Saturday, February 29, 2020

SFCM to Present Annual Baroque Opera

Every year the Baroque Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) presents a full-length performance of a baroque opera. Many of the past productions have involved the operas of George Frideric Handel, and this year’s offering will follow that tradition. Next month’s performance will be the HWV 15 opera Ottone. The title is the Italian for Otto; and the central character is Otto II, King of Germany. The libretto is fictitious, but in involves the lives of not only Otto but also the king’s future wife, the Byzantine Princess Theophanu, and Adelberto, son of Gismonda, widow of Berengario, who had ruled Italy during his lifetime. Like many baroque operas, the libretto will involve a tangled web of relations among the characters in the cast.

The semi-staged production of this opera will be given two performances in the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall. These will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 15. There will be no charge for admission, but reservations are highly recommended. There are separate Web pages for arranging reservations attached to the hyperlinks on the above two dates. For those who do not already know, the SFCM building is located at 50 Oak Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni Station.

Profil Presents Sinopoli as Conductor and Composer

courtesy of Naxos of America

About two weeks ago Profil released its latest anthology, a set of five CDs collected under the title Giuseppe Sinopoli & Staatskapelle Dresden. Note that, unlike the last Profil anthology discussed on this site, the word “conductor” is not included in the title, even though the cover photograph (see above) shows Sinopoli wielding his baton. The reason is that two of the tracks in this collection were recorded after Sinopoli’s death, providing examples of his efforts as a composer. Sinopoli died on April 20, 2001; and the earlier of these two recordings was made shortly thereafter, on October 6, 2001. Peter Ruzicka conducts the Dresden ensemble in a performance of a symphonic fragment that Sinopoli extracted from his opera Lou Salomé, which is probably his most famous composition. The other track has Sylvain Cambreling conducting with cello soloist Peter Bruns playing the third in a series of compositions entitled “Tombeau d’Armor.” This recording was made from concert performances on March 5 and 6, 2004.

The CD with these two tracks also includes one of Sinopoli conducting his own music. “Hommage à Costanzo Porta” amounts to a deconstruction of polyphonic motets by the sixteenth-century Italian composer of that name. Sinopoli’s “commercial” recordings suggest that he was particularly interested in the music of Webern during his tenure in Dresden. His approach to Porta suggests familiarity with the similar approach that Webern took with the six-voice polyphony included in Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1079, The Musical Offering. Sinopoli’s piece is much shorter, but it takes more adventurous departures from its source material.

When it comes to Sinopoli’s achievements as a conductor, I have to confess that my experiences have been relatively limited. My “first contact” came from his recording with the Czech Philharmonic of Johannes Brahms’ Opus 45 Ein deutsches Requiem, which was included in Deutsche Grammophon’s “complete edition” vinyls of Brahms’ music. Ironically, when that collection was reissued on CD, the Sinopoli recording was replaced by one of Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, perhaps in response to bad feelings that grew out of critics, such as Norman Lebrecht, writing at great length about their discontent with Sinopoli leading the Philharmonia Orchestra.

For my part, on the other hand, I have found it difficult to take seriously anything I have read that Lebrecht has written. I have the Deutsche Grammophon box of all of the Mahler recordings that Sinopoli made with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and I have never been discontented with any of them. As a result, I was particularly interested in comparing his recording of Mahler’s ninth symphony made at the end of his career with the Philharmonia in 1994 with the one he made in Dresden in 1997. My bottom line: The Philharmonia recording is much better engineered, but the recording on Profil seems to have been made during a single concert performance. I would not want to pass on either of them.

In terms of quantity, Mahler definitely dominates the Profil collection. In addition to the ninth there is a 1999 recording of the fourth with soprano Juliane Banse. Those that can manage with German will probably also appreciate a little over fifteen minutes of commentary from Sinopoli included on the same CD as the symphony itself. The only other composer to have two pieces recorded is Richard Strauss with both the Opus 24 “Death and Transfiguration” and the Opus 40 “Ein Heldenleben” (a hero’s life) tone poems. Both of these seem to have been recorded at the same concert, which took place on January 10 and 11, 2001. Personally, I am not sure that I could have taken that much Strauss on a single concert program; but I am happy to report that Sinopoli knew how to play up the music in Opus 40 without giving in to all of the composer’s personal preening!

There is also a concert recording from September 22, 1998 that couples two overtures, Carl Maria von Weber’s for Oberon and Richard Wagner’s for Rienzi. For those that like dramatic intensity, these two make for a good pair. Personally, I wish the CD had pressed them back-to-back rather than inserting Heldenleben between them. One would have better sense of Weber having been part of Wagner’s “roots” when he was just beginning to venture into serious opera.

The remaining selection in the collection is Robert Schumann’s Opus 120 (fourth) symphony in D minor. I have lost track of the number of recordings I have of this symphony. This Sinopoli recording is unlikely to drag me away from my preference for Sergiu Celibidache, but those not as familiar with this symphony may benefit from Sinopoli’s approach to the score.

My only real discontent is that Profil was not able to provide a wider account of Sinopoli’s work in Dresden. However, that just means that I am all the more depressed that he succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 54. This is a case in which we have to take what we can get; and, not withstanding Lebrecht’s ongoing campaign (at least I think it is ongoing), there is much to value in this final stage of Sinopoli’s recorded legacy.

Mostly Hispanic Songs from New Moon Duo

Last night at the Old First Presbyterian Church, Old First Concerts (O1C) concluded its February schedule with a performance by the New Moon Duo entitled Canto Caló. The duo consists of mezzo Melinda Becker, who last appeared in an O1C concert this past June, and pianist Anne Rainwater. For this program they were joined by cellist Natalie Raney, who appeared in three of the selections on the program.

The title of the program was taken from the title of a song cycle by Nicolas Lell Benavides being given its world premiere performance. Caló is a dialect blend of Spanish and English that is encountered in New Mexico, which happens to be the home state of both Benavides and Becker. The three songs in the cycle are based on texts handed down through both of these artists’ respective grandparents.

I have been following Benavides’ work ever since he and Danny Clay became the “founding fathers” of the Guerrilla Composers Guild. Much of the repertoire I have followed has been in the art song genre. I am delighted to report that he has yet to find a groove into which he can settle comfortably. Instead, each new vocal composition seems to establish its own unique relationship between words and music, the only common attribute is that the music consistently supports comprehension of the words, rather than obscuring them.

That said I have to confess that I felt a bit like an outsider while listening to Canto Caló. In the late Eighties my wife and I would visit New Mexico regularly, primarily to go the the summer opera performances in Santa Fe. On a few occasions we drove to different regions of the state and began to get the impression that many of those regions were self-contained enclaves. There were, of course, trappings of statewide government in Santa Fe itself; but that was just because it was the state capitol. Our travels ultimately went as far south as Las Cruces and as far North as Raton; and each place we visited, including Native American communities, had its own individuality.

As a result I found that I could appreciate a strong sense of singular personality behind of each of the texts that Benavides had set. However, the cultural context behind each of those texts was remote to me, simply because I am still overwhelmed by the demographic diversity of the state. Nevertheless, as a musician Benavides has long had a knack for presenting the intensely personal in an accessible setting. Becker clearly appreciated that knack and extended it through the minimal but highly informed body language she brought to performing all three of the songs in the collection. This is one world premiere composition that I would really like to encounter in future performance settings.

At the same time, that underlying stamp of individual uniqueness found its way into every other selection on the program. That included the one composition on the program by a composer with no “Hispanic connection,” Johannes Brahms. Nevertheless, that connection could be found in one of the texts Brahms had set, if not in Brahms himself. The selection was the pair of Opus 91 songs, which Brahms composed for alto voice, viola, and piano. The second of these songs, “Geistliches Wiegenlied” (sacred cradle song) set the poem “Die ihr schwebet” (ye who float), which is Emanuel Geibel’s paraphrase of a song that Lope de Vega included in his Cantarcillo de la Virgen (little song of the Virgin).

Raney did not have to apologize for playing the viola part on her cello. Both instruments have the strings tuned to the same pitches, just spaced an octave apart. Given the number of times I have listened to Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo cello suites played by a violist, I would say that turnabout was fair play! In “Geistliches Wiegenlied” Raney was responsible for how Brahms chose to interleave his own melodic line for Geibel’s text with the Christmas carol “Joseph, lieber Joseph mein” (Joseph dearest, Joseph mine); and she delivered that carol in all of its simplicity without the slightest hint of mawkishness, allowing Becker to offer Geibel’s text with just the right balance of innocence and profundity.

If the Brahms selection allowed the listener to think back to medieval origins, Raney also joined Becker and Rainwater in a performance of music from the Spanish baroque period, “Filis yo tengo” (Filis, I have), an engaging love poem set to the music of Clemente Imaña. The remaining selections were all taken from the twentieth century. That included six of the seven Spanish folksongs set by Manuel de Falla, into which Raney judiciously added the cello in appropriate places. Without the cello Becker sang three of the settings from Enrique Granados’ Tonadillas al estilo antiguo collection and, at the other end of the century, two of Gabriela Lena Frank’s settings of four Andean songs with Quechuan texts collected and translated into Spanish by José María Arguedas.

The result was an evening of impressive variety, all given solid interpretation by Becker and Rainwater with judicious additions of cello performances by Raney.

