously studied both harmony and counterpoint with Schoenberg beginning in 1904.) This sonata will separate two sonatas for violin and keyboard, both of which are, themselves, decidedly different from one another. The program will begin with Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1017 sonata in C minor, and the Berg will be followed by Johannes Brahms’ Opus 100 sonata in A major. The Brahms sonata, in turn, will be paired with Robert Schumann’s Opus 121 sonata in D minor. The closer kinship between these two pieces will be separated by Ibragimova’s solo performance of the fifth sonata in Eugène Ysaÿe’s Opus 27 collection of six solo sonatas. Each of these sonatas reflected on the style of a famous violinist Ysaÿe knew at the time; and the violinist for the fifth sonata, consisting of two movements, entitled “L’Aurore” (the dawn) and “Danse Rustique” (rustic dance), in the key of G major, was Mathieu Crickboom.

This recital will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 3. It will take place in Herbst Theatre, located on the ground floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Tickets are being sold for $40 in the balcony, $55 for most of the Dress Circle, and $65 for premium seating. They may be purchased in advance through a City Box Office event page, which shows the Herbst floor plan and which prices apply to which sections. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 415-392-2545, as well as at the Herbst Box Office on the evening of the performance.

Nicholas Phan Brings his Gods and Monsters to This Month’s SFP Salon

Yesterday evening at the Hotel Rex, San Francisco Performances (SFP) presented the second recital in its 2017 Spring Salons series. The recitalist was tenor Nicholas Phan, who has recently moved to San Francisco and has been appointed SFP Vocalist-in-Residence. The title of the concert was Gods & Monsters, which is also the title of Phan’s latest album for Avie Records, released in January, as well as the title of his debut recital at Wigmore Hall in London, which he gave last month.

Yesterday evening’s performance provided a generous account of the album. The number of tracks omitted could be counted on one hand. Each of the four key “topics” was represented by either three or four songs. The program began at the top of Mount Olympus with three songs by Franz Schubert, two of which set poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Phan then descended to the earthly realm of “Knights and Kings” with Goethe settings by Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven and settings of texts from Des Knaben Wunderhorn by both Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler.

The Beethoven selection was actually a song about a flea that Mephistopheles sings in a tavern; so it might have fit just as well into the following “Things that Go Bump in the Night” section. This section offered the greatest diversity of poets, a different one for each of the four songs: Matthäus Kasimir von Collin (Schubert), Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (Robert Schumann), Eduard Mörike (Hugo Wolf), and Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty (Felix Mendelssohn). Two more of Wolf’s Mörike settings were included in the final “Fairy Tales” section, along with a Schumann setting of Hermann Kletke. This theme also covered the encore selection with the one departure from German into English and the only piece from the twentieth century, “Giants in the Sky” (with both music and words by Stephen Sondheim) from the musical Into the Woods.

In this intimate setting it was possible to appreciate the full breadth of Phan’s dynamic range. There was a bone-chilling stillness in his account of Mahler’s “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen” (where the beautiful trumpets blow) in which a maiden is visited by her soldier sweetheart; and it is only in the final line of the poem that the narrative discloses that her visitor is a ghost. In Wolf’s “Storchenbotschaft” (stork’s message), Phan’s command of facial expressions perfectly captured the comic revelation that the protagonist is about to become the father of twins. On the other hand he brought his account of Wolf’s “Der Feuerreiter” (the fire-rider) to the brink of unbridled hysteria, keeping the listener guessing as to whether the protagonist, who rides is horse headlong into a burning mill, is mortal or supernatural.

Similarly, Phan knew how to pace the overall program. He knew full well that the sort of outburst of melodrama that Wolf could command so skillfully could not be just another shot in an ongoing salvo. The moments of highest intensity always stood out from the quieter (even if just as sinister) instances of rhetoric that surrounded them. The result was a one-hour recital in which every moment was meticulously calculated for its impact from beginning to end. This served as an exhilarating reminder of just how far we have progressed from those one-thing-after-another recitals which used to be the norm for concert practices.

Phan has become a familiar face in our concert halls, having given splendid performances with both the San Francisco Symphony and Philharmonia Baroque. Yesterday evening made the case that he is just as much at home in the art song recital setting. Furthermore, he clearly knows how to use that setting to exercise his own capacity for innovation. We should all hope to hear more of that capacity.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Community Music Center will Host Master Class by Garrick Ohlsson

Readers may recall that this week began with a particularly stunning account of Johannes Brahms’ Opus 15 (first) piano concerto in D minor as part of the Great Performers Series of concerts at Davies Symphony Hall. The orchestra was the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra was led by Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Yuri Temirkanov, but just as impressive was the solo work by Garrick Ohlsson, who has made San Francisco his home. It thus gives me a somewhat personal sense of satisfaction that Ohlsson will follow up on his perceptive approach to Brahms by giving a Master Class for three of the piano students at the Community Music Center.

This event will take place this coming Saturday, March 25. It will begin at 3 p.m. and run for about 90 minutes, devoting about half an hour to each student. The venue will be the Community Music Center Concert Hall, located at 544 Capp Street, between Mission Street and South Van Ness Avenue and between 20th Street and 21st Street. The event will be free. However, seating is limited; and the demand is expected to be high. As a result, advance registration will be required. An Eventbrite event page has been created for this purpose, and further information may be obtained by calling 415-647-6015, extension 82.

Brahms Rises Above Young Composers Reflecting on Him

Last night in the Recital Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presented the latest program in their 2016–2017 season, entitled Brahms Through the Looking Glass. The first half of the program was devoted to the first performances of three short works by young composers invited to “reflect” on Johannes Brahms’ Opus 8 piano trio in B major. As was previously explained, Opus 8 is, itself, a product of reflection. Brahms was in his early twenties when he composed it in 1854, but 35 years later he decided that he had overdone things. Much of the revision involved trimming away the excesses of Brahms’ youth; and the revised version, published in 1891, knocked the overall length of the piece down by about ten minutes. (For the record, that duration of “saved time” was longer than any one of the new works on the program.) The 1891 version is the one most frequently performed, and last night it constituted the entire second half of the program.

That performance was given by Anna Presler on violin, Tanya Tomkins on cello, and Eric Zivian on piano. It was, for the most part, a satisfying experience. Zivian’s past tendencies to overdo things, particularly when the dynamics get loud, were kept in check, at least during the first three movements. The result was a well-balanced account of the score through which one could appreciate the breadth of inventiveness that Brahms applied to his thematic materials. One could also appreciate the ways in which the individual performers could seamlessly move between foreground and background, almost as if the score was the musical equivalent of some very elegant pas de trois.

