Thursday, May 31, 2012

La Gazza Ladra, Rossini's Tuneful Bird

It is, I think, fitting that Saturday Afternoon at the Opera follow the weighty, doom-filled and relentlessly serious Tristan of Wagner with Rossini's tuneful bird, La Gazza Ladra.
From the opening notes of it's immensely popular overture and screaming snare drum, used in film, television, elevators and cartoons as well as the great concert halls and opera houses where we enter a wildly slapstick mixture of mock militarism, comic lightness and parody of dire fate - all wrapped in a gossamer elegance. While Tristan "appears" to be about eveything and is finally about music, La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) pretends to be about nothing, but like the Wagner, it is finally a great feast of the voice and examination of human foibles from the comic as opposed to the tragic angle. For lovers of the voice, it is an Olympics of Vocalization requiring at least six outstanding singers and four "rock steady" principals. They never get a break. It is said that Rossini altered the work into later life, not changing the plot but endlessly elaborating ornament and vocal demands as he encountered great singers. It is almost as long as Tristan and packed into two unrelenting acts that must keep us laughing for almost three and a quarter hours!  
The plot is conjured out of thin air and is apparently based on a French play that ends in tragedy. In Rossini's "semi-seria" concoction the darkness always threatens, but then is scattered by light and laughter. In a provincial household of an upper middle class couple the serving maid and the son of the house are about to be married in spite of the mothers furious objections. The hen pecked father can't see the problem and does not believe that she is responsible for some mysteriously missing family valuables. Simultaneously as the two couple struggle, our maid, Ninetta and her beloved Giannetto combat the parents, Fabrizio and Lucia. Then add to this a lustful politician pursuing our maid and her father fleeing the army. He, Fernando, has had an argument with his Captain. Ninetta's being charged with theft and the father desertion and both are under penalty of death and that's just Act I :
                                         Veni fra queste braccia
                                               mi balza il cor nel sen!
                                                Come to my arms...
                                               my heart is pounding in my breast!
                                          This my dear is the language of true love.
For this true love she will risk prosecution by the spurned politician, Il Podesta (Sam Ramey) and the threat of the firing squad. As part of the narrative rushes toward what looks like a catastrophe for father, daughter and her lover a most mysterious and unlikely culprit is uncovered who might extricate them all ...
Please tune in to this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera at noon for Rossini's comic masterpiece , La Gazza Ladra, here on KPAC and KTXI.
by Ron Moore

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seldom called Lyric

Anton Bruckner, this work is in
the public domain in the United States 
Bruckner's Seventh Symphony quotes previous music written by the composer, although he said he heard it in a dream played on viola, awoke and wrote down the melody. Adolf Hitler loved the slow movement of the symphony and made a bust of the composer in 1937. On the next Classical Spotlight, we'll talk with conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing about the Seventh Symphony of Bruckner, sometimes referred to as the Lyric, Thursday afternoon at one o'clock on KPAC and KTXI.

-host John Clare

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kicking Back

San Antonio is good at summer, probably because we get so much practice. While in Northern climes the season of spring is so anticipated that the concept of getting warmer is celebrated in word and music. San Antonio located closer to the equator than Cairo, Egypt and sometimes we get our warm weather as early as February. Our summers are long and hot and that's what is celebrated on the Piano this Sunday with a program entitled "Summertime". From impressions of the hot season in Prague to the sweltering Gardens of Spain, music that warms ones bones portrayed with 88 keys. Get your favorite cool beverage and kick back with the Piano.

The Piano heard Sunday's at 5 pm on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tristan, Love & Revolution

Before there was love there was revolution.The eleven years that passed in the composition of Tristan und Islode from idea and early sketch to premiere (1854-1865) are marked by several notable events. First is the failure of the European revolutions of 1848. It is this upheaval that leads to Wagner's revolutionary agitation and flight because of a warrant for his arrest and subsequent geographical displacements and exile. It is this series of events that takes him to the door of Otto and Mathilde Wesendonk. Otto is a wealthy silk merchant and he and his wife ardent devotees of Wagner's music. She is also a poet and in an unusual gesture Wagner puts to music words that are not his own. Themes for what will be major melodic ideas of Tristan appear in two of the five song cycle, Traume (Dreams) and Im Treibhaus (In the Conservatory), later named "Tristan Studies" or Wesendonck Lieder.

