Friday, October 30, 2009

Three Slavic Composers

On this Piano this Sunday we have music of Rachmaninoff, clearly intoxicated by the music of Tchaikovsky and Chopin, Balakirev is dreaming of the Caucasus region and the Program concludes with the 3rd Sonata of Karol Szymanowski who "channels" his theme through the musical stylings of Scriabin, Wagner, Richard Strauss and fugally with Beethoven!

The Piano heard this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SOLI: Webisode 5

The fast and the furies:

SOLI: Webisode 5 from John Clare on Vimeo.

Classical Spotlight: Phantoms & more!

Classical Spotlight shines on the Olmos Ensemble, Musical Bridges Around the World, UTSA Chamber Singers with John Silantien, Musical Offerings, SOLI Chamber Ensemble and Three Phantoms with the San Antonio Symphony and Ken David Masur! John Clare hosts with music by Khachaturian, Messiaen, Menotti and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Including: Three Phantoms in Concert
October 30 & 31, 2009
Majestic Theatre
Ken-David Masur, conductor
Three glorious Broadway tenors who have shared the same title role of the ‘Phantom’ in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” join forces for a fabulous evening of Broadway’s best songs. With Craig Schulman, Kevin Gray, and Mark Jacoby.

Sunday @ 2pm
McNay Art Museum

UTSA Chamber Singers
Sunday @ 3pm
UTSA Recital Hall

Musical Bridges Around the World presents The Child’s World, free concert @ San Fernando Cathedral Sunday night @ 6:30pm
Featuring Brent Watkins and friends with Poulenc & Prokofiev!

Music on the MOVE : Greece & Rome
Monday, November 2, 2009
San Antonio Museum of Art
6:00 PM and 8:00 PM

November 3, 2009
The Exotic Russian, the Intelligent San Antonian, and the Witty French
Brent Watkins, piano, William James Ross, composer and pianist
Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio

Nemanja Ostojic
Winner, 2009 SWGF Guitar Competition
Tuesday, November 3, 7:30 p.m.
Ruth Taylor Recital Hall
Trinity University

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SOLI: Webisode 3

SOLI Chamber Ensemble performs this weekend @ the McNay Art Museum, a program called LEAVING BEHIND TIME, including Olivier Messiaen's groundbreaking Quartet for the End of Time. Host John Clare recently was on tour with SOLI and filmed this movement...

SOLI: Webisode 3 from John Clare on Vimeo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

SOLI: Webisode 2

SOLI performs this 20th Century masterpiece this weekend @ the McNay...John Clare filmed the group on tour earlier this month:

SOLI Webisode 2: Louange à l'Immortalité de Jésus from Classical Spotlight on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SOLI: Webisode 1

SOLI Chamber Ensemble performs this Sunday @ the McNay, host John Clare filmed them recently on tour...

SOLI Webisode 1: Intermede from Classical Spotlight on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thank you!

Thank you so much for your contributions! More than $724,000 was raised in Fall 2009 with 772 new members and 3,085 renewing members!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

(UNTITLED) the movie

(UNTITLED), an original film satire of New York’s avant-garde art scene, will appear in theaters across the nation this fall. By poking fun at the idiosyncrasies of 21st century Bohemia, (UNTITLED) introduces American audiences to some of the best that contemporary art has to offer, notably a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, who merges the artistic expressions of the composer protagonist with his own musical voice.

(UNTITLED) revolves around melancholy composer Adrian (Adam Goldberg) and his whirlwind affair with a Chelsea gallerist (Marley Shelton), who unbeknownst to Adrian sells vacuous commercial works to high-paying corporate clients. The film explores the idea of true art and the question of integrity lost through commercialism – all with tongue in cheek. At the beginning, Adrian’s music comprises cliché contemporary classical music elements, such as crinkling paper and breaking glass. Once his perspective and emotions achieve depth and insight through his blossoming romance, his music becomes more profound.

Host John Clare had a chance to send questions to both David Lang and Adam Goldberg, here are Lang’s answers about (UNTITLED):

1. Often with a joke, there is some seriousness or truth behind it. Is there some truth to this movie even though there is some fun being poked?
There is a lot of truth in this movie, mostly about how people in the arts become passionately committed to something they believe in that may look unbelievable from the outside. I think that creative commitment is captured very well, as is the distance between the committed people and the people watching the committed people.

