Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

From our series of holiday decorations by Pam Toth in our office, here is the violin decorated for Memorial Day:

Friday, May 28, 2010

And the rewards come at the end of the race....

Gabriel Faure spent most of his youth with caretakers or teachers. Taught the ancient art of church music he seemed to have a modest life planned out when his friend Saint-Saens suggested that try composing some music. The Piano has explored the first two-thirds of Faure's life and this Sunday the last and fulfilling years from the beginning of the twentieth century to the composer's death in 1924. If this musician "lived fast and died young" the world would have missed much!

Hear the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Classical Spotlight: Composers

Tonight it's "Popera Seria" at Ruth Taylor Recital Hall with Doug Balliet & friends, 7:30pm and it's free!

Troy Peters wants new musicians in YOSA, find out how you can audition here.

We'll also catch up with two Texas composers, Dan Welcher who is currently in Europe and learn more about composer Michael Twomey. See his interview here:

Classical Spotlight: Michael Twomey from Classical Spotlight on Vimeo.

Listen to Classical Spotlight every Thursday at 2pm on KPAC & KTXI.

Add to your itnerary!

If you are a fan of James Baker's Itinerarios, you will want to check out this series with conductor Alondra de la Parra:
WQXR's Mexico at 200
You can also watch interviews of Alondra while here in San Antonio:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Composer readings

The American Composer's Orchestra completed readings this last weekend in NYC. Read about it from Steve Smith:
Behind the polished veneer of any orchestral premiere there lies a process of familiarization and toil, a process made unusually transparent by the American Composers Orchestra in its annual Underwood New Music Readings. The program, designed to give young composers access to an orchestra as well as crucial feedback from experienced colleagues, offers an invaluable glimpse behind the curtain, allowing audience members to witness firsthand the labor that goes into bringing new symphonic works to the stage.
Also hear from Dallas composer Xi Wang about the readings just before the concert backstage:

We previously reported about the readings here...hear new music of the 20th century and beyond every Friday night at 10pm on Alternate Routes!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Popera Seria

This Thursday there is a world premiere of a "popera seria" by Doug Balliett, a bassist with the San Antonio Symphony. We'll feature Doug on this week's Classical Spotlight (Thursday afternoon @ 2pm on KPAC & KTXI) but thought you might also enjoy this vlog from Jack Fishman:

LUCRETIA, a Popera Seria in Three Acts
WHEN: Thursday, May 27th, 7:30 PM
WHERE: Trinity's Ruth Taylor Recital Hall
WHO: San Antonio's classical and pop stars: Matt Zerweck, Zlatan Redzic, Stephanie Key, Ilya Schterenberg, Matt Dunne, Jackson Albracht, Marcus Rubio, Elliot Cole, Alison Fletcher, and Doug Balliett.
WHY: You have never seen anything like this. It is a brand new genre of music.

The subject matter of this piece deals with adult themes, and is not suitable for children.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kids these days

The Youth Orchestras of San Antonio are going to China this next month on tour with Troy Peters. They'll perform and visit across the country, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Shenzhen. Host John Clare will accompany the group provide live reports plus blogging and documenting the tour. We'll tell you more about a farewell concert in the next few weeks, and have some behind the scenes look at the trip!

The Music Learning Center is giving their End of Year concert this Wednesday night, starting at 5pm at the Good Samaritan Community Services Center (1600 Saltillo Street) - don't miss it! In fact, check out some of the great work going on there in this video:

You also might enjoy this recent story about kids and classical music - see a report from CBS on El Sistema:

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's going on behind those big, brown eyes?

The 1890's was a time of artistic expansion for Gabriel Faure and some of his best known works came to life in this age of changing values. In painting, the Impressionists were coming on strong and music was changing too. The big, heavy and deadly serious music of the hyper-romantics was losing favor and Faure's melodic and deceptively simple sounding works were gaining the respect they still have today. It was also a time of emotional growth, Faure was called the French Brahms - he spent most his life working at one church job or another, but there was another side to this multi-talented musician. He married and when that didn't work out he cast his intense brown eyes else where and from one of these affairs we get some his best known pieces.

Find out more about this fascinating artist on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Call me Bach? Please?