It has never been clear if what passed between Mathilde and Richard was infatuation, platonic/ symbolic emotional upheaval, a "love affair" in the full meaning of that term or the collision of two romantic dreamers (common in the nineteenth century) whose "child " was the emotionally extravagant and musically revolutionary Tristan. It is also interesting to note that the work was not written while in a long congress and adoration of the beloved, Frau Wesendock. Minna, Wagner's first wife, intercepted a letter which led to the confrontation of all four parties. Much like the end of Act II of the opera after the great love duet and ravishing night music:

                                                                   O sink hernieder ,
                                                                    Nacht der Liebe,
                                                                 O Night of love,
                                                                    grant oblivion
                                                                    that I may live;
                                                                      take me up
                                                                  into your bosom
                                                                  release me from
                                                                      the world ! 
At the end of Act II of Tristan the lovers are "interrupted" before the great duet can conclude in resolving unison. Similarly whatever happened between Wagner and Frau Wesendonck was also " abruptly " intruded upon by the respective husband and wife and as in the opera they are separated. Otto takes Mathilde to Italy and Wagner also wanders (without Minna) to Venice and Lucerne with his score. It will be published in three separate sections so anxious is his publisher to get the music before the public.
The plot of the vast (about three and three-quarter hours) score is marked by the combined characteristics of encounter, conflict and sudden infatuation (with the help of a love potion) in the first act. Act II is a long uninterrupted movement of unbridled, tempestuous feeling in spite of the great danger of discovery.  Act III, as in the life of the real Mathilde and Richard, is marked by melancholy, regret, separation and wandering. The work of art as usual succeeding where life failed - Tristan and Isolde are reunited under " the black flag" symbolizing reunion and death (I think ...) .He dies in expectation of seeing her again, she dies of the euphoria of their last meeting. Wagner called it not Isolde's Death but her " Transfiguration " . 
By way of personal confession. Tristan (this performance) was the first Wagner opera I ever bought as a teenager. I will never forget handing the record store salesman the lordly sum of $20 and being given a nickel back ! A horrible portent of a lifetime of buying to come. I have listen to almost all available (major) recordings ranging over almost three quarters of a century, dating from the thirties to our time. I have seen it performed and confess only this week to making some sense of Act III. All the talk of Schopenhauer, the love - death, transcendence, transfiguration, mystical union etc... aside, I never drank the Kool-Aide. There was something about all this disembodied talk about love that I just couldn't accept. But I have a theory and it takes us back to the failed revolution and the bitter life of exile that would follow for Wagner. I suspect that what he and we are really saying "farewell" to is not a woman or love, they are the symbols and emotional catalyst for this truly great musical utterance. It is through the eyes of lovers that we now have the long forestalled reaction to the political failure that was to transform the world. Wagner didn't just want to write great music (he did), or have a great love, he did in the form of Franz Liszt's daughter, Cosima. What never happened was the creation of a world, remade through a politics of utopian values; beyond class with the artist at its center. All that was left was flight into the "infinite private life" and the oblivion and endlessness of the "Tristan Chord".  
Tune in to this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera for what Wagner called his monument to life's greatest dream, Tristan, at noon, here on KPAC and KTXI.
by Ron Moore

