Tuesday, December 4, 2012


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That is where we are keeping things up to date, although you can still find great old entries here on blogger.
Thank you!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catan's Il Postino on Itinerarios

Daniel Catan, March 2011
I first met Daniel Catan in 1982 when I was called on to play a new piece he had written, a pastorela, or Christmas play. I can't even recall the name, nor could Daniel when I mentioned it to him years later.

"Very nice piece," I told him, and it was. There was considerable craft, in the style on that day of Stravinsky.

"Oh, I don't write that way any more," replied Daniel.

I talked on about how much I had enjoyed playing his music, hoping to reinvigorate that stage music from so many years ago.

"Maybe I will revisit the score," conceded Daniel, but somehow I knew he was unlikely to do so. He had too many projects on his plate and little time to look back. One of those projects was a commission from the Houston Grand Opera for a Caribbean inflected opera titled Salsipuedes. Another was looming on the not distant horizon, a project for Placido Domingo and his Los Angeles Opera. This would become Daniel's final completed work, a little masterpiece called Il Postino.

I engaged Daniel in a series of phone interviews over a period of several years. It became comfortable conversation. We became friends and I was happy to share in his enthusiasm for Il Postino. It was based loosely on the Academy Award winning movie by the same title, though Daniel was quick to point out that he had gone back to the roots of the story, to the book Ardiente paciencia by Antonio Skármeta.

Those of us who had been following the career of Daniel Catan knew Il Postino would be good. We even thought it might be great. After all, he was creating a role for Placido Domingo. How often does one have that opportunity?

"I keep pinching myself," he admitted with obvious glee.

Some months passed as Il Postino opened and wowed the public. Immediately the production took flight with performances in Vienna and a highly anticipated date in Paris. In the meanwhile, Daniel came to Austin to do a bit of teaching and to work on a new project, an operatic retelling of the Frank Capra movie Meet John Doe. I finally had the opportunity to meet Daniel face-to-face, something I had not done since that first meeting in the 1980s. As I walked to his apartment in South Austin, he waited outside his front door. We recognized each other immediately.

"It feels as though we have known each other a long time," he said. Indeed it did.

I would see Daniel only once more after that final interview. We were to meet in Houston, where the Moores Opera Theatre was mounting Il Postino, but Daniel was curiously absent that evening. No one realized at that moment that Daniel had passed away the day before, in his sleep. Rest in Peace, my old friend.

There will be no time for this entire history Sunday evening (11/18/12) when I feature several excerpts from Il Postino within the context of Itinerarios, KPAC's weekly program of music with Latin American roots. Nevertheless, that history and more will surely be on my shoulders as I share the music and selected words from the various interviews with Daniel. Please plan to listen Sunday evening at 7 o'clock, and please ask a friend to listen too. This music just might touch your heart and soul.

James Baker, host and producer of Itinerarios

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 Great Violinists

Janine Jansen and John Clare
This month, KPAC celebrates thirty years in broadcasting. Our hosts are having some fun sharing "30 lists" - artists, music, movies, and recordings you might enjoy and help shape the great sound of your classical oasis.
Kicking things off is Afternoon Host John Clare with 30 Great Violinists! (They are in no particular order, and were chosen keeping in mind the artist was available to be heard on Spotify)
Listen to these violinists on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/VG9KKJ 

1 Janine Jansen
(I remember exactly when and where I was listening to Janine's debut cd, and hearing her live is even better. We did an interview in Washington, DC after a concert. This is her answer about playing Bach.http://classicallyhip.com/sounds/janine/ending.mp3)
2 Itzhak Perlman
(It was a dream to interview the violinist who inspired me to play the violin, Itzhak Perlman - listen to our talk here: http://www.tpr.org/classicalspotlight/2011/03/cs1103172.html)
3 Jascha Heifetz
4 Mischa Elman
5 Leonid Kogan
(I was delighted to see the Faure Piano Quartet on Spotify, an all star group from Russia - while there are LOTS of recordings that might have shown Kogan's talent, to me, this is supreme music making on all parts!) 
Josh Bell and John Clare
6 Joshua Bell
7 Gil Shaham
(Gil is as nice a person as he is a great artist - and now he runs his own recording company!)
8 Midori
9 Sarah Chang
10 Maxim Vengerov
11 Isaac Stern
(A modern masterpiece for the violin, and one I adore hearing Stern play - Penderecki's 1976 Violin Concerto. I also treasure Stern's unique sound.)
12 Anne-Sophie Mutter
(Every chance I get, I try to hear Anne-Sophie Mutter live. She was a large inspiration as a teenager and her playing has only deepened. It was a dream come true when I interviewed her: http://classicallyhip.com/sounds/asm/ASM.mp3)
13 Viktoria Mullova
14 David Oistrakh
15 Gidon Kremer
(If Gidon recorded John Cage's 4'33" I would buy it. Pretty much anything he touches is gold.)
16 Nicola Benedetti
17 Yehudi Menuhin
(There is so much to love about Yehudi and his playing, but I couldn't resist also sharing a portion of on of his unknown commissions, Andrzej Panufnik's Violin Concerto!)
Hilary Hahn and John Clare
18 Hilary Hahn
(Since her Sony debut to her latest DG release of improvisations, Hilary plays perfectly. We also had a great run of yearly interviews as she played at the Las Vegas Music Festival!) 
19 Lisa Batiashvili
20 Nathan Milstein
21 Oscar Shumsky
22 Toscha Seidel
(They say that if Jascha Heifetz was the angel in Leopold Auer's violin class, that Toscha Seidel was the devil - and with an instrument that is often associated with Ol' Nick, it certainly is a compliment to Seidel! I was delighted some of his artistry can be heard on Spotify!!!)
23 Anne Akiko Meyers
(This stunning virtuoso calls Texas home but plays worldwide, and is a great mom, too! How does she do it all? Listen to our interview about Air: http://kpac883.blogspot.com/2012/02/annes-air.html)
24 Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
John Clare and Mark O'Connor
25 Mark O'Connor
(This amazing fiddler plays it all. Classical, jazz, bluegrass, swing, you name it. Nowadays not only does he share his artistry but has a new spin on technique, one that he teaches in various camps as well as method books!)
26 Rachel Barton Pine
27 Pinchas Zukerman
(Such an outstanding musician, known for his violin and viola playing, plus an international career as a conductor.)
28 Simon Standage
(A period performer, Simon does amazing things with music that you might not have realized you liked, or even heard of, all with a very old violin!) 
29 Lara St. John
(I wondered about some of her album cover choices, but Lara proves you can't judge a recording by the cover! We talked Mozart not long ago: http://www.tpr.org/classicalspotlight/2010/10/cs1010145.html
30 Julia Fischer
(Another musician who I would buy their recording if it were the phone book...she is also an amazing pianist - having recorded Grieg's Piano Concerto on DVD! We talked Paganini and more one day: http://www.tpr.org/classicalspotlight/2010/09/cs1009094.html)

