Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The 2016–17 Concert Season for American Bach Soloists

Next month the 28th season of American Bach Soloists (ABS) will officially get under way with its annual performances of George Frideric Handel’s HWV 56 oratorio Messiah in Grace Cathedral. This will be followed in 2017 by the annual series of three concerts, whose San Francisco performances will take place on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Single tickets for all performances are now on sale, along with subscriptions for the 2017 concerts.

Next month’s Messiah performances will mark the ABS debut of contralto Emily Marvosh. She will be joined by soprano Hélène Brunet, tenor Derek Chester, and baritone Mischa Bouvier. Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas will conduct the leading period-instrumentalists of the ABS ensemble, joined by the historically informed singers of the American Bach Choir. All performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14. Thursday, December 15, and Friday, December 16, respectively. Grace Cathedral is located at the top of Nob Hill at 1100 California Street, between Taylor Street and Jones Street. Dates and program content for the 2017 concerts in San Francisco are as follows:

February 12, A Weekend in Paris: This program will feature five masters of the French Baroque through selections that are both sacred and secular, as well as both instrumental and vocal. All of the music comes from the eighteenth century, meaning that it represents the generation of composers that followed the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully, who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV. The program will present two of Lully’s students, Marin Marais with an instrumental suite from his 1709 opera Sémélé and Jean-Féry Rebel with a ballet suite entitled Les caractères de la danse.

The sacred music selections will present two composers who advanced the “state of the art” of the grand (i.e. multiple-movement) motet. This genre constituted Lully’s major contribution to music at the royal chapel; and one of the grand motets by Jean-Joseph de Mondonville won him the post of Maître de musique de la Chapelle. Mondonville composed only seventeen of these motets between 1734 and 1755, but only nine of them have survived. The program will include the last of the surviving motets, In Exitu Israel (when Israel left Egypt). The other sacred selection will be Michel Corrette’s Laudate Dominum (praise the Lord), whose music will be familiar to most of the audience, since it involved repurposing the “Spring” concerto from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons cycle of violin concerts. The American Bach Choir will be joined by haute-contre Steven Brennfleck, making his ABS debut, along with soprano Nola Richardson and baritone William Sharp. The program will then conclude with an instrumental suite of dances from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Dardanus.

April 2, Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus: This program will be devoted entirely to the American Bach Choir divided into two interacting SATB choirs. The selections will include four of the “standard” compositions classified as motets in Wolfgang Schmieder’s catalog of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (sing to the Lord a new song, BWV 225), Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (the Spirit helps us in our weakness, BWV 226), Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir (fear not, for I am with you, BWV 228), and Komm, Jesu, komm (come, Jesus, come, BWV 229). The program will also include the three-movement pasticcio motet that includes music by both Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt (praise the Lord in all lands). This piece holds the distinction of being listed in both the Telemann catalog and Schmieder’s catalog. In the latter case the piece is in the third appendix, listed as BWV Anh. 160, while the TWV number is 8:10. Other selections have not yet been announced.

May 7, Handel’s La Resurrezione: The program for Easter will consist entirely of Handel’s HWV 47 oratorio, La resurrezione (the resurrection). This is a narrative oratorio in which all soloists assume the roles of characters in the liturgical drama being presented. Mezzo Meg Bragle will make her ABS debut singing the role of Mary of Ciopas. Richardson will return to sing the role of Mary Magdalene. The Angel at the tomb will be sung by soprano Mary Wilson, tenor Guy Cutting will take the role of John the Evangelist, and baritone Jesse Blumberg will sing the part of Lucifer. Once again the American Bach Choir will join ABS, all under the baton of Thomas.

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street.

There are a variety of options for purchasing tickets, all of which are available online through a single Tickets Web page on the ABS Web site. Subscriptions to the three 2017 concerts are being sold for $217, $164, and $84. Single tickets are $85, $64, and $33. In the past there have been subscription offers that included Messiah. This time all ticket purchases are collected in a single Shopping Cart, so Messiah tickets must be added to the Cart along with any other purchases. Because Grace Cathedral is a much larger space, there are four, rather than three, prices for tickets: $118, $95, $68, and $35.

End-of-Term Chamber Music Thrives at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

The end of each term at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) always provides a wide variety of public recital opportunities. This is when the efforts of the past several months have culminated in an opportunity to present the result to an audience. This may make for an ideal friends-and-family occasion; but the real test comes with the performers confronting perfect strangers.

The two most reliable ways to learn about these concerts are to check out the bulletin-board-style array of programs posted on the wall immediately to the right of the entrance to the SFCM building or to check out the Events Calendar Web page on the SFCM Web site. However, with the rise of social software, many students are engaging in their first exercises in self-promotion, testing the potential for audience-building through social networks. As a result, I became aware of last night’s Graduate Chamber Music Recital by pianist Xin Zhao through her posting the event on Facebook. More specifically, I decided to attend the recital because Friends (capitals for the technical term) in my own social network had posted their own plans to be there. As a result, Zhao had to contend with at least one of those “perfect strangers” in the audience.

The program consisted of a straightforward coupling of a piano sonata with a piano trio, the two separated by an intermission. This made for a relatively short evening, but it was hardly short on content. The sonata was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 57 (“Appassionata”) in F minor; and the trio was Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 49 in D minor. Both of these imposed major demands on the pianist, and it was interesting to track the progress of Zhao and her colleagues in rising to those demands.

The trio was, of course, the major chamber music event, since it involved the interplay of the performers beyond their individual technical capabilities. Zhao’s fellow performers for Opus 49 were violinist Shelby Yamin and cellist Saul Richmond-Rakerd. It is unclear whether this was their first effort in playing together as a group, but they definitely exhibited signs of a new ensemble in the making.

Those who know Opus 49 are well aware of the abundance of keyboard virtuosity that Mendelssohn put into his score. However, Zhao approached her part in terms of a conversation among equals. Her dynamics were always excellently matched to the levels of the violin and cello, meaning that no voice ever had to struggle to be heard. Nevertheless, she brought a calm energy to the act of jumping through each of the hoops that Mendelssohn had presented her. The result was a highly pleasing account of a score whose rhetoric is basically affable, regardless of any of the darker connotations of the key of D minor.

On the other hand “affable” is hardly an appropriate adjective for Beethoven’s Opus 57. Indeed, this music is, for all intents and purposes, notorious for the level of technical demands that it imposes. Since every pianist is determined to confront those demands, the piece gets so much exposure that is has built up audience expectations that involve jumping through those hoops and little else. This is the sort of piece that shows up regularly on competition programs, and it often seems as if it has provided competition judges with an ideal checklist against which competitors’ performances may be compared.

Of course the music is not all about the checklist. The music, itself, emerges through the ability of the soloist to bring a personal expressive stamp to all those marks Beethoven first committed to paper. Nevertheless, there are disconcertingly too many concert recitals at which pianists, even if they progressed beyond competitions years ago, are still playing to those judges, so to speak. Finding that music in Opus 57 is no easy matter; and I can probably count the number of personally satisfying concert experiences on one hand (and will not name any names).

From that point of view, last night’s performance came off, for the most part, as one for the Ghost of Competitions Yet to Come. Zhao’s technical understanding of Opus 57 is definitely impressive, even if not all of her ducks are quite in a row yet. However, that sense of the-music-itself never quite registered; and that shortcoming is not the sort of concept that can be explained by opening the score and pointing out specific passages. One might say that this was a performance in which the flesh was up to the task, but the spirit had yet to establish itself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

SFCM to Give a Benefit Concert for Project Homeless Connect

The current semester at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) was organized around an integrating “long theme” concerning relationships between music and both politics and social justice. From an outsider’s point of view, this theme was most evident when the New Music Ensemble prepared a concert that was performed on the Friday before Election Day (November 4). The program for that concert presented two generations of politically-aware modernism. The current generation was represented by Ted Hearne with a performance of his Katrina Ballads cantata, setting source texts involving Hurricane Katrina and the social catastrophe it wrought. The previous generation’s catastrophe involved the 1971 riots at the Attica State Prison in New York. Frederick Rzewski’s “Coming Together” provided music for the narration of a text by one of the Attica inmates. To underscore the social injustices leading up to those riots, the New Music Ensemble invited local political activist Angela Davis to narrate the text at their performance.

As this semester draws to a close, this “long theme” will once again be given a “public face.” Members of the SFCM community have “come together” (reflecting on Rzewski’s composition) to create eight pieces. These will all be performed as the program of a benefit concert for Project Homeless Connect. Seven of those eight works will be given their respective world premieres. However, the primary purpose of the concert will be to encourage donations to Project Homeless Connect. These will be accepted at the door; but they can also be made both before and after the concert, until December 26, through an Eventbrite event page. SFCM participants in this concert will be (in alphabetical order) Moya Aldridge, Zak Argabrite, Loryn Barbeau, Maryclare Brzytwa, Costantinos Dafnis, Daniel De Togni, Jonah Gallagher, Anna Heflin, Jasmine Johnson, Molly Monahan, Helen Newby, Samuel Ostroff, Rachael Swanson, and Christopher Whitley.

