Thursday, June 30, 2011

Falletta at Round Top

This weekend the 40th Season of Round Top International Music Festival continues with guest Conductor JoAnn Falletta, flutist Carol Wincenc and the Texas Festival Orchestra. Performance Today's Fred Child will narrate Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale and there's an all Beethoven chamber music concert that starts things off this Saturday!
Find out more here.

Part 1

Part 2

From two years ago

The Magic of Round Top

Monday, June 27, 2011

David Amram @ 80

David Amram is often tagged with the title "musician's musician" and there's good reason for that."Once musicians work together, there's a bond for life," said David recently when I caught up with him on the final day of the 2011 Kerrville Folk Festival. I first made music with David back in the early 1970s and his statement surely holds true with my experience. Although I cross paths with David infrequently these days, each time is like old friends coming together again. There truly is that bond for life.

One of the most creative people I know, David is ever practicing his motto of "No More Walls". He's equally at home with classical musicians, folk musicians, jazz musicians and folkloric musicians. I was fortunate to have my little flip video recorder in hand when David began spinning this rap celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Kerrville Folk Festival (KFF). A few hours later, David would take this improvisation onstage for the final evening of KFF 2011. David, now 80 years old, is joined by two of Texas' important singer-songwriters, Bob Livingston and Butch Hancock, as well as yodeler Hartley Hall.

submitted by James Baker

New Release from Genghis Barbie

The new cd by Genghis Barbie is a real delight!
Seeing a release of four French Horns, one might expect Robert Schumann's Concert Piece for Four Horns, or an arrangement of themes from Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungen.  You might not also guess that a group considers their arrangements right up there with their fashion sense - but this is Genghis Barbie, the "leading post post feminist feminist all female horn experience"!
This 10 track eponymous release goes from A-ha to Sisqo and includes fun outtakes, some humorous and some not so good.  The music making is a complete home run.
Especially gorgeous is a cover of Sam Phillips' Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us (made popular by Allison Kraus and Robert Plant). Their signature Thong Song by Sisqo is included as well as a charming arrangement of Toto's Africa - that is unfortunately followed by a live outtake of the Ride of the Valkyries. I actually love the Wagner but the sound is rotten, and the playing is not as stellar as the rest of the release. The spoken introduction for the Sisqo is hilarious, and certainly the charm of the Barbies lies not only in their playing but in their humor.

On the other hand, the comic who follows 57821 by Janelle Monáe is seemingly out of place before Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, unless you figure he is just plain Bad.
Overall, Genghis Barbie's debut cd is a real success and one can only expect more great things from this modern French Horn quartet! (I predict they'll be on Ellen soon.)
The Barbie's debut cd will be available here as well as iTunes.
- John Clare, TPR Announcer/Host of Classical Spotlight

Friday, June 24, 2011

Composer June Anniversaries

Today is the anniversary of Harry Partch's birth. Born in 1901, Partch was an American composer and instrument creator. He was one of the first twentieth-century composers to work extensively and systematically with microtonal scales, writing much of his music for custom-made instruments that he built himself, tuned in 11-limit (43-tone) just intonation.
Here is a spoof that mentions an upcoming Harry Partch product:

Today is also the birthday of Terry Riley, who turns 76. An American composer, Riley is intrinsically associated with and a pioneer of the minimalist school of Western classical music. We love his "In C":

Life before purists...

There was a time when the name of Bach was hyphenated. No, he didn't take his wife's name, but Bach music was arranged for us so we could hear it on the instruments we are used to - big orchestras and concert grand pianos. Those interested in playing Bach only on organs he would be familiar with moved on to the rest of the instrumental families and soon there was a new reason to record all of Bach, Haydn and Mozart again, this time with authentic instruments. I'm lucky, I like it all. Falling in love with the harpsichord was easy with Paul Mauriat's Love is Blue back in the 1960's. I wanted to learn to play on such an instrument, but that was a real challenge to a broke thirteen year old living in a small town in Texas, so I had to make do with pictures in reference books.

Now in an age with historic instruments rebuilt to play and the thousands of new harpsichords that are assembled as if it was 1640, we listeners and performers have a choice. KPAC's own Gerald Self makes the most beautiful sounding and looking harpsichords I know of and if I had the room I'd have one in my house. Its funny when you are young it is the lack of money holding you back and when you have the money, it's something else.