There are lots of great violinists - who are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below or on facebook!

We're Baaaack !

courtesy of Wikipedia

With the change of the Seasons, longer nights, Halloween and Dias de los Muertos it's not surprising that this time of year as plenty of mystical associations.

On the Piano this Sunday, more music for this Spectral time with a Witches Sabbath, marauding trolls and magical collectors of the heroic dead.

Even Beethoven gets involved with his ideas of an opera based on Shakespeare's Macbeth haunting a piano trio he was working on at the time.

Hear some great music with another worldly connection on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween premieres

Two great works had their world premiere on October 31st: in 1955, Alan Hovhaness' Symphony No. 2 ("Mysterious Mountain"), was played for the very first time by the Houston Symphony, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

and in 1970, George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children, in Washington, D.C. as part of the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation's 14th Festival of Chamber Music.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Smaller Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio Thinks Big

On Friday October 26th the Chamber Orchestraof San Antonio opens its concert season. No, this is not a branch of the venerable San Antonio Chamber Society nor an extension of the San Antonio Symphony. Then, what is it? It is an extraordinary complement to both, filling in that large body of music ranging from the vast repertoire of chamber orchestral music and chamber transcriptions that are rarely heard. The world of nonets upwards; its musical contingent normally ranges from ten to thirty musicians. It’s that rich shadow world consisting of everything from Arnold Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night” and Charles Ives’s “The Unanswered Question” to the chamber works of Bliss, Enesco, Brahms (chamber version of his Serenade #1) and Copland’s original version of  “Appalachian Spring.

Where did COSA come from? It is the brain and heart child of, among others, co-founders Robert Ehlers, Paul Montalvo and Silvia Santinelli- Ehlers. They are each   professional musicians, adept amateurs or profound music lovers. They, on a given night at dinner a few years ago, decided that there was an entire body of music that was well worth hearing and rediscovering that was neglected because much of it fell between the two worlds of the grand orchestral tradition on the one hand and the classical chamber world of trio to octet on the other. More research uncovered that many of these works may have never been presented in public performance in San Antonio before. They decided to do something about it and began the arduous and extremely time consuming process of making this dream a reality; all have other very demanding jobs. The result is their upcoming first concert. It is an interesting historical survey of music from Claudio Monteverdi to Edgard Varese and Charles Ives with Richard Wagner and J.C. Bach thrown in for good measure.

To compliment this tantalizing night is a lecture-discussion component. In this case a conversation with Professor of Philosophy Kathleen Higgins (of the University of Texas )  with a concentration on music and the “philosophy of the emotions.” She offers her considered views on each of the musicians, the program and the historical context of the works as a survey of styles and musical thoughts in the western tradition.

Please take some time out Friday night at the Pearl Stables 7:30 pm Oct. 26th and you’ll hear some wonderful music. For a pre-concert peek, visit TPR.ORG to John Clare’s interview with conductor Carlos Izcaray who will lead the COSA orchestra and hear a complete interview with Kathleen Higgins.