The performance will begin at 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 11, at SFCM. It is expected to last about 90 minutes. (This is not listed on the SFCM Calendar; and, on the basis of what is on that Calendar, the venue will probably be the Osher Salon.) SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Bleeding Edge: 11/28/2016

Activities are picking up again. This will be a “transitional” week at the Center for New Music (C4NM), concluding the events for the month of November and beginning those for the month of December. It will also be the next “double header” week from Outsound Presents with concerts in both the Luggage Store Creative (LSC) Music series and the Static Illusion Methodical Madness (SIMM) Series. Neither of these gigs will involve any conflict of interest, but several of the C4NM dates will be facing competition. Here are the specifics:

Wednesday, November 30, 7 p.m., Adobe Books: This will be the next event in Adobe’s monthly music series. This will be a three-set program beginning with the Key West group of strings, “brassy” horns, and an abundance of percussion, all led by Brian Pedersen. They will be followed by the duo of Kanoko Nishi-Smith and Wobbly. The program will conclude with percussionist Jacob Felix Heule performing with his Norwegian Sult colleagues, Håvard Skaset on acoustic guitar and bassists Tony Dryer and Guro Skumsnes Moe.

Adobe Books is now located at 3130 24th Street (still in the Mission). The gig is free. However, donations will go directly to the performing artists and are strongly encouraged. In addition, free refreshments will be provided for a book purchase of at least $6.

Thursday, December 1, 8 p.m., Luggage Store Gallery: This week’s LSC program will offer two sets of improvisations, each about an hour’s duration. The first will be a duo improvisation by guitarists Andrew Weathers and JR De Wood. They will be followed by a “completely different” plucked-string performance by Sophia Shen on pipa. 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, December 2, 7 p.m., Charlie’s Deli Cafe: Charlie’s Deli Cafe is inviting the Trance Mission Duo “for a bit of merriment in yet another holiday season.” The members of the duo are Beth Custer, who plays all sizes of clarinet and often adds vocals, and Stephen Kent, whose specialty is the didjeridu, but who also plays percussion and a string instrument that is a hybrid of the cello and the sintir. Charlie’s Deli Cafe is located in Bernal Heights at 3202 Folsom Street, one block south of Cesar Chavez Street. Apparently, music is provided to enhance the pleasure of evening diners; but donations will probably be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 3, 8 p.m., St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church: The SF Live Arts performance series will be celebrating its 35th anniversary by bringing together two of the Bay Area’s most adventurous ensembles. The first of these is the Rova Saxophone Quartet of Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Bruce Ackley, and Steve Adams. The second will be a trio led by electric guitarist Fred Frith, performing with Jason Hoopes on bass and Jordan Glenn on drums. The group is currently celebrating Intakt Records’ recent release of their album Another Day in [expletive deleted] Paradise. Each of these two groups will take its own short set, after which they will join forces for a “culminating mashup.”

St. Cyprian’s is located at 2097 Turk Street, just east of the corner of Lyon Street. Tickets will be $20 at the door and $16 if purchased in advance. Advance purchase is available online from a Brown Paper Tickets event page, which also includes a $14 admission price for students with identification, seniors over the age of 65, and kids under the age of twelve.

Sunday, December 4, 7:30 p.m., The Musicians Union Hall: Like the LSC program, the next SIMM Series concert will consist of two sets. The first will be a solo piano performance by Eric Glick Rieman. He will be followed by a trio of “seasoned improvisers,” which will bring Glenn together with two trumpeters, Dan Clucas and Tom Djll. The Musicians Union Hall is located at 116 9th Street, near the corner of Mission Street. Admission is on a sliding scale between $10 and $15.

Monday, December 5, 8 p.m., Gray Area: The next event to be presented by Recombinant Media Labs at Gray Area will be a performance by the Matmos duo of Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt based on their new album Ultimate Care II. This album was constructed entirely out of the sounds generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II washing machine. The duration is 38 minutes, beginning with the sound of the wash size selection wheel and concluding with the alert noise that signals the completion of the cycle. The “normal” sounds of the washing machine are enhanced by the performers treating it as an instrument, rubbing it, stroking it, and drumming on it. The full panoply of sounds are then sampled, sequenced, and processed electronically. The Matmos performers describe the results as “a suite of rhythmic, melodic and drone-based compositions that morph dramatically, but remain fanatically centered upon their single, original sound source.”

The Gray Area Art And Technology Theater is located in the Mission at 2665 Mission Street. Admission is $20 at the door. Tickets purchased in advance are only $15 or $18 on the day of the show. Doors open at 8 p.m., but the performance will not begin until 8:30 p.m. Admission will be restricted to those aged 21 or older. Resident Advisor has created an event page for advance purchase of tickets.

Music for the Advent Liturgy at the Church of the Advent of Christ the King

Strictly speaking, one does not attend a church service for the sake of the music; but the reality has been rich with counterexamples for centuries (even including the Sabbath synagogue services I had to attend in preparation for my own bar mitzvah). Where Schola Adventus, the resident choir at the Church of the Advent of Christ the King led by Director of Music Paul Ellison, is concerned, the services are almost the only opportunities one has to listen to this a cappella ensemble. When one then also accounts for the fact that last night’s Advent Liturgy at that church was preceded by what amounted to a half-hour recital by organist George Anton Emblom, it becomes almost impossible to dismiss the musical value of the occasion. Nevertheless, a service is not a concert; and anyone entering the church on such an occasion should accept being in the role of the congregation, rather than that of a paying ticket-holder. Still, a few observations about the musical values found at the Church of the Advent seem in order.

Emblom’s organ selections set the tone for both the spirit and the diversity of the music that would follow. Much of the music was organized around the Advent hymn “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (now come, saviour of the heathens). Emblom played five chorale preludes based on this hymn, the last at the conclusion of the service. Three of these were by Johann Sebastian Bach: BWV 599, the first in the Orgelbüchlein collection; and BWV 659 and BWV 661, two of the so-called “Leipzig” chorale settings. There was also a more extended chorale prelude by Johann Pachelbel; and Jeanne Demessieux’ chorale prelude on “Rorate Caeli” (drop down dew, ye heavens), the first of her Opus 8 collection of twelve, included the “Nun komm” theme.

Emblom also played George Oldroyd’s “liturgical improvisation” on the Gregorian chant “Conditor alme siderum” (creator of the stars of night). However, the meditative mood for the service was best set by his final introductory selection, the “Desseins éternels” (eternal designs) from Olivier Messiaen’s nine-movement cycle, La Nativité du Seigneur (the Nativity of the Lord). Messiaen called these movements “meditations;” and they were intended to inspire thoughts by the congregation on the different elements of the Nativity story. “Desseins éternels” is a slowly unfolding progression of chords that departs significantly from any of the progressions encountered in the earlier selections; but, as is the case with many Messiaen compositions, his unique approach had a stabilizing quality that prepared the mind for the liturgy that would ensue in the six lessons of the service.

That service followed the seasonal structure of couplings of lessons and carols. All carols were sung by Schola Adventus, joined by the congregation only for “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” (O come, O come Emmanuel). Ellison’s selections complemented the sixteenth century of Jacob Handl and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina with the twentieth century of Philip Ledger, Herbert Howells, and Benjamin Britten, along with a recent setting of “There Is No Rose” by Philip Stopford. This last made for a striking contrast to Britten’s arrangement of the same text, which he included in his Opus 28 A Ceremony of Carols. However, the Britten selection for last night was one of his earliest choral compositions, “A Hymn to the Virgin,” written in 1930 and revised in 1934. This was written for a chorus singing a thirteenth-century text primarily in English, with “echoes” of Latin words sung by a quartet of soloists. Since Schola Adventus had only eight singers last night, the choral sections were sung one-to-a-part.

All this made for a thoroughly suitable commencement to the weeks of Advent, but one could be forgiven for showing up for the music.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sarah Cahill will Bring More Chaconnes to her Second Rex Salon

One of the most memorable highlights of last season’s Salons at the Hotel Rex series presented by San Francisco Performances (SFP) came with the solo recital by pianist Sarah Cahill that concluded the series. She revisited many of the selections from a full-length program she had prepared for the Noe Valley Chamber Music series, in which she examined the chaconne form from the perspective of both the Baroque period and the more recent past. At the end of her program, she talked a bit about the other pieces she had played in the full recital, which included “Still Cycles,” written for her on commission by local composer Danny Clay. She presented a brief excerpt; and, during the following Q&A, she was asked if she would return to play the piece in its entirety.

Next month Cahill will return to the Rex to conclude the series of the 2016 Fall Salons. The title of the program will be Chaconnes, Revisited; and, yes, “Still Cycles” will be part of that program. Clay used a chaconne by George Frideric Handel as a point of departure for “Still Cycles;” and Cahill will also perform than Handel chaconne as part of her program. She will also revisit the chaconne by Sofia Gubaidulina that she had played at the Rex in May. In addition, the program will include chaconnes by John Blow (in G minor) and Louis Couperin (in D minor), as well as Cecile Chaminade’s Opus 8 chaconne.