It was only in the final movement that Zivian’s old habits got the better of him. This is probably the most challenging movement of the trio. For one thing it shifts from B major to B minor, and the opening theme is one of disturbing restlessness. It is worth noting that the revised version of the score marks the tempo as Allegro, in contrast to the Allegro molto agitato of the original version. It would appear that Brahms himself recognized that this movement called for restraint, and that restraint involved reducing the number of measures by almost 200.

This is not to suggest that the movement demands an understated rhetoric. When Brahms moves into the major key, he does so with bold and broad strokes; and these definitely should not be short-changed. However, the overall rhetoric of the movement is one of tension and resolution. Zivian never quite got the tension side of this equation, and in those passages it almost seemed as if the other two players had been left in the lurch.

Nevertheless, this was, at least during the first three movements, a reading that showed considerable understanding of Brahms, perhaps even in ways that captured the older composer reflecting on the excesses of his younger self. This was more understanding than any of the three composers in the first half of the program brought to the party. Indeed, the most interesting of the three had more to do with Zez Confrey than with Brahms.

Jennifer Jolley’s “The Lives and Opinions of Literary Cats” emerged from the fact that the young Brahms would occasionally identify himself as Johannes Kreisler. Kreisler was a character in three novels that E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote between 1815 and 1822, the last one of which had one of the lengthiest titles in literary history, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr together with a fragmentary Biography of Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler on Random Sheets of Waste Paper. The basic idea was that Murr was Kreisler’s pet cat. He decides to document his life and uses sheets of paper that Kreisler discarded while working on his own autobiography. Hoffmann himself provides an introduction in which he explains that Murr’s pages got mixed up with Kreisler’s; and, unable to sort out the mess, the publisher just decided to print all of them! There is also an “in” joke in that the phrase “life and opinions” is also part of the full title of Laurence Sterne’s novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Both novels have been embraced enthusiastically by modernists with a passionate interest in metafiction.

Jolley’s may not have much to do with unorthodox literature, but she does seem to like her cats. Whether she ever heard of Confrey or his most famous solo piano composition, “Kitten on the Keys,” is open to question. However, the rapid-fire fingering, particularly in the upper register, in “The Lives and Opinions of Literary Cats” could easily have been channeling Confrey’s spirit. Zivian’s dexterity in handling these passages was downright awesome; but, ultimately, Jolley’s wild ride on the keyboard tended to push the violin and the cello into the background. Thus, the result was less a reflection on Brahms than an opportunity for some really exuberant piano composition.

Sam Nichols’ “in zwei farben” (in two colors) seemed to extract a single fragment from Opus 8 and embed it in a rich texture of solo violin and electronics, which also included verbal fragments from a letter that Brahms wrote to fellow composer Heinrich von Herzogenberg interleaved with transforms of violin sounds. The result was engagingly inventive, even if it could not really be called a “reflection” on either Brahms or his music. Still it had more to offer than Kenneth Lim’s “Trio in C Flat,” whose prankish title was the high point of the piece. (Did he really write out a C-flat key signature?) In his statement for the program notes, Lim wrote, “While this piece is neither on nor about Brahms, I took the opportunity to explore and reconstruct the narrative arc that I find in the composer’s work, with a particular interest in how effortlessly the thematic material lends itself to geometric dis-/reassembling.” The opening clause is the only clear part of this statement; and, sadly, the music itself was about as opaque as the rest of the sentence.

The overall result thus emerged as an object lesson in biting off more that you can chew; and, on the basis of his revision work, it would appear that Brahms was the only one to get the message.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tickets are Now On Sale for Annual San Francisco Performances Gift Concert

Every season San Francisco Performances (SFP) offers free tickets to its subscribers and donors for a Gift Concert. These recitals are usually arranged to provide yet another opportunity to experience a rising talent. This year the Gift Concert will present the San Francisco debut of the young Chinese pianist Wei Luo, who made her recital debut in Hong Kong at the age of six. She is currently studying at the Curtis Institute of Music with both Gary Graffman and Robert McDonald.

The program Luo has prepared for SFP will provide ample opportunity to appreciate both her virtuosity and her expressiveness. She will begin with two of the prelude-fugue couplings from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 87 set of 24, one for each of the major or minor keys, following the model of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier but using the circle-of-fifths ordering. She will play the 5th (in D major) and last (in D minor) of these. The D minor has an elaborate double fugue, and it has been compared with the very last fugue that Bach ever wrote in his The Art of Fugue.

From Shostakovich Luo will progress to Beethoven with a performance of his Opus 53 (“Waldstein”) sonata in C major. Her next venture into virtuosity will be the three pieces in the first book of Isaac Albéniz’ Iberia collection. The last of these is “Fête-dieu à Seville,” a depiction of the Corpus Christi Day procession that pushes to the limit what two hands can do on a keyboard. She will then conclude with one last major technical undertaking, Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 83 sonata in B-flat major, the second of his three “War Sonatas,” which is occasionally called the “Stalingrad.”

This recital will begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 2. It will take place in Herbst Theatre, located on the ground floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. All remaining tickets are being sold for $40. They may be purchased in advance through a City Box Office event page. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 415-392-2545, and any remaining tickets will be sold at the door.

A Stunning Partnership of a San Francisco Pianist with a Russian Orchestra

Last night in Davies Symphony Hall, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra gave the second of its two Great Performers Series concerts, presented by the San Francisco Symphony. They were led by Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Yuri Temirkanov. The program consisted of only two compositions, a concerto, Johannes Brahms’ Opus 15 (first) in D minor, and a symphony, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 47 (fifth), also in D minor. There is a long rhetorical tradition that D minor is one of the bleakest of tonalities. Some even refer to it as the key of death, but last night’s performance could not have been livelier.

The concerto was distinguished by having San Francisco resident Garrick Ohlsson as the soloist. We thus had a Russian ensemble visiting San Francisco and a San Franciscan pianist visiting the ensemble. The “cross-cultural” chemistry could not have been better. Over the course of his many visits with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Temirkanov has established himself for being sensitive to the slightest detail without ever neglecting the overall rhetorical drive behind the music itself. That talent made him and excellent choice to present Brahms’ Opus 15. This is music that boils and surges with intense rhetoric, not only in the raw athleticism required for the keyboard work but also in the no-holds-barred intensity of the ensemble passages. The score begins with a threatening roar and concludes with what can only be called a victory lap, allowing its energy level to ease off only during the middle Adagio movement.