- Ron Moore


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vivaldi’s Fanarce, A Revelation

Antonio Vivaldi and his titanic opera Fanarce, like George Frederich Handel and his many stage works are the product of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in the classical music repertory and performance practice over the last forty years. Beginning sometime in the late 1960's and early 70's a strange series or recordings began to appear. The music centered on the neglected works of Mozart (his then rarely heard Opera Seria’s); the unknown operatic world that Haydn cultivated in the little theatre at Eszterhaza and the works of the French and German baroque. The standard bearer and inspiration of this movement was Nikolaus Harnoncourt, his wife Alice plus a group of friends including Gustav Leonhardt , Franz Bruggen and Jaap Schorder. The tuning was odd, to ears modulated to equal temperament, the instruments sounded like something from another and very fascinating planet. Twenty years later many more groups had sprouted up all over Europe and America. By then these troupes began to tour widely after a generation of listeners had now absorbed their treasure trove of recordings. After recording the totality of Bach, and in the final and most extravagant gesture they began to present whole operas. Handel was the first to be completely reevaluated on the basis of works that had existed as only names in history - now refashioned as living things. There followed Rameau and Lully who arrived in New York with William Christie’s Les Arts Florrisants and finally, now Antonio Vivaldi and the much praised and little known Fanarce.

courtesy of Wikipedia

Like Handel before him Vivaldi is known almost exclusively as a composer of endless concerti, a series of deft sacred works and of course the Four Seasons. That he composed over forty known operas (he claims 90!) while also completing his more than 500 instrumental works has been little discussed and few of them heard.

The man known as a great violinist in his time, called ” the Red Priest”, sometime around 1727 began the first version of what is now considered perhaps his supreme masterwork for the stage, Farnace. The plot concerns a character taken up later by Mozart in Mitridate Re di Ponte. Fanarce. Son of King Mitridante rebels and briefly allies himself against his father and brother and sides with Pompey during the third Mithridatic War. Father and son battle over a women, split the kingdom and then reconcile. In Vivaldi the same character fights for his beloved wife (Tamiri)  after suggesting she commit suicide and murder their child rather than be taken prisoner. The plot is complicated by an implacable and bothersome mother-in-law, Berenice, Queen of Cappadocia. Moreover, two nobles vie for Tamiri’s affections, Aquilo and Gilade. Tamari must navigate these treacherous waters to save herself, her son and Kingdom, not lose her virtue and she hopes to even salvage her mad husband. Vivaldi worked and reworked the opera throughout the last years of his life. There are at least three extant versions written between 1727 and 1739. He was so proud of the result that he argued with theatre after theatre over its presentation, brooking no alteration. He claimed in one letter, like Mozart, that it was so well conceived that “Not a note could be cut, even with a knife.” Its incredible power and level of invention are presented in the first bravura aria:

                                              Benche vinto e sconfitto,

                                                Perfide stele, io son Farnace ancora.

                                        Though beaten and defeated,

                              Treacherous stars, I am still Farnace.

courtesy of Wikipedia

That he could write this single aria marks him as a master, what follows lifts him into the lofty company of Gluck, Handel, Rameau, Lully and early Mozart. What we have heard in the playfulness and virtuosity of the Four Seasons, the vocal agility and expressiveness of the Stabat Mater and Gloria and the lyrical tenderness of the Mandolin Concerto is now all combined and harnessed to a great dramatic idea. And although it continues in three acts and over three hours, he was right you can’t cut a note, even with a knife.

Hear the other side of Vivaldi this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and the only baroque opera of the season with Antonio Vivaldi’s Fanarce.  That’s here at noon on KPAC and KTXI.     

by Ron Moore

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Orquesta Tipica Sexteto de Diez

It would be well beyond facts to make the claim that every comedian is also inherently musical. However, I expect the exceptions would be a meager number when compared to those comedians who are, or in the case of comedians of yesterday, were endowed with significant musical abilities. Consider Steve Martin, today as much musician/banjo player as comedian. Even the recently departed Phyllis Diller played piano, apparently well enough in her younger years to consider a career in music. And what about Charlie Chaplin, who wrote music for his films?

This consideration of comedians as musicians is prompted by a postcard I recently pulled out of a box of Mexico memorabilia. It pictures a mural called "Comedians of the 20th Century." I'm not sure who painted the mural, but I believe it might be in San Miguel Allende. Pictured, from left to right: Will Rogers, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Cantinflas, Rafael Mendez, Buster Keaton, and Laurel & Hardy. Conducting, of course, is Charlie Chaplin. I'm not sure who the harpist is, but perhaps it is Harpo Marx. There's plenty of detail here to keep one engaged for quite some time. I especially like the humor of the group's name: Orquesta Tipica Sexteto de Diez (Sextet of Ten).

It was no less than Charlie Chaplin who crowned the Mexican comedian Mario Moreno, better known throughout Latin America as Cantinflas, "the world's best comedian." I think the title of best "musical" comedian might have to go to Danny Kaye, but perhaps Cantinflas would have run a somewhat close second. The musical scene in the 1952 Cantinflas movie, "Si Yo Fuera Diputado (If I Were a Deputy)," is pure joy. Here we find Cantinflas slipping past security to get backstage at a concert hall. The police are in hot pursuit, eventually leaving Cantinflas no where to go except, unwittingly, onstage. He's trapped, with no choice but to conduct the concert.

Hope you enjoy this excerpt as much as I did.

James Baker - host and producer of Itinerarios: Music with Latin American Roots.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

COSA begins

Carlos Izcaray, courtesy of the artist
The Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio begins Friday night at Pearl Stables with a concert called The Perennial Contest. Classical Spotlight host John Clare posed these questions from conductor Carlos Izcaray.