On the Piano this Sunday, baroque music on a concert grand and I'm not thinking about Bach's music here, but from the golden age of French music; Couperin and Rameau. Does this music so closely associated with the sound and timbre of the harpsichord even work on a piano?

Find out this Sunday afternoon at 5 on the Piano, heard on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beautiful, but does it ring true?

Played on by Franz Liszt who gave it a ringing endorsement, a wedding present to Italian Royalty and an object purported to be even containing wood from the Temple of Solomon. What could this possibly be? All of these qualifications relate to the Siena piano-forte, an instrument with an unusual beauty of tone. Re-discovered after World War II, the piano was rebuilt and exhibited. The new owner wrote a book about its travels and tragedies and took advantage of the post war LP boom by having different soloists record with the heavily ornate instrument.

Whatever the pedigree of this piano, it has a fascinating sound that reminded Liszt of the Harp of King David. Hear history, centuries in the making on the Piano, this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Piano extraordinaire!

Coming up, there is a recital with Thomas Steigerwald, solo piano.
KPAC's John Clare spoke with Thomas and his teacher, Kenneth Thompson at a lesson recently.

More information:
Thomas Steigerwald Recital
Friday, June 24, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday Musical Club, 3755 St. Mary’s, San Antonio
Music by Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Scriabin and Balakirev.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Showcase presented superior skill and youthful performers

by Valerie Cowan

 Young musicians showed off their skills on piano at this Sunday’s Showcase of Young Pianists at the Tuesday Musical Club. From the lively melody of the Rondo movement of Diabelli’s Sonatina in F performed by a nine-year-old to the drama of local composer Dr. Peter Petroff’s  Miniature No. 7 performed by a seventh grader, the showcase offered a wide variety of performers as well as musical genres.

 Performers of the 2011 Summer Showcase of Young Pianists

Each of the young musicians impressively demonstrated not only advanced technical skills on piano but also an understanding of sophisticated musical concepts like phrasing and style.

The showcase concluded with Rachmaninoff’s Etude, Op. 39 No. 1 executed flawlessly by Ellen Pavliska, a future music student of University of North Texas. Pavliska will perform later this summer as part of the Cactus Pear Music Festival in San Antonio.

The event was attended and sponsored largely by the surviving family members of Sheva Fisher, a longtime board member of the San Antonio International Piano Competition. The Fisher family hosts the event yearly in remembrance of her lifelong dedication to music, education, and especially young musicians.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flavorful (and flowerful) Mozart

For your enjoyment, an upcoming release on DG

Young local pianists take stage during annual showcase

by Valerie Cowan

This Sunday marks the sixth annual Summer Showcase of Young Pianists, a performance by talented, pre-collegiate musicians held at 3:00 p.m. at Tuesday Musical Club. The young performers are winners of the Junior Tuesday Musical Club Competition, the Janice K. Hodges Competition, and the Texas Music Teachers’ Local Performance Contests. The event is free and open to the public.

The ten young pianists, ranging in age from 9 to 19, will perform a variety of pieces ranging from Beethoven and Chopin to local composer Dr. Peter Petroff.

Performers of the 2010 Summer Showcase
 “Our goal is to showcase some of the San Antonio area’s most promising young, pre-college pianists in recital,” said Nancy Plourde, Vice President of Education and Outreach for the San Antonio International Piano Competition (SAIPC). “Most of them have very impressive resumes, which include winning or placing in numerous other state and local competitions. We try to have a range of ages represented.”

The Showcase, which debuted in 2006, honors the memory of one of SAIPC’s longtime board members. Sheva Fischer, who also served as SAIPC’s executive vice president, showed her dedication and generosity by hosting contestants and holding fund raiser events in her home.

“She was particularly interested in encouraging young people to enjoy and participate in musical activities, and her family chose to sponsor this event in her memory,” Plourde said.

Many of the Summer Showcase artists from previous years have studied music in college and pursued performing and teaching careers.

“One of the performers from the first showcase, [Peter Steigerwald], has graduated with a music degree from the University of Houston and is now back in San Antonio teaching piano,” Plourde said.