Friday, February 28, 2020

(Almost Literally) Last-Minute Announcement!

Since the Concerts at the Cadillac offerings tend to favor the jazz repertoire, I feel it is important to get out the word for classical offerings, even when that offering will be served in less than three hours from this writing! The performer will be pianist Melinda Morse; and the program will probably include both solo piano and chamber music. Morse will be joined by soprano Elizabeth Hunter-Ashley and cellist Robin Reynolds. Program specifics have not been released; but Morse is also a composer, meaning that it is likely that she will include some of her own compositions. Other composers likely to be on the program will be Frédéric Chopin, Christian Sinding, Franz Lehár, Giacomo Puccini, Gabriel Fauré, and Béla Bartók.

Like all Concerts at the Cadillac events, this recital will begin at 12:30 p.m. and will take place today, Friday, February 28. Morse will be playing the Patricia Walkup Memorial Piano, a meticulously restored 1884 Model D concert grand made by Steinway, in the lobby of The Cadillac Hotel. The hotel is located at 380 Eddy Street, on the northeast corner of Leavenworth Street. All Concerts at the Cadillac events are presented without charge. The purpose of the series is to provide high-quality music to the residents of the hotel and the Tenderloin District; but all are invited to visit the venue that calls itself “The House of Welcome Since 1907.”

Intense Concerto and Symphony at SFS

Violin soloist Leila Josefowicz (from the event page for this week’s SFS concert)

Last night in Davies Symphony Hall, Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the first of three performances of the second program he prepared for his visit to the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). This program followed the usual overture-concerto-symphony structure; but there was nothing usual about any of the offerings. Most important was the return of Salonen’s own music. Violin soloist Leila Josefowicz returned to perform again the violin concerto that Salonen had written for her in 2009, first performed in Davies on December 8, 2011, the date of the 100th anniversary of the very first SFS performance. (It should go without saying that Salonen was the conductor on that occasion.)

This is a concerto that pushes the very semantic foundations of “virtuoso” to the utmost limits. The symphony is structured in four movements, the first three of which are played without interruption (notwithstanding the notation on the program sheet suggesting that there are no interruptions between any of the movements). However, one could probably say that the concerto begins with a breakneck cadenza into which instruments in the orchestra insinuate themselves gradually, almost suggesting that they serve as a 21st-century take on a seventeenth-century continuo. Nevertheless, the orchestra does begin to establish its own identity, often in unexpected ways. (The use of a full array of pitched gongs is particularly chilling.)

The idea of a final movement detached from the preceding three has its own connotations. The movement is entitled “Adieu;” and it is easy to appreciate the rhetoric of leave-taking. However, it also recalls the fact that “Der Abschied” (the farewell), the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (the song of the earth), makes for a distinctive change from the five movements that preceded it. Indeed, it is only in “Adieu” that the violinist sheds an almost diabolical obsession with brutally demanding technique and settles into the most lyrical rhetoric of the entire concerto. As a conductor Salonen knew exactly how to enable this turn-on-a-dime shift in the overall tenor of the compositions; and Josefowicz confidently followed his lead into what amounted to an entirely new domain of expressiveness.

It goes without saying that this is decidedly not “sit back and listen” music. Future generations may find it to be the “comfortable old shoe” that we currently associate with, for example, Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 64 violin concerto in E minor; but, most likely, none of us will be part of that audience. Nevertheless, Salonen’s concerto is definitely an edge-of-your-seat affair, particularly for attentive listeners; and we all deserve to get to know it better. Personally, I do not wish to wait another nine years before my next opportunity to listen to this music in performance.

Equally intense was Salonen’s performance of Carl Nielsen’s Opus 50 (fifth) symphony. This music has its own dark rhetoric; and, for all we know, Salonen’s rich experience in conducting Nielsen’s music may well have had at least an implicit impact on his approach to writing a violin concerto. Certainly, the idea of an overall architecture of two sections, which then break down into distinct episodes, is as significant to Nielsen’s Opus 50 as it was to (at least) the first sequences of movements in Salonen’s concerto.

Unlike the concerto, however, Nielsen’s symphony is a study in the interplay of a rich diversity of sonorities. The eye is as engaged in the ear in efforts to discern which sonorities are coming from where. Indeed, sonority even rises above thematic material: As the symphony progresses, one begins to appreciate how often previously-encountered themes (or motifs) return.

Nevertheless, for all of the explicit and implicit symmetries of structure, Opus 50 will probably be remembered as the only symphony to include virtuoso composition for the snare drum. This was music that allowed Percussion Principal Jacob Nissly to demonstrate just how strong his command of technique was. The first entry of the snare drum is relatively innocuous, suggesting little more than a routine military procession. However, during the Adagio non troppo that concludes the symphony’s first distinct section, the snare drum ventures into territory of its own with almost psychotic outbursts of riffs that totally abandon any sense of underlying rhythm. (Nissly played this provocative cadenza from the Terrace, while he played the first snare drum passage on the stage, but separated from the other percussion players.) I have listened to this symphony many times, both in Davies and on recordings; but Nissly’s account of that cadenza scared the daylights out of me. Following the cadenza, he took on a shoulder-mounted snare drum; and his “last word” could be heard off-stage and out of sight.

Thanks to the interests and efforts of Herbert Blomstedt, San Francisco has long been a city in which those wishing to listen to Nielsen’s music, particularly his symphonies, could be well satisfied. Now we have Salonen, who is bringing his own personal stamp to that repertoire. This is a distinctively new style with different approaches to managing that composer’s flood of thematic material. It cannot be compared with Blomstedt’s legacy. Suffice it to say that, under Blomstedt, serious listeners learned a lot about Nielsen’s ingenuity and subtleties. Now we have Salonen to show us that there are still new approaches to listening to Nielsen’s prodigious creativity.

Reader’s may recall that this program also merited Beethoven250 status, even if Ludwig van Beethoven was represented only by an overture. The overture was taken from Opus 117, the commemorative cantata entitled King Stephen. The cantata itself is seldom performed, but the orchestra has become a concert favorite. Salonen chose to highlight the contrasting differences in volume and instrumentation, taking a playful attitude of highlighting those contrasts through exaggeration. The result was a bit on the eccentric side. However, as one that continues to undermine the “scowling Beethoven” tradition, I have to say that Salonen seemed to be going for the belly-laughs; and, without compromising the score as Beethoven wrote it, he pulled off unanticipated rhetorical twists that allowed us to appreciate Beethoven’s capacity for amusement.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Two SF Performances of New Sirota Composition

The Telegraph Quartet (above) with Abigail Fischer and Robert Sirota (below) (courtesy of Jensen Artists)

Next month the Sierra Chamber Society, based in Walnut Creek, will present the world premiere of a new composition by Robert Sirota. “Contrapassos” was scored for string quartet and soprano. The vocalist for the occasion will be soprano Abigail Fischer, performing with the members of the Telegraph Quartet (violinists Joseph Maile and Eric Chin, violist Pei-Ling Lin, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw). The libretto was written by Stevan Cavalier, who explains the text he wrote as follows:
Contrapasso is an Italian term from Dante's time meaning a punishment made by inversion of a sin. For example, one who in life was mired in the vain pursuit of worldly goods, is condemned after death to wander eternally in boiling mud. In this poem, dreams may be regarded as the contrapassos of waking life.
Sirota, in turn, has explained the structure of his composition:
The piece begins with memories of the quotidian joys of childhood, quickly turning to darkness and thoughts of early death by suicide, heart attacks in middle age, and final judgment. And yet throughout, there is the vigorous embrace of abundant life, of the beauty of our world, and of our striving for faith.
Fortunately for those living in San Francisco, “Contrapassos” will be given two additional performances within the city limits.

The first of these will be presented by Noontime Concerts, and the program will also include a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 131 quartet in C-sharp minor. These events take place regularly at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. This particular program will be performed on March 17. The performance will take place in the sanctuary of Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, which is located in Chinatown at 660 California Street, on the northeast corner of Grant Street. There is no charge for admission, but this concert series relies heavily on donations to continue offering its weekly programs.

The second performance will take place the following night in the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). While the Noontime Concerts offering will only be an hour in duration, SFCM will present a full-length concert program. Thus, in addition to the works by Beethoven and Sirota, Fischer will also join Telegraph in a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 10 (second) string quartet in F-sharp minor, whose final two movements include a soprano along with the quartet.

This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18. The SFCM building is located at 50 Oak Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni Station. There will be no charge for admission, but reservations are highly recommended. The SFCM event page for this concert includes a hyperlink for making reservations.

Edward Simon’s Solo Jazz Piano SFP Salon

Yesterday evening in the Education Studio of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, San Francisco Performances (SFP) presented the third of the four programs in its Salon Series curated by pianist Edward Simon. This was Simon’s solo gig, using his allotted hour to give a somewhat chronological account of jazz selections dating back to Billy Strayhorn and proceeding up to his own composition from his latest recording, which will be released in the near future. Only two other composers intervened between Strayhorn and Simon himself: Thelonious Monk and Fred Hersch. Simon also interjected a free improvisation between Hersch’s selection and his own.