The Rex Salons are one-hour events, running from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Chaconnes, Revisited will take place on Wednesday, December 14. The Hotel Rex is located at 562 Sutter Street, between Powell Street and Mason Street. All tickets are $25, and they may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page. Any additional information may be obtained by calling SFP at 415-392-2545.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Church of the Advent will Begin Advent with a Service of Lessons and Carols

As was observed at the beginning of this month, tomorrow (November 27) will be the First Sunday of Advent, the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas (which, itself, will be on a Sunday this year). Tomorrow evening the Church of the Advent of Christ the King will hold an Advent Liturgy service consisting of a Candlelight Procession followed by Lessons and Carols. As always, the resident choir Schola Adventus will sing, led by Director of Music Paul Ellison. In addition, the organ will be played by George Anton Emblom. The specific music selections have not yet been announced. However, the composers to be performed will be (in alphabetical order) Johann Sebastian Bach, Lennox Berkeley, Benjamin Britten, George Frideric Handel, Philip Ledger, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. A festive reception will follow the service.

This service will begin at 6 p.m. on Sunday, November 27. The Church of the Advent of Christ the King is located at 261 Fell Street, between Franklin Street and Gough Street. The entry is diagonally across the street from the SFJAZZ Center. This is an inclusive parish of the Episcopal Church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Those wishing further information may call 415-431-0454. Those driving will be able to use the parking lot adjacent to the church whose entrance is on Hickory Street.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Violinist Vadim Gluzman’s Recorded Prokofiev Repertoire Extends to the Concertos

Ukrainian-born violinist Vadim Gluzman has built up an impressively diverse repertoire in the recordings he has made for the Swedish-based BIS Records. I first became aware of him through his interest in recording the music of Lera Auerbach, but more recently I have been following his pursuit of the works of Sergei Prokofiev. In August of 2013 BIS released his album of the violin sonatas, which Gluzman performed with pianist Angele Yoffe; and this past August saw a release of the two violin concertos, with Neeme Järvi conducting the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Opus 115 D major solo violin sonata.

The serious listener will appreciate that these three compositions are presented in chronological order on this album, because they serve as representative way stations along the journey through Prokofiev’s biography. He first began working on his first violin concerto (which would become his Opus 19 in D major) in 1915; but this was a time when Prokofiev was working hard to build up his reputation in cities such as London and Paris, rather than concentrating of musical life in Russia. The result was that he often had several projects on his plate at the same time. These included providing ballet music for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and composing the opera The Gambler, based on the novel of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Unfortunately, the February Revolution in 1917 led to this opera’s cancellation; and Prokofiev’s work on his concerto suffered a similar fate. Among other difficulties, his anticipated soloist, the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski, had relocated to the United States. Between the Russian Revolution and the First World War, Prokofiev decoded to make a similar move, arriving at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay on August 11, 1918.

The concerto had to wait until things had cooled down, and it received its first performance with Serge Koussevitzky conducting the Paris Opera Orchestra on October 18, 1923. The soloist was the ensemble’s concertmaster Marcel Darrieux. Prokofiev’s time in the United States had not been particularly successful, and he had returned to Paris in April of 1920. However, his fortunes improved once Joseph Szigeti took it upon himself to add the concerto to his repertoire. Szigeti was a champion of contemporary music, and he was highly enthusiastic about Opus 19. While the concerto is no longer “contemporary,” Gluzman seems to have cultivated an appreciation for the modernism that surrounded Prokofiev’s cultural life in cities like Paris. As a result, while many of the tropes of this concerto have become far more familiar, Gluzman approaches them with the sort of intense energy that would make the attentive listener sit up and take notice.

The second concerto (Opus 63 in G minor) was composed in 1935 at a time when Prokofiev was based in Paris but making frequent visits to the Soviet Union. His major Soviet project at that time was the ballet Romeo and Juliet. The notes by Horst A. Scholz for the accompanying booklet suggest that the concerto score reflects “the requirements of Socialist Realism” through its transparency and simplicity. To the extent that the themes strike the ear with a bit more coherence than those of Opus 19, Scholz probably has a valid case. From a political point of view, however, what may be most interesting is that this concerto had two champions on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, Jascha Heifetz in the United States and David Oistrakh in the Soviet Union. As a result this is the most familiar selection on Gluzman’s new album; and, for those listening to this album in its entirety, Opus 63 makes for a refreshing “spacer” between the unfamiliarity of both Opus 19 and Opus 115.

Indeed, by the time Prokofiev began working on Opus 115 in 1947, life, now in the Soviet Union, had become unpleasantly difficult. He had managed to wait out the Second World War at safe distances that the Soviet government arranged for their most valued artists. However, following the conclusion of the war, his high blood pressure led to a fall that resulted in a serious concussion, from which he never fully recovered.

Ironically, this was a narrow window of better days in the history of relations between Soviet authorities and creative artists. It was a time that allowed for high spirits over the end of the war. They may have been best captured in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 70 (ninth) symphony in E-flat major (which, among friends, I like to call the whoopee-the-war-is-over symphony). Indeed, spirits were so high that most of those artists failed to anticipate the result of more oppressive authoritarianism; but that is just what happened when the Zhdanov Decree was issued early in 1948.

However, Opus 115 is about as detached from both the Second World War and brutal Stalinism as one could imagine. The music was strictly pedagogical; and, while it is performed solo by virtuoso violinists, it was written for a classroom of skilled violin pupils to play in unison. Listening to Gluzman play the piece as a solo, one can only marvel at the prospect of a gathering of young violinists playing this piece the way Prokofiev intended. Scholz’ notes give no indication of whether or not Prokofiev was ever present at such a gathering. He only observes that the piece was not performed as a solo until after Prokofiev’s death, when Ruggiero Ricci played it in Moscow on July 10, 1959.

One may thus approach the entire album as a journey that concludes with an aging and infirm Prokofiev recovering some of the adventurous approaches to composition through which he had distinguished himself while trying to build his reputation among “competing” modernists in the Paris that preceded the First World War. Whether or not Gluzman had such a journey in mind is anyone’s guess. He may just have recognized the value of taking a chronological approach and then let the ensuing contexts for these three compositions run their course. Whatever the case may be, this is an album that works just as well as an entire program as a collection of selections from three periods in Prokofiev’s biography that happen to feature violin solo work.

San Francisco Performances will Launch its Vocal Series Next Month

It was recently announced that San Francisco Performances (SFP) will launch its 2016–2017 Guitar Series next month. This will be followed, only a few days later, by the first of the four recitals in the 2016–2017 Vocal Series for which both single tickets and full subscriptions are currently on sale. This season the recitals will cover each of the four major vocal ranges; and, whether by design or coincidence, they have been ordered from the lowest register to the highest. All of the concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Herbst Theatre, located on the southwest corner of Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. The specific dates and their related vocalists are as follows:

Tuesday, December 13: Baritone Christian Gerhaher will return to give his second SFP recital, performing again with pianist Gerold Huber (also appearing for the second time in an SFP event). Gerhaher made his SFP debut in September of 2014 with a program consisting entirely of settings of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. A generous serving of songs by Franz Schubert were complemented by the more recent efforts of Wolfgang Rihm.

This time the program will consist entirely of music by Gustav Mahler. The program will be framed by two of his last solo vocal compositions, originally written for low voice and orchestra. Performed only with piano accompaniment, these will be “Der Einsame im Herbst” (the solitary one in Autumn) and “Der Abschied” (the farewell) from Das Lied von der Erde (the song of the earth). Gerhaher will also sing the Sieben Lieder aus letzter Zeit (seven songs of latter days), settings for voice and piano that Mahler published in 1905. These are his own arrangements of the five orchestral songs known as the Rückert-Lieder and two of his settings of texts from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (the youth’s magic horn), also originally set for voice and orchestra, “Revelge” (reveille) and “Der Tambourg’sell” (the drummer boy). There will also be an earlier Wunderhorn setting, “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen” (where the fair trumpets sound).

Friday, March 17: Tenor Mark Padmore will perform with pianist Jonathan Biss in a program that will also be the third concert in Biss’ four-part series entitled Late Style. The program will offer two major compositions, both of which were written during the final months in the life of Franz Schubert. Padmore’s contribution will be the D. 957 collection of fourteen songs published as a cycle under the title Schwanengesang (swan-song). This title was given by publisher Tobias Haslinger, a publication that appeared a few month’s after Schubert’s death. Many have observed that Haslinger’s choice of metaphor was a poor one, since Schubert had been singing (in one way or another) all his life! In addition Biss will give a performance of the D. 959 sonata in A major.

Thursday, March 23: Mezzo Sarah Connolly will be accompanied by pianist Joseph Middleton. Her program will also include the voice-and-piano settings of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder as part of an “international” program arranged in chronological order. The Mahler selection will be preceded by Robert Schumann’s Opus 42 cycle, Frauenliebe und -leben (a woman’s love and life). Mahler will provide the transition into the twentieth century, which will be represented by three distinctively different composers. Connolly will sing Francis Poulenc’s collection entitled Banalités, selections from Aaron Copland’s settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, and Richard Rodney Bennett’s A History of the Thé Dansant, settings of poems by his sister M. R. Peacocke published in the volume Selves and inspired by photographs of their parents on holiday.

Wednesday, May 17: Soprano Carolyn Sampson will conclude the series. She has prepared a program entitled Fleurs, an “anthology” of selections of art song all based on floral themes. Her repertoire will range from the seventeenth century (Henry Purcell) to several major twentieth-century composers. Middleton will return to serve as her accompanist.