For more information on this Sunday’s free performance, visit

Hey, isn't that by…

The relatively new United Nations commissioned composers to honor Frederic Chopin on the 100th anniversary of the composer's death in 1949. The piano continues its Homage to Chopin with contributions by Franz Liszt, who remembers his friend's Polish Songs, Heitor Villa-Lobos who received that UN commission. Then there is Ferruccio Busoni young and older and his two versions of his taxing variations and fugue on Chopin's c minor prelude and finally Leopold Godowsky and his take on Chopin's already difficult etudes and how he turns them into pieces for the virtuoso with stratospheric chops and bravery to match. Hear Chopin and then some this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Round Top International Music Festival begins 40th season

Today (Thursday June 9th) marks the start of Round Top Summer Music Festival with a masterclass by James VanDemark.
James Dick and TPR's John Clare
The Institute's Round Top Music Festival offers six weeks of intensive training for young talented musicians seeking a transition from conservatories and universities to a future professional career. Symphony orchestra, chamber music and solo repertoire are included in this intensive six-week program.
As the 95 young artists arrive this summer, they will be joined by a highly-regarded faculty, international conductors and guest artists from around the world.
This year's faculty includes familiar faces (JoAnn Falletta, Pascal Verrot, Christoph Campestrini, Gregory Vajda, etc.) along with new faces like Indonesia's Adrian Prabava, who will make his US debut at Festival Hill.

A look at Round Top International Music Festival:

Here is an interview with founder James Dick:

Host John Clare with Christoph Campestrini

This summer, orchestral programs will include celebrations of the bicentennial of Franz Liszt and the centennial of Gustav Mahler. They will also give the world premiere of a work by a member of their faculty, conductor/composer Gregory Vajda. Chamber music programs will feature a unique, staged version of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat.

Texas Festival Orchestra
3:00 PM - June 18, 25 and July 2, 9
7:30 PM - June 11 and July 16

Chamber Music
1:30 PM - June 18, 25 and July 2, 9, 16
3:00 PM - June 11 and July 16
7:30 PM - June 18, 25 and July 2, 9

Young Persons' Concert
11:00 AM - Tuesday, June 15 (Free Concert!)

Patriotic Concert
3:00 PM - Saturday, July 3 (Free Blue Bell after the show!)

Master Classes and Young Artist Chamber Music Concerts
Occur weekly and are subject to change. Check the detailed listing for updates.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Victoria Bach Festival offers more than Johann Sebastian

Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson and concertmaster Stephen Redfield
following a performance of Mendelssohn's violin concerto, 2009.

by Valerie Cowan

Victoria might not be the biggest town in Texas, but it certainly packs a musical punch during the month of June with the annual Victoria Bach Festival. From June 7 to 11, musicians from around the country will entertain guests of all ages from a wide variety of towns and musical backgrounds.

With about 40 percent of attendees coming from outside Victoria, “the Victoria Bach Festival is a source of pride in the community,” said VBF Executive Director Nina Di Leo. “It’s been 36 years that Victoria has welcomed musicians from all over the country to our city to make music.”

Five-time Grammy nominee Craig Hella Johnson took on the position of artistic director in 1992 and has since expanded the program from a university-sponsored, local event to a nationally recognized organization with affiliates including Conspirare, Johnson’s own choral ensemble, as well as the Houston Masterworks Chorus, Austin Chamber Music Center, and Texas State Chorale.

“It has blossomed from a mostly community-based organization to one that includes musicians coming from around the country,” said Di Leo. “It has also grown in the breadth of composers and genres of music represented. Now we celebrate not only the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach but also the work of composers throughout the ages.”

Johnson also initiated the festival’s New Young Artists program, which provides an opportunity for highly talented musicians at the start of their careers to take the stage. Johnson and his creative team, which includes New Young Artist Coordinator Faith DeBow and Chamber Music Coordinator Michelle Schumann, choose the young musicians through a series of applications and auditions. The New Young Artists program has hosted 43 blooming musicians since its genesis in 1992.

This year’s young artists include baritone Dashon Burton, flutist Hilary Janysek, and soprano Nicole Greenidge. The three will perform a formal concert during the evening of June 7. The following afternoon, they will host a family-friendly musical presentation at the Victoria Public Library.

“It’s fun to see young musicians who, the night before, were performing in concert dress in the concert hall and the next day are on the floor in the library engaging the children… making classical music an approachable form in a familiar environment,” said Di Leo.

Family drum circle led by David Hillendahl
at the Victoria Public Library, 2009.

The library also holds the Big Bang Rhythm Party on Saturday afternoon during which members of the percussion section of the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra will lead a percussion and rhythm workshop that’s fun for all ages.