Fortunately, both Temirkanov and Ohlsson understood fully that such energy levels are only effective if properly modulated. This is a matter of having the ability “to sort out the climaxes from the lesser peaks, so that the real ones stand out,” as James Oesterich of The New York Times put it in reporting on an interview with Pierre Boulez about conducting Gustav Mahler’s sixth symphony. Ultimately, there is only one “real” peak at the conclusion of Opus 15; and both Temirkanov and Ohlsson were of a common mind in how to hold back on all of the other peaks. The result was an account of the concerto that was always propelling the listener forward to take on the next climax but always gauged to save the best for the last.

This clear sense of gauging climaxes was clearly also on Temirkanov’s mind in his interpretation of Shostakovich’s Opus 47. This is the symphony, written in 1937, through which Shostakovich redeemed himself in the eyes of Joseph Stalin’s authoritarian rule, having been denounced for the “muddle” of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 1936. (Considering how Stalin treated others who crossed his path the wrong way, Shostakovich’s period in the “penalty box” was relatively mild, although Shostakovich himself probably did not feel that way.)

On the surface it would appear that Opus 47 was scrupulously calculated to deliver all the goods that would make Stalin happy, with full-throated triumphalism as its primary rhetorical stance. Beneath the surface was another matter. Indeed, the Allegretto scherzo in the second movement is a clear sign of the high value Shostakovich placed on Mahler’s symphonies and his awareness of Mahler’s capacity for sardonic rhetoric in his own scherzos. One can almost see Stalin merrily tapping his foot to the clearly defined beat while any number of less positive thoughts were clunking around in the back of Shostakovich’s head.

Nevertheless, one cannot deny that triumphalism rules in Opus 47’s final movement. Here, again, it is important to establish that the coda of this symphony is its “greatest peak.” Temirkanov knew how to let the opening crescendo of the fourth movement have its say; but that crescendo was a “lesser peak” in the overall plan of a much slower crescendo that built to the one true climax. That climax, in turn, involves its own internal prolongations. The resulting effect is that, once you think you have arrived at full strength, you discover that things will only get stronger; and the coda is designed as a series of such deceptions culminating in an “ultimate fulfillment.” It goes without saying that keeping this movement from devolving into mindless spectacle is no mean feat, but Temirkanov clearly knew how to keep everything under control. This was definitely a reading of Opus 47 to remember for a long time to come.

The program was also distinguished by having both pianist and conductor take an encore. Ohlsson’s selection could not have been more familiar, the C-sharp minor prelude that is the second piece in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Opus 3 collection of five Morceaux de fantaisie (fantasy pieces). This has been called “The Bells of Moscow” because of the steady tolling of the left-hand line. Ohlsson gave it a reading that captured both the grandeur of the imagery and the intimacy of the keyboard setting at the same time, effectively creating a sense of a first impression, rather than a familiar one. Temirkanov, on the other hand, followed the abject triumphalism of Shostakovich with the quiet intimacy of the “enchantment” music from Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 87, his score for the three-act ballet Cinderella. The contrast could not have been more effective, reminding all in the audience of the full breadth of diversity in the repertoire Temirkanov has prepared for his ensemble.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Chandos Releases Andrew Davis’ Third Volume of Ives’ Orchestral Works

Last Friday saw the release of the third volume in the project of Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to record the orchestral works of Charles Ives. The project began with the release of the first volume in March of 2015, followed by the second volume in January of 2016. In my home town of San Francisco, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, has put considerable effort into preparing programs that highlight the work of “maverick” composers. What is interesting about Ives is that, in many ways, he is as much of a maverick over half a century after his death as he was during his lifetime. Indeed, the conductor who may have done the most to try to bring Ives into the “mainstream” was Leonard Bernstein, who mentored MTT. Nevertheless, in spite of what amounts to two generations of enthusiastic support, it is probably the case that Ives remains impenetrable to many of today’s listeners, perhaps even more so than (to choose an extreme example) John Cage.

This is not a matter of Ives’ highly aggressive approach to dissonance. It is not difficult to come up with a laundry list of names in the domains of classical, jazz, and rock, whose dissonances definitely overwhelm Ives on the decibel scale. If Ives has not really caught on, the problem may have more to do with the fact that the context in which he approached composition is so different from the current mindset.

When Bernstein introduced Ives’ second symphony to New York Philharmonic audiences, there was still an understanding of the composer’s New England background. One could appreciate the context of his rugged individualism, grounded in his admiration for the home-grown philosophy of transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. In addition, there was a familiarity to the vast palette of familiar tunes that he would weave into his thick contrapuntal structures, whether they involved selections from any number of different hymnals or the songs that would be raucously sung at a fraternity party. As anyone who has seen Animal House knows, that kind of singing is now part of a past that is as distant as Gregorian chant; and, while there are still communities of the faithful that would recognize at least some of the hymns that Ives quoted, members of those communities tend to prefer their own singing to music-making in a concert hall.

What, then, are we to make of a present-day commitment by a British label working with a British conductor leading an Australian ensemble in the interest of promoting Ives’ music? Personally, I happen to be comforted by the prospect. As a “refugee” from Silicon Valley, I take a very dim view of a culture that is so obsessed with the “now” that it pretty much takes pride in its ignorance of anything that happened as little as 24 months ago. If I have to turn to that “sceptred isle” to find others who not only value history but relish different ways of exploring it, then so be it. Davis may not be preaching Ives’ gospel with the first-hand experience of the four Evangelists; but there is nothing about his work that leads me to question the sincerity of his faith.

Some may argue that my thoughts about Davis are, themselves, an act of faith. They would have a point, but I can also bring reason to my position. What has struck me the most about the three albums that Chandos has produced thus far is that Davis seems to show a strong commitment to bringing clarity to scores that often strike anyone familiar with music notation as being about a clear as a canvas painted by Jackson Pollock. If Ives’ primary rhetorical device involves closely-cut superpositions of thematic fragments that never quite fit together, then Davis seems to have figured out ways to lay all those fragments out without making the whole thing sound like a nebulous cloud of white (or colored) noise.

This may involve more than just worrying about balance on a second-by-second level. Davis also seems to know just how to control tempo in ways that will not overwhelm the sensemaking efforts of the listener. Does that mean than he can account for a musical evocation of a camp meeting (which is what Ives does in his third symphony, one of the selections on the new album) without having experienced such a camp meeting or perhaps even not knowing what one is or was? I doubt that he can; but, if he can still capture that idiosyncratic amalgam of a wildly spontaneous congregation responding to a rhetorically disciplined sermon, then, as the song goes, “that will have to do until the real thing comes along.”