When working with the tunes of others, Simon has an engaging style of hinting at the tune through extended suggestions before “getting down to business.” As a result, anyone familiar with Strayhorn’s book would have registered the tune from Simon’s opening gesture; but he then kept the attentive listener waiting for the first “straight” statement of the tune. This reminds me of how, in both the first and fourth movements of Johannes Brahms’ Opus 68 (first) symphony in C minor, there is an elaborately prolonged introduction during which all of the themes of the exposition are first introduced. (I would be surprised if Simon himself had many thoughts about Brahms while playing Strayhorn!)

Monk was the only composer to be represented by two compositions, “Monk’s Mood” and “Monk’s Dream.” (Simon joked about Monk liking to include himself in his titles.) As with any good jazz pianist of interest, Simon knew how to weave his own reflections around Monk’s thematic material without ever trying to fall back on mirroring Monk’s own keyboard style. (Monk had his own idiosyncratic approach to piano technique. It was frequently provocative; and, when I saw him playing at the Village Vanguard, it could be downright scary.) Simon’s ordering of these two pieces was particularly effective, since “Monk’s Mood” comes across as a reflection on Duke Ellington, whose band presented the first performance of “Lush Life” during one of its Carnegie Hall concerts.

The Hersch selection came from his Songs Without Words album. Simon played the first of the set, entitled simply “Aria.” It is easy to identify the strong implication of a vocal line. Nevertheless, between the unconventional approaches to rhythm and the sophisticated approach to chord progressions,  that line would pose a significant challenge to even the most qualified of vocalists.

The richness of Hersch’s capacity for invention, however, provided just the right groundwork for attentive listening to Simon’s own compositions. Nevertheless, as is the case with Hersch, Simon’s original work tends to require more than one listening experience. As one begins to adjust to his linguistic nuts and bolts, one can then cultivate an appreciation for what he is capable of constructing.

The free improvisation that preceded Simon’s compositions was very much an invention unto itself. On the surface the piece amounted to a study in ostinato technique. This meant that Simon set for himself a major physical challenge, but he definitely knew how to manage his energy to sustain that driving ostinato over the course of the entire improvisation as any number of invented motifs came and went around the core of a repeated pitch.

Sergei Prokofiev had his own approach to invention based on ostinato in his Opus 11 toccata in D minor (which now seems to be part of Yuja Wang’s repertoire). Simon’s approach to free improvisation left one thinking of Prokofiev on steroids. Without trying to pit one composer against another, I have to say that Simon’s inventiveness registered in both the immediate present and on subsequent recollection, while Prokofiev’s toccata serves more as a flash in the pan.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Morrison to Present Chamber Music Theater

Actress Shinnerrie Jackson (from the event page for the performance being discussed)

The next program in the 2019–2020 season of the Morrison Artists Series, presented by the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University (SFSU) will depart from the usual expectations for a chamber music concert. The music will be performed by a trio; but the trio will consist of cello, piano, and percussion, a New York-based group called THE CORE ENSEMBLE. They will be joined by actress Shinnerrie Jackson to perform a full-length musical theater work entitled Ain’t I A Woman! The text was created by Kim Hines to examine the life and times of four powerful African-American women: novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, ex-slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, folk artist Clementine Hunter, and civil rights worker Fannie Lou Hamer. The musical score is drawn from the heartfelt spirituals and blues of the Deep South, the urban vitality of the Jazz Age, and contemporary concert music by African-American composers such as Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach and Diane Monroe.

Like all Morrison chamber music events, this concert will take place in the Creative Arts Building at SFSU, a short walk to the west from the SFSU Muni stop at the corner of 19th Avenue and Holloway Avenue. It will held in Knuth Hall at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 15. Tickets are free but advance registration is highly desirable. Reservations may be made through the event page for this performance. As usual, there will be a pre-concert lecture, which will begin 2 p.m., also in Knuth Hall. Representatives of THE CORE ENSEMBLE will participate with SFSU Artistic Director Cyrus Ginwala as interlocutor. The talk requires neither registration nor tickets.

Nicholas Phan Surveys Nadia and Lili Boulanger

courtesy of Naxos of America

A little over a month ago, Avie Records released its latest album of tenor Nicholas Phan, entitled Clairières. That title comes from the major composition to be performed, the cycle of thirteen songs, entitled Clairières dans le ciel (clearings in the sky), for voice and piano setting poems by Francis Jammes and composed in 1914 by Lili Boulanger. In fact the entire album is devoted to the songs of both Lili and her older sister Nadia. As in his previous album Illuminations, Phan's accompanist at the piano is Myra Hunag.

Both of these composers tend to be better known by reputation than by the music they composed. Nadia is best remembered as a teacher, although she was also a conductor as well as a composer. Some might go as far as to call her the music teacher of the twentieth century. She was a faculty member at the Fontainebleau Schools, founded by Walter Damrosch in 1921 with the involvement of the United States following World War I. One of those schools, the American Conservatory, used the space in the Louis XV wing of the Palace of Fontainebleau. Boulanger began there teaching harmony and then extended her portfolio into composition. One of her first students was Aaron Copland; and the list of her students can almost be taken as a survey of American composers born before 1950, extending all the way to Philip Glass. One could almost call her the master pedagogue of American music. For those inclined to raise a skeptical eyebrow, Boulanger did spend time in the United States, where she performed as guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Lili was the prodigy of the family. Nadia began taking lessons at the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of ten. Lili would tag along with her before she was five years old. Shortly thereafter she would sit in on classes in music theory and study organ with Louis Vierne. Sadly, her prodigious efforts were short-lived. She died of what was called “intestinal tuberculosis” at the age of 24. As far as I can tell, Clairières dans le ciel was her most extended single composition.

It should not surprise any of my readers that Phan’s album provided “first contact” experiences of the compositions of both Boulanger sisters. As a result, I am just beginning to get my head around the “linguistic infrastructure” of this music. Lili’s Wikipedia page cites the influences of both Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy. However, it is almost impossible to listen to the sixth song of the cycle, “Si tout ceci n’est qu’un pauvre rêve” (if all were naught by a poor dream), and the final song, “Demain fera un an” (tomorrow it will be a year), without detecting at least a bit of influence from Richard Wagner. The settings by Nadia, on the other hand, turn to some of the “usual suspects” poets, such as Maurice Maeterlinck and Paul Verlaine; but it is worth nothing that Phan’s final selection for this album is one in which Nadia sets her own poem, “Soir d’hiver” (winter evening).

I hope to spend much more time with this album getting better acquainted with both of these composers in the hope that I shall not have to wait long before encountering them in the recitals that I attend.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

PBO to Return to the Nineteenth Century

During his tenure as Waverley Fund Music Director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO) & Chorale, Nicholas McGegan has presented a generous share of historically-informed performances of music composed during the nineteenth-century. It is therefore appropriate that he should return to this repertoire as part of his farewell season. Readers probably know by now that the entire season has been given the title Reflections, and the title of next month’s subscription concert will be Romantic Reflections.

Violinist Alana Youssefian (courtesy of PBO)

It is equally appropriate that McGegan should use this concert to highlight a soloist whose talents he has contributed to cultivating. That artist is the violinist Alana Youssefian, who graduated from the Historical Performance Program at the Juilliard School in the spring of 2018. In November of that year, she made her PBO debut giving “side-by-side” performances of concertos by Antonio Vivaldi with PBO violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock. The following February she was called upon to substitute for the convalescing Rachel Barton Pine in a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 61 violin concerto in D major, easily making the leap from eighteenth-century Vivaldi to nineteenth-century Beethoven.

For next month’s program she will advance several decades further to appear as soloist in a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 64 violin concerto in E minor, given its first performance in 1845. The second half of the overture-concerto-symphony program that McGegan has prepared will present Franz Schubert’s D. 944 (“Great”) symphony in C major. Schubert began work on this symphony in March of 1828 and did not complete it for performance during his lifetime. The work had to wait over a decade for its premiere, primarily because the Viennese musicians objected to both its length and to technical difficulties. As a result, the first performance took place in Leipzig, rather than Vienna. However, this was an abbreviated version played by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by (wait for it) Mendelssohn on March 21, 1839. (Given the compact structuring of the Opus 64 violin concerto, it is unlikely that D. 944 had much influence on Mendelssohn’s approach to composition!)

The opening selection on the program will be the only offering to pre-date the nineteenth century. This will be the overture to Luigi Cherubini’s opera Démophoon. This opera received its first performance on December 2, 1788. Those who might be inclined to think of this as “forward-looking” music might wish to consider the opinion of Edward Joseph Dent, known for his writings about music and Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge between 1926 and 1941. Dent wrote about this particular opera, “If any work ever deserved the epithet 'classical', it is Démophoon.” (For the record, he wrote this in his book The Rise of Romantic Opera!)

The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place on Friday, March 13, beginning at 8 p.m. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, which is located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Ticket prices will range from $32 to $120 for premium seating. Tickets are currently available for advance purchase through a City Box Office event page, which displays a color-coded seating plan that shows which areas correspond to which price levels.

OCTET’s Disappointing Album Debut

from the Web page for the album being discussed

OCTET is a New York-based ensemble with nonstandard membership. The group has two keyboardists, Elaine Kwon on piano and William Susman on electric piano. There are also two brass players, trumpeter Mike Gurfield and trombonist Alan Ferber. In addition there is a vocalist (soprano Melissa Hughes), a saxophonist (Demetrius Spaneas), percussionist Greg Zuber, and Elenore Oppenheim on bass.