1. What sort of questions come to mind as you think of this program, “The Perennial Contest”?
This is a very interesting question, and quite a first question to ask! In the most obvious sense, the perennial contest deals with the seemingly endless debate regarding the aesthetics of tonality and its relevance in today's classical music world, that contest which is majestically inscribed without words in Ives masterpiece The Unanswered Question. This opener also leads to our "time travel" program that expands through almost 5 centuries, which also gives a sense of perennial or everlasting. But as the question also relates to "what comes to mind", then from a personal perspective I also add the fact that the separate words, perennial and contest, represent whole worlds in themselves. Perennial in the philosophical sense as it can relate to the concept of philosophia perennis, a term linked with the underlying traditionalist school of thought (Guenon, Schuon, Coomaraswamy, Hossein Nasr), as well as the writings of more popular thinkers such as Huxley and Osho. Then there is the other word, Contest, which on one side symbolizes the ongoing debate of such principles with modernity, and on the other side the much related topic of tonality vs. atonality. In other words, I believe there are esoteric and exoteric philosophical components to the title of the program.

2. How exciting is it to lead the first concert of COSA?
I am extremely excited about this wonderful opportunity that I have been entrusted with. At my age I believe I'm experienced enough to see when a music organization has a fresh outlook on matters such as the important role of culture and the arts in society. Fortunately that's the case here. On more than one occasion, I've observed organizations that have sadly fallen in the "same old, same old" approach to their performances and overall identity, and then curiously enough they wonder why they go though such perils as chronic financial instability and cultural irrelevance. In my conversations with the leadership at COSA, though, I've found a vibrant and in-tune attitude to what this event means for such an important city as San Antonio. To add the fact that all of this is being accomplished within these uncertain times is nothing short of miraculous. These wonderful people have been working arduously for years to make this happen, so it's quite an honor for me to be given the opportunity to kindle what I hope will be a great road ahead.

3. Are there different approaches to the music of different ages (Ives to Monteverdi?!)?
In a way all music must be approached the same way, meaning the search for homogeneity in sound, intonation, balance, beauty and exalting expression. The search for the latter two - beauty & expression - diversify the approach on how to tackle certain passages in the music at hand. When one is asking oneself "how should I play this piece?", one strives to attain the most sincere result by absorbing as many historical, aesthetic, and philosophical elements as possible that would have led to the creation it in the first place. One wants to hear that the Muse sang within the psyche of the composer. In the end, though, the approach of trying to understand how and why a piece is performed is intrinsically the same.

4. The ensemble varies in size in these works, is it difficult to arrange rehearsal and timings for these varied works?
Many of the great conductors I've been fortunate to meet and work with have told me the same thing: "The easiest part about conducting is conducting!". This is obviously not meaning to say that conducting is actually easy, but since it's such a pleasure to experience it once one is on the podium, specially if one's passionate about the art, then other aspects such as logistics become a heavier challenge. In this case, we've had to think a little extra regarding time and space management, but fortunately nothing to stress too much about.

5. What’s the philosophical bent for the JC Bach symphony? Other than a friend of Mozart, I don’t see/hear the connection.
There is a huge and important connection between JC Bach and Mozart. On top of being a good friend to Mozart, he was also a great mentor to the younger genius. Bach's departure from the aesthetics ruling over his father's mostly God-inspired perfectionist and baroque style, lead him to a lighter approach that would lead toward the "Stile galante", the classical concerto, and of course, Opera. This would be a great influence on Mozart, both aesthetically and personally. You can also hear the beginnings of the Sonata form in this Sinfonia which is also basically a pre-Classical symphony without the corresponding 4th movement. Regarding the "genius potential" of composition, obviously Mozart is quite apart from JC Bach, but that could be said about Mozart vs. most other composers in history.

Friday, October 19, 2012

San Antonio International Piano Competition: LIVE!

Use this link to watch the San Antonio International Piano Competition, live this weekend from the campus of Trinity University:

Watch live streaming video from saipc at livestream.com

Monday, October 15, 2012

Music Monday

Today would have been the 107th birthday of composer Dag Wiren. He is not well known but wrote delightful music.
"Honest, straight to the point, balanced but uncompromising - such was the personality of the Swedish composer Dag Wirén. The same can be said of his music: it never tries to be anything but itself, it addresses the listener directly, it obeys unswervingly its own laws." -  Jan Carlstedt

Friday, October 12, 2012

Maria Padilla, a Surprise from Donizetti


In the years of furious and final creativity (between, about 1837-1843) Gaetano Donizetti would know great success and terrible tragedy. On the one hand he would experience the death of his parents; all three of his children would not survive to adulthood and his wife would fall to cholera. In parallel his fecund talent would ceaselessly enable him to work continuously, until his own final mental eclipse would overtake him in 1843. By some counts he would achieve 60-75 (I can find no agreement) operas; 16 symphonies; 19 string quartets (I’ve heard many and they are lovely) and over 190 songs. In his final years of work he would pen Don Pasquale, La Favorita, Roberto Deveraux, La Fille du Regiment and something called Maria Padilla. This latter is a true surprise and a work of rare beauty and extraordinary musical invention. It gives proof to the fact that there is just more great music, happily, than we can ever know.