2. How cool is it for the composer to “get the girl” in this movie? Did it influence your music for the film?
Getting the girl didn’t influence my thinking in the movie, although it didn’t hurt. The progression of the character musically is that he begins by making music only for himself, because that is how large his world view is; when he meets the girl his senses and optimism and maybe even his idea of audience expand, and his music changes accordingly. I definitely tried to make that shift happen in the music.

3. There are new pieces and some of your older works like “Anvil Chorus” and “Cheating, Lying, Stealing” on the soundtrack – how did you decide to use older works, and can you see some of the cues/soundtrack in your concert music as a suite or other piece?
The original idea of the director was that he only wanted to license one piece of mine – he thought the composer, upon falling in love, would be seen ‘composing’ my piano solo WED. I talked the director into letting me use more of my music in other places, and write music where it was needed, but the whole connection began with the idea of using my real concert music. that said, I don’t think I would make a concert version of these cues – Lawson White, who produced the soundtrack, and I worked very hard to make it sound like real film music – having worked that hard to get it out of the new music world it would be silly to try to force it back in.

4. This looks like an ideal movie for a composer – can you see yourself in other movie projects, or is there an “ideal” for creating music with images/stories? Obviously multimedia is already a wonderful aspect of Bang on a Can…
I really identified with this composer and I felt very flattered that the filmmaker, Jonathan Parker, ennobled composers everywhere by wanting to make a movie about one of us. I’d like to do more such things – I love the idea of working with visuals and with film, and I have done a fair amount of that in my real life – working with Doug Aitken or Bill Morrison or Matt Mullican, etc. the thing I don’t think I would like to do too often is help other people make their projects – when you are composing for film or dance or theater a lot of what you are doing is helping someone else out artistically. You are helping someone else realize his or her vision. Most of the composers I know became composers because they have their own visions they want to realize. I can definitely see doing more film music but it has to be offset by other things that I get to control….

5. There have been quite a few composers in pop culture these days, from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (Jason Segal) to “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (Natalie Portman’s piano/composer) and the likes of Paul McCartney & Billy Joel writing new classical music. Is composition a new cool as nerds (think Big Bang Theory) are?
But everyone knows that composers are cool. The nice thing is seeing that fact acknowledged publicly.

Clare finds out more about (UNTITLED) from its star, Adam Goldberg.

1. Often with a joke, there is some seriousness or truth behind it. Is there some truth to this movie even though there is some fun being poked?
Well, actually upon my last viewing of it, the second time I watched it with an audience, albeit at LACMA–the perfect audience–it seemed to have a real weight to it. The film sort of takes a turn once the absurdity is established I think. For me the film really has always been about this righteous indignation, this sort of defensiveness of one’s position–whether as an artist or a audience member or a critic or an art dealer, in this case–that really is front for enormous insecurity. These characters are all wayward and tend to overcompensate with very stringent , often absurd, points of view.

2. There are some outrageous sounds and art. How does your taste run in real life – in both “new concert music” and “art”?
I definitely have always been obsessed with sound and strange sounds and repitition, but usually incorporated into something melodic or hypnotic in some way. I have for a long time been a fan of Steve Reich–whose work began with simple tape loops and phasing of found material, but eventually he applied this process to beautiful symphonic pieces. I have also been a fan of some conceptual art, but usually when it engages the viewer, interacts with him or her in some way or tells a story. I don’t like things that seem to aim merely to shock or to alienate. Basically if it moves me or I can relate to it in some way then, well, I like it.

3. David Lang is a Pulitzer Prize winner and incredibly gifted composer, but unfortunately not a household name – how was he chosen for the movie, and how was collaboration with Untitled?
I believe Jonathan, the director, knew David from music school. He had an interesting job, both to score the film and create the ’sound’ pieces our little group performs–though in the end it was so bizarrely structured and arranged that we could often only barely perform to playback so much of the “music” we’re making we actually are making. David also served I think as a bit of a consultant to Jonathan when he was writing this, creating my character. I love David’s music and this score is quite beautiful I think.