The fact is that all three selections on this new release, the third and fourth symphonies and the second of Ives’ “orchestral set” pieces, carry massive quantities of historical and cultural baggage. These days I feel as if one hand will be sufficient to count the number of listeners who are even remotely aware of that baggage. Nevertheless, Davis can make Ives speak to us, just as a first-rate conductor can make Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 55 (“Eroica”) symphony in E-flat major convey some sense of historical signification even to those who know beans about Napoleon and Beethoven’s changing impressions of him.

The Bleeding Edge: 3/20/2017

After last week’s marathon-length list of alternatives, many (myself included) might welcome a week of fewer options. Actually, the most extensive activity is the continuation of that outdoor performance based on the Beowulf epic that begins at sunset along the waterfront. That event was described last week, and further performances will take place this week on March 23, 24, 25, and 26. As was also mentioned last week, March 26 will be the date on which Arnold Dreyblatt will come to The Lab. This will also be the week of violinist Patrick Galvin’s recital in the Chamber/Ensemble Series presented by Sunset Music | Arts. Galvin takes an eclectic approach to repertoire; but, on the basis of information available thus far, it looks as if programming will not advance beyond Claude Debussy. That leaves the following two events to add to the agenda:

Thursday, March 23, 8 p.m., Luggage Store Gallery: This week’s installment of the Luggage Store Creative (LSC) Music Series, curated by Outsound Presents, is being produced in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano de Cultura), which is hosting a visit by percussionist Andrea Centazzo. Centazzo specializes in working with electroacoustic percussion instruments; and for the second set of this week’s LSC gig, he will improvise with Matt Davignon, who will be playing electronic percussion instruments. The opening set will be vocal improvisations by the duo of Ron Heglin and Lorin Benedict. The Luggage Store Gallery is at 1007 Market Street, directly across from the Golden Gate Theatre at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Taylor Street. As always admission will be on a sliding scale between $6 and $15.

Friday, March 24, 9 p.m., Gray Area: Gray Area Art and Technology will present the Spring 2017 edition of its UNSEEN series. These are quarterly presentations of site-specific collaborative performances, which explore current practices in immersive media, including expanded cinema, video and sound art, and experimental music and technology. The series is curated by Matt Fisher and utilizes an eight-channel surround-sound system with equipment provided by Recombinant Media Labs.

The spring performance will consist of three offerings, each of which involves the cross-fertilization of musical and visual resources. “Immersion” is based on an interactive audio/visual installation created by Ainsley Wagoner and Jordan Presnick, which combines field recordings from open spaces in Northern California with the sounds of analog synthesizers. “Turntable Drawing No. 13” is an immersive sound installation created by composer Danny Clay working with printmaker Jon Fischer. It involves interactive turntable stations, which visitors are free to manipulate. Finally, there will be a screening of the eighth and ninth “chapters” of the full-length 18 Films About Ted Serios by Jim Haynes, which explores Haynes’ innovative approaches to combining image and sound.

The Gray Area Art And Technology Theater is located in the Mission at 2665 Mission Street. Admission is $15 at the door. Tickets purchased in advance are only $13 if bought on the day of the show or $8 if purchased through March 23. Doors open at 8 p.m., and a cash bar will be available for those aged 21 or older. Eventbrite has created an event page for advance purchase of tickets.

The Jupiter Chamber Players Continue to Explore Unfamiliar Russian Repertoire

Since taking over the leadership of the Jupiter Chamber Players in 2002, Victor Romasevich has led his string quartet colleagues, Michael Jones (violin), Stephen Levintow (viola), and Paul Rhodes (cello), on some fascinating journeys of repertoire discovery. A major path along that journey has involved the music of Iosif Andriasov, with whom Romasevich studied both violin and viola. Past Jupiter concerts have programmed a generous share of Andriasov’s compositions, as well as music by his son Arshak.

Yesterday afternoon Jupiter returned to the Old First Concerts series at Old First Church. The elder Andriasov was again included in the program, but this time the historical perspective addressed the opposite direction. Rather than considering the relationship between father and son, the program offered music by Evgeny Golubev, who taught the elder Andriasov between 1958 and 1963. (Alfred Schnittke studied with Golubev between 1953 and 1958.) Golubev’s music filled the second half of the program with a performance of his Opus 39 quintet for harp and string quartet in C minor. The string quartet was joined by Olga Ortenberg Rakitchenkov, harpist in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. (Golubev’s Wikipedia page describes this piece as “one of Golubev’s few works that are still occasionally performed.”)

It is understandable that Opus 39 is only “occasionally” performed. Bringing a capable harpist together with a string quartet interested in new repertoire is not always an easy matter, particularly when than “new” repertoire is over half a century old. However, yesterday’s performance made a strong case that this is music that deserves more attention. The quintet was composed in 1953, the year in which Joseph Stalin (as well as Sergei Prokofiev) died. As is well known, composers did not fare well under Stalin’s tyrannical rule; but his death led to a period of leadership uncertainty, which did not make things much better.

It is thus surprising how freshly optimistic Opus 39 is, even with its minor key signature. From a technical point of view, the piece is particularly notable for how perceptive Golubev was in writing for the harp and in finding ways to balance it against the string quartet. The result provides an opportunity to appreciate the extensive breadth of possibilities for virtuosity coming from the harp, all of which blend in with the strings with impeccable balance. There is even a delightfully amusing exchange in which each quartet voice plucks out its own pizzicato motif, returning to bowing only after the harp makes its “Me, too!” entrance.

Andriasov himself was represented with only three short pieces for cello and piano, for which Romasevich shifted from violin to piano to accompany Rhodes. Each involved a composition from a different time in Andriasov’s life, rearranged for cello and piano. The earliest of these (1955) was written for flute and piano, and second (1970) was for oboe and chamber orchestra, and the third (1981) was for mixed a cappella choir. Each of these had its own characteristic approach to melodic line, which made the transition to cello and piano a relatively smooth one. However, compared to Andriasov’s other work, these were vignettes, perhaps out of recognition that Golubev was the focus of the afternoon.