Nothing in Maria Padilla happens as its outline might suggest. A prince, disguised as a commoner, falls in love with Maria. He is traveling under an assumed name (Mendez) and attempts a seduction. The usual romantic conclusion is her being forsaken or imagining she is (Lucia di Lammermoor), his marrying another noble or simply casting her aside (Rigoletto ,La Traviata) or some magical or improbable intervention (Tristan). None of these things happen in Maria Padilla, in fact all the romantic conventions are turned on their head. She does not go mad, her father (Ruiz) does. The father figure is not a baritone, true in all of the above operas, but a tenor. The royal story with its’ pageantry and court intrigue is all there but, overshadowed by the love of two sisters and their relation to their father, whose falls into derangement from shame. The seduction isn’t even a conquest, it resolves itself into mutual consent and an agreement- Maria will flee with her lover Don Pedro (Mendez true identity) if he will marry her and later crown her Queen, and he agrees! What follows are court intrigue, high politics, near betrayal and a stunning denoument . So stunning it exist in three versions! There are ensembles, arias and choruses on par with his greatest works and enough bel-canto virtuosity to make the near three hours and three acts fly by. One of the most moving a trio for two sopranos, tenor with harp and then English horn obbligato:

No… sola mi lasciate …

In tal punto solenne , che decide

No … leave me alone …

In this solemn moment which will

forever decide my fate

What follows is a royal apotheosis and debacle simultaneously, the complete “double” change of heart of the man who would be King and a completely unexpected Napoleonic gesture from a woman who rises to heroic dimensions in the causes of love and honor.

Find out how Donizetti manages all this with his unexpected opera Maria Padilla. The conventions start breaking at noon on Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on KPAC and KTXI.   

by Ron Moore

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Remembering Glenn Gould - again

When my wife got home I showed her the new book Remembering Glenn Gould by Colin Eatock and she remarked “Didn't you have every book about him already”? She had a point there, I thought I had every book and the fact that a new title would be published thirty years after his death and it would be anticipated is a bit...different.

Gould's recordings are still unique. His Bach is the easiest to pick out, but he brought his own distinctive and incisive style to most of his repertoire. You hear it in the balance between the hands and the voicing of the notes. Gould didn't play with two hands, but ten independent fingers and they sing out - the tenor legato and loud and the baritone staccato and sharp and then, probably because he could, he changed it up and swapped the balances around as easily as an organist changes the registration of the various ranks of pipes. It is not surprising to learn that in his youth Gould was a very fine organist.

There is an old saying “music picks up where words fail”. I can't miss this irony when there is a book about a musician, a pianist no less, that joins the 14 plus books devoted to this Canadian musician that is somehow still worth writing and more importantly, thinking about. Consider other pianists, like one of the great virtuosos of the 20th century, Vladimir Horowitz, he gets one or two books, Artur Rubinstein, three or four and Rubinstein had to write two of those himself!

Clearly there is something about Gould. It started in 1978 with a very unusual book about the pianist by the Toronto educator Geoffrey Payzant, entitled Glenn Gould Music and the Mind. This is no florid, adjective strewn book about a piano virtuoso storming through concerts and life; what we get is a portrait of the mind and motives of a man who lived pretty much the contemplative life of a hermit. What started Payzant down this road was Gould's approach to music and the mental discipline the pianist put into all of his recordings.

With Glenn Gould's good looks and easy manner at the keyboard - he had no problem with   crossing his long legs while playing a concerto or warming his arms with scalding hot water before a performance. It wasn't long before reporters knew they had something rare in classical music - a musician that was good copy. And soon the stories and legends, not all of them true, became part and parcel of the GG mystique. This mass of information is compounded by the fact the young man enjoyed the attention and knew that being colorful and outspoken could get him even more column inches. The difficult part for the fans and those curious about the pianist was finding out what was he really like? With his life of music so well documented, one is left wondering about all that was left out.

In Remembering Glenn Gould, author Colin Eatock questions twenty people who knew or were somehow associated with the pianist. Sometimes asking the same questions to different friends and colleagues we gain insight that paints a more complicated portrait than is presented in previous books. I also appreciate that Eatock follows up each interview with an enlightening postscript and footnotes explaining some of the details that add interest to the story. Eatock categorizes the interviews in an interesting way. The first four are under “Working for Mr. Gould” then “Musicians Speak”, “Microphone and Camera”, “Two personal relationships” and ending with “Writing about Gould”.

In this book one finds out what Canada’s second most famous pianist, Anton Kuerti, thought about Gould; then there is the man that set up his recording venues, the piano technician, and the producer of most of his output Andrew Kazdin, who already published a tell-all book about the pianist - he gives us his final thoughts. Most interesting.

Mr. Eatock is thorough and kind to those who granted him an interview and his book gives us a multifaceted look at a man who amazed music lovers for too short a time. Considering that Gould looked at music in a unique manner and was so careful in the fine mental judgments that make a difference between a great and everyday performance, it is not surprising that this is topic worthy of study and yet another book about him. What is surprising is that in thinking about musicians over the last 60 years, who has come about to replace him?  

Reviewed by Randy Anderson

Remembering Glenn Gould - Twenty interviews with People who knew Him

by Colin Eatock

Penumbra Press   ISBN 978-1-897323-20-5    

Chicago Symphony in Mexico

After a brief work stoppage a couple of weeks ago, as the musicians of the Chicago Symphony and their management resolved several hangnails in their contract negotiations, the CSO went right back to work, then on the road. Last week the orchestra was in residence at Carnegie Hall, in New York City. This week, they are in Mexico, the orchestra's first visit to the International Cervantino Festival; on Wednesday they play in Mexico City's Bellas Artes. Needless to say, this great orchestra is being greeted as a conquering hero.