4. What is the possibility of Untitled 2, or Untitled – the Showtime series?

5. There have been quite a few composers in pop culture these days, from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (Jason Segal) to “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (Natalie Portman’s piano/composer) and the likes of Paul McCartney & Billy Joel writing new classical music. Is composition a new cool as nerds (think Big Bang Theory) are?
Hmmm….I’ve never thought “Big Bang Theory.” Well, I remember years ago Elvis Costello put out a sort of classical record with the Brodsky Quartet that was pretty innovative. Conversely, Philip Glass many many years ago started I think to incorporate a sort of popular music element–singing an so forth–into his music. I think there’s always been some overlap. I saw a great piece that a childhood friend of my girlfriend’s put on. MIchael. Einziger from Incubus of all things. It was fantastic, sort of Reich meets Bernard Hermann. I think there’s something that feels for lack of a better word “legitimate” about working with classical elements. I know that some of the stuff musically I’ve done musically, with my project LANDy , that I’ve been most proud of incorporates some classical elements–arrangements of strings and that sort of thing. Albeit I’m usually humming the arrangements like a crazy person to the poor violinists.

(UNTITLED) opens tomorrow, October 23rd, in a limited release; and the soundtrack is out already from Cantaloupe!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


James Baker is an accomplished musician, having played horn around the world; and John Clare has played violin over 29 years. They both play in the Mid Texas Symphony and were in Seguin this morning playing for school kids. Here they are on stage.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SAIPC: Final results

For the San Antonio International Piano Competition:
Gold - Ryo Yanagitani, Canada
Silver - Andrea Lam, Australia
Bronze - Christopher Atzinger, USA
Special Recognition: Ran Jia, China and Dizhou Zhao, China

Best Performance Awards
Commissioned Work: Christopher Atzinger
Romantic Work: Ryo Yanagitani
Classical Work: Andrea Lam
Russian Work: Andrea Lam
Latin American Work: Ryo Yanagitani
Junior Jury Award: Ryo Yanagitani

Friday, October 16, 2009

Űber Pianist's Birthday

Once you start reading the life and history of Franz Liszt it is kind of hard to convince yourself this isn't a fictitious character in a 'bodice ripping' novel.
The greatest pianist in the Golden Age of the Piano, handsome, cultured, and wealthy, whose lady friends were from royalty, Liszt had it all. And the world of the Piano would have been very different without him. This coming Thursday is Liszt's birthdate and we celebrate this Sunday afternoon with a look at the life, times and music of Franz Liszt.

The Piano Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Day two was as exciting as day one at the San Antonio International Piano Competition. At the conclusion, five finalists were named to continue, watch the announcement:

SAIPC Finalists from Classical Spotlight on Vimeo.

They are:
Christopher Atzinger, USA
Ran Jia, China
Andrea Lam, Australia
Ryo Yanagitani, Canada
Dizhou Zhao, China

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The San Antonio International Piano Competition got underway today at Ruth Taylor Recital Hall on the Trinity University campus. Five semifinalists performed today and four will perform tomorrow (one contestant canceled last Friday due to illness and there wasn't time to alert an alternate) starting at 2pm.
Programs today had Chopin (three pianists chose his works, including an all Chopin recital of the Ballades plus the Rondo, opus 16), Debussy, Scriabin, Brahms, Barber, Ginastera, Haydn, Granados and Bach-Busoni.
Tomorrow it begins at 2pm-5pm, returning at 7:30pm; and the five finalists will be announced around 9pm. They'll perform in the finals starting Friday afternoon at 2pm, again at Ruth Taylor Recital Hall.
Attendance was good for this round, and more are expected over the next few days.
Host John Clare spoke with president Anne Johnson about today: mp3 file
Clare also spoke with vice president Deborah Moore about the competition: mp3 file
Each contestant also has their own bench (shown left) that is adjusted to their height. Evidently one was quite squeaky during today's round!

Retirement? Only performance-wise

From "The Times": Alfred Brendel on retiring from the concert hall and his books of poetry

The great pianist’s fingers may finally be in repose after his retirement last year at 78, but his pen is busy. He has now published two volumes of poems and talks about his inspiration and the importance of laughter in a ‘grotesque and absurd’ world

You can tell a lot about great musicians from their North London addresses. The flashier maestros — Sir Georg Solti when he was alive; André Previn when he lived in London — buy grand villas in St John’s Wood. Sir Colin Davis, the most unassuming of conductors, lives in a terrace house in rough-and-tumble Highbury. String quartets, by contrast, gravitate towards Golders Green, heartland of the chamber-music-loving Jewish community. And you can’t imagine Alfred Brendel living anywhere else except Hampstead — on one of those quiet lanes, meandering from the quaint bookshops to the Heath, that have been the haunt of generations of literati from Keats and the Freuds to Doris Lessing.