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


You too can add your child's voice to the many at the Children's Chorus of San Antonio - they have added more placement times.
CCSA performing, courtesy of CCSA and used by permission.
Placements for the 2012-2013 season with CCSA will be held now through June 4th. Their mission is to bring quality choral music education and performance opportunities to youth; singers represent a all walks of San Antonio's rich culture.
Boys and girls ages 7-18 rehearse weekly during the academic year in one of seven training and performance ensembles in four locations. Singers learn musicianship and vocal technique, and develop life-long skills that including confidence, poise, self-esteem and discipline. Visit for additional information and to register.
CCSA is completing its 29th season and continues to provide amazing experiences in choral music education and performance to over 400 children and youth annually. Season highlights included an appearance with San Antonio Symphony for Liszt: Dante Symphony last March, and a new weekly program for families and children at Haven for Hope.
(compiled and edited via email and press releases)

Monday, May 21, 2012

C-C-Changes in SA Symphony program

Guest conductor Alondra de la Parra was scheduled to lead the San Antonio Symphony this weekend. She has canceled due to illness. They have engaged Cristian Macelaru to replace her as the guest conductor. The Copland Symphony No. 3 and Khachaturian's Violin Concerto with soloist Mikhail Simonyan will still be performed, as previously scheduled. The first work on the program will be changed to Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila.
Cristian Macelaru has established an exciting and highly regarded presence through his thoughtful interpretations, poise and energetic conviction on the podium. He began his work with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 2010-11 season and, with the orchestra’s vote in September 2011, was named Assistant Conductor, effective 2011-12. Recently, Mr. Macelaru received the 2012 Sir George Solti Emerging Conductor Award, a prestigious honor only awarded once before in the foundation’s history. In February 2012, Mr. Macelaru made his Chicago Symphony subscription debut as a replacement for Pierre Boulez with overwhelming success and rave reviews. Other 2011-12 season highlights include engagements with the Baltimore and Houston Symphony Orchestras and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, in addition to conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra and assisting Music Director Designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Chief Conductor Charles Dutoit. Mr. Macelaru’s 2012-13 season brings highly anticipated debuts with Montréal’s Orchestre Métropolitain, the Windsor Symphony and the Naples Philharmonic, as well as a return to the Baltimore Symphony.
An accomplished violinist from an early age, Mr. Macelaru was the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and made his Carnegie Hall debut with that orchestra at the age of nineteen. He also played in the first violin section of the Houston Symphony for two seasons. Formerly, he held the position of Resident Conductor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he was Music Director of the Campanile Orchestra, Assistant Conductor to Larry Rachleff and Conductor for the Opera Department. A proponent of music education, Mr. Macelaru has served as a conductor with the Houston Youth Symphony, where he also conceptualized and created a successful chamber music program.
Mr. Macelaru has participated in the prestigious conducting programs of the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival, studying under David Zinman, Murry Sidlin, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Robert Spano, Oliver Knussen and Stefan Asbury. His main studies were with renowned teacher Larry Rachleff at Rice University, where he received his Master of Music degree in conducting. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Miami.

Complete 30

In August 2010, HJ performed the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas over eight consecutive days in Paris and one year later she recorded the complete cycle for EMI Classics with whom she now records exclusively. Tomorrow EMI Classics releases HJ Lim's outstanding collection of Beethoven Piano Sonatas on iTunes. Hear her discuss recording the monumental works, the relationship of symphonies to sonatas and deciding not to include two of the sonatas with host John Clare:

For a limited time, these 99 tracks will be available for $9.99. It is a bargain and great aural pleasure!
Here is a sample of HJ playing the "Moonlight" Sonata:

As San Antonio audiences just heard these works live throughout January and February, you'll love revisiting these masterworks with this 19 year old pianist.

ASCAP honors composers

The 13th annual ASCAP Concert Music Awards will take place on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center in New York City. ASCAP member, composer, musician, and author Peter Schickele will host the invitation-only event, which will recognize the achievements of ASCAP’s 2012 Concert Music Honorees who represent the diverse aesthetic spectrum of the concert music world. Among the evening's presenters will be Eve Beglarian, David Del Tredici, Joan La Barbara, Paul Lansky, Terrance McKnight, Paul Moravec, Tamar Muskal, Stephen Paulus, Melinda Wagner, Doug Wood, Randall Woolf, and ASCAP’s Paul Williams, Frances Richard, Michael Spudic, and Cia Toscanini.
The 2012 Honorees are:
ASCAP presents the Aaron Copland Award to distinguished ASCAP member, George Walker, in celebration of his 90th year and for his contribution to American music as a composer, pianist, educator, and exemplary musical citizen.

