MULTICULTURALIST HARRISON HONORED AT CENTENNIAL

MULTICULTURALIST HARRISON HONORED AT CENTENNIAL

Of all the Lou Harrison centennial tributes, the Other Minds Festival produced one to beat the band. In addition to the sheer variety of works & instruments offered, Other Minds also created palpable environment of good vibrations. This was attributable too to a large crowd resonating with affection and admiration for the inventive and congenial composer who had spent his final half century in the region spanning sites from Santa Cruz to Oakland. The May 20 all-Harrison concert at Mission…

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NADJA’S FAREWELL

NADJA’S FAREWELL

For a grand finale, the New Century Chamber Orchestra served up a savory mix of post-millennium musical canapes. Call it Nadja’s antipasto. Leaving after nine hyperactive years as leader, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg dished up a night of excerpts from NCCO premieres logged during her tenure. And what could be more appropriate? Within its rather short seasons, the NCCO serves the Bay Area a rich menu of new works. And all indications are that whoever is appointed to succeed her as…

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WHY THE MANIA OVER THIS NEW-CONCEPT MUSICAL ‘HAMILTON?’

WHY THE MANIA OVER THIS NEW-CONCEPT MUSICAL ‘HAMILTON?’

Night After night, audiences are swept away by the sheer electricity of “Hamilton.” This new genre of tightly choreographed music-drama puts earlier musical in the shade, its nonstop inventiveness  enkindling the Orpheum Theater despite this historical account about long-dead Founding Fathers sprawling over nearly three hours, as long as most operas. Emerging recently after the show, patrons from ages 11 to elevated were jubilant and up-lifted, even though the heroic, head-strong title character has suffered a Hamlet-like demise in a…

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POSTMODERN IMPRESSIONS OF OLD FOLK SONGS

POSTMODERN IMPRESSIONS OF OLD FOLK SONGS

WALNUT CREEK, CA—For 30 years the California Symphony has served as a musical beacon for Contra Costa County, located nearly 30 miles east of San Francisco. And its programs are ambitious, often on the very limits of what can be comfortably carried out and absorbed. The May 7 season finale featured not only the elusive lush-romantic Bruckner, but also a world premiere by composer-in-residence Dan Visconti, 34, from Chicago. Visconti’s 25-minute cello concerto “Tangle Eye”—his third work written for this…

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Return of a Gorgeous Cinderella at SF Ballet

Return of a Gorgeous Cinderella at SF Ballet

The story of Cinderella is so well known and so imprinted with pop culture inflections that finding an audience for any retelling of it in any medium requires a good deal of imagination and perhaps even daring. It is a matter of surpassing rather than affirming previous understanding of the story. Ballet is no exception. The Cinderella story was a ballet first in 1813 (Vienna), then in 1822 (London), again in 1893 (St. Petersburg), and then again in 1906 (London)….

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Berlioz’s Requiem: A Rafter-Shaking Experience

Berlioz’s Requiem: A Rafter-Shaking Experience

One of the greatest assemblies of musicians and singers ever at Davies Hall came together this week for Hector Berlioz’ grand, grand Requiem mass of 1837, performed  with immense reverence.  It’s an Olympic-sized budget-breaker that shakes the rafters on an awe-inspiring scale, making all the other hundreds of requiems in the repertory seem like mere chamber music. The Frenchman Berlioz is duly credited with great orchestration skills, greatly broadening the known sonic spectrum a mere decade or so after Schubert…

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A RELUCTANT SYMPHONY, AND THAT FRESH VIOLIN SPIRIT

A RELUCTANT SYMPHONY, AND THAT FRESH VIOLIN SPIRIT

BOSTON, MA—If you doubted what a great unifying force in the world classical music can be, the recent Boston Symphony concert could be a restoring force. There was music by a Japanese composer commemorating a Russian film-maker, with a violin soloist from Germany and a music director from Latvia—before an American audience shouting loud, healthy Italian bravos. It’s s if a whole world of interaction and, perhaps, human harmony, was opening up before us. The BSO and its Symphony Hall…

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Performance as Bio-Archive: David Gordon at ODC

Performance as Bio-Archive: David Gordon at ODC

Dance concerts in which dancing is incidental or secondary to some larger idea of dance performance have become common in postmodern dance culture. Bill T. Jones (b. 1952) has become one of the most successful advocates of this aesthetic. But one can trace the origin of the aesthetic back to the Judson Dance Group, a collection of dancers associated with experimental performers like Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and John Cage, which in New York City, between 1962-1964, explored the potential…

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VISITING LINCHPIN POWERS SUPERB MODERNIST MUSIC-THEATER

VISITING LINCHPIN POWERS SUPERB MODERNIST MUSIC-THEATER

STANFORD—Arguably the most dazzling world premiere of the season took place before an audience of only 100 in a basement studio space hosting a solo music-theater opus. The unorthodox double-barreled staging for singer and string quartet made for a stellar  performance vehicle for East Coast soprano Majel Connery—part singer, part half-crazed actress, part keyboardist. Going barefoot, she writhed about the floor raving and attacked a variety of apples hanging all around her runway stage, with patrons just three feet away…

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LOU HARRISON: VERSATILE CHAMELEON AMONG COMPOSERS

LOU HARRISON: VERSATILE CHAMELEON AMONG COMPOSERS

There have been game efforts by various Bay Area groups to mark the centennial of composer Lou Harrison via performances of his music, but they fall short. Harrison’s  large portfolio either involves exotic instruments, ranging from gamelans to improvised to radically retuned ones, or they are large-scale pieces such as his four symphonies for orchestra. But there’s hope, at least if you can wait till the May 20 all-Harrison concert featuring the large American (made) gamelan, to be given in…

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