Subscriptions are now on sale for $240 for premium seating in the Orchestra and the front and center of the Dress Circle, $200 for the Side Boxes, the center rear of the Dress Circle, and the remainder of the Orchestra, and $140 for the remainder of the Dress Circle and the Balcony. Subscriptions may be purchased online in advance through a City Box Office event page. Orders may also be placed by calling the SFP subscriber hotline at 415-677-0325. Corresponding prices for single tickets are $65, $55, and $40. The hyperlinks on the dates given above all lead to City Box Office event pages for the purchase of single tickets.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bruno Monteiro Surveys Schulhoff’s Music for Violin and Piano for Brilliant Classics

Tomorrow will see the release of one of the latest original productions by Brilliant Classics, marking another departure from their past reputation as a “reprint” label. These original offerings have enabled audiences to appreciate many exciting new talents often venturing into unfamiliar repertoire. This new album is the second to feature the Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro, who has recorded all of the music for violin and piano composed by Erwin Schulhoff. This is his second project with Brilliant, which had released his album of the complete music for violin and piano by Karol Szymanowski in May of 2015; and Monteiro is performing again with Portuguese pianist João Paulo Santos.

Also again, this is repertoire that fits comfortably on a single compact disc. Indeed, the album has only four compositions, which are presented in chronological order. The first of these is a five-movement suite, which was the composition that Schulhoff cataloged as his Opus 1, although it was not published until long after his death in 2004. This is followed by his first sonata for violin and piano, composed in 1913. The second sonata, composed in 1927, is preceded by a sonata for solo violin, composed in 1923.

Schulhoff is one of the beneficiaries of violinist Daniel Hope’s interest in promoting the work of composers who perished in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. I was fortunate enough to listen to Hope perform the second sonata at a recital he gave with pianist Jeffrey Kahane on a visit to San Francisco. Hope has been particularly enthusiastic about this sonata, describing its Andante movement as “the most powerful and dramatic slow movement imaginable” (taken from the booklet notes by Ana Carvalho, translated into English by Frederick Gifford). Such language tends to reflect the enthusiastic gushing one would often encounter in declarations by Yehudi Menuhin; but, as I said, Hope’s promotion of this music reflected a broader mission.

The fact is that this album presents Schulhoff as a bit of a chameleon, trying out one style and then investigating another. Yet there is no sense that the chronological ordering of these pieces can be taken as a journey through which Schulhoff arrived at a “final voice” to express himself through the violin, with or without piano accompaniment. By the same count there is no sense of the sort of growth that we encounter when we review the violin music of, for example, Béla Bartók.

One of the reasons one comes away this this sense of “trying things out” is that none of the individual movements has very much duration. It would be unfair to say that Schulhoff excelled in exposition but never really got his head around development. However, it would seem that he could not hold his attention on a single idea for very long, preferring simply to let it play out rather than exploring deeper possibilities. Nevertheless, Schulhoff’s “sampling” of thematic material provides a survey of his own influences which can be fascinating on its own. For example, his teachers included both Max Reger and Claude Debussy. Schulhoff was also aware of the Second Viennese School and took interest in Arnold Schoenberg’s approach to working with all twelve tones of the chromatic scale. Additional interests included his own Eastern European folk sources and jazz from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

In other words, if Schulhoff never managed to find a comfort zone in working with “deep structures,” there was prodigious diversity in what he could play with on the surface. While Hope’s enthusiasm may have been excessive, there is much to enjoy over the course of listening to the four compositions on this album. Indeed, one can listen to the whole thing in about 75 minutes without worrying about mind wandering very far. Schulhoff may have been a minor figure when compared with those composers from the first half of the twentieth century that dominate the history books, but he is still an engaging one. The Brilliant production team has done well to provide us with this sincerely refreshing account of this particular facet of Schulhoff’s repertoire.

Golden Gate Symphony will Continue the Sing-Along Handel Tradition

I first encountered the Sing It Yourself Messiah through public television. My wife and I saw a telecast from Davies Symphony Hall of a performance of George Frideric Handel’s HWV 56 oratorio Messiah in which the audience was encouraged to do most of the singing (with generous support from performers on stage). This was the brainchild of Milton Salkind, former President of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). He launched the event in 1979, and it became a Davies tradition for over 25 years.

That tradition has since been taken up by Urs Leonhardt Steiner, an SFCM student during Salkind’s administration and now Music Director of the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. Next month his ensemble will give three Sing It Yourself Messiah performances, marking the tenth anniversary of the group continuing this tradition. They will be joined by four vocal soloists, soprano Gina Silvermann, alto Theresa Cardinale, tenor William Wiggins, and bass Alex Ip; and the solo trumpeter will be Franklin Beau Davis. Specific dates and venues are as follows:

Monday, December 12, 7:30 p.m.: This will be the “official concert version” occasion. It will take place at the Mission Dolores Basilica at 3321 16th Street, on the southwest corner of Dolores Street. General admission will be $35 with a $20 rate for seniors aged 65 and older and youth under the age of eighteen, Tickets may be purchased in advance online from a City Box Office event page. The remaining two performances will take place at popular bars, also in the Mission District.

Sunday, December 18, 6 p.m.: The first bar performance will take place at the Southern Pacific Brewery. This is located at 620 Treat Avenue, just south of 19th Street and east of Folsom Street. The basic idea is that the event is open to all with the hope that they will also be customers. However, seating will be limited. A donation of $20 will be encouraged.

Monday, December 19, 8 p.m.: The following night the action will shift to The Homestead. This is located in the same area of the Mission at 2301 Folsom Street, again south of 19th Street. The Homestead is more of a neighborhood bar. This means that is has less space, and music resources will be limited to the chorus with piano accompaniment. Seating will probably be even more limited. A donation of $20 will again be encouraged.

Simon Rattle Delivers an Exciting Account of Music on Either Side of Mahler

Last night the Berlin Philharmonic returned to Davies Symphony Hall to give the second of two concerts presented by the San Francisco Symphony, again with Artistic Director Simon Rattle on the podium. Rattle had used his first program to serve up what may well have been one of the most perceptive and emotionally visceral accounts of Gustav Mahler’s 1905 seventh symphony that Davies had ever experienced. Therefore, he decided to follow this performance by expanding on the context of that symphony, considering what would follow during the first half and then devoting the second half to a composer whose music had set the context for Mahler, Johannes Brahms.

Rattle introduced the evening with a few remarks about how Mahler had brought a sense of finality to the way in which he composed his symphonies. It was hard to see how anyone could continue along that path, and Rattle as much as suggested that a sharp departure from the path was inevitable. That new trail was first blazed by Arnold Schoenberg, who would subsequently be joined in his efforts by his two best-known students, Anton Webern and Alban Berg.

Rattle thus organized the first half of the evening to follow some of the early steps along that trail, offering one work by each of these three composers. The contributions by both Schoenberg and Webern were composed in 1909. Mahler was still alive at the time and may even have had the opportunity to listen to them. The first was Schoenberg’s Opus 16 set of five orchestral pieces, followed by Webern’s Opus 6 set of six orchestral pieces, which he subsequently revised for somewhat reduced resources in 1928. (Rattle conducted the 1928 version last night.) The final offering was Alban Berg’s Opus 6 set of three orchestral pieces, composed in 1915 and revised in 1929. (Rattle again presented the latter version.)

Note that none of these compositions has a descriptive title. In Webern’s case this was also true of the pieces themselves, which were identified only by tempo markings. Schoenberg only provided titles at the urging of his publisher. He wrote in his diary, “the titles which I may provide give nothing away, because some of them are very obscure and others highly technical.” He then listed his titles in his diary as follows:
  1. Premonitions (everyone has those)
  2. The Past (everyone has that, too)
  3. Chord-Colors (technical)
  4. Peripetia (general enough, I think)
  5. The Obbligato (perhaps better the “fully developed” or the “endless”) Recitative
Berg, on the other hand, chose to label his pieces according to their structural forms: prelude, round dances, and march.

It is interesting to consider Schoenberg’s sense of humor in his diary entry, since one usually thinks of him having only a serious side. There is also the possibility that he may have been thinking of possible titles for the sorts of paintings being created by some of his contemporaries, such as Oskar Kokoschka or Egon Schiele. Think, also, of the playfulness behind ending the set with a recitative, which usually serves an introductory function.

The most fascinating of the pieces, however, was the middle one, whose title was eventually reduced to just “Colors.” Schoenberg’s original idea was to take a single chord as the basis for a series of “progressions” that would involve only changes in sonority, enabled through gradually shifting instrumentation. This is how the piece begins; and, while Schoenberg could not quite follow through with his idea for the full duration, it remains one of his most intriguing experiments in his quest for new approaches to making music.

Rattle chose to play all fourteen of these pieces without interruption, politely asking to audience to hold applause until the last of the Berg pieces. Rattle urged the audience to think of the experience as Mahler’s eleventh symphony in fourteen short movements. This was a bold approach to presentation, particularly since each composer brought his own highly personal sense of expressive rhetoric to his set of pieces. However, if we return to that metaphor of trailblazing, Rattle’s approach allowed the listener to appreciate the extent to which the path departing from Mahler was one that took several rather extreme turns, often in unexpected directions.