This year’s performance lineup also includes The Fifth Wheel, an evening of quintets performed by members of the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra; a Latin American- and Spanish-infused performance by the Texas Guitar Quartet; and Kick Up Your Heels, international dances for small ensembles presented by the Artisan Quartet and VBF artists.

Headlining the Victoria Bach Festival on Saturday evening will be Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latina ‘Pro Pace” (For Peace). Under the direction of Johnson, Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra will combine forces with Chorus Conspirare Symphonic Choir to create an ensemble of nearly 200 musicians. This Caribbean-influenced piece will feature soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and baritone Nathaniel Webster.

For the first time, the Victoria Bach Festival will hold the week’s finale at the brand new Victoria Fine Arts Center. The approximately 1500 seat facility was built by the school district as part of a bond.

“It’s a beautiful new facility that just opened this past spring, said Di Leo. “We’re very pleased to be performing there for the first time.”

As executive director, Di Leo finds the Victoria Bach Festival experience very rewarding.

“It’s really kind of a big family that comes together every June,” said Di Leo. “I love to see the engagement of young people, and I love to see the city come alive with music for a week every June.”

Ticket prices to attend VBF’s evening performances range from ten to thirty dollars, and student and senior discounts are available. The daily afternoon programs are free. For more information on tickets and performances, visit

Friday, June 3, 2011

Inspiring others

Pianists not fond of Romantic music can find Chopin's works inspiring, even Glenn Gould who had an intentional gap in his repertoire from late Beethoven to Scriabin, grudgingly admired Chopin's abilities as a polyphonic composer and his natural approach to the instrument.

On the Piano this Sunday the beginning of a two part Homage to the composer Frederic Chopin. Hear one of the great 20th century Chopinists play the preludes that inspired Frederico Mompou and Sergei Rachmaninoff to stretch the limits of any pianist in their Variations on a Prelude of Chopin. Hear the music that two short preludes of Chopin can inspire on the Piano this Sunday at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CD Review: "Brief Encounter"

Brief Encounter
By Nathan Cone

Opera can be many things, but quiet and subtle are not usually among them. André Previn’s operatic adaptation of the David Lean film “Brief Encounter” premiered last year on stage with the Houston Grand Opera, and that performance has now been released on compact disc. What works on stage doesn’t always translate to the aural-exclusive world of home listening, so does “Brief Encounter” hold up?

The work follows the plot of the film (and Noel Coward’s play, “Still Life”) closely. Middle-aged Laura falls for handsome doctor Alec upon a chance encounter at the railway station where the two cross paths every Thursday. For weeks, they carry on a fledgling romance until fate steals them apart. Like the film, the opera is set as one long flashback, occasionally stepping into the sitting room where Laura spends time with her husband, Fred. I liked the way librettist John Caird expanded the role of Fred. In the film, he spends most of his time pecking away at a crossword puzzle, but in the opera, he’s a more well-rounded character with feelings. His aria where he wonders aloud why his wife has been so distant from him (“Without you there is nothing”) is one of the emotional highlights of Previn’s “Brief Encounter.”

In fact, most of the solo and duet scenes are well-written, especially the final moments of the work. But inevitably, comparisons between the film and the opera lead me to prefer the former. No, not because I missed the Rachmaninoff! But one of the things film has over recorded opera is that it’s more effective at conveying intimacy. Perhaps subtle lighting on stage could have helped out, but alas I was not in the audience. The Lean film was great at framing its characters in close-ups, and when Alec and Laura finally part, the “goodbyes” are quiet. But here, they are … well, less quiet. And as more characters appear on stage, Previn’s tendency is to have their vocal lines jump up and down the staff. I guess based on the story, I hoped for more flowing lines than I heard here.

There’s a constant motif of time woven throughout the narrative and music, whether it’s the train station schedule, or time running out on the doomed lovers. A peek at the cover of the CD reveals some of the opera’s staging, as Laura is framed by a giant clock. It’s an effective musical and dramatic tool. I think I’d rather enjoy taking the time to see “Brief Encounter” in person to get the full effect of the work. Perhaps then I’d appreciate the opera on disc even more.

--Nathan Cone

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Placido speaks

From Monday evening:

We'll see you tonight at the AT and T Center for San Antonio Opera's Con Amor a San Antonio!