To describe Brendel as an intellectual is rather like describing Leonardo da Vinci as a good all-rounder. Honoured last week with the award of one of the world’s top cultural prizes, the Praemium Imperiale, he is a man who needs cerebral pursuits like a fish needs water. He’s best known, of course, as one of the finest pianists of our times. But many would say that the only positive aspect of his decision to retire from performing last December, at the age of 78, is that he has more time to write his wry and provocative essays, lectures and poems.

“I was quite ready to stop performing,” he says, in that precise, cultured voice that still sounds quintessentially Austrian after 40 years in Britain. “I intended to stop two years earlier, but was persuaded by friends to go on a bit longer. And although I shed tears easily when I listen to other people’s performances, I shed no tears in my last concerts — though I was very glad to have people crying on my shoulder. Unlike quite a few colleagues, I was never a concert addict. I had 60 years of performing and on the whole they went well. That was enough.”

Doesn’t he miss the applause? “No. I had a good fill of that. And I had a nice feeling about my last year: a sense of enormous warmth from the public wherever I went. That was satisfying. It gave me the impression that I didn’t play for nothing.” But if his fingers are in repose, his pen is not. Brendel’s gradual transformation from pianist to poet has been one of the quiet wonders of the age, and he now has two published collections to his name — One Finger Too Many (1998) and Cursing Bagels (2004) — mostly written in German and then translated into English (or reconceived, as Brendel prefers to say) with help from the scholar Richard Stokes.

“It was the greatest bonus of my later aesthetic life that this happened,” he says. “Writing poetry has enormously brightened my outlook. It is something productive, whereas as a musician I was reproductive: always trying to feel and understand what was already there.”

How and when did he start writing these poems? “More than a dozen years ago,” he replies. “But to be accurate, they started to write themselves. I was somehow involved, but I’m not quite sure how.” Had he ever written poetry before? “Well, when I was a teenager I wrote 124 sonnets,” he says casually — as if this is what you would expect any teenager to do. (He also mounted an exhibition of his own paintings at 17.) “Those sonnets cured me for life of being a formalist! But I didn’t expect to return to writing poetry at my age. I was on a plane to Japan when the poem about the third index finger happened [a typically surreal fantasy in which a pianist suddenly sprouts an extra digit]. The plane was dark, people were trying to sleep. I grabbed a piece of paper and made a note of it. When I got to Tokyo I looked at it again and thought, ‘Well, this is curious’. And so it started. Even now my poems still take me by surprise.”

How does he account for this sudden spurt of poetic creativity in his mid-sixties? “I cannot tell you,” he says. “But I’ve read a great deal in my life, and especially a huge amount of poetry when I was young. So perhaps this accumulated mass of words started to work by itself inside my head, and somehow sorted itself out. Many writers will tell you that the hypnagogic state [the transition between sleep and consciousness] is an important well of their creativity. That’s true for me. Sometimes between waking and sleeping a poem will form, and sometimes I wake up in the night and it goes on. Then I look at it in the morning and it seems to work. It’s the state between dreaming and waking that’s so interesting. You are both here and there.”

Brendel cites the late 19th-century German nonsense writer Christian Morgenstern (a Lewis Carroll figure with metaphysical overtones) as a prime influence. “He is the only grotesque poet of distinction in Germany. I loved to read his nonsense poems when I was younger — I know quite a few by heart. I don’t imitate him, but what we have in common is that he writes about the grotesque, and I certainly find the world grotesque and absurd. More so every day. He’s also graceful in his way he expresses things, and that also interests me. I believe that, in an absurd world, manners require that one is graceful.”

What is it that has led Brendel to conclude that life is grotesque and absurd? “The world has led me!” he declares. “Just observing what is going on.” But he sees some meaning in life, surely? “No. I remember my great friend Isaiah Berlin saying, ‘You ask me about the meaning of life? There is none’. One should live and hopefully fill one’s existence with things of interest. But why one lives is a question that is unanswerable.”

So Brendel has no religious instincts? “No. But I have great religious interests. Quite a few of my poems deal with gods and ghosts, buddhas and monsters, angels and devils and apparitions. But all this is a sort of mock-metaphysics. I deal with it because I observe many people for whom it’s a part of reality.”

Brendel’s career as a pianist was unusual from the beginning. Most great virtuosos start as child prodigies who are nurtured in a hothouse music conservatoire. Brendel, the son of an itinerant Austrian hotel manager and engineer, hardly heard any music during his early childhood (“My parents were not aesthetically minded,” he says drily), and was mostly self-taught at the piano after his mid-teens. “Also, it was wartime. I was 14 when the war ended [he was conscripted to dig trenches in Yugoslavia, where he got frostbite] and then came a period when I could study very little. I had to be on the road, so I could get away from the Russians. And then I had to get back when the Russians went home.