It is also worth nothing that, while an entire century has elapsed, these pieces still confront even the most sympathetic listener with highly alien qualities. Continuing with the metaphor, one might almost say that the trailblazers never managed to find their way out of the woods. Yet the woods themselves continue to fascinate, even when that fascination is shaded with a distinctive frisson of terror. Each of the three composers had his own way of summoning up orchestral sonorities that were nothing short of ferocious, and Berg even went as far as to recall those sinister hammer blows that make the final movement of Mahler’s sixth symphony more intense than any contemporary horror movie. However, because Rattle was so fearless in taking on the extremes of these composers’ approaches to expressiveness, he could translate those alien qualities into listening experiences that were utterly engaging through the sense of fascination that they aroused. Last night became one of those all-too-rare occasions when the Second Viennese School received not only a fair shake but also an account so compelling as to tweak the desire for further listening.

It would therefore be unfair to say that Brahms was offered up as a “dessert” for those who took the trouble to eat the vegetables of the first half of the program. Schoenberg, after all, was the one who made such a powerful case for Brahms having progressive qualities of his own. Even though Rattle selected the Opus 73 (second) symphony in D major, generally taken as the most amenable of the four symphonies, his approach to interpretation suggested his awareness of Schoenberg’s perspective. Much of this involved appreciation of just how rich was the palette that Brahms used to realize a broad diversity of emotional dispositions. However, Rattle must also be credited with an almost awe-inspiring fearlessness when taking on Brahms at his most energetic. If terror influenced much of the rhetoric of the first half of the program, then it was complemented by joy in the second half. However, that joy was realized through a wild abandon that seemed to go right to the brink of mania without ever actually taking the plunge. This was Brahms to make you sit up and take notice, and Rattle’s interpretation is like to remain burned into the memory of those present for quite some time to come.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gabriela Martinez’ Debut Album with Delos is Delightfully Diverse

Almost two weeks ago Delos released its first album featuring solo performances by Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez. The advance material (reproduced on the Web page) describes her as the “Brilliant young Venezuelan pianist,” which gives me a bit of pause, since my first encounter with her was in July of 2007. The occasion was one of the summer concerts offered by the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall, which SFS had designated as “bloggers’ night.” I was just beginning to write seriously about music, and this was an opportunity for not only free admission to an SFS concert but also the circulation of my writing among a new set of readers. The evening included both the concert itself and a question-and-answer session with Martinez after the concert had concluded.

Her selection that night was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Opus 30 (third) piano concerto in D minor. To put this in historical perspective, the performance took place about ten years after the release of Shine, an account (disputed by some) of David Helfgott’s efforts to learn Opus 30 and the unfortunate aftermath of those efforts. This film was clearly on the mind of many of the bloggers that attended the Q&A session, which is why the question quickly came up as to how much time it had taken Martinez to prepare the concerto. When she replied that it took about two months, one could hear gasps across Davies punctuated by dropping jaws. I ended up writing a piece in which I used a little bit of elementary information theory to make the case that too many minds had been sadly addled by the Shine narrative.

Fortunately, Martinez’ new album is more about the diversity of her music-making skills than it is about debunking fictions fabricated in the name of entertainment. The title of the album is Amplified Soul, which is also the title of one of the tracks, a piece she commissioned from Dan Visconti, which is receiving its recording debut. Just short of five minutes in duration, this is music that appears to explore reverberations within the body of the piano and therefore requires what appears to be some rather detailed attention to which dampers are raised at which times. The title probably refers to the fact that, because the amplitudes of reverberating strings are much lower than those struck by the hammers, amplification is required to appreciate the full effect of the process. While the sorts of effects that Visconti appears to exploit are easily captured in the setting of a recording studio, there are likely to be technical challenges that will arise should Martinez decide to play this piece in recital.

Curiously, similar attention to reverberation also arises in the other recent work on the album, Mason Bates’ “White Lies for Lomax.” “Lomax” is, of course, Alan Lomax, the pioneering ethnomusicologist who devoted so much of his life to collecting and documenting the many different forms of folk music encountered across the continental United States. Bates describes the thematic material as “wisps of distant blues fragments,” adding that these fragments “are hardly honest recreations of the blues.” This explains the “Lies” part of the title. Bates does not say anything (at least in the booklet notes) about the “White” part. While this may have been his way of blunting the significance of his “dishonesty,” it is worth recognizing that Lomax was white, as is Bates, while the blues has its roots among African Americans living in the Deep South, particularly at the end of the nineteenth century. Thus, there is some suggestion that Bates acknowledges distorting his source material and may even be calling out some of his predecessors, such as Aaron Copland or even George Gershwin, for doing the same, probably in the interest of appealing to what Amiri Baraka, back when he was writing as LeRoi Jones, called the middle-brow tastes of white critics.

The more traditional works on the album cover the period from the very end of the eighteenth century to the very beginning of the twentieth. The latest of these is Karol Szymanowski’s Opus 3, a set of twelve variations in B-flat minor that he composed for Artur Rubinstein. Somewhat earlier is the first (also in B-flat minor) of the set of six Moments musicaux (Opus 16), which Rachmaninoff composed in 1896. However, the album begins at the opposite extreme with the third (in D major) of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 10 sonatas, which he composed in Vienna in 1798 at a time when his reputation was just beginning to rise.

Taken as a whole, this is an album in which each of the compositions has its own distinctive rhetorical stance. Martinez is clearly comfortable with finding and delivering that stance in each of her interpretations. She has definitely come a long way since my first encounter with her almost a decade ago. I might even acknowledge that the use of the adjective “brilliant” in that advance work is justified. However, given my personal sense of my own aging over these last ten years, I have to wonder how much longer she will be presented as “young!”

Francesco D’Orazio will Give a Solo Violin Recital at the Italian Cultural Institute

Following up on the free piano recital presented in October by the Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano de Cultura, IIC), IIC will begin next month with a solo recital by violinist Francesco D’Orazio. D’Orazio maintains a broad repertoire, going all the way back to early music and advancing to the immediate present through premiere performances. The program he has prepared for IIC will cover both the 20th and 21st centuries.

The most recent work on the program will be Curt Cacioppo “Elegy,” composed in 2015. Of more local interest, D’Orazio will play two movements, “Sarabanda” and “Corrente,” from a partita for solo violin written by Bay Area composer Luciano Chessa between 1987 and 2013. Other recent works will be Ivan Fedele’s second “French” suite, composed in 2010, Nicola Sani’s 2005 “Raw,” and Michele Dall’Ongaro’s 1999 “La Musica di E. Z.” The earlier works on the program will be the first and fourth of a set of six capriccios that Salvatore Sciarrino completed in 1976 and the eighth of Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza” compositions, also completed in 1976.

This concert will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7, and is expected to last for about two hours. IIC is located in the Civic Center at 601 Van Ness Avenue. Admission is free, but registration is required to assure having a place. IIC has created a registration page specific for this event. Anyone who registers may also add the names of a maximum of three additional guests. Those wishing further information may call IIC at 415-788-7142.

Simon Rattle Elicits Mind-Shattering Reverberations from the Berlin Philharmonic

Last night in Davies Symphony Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic (listed in the program book with its “native name,” “Berliner Philharmoniker”), led by Artistic Director Simon Rattle, gave the first of two concerts presented by the San Francisco Symphony. Performed without intermission, the program consisted primarily of Gustav Mahler’s 1905 seventh symphony in E minor. This was preceded by a performance of Pierre Boulez’ “Éclat,” which lasted less than ten minutes.

There is so much originality to each of Mahler’s symphonies that it is worth observing that the seventh is one of the few that revisits an earlier plan, the five-movement architecture of the fifth symphony in C-sharp minor, which Mahler completed in 1902. The structure is best described by beginning in the center and working out to the surroundings. At the core of the fifth symphony is its longest single movement, a Scherzo in D major. It is preceded by two funeral marches, the first, in C-sharp minor, marked explicitly as such, and the second in F minor, the key of a secondary theme in the first movement. On the other side the Scherzo is followed by what amounts to an “introduction and allegro,” a serene Adagietto in F major scored only for strings and harp followed by an aggressive D major Rondo.

By contrast, the core of the seventh symphony is the shortest single movement; but it is also a Scherzo, this time in D minor. It is flanked on either side by two “Nachtmusik” (night music) movements, the first a funeral march alternating between C major and C minor and the second a serenade (Andante amoroso), complete with a guitar and a mandolin, in F major. The funeral march is preceded by another funeral march (as in the opening two movements of the fifth), beginning in B minor before establishing itself in E minor. At the other end is another Rondo, this time in C major.

The reader will have noticed by now that, while there is a stable symmetry to the “building blocks,” there is considerable peregrination of the tonal center in both symphonies, almost as if Mahler’s approach to dominant-tonic cadences was a product of some musical variant of stream-of-consciousness writing. The fact is that the seventh is ultimately a highly dissonant symphony, not so much in the sense of the use of intervals (such as the tritone) that are ambiguous with respect to any tonal center but rather in the extent to which even the most attentive listener is seriously challenged to bring “sensory order” to the sounds unfolding before the ears.