ASCAP presents the Victor Herbert Award to ASCAP member, Jim Staley, Co-Founder and President of Roulette, for more than 30 extraordinary years of presenting, commissioning, recording, and broadcasting innovative composers, musicians, sound and collaborative artists.

ASCAP celebrates Bridge Records (Becky Starobin (ASCAP member), President; David Starobin (ASCAP member), Director of Artists & Repertoire; Robert Starobin, Vice President; and Allegra R. Starobin, Associate Director) for their 30-year commitment to musical excellence and distinguished service to American music.

 ASCAP salutes Maestro Delta David Gier, Music Director of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, a champion of American composers, and a courageous advocate for the music of our time. 

ASCAP presents the John Cage Award to Kathleen Supové, for the artistry and passion with which she performs, commissions, records, and champions the music of our time.

The ASCAP Foundation program honors the late Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and former ASCAP Foundation President Morton Gould’s lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators. The award-winning composers share prizes of approximately $42,000, including the Leo Kaplan Award, in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor; the Charlotte V. Bergen Scholarship for a composer 18 years of age or younger; and a grant from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund. Jack Norworth generously dedicated the royalties from his great standards, "Shine On Harvest Moon" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to benefit gifted, emerging composers. Award recipients receive complimentary copies of Sibelius notation software, generously donated by Avid, the company that creates technology used to make the most listened to, most watched and most loved music and media in the world. In addition, the award recipients are offered a free one year subscription to ScoreStreet, providing self-publishing composers business expertise and the ability to effectively promote their profiles and works through a searchable website. ScoreStreet will launch this summer.
 The 2012 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients are listed with their current residence, and place of origin: David Biedenbender of Ann Arbor, MI (Waukesha, WI); William David Cooper of Davis, CA (Rocky Mount, CA); Derek David of Boston, MA (Los Angeles, CA); Simon Frisch of New York, NY; Michael Gilbertson of New Haven, CT (Dubuque, IA); Ted Goldman of Rochester, NY (New York, NY); Peng-Peng Gong of New York, NY (Nanjing, China); Ross Griffey of Seabrook, TX (Nassau Bay, TX); Ted Hearne of Brooklyn, NY (Chicago, IL); David Hertzberg of New York, NY (Santa Monica, CA); Andrew Hsu of Philadelphia, PA (Fremont, CA); Emily Koh Waltham, MA (Singapore); Michael Lee of New York, NY (Atlanta, GA); Maxwell J. McKee of Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (Montclair, NJ); Jared Abraham Miller of New York, NY (Los Angeles, CA); Eric Nathan of New York, NY; Gity H. Razaz of New York, NY (Tehran, Iran); Kathryn Salfelder of Fairlawn, NJ (Paterson, NJ); Nathan Shields of Poughkeepsie, NY (Traverse City, MI); Mike Sweeney of Bloomington, IN (Albert Lea, MN); and Roger Zare of Ann Arbor, MI (Sarasota, FL).
The following composers received Honorable Mention: Anthony R. Green of Boulder, CO (Arlington, VA); Ian Ng of Long Island City, NY (Hong Kong, China); Michael Schachter of Ann Arbor, MI (Boston, MA); Matt Smith of Cleveland, OH (San Diego, CA); Francisco Castillo Trigueros of Chicago, IL (Mexico City, Mexico); and Clinton J. Wang of New Haven, CT (Toronto, Canada).
 The youngest ASCAP Foundation composer Award recipients range in age from 12 to 18 and are listed by state of residence: Miles Jefferson Friday, age 18 (WA); Tengku Ahmad Irfan age 13 (NY); Anna Larsen, age 12 (MA); Yeeren I. Low, age 15 (PA); John Peter Redmond, age 12 (NY); Thomas Reeves, age 17 (NY); Jonas Tarm, age 18 (IL); and Renata Vallecillo, age 12 (NJ). 
Honorable Mention in the youngest category: Gideon Broshy, age 18 (NY); Emily Elizabeth Brown, age 17 (MD); Thomas Feng, age 18 (CA); Sidarth Jayadev, age 14 (NY); Jake Landau, age 16 (CT); and Yeeray Low, age 17 (PA). The 2012 ASCAP composer/judges were: Samuel Adler, Eve Beglarian, Yotam Haber, Tamar Muskal, Roberto Sierra, Augusta Read Thomas and Randall Woolf.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is it the Coke or the Coke bottle?