The group decided to make its recording debut with an album consisting entirely of compositions by one of its members, Susman. The title of the album is Scatter My Ashes, which is also the title of one of the two song cycles presented. The other cycle, Moving in to an Empty Space began as music for voice and piano but was subsequently arranged for OCTET’s resources. The other selections are a single-movement piano concerto in six sections (as well as a cadenza before the final section) and the three-movement suite Camille.

Susman’s music invites the old put-down gag that it fills a well-needed gap. He was clearly influenced by the pioneering work with repetitive structures that had established a new aesthetic over half a century ago. However, Susman seems to be seeking out the sonorities that reflect back on groups like the Philip Glass Ensemble without belaboring the listener with too much repetition. It goes without saying that repetitive structures without extended repetition will probably raise the question, “What’s the point?” My only reply would be, “Exactly!”

One comes away from this album with the impression that Susman created OCTET to serve as a platform for his efforts as a composer. I suppose that, from that point of view, he could be credited for ambition. Nevertheless, his ambition should have been made of sterner stuff.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Bleeding Edge: 2/24/2020

This is one of those weeks in which unreported events significantly outnumber those already “on the books.” One reason is that there are only two concerts this week at the Center for New Music, on February 26 and 29. (Those who view that Web page regularly know by now that the February 28 concert was cancelled.) The only other previously reported event of this week is tonight’s Monday Make-Out at the Make Out Room. However, it will be followed by the first Monday Make-Out of March, which will be included among the other alternatives listed below:

Thursday, February 27, 8:15 p.m., Luggage Store Gallery (LSG): The Outsound Presents LSG Creative Music Series is back on schedule with a three-set evening featuring three performers. The opening set will present vocalists Katt Atchley and Ron Heglin performing selections from their latest CD release. They will be followed by a solo electronics set performed by Kenneth Atchley. Finally, all three performers will join forces to improvise the final set. LSG is located at 1007 Market Street, across from the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Taylor Street; and admission is on a sliding scale between $8 and $15.

Friday, February 28, 8 p.m., Sherman Street Studios: Readers may recall that the opening of the gallery show The Art of Skatch at the beginning of this month included a performance by the T.D. Skatchit duo of Tom Nunn and David Michalak. The closing of this show will be celebrated with another performance. This time T.D. Skatchit will be joined by colleagues that have performed with them in the past. These will include another appearance of vocalists Atchley and Heglin, along with a third vocalist, Lorin Benedict. They will also be joined by Chris Brown on electronics and spoken word artist Dean Santomieri.

The Sherman Street Studios are located in SoMa at 16 Sherman Street, between Folsom Street and Harrison Street. Sherman Street itself is halfway between Sixth Street and Seventh Street. The performance will be preceded by a reception at 7 p.m. There will be no charge for admission.

Saturday, February 29, 7:30 p.m., Episcopal Church of the Incarnation: As was already reported, the February calendar of Sunset Music and Arts events will conclude with a Beethoven 2020 recital by the duo of violinist Patrick Galvin and pianist Jung-eun Kim. However, the program has been updated; and they will now present piano trio music, joined by cellist Chauncey Aceret. The Beethoven selection will now be the first of the Opus 70 trios in D major, often known as the “Ghost” trio. The “bleeding edge” offering, however, will be the final selection on the program, Paul Schoenfield’s hilariously raucous “Café Music.” The distance between Beethoven and Schoenfield will be negotiated by Clara Schumann’s Opus 17, her only piano trio, written in the key of G minor.

The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation is located in the Sunset at 1750 29th Avenue, about halfway between Moraga Street and Noriega Street. Ticket prices are $20 for general admission with a $15 rate for students and seniors. Because the demand tends to be high, advance purchase is highly advised. Tickets may be purchased online through Eventbrite. Further information may be obtained by calling 415-564-2324.

Saturday, February 29, 8 p.m., Adobe Books: Guitarist and vocalist Matt Robidoux will present a release show for his latest album Brief Candles. He will lead an octet, whose other members are Michelle Lee (flute), Kris Force (violin), Naomi Harrison-Clay (saxophone), Tony Gennaro (vibraphone), Dylan Burchett (electronics), and Lee Hodel (bass). The evening will open with the duo of Nathan Corder and Kevin Murray. Vocalist and pianist Melissa Weikart will take a solo set of her own compositions; and the remaining set will be taken by VOL., an art group, whose members are Marissa Magic and Max Nordie, founded in 2014 and formerly known as The Blues.

Adobe Books is located at 3130 24th Street in the Mission between South Van Ness Avenue and Folsom Street. While no further specifics have been provided, it is reasonable to assume that this gig will be free. However, donations will go directly to the performing artists and are strongly encouraged. At past events Adobe has provided free refreshments to those who make a book purchase of $6 or more, and it is likely that the managers of the book store will maintain this effort to encourage reading their offerings.

Monday, March 2, 8:30 p.m., Make Out Room: Finally, March will begin with the first of the two Monday Make-Out concerts of the month. The performers will be three “bleeding edge” combos. The opening set will be taken by the wind quartet of Michelle Lee, Kim Nucci, Erika Oba, and Tom Weeks performing free improvisation. They will be followed by the multi-genre Amendola Trio, led by drummer Scott Amendola, performing with Karl Evangelista on guitar and Jason Hoopes on bass. The final set will be taken by the Kasey Knudsen Sextet performing modern jazz. Knudsen leads on saxophone and will be joined by Henry Hung on trumpet, Rob Ewing on trombone, Dahveed Behroozi on piano, Miles Wick on bass, and Eric Garland on drums.

The Make Out Room is located at 3225 22nd Street in the Mission, near the southwest corner of Mission Street. The Make Out Room is a bar. That means that tickets are not sold, nor is there a cover charge. Nevertheless, a metaphorical hat is passed between sets; and all donations are accepted, not to mention welcome! As always, doors will open a half hour prior to the beginning of the first set.

Violins of Hope Chamber Music at Davies

Drawing of Theresienstadt living quarters (by Bedřich Fritta, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Yesterday afternoon in Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) presented a chamber music recital to mark its participation in the Violins of Hope project. This involved a trio of SFS musicians, violinist Raushan Akhmedyarova, violist Adam Smyla, and cellist Barbara Bogatin, who also provided background information about both Violins of Hope and the pieces being performed. Those pieces were written by two Czech composers, both of whom were actively involved in the cultural life of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Violins of Hope, in turn, was responsible for the restoration of the instruments performed by all three members of the trio. Each composer was represented by music performed on either side of the intermission.

Theresienstadt was not a death camp like Auschwitz. Its prisoners were held there until arrangements were made to transfer them to a more fatal destination. (Obviously, the prisoners were not aware of this deadly plan.) The Nazis even went as far as to declare Theresienstadt a “spa town,” with amenities such as concert performances given by the inmates presenting music written by other inmates. These were the circumstances under which the music played by the SFS trio was first presented.

The music performed before the intermission was a string trio composed by Gideon Klein in 1944. Klein was transferred out of Theresienstadt, first to Auschwitz and then to Fürstengrube. The circumstances of his death are unknown, but it is assumed that he died some time in 1945. His trio was recently recorded by the Black Oak Ensemble on their Silenced Voices album, which was discussed on this site this past October. The core of the trio is a Lento movement of variations on a Moravian folk song, framed by relatively short fast movements on either side. As might be expected, there is considerable darkness in both the theme and its variations; and it would be fair to say that the performance given yesterday afternoon was uncompromising in its rhetoric.

The intermission was followed by two compositions by Hans Krása, both composed also in 1944. The longer of these was a coupling of passacaglia and fugue. As Bogatin observed, this reflected all the way back to the practices of Johann Sebastian Bach; but the grimly sinuous passacaglia theme was more evocative of the sinister chromaticism of Anton Webern’s passacaglia (his Opus 1). To orient the listeners to Krása’s theme and how it then transformed into a fugue subject, Bogatin had Smyla play examples, which provided just the right amount of framework for attentive listening. As a more cheerful “post script” to their performance, the trio concluded with Krása’s “Tanec,” a short and vigorous dance movement with a few reverberations of Béla Bartók’s reflections on Hungarian sources. 1944 was the year in which Krása was transferred to Auschwitz, where he was put to death on October 17.

Fortunately, these grim reflections on dark times were framed by more upbeat selections. The program began with Malcom Arnold’s Suite Bourgeoise, a trio for flute (Robin McKee), oboe (James Button), and piano (Britton Day). This consisted of a Prelude movement followed by reflections on four styles of popular music of the time. (Arnold composed this suite in 1940.) There was more than a little satire in Arnold’s approach to each of these popular styles, and all three of the players knew exactly how to capture the composer’s humorous rhetoric. There were also many elegant duo passages for the two winds, and the harmonies emerging from McKee and Button could not have been smoother. Nevertheless, it was hard to shake off a sense of irony that Arnold composed this music during the dawning of the horrors in Germany that would lead to institutions such as Theresienstadt.