The challenge is all the greater because this is a score that thrives of superposition. Mahler draws upon the resources of a large orchestra because they allow him to establish multiple centers of activity, often going full throttle at the same time without any clear sense of coordination. (Listening to Mahler does wonders in preparing the mind for encounters with the music of Charles Ives, whose superpositions frequently amounted to free associations gone berserk.) Thus, what was probably most important about last night’s performance was the relationship Rattle had with his ensemble through which the full dissonant qualities of those superpositions could make their respective marks through the clarity with which each of the contributions to any superposition registered. Much of that clarity may have been established through the layout of the players, allowing spatial separation to permit each contributing element to say its piece, so to speak. However, it was clear that Rattle’s meticulous approach to dynamic levels was also a major factor, even if its most salient property was the ability to take any loud passage and enable it to build to something louder.

All this amounts to the fact that the Mahler seventh is yet another example of music whose demands currently reach far beyond the capabilities of even the best of today’s audio capture and mixing technologies. This is not to dismiss the value of recordings. The thematic lexicon of this symphony is so far-reaching that the attentive listener will definitely benefit from a recording, even if it is only to establish familiarity with the full breadth of that lexicon. However, the music itself resides only in the physical-spatial realization of the structures that emerge as those lexemes assemble themselves into rich full-ensemble structures. In that respect the assembly that Rattle presented to last night’s Davies audience was definitely one for the books, even for those who thought they already “knew it all” by virtue of the rich Mahler repertoire of our own San Francisco Symphony.

If the concept of structure based on superposition was critical to how mind makes sense out of Mahler’s seventh, then “Éclat” could not have been a better selection as an “overture” to precede the symphony. It is far more abstract in both concept and execution; but it still served as an excellent (albeit unconventional) “warm-up” for the attentive listener. The piece, composed in 1965 (60 years after the Mahler symphony), is scored for fifteen instruments, each of which has different reverberation properties. One might thus call the piece an abstract study in attack and decay and of the sonorities that emerge when different decay patterns are superposed. In other words superposition is as crucial a structural element in “Éclat” as it is in the Mahler seventh, even if the two pieces are radically different in just about every other structural property.

Here, again, spatial orientation was crucial to sorting out the superpositions that emerged from Boulez’ score. Front and center were a viola (Máté Szücs) and cello (Bruno Delepelaire), the bowed instruments. Behind them were the “blown” instruments, alto flute (Emmanuel Pahud), cor anglais (Dominik Wollenweber), trumpet (Gabor Tarkövi) and trombone (Olaf Ott); and behind them were two plucked strings, mandolin (Detlef Tewes) and guitar (Matthew Hunter). Along the left side were the “two-hand” instruments, harp (Marie-Pierre Langlamet), celesta (Holger Groschopp), piano (Majella Stockhausen), cimbalom (Luigi Gaggero), vibraphone (Simon Rössler), and glockenspiel (Franz Schindlbeck). The only other percussion was provided by Jan Schlichte playing tubular bells.

Through this layout, the attentive listener was readily aware of each attack point and its related decay. Rattle saw his job at the podium as one of scheduling the attack points, so to speak, although there were occasional cadenza-like passages, particularly for the piano, during which Rattle simply allowed time to run its own course. This did not allow very much leverage for expressiveness, but it was probably what Boulez wanted. Ultimately, “Éclat” is an “étude” for both performers and listeners. In the former case it demands meticulous coordination, without which the acoustic effects Boulez wished to achieve would not emerge. For the latter the piece amounts to an exercise in listening to sonorous qualities for their own sake; and, given the brevity of the piece, it is an exercise that can be very rewarding, particularly when Rattle and his colleagues had summoned such focused effort to bring Boulez envisaged auditory qualities to fruition. Furthermore, to the extent to which those sonorous qualities involve the intimate relations between sounds of all dynamic levels and silence, Boulez’ étude definitely does much to prepare even the most informed listener for the experience of Mahler’s seventh symphony.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Archetti will Present this Season’s Christmas Program for SFEMS

For several seasons, the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) has honored Christmas by inviting Warren Stewart’s Magnificat to reconstruct the celebration of a Christmas Mass based on pre-Classical musical sources. Sadly, Stewart is now based in Berlin; and the Magnificat ensemble of Bay Area performers and guest artists has been disbanded. As a result, the title of next month’s SFEMS program will be Concerti per il Santissimo Natale: Baroque Christmas Music for Soprano, Trumpet and Strings. The performers will be the members of the Archetti Baroque String Ensemble, co-directed by violinist Carla Moore and John Dornenburg on violone. The ensemble will be joined by guest artists Clara Rottsolk (soprano) and Kathryn Adduci (trumpet).

While the vocal selections were not explicitly composed for performance at Christmas, they definitely are celebratory in nature. The program will begin with the selections by George Frideric Handel, “Eternal Source of Light Divine,” from HWV 74, composed for an ode written to celebrate the birthday of Queen Anne, and “Let the Bright Seraphim,” from the HWV 57 Samson oratorio. The conclusion will be a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 51 cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (praise God in all lands). These vocal offerings will frame four concertos from the Baroque period, three of which, by Francesco Manfredini, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Giuseppe Torelli, respectively, were explicitly written to honor the Nativity. The remaining concerto is the TWV 53:D5 D major concerto for trumpet, violin, cello, and strings by Georg Philipp Telemann.

The San Francisco performance of this program will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, December 11. The venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 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 single Web page has been created for online purchases of single tickets for all six concerts in the season. In addition, subscriptions are still available for a selection of three concerts during the remainder of the season. This three-concert option costs $108 with a $96 rate for SFEMS members. A separate Web page has been created for handling such subscriptions.

Centaur Records Begins a Project to Record All of François Couperin’s Keyboard Works

A little over a week ago, Centaur Records released the first volume in a projected cycle of the complete keyboard works of François Couperin. When completed the cycle is expected to comprise twelve releases. This should account for the four volumes of Pièces de clavecin that Couperin published in Paris in 1713, 1717, 1722, and 1730, respectively, which collectively offer up 27 ordres (suites). The usual source for this music is the publication by Augener issued in 1888 and based on editing by Johannes Brahms and Friedrich Chrysander. This publication also included an allemande and eight preludes taken from a treatise Couperin published entitled L’art de toucher le clavecin, an instructional manual of keyboard technique.

The harpsichordist for this project is Mark Kroll; and, according to the advance material provided by Centaur (reproduced on the Web page for this first volume), he plans to give special attention “to the selection of appropriate historical harpsichords.” Presumably this is why he is not preparing the releases in the numerical order of the ordres. Instead, on the first recording he plays a 1785 instrument made by Jacques Germain and performs the fourth (in F major), sixth (in B-flat major), and eighteenth (which begins in F minor and shifts to F major) ordres. Couperin served at the court of Louis XIV, where he was expected both to compose and to publish new music. (He also served as organist at Saint Gervais at the same time.) After the death of Louis XIV, Louis XV escalated him to the position of ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du roi pour le clavecin, described by the author of Couperin’s Wikipedia page as “one of the highest possible appointments for a court musician.”

Presumably, Couperin’s primary function was to entertain, rather than instruct. This would explain why almost all of the pieces he composed served as “character pieces” with descriptive titles, rather than being based on the dance forms one encounters in suites of that period. They may thus be viewed as eighteenth-century forebears of what would be called “program music” in the nineteenth century, pursuing a technique that one can also find in suites that Georg Philipp Telemann composed, particularly after becoming a “free agent” in the city of Hamburg. The titles of Couperin’s pieces are given only in French in the track listing on the back cover; but Kroll has provided piece-by-piece explanations for the accompanying booklet.

All of the selections on this first release are delightfully entertaining. However, Couperin’s judgement in determining the size of any individual ordre seems to indicate that he knew when enough was enough, at least for his royal patrons. Most likely Couperin never expected that one would listen of three of these ordres played back-to-back in a single sitting. Those who create personal playlists from downloads will probably want to bear this in mind.

The only real question that arises is this matter of playing “appropriate historical harpsichords.” I like to think that I have some level of advantage because the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has an excellent Historical Performance Department, which has accumulated an impressive collection of harpsichords from different countries. I have attended several recitals by Corey Jamason, co-Director of this department, at which he has taken the time to discuss specific features of the instrument he has selected for his performance. However, the main thing I have learned from my own listening experiences is I do not know the half of what I should when it comes to recognizing a good match between an instrument and the music being played on it.

What I can say, however, is that Couperin’s approaches to “program music” often involve a generous amount of complexity or just as much attention to a slow pace that allows for the sonorous effects of resonance. From that point of view, Kroll has shown excellent judgement in choosing an instrument that allows for all of the clarity that the notated “text” requires. Once that clarity is established, the performer can then worry about how to make it expressive; and, if one is to fall back on the semantic implications of Couperin’s titles, then attentive listeners will probably agree that Kroll’s expressiveness is right on the mark. This should be sufficient to raise curiosity about what will be offered on his second release.

Monday, November 21, 2016

ECM Releases a Four-CD Box of Keith Jarrett in Italy in October of 1996

This past Friday ECM released a four-CD box set entitled A Multitude of Angels. Each disc documents one of four nights of improvised solo piano performances given by Keith Jarrett in Modena, Ferrara, Turin, and Genoa, respectively. Each concert consisted of two uninterrupted improvised sets whose durations ran between about 30 minutes and about 45 minutes. Both the Ferrara and Genoa concerts also have brief improvised encores. The Modena concert concludes with a brief account of the “Londonderry Air,” specified in the track listing (on the Web page but not in the accompanying booklet) as Frederic Weatherly’s “Danny Boy.” Genoa, on the other hand, concludes with Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow.”