The program began with two more familiar composers. The first of these was a serenade for two violins and viola composed by Zoltán Kodály (his Opus 12) between 1919 and 1920. This was written after Kodály’s ethnomusicological field work, much of which was conducted with Béla Bartók; and one is readily aware of the field sources, particularly in the energetic concluding Vivo movement. Romasevich, Levintow, and Rhodes then performed the third (in C minor) of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 9 string trios. This was a capable enough reading; but it tended not to dwell on many of the witty turns through which Beethoven was clearly trying to one-up his former teacher Joseph Haydn. However, even in the presence of these more familiar composers, it was the discovery of Golubev’s quintet that made yesterday afternoon’s journey so worth the while.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Intriguing Alternatives in Early April

April may have been the cruelest month for T. S. Eliot, but this year it will get off to a promising start for those who take their listening seriously. Thus far, three concerts have already been announced for the evening of Saturday, April 8, each with a unique and diverse approach to repertoire. Because these events overlap, the only way to facilitate making choices will be to weigh the specifics of each against the others. The alternatives are as follows:

7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre: This will be the final concert in the 2016–2017 Guitar Series presented by San Francisco Performances in partnership with the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts. The recitalist will be the Chinese classical guitar virtuoso Xuefei Yang. Her program will begin in the eighteenth century with Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 995 lute suite in G minor. This will be followed by Niccolò Paganini’s “grand” solo guitar sonata in A major. She will then conclude the first half playing her own arrangements of Xu Changjun’s “Sword Dance.” Xu wrote this piece of liuqin, a four-stringed Chinese mandolin, in the Seventies, when he was still a student at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. The second half of the program will be devoted entirely to music from Brazil with selections by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Dilermando Reis, and Anibal Garoto.

Herbst Theatre is located on the ground floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Single tickets are being sold for $55, $45, and $35. They may be purchased in advance through a City Box Office event page.

7:30 p.m., Noe Valley Ministry: Pablo Picasso completed his monumental Guernica painting in June of 1937. He created it in response to the bombing of the Basque village of the same name by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes to provide support for Francisco Franco’s Nationalists. Ensemble for These Times (E4TT) will recognize the 80th anniversary of the completion of this major work of modern art with the world premiere of a work by Jeffrey Hoover commissioned to honor the occasion.

Hoover’s “Guernica” is in four movements scored for soprano, violin, cello, and piano, with the soprano singing in six languages: Basque, Spanish, German, Latin, Italian, and English. The program will also include Hoover’s “Burning Giraffe,” Derek Bermel’s “Death With Interruptions,” and songs by Spanish composers Mario Carro and Mercedes Zavala, written in response to the E4TT 2016 Call for Scores. The E4TT performers are soprano Nanette McGuinness, pianist Dale Tsang, season guest cellist Anne Lerner-Wright, and guest violinist Dawn Harms. The event will also include an introductory talk by Hoover, traditional Basque dance performed by the Zazpiak Bat Dance Group, and projection of historical images provided by the Museo de la Paz.

The Noe Valley Ministry is located in Noe Valley at 1021 Sanchez Street. General admission will be $30 with a $20 charge for students. However, there is an Early Bird rate for tickets purchased up to and including April 5. The Early Bird rate for general admission is $25, and the student rate is $15. Tickets at both rates may be purchased in advance online from an Eventbrite event page.

8 p.m., Center for New Music (C4NM): In Sea will be a chamber music recital that explores the mysteries of the ocean through musical interpretations of tides, waves, and the voices of marine mammals. The performing ensemble consists of pianists Rachel Kim and Anne Rainwater, flutist Sasha Launer, violinist Agnieszka Peszko, and cellist Natalie Raney. The “tidal” composition will be Toru Takemitsu’s 1993 piano trio, which he titled “Between Tides.” Waves are captured in Kaija Saariaho’s “Prés,” which is the French preposition that translates as “near” or “beside.” Saariaho was apparently inspired by Paul Gaugin’s two paintings of the sea viewed from the edge of the land. (He did not use the prés preposition, however, calling both painting’s Bord de mer.) This entails an experience of the play of waves from a distance. Saariaho scored this piece for cello and electronics, with the cellist also controlling the electronic gear. The remaining work on the program will be George Crumb’s “Vox Balaenae” (voice of the whale), scored for piano, flute, and cello with amplification.

C4NM is located at 55 Taylor Street, about half a block north of where Golden Gate Avenue meets Market Street. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for C4NM members. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a Vendini event page.

Voices of Music Presents a Delightful Return to Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”

A little over five years ago, Voices of Music gave one of the most memorable concerts I had encountered since I began following them as part of my writing for Examiner.com. The principal work on the program was Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s setting of the “Stabat Mater Dolorosa” hymn, commissioned in Naples for a Good Friday meditation in honor of the Virgin Mary in 1736. Last night at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, in this year marking Voices of Music’s tenth anniversary, the group revisited this Pergolesi composition, demonstrating that lightning can strike twice in the same place.

Mezzo Meg Bragle returned for the occasion, joined this time by soprano Stefanie True. The string section was only slightly larger. In the cello “section” William Skeen returned, this time playing alongside Elisabeth Reed, while Lisa Grodin was again the only violist. Kati Kyme and Maxine Nemerovski returned to the violin section, playing this time with Cynthia Miller Freivogel, Carla Moore, and Gabrielle Wunsch. Continuo was again provided by Farley Pearce on violone and David Tayler on archlute with Hanneke van Proosdij on organ; however Katherine Heater was also on hand to add harpsichord to the continuo section.

Setting this hymn text is no mean feat. Five years ago I described the words as “a monument to pietistic tedium.” Much of that impression comes from the trochaic tetrameter rhythm, which may have been intentionally unrelenting to remind the listener of the nails being driven into the Cross. (Trochaic tetrameter seems to have a special place in Roman Catholic ritual, since it is also the rhythm of the “Dies Irae” hymn included in the Requiem celebration. Here in the United States it is the rhythmic pattern for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, whose steady Ojibwe drum beats are a far cry from the nails of the Cross!) The AABCCB rhyme scheme is similarly persistent unto an extreme.

Fortunately, Pergolesi was probably selected for the task due to his popularity as an opera composer, and those talents prevailed in the music he composed for the clerical authorities. Where the text pounds away so oppressively, Pergolesi’s music soars on wings held aloft by an almost steady breeze of suspensions. The resulting overlaps of both voices and instruments are stunningly transcendent, suggesting that Pergolesi may have wanted the congregation to dwell less on the agonies on Earth in favor of the blissful rewards in Heaven. There are even sections in which he pretty much disregards what the words are actually saying in favor of some downright cheerful solo and duo work. This is not to suggest that Pergolesi was intentionally defying the solemnity of the occasion, but he seemed to believe that a hopeful congregation could be more faithful than a grieving one.

Voices of Music had no trouble conveying Pergolesi’s rhetorical stance. Indeed, both the vocal and the instrumental work frequently recalled the sorts of tropes that Pergolesi had favored in his opera composition work. Several of those tropes would show up again in the twentieth century when Igor Stravinsky’s appropriated Pergolesi sources (or at least what he thought were Pergolesi sources) when preparing a score for Léonide Massine’s “Pulcinella” ballet. There was also an almost sparkling quality to the vocal execution of both True and Bragle, not only in their solo work but also in the intimate overlapping passages of many of the duo selections. In 2012 Voices of Music’s account of Pergolesi was recognized in December as the most memorable concert of March; and this month’s “return visit” is likely to be in the running during this year’s December review.