The program concluded with Johannes Brahms’ Opus 40, his trio in E-flat major scored for horn (Daniel Hawkins), violin (David Chernyavsky), and piano (Asya Gulua). This provided just the right doses of relief from the grim fates of Klein and Krása. Hawkins was particularly impressive with the smooth style he brought to his instrument, highlighting the vast array of lyric qualities that Brahms had envisioned. Indeed, the couplings of Chernyavsky and Hawkins were as compelling as those of McKee and Button, but with entirely different sonorities. While there were definitely moments of melancholy in Brahms’ score (one of which was shamelessly appropriated by Meredith Willson when he was writing the score for The Unsinkable Molly Brown), the overall rhetoric was one of sunny optimism, allowing the audience to leave Davies with a decidedly positive state of mind.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Isabelle Faust’s New Schoenberg Album

courtesy of PIAS

This coming Friday harmonia mundi will release its latest “Isabelle Faust and friends” album. I feel as if I have been following Faust’s work almost as long as I have been writing about music. I have encountered her playing music for violin unaccompanied, serving as a concerto soloist, and performing in chamber music groups of different sizes. That latter category includes membership in a trio with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexander Melnikov, a group that I documented when they performed in Herbst Theatre at the beginning of this month. I have not followed her recording career thoroughly, but I have definitely been drawn to some of her more adventurous undertakings. The most recent of these involved the release of an album presenting a thoroughly engaging account of Franz Schubert’s D. 803 octet in F major.

Faust’s latest recording could not be more different. The entire album presents two decidedly different compositions by Arnold Schoenberg. The more familiar of these is his Opus 4 sextet given the title “Verklärte Nacht” (transfigured night), so named because it delivers what amounts to a verse-by-verse musical interpretation of a poem by Richard Dehmel that has the same title. As the opus number suggests, this is an early composition, tonal but rich in chromaticism. At the other end of Schoenberg’s career, the album begins with his Opus 36 violin concerto, based on the composer’s twelve-tone technique but taking a neoclassical approach to thematic structure. As may be expected, is currently taking pre-orders for this new album.

The structure of the violin concerto is derived from a single twelve-tone row:

When Columbia released its first recording of the concerto, it included a twelve-by-twelve array of pitch class labels that was intended to summarize all “permissible” statements of the row. The pitch classes of the row itself (A B-flat E-flat B E F-sharp C C-sharp G A-flat D F) constituted the first horizontal row. The first vertical row descended from the A and presented the inversion of the row, replacing rising intervals with those descending by the same amount and vice versa. The array could then be completed by taking each pitch class in that vertical row to specify a transposition of the entire row. The resulting grid thus presented twelve horizontal and twelve vertical rows, reach of which could be read forwards or backwards, meaning that there are 48 possible ways in which the row may be stated.

Columbia’s “mathematical” approach to Schoenberg’s technique (which may well have been due to input from Milton Babbitt) could easily be the most counterproductive measure in any attempt to encourage listeners to accept Schoenberg’s music. We know from a caustic letter that Schoenberg wrote to René Leibowitz that the composer abhorred such an approach. As Schoenberg put it in that letter:
I do not compose principles, but music.
Sadly between the misguided efforts of Babbitt as a theorist and Robert Craft as a conductor, it did not take long for even the most curious of listeners to be put off by all-things-Schoenberg.

In my own personal development, it took me quite some time to find a more constructive handle to bring to Schoenberg’s efforts to work with alternatives to traditional tonality. My own turning point took place in the Eighties when my wife and I would regularly visit Santa Fe to see the summer opera productions. There was a chamber music festival taking place at the same time, which offered free admission to rehearsals during the day. This led to my turning pages for pianist Ursula Oppens one afternoon when she was accompanying violinist György Pauk to prepare a performance of Schoenberg’s Opus 47 Phantasy.

I volunteered for this task assuming that I would need to follow the score to make sense of the music. To be fair, there were any number of times when my eyes were providing better guidance than my ears did. However, on the brink of one tempo change, I heard Pauk say, “Now we dance!” That became my bolt from the blue. There was no reason not to dance to that music and every reason to do so; and since that afternoon I have always let my ears (and occasionally muscular reactions) guide my way.

The reason for this long-winded anecdote is that the beginning of the final (third) movement of the Opus 36 violin concerto has become one of the clearest now-we-dance moments I have encountered. Performing with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Faust clearly knew consistently how to find the spirit behind all three movements of this concerto without getting bogged down in the flood of marks on paper or the mathematical matrix intended to bring clarity to all of those marks. One might say that this is a performance that keeps the listener focused on the concerto regardless of any opinions formed about the composer; but, with the benefit of that focus, one might even have a bit of fun with the listening experience!

In the Opus 4 performance Faust leads a sextet in which she is again joined by Queyras. Anne Katharina Schreiber is the other violinist, and Christian Poltéra is the other cellist. The two violists are Antoine Tamestit and Danusha Waskiewicz. (Both Schreiber and Waskiewicz performed with Faust on her Schubert octet album.)

From a semantic point of view, I rather like the fact that the booklet presents an English translation of Dehmel’s poem, clearly marking off the five sections that correspond to the five tracks (played without interruption) of the recording. In contrast to Columbia’s sterile approach to packaging the Opus 36 concerto, the booklet allows the engaged listener to appreciate just how attentive Schoenberg was to the structural and semantic foundations of Dehmel’s text. It goes without saying that Faust and her colleagues bring a sufficiently solid account of Schoenberg’s score to engage any listener willing to be engaged.

I have had the good fortune to listen to Opus 4 performed by more sextets than I am capable of enumerating. I still feel that there is no substitute to being in the presence of a performance, allowing the eyes to augment all the data being acquired through the ears. For that matter, awareness of the physical movement of the players adds yet another data stream to contribute to the sensemaking process. This makes listening to a recording a far more limited experience. Nevertheless, a new recording can bring with it new perspectives on such matters as phrasing and levels of the dynamics; and, since it is unlikely that I shall encounter all six of the musicians on this album in a performance of Opus 4, I have no trouble making the best of what I have at my disposal!

Pavel Haas Quartet to Return to SFP with Pianist

Veronika Jarůšková, Marek Zwiebel, and Peter Jarůšek standing behind Jiří Kabát and pianist Boris Giltburg (from the SFP event page for this concert)

Visits to San Francisco Performances (SFP) by the Pavel Haas Quartet (violinists Veronika Jarůšková and Marek Zwiebel, violist Jiří Kabát, and cellist Peter Jarůšek) have become consistently welcome affairs. Next month will see their sixth appearance in Herbst Theatre, the last one having taken place in April of 2011, back when I was writing for For this season’s visit, however, they will be joined by Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg.

The entire quintet will perform during the second half of the program. The single selection will be Antonín Dvořák Opus 81 (second) piano quintet in A major. The first half of the program will be devoted entirely to the twentieth century. It will begin with Bohuslav Martinů’s sixth string quartet, which he composed in New York in 1946. This will be followed by Béla Bartók’s fourth quartet, composed in Budapest in 1928. Music theorist Allen Forte developed an argument to demonstrate Bartók departing from tonality in this quartet, particularly in its third movement.

This performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10. Herbst Theatre is located on the first two floors of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, convenient to public transportation on both Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. Ticket prices will be $70 for premium seating on the Orchestra level and in the front of the Dress Circle, $55 for the Boxes, the remainder of the Orchestra, and the remainder of the center Dress Circle, and $45 for the Balcony and the remainder of the Dress Circle. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through an SFP event page.

Two Quartets by Two Mendelssohn Siblings

1829 sketch of Fanny Mendelssohn by her future husband Wilhelm Hensel (from Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Yesterday afternoon the New Esterházy Quartet (NEQ) brought their Beyond Beethoven: Quartets from the Next Generation program to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. The program was devoted to the two best known children of Abraham Mendelssohn, Fanny and her younger brother Felix. The removal of Georges Onslow from the previously announced program meant that only two quartets were performed, separated by a brief intermission along with commentary by violist Anthony Martin. The program began with Fanny’s only quartet, composed in the key of E-flat major in 1834. This was followed by Felix’s Opus 80 quartet in F minor, an intense composition reflecting his profound grief at the death of this sister in 1847. (Felix himself would die only months after completing this quartet.)

Most of Fanny’s music was not published in her lifetime. As Martin explained, publication would have established her as a professional musician, which her father would not allow. Her Wikipedia page includes the following sentence from a latter that Abraham wrote to Fanny in 1820:
Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix's] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.
In 1829 Fanny married the painter Wilhelm Hensel, who was far more supportive of Fanny’s creative endeavors. However, her marital duties left her little time for composition.

We should be fortunate that she had enough time to compose her only string quartet. It is imaginative in any number of ways, beginning with the overall layout of the tempi of its four movements. The Adagio ma non troppo suggests an introduction to a sonata-allegro structure, which never actually emerges; and Fanny definitely takes her own sweet time in establishing E-flat major as the key. The Allegretto scherzo in the second movement abounds with irresistibly engaging eccentricities. The following Romanze provides the slow tempo with its proper place, leading up to an elegantly conceived Allegro molto vivace conclusion.

Given the context in which Felix composed Opus 80, I found myself wondering if he chose F minor because it was the key of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 95 quartet, given the name “Serioso.” Clearly, Felix was going for serious rhetorical stances, even if that adjective is the only suggestion of a connection to Beethoven. NEQ followed the dark shades of that rhetoric through all four of the quartet’s movements, consistently reflecting the “seriousness” of tone without succumbing to excessive emoting.