ECM has been documenting these extended solo improvisations since the release of Jarrett’s 1973 concerts in Bremen and Lausanne, originally packaged as three LPs and now available as a two-CD set. The Multitude of Angels sessions take place almost a quarter of a century later, in October of 1996. Capture was made with Jarrett’s own Digital Audio Tape recording equipment. As is the case with all Jarrett recordings, the source content was prepared for production by Manfred Eicher.

Jarrett is far from the only pianist to work on solo improvisation at such an extended scale of duration. In my own listening experience the most memorable pianist to have done so was Cecil Taylor (which is my way of confessing that my encounters with Jarrett’s efforts have only been through recordings). It would be absurd to try to compare these two pianists. Taylor has always be way out there in the domain of innovative approaches to organizing sound (to take on a phrase that John Cage used to like to use when he would be accused of not “making music”). Jarrett’s improvisations, on the other hand, seem to be reflections on his own past encounters with the piano keyboard, perhaps going all the way back to his first piano lessons (which predated his third birthday).

At the risk of sounding overly reductive, one might say that Taylor has always been seeking out new paths in theory, while Jarrett’s preference has always been for practice. Nevertheless, as performers, both of them are, and always have been, solid practitioners. Perhaps a better distinction would be Taylor’s preference for the objective, while Jarrett has been more inclined to the unabashedly subjective. Ironically, both of them have been known for vocalizing while playing (more aggressively than Glenn Gould, who was frequently called out for doing the same); but Jarrett’s interjections often give the impression of personalized reflection. He, himself, has claimed that vocalizing is a form of interacting with the keyboard work that enhances what he is trying to achieve through improvisation. (It is important to note that, unlike Gould, Jarrett never vocalizes when playing from classical scores.)

Nevertheless, such subjectivity raises a question. If most of those listening to Jarrett, either in concert or through recording, know little, if anything, about his personal life, how significant is subjectivity to the listening experience itself? To invoke Cage again, a Jarrett improvisation is a little bit like wandering through the woods in search of mushrooms. Jarrett clearly knows those woods well, knows the best places to find the mushrooms, and is then happy to show them off to anyone interested. Concert listeners, on the other hand, probably have no idea where those woods are, let alone why Jarrett has chosen to go there. Nevertheless, I remember hunting for mushrooms with Cage on a particularly dry day, when he remarked that sometimes one walks in the woods just for the sake of walking in the woods. (We ended up looking at lichen patterns through a magnifying glass.) Any listener willing to accept this premise should have no trouble making any number of fascinating encounters on his/her own walk in Jarrett’s woods, regardless of any motivations Jarrett may have had for being there. Is this approach to listening any different from how we might approach a symphony by Anton Bruckner?

The Bleeding Edge: 11/21/2016

As might be guessed, this will be a quiet week. In fact the BayImproviser Calendar lists only one event taking place within the San Francisco city limits. The good news, however, is that this is a stone that really should not be left unturned.

Gray Area Art And Technology will continue the PERPETUAL MOTION series presented in partnership with the San Francisco Cinematheque. This program should be of particular interest, since it combines innovative approaches to the projection of animated images with real-time performance of music, primarily on electronic devices. For those of my generation, this may be a bit like a trip in a time machine back to the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue in 1966 Manhattan, when engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer collaborated with artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman to produce 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering. (Participants in this series included John Cage, David Tudor, and Lucinda Childs, as well as Rauschenberg himself.) The title of this new program is Birth / Death / Resurrection, and it will consist of three sets.

The first is entitled “Toward the Death of Cinema.” Created by the Oakland-based duo of Malic Amalya and Nathan Hill, it is basically a real-time duet for 16mm projector and synthesizer, in which the projection process contributes to the spontaneity as much as does the sound synthesis. This will be followed by three short works by Australian Sally Goulding, “Ghosts—Loud + Strong,” “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” and “Spirit Intercourse,” all of which are based on analog media, hand-processed audio waveforms, and improvised electronics. The program will then conclude with the West Coast premiere of “After Psycho Shower,” a deconstruction of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most memorable scenes created for 16mm projection by Seoul-based Hangjun Lee working with electronic musician Jérôme Noetinger.

This show will begin at 8 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, November 22). The Gray Area Art And Technology Theater is located in the Mission at 2665 Mission Street. Admission is $20 at the door. Tickets purchased in advance are only $10 or $15 on the day of the show. A cash bar will be available for those aged 21 or older. Ticketfly has created an event page for advance purchase of tickets.

A Grand Opera Where the Instrumental Work is just as Grand

Yesterday afternoon I returned to the War Memorial Opera House for a second viewing of the new San Francisco Opera production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida staged by Director Francesca Zambello. On this occasion I had an excellent view of the conducting by Music Director Nicola Luisotti and most of the orchestra pit. Having already expended enthusiastic prose over what was happening on stage, I feel it is necessary to call out just how impressive the score for this particular opera is.

The thing that tends to register most strongly about Aida is the sheer magnitude of it all, particularly in the celebration of Egypt’s military victory in the second scene of the second act. However, the entire narrative of the opera involves a complex web of individual relationships that goes far beyond mere spectacle, and Verdi’s music is always there to highlight the subtleties of those complexities. Thus, while one is easily overwhelmed by the “full blast” of a military triumph, Verdi’s dynamic range is just as expressive at the softer extreme, if not more so. After all, the opera both begins and ends in an atmosphere of hushed sonorities that are right on the threshold of audibility. At the conclusion this amounts to a “last gasp;” but at the beginning those diminished dynamics suggest that this will be a story in which nothing should be taken at face value.

Such a setting provides an opportunity for instrumental solos to enhance the dramatic qualities of the vocal soloists. Principal Cello David Kadarauch had at least one particularly compelling solo moment; but just as effective was Verdi’s decision to accompany one vocal episode with little more than a solo bass clarinet (Anthony Striplen). It is also worth noting what Verdi could do with three or four flutes all playing in close harmony. (There is also some parallel motion between piccolo and bassoon that sounds as if it was later appropriated in the Tennessee Ernie Ford recording of “Sixteen Tons.”) In other words it would not be excessive to suggest that Verdi made meticulous instrumental decisions for every stage of the narrative unfolding on stage. All this was just as attentively managed by Luisotti’s conducting, which also showed excellent judgment in managing the audibility of solo voices even when the entire chorus was singing.

Such scrupulous consideration of so many different layers of detail demonstrated just how much thought could go into an opera traditionally taken as a warhorse, all in the interest of endowing the result with a sense of immediacy that acknowledges both intimacy and spectacle in equal measure.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Lacuna Arts will Use its Old First Concert for Fundraising

As has already been announced, the second concert in the eleventh season of the Lacuna Arts Chorale will be held in conjunction with the Old First Concerts series at Old First Church. The major work will be Hugo Distler’s 1933 setting of The Christmas Story in German, Die Weihnachtsgeschichte. This is structured around several choral variations of the carol “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (lo, how a rose e’er blooming). The variations are separated by a chanted narrative of the Nativity from the Gospels with different characters sung by vocal soloists. The entire account is framed by opening and closing choruses. the “prequel” for this performance will be Arvo Pärt’s “Which was the son of …,” an enumeration of the genealogy leading up to Jesus.

This performance will be given in conjunction with Lacuna Arts’ Time for Harmony campaign. This is a fundraising effort based on the needs of the community rather than explicit support of an arts organization. For every dollar contributed to Lacuna Arts as part of this campaign, the members of the Chorale will make a matching gift to an advocacy organization, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and The Trevor Project. Donations may be pledged through a Web page on the Lacuna Arts Web site.

The concert itself will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 9. Old First Concerts take place at the Old First Church, located at 1751 Sacramento Street on the southeast corner of Van Ness Avenue. General admission will be $20 with discounted rates of $17 for seniors and $5 or full-time students showing valid identification. Children aged twelve and under will still be admitted for free. In addition there is a $2 discount for tickets purchased online in advance from the event page for this concert on the Old First Concerts Web site. There is also a discount available for those parking at the Old First Parking Garage at 1725 Sacramento Street, just up the street from the church.

The fundraising event will take place the following morning, Saturday, December, beginning at 11 a.m. and lasting for about two hours. The Chorale will perform selections in a setting that will also include abundant food and drink. The venue will be the a.Muse Gallery, located in NEMIZ (NorthEast Mission Industrial Zone) at 614 Alabama Street.

Jazz Pianist Arturo O’Farrill Sharpens a Political Edge on his SFP Debut

Last night in Herbst Theatre, San Francisco Performances (SFP) launched the Jazz Series for its 2016–2017 season with a rare solo gig by pianist Arturo O’Farrill, making his SFP debut. He is the son of Cuban composer, arranger, and conductor Chico O’Farrill, who founded the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, which Arturo now leads. However, as a piano soloist, the younger O’Farrill’s interests go far beyond the Afro-Cuban repertoire, combining hard bop influences with the roots of both folk and spirituals and then adding his own unique approaches to composition. O’Farrill’s playing took in about 90 minutes, including verbal commentary that boldly ventured into the political domain.