This afternoon join us for Classical Spotlight as we hear about the Heart of Texas Concert Band and the San Antonio Symphony is joined by soprano Dawn Upshaw at the Majestic. Host John Clare speaks with Upshaw, or does he? Listen to this:
Interview segment (mp3)
Did the two actually talk? Listen at 2pm (central) on KPAC & KTXI.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pulitzer winner

Last week, the Dallas Symphony presented Hilary Hahn in Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concerto - which was named last month as this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music. These performances were the first of the concerto since the announcement.
Host John Clare talked with Higdon about the concerto and what she has been up to since the announcement:

Listen to Classical Spotlight for more, including music by Higdon, every Thursday on KPAC & KTXI @ 2pm.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Life behind the moustache

Gabriel Faure is considered a composer of lightness and beauty. His Pavane and music to Pelleas et Melisande are masterworks, but what was he like in real life? Did you know he was so passionate his first fiancée was afraid of marrying him? On the Piano this Sunday the beginning of three programs that connect the life and life accomplishments of this famous but little known composer.

Hear the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Classical Spotlight: SOLI TEXAS

SOLI Chamber Ensemble raps up their 2009-10 season tonight, here they are in concert from Ruth Taylor Recital Hall from Tuesday:

They'll perform tonight at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center at 7:30pm.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SA Sym in the news

Congrats to the San Antonio Symphony who have received funding for their education programs from the ATT Foundation.
Here is their press conference:

Here the news story from Texas Public Radio's John Clare here.

Surprises come with the territory

Imagine the surprise that Russians felt in 1958 when a lanky Texan named Van Cliburn won their Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. Contests are full of unexpected results and the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth had its share. Peter Rosen’s film “A Surprise in Texas” is about capturing the energy, moments of ecstasy and unpredictability of last year’s competition.

The film starts with the arrival of the twenty-nine competitors. The director keeps us aware of all of them as they sign in and are assigned their host families; this is done through quick cuts and snippets of music. Young pianists from Korea, China Russia, Japan and the United States are presented to us and even in these fast snippets their different personalities are evident.

Nobuyuki Tsujii isn’t the first blind contestant to compete in the Van Cliburn, but he is the first to get into the group of twelve semi-finalists and here the film starts giving us an understanding of what it is like for him in a different country under extraordinary circumstances trying to get along and meet his expectations. Other pianists are not pushed aside by this story, but it is a challenge to compete without being aware of the extra attention going on elsewhere.

The chamber music component of the competition is where everyone including the pianists themselves find out how well they react to a situation where their piano isn’t the star of a performance, and then there is the working with an ensemble with a well established and strong personality like the Takacs Quartet. Here the pianists have to explain why they are playing the music one way and Herr Brahms seems to have indicated something else. Agreement isn’t always immediate and ironing out a balance is sometimes the best one can do.

The film has its musical philosopher in the long time pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler. He gives us viewers a short primer on what the judges are hoping to hear from these young performers and vote accordingly. We don’t get to see the judges arguing their case in their chambers; like the Supreme Court we are left to imagine how the debates were presented.

The expectations and the pressure increase when the six finalists move on to the concerto section of the contest and here experienced conductor James Conlon has a very difficult job. It is not surprising that older and calmer artists like Conlon are given the duty working with such young pianists. They have to simultaneously coach, prepare and compromise with musicians that know a complicated work through only ten fingers; adding seventy extra musicians is a whole n' other ball game.

The competition is so tight that the judges took quite a while to come to their extraordinary decision and "A Surprise in Texas" does a great job in giving us enough information to keep viewers on the edge of our seats just like the contestants were on that final night of the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition.

Although piano music is the reason for this gathering, classical music’s greatest tunes are used piecemeal to set mood, establish personalities and link edits. Don’t expect each work to be identified, there is much to cover and the Rachmaninoff or Beethoven is there for other uses.

The colors and sound of this film are clean and rich. Peter Rosen gets us close to the musicians and their instruments; considering we are never aware of cameras and microphones that are being used this is quite an achievement.

A must see for classical music fans.

A Peter Rosen Production

"A Surprise in Texas" will be showing at the Santikos Bijou Cinema & Bistro starting Friday, May 14th.

Randy Anderson

Monday, May 10, 2010

Remembering Gene Lees

"Gene Lees, a multitalented writer who left a lasting mark on jazz as a biographer, opinionated critic and graceful song lyricist, died April 22 at his home in Ojai, CA, after a stroke. He was 82."