As always, the NEQ violinists alternated in the first chair position. Kati Kyme led Fanny’s quartet, and Lisa Weiss led Felix’s. Fanny provided cellist William Skeen with several intriguing passages that suggested novel approaches to technique beyond those demanded by Beethoven. Similarly, the viola was anything but a secondary instrument in both of these quartets; and Fanny’s score provided Martin with any number of opportunities to take the lead.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Swedish Women Composers of the Nineteenth Century

Paula Gudmundson on the cover of her debut album (from the album’s Web page on

This past November MSR Classics released the debut album of Minnesota-based flutist Paula Gudmundson. The full title of the album is Breaking Waves: Music by Swedish Women Composers. Anticipating that just about anyone encountering this title will associate it with Lars von Trier, Gudmundson’s notes for the accompanying booklet make it clear that “Breaking Waves” was the title of an orchestral composition by Swedish composer Helena Munktell (1852–1919).

Munktell’s music is not included on this album. However, the three composers whose works Gudmundson performs are her contemporaries: Laura Netzel (1839–1927), Elfrida Andrée (1841–1929), and Amanda Röntgen-Maier (1853–1894). The major works on the album are three-movement sonatas by Andrée and Röntgen-Maier. Netzel is represented by several short pieces, three of which are collected in her Opus 33 suite.

Gudmundson is accompanied at the piano by Tracy Lipke-Perry. However, the Netzel suite is the only piece composed for flute and piano. All of the other selections are based on transcriptions prepared by Carol Wincenc and Gudmundson herself.

The compositions themselves date from different periods of the nineteenth century, a period that saw prodigious changes between the early career of Ludwig van Beethoven and the established tone poems of Richard Strauss. It is therefore more than a little disappointing that there is an almost innocuous uniformity that pervades Gudmundson’s album. In the broader scope of music history, we know that there were several adventurous composers. (One of them probably had some of her works published under her brother’s name.) However, Breaking Waves leaves one with the impression that such adventurism never ventured as far north as Sweden.

The result is an album that offers some valuable data points for a more thorough account of musical practices in the nineteenth century without necessarily providing engaging or satisfying listening experiences.

LCCE to Present Musical Storytelling

Storyteller Susan Strauss, composer Chris Castro, and violist Phyllis Kamrin (from the LCCE event page for the concert being previewed)

[added 3/7, 3:05 p.m.:

LCCE has decided to cancel its performance of Fairytale Pieces this coming Monday, March 9. Those with tickets have the following options:
  1. Treat the ticket as a tax-deductible gift.
  2. Exchange the ticket for one for the following concert, Living in Color, whose San Francisco performance will take place on Monday, June 1.
  3. Return the ticket for a refund.
Those in need of assistance can call LCCE at 415-617-5223 or send electronic mail to the Box Office.]

The title of the fourth program to be presented in the 2019–2020 season of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble (LCCE) is Fairytale Pieces. Of the three pieces on the program, one will be a world premiere and another was composed on an LCCE commission. The world premiere composition was written by Carl Schimmel, entitled “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.”

This piece was inspired by Howard L. Chace’s book Anguish Languish, now out of print but available from at collector’s-item prices. The book is a hysterically funny study in phonemics. Except for the Introduction, it consists entirely of strings of words that make sense only when read aloud. With that as background, readers should be able to mine the semantics from the title of Schimmel’s piece, described by Chase as a “ladle furry starry toiling udder warts—warts welcher altar girdle deferent firmer once inner regional virgin.” The narration of this text will be delivered by Nikki Einfeld.

The LCCE commission was for a pair of short pieces by Chris Castro, “Coyote Goes to the Sky” and “Birds of Fortune.” They were premiered about a year ago, when LCCE was ensemble-in-residence at the Doug Adams Gallery of the Graduate Theological Union’s Center for Arts and Religion. For these pieces, based on Native American tales, guest performer Susan Strauss will serve as storyteller. The program will begin with Robert Schumann’s Opus 113, a collection of four short pieces scored for viola (Phyllis Kamrin) and piano (Allegra Chapman, appearing as guest performer).

The San Francisco performance of this program will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 9. The venue will be the Recital Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, located at 50 Oak Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street and a short walk from the Van Ness Muni Station. Single tickets will be sold at the door for $35 for general admission and $18 for those under the age of 35. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a Tix Web page.

ABS Announces 2020 Jeffrey Thomas Award

Yesterday the American Bach Soloists (ABS) announced the recipient of the 2020 Jeffrey Thomas Award. The award was created by ABS in celebration of the group’s first 25 years of presenting performances in Northern California, across the United States, and around the world. The award was named to honor the inspired leadership of Artistic & Music Director Thomas.

The 2020 recipient is mezzo Sarah Coit:

Mezzo Sarah Coit (courtesy of American Bach Soloists)

Coit was one of the soloists featured at the end of last December, which she sang in the ABS concert A Baroque New Year’s Eve at the Opera at Herbst Theatre. She performed arias from three operas by George Frideric Handel, Riccardo Primo (HWV 23), Giulio Cesare (HWV 17), and Ariodante (HWV 33). This coming December she will be one of the soloists in the annual ABS performances of Handel’s Messiah (HWV 56) held, as usual, in Grace Cathedral.

Gordon Grdina’s Nomadic Guitar Polyphony

Courtesy of Braithwaite & Katz Communications

Last month Skirl Records released the debut album of Gordon Grdina’s Nomad Trio. Grdina is a prodigiously virtuosic guitarist whose imaginative approaches to jazz are balanced by an equal interest in Arabic music, which he explores on the oud. The other members of his trio are pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Jim Black. As is so often the case, is only distributing this recording through download, but there is a Bandcamp Web page that supports both physical and digital purchase of the content.

The first impression one gets from this album is that Grdina has a prodigious command of polyphony. He has no trouble maintaining multiple voices on his guitar; and, for that matter, his knack for teasing counterpoint out of a single melodic line follows admirably in the footsteps of Johann Sebastian Bach. As a result, Mitchell’s role in the Nomad Trio often involves weaving his own lines into Grdina’s polyphony; and those results can be mind-boggling. (To be fair, Mitchell’s command of rhythmic patterns is just as prodigious, meaning that he can engage with Black’s percussion work as adeptly as he does with Grdina.)

Indeed, this is an album that offers far more than can be absorbed by the simple sit-down-and-listen technique. Each of the six tracks has an elaborate life of its own. This is one of those “bleeding edge” jazz albums that demands so much attentive listening that each track is a cognitive adventure unto itself.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Choices for March 6–8, 2020

The first full weekend in March is going to be another busy one. As was the case with the account of March 1 earlier this week, the weekend will mark the beginning of several monthly schedules, which will also be summarized in this report. In other words, this will be another “fasten your seatbelts” article, hopefully with enough diversity that no particular interest will be slighted. Specifics are as follows:

[added 3/3, 10:50 a.m.:

Friday, March 6, 12:30 p.m., Cadillac Hotel: Close on the heels of a last-minute announcement of classical music last week, Concerts at the Cadillac will present a jazz quintet to kick off the weekend. The group is led by trombonist Bob Roden, who also provides vocals and occasionally percussion. He is joined on the front line by Ron Jackson playing both alto saxophone and flute. Rhythm is provided by Mark Rossi at the piano and Dave Casini on drums.

The hotel is located at 380 Eddy Street, on the northeast corner of Leavenworth Street. All Concerts at the Cadillac events are presented without charge. The purpose of the series is to provide high-quality music to the residents of the hotel and the Tenderloin District; but all are invited to visit the venue that calls itself “The House of Welcome Since 1907.”]

[added 2/29, 12:40 p.m.:

Friday, March 6, 6 p.m., Bethany Center: The next Concert with Conversation event to be presented by the Community Music Center (CMC) in partnership with San Francisco Performances (SFP) will feature Bill Kanengiser, a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and the Alexander String Quartet. As if often the case this will serve as a preview for the recital that these five musicians will bring to Herbst Theatre the following evening (see below for details about that event). Note, however, that this event will not take place at CMC. The Bethany Center is located at 580 Capp Street, a few doors down the block from CMC. This event will still be free and open to the general public. However, due to the popularity of these offerings, reservations are recommended. These are being handled through an Eventbrite event page. Note, however, that this will not guarantee seating, which will be first-come first-served. There will also be space for walk-up patrons without prior reservations.]

Friday, March 6, 7 p.m., Center for New Music (C4NM): The March calendar at C4NM will begin with the third annual Songfest, held as part of San Francisco State University’s annual RGB Arts Festival. The program will present the results of student composers working with poets from the Creative Writing Department. The resulting works will be performed by student vocalists and accompanists. There will be no charge for admission, and tickets will be available only at the door.