The Festival Internacional Cervantino, named after the Spanish writer Cervantes, is now a 40 year old Mexican cultural landmark. The trajectory has not always been true. There have been ebbs and flows, largely related to the Mexican economy, yet the Cervantino has continued to survive. Even in its leanest years there have been exceptional lineups of international artists. If one needs evidence that the arts are alive and well, a visit to the Cervantino surely provides substantial room for optimism. It is a street party. It is spontaneous artistic combustion. In addition to the constant and informal performers on the sidewalks, there are officially sanctioned events morning, noon and night. I am certain the Chicago Symphony is having a blast in Guanajuato, the 16th Century principal venue of the festival. ¡Viva the CSO!. ¡Viva Riccardo Muti, the orchestra's conductor! ¡Viva México! The orchestra continues its brief Mexico tour next week with a concert in Mexico City's Bellas Artes.

Here is a good account of the orchestra's first couple of days in Guanajuato. I sure wish I could be there.

James Baker- host and producer: Itinerarios

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wagner’s Meistersinger - A Human Comedy


courtesy Wikipedia
 There is no end of debate about Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. It is simultaneously the most genial, most humane woolly bear of an opera Wagner would ever compose. On the other hand it's most admiring critics are quick to point out the opera’s internal double life: it is the most openly nationalistic, perhaps covertly anti-Semitic and historically problematic of the Wagner canon. Nike Wagner, great- granddaughter of the composer and great- great- granddaughter of Franz Liszt, writes of this duality extensively in her book The Wagners (see chapter 7, Folly and Wit) for those interested in the ongoing intellectual argument. Having said all this I have the suspicion that at the distance of over one hundred and forty years since the premiere in 1868 and the approaching Wagner bicentennial (1813-2013), the statute of historical - aesthetic limitations may well be running out on Wagner’s comedy. Viewed as a stand alone piece, freed of its historical freight, it is for all its shortcomings a wonderful, if archaic nineteenth century treat. It is, some say, the longest opera ever written that is retained in the repertory. It’s “humor” is not exactly the rapier wit of Restoration comedy or Moliere, let alone Shakespeare. But, its musical delights pass all criticism. Accepting its epic length, running with intermissions, (usually two), Meistersinger can run a staggering six hours. As I say an artifact of another time, but a masterpiece none the less.

courtesy Wikipedia

The plot mixes history and fiction. Nurnberg and the historical Hans Sachs joined by a cast of dozens. At the heart of the drama is a love affair between Eva Pogner and Walter von Stolzing. She wants to wed the young aristocratic singer but to do so he must first qualify as a Mastersinger, with all its mad rules and then compete with others for her hand in a song contest. As always, the winner gets the girl. There is internal dissension in the singing group - how is the winner to be judged? And here is the truly modern twist at the heart of the opera. Are they to use the old rules challenged by Walter and questioned by Hans Sachs or rewrite them in the light of his new song?
Morgen leuchtend im rosigen Schein,
Von Blut und Duft,

Warm in the sunlight, at dawning of day,

Where blossoms rare, made sweet the air,

With beauty glowing past all knowing,

Here is the real Wagner symbolically claiming for himself, the romantics and the Music Drama, a new standard that must be understood in its own way by new rules and taking a not at all subtle swipe at his critics, especially the authoritative Hanslick of Vienna. The plot moves from Walter’s rejection by the ruthless “Marker”, Sixtus Beckmesse, a stand in for the critic. Walter learns from Sachs, blending the old and new styles and creates a new song accepted by the people, the Masters and vanquishes Beckmesser. The controversial close of the opera, for some, is when Wagner’s interpolation of verses praising a uniquely “German Art” (Heilige Kunst) which the National Socialist regime twisted toward its own end. For myself, taking a page from Jacques Barzun; let’s not confuse old fashion 19th nationalism, with 20th century politics of destructive nihilism. Leave the Great Master his personal eccentricities and ourselves hours of unalloyed delight.

Tune in to this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Wagner’s epic comedy, Die Meistersinger.  Remembering Fischer - Dieskau  as Hans Sachs and a young Placido Domingo - offering a Prize Song for the ages. Here at noon on KPAC and KTXI.  

by Ron Moore

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

San Antonio Symphony and Musicians Union Reach Agreement

Guest conductor Roman Teber leads the San Antonio Symphony. Photo by Joey Palacios
By Joey Palacios

The San Antonio Symphony was one of many orchestras across the country to be in contract negotiations, but now it's one of the few to come to finally an agreement. Symphony Board Chair Dennert Ware said the collective bargaining agreement will extend the length of the performance season.

"We're slowly increasing the weeks from 27 to 29, we think that's a positive step," Ware said. "We made some very modest increases in salary."

Salaries for the musicians will increase each year to just under $30,000 with greater health benefits and also allows for collaboration with an opera company in the third year. First Violinist Craig Sorgi represents the Musicians Society of San Antonio and said the contract sends a message to the community.

"It sends a message that we plan to be here, we're doing business, we are working together, we're getting it done, and we're moving forward instead of moving backward or standing in place," Sorgi said.