The first half of the program was devoted to the “usual suspects” of the Baroque repertoire. True and Bragle gave an “overture” duo performance with the aria “Notte Cara” (dear night), from George Frideric Handel’s HWV 15 opera Ottone. This was preceded by True singing “Angels ever bright and fair” from Handel’s HWV 68 oratorio Theodora.

Bragle’s solo followed “Notte Cara” with one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most memorable compositions for mezzo, the “Agnus Dei” section from the BWV 232 B minor Mass setting. This was a delightful reminder of how much of BWV 232 is based in chamber music. There are only three voices in the score, the vocal line, violins in unison, and the bass line. Presented in last night’s intimate setting, one could appreciate the intensely personal side of Bach’s approach to faith, an absorbing rhetorical stance to consider before turning to Pergolesi’s approach.

The instrumental “overture” for last night’s program fell to Antonio Vivaldi. This was the “Summer” concerto from The Four Seasons, the first four concertos published in Vivaldi’s Opus 8 collection of twelve, Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (the contest between harmony and invention). Freivogel was the soloist, performing with stunning virtuosic intensity.

However, I took the trouble to give the overall collection title because the attentive listener could appreciate just how much inventiveness in both thematic and rhetorical content Vivaldi could evoke as a musical interpretation of the descriptive text of the concerto’s accompanying sonnet. Nevertheless, all of that inventiveness could be expressed within the grammatical constraints of familiar harmonic progressions. This was a performance of familiar music that reminded the listener of why Vivaldi chose to write that music in the first place.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Program Change for Next Month’s Morrison Artist Series Recital

The sixth concert in the annual Morrison Artists Series, presented by the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University (SFSU), was originally planned for the San Francisco debut of the Van Kuijk Quartet, currently on the BBC New Generation Artists roster. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this month, Richard Festinger, Artistic Director of the series, was informed that this string quartet had cancelled their Spring 2017 tour of the United States. Fortunately, Festinger has found an ensemble to fill in for that date; and he did not have to look any further than San Francisco itself.

Next month’s Morrison recital will now present the Delphi Trio, whose members are violinist Liana Bérubé, cellist Michelle Kwon, and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. They formed their group while they were studying together in the Chamber Music Program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. They have performed at a variety of major venues in San Francisco, including a residency in the Old First Concerts series at Old First Church. For their performances they have developed a repertoire that balances recent (including commissioned) compositions with more familiar selections from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The program for next month has been organized around one of those commissions, William Bolcom’s first substantial piano trio, which he wrote for Delphi in 2014. This significant contribution to 21st-century chamber music will be coupled with Toru Takemitsu’s “Between Tides,” a piano trio that he composed in 1993. These two recent works will be framed by more traditional offerings. The program will begin with the second of Ludwig van Beethoven’s three Opus 1 piano trios, one of the composer’s earliest efforts supported by Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky, at whose house all three trios were first performed in 1793. The concluding selection will be Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 49 trio in D minor.

This concert will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 7, in the McKenna Theatre in the Creative Arts Building at SFSU, a short walk from the SFSU Muni stop at the corner of 19th Avenue and Holloway Avenue. Tickets are free but advance registration is highly desirable. Reservations may be made through the event page for this concert. As usual, Festinger will give a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.; and the four musicians will give a collective Master Class at 2 p.m. on the day of the concert. This two-hour session will take place in Knuth Hall, also in the Creative Arts Building, and will be open to the general public at no charge and with no requirements for tickets.

Jonathan Biss Concludes his “Late Style” Series with Intense Schubert

Last night in Herbst Theatre pianist Jonathan Biss presented the fourth and final concert in his Late Style series of recitals for the 2016–2017 season of San Francisco Performances (SFP). Like the first concert in the series, the program was devoted to a single composer, this time Franz Schubert. In the verbal introductions that he prepares for his Faculty Artist Series recitals at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Paul Hersh frequently cites how prodigiously creative Schubert was during the last twelve months of his life; and he has even conducted entire seminars focused exclusively on that final year.

In that context two pieces might seem like too modest a sampling to be representative of Schubert’s “late style;” but that last year was also one in which he ventured into working with longer and longer durations for a single composition. As a result, Biss could prepare a program with only one composition on either side of the intermission to present his perspective on Schubert in this series of concerts. The first half was devoted to the D. 959 piano sonata in A major, one of three pieces of prodigious duration, all of which were composed in what must have been an almost death-defying frenzy of activity during the single month of September in 1928. (Schubert died that year on November 19.) For the second half Biss was joined by tenor Mark Padmore for a performance of the D. 957 collection of fourteen songs on texts by three different poets, which was not published until about half a year after Schubert’s death, given the title Schwanengesang (swan song) by publisher Tobias Haslinger. This may have been a modest sample of Schubert’s productivity, but it definitely made the case that he was outdoing himself not only during the final year of his life but also in the last few months of that year.

In that context Biss took a highly subjective approach to interpreting D.959 with powerfully chilling results. To explain that approach, I would like to begin by reflecting on a memorable Schubert performance from my more distant past. Back in 1983 I heard Vladimir Ashkenazy play the D. 760 (“Wanderer”) fantasia in C major. I came away thinking that this was a score that took the listener to the brink of madness and found it somewhat reassuring that Ashkenazy never went over that brink. Last night Biss appeared to take the stance that September of 1828 was a far more desperate time for Schubert; and that “frenzy of activity” may have been a product of his hearing the whispers of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Erlking in his own ear. As a result Biss fearlessly chose to cross that brink that Ashkenazy had judiciously avoided.

The price for that bold move was an execution whose technical precision was not always right on the mark. However, Biss’ decision to prioritize rhetorical extremes over disciplined dexterity did much to clarify the transitional nature of D. 959. After all, Schubert’s logical successor in this domain was Robert Schumann, much of whose most powerful musical effects were products of his own bipolar mental condition. (Those who have attended SFP events for some time probably recall that Biss’ last project for SFP was based on Schumann’s music.) D. 959 goes a long way towards preparing the listener for the even more radical shifts between extremes that are encountered in Schumann’s music, particularly for solo piano.

It is worth noting, however, that if abandon was the operative concept in Biss’ interpretation of D. 959, one could still sense the presence of some overseeing control. Biss clearly knew that the full duration of this 40-minute sonata could not be simply a matter of one shock after another. Consistent with the wisdom of Pierre Boulez, he knew how to prioritize his climaxes, making sure that there was only one “highest peak” in each movement. He also knew how to pace the energy level so as not to wear down listener attention. After all, the “punch line” of this sonata is that we end up exactly where we started; and Biss knew exactly how to make sure that the attentive listener got the point.