“With another background I probably would have developed much more quickly as a pianist. But with hindsight I am glad that it went as it did. I’m not an impatient person. When I was 20 I didn’t crave to be famous by the time I was 25. But I did want to achieve certain musical things by the time I was 50.” What Brendel achieved was a body of work — in the concert hall and on hundreds of CDs — that is without equal for combining superlative technical skills with intellectual cogency. Other pianists razzle and dazzle: Brendel always preferred to think his way to the music’s heart.

“I think the masterpiece should tell the performer what to do, not the per-former tell the composer what he should have composed.”

Brendel’s range was enormous: the Austro-German classics of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Brahms through to the complex works of Liszt and Schoenberg. But were there any famous composers with whom he felt that he wouldn’t get anywhere? “There were certainly some with whom I felt that I didn’t want to get anywhere,” he replies. “Rachmaninov, for instance — for me, it’s music for teenagers. He was a composer who knew his craft, who could invent large themes and was a great pianist. But for his time he was a reactionary. His music was not new enough. And for me the criterion of a masterpiece is whether it presents something that wasn’t there before.”

Brendel may have stopped playing in public, but his public appearances are hardly diminished. Now, however, he is giving poetry readings, masterclasses and lectures. One of his favourite lectures asks the question “Does classical music have to be entirely serious?” — which Brendel (who once declared that his favourite occupation was laughing) answers with a resounding no. But would he really like to hear laughter in, say, a piano recital? “Certainly. If you can’t make an audience laugh at the end of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op 31 No 1, you should become an organist.”

And when he’s not speaking in public, he’s still writing — and preparing English versions of all his poems for the planned publication of his Collected Poems, on his 80th birthday in 2011. So the flow of words goes on? “Yes,” he replies. “But fortunately not at the rate of journalism.”

Hear musicians like Brendel everyday on KPAC & KTXI!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Maestro de la Parra

SA Sym: Alondra de la Parra from Classical Spotlight on Vimeo.

Liszt & the Ladies

Sounds like a sketch on Saturday Night Live doesn't it? Franz Liszt's father Adam said the something like the following near the end of his life, "I fear for Franz and the influence women would have on him". Liszt's first love was so powerful that when the girl's father forbid the relationship the pianist was reported in the Paris newspapers to have died. If it were not for the women in Liszt's life we wouldn't have the music we hear on the Piano this Sunday.

On the program this week new recordings of Liszt with two very different women pianists. Fuzjiko Hemming plays the 1st Concerto and Au bord d'une Source and the young Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan offers a knock-out reading of Liszt's great Sonata in b minor.

The Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Monday, October 5, 2009

SOLI heading home

SOLI Chamber Ensemble is wrapping up their 2009 tour of three cities in three days. Dallas, Denver and Colorado Springs enjoyed hearing John Williams, Robert Xavier Rodriguez and Olivier Messiaen. Look for audio and video on Instant Encore and most likely Performance Today here in the future!
Last night at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center we took a couple of pictures (with permission), enjoy! - Afternoon host, John Clare (who returns this Friday, October 9th)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Soli on the road 2

Waiting to head to Denver, great concert last night in Dallas.
Seen yesterday:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Old Favorites with new Faces

It happens in Classical Music that one can find themselves going on about immortal performances; the ones we know inside and out. But there are new recordings coming out everyday and with them exciting and new perspectives on old favorites. On the Piano this Sunday three young pianists with bright futures ahead of them. We will hear Alexander Romanovsky play Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations, then the thirty year old Vassily Primakov explores the dark and restless Kreisleriana of Schumann. To cap off the program Ivan Ilic plays an explosive prelude of Claude Debussy.

The Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, October 1, 2009

SOLI on tour 1

San Antonio's premiere new music ensemble, SOLI Chamber Ensemble, is going on the road this weekend to Dallas, Denver and Colorado Springs. Host John Clare is documenting the trip and has this video from last night's rehearsal, Cellist David Mollenauer and pianist Carolyn True play the fifth movement of Olivier Messian's Quartet for the end of time, Eulogy to the eternity of Jesus.
You can also keep up with SOLI on, on Facebook (keyword SOLI) and Instant Encore!