As of this writing, this concert will be the first event of the month at C4NM. In necessary, I shall use my Facebook shadow site to put out the word about updates as more information becomes available. For those who do not yet know, the venue is located at 55 Taylor Street, half a block north of the Golden Gate Theater, which is where Golden Gate Avenue meets Market Street. Most of the remaining events of the month will required tickets, which may be purchased in advance through a Vendini event page. Hyperlinks to the appropriate Web pages will be attached to each of the dates in the following summary:
  • Sunday, March 8, 7 p.m.: Bay Area pianist Ric Louchard will give a solo recital. The program will be divided between his own compositions and those of Michael Rothkopf, currently Professor of Composition a the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students. [updated 3/12, 5:45 p.m.: All remaining events in March at C4NM have been cancelled in the hope that the schedule will be able to resume in April.
  • Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.: C4NM curator Glenda Bates will perform in a concert of solo works for oboe and electronics. She will play electroacoustic works for both oboe and cor anglais by Diana Syrse, Daria Semegen, and Thea Musgrave. This performances will be interwoven with projections of artwork by Julia Marquis, which will tell the story of humanity's descent into darkness and our will to create a brighter future. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.: This will be a two-set program. Desert Magic is a music collective founded in 2015 by Alex Wand, Steven Van Betten, and Logan Hone. For their visit to C4NM, they will be joined by multi-instrumentalist Mustafa Walker. Their offering will be the premiere performance of a song cycle entitled The Valley Spirit, whose text consists primarily of Ursula Le Guin’s version of the Tao Te Ching. The other set will be taken by Bay Area folk musician Meg Baird. The charge will be $20 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Sunday, March 15, 4 p.m.: The Surround Sound Salon Series, curated by Chris Brown, will continue with its third concert. The program will feature five local electronic music composers who present their fixed media and/or live electronic music through the 8-channel surround system, generously provided by Meyer Sound. Those composers, Maggi Payne, Michelle Moeller, Léa Boudreau, David Michalak, and Tom Nunn, will mix their sounds from the center of the space, and the audience is free to choose their own listening location, and to move within the space to hear the music from different vantage points. The charge will be $10 for general admission and $5 for C4NM members and students.
  • Monday, March 16, 8 p.m.: Cornettist and composer Taylor Ho Bynum will make a rare visit to the Bay Area. He will lead a quartet whose other members will be Hafez Modirzadeh (tenor saxophone), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Keshav Batish (drums and tabla). The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Tuesday, March 17, 8 p.m.: Luciano Chessa will return to C4NM to present a three-set program. The first set will be performed with Joshua Howes; and the performance by the two of them will involve piano, voice, and a diversity of signal processing technology. The second set will be performed by Tenderloin Noise, which is Chessa’s duo with Williams. Williams will provide sound through turntables to accompany Chessa’s performance on amplified piano. Chess will then conclude with a solo set involving feedback technology applied to both voice and piano. The charge will be $25 for general admission and $20 for C4NM members and students.
  • Thursday, March 19, 7:30 p.m.: Violinist Pauline Kim Harris will play “Ambient Chaconne,” which she composed in partnership with Spencer Tope. They describe the composition, which takes a little less than three-quarters of an hour, as “an immersive exploration” of the chaconne movement that concludes Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1004 solo violin partita in D minor. The work blends live and pre-recorded violin with electronically synthesized sounds. The performance will also incorporate a film by Eric Leiser. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Friday, March 20, 7:30 p.m.: Harris will return the following night as half of the String Noise violin duo, joined by Conrad Harris. They will play their own arrangement of the score for The Decline of Western Civilization, Penelope Spheeris’ documentary about the Los Angeles punk rock scene, based on footage that she captured between 1979 and 1980. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Saturday, March 21, 7:30 p.m.: Eric Dahlman, E. Doc Smith, Edo Castro Woodhouse and Peter McKibben will present a program entitled Cloud About Mercury Revisited. In the spirit of the String Noise program, this quartet will present new arrangements of music from guitarist David Torn’s album Cloud About Mercury. They will also take the same approach to tracks from the Upper Extremities album recorded by Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. All four members of the group will also contribute original compositions of their own. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Friday, March 27, 7:30 p.m.: Andrew Watts, Constantin Basica, Ryan Maguire, Julie Herndon, Andrew Blanton, and Caroline Louise Miller will all present original compositions that will reflect on the emergence of a “post human” culture during the Internet Age.The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students. For this particular program, advance ticket sales will end at 5 p.m. on the day of the event; and tickets will be available at the door 30 minutes before the show begins.
  • Saturday, March 28, 8 p.m.: Pianist Rory Cowal will give a solo recital. His program will feature contemporary composers who draw from avant-garde jazz traditions. Those composers will include George Lewis, Kris Davis, and Anthony Davis. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.
  • Sunday, March 29, 8 p.m.: Rova 2020: The Music Revealed Take 1 will be the next performance by the Rova Saxophone Quartet to be hosted by C4NM. As they are putting it, they will perform “works devised or brought to a place of revelations in this 2019 -20 season, including at least one world premiere.” (The Take 2 incarnation of this program will take place in April.) The charge will be $15 for general admission, $10 for C4NM members, and $6 for students. [added 3/4, 11:40 a.m.:
  • Tuesday, March 31, 7:30 p.m.: The month will conclude with a program entitled André Guéziec and Friends. Guéziec has organized an evening of new music by himself and other composer-performers. The program will offer not only Guézic's work but also recent pieces by Paul Smith-Stewart and John-Paul Labno. The performances will be followed by an opportunity to meet with local composers. The charge will be $15 for general admission and $10 for C4NM members and students.]]
Friday, March 6, 7:30 p.m., Episcopal Church of the Incarnation: The March calendar for Sunset Music and Arts will offer six concerts, only one of which will be part of The Beethoven 2020 Project. Instead, the month will open with the Alon Nechushtan Jazz Quartet, which will present their Klezmer-Jazz Project. Program details have not yet been announced. Nechushtan will lead his group from the piano. The other five concerts will also take place at 7:30 p.m. Specifics are as follows:
  • Saturday, March 7: Duo SF consists of guitarists Christopher Mallet and Robert Miller. They have prepared a program of impressive breadth. It will include arrangements of music from Manuel de Falla’s opera La vida breve (the brief life), tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and arrangements of four Beatles songs composed by Leo Brouwer.
  • Friday, March 13: This month’s Beethoven 2020 Project concert will feature organ scholar Oliver Brett. Ludwig van Beethoven wrote very little for the organ, but several of his teachers were organists. There seem to have been occasions when he assisted them in performance. For this concert, however, Brett will accompany hornist Dan Hivley in a performance of Beethoven’s Opus 17 horn sonata in F major. The remainder of the program will then be devoted to the organ repertoire.
  • Friday, March 20: Baritone John Smalley will present a program entitled Schoenberg and his Students. Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern all composed adventurous vocal music. However, Smalley’s program will also include less familiar Schoenberg students, such as Hans Eisler and Viktor Ullmann. He will be accompanied by pianist Janis Mercer.
  • Saturday, March 21: The next jazz offering will be a program entitled Women Compose Jazz!, performed by the Laura Klein Trio. Klein will lead from the piano with rhythm provided by Carla Kaufman on bass and Kelly Fasman on drums. The trio will play Klein’s own music, as well as the works of jazz icons such as Marian McPartland, Mary Lou Williams, Renee Rosnes, Alice Coltrane, and Joanne Brackeen.
  • Saturday, March 28: Ensemble LudeCanta is an ever-changing consortium of musicians committed to presenting new and rarely-performed chamber works. The Artistic Director is soprano C.A. Jordan. Nicholas Chase is the resident composer, performing on electronics when necessary. The other instrumentalists are Amy Likar, playing all sizes of flutes, cellist Lori Hennessy, and pianist Linli Wang. The group will present a program of music by American composers including Samuel Barber, Henry Cowell, and Ernest Bloch.
All performances will take place in the Sunset district at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, located at 1750 29th Avenue, about halfway between Moraga Street and Noriega Street. Ticket prices are $20 for general admission with a $15 rate for students and seniors. Because the demand tends to be high, advance purchase is highly advised. Tickets may be purchased online through Eventbrite. Each of the hyperlinks on the above dates leads to the event page for single ticket purchases. Further information may be obtained by calling 415-564-2324.

[added 2/29, 9:15 a.m.:

Friday, March 6, 7:30 p.m., Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center: The next concert in the Pomeroy LIVE! series of programs will be a “Good ol’ fashioned bluegrass n boogie” program presented by banjo player Ted Kuster. When this program was first announced, the material said that Kuster would lead a combo, whose members would be announced at a later date. It turns out that this will be a rather generously populated group. The performers will include fiddlers Ron Esparza and Jody Richardson, mandolinist Jim Letchworth, guitarist Ian Epstein, bassist Hideaki Mizuno, and Steve Owen on resonator guitar. This population promises as broad approach to repertoire.

The Pomeroy Center is located in the Outer Sunset (about as “outer” as you can get). The street address is 207 Skyline Boulevard; but the entrance is on Herbst Road (which is the first possible right turn after Skyline branches off of Sloat Boulevard). Admission is free for all those with disabilities. Tickets for others are $10. Those who pay $60 to purchase a Cafe Table for four will benefit from one drink (presumably one for each of the four people at the table) and a “bowl of crunchy snacks.” Tickets may be purchased online through a certified secure Web page maintained by giv.]

[added 3/4, 6:10 p.m.:

Friday, March 6, 7:30 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM): The SFCM Alumni Artist Insights Series will present a concert by Nomad Session, the octet consisting of four wind and four brass instruments, respectively. Six of the eight members of the ensemble are SFCM alumni. Oboist Laura Reynolds is an alumna from the class of ’91, and the other five are from either the class of ’14 or the class of ’15. Their program will survey the diversity of repertoire that the group has cultivated since its inception. The composer to be represented on the program will be Edvard Grieg, Percey Grainger, Rager Zare, and Marc Mellits. The performance will take place in the Sol Joseph Recital Hall. There will be no charge for admission, but reservations will be required using the hyperlink in this sentence.]