The Symphony and musicians operated under a verbal agreement last season since a contract was not finalized in time.  The new three-year contract will take them into the first year of performing in the Tobin Center for the performing arts.

This year’s operating budget for the Symphony is about $7 million, one-third of that comes from ticket sales and the rest from donations.

The first show for the season is this Friday at the Majestic.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Genius flexes his new found strength

In the winter of 1769 Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart set off by coach in the snow on an Italian Journey. Saying goodbye to the family, and luckily writing often, they were on a mission. As usual the goal was to make money and reaffirm contacts with the influential and the nobility (the prospect of work for the future). The significant part of this trip was to present the now mature musician to the world and to make this point Mozart was prepared to write his first true opera seria, Mitridate re di Ponte, commissioned for the Carnival in Milan. In the eighteenth century being a teenager meant getting on in the world, no one would have stood for or ever sympathized with our modern convention of the extended childhood (who could afford it?). At thirteen going on fourteen young Wolfgang was still regarded as a curiosity and something of a wonder. That he was a formidable virtuoso, talented improviser and supremely gifted composer was clear, but he was still only a beginner. There was much to learn and the boy had come to Italy to submit to the supreme masters who lived and worked in the Italian academies and universities. In this case Padre Martini, one of the greatest of musical pedagogues of the era who taught at the University of Bolonga. Possessed of a 17,000 volume personal library - his pupils included Andre Gretry, Josef Myslivecek, J. C. Bach and Mozart.

Wolfgang could really put on a show - he was witty and playful at dinners (and lucky, his father had an accident and he ran free for a while) he often filled churches and concert spaces playing and conducting from the keyboard. All of this was however only a prelude to what was to be his crowning achievement after completing an examination given by Martini and fellow academics. Their test was suppose to take three to four hours and was knocked out by Mozart in thirty minutes and then in a true show of his abilities, the young genius was then going to out Italian the Italians on their home ground with Mitridate. This almost no one believed: to play the magician (or clown) on the concert circuit was one thing, to submit to the discipline and challenge of a mature, extended dramatic work would require much more. Rumors circulated that "the boy" had bitten off more than he could chew. Here no one could have anticipated Mozart’s superhuman capacity for work, chronicled in detail in his letters home. Perhaps a portrait painted at the time says it best: seated at the keyboard before his own music and dressed in a red and gold jacket as one historian said "It’s the strangeness of the eyes. Those of a knowing child …"

courtesy of Wikipedia

The plot of the opera would include a five way love affair, pitting father (Mitridate) against two sons (Sifare and Farnace),add in a war (Pontus against Rome), and a sibling rivalry, (with two heroines Aspasia and Ismene ,who makes five …) Mozart complicated his task by adapting a text by no less than Racine, animating Roman history and writing virtuoso arias for four great castrato voices. The recitatives almost did him in; writing home to mother he cried about his aching hands. In anticipation of failure, several Italian composers offered the singers their music as "interpolations" (a common practice at the time) but, after reading over Mozart’s score no subtitutions were accepted. Mitridate re di Ponte was a complete success and was repeated twenty-one times. How did he do it? The answer was the structural solution - alleviate the constant harpsichord recitative accompaniment with orchestral writing of incredible delicacy. As one critic put it "He created a musical necklace in which the arias were a string of pearls." Some like the unforgettable Lungi da te , running 6 - 9:00 minutes with exquisite horn obliggato: 
Lungi da te , mio bene
Se vuoi ch’io porti il piede,

If you wish to wend my way
Far from you my beloved,
Do not remember the sufferings
You experience, my dear

Tune in to this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and experience what the Italians did in 1770. Who knew a mere boy could upset their sense of Italian supremacy in opera as much as Mozart‘s Mitridate re di Ponto? And we have a cast that suits the occasion: Cecilia Bartoli, Natalie Dessay, Sandrine Piau, Brian Asawa and Juan Diego Florenz among others. All of this at noon, on KPAC and KTXI.

by Ron Moore 


Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Monday

Andrzej Panufnik,
courtesy of Culture.pl

Today is the anniversary of Sir Andrzej Panufnik's birth. Born in Warsaw in 1914, Panufnik was a delightful composer and conductor, who spent part of his life in Poland, and later in England. Host John Clare describes his music as "grand simplicity" (tm) - which include ten symphonies; concerti for violin, piano, bassoon, and cello; three string quartets; as well as various piano, chamber and orchestral works.
Panufnik and Lutoslwski reunited in 1990
Andrzej studied with Felix Weingartner before the Second World War, and during the war, performed piano duets with composer Witold Lutoslawski - as you might have seen in the major motion picture, The Pianist.
Musicians like Leopold Stokowski, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yehudi Menhuhin, and Jascha Horenstein have recorded and championed his music. More recently recordings have been available from Naxos, CPO and Conifer labels.
Lady Camilla Panufnik, his wife, is a highly regarded photographer and their children, Roxanna and Jem are noted composer and sound artist respectively.
There is lots to love and enjoy in Panufnik's music - one of the great symphonies is an early one for Poland's millenium, Sinfonia Sacra. Both overtures, Tragic and Heroic, are well crafted. Here is the Violin Concerto from youtube:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Opera Fever, Puccini’s Turandot