-----Matt Schudel, Washington Post

Most will not recognize the name Gene Lees and therefore will not understand that we lost one of our great observers of, and writers about, jazz when Mr. Lees passed away April 22 at the age of 82. Stated briefly, Gene Lees had two great loves: language and music. One would not want to engage Mr. Lees in a conversation about "pop" music. He believed it to be the product of illiterates. On the other hand, Mr. Lees would have been more than happy to talk about jazz, or the Great American Songbook, or even classical music. More importantly, Gene Lees spent his lifetime doing just that, talking (writing) about music. His observations were always those of one with a keen eye and ear. His writing was of a quality that a reader would linger over, savoring the vocabulary and the remarkable turns of phrase. Gene Lees understood the important relationship between language and the ear. This was another aspect of his craft - he was lyricist to music by Jobim, Bill Evans, Lalo Schifrin and others. And he also knew the craft of singing. If you search long and hard you can find recordings of Gene Lees, the singer.

Gene Lees penned numerous books, many of them biographies of musicians he knew and admired: Johnny Mercer, Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman. Dozens more books are filled with his essays and published articles on topics largely to do with musicians, but as far ranging as his essay which contrasts French and English language and culture and their influence on songwriting. That's where I started years ago, with a collection called Singers and the Song. At that time I was a student of (and still am) Alec Wilder's essential American Popular Song: The Great Innovators. A friend recommended Lees' Singers and the Song as an accompaniment to the Wilder. From the moment I cracked open Singers I was hooked on the highly crafted writing and observation of Gene Lees.

In 2004, I set out to write and produce (with Kathy Couser) a 7-part series called The Art of American Popular Song, inspired largely by Wilder's book on the topic. As we lined up numerous contributors and guests, a friend encouraged me to include Gene Lees in the lineup. Great, I thought, if I can only find a way to contact him. In fact, I had no luck in tracking him down. It was only through some sort of devine intervention that my friend made some inquiries and phone calls, yielding contact information for Mr. Lees. I was ecstatic when he agreed to be interviewed.

Please take time to play the several portions of my interview which are provided here as a remembrance of Gene Lees. These extracts are taken from within the context of the program and find Mr. Lees remembering Alec Wilder, Frank Sinatra and Harold Arlen. And please take the time to read some of Gene Lees marvelous books and essays. His writing, rigorous but oh so lyric, is all too uncommon these days. ----James Baker

Friday, May 7, 2010

You are from where again?

It is common practice to categorize composers by their country and there are National Schools, but on the Piano this Sunday afternoon music from two men that probably could not agree about many things. Mily Balakirev was the founder of the Russian Nationalist School also known as the Mighty Five. He and friends like Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin wanted to remove German Symphonic influences from Russian music and by using native tunes return a national essence to their music. Alexander Scriabin started as a follower of the music of Frederic Chopin but he soon grew into a world, no that isn't quite fair, a universe of his own.

On the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 hear music of these diverse Russian composers on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Classical Spotlight: Heggie

This afternoon you can hear an interview with Jake Heggie with KPAC's Barry Brake about his new opera Moby Dick.
Last year while @ TLU, host John Clare spoke with the composer as well:

Listen to Classical Spotlight Thursday afternoons at 2pm on KPAC, KTXI, online at or on your iPhone!

Soprano supreme

We're really looking forward to Dawn Upshaw's visit to San Antonio. She'll sing Schubert and Cantelobe, find out more here.
Here's what she is up to next summer: Soprano Dawn Upshaw has been named music director of the 2011 Ojai Music Festival!
A star of the opera and concert stage, she is the latest in a long line of guest artists who have been invited to help create programming for the four-day summer fest.
Upshaw, who will be making her fourth appearance in Ojai, will work with artistic director Thomas W. Morris and collaborators such as violinist and composer Richard Tognetti, leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, jazz composer and big band leader Maria Schneider and theater and opera director Peter Sellars.
Among next summer's offerings will be a Schneider work for Upshaw and the Australian Chamber Orchestra and a new production by Sellars with Upshaw as soloist. Additional information about the 2011 festival, which will run June 9 to 12, will be released in the fall.
The Schneider piece will be a co-commission and the Sellars project a co-production with Cal Performances, UC Berkeley's performing arts presenter and producer, as part of Ojai North! -- an Ojai-Berkeley partnership that will begin in 2011.
In announcing the new venture, festival officials said that at the end of next year's festival, artists and programs will move to the Berkeley campus for several days.
For most of its 64 years, the Ojai Music Festival has invited a guest music director to help create a summer program with an emphasis on contemporary music. British composer and conductor George Benjamin is the music director for this year's festival, which will run June 10 to 13.
Past music directors have included John Adams, Aaron Copland, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Igor Stravinsky and Mitsuko Uchida.