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…

Read More Read More

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)….

Read More Read More

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…

Read More Read More

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…

Read More Read More

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…

Read More Read More

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…

Read More Read More

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…

Read More Read More

CAPTURING THE ELUSIVE CONCERT AUDIENCE

CAPTURING THE ELUSIVE CONCERT AUDIENCE

As concert sets go, SoundBox is an eclectic hybrid drawing new audience by the carload. An innovative offshoot of the San Francisco Symphony, it is part concert, part light show, part video art, part sonic experience, part schmoozing time, part date night and part night club. The intimate evenings remain one of the hottest tickets of all, regularly selling out all the tickets within 10 minutes of sales launch on the web. For the SFS musicians who spend most of…

Read More Read More

DID BEETHOVEN MEET DEBUSSY IN A TIME WARP??

DID BEETHOVEN MEET DEBUSSY IN A TIME WARP??

Those fire-eaters from Southern Cal known as the Calder Quartet played some bristling contemporary works, plus one of Beethoven’s most whimsical efforts. The four mid-career men—identically dressed in dark suits, with matching ties—show an uncanny rhythmic bent able to decipher and render the most complex metric signatures that only modern composers like Thomas  Adès and Boulez dare to call for and to dabble in. Seven beats to the measure, 11, 13, even 25 (or almost any prime number you might…

Read More Read More

CONFLICT AND RECONCILIATION IN ARRESTING NEW BALLET

CONFLICT AND RECONCILIATION IN ARRESTING NEW BALLET

San Francisco’s own Myles Thatcher has created a new genre of conflict ballet with his world premiere, “Ghost in the Machine,” stealing the attention at the San Francisco Ballet. Thatcher, a young dancer in the SFB corps de ballet—the legion of overlooked spear-carriers in the stratified ranks of a huge troupe—has produced yet another highly effective choreographic opus combining modern (non-balletic) techniques, toe-shoes conventions, and a considerable story line. Much of his expanded ballet vocabulary draws from modern-dance traditions, where…

Read More Read More