Friday, March 6, 8 p.m., and Saturday, March 7, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., ODC Theater: The Living Earth Show (TLES) and ODC will co-present T.L.E.S.tival a two-day festival. Those that have followed this site regularly probably know that TLES is the highly imaginative and creative duo of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson. This two day event will celebrate the duo’s tenth anniversary with two separate programs (and two performances of the Saturday program).

The Friday program will present Lordship and Bondage: The Birth of the Negro Superman, a ten-movement song cycle composed by M. Lamar working with TLES. The texts are drawn from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s The Phenomenology Spirit, which includes a section entitled “Lordship and Bondage” dealing with the master-slave dialectic, and the “Prophecy” of the Übermensch (superman) from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The libretto also includes texts by Sun Ra taken from both interviews and his own writings on discipline and freedom.

The Saturday program will also present a single composition, the one-hour spoken-word chamber opera “Echoes,” composed by Danny Clay. This piece was created for San Francisco Performance, which presented the premiere performance on October 7, 2017. The libretto for this performance was curated by Tassiana Willis, one of the inaugural Emerging Arts Fellows at Youth Speaks, whose texts were combined with those of four other poet-performers, Gabriel Cortez, A. M. Smiley, Aimee Suzara, and Michael Wayne Turner III. The libretto also included texts by Tongo Eisen-Martin and Enrique Garcia Naranjo; and one of the poems was delivered by Sean San José, who directed the entire performance. Clay’s score was performed by both TLES and the Kronos Quartet of violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt, and cellist Sunny Yang, along with field recordings that Clay collected.

Tickets for the two performances are being sold separately. However, ticket sales are being managed by ODC, meaning that all tickets can be collected into a Shopping Cart and given a single payment. Tickets may be purchased through the event pages for the two programs on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Ticket prices for Friday will be $19, $29, and $39; and those for Saturday will be $19, $29, $39, and $49.

Friday, March 6, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall: On March 17 the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) will embark on its final tour of New York and Europe with Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT). As in the past, there will be two “preview programs” of the music to be performed on that tour. The first of these will be given only one performance and will consist only of the performance of Gustav Mahler’s sixth symphony. Peter Grunberg will be giving the Inside Music talk beginning at 7 p.m.

Tickets for this concert are almost sold out. As of this writing, tickets are only available in the Terraces and 2nd Tier for $185. Tickets may be purchased online through an event page on the SFS Web site. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 415-864-6000 or by visiting the Davies Box Office, whose entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and two hours prior to Sunday performances.

The second program will feature cellist Gautier Capuçon. He will tour with SFS to perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 126 (second) cello concerto. The “overture” for the program will be MTT’s “Street Song,” composed for the brass section. The program will conclude with Igor Stravinsky’s score for the ballet “The Firebird.”

This program will be given three performances, all at 8 p.m. on March 12, March 13, and March 14. As can be seen from the hyperlinks, each performance now has its own event page; but they all point to the same Web page for choosing tickets to purchase. Tickets are available at all prices (from $35 to $175); and tickets can also be purchased at the Box Office. The Inside Music talk will be given by Elizabeth Seitz, again beginning at 7 p.m.

Friday, March 6, 8 p.m., War Memorial Opera House: Across the street from Davies, the San Francisco Ballet will be presenting the first of its two full-evening programs of major works by choreographer George Balanchine. The first of these is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set to music by Felix Mendelssohn. Over a 35 years after his death, Balanchine remains one of the most musically-informed of choreographers. His biographer Bernard Taper even noted that Balanchine will prepare to teach a new ballet by first writing his own solo piano version of the music he would be setting.

In addition to the opening, there will be nine additional performances. These will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, Sunday, March 8, Saturday, March 14, and Sunday, March 15, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, and Saturday, March 14, and at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, Wednesday, March 11, and Thursday, March 12. The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street. The home page for this production has hyperlinks for online purchase of tickets. Tickets may also be purchased at the Box Office, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Box Office can also be reached by calling 415-865-2000.

[updated 3/6, 8:05 a.m.: This event has been cancelled, because, as of this writing, all flights out of Milan have been cancelled; those either holding tickets are planning to attend can call the Omni Foundation at 415-242-4500 for further information.

Saturday, March 7, 7:30 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church: The next Dynamite Guitars program presented by the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts will present the duo of guitarist Giampaolo Bandini performing with Cesare Chiacchiaretta on bandoneon. Program details have not been released, but it is easy to assume that they will focus on Argentinian music, probably with a preference for tangos. St. Mark’s is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. Ticket prices will be $55 for Orchestra level seating, and $45 for the Balcony. Seating will be general admission in both sections. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.]

Saturday, March 7, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre: At the same time as Omni, San Francisco Performances (SFP) will present the next concert in its Guitar Series. This will feature the return of Bill Kanengiser, who performed in Herbst with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet this past November. On this occasion he will perform with the Alexander String Quartet. The title of the program will be British Invasion; and it will feature the United States premiere of Prism, arrangements of six songs by Sting prepared by Dušan Bogdanović. The “pop” spirit of the program will continue with Brouwer’s arrangements of seven Beatles songs, after which the group will play “Labyrinth,” composed by Ian Krouse and based on a theme by Led Zeppelin. Earlier British music will be represented by Krouse’s “Music in Four Sharps,” based on John Dowland’s “Frog” galliard. Kanengiser will also give solo performances of several of Dowland’s songs.

Herbst Theatre is located on the first two floors of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, convenient to public transportation on both Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. Ticket prices will be $60 for premium seating on the Orchestra level and in the front of the Dress Circle, $50 for the Boxes, the remainder of the Orchestra, and the remainder of the center Dress Circle, and $45 for the Balcony and the remainder of the Dress Circle. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a SFP event page.

Saturday, March 7, 7:30 p.m., Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church: Readers may recall my report on the Prism Percussion duo of Divesh Karamchandani and Elizabeth Hall when they performed at the McRoskey Mattress Company this past November. Their first recital of the new year will be given in the Seventh Avenue Performances recital series. The program will feature “Transit,” composed by Nicholas Pavkovic for vibraphone, marimba, and keyboard. They will also revisit Kyle Hovatter’s settings of four poems by Terry Severhill, given a memorable account at their McRoskey recital.

The Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church is located at 1329 Seventh Avenue, about half a block south of the stop for the Muni N trolley line. General admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for students and seniors. Tickets are available in advance online through a Brown Paper Tickets event page.

Sunday, March 8, 2 p.m., Legion of Honor: Pocket Opera will begin its 43rd year of presenting grand opera on an intimate scale to Bay Area audiences. The first performance in San Francisco will present Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni, directed by Jane Erwin. The case will feature Anders Froehlich in the leading role and Sara LeMesh as Zerlina. Adler Fellow César Cañón will conduct.

This performance will take place in the Gunn Theater. The Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park at 100 34th Avenue. Single tickets are being sold in advance for $55 and for $60 at the door. Senior rates are $48 in advance and $54 at the door. There is also a special $25 rate for those aged 30 and under, but these are most easily purchased by called 415-972-8934. Because this is the beginning of the season, subscriptions are still being sold. A Web page has been created for online purchase of both subscriptions and single tickets, providing all relevant information.

Sunday, March 8, 2 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall: The next visiting program to be hosted by SFS will be the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble. This group brings together Israeli and Palestinian musicians playing side-by-side. They are currently led by violinist Michael Barenboim. The program will feature the octet “Jawb” by Benjamin Attahir, composed on commission by the Ensemble. The program will also feature Felix Mendelssohn’s octet, as well as compositions by Franz Schubert and Giuseppe Tartini. Tickets are being sold for prices between $29 and $89. They may be purchased online through the event page for this concert or directly through the Box Office.

Sunday, March 8, 4 p.m., Congregation Sha’ar Zahav: Once again San Francisco Choral Artists (SFCA), led by Artistic Director Magen Solomon, will collaborate with the klezmer trio Veretski Pass. The title of the program will be Stomping Feet: Song and Dance in the Jewish Tradition. The selections will combine the classical repertoire with the folk roots of Jewish music.

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav is located at 290 Dolores Street, on the southeast corner of 16th Street. Ticket prices will be $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors, and $12.50 for those under 30. Prices at the door will be $35 for general admission, $29 for seniors, and $15 for those under 30. All tickets are being sold online through a Web page on the SFCA Web site.

Sunday, March 8, 7 p.m., Noe Valley Ministry: Ensemble for These Times (E4TT) will present is 2020 Commissions Concert. The title of the program will be Mothers & Daughters. It will present world premiere performances of music by Elinor Armer, David Garner, and Brennan Stokes. The program will also include compositions by Anna Clyne, William Grant Still, and Chen Yi. The E4TT trio of soprano Nanette McGuinness, cellist Anne Lerner, and pianist Dale Tsang will be joined by guest artists Laura Reynolds on cor anglais and Ilana Blumberg on violin.

The Noe Valley Ministry at 1021 Sanchez Street. Tickets will be $30 for general admission, $15 for seniors, and $5 for students. Tickets at all price levels are currently available for sale online through an Eventbrite event page.