O’Farrill is far from the first jazz artist to “go political” in his work. However, while there was a wealth of elegant embellishing riffs in his keyboard work, his reaction to the results of the Presidential Election had shot-from-the-hip directness. Thus, one of his most recent original pieces has been called “The Donald Blues;” and, while it may not have had the in-your-face agitprop of Charles Mingus’ “Original Faubus Fables,” it was difficult to disregard the seething undercurrents of the music. (The Mingus selection on last night’s program was “Jelly Roll,” which amounts to jaundiced nostalgia for the early days of jazz.)

“The Donald Blues” was followed by an almost lyrical take on Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna;” but O’Farrill made it clear that nostalgia was not what he had in mind. Instead, he played up the early history of that music in minstrel shows, an entertainment genre that tried (and, in its day, succeeded) in turning racism into public entertainment. (The original sheet music described the music “as Sung by The Ethiopian Serenaders.” What is particularly striking about this song is the way in which the words celebrate absurdity:
It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry;
The sun so hot I froze to death—Susanna, don’t you cry.
Such patent defiances of commonsense logic now feel like a poignant echo of the absurdities we had to endure over the last several month of political speechifying (and this clearly involved more than one candidate). Ironically, one of the major hard bop selections of the evening was Horace Silver’s “Peace,” perhaps offered up as “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Moving away from political connotations, O’Farrill was at his best in starting with very simple tunes and then spinning them out into elaborate webs of thickly embellished prolongations. He could almost be considered as a latter-day incarnation of one of the contributors to the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. The child’s tune “Hot Cross Buns” appeared twice during the evening. The first time around it contributed to the “landscape” of a piece O’Farrill wrote about being a dog in Havana. However, it then returned in its own right as the final offering of the evening; and it this latter capacity it left listeners with the perfect example of O’Farrill’s ability to turn the utmost simplicity into the most thoroughly engaging complexity.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Live Recordings from a Chamber Music Festival in a Hydroelectric Power Station

One of the main attractions in the town of Heimbach, located on the river Rur in the district of Düren in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is a hydroelectric power station built in 1905 in the Art Nouveau style. This site is significant enough to be mentioned on the Wikipedia page for Heimbach; and, because it was such a draw, pianist Lars Vogt decided that it would be an ideal venue for a chamber music festival. Founded in 1998, the festival was dubbed Spannungen by Vogt, a noun rich with multiple meanings. Vogt’s preferred translation is “tensions;” but it can also mean “voltages” in the technical literature, as well as “suspense” with connotations of both “stress” and “excitement.”

A little over a week ago, Avi-Service, based in Cologne, released a new recording of two string quartets performed at the 2015 Spannungen Festival, produced in conjunction with Deutschlandfunk (Germany’s national radio company). The CD thus presents two live recordings deprived of the visual setting. This would probably be disappointing for those who want to know more about the power station but less distracting for those primarily interested in the music.

The first of those recordings, made on June 11, offers the lesser-known of the two offerings, Giuseppe Verdi’s only string quartet, written in the key of E minor and composed in 1873. The performers are violinists Christian Tetzlaff and Florian Donderer, violist Hartmut Rohde, and cellist Maximillian Hornung. On the second recording Donderer switches over to viola, playing with violinists Yura Lee and Katharine Gowers and cellist Frans Helmerson. This group performs a more familiar quartet by Antonín Dvořák, his Opus 51 (“Slavonic”) quartet in E-flat major. Their performance was recorded on June 14.

It is unclear how seriously Verdi took his string quartet, but it definitely does not deserve to be dismissed offhand. It is said that Verdi kept copies of Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets on the table at his bedside. Apparently, he found them optimum bedtime reading, which should not surprise anyone who starts digging around in his opera scores. There is a crowd scene in Simon Boccanegra that appears to have been strongly influenced by the frantic Presto (second) movement from Beethoven’s Opus 130 in B-flat major; and one of these days a conductor will encounter just the right acoustic space in which (s)he can have the opening measures of Aida played by a string quartet. Perhaps there is even some connection between the fugue that concludes this string quartet and the one that concludes Falstaff. In other words there is more than enough to engage the serious listener in Verdi’s quartet, and the performers on this recording provide the necessary clarity for such a listener to savor fully every note. The Dvořák quartet, on the other hand, is much closer to the comfort zone of most quartet players; and, at least for those of us in the United States, it is a welcome change from the Opus 96 (“American”) quartet in F major. For all of that later quartet’s virtues, too many ensembles allow it to upstage Dvořák’s other quartets; and Opus 51 definitely deserves just as much attention.

Center for New Music: December 2016

Looking ahead to next month, the Center for New Music (C4NM) will be taking the same holiday break than many other performing institutions will experience. However, there will be about two weeks of activity before that break occurs. One of those events, the latest “progress report” on Aaron Gervais’ Prescription Drug Nation by the Mobius Trio, has already been given a special heads-up announcement, since December 10 is shaping up to be a busy day.

C4NM is located at 55 Taylor Street, half a block north of where Golden Gate Avenue meets Market Street. Tickets for all events are now available for advance purchase online. Specifics for C4NM performances of the other events in December are as follows:

Friday, December 2, 8 p.m.: This will be a transnational evening of improvisations and compositions by the duo of Californian Ben Zucker, alternating between trumpet and vibraphone, and Canadian Amy Brandon on guitar. This will be a free event. However, there will be no opportunities for advance registration.

Saturday, December 3, 6:30 p.m.: The closest things will get to a “seasonal” event will be Ho Ho Ho, a “holiday soirée” organized by Post:Ballet that will combine celebration with fundraising. The connection between Post:Ballet and C4NM goes back to the fundraising launch of the group’s collaboration with The Living Earth Show (TLES) on the creation of the full-evening performance of Do Be. TLES performers Travis Andrews on guitar and Andy Meyerson on percussion will contribute to this event. There will also be the world premiere of “Bend,” composed by Post:Ballet Company Manager D. Riley Nicholson and performed by the Amaranth Quartet. The Post:Ballet artists will also present a special 2016 holiday edition of “Man-a-Can.”

Because this is a fundraising event, general admission will be $60, and C4NM members will be admitted for $55. However, if the donation is made in advance through a donation page set up by Dancers’ Group, one can be admitted for a donation of $50. Note that only 75 invitations to this event will be made available.

Sunday, December 4, 8 p.m.: Kyle Bruckmann will curate the next sfSoundSalonSeries concert. This will be a duo performance by violinist Biliana Voutchkova and clarinetist Michael Thieke, both of whom are based in Berlin and have worked together since 2011. They have been exploring the creation of slowly moving soundscapes using pitch classes based on microtonality. Their approach to creation includes both conventional composition and improvisation. Their visit to C4NM has been made possible through cooperation with the Goethe-Institute-Chicago. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for C4NM members, students, and the underemployed. Tickets may be purchased in advance through a Vendini Web page.

Wednesday, December 7, 8 p.m.: This will be a free concert of new works by students in the Graduate Seminar in Composition at Mills College, which will include music for chamber ensemble, live electronics, field recordings, and improvisors.

Thursday, December, 8, 8 p.m.: Pamela Z will be joined by Swedish composer and performer Annë Paiounèn. They will present an evening of solos and duets for voices, electronics, video, and objects. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for C4NM members. Tickets may be purchased in advance through a Vendini Web page.

Friday, December 9, 7:30 p.m.: Adam Marks will curate a visit by New York pianist Kathy Supove. She will give the West Coast premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field. This is a two-hour epic in 24 movements that covers a broad spectrum of emotional dispositions. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for C4NM members. Tickets may be purchased in advance through a Vendini Web page.

Tuesday, December 13, 7:30 p.m.: This will be a launch concert for the debut album of pianist and composer Eric Tran. The album will include both solo and chamber music compositions. The performers will include the Friction Quartet, flutist Bethanne Walker, cellist Helen Newby, and violinist Annamarie Arai. A copy of the physical CD will be provided along with the ticket. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for C4NM members. Tickets may be purchased in advance through a Vendini Web page.

Wednesday, December 14, 8 p.m.: The [Switch~ Ensemble], which has residencies at the University of Chicago and Kent State University this season, will be giving its first performance in San Francisco. The performers will be Madison Greenstone on clarinets, T.J. Borden on cello, Wei-Han Wu on piano, and Jason Thorpe Buchanan on electronics. Composers to be included on the program will be Anthony Pateras, Matt Sargent, Lisa Streich, Chris Chandler, and Ben Isaacs. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for C4NM members. Tickets may be purchased in advance through a Vendini Web page.

Sunday, December 18, 3 p.m.: Time Flies will be a duo recital by violinist Kate Stenberg and pianist Lisa Moore. The program will feature the West Coast premiere os “Sliabh Beagh” (borderlands), written for a singing piano by Australian composer Kate Moore. Music by Martin Bresnick will be performed to honor his 70th birthday. Other composers on the program will be Philip Glass, Somei Satoh, Amy X Neuburg, and Michael Gordon. General admission will be $20 with a $15 rate for C4NM members. Tickets may be purchased in advance through a Vendini Web page.