In his impassioned, prolific and sometimes desperate correspondence concerning his last opera Turandot, Giacomo Puccini gives us a glimpse into the unlikely creation of a masterwork and the challenges and rewards that are part of the end of life and the demands of art.
courtesy of Wikipedia
As he traveled from city to city to oversee the productions of his Il Trittico he had also begun to consider proposals for a new opera. After rejecting a Shakespearean topic and Dickens’ Oliver Twist, he met his librettist Guiseppe Adami for lunch in Milan where there was broached the idea of Carlo Gozzi’s Turandot. Despite that fact that it had been staged at least seven times before, Puccini knew the work well and told Adami to contact Renato Simone and begin the libretto. What follows is a detailed record of an artist at the height of his fame. He races from Vienna, to Milan to Rome and London, New York and Paris arranging and negotiating - all the while being feted and praised. There is the usual mixture of gambling, (he loses 10,000 lire in Monte Carlo) flirtation with younger women, conferences with Mussolini and the buying of new property as the opera grows act by act. Slowly the theme of death and age takes up a larger and larger part of his life as relatives, siblings, fellow composers all begin to pass away. Increasingly the composer reflects on age and the passage of time as he reaches the milestone of his sixtieth year. It is in this context, on the threshold of being told that he has cancer, that he makes his way through the roller coaster ride of trying to complete his magnum opus. In comments to friends Puccini refers to “Needing to be gripped by the fever“ to finish. The composer it seems needed to be in a fit of an elusive and unpredictable inspiration to create the grand melodies for which he is so justly revered. What followed was a five year struggle, 1919-1924, in which he went from one strategy to another, with no end in sight. He constantly contemplated abandoning the project and then a burst of inspiration would revive his flagging spirits. He rightly predicted in his final year that he would be composing it from the tomb. He would never live to write its conclusion.
courtesy of Wikipedia

The plot of Turandot is a double adaptation from a play by Gozzi and this in turn taken from a tale in the Thousand and One Nights. From all around the world young nobles have come to Peking to vie for the hand of the haughty and contemptuous Princess Turandot. It is a matter of waging one’s very life for this love .The announcement of intention begins with the ringing of a gong in a public square and this leads to a confrontation with Turandot in which three riddles are given, to fail to answer them is to suffer death and all comers have failed. Into this drama steps Prince Calaf, in flight from a palace coup. He is accompanied by his father Timur, who is blind, and his helper and slave Liu. She follows in part to attend the old man and in part to be near Calaf whom she loves. Despite pleas on the part of the people of Peking in glorious choruses, the courtiers Ping, Pang and Pong (who afford comic relief to the carnage ) and her father the aging Emperor Altoum, Calaf rings the gong. This at the very moment that we are treated to the spectacle of the beheading of the doomed Prince of Persia. To the astonishment of all Calaf succeeds where all others have failed and answers the riddles. Turandot horrified begs her father to protect her against the laws of the land and the terms of the contest. Generous in victory Calaf offers the Princess a final option: if she can discover his name by dawn he will relinquish his claim. This gives us the great aria Nessum Dorma , as Turandot decrees that no one sleeps until she has uncovered the Prince’s name. Fearing  failure and desperate she threatens to torture Timur and Liu and she claiming that only she knows his name protects him by stabbing herself and committing suicide. The emotional balance of the opera shifts after the great tenor solo:
Nessum dorma ! Nessum dorma!
Tu pura, o Principessa,
Nella sua fredda stanza
No man shall sleep! No man shall sleep!
You too, o Princess,
In your chaste room are watching the stars which
tremble with love and hope!
When Puccini finished Nessum dorma he wrote that he thought it would be the great remembered aria of the opera, how right he proved to be. With the death of the character Liu his composition ceased and as he predicted, he died without completing the final scene and duet in which Turandot capitulates after Calaf  in a final act of love, offers his name to her and she rather than deny her love confesses it at last to the jubilation of all Peking. This last part written of the opera was orchestrated by Franco Alfano from Puccini’s last sketches.
Tune in for this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and what has been called “ the last Grand Opera “ , Puccini’s Turandot with Birgit Nilsson in the title role and Franco Corelli as Calaf. The gong strikes at noon on KPAC and KTXI.
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Classical Spotlight: Horn in Library

We normally have a french horn in the Music Library at KPAC, our very own James Baker is an accomplished player and practices here and there in the TPR studios. This week though, host John Clare had FOUR horns performing in the library, previewing their upcoming recital at Trinity University.
"I am soloing with the San Antonio Symphony this season, playing a Mozart Concerto, and I wanted to play it ahead of time in a safe environment." Jeff Garza, principal horn of the San Antonio Symphony. "So I booked the hall at Trinity since I also teach there, but I didn't want it to be just another horn and piano recital - I've been, slept through enough of those! Plus, I really wanted to play with my colleagues at the symphony. So the first half of the concert is solo horn: I play Mozart, Katie plays some Amram, and we all play on the second half."
The concert is Sunday afternoon at Trinity University (see their humorous poster pictured left!) and you can hear a preview and more of Jeff Garza's interview on Classical Spotlight, Thursday afternoon at 1pm (central) on KPAC & KTXI.

There's also an exclusive video on our Facebook page of the quartet announcing their nicknames!