In introducing D. 957, Padmore made it a point to explain that Schwanengesang was not Schubert’s own title. He then suggested that the German noun “Sehnsucht” might serve as a title because of the unifying theme it establishes. (Whether Schubert collected those fourteen texts with such a theme in mind is anyone’s guess.) Henry-Louis de La Grange made much of this noun in his magisterial biography of Gustav Mahler, dwelling on the difficulty of providing a satisfactory English translation. Richard Wigmore’s English translations of the song texts tended to opt for “longing.” The word actually has its own Wikipedia page, which explains its compound nature. “Sehnen” is the more direct German noun for longing; but the suffix is derived from another German noun, “Siechtum,” which is a lingering illness.

“Sehnsucht” thus captures a sense of longing in which all is not quite right; and, in many ways, that is the prevailing mood of the D. 957 songs. For this performance technical precision was much more in order, particularly since such a complex emotional disposition required a firm communicative bond between vocalist and pianist. That bond was established in the very opening measures of the first song, in which a murmuring brook delivers a message of love; and it was sustained through the coda of the final song, in which “Sehnsucht” provides the final mood, even if it is not the final word.

Nevertheless, there remains the question of whether there is some overall plan to these fourteen songs or whether each offers its own perspective on a shared concept. Padmore tended to opt for the latter, dealing with each song as an event unto itself, rather than as a stage along a longer-range journey. Thus, in contrast to Biss’ solo performance, D. 957 emerged as a series of songs, many of which rose to pretty much the same level of intense climax. Now, to be fair, Padmore can be positively bone-chilling when he delivers such a climax; but after a while the listener was inclined to worry more about whether his strength would sustain, rather than whether all those climaxes had to be so similar in intensity.

In any event both selections on the program definitely made a case for the significance of the concept of “late style” in Schubert’s compositional output; and the presentation of both of those selections definitely sealed the deal while also providing an effective “sense of an ending” to the full scope of Biss’ project.

Friday, March 17, 2017

SFS to Give a Benefit Concert for the Bay Area LGBTQ Community

Next month the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), led by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, will be making its next East Coast tour. That tour was to have included two concerts in North Carolina. However, as was reported last December, these plans were made before the North Carolina state legislature passed into law a bill informally known as “HB2,” whose full title is “An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations.” This has come to be known more casually as the “bathroom bill,” since it dictates that the use of such facilities is determined by birth certificate, rather than any more personal sense of gender identity.

Reaction outside of the state of North Carolina was heavily negative and included the National Basketball Association pulling the 2017 All-Star Game out of the city of Charlotte. This past December is when SFS officially decided to join the protest by cancelling the two performances scheduled to begin the tour at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. This means that SFS will be able to push back the date of its departure from San Francisco; and it will use the available time to present Symphony Pride, a benefit concert in support of the Bay Area LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) community.

The program has been prepared to acknowledge the impact of LGBTQ composers both on the Broadway stage and in the concert hall. Audra McDonald will appear as guest artist singing show tunes by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, John Kander (working with lyricist Fred Ebb), and others. McDonald will also serve as narrator in a performance of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.” Other composers whose works will be performed will be Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Meredith Monk, and John Cage. The program will conclude with the concluding movement of Gustav Mahler’s first symphony, which was scheduled to be performed in its entirety at one of the Chapel Hill concerts.

This concert will take place on Tuesday, April 4, beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are available in the Second Tier for $25, and a few seats are still available in the Orchestra for $50. They may be purchased online through the event page for this program on the SFS Web site, by calling 415-864-6000, or by visiting the Box Office in Davies Symphony Hall, whose entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Google Responds with Half a Loaf

Readers may recall Tuesday's post documenting an account in which a post to an anti-Semitic blog received a page rank second only to a Wikipedia article. According to an article by Barbara Ortutay in the Business Report section of this mornings San Francisco Chronicle, Google plans to do something about this. They will deploy a new process under which those reviewing search results will see a flag classifying the article as "upsetting-offensive." Such a flag will also be taken into account in recalculating the ranking of the article.

It would appear that Google has also recognized that such flagging cannot, at least at present, be automated. So the search for articles that need to be flagged will be assigned to human being known as "quality raters." Admirable as this may be, all quality raters will be contractors. In other words Google does not see the work they do as significant enough to assign it to full-time staff. Mind you, we all know about how contractors have become "the new labor force;" but were quality of results is concerned, one would have thought that this would have been a core priority. If it does not, then just what is important to Google these days?

Valčuha and Shaham Make for a Dynamic Duo this Week at Davies

This week’s San Francisco Symphony (SFS) subscription concerts at Davies Symphony Hall bring together two welcome visitors, both of whom have consistently offered imaginative and attentive repertoire selections. The conductor was Slovak Juraj Valčuha, making his fourth visit to the SFS podium; and his concerto soloist was violinist Gil Shaham. The concerto selection reflected his current 1930s Violin Concertos recording project on his Canary label. This was Samuel Barber’s Opus 14 concerto, which happens to be the first composition on the first of the two CDs in the first release in Shaham’s series. (This raises a quibble with the program book: On the page of recommended recordings and readings, why list Shaham’s earlier Deutsche Grammophon album when he clearly had much greater, not to mention informed, creative control over the more recent one?)

For the sake of historical accuracy, Barber completed his only violin concerto in July of 1940; but he began it about twelve months earlier. However, the liner notes for the Canary album suggest that Shaham was interested in the diversity of creativity that took place in the period between the stock market crash of 1929 and the emergence of the Second World War. This was an “age of anxiety,” even if W. H. Auden coined that phrase for conditions following the conclusion of that same war.

Thus, Shaham may have given Barber’s concerto the “pole position” in his recording project because, in many respects, it was emblematic of those anxious times. The music is consistently (and unabashedly) lyrical; but it is a lyricism of melancholy. That melancholy emerges through the sharper edges of many of the virtuoso solo passages, but it also arises through the sharp contrasts in many of Barber’s instrumentation decisions and his characteristically personal approach to dissonance.

Because the concerto is as much about the ensemble as it is about the soloist, the success of last night’s performance owed much to the chemistry between Shaham and Valčuha. This was particularly apparent in Shaham’s face (since he was the one facing the audience), which revealed that he was just as absorbed in Valčuha’s expressive interpretation of the orchestral passages as he was engaged in his own solo work. Shaham did not conceal that he was having a very good time; but his pleasure took in the entire experience of the concerto, rather than just his contribution to it. The overall result was a convincing case for a prominent position for this concerto in the twentieth-century canon.

The audience clearly accepted that case with enthusiastic gusto. Shaham is one of those frequent visitors whom they refuse to let leave until he as offered an encore. That encore was the Gavotte en Rondeau movement from Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1006 solo violin partita in E major. This was clearly one of Shaham’s favorite movements from the full set of Bach’s solo violin works. He had played the partita in its entirety when he was a Great Performers Series soloist at Davies in February of 2013, and it is clear that he never tires of BWV 1006 and the Gavotte movement in particular. He always comes up with little twists to make each return of the rondo theme feel like a fresh experience, and last night was no exception.

For the second half of the program, Valčuha could not have selected a more familiar offering, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 92 (seventh) symphony in A major, last performed by SFS under Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas in January of 2014. However, this was definitely a performance to tweak the imaginations of those who thought they knew all there was to know about this symphony. Without short-changing any of the expressive rhetoric in this music, Valčuha presented it as an elegantly intricate piece of clockwork, pointing out subtle little gears and linkages that could easily have escaped even the most attentive of previous listening experiences. The result was a stimulating reminder that even our most favored listening selections can always benefit from new points of view that provide us with new memories to cherish, rather than compromising the old ones.

Valčuha also made a bold move in beginning his program with Franz Schreker’s 1916 chamber symphony. To the extent that Schreker is known, it would be for his operas; and orchestral selections from those operas have been pretty much the only sources for his past presence in Davies. Indeed, last night’s performance of the chamber symphony was the first one ever given by SFS. Schreker is also known for his connections to two better-known composers from the early twentieth century, Alexander von Zemlinsky and Zemlinsky’s brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg. As a conductor, Schreker was responsible for the premiere of Schoenberg’s mammoth Gurre-Lieder.

Schreker seems to have approached his chamber symphony as an opportunity to work with more limited resources. However, his instrumentation reflected that he was as interested in rich sonorities on this smaller scale as he was in his opera scores. The work requires 23 performers. These include one-to-a-part players on four violins, two violas, three cellos, and two basses, separate keyboard players for celeste, harmonium, and piano, and a single player for percussion and timpani (divided between two performers last night). The remaining parts are for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, and harp.

The music itself is rich in harmonic ambiguity; but the thematic material is consistently well-defined. It does not take much for the listener to become aware of the episodic nature of the movement through the clarity of its transitional passages. Nevertheless, the instrumentation is a challenging one; and it seemed as if Valčuha was still coming to terms with the best way to balance instruments whose respective dynamic ranges varied so extensively. (Keisuke Nakagoshi’s harmonium contributions were more visible than audible, even though he was using an electric keyboard.)

It is worth speculating whether Schreker may have been influenced by Schoenberg’s Opus 9 chamber symphony, which was first performed in Vienna on February 8, 1907. Schoenberg seems to have established a better command of balance with his fifteen-instrument assembly of a string quartet and a wind ensemble. On the other hand Schoenberg’s thematic language is ambiguous almost to a point of obscurity. Schreker’s compositional structure may have provided a better way to deal with such an assemblage of resources; and, if nothing else, his efforts tend to be more accessible to sympathetic listeners. Still, it would probably be interesting to put the two pieces on the same program to see how they would reflect off of each other.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Lab: March, 2017

Four events involving adventurous approaches to the creation and performance of music will be taking place at The Lab between now and the end of the month. The first of them will take place this coming Friday, making for an overlap with “coming attractions” announced not only in an article trying to summarize just how busy this weekend will be but also in this week’s Bleeding Edge installment. Nevertheless, The Lab is definitely a venue for those who prefer to get away from the beaten path; and that criterion means that it deserves the same focused attention that is usually given to the Center for New Music.

For those unfamiliar with the venue, the performing space is located in the Mission at 2948 16th Street. This is a short walk from the corner of Mission Street. This is particularly good for those using public transportation, since that corner provides bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel as well as a BART station.

The Lab is currently in the midst of a membership drive and has a Web page that summarizes the benefits of different levels of membership, which include reduced price (sometimes free) admission to all events. These events tend to attract a large turnout, so early arrival is almost always highly recommended. Advance registration is also recommended, but the names of members will always be on the list of those registered at the door. With all that as introduction, here are the four events coming up this month that are likely to be of interest:

Friday, March 17, 8 p.m.: British Artist (and winner of the Turner Prize) Martin Creed will be visiting to present a program entitled Words and Music. He has been producing musical compositions alongside his visual work ever since his graduation from the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1990. The song “I Can’t Move,” from his album Love to You, was used in the television series Weeds and was included on the album of music from that series. Performances of Creed’s songs are often accompanied by his own films and videos. This event is being co-presented with Kadist, and the artist will be donating his fee to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Admission will be $15 with no charge for members of The Lab. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. Members may wish to login, and for others there is a Web page for advance registration.

Wednesday, March 22, 9 p.m.: John Chantler is currently based in Stockholm. He works primarily with synthesizers and other forms of electronic gear. He has developed his own personal approach that involves both composition and strategies for improvisation. While he applies this approach primarily to the electronic domain, he has also worked with pipe organs. This would make him a successor to David Tudor in spirit, if not in practice.

Admission will be $25 with no charge for members of The Lab. Doors will open at 8:30 p.m. Members may wish to login, and for others there is a Web page for advance registration.

Sunday, March 26, 9 p.m.: Arnold Dreyblatt was born in New York City in 1953 but has been based in Berlin since 1984. His music teachers were Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, and Alvin Lucier. He began composing in the late 1970s, making him a “second generation” minimalist, following the “first generation” of Young, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass (who prefers to avoid being called a minimalist). (For the record I have considered that the “zeroth generation” of minimalism was established by Anton Bruckner!) Dreyblatt has worked with ensembles he has arranged and organized under the title “The Orchestra of Excited Strings,” with which he has explored alternative approaches to both performance and tuning.

Admission will be $25 with a $15 charge for members of The Lab. Doors will open at 8:30 p.m. Members may wish to login, and for others there is a Web page for advance registration.

Wednesday, March 29, 10 p.m.: The month will conclude with a visit from Australia-based Lawrence English. English is both composer and media artist. His work covers an eclectic array of aesthetic investigations with research interests in field effects, perception, and memory. Through live performance and installations he creates works that ponder subtle transformations of space and ask audiences to become aware of that which exists at the edge of perception.

Admission will be $25 with a $15 charge for members of The Lab. Doors will open at 9:30 p.m. Members may wish to login, and for others there is a Web page for advance registration.