When we music lovers buy something as intangible as music what are we really buying? In the old days it was the sheet music, but Thomas Edison changed all that with the invention of the cylinder recorder/ player in 1877. Suddenly the music lover had a choice - to become a musician to make music or just buy some equipment and save a lot of time.

The Edison cylinder was replaced by the Berliner disc and the sale of 78 rpm "records" exploded. Then technology and free enterprise takes over and crunchy sounding 78's were superseded by the vinyl long playing records and then reel to reel tapes, cassettes and then the world of Flash Gordon and lasers and the peak of technology, the compact disc. But not so fast, now the latest and greatest innovation is the digital download and suddenly music is once again invisible and seemingly intangible - hidden on your hard drive, until it crashes.

Great artists can continue to be great long after their death because of these technologies. Recordings that were enjoyed on 78's were transferred to LP, then cassette and now the waning technology of the compact disc. Walter Gieseking was an infant prodigy and avoided school because at the age of 5 he discovered he could read and write. This gave him more time to study music and he succeeded brilliantly. Recently EMI remastered many of Gieseking's greatest recordings and re-released them for the umpteenth time - but this time with the clean and modern sound we music lovers have come to prefer. Hear the German pianist and his influential performances of the music of Claude Debussy as well as a recent recording of Franz Schubert's monumental G major Sonata on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Carmen, Bizet's Dream

It is commonplace to imagine Georges Bizet's Carmen to be part of a long line of seductresses: Salome, Manon, Delilah and most notoriously Lulu. Her goal, apparently is, escape from jail and win her freedom - the price? The seduction of Don Jose. What follows is the inevitable. It is a convenient explanation, especially for Don Jose and for all men who think themselves victims of the wily and duplicitous female who had undermined, betrayed and lied. In short it is subterfuge that drives them and for all of the women above, excepting Carmen, I accept that this is true. Salome is an unsupervised teenager bent on pathological narcissicism (Herod and the court have not a clue where her mania is leading ...). Manon is  naive, but also in search of a protector; Lulu pretends to be a naive as she realizes men desire this and she plays the role to win her desires; Dalilah works for Samson's enemies and is the classic "spy in the house of love". Carmen does none of this and none of these women offer over and over to not only release their victim, but Carmen encourages his realization that he has made a mistake! She promises love and delivers; but she never offered "terms" or a limit to her feelings; that is his presumption  and part of his unspoken dream.  
The text of the opera is both brilliant and clear:

O ma Carmen, laisse- moi te sauver, toi que j'adore,
    Oh my Carmen , let me save you,
       Oh, Carmen I adore you...
Her response (already given to save his pleading and her bother) is devastating  and utterly without equivocation or deceit :
            Tu demandes l'impossible !
                Carmen jamais n'a menti !
                     Entre nous, tout a fini !
                                              You are asking the impossible !
                                                  Carmen has never told you a lie !
                                                       All is over between us !
 All reponses are in exclamation points. In each act Don Jose, a soldier and a free man, is offered a choice. He may have Carmen, but it will cost him and change his life forever. In act two when she rejects the Toreador, she too is free and for the moment loves Don Jose alone. In act three realizing that for all their efforts and feeling, " this life is not for you " she then encourages him to return home with her rival, Micaela and in the last act she will not turn away from this truth even under the premonition of death as has been read in the cards by the gypsies. What then is it about Carmen that has so entranced him?  It is the thing never said in the opera - Carmen is the "bad girl of good boy's dreams" and mother's nightmares. She is the opportunity to turn his back on Mother, Home, Innocence and Obligation. She is the temptation and reality of another world of Freedom, Moral Trespass, Risk and Sensuality. Don Jose's fatal delusion, typical of a man of his time, is that in the end he will tame and reshape her: after all she is only a woman. It is this failure (the failure of an unspoken dream) that drives him to insanity and finally murder. She will be his or no one's, he can never offer her: "the freedom " that she had over and over offered him. This is the opera's great secret and unconfessed power and about as far from seduction as I think possible. The shattering conclusion is all the more horrific in that it is not only not deserved, but is wholly unnecessary. That Don Jose can neither lead Carmen's life nor return to his past in the end he is too dependent and would rather murder than be free. This is perhaps Bizet's most devastating insight, of a dream gone wrong and perfectly realized as music, the inversion of romantic opera ! Or (to paraphrase) as Nietzsche later wrote to Wagner : "Richard , love is not like Tristan. Love is like Carmen "
Tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and hear Don Jose's emotional and one way ride to hell, courtesy of a tempestous woman and Bizet's extraordinary music and drama that gives shape to this unique and colorful creation. That's Bizet's Carmen , this Saturday at noon, on KPAC and KTXI .    
By Ron Moore

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soundtrack Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Thomas Newman calls upon local flavor for his score to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” the sleeper indie hit this spring among the NPR crowd.  The film is about a group of seven British retirees that get more than they bargained for when they head off to India for a stay at what they think will be the luxurious Marigold Hotel. Although the hotel turns out to be less than their expectations, all of them are transformed by the cultural immersion of being in Jaipur.

Newman became known in the late 1990s and early 2000s for his quirky scores for projects like Sam Mendes’ film “American Beauty” and the HBO program “Six Feet Under.”  The music used tuned percussion and sparse arrangements to create a melodic, yet uneasy, shifty sound.  Here, Newman uses Indian vocalists and instrumentalists, as well as strings and rock guitar, in often highly charged tracks. The music befits the uplifting and positive spirit of the story.  I’m not enough of an expert to know if it’s authentic Indian, but it captures the flavor of India—or at least, what I would expect it to be!

--Nathan Cone

Monday, May 14, 2012

Negotiating a contract

The San Antonio Symphony Players are looking for a new contract for the 2011-12 season as it raps down. They will be guests on this week's Classical Spotlight, Thursday afternoon at 1pm. They commandeered the broadcast's beginning, spoofing a well-known NPR News Quiz:

Hear the entire interview this Thursday afternoon. Please note, Symphony management was invited to speak but has not answered emails or requests.

Great Danes!

There have been some great videos lately from Denmark, first this gorgeous flashmob from the Copenhagen Philharmonic:

There is also a wonderful film of the Danish String Quartet with great perpectives:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is Bach the universal standard?

 Johann Sebastian Bach composed his Six Partitas before the age of forty and while they are some of his most intellectually rigorous music there is no account of him playing them in a concert setting. In spite of this, these works have become the touchstone for serious performers of the master's music.

On the Piano this Sunday a quick review of performance practice of these beautiful but difficult works ending with Glenn Gould, who set a new standard of virtuosic performance. Then we hear two recent recordings of Partitas No. 1 & 4 with American pianists Richard Goode and Murray Perahia.

Bach in the 21st century on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Verdi's Otello & the Art of Seduction

At fifty-eight, after thirty-two years of unstinting productivity - in one period writing eleven operas in five years, Giuseppe Verdi was contemplating retirement. He was heaped with honors now, and when asked to compose he graciously responded and usually, respectfully, declined. He replied he had a farm to see to. Verdi was also trying to relax, spend time with his wife Guiseppina and was intent on building a charity hospital. He may have had a desire to forget the world, but the world had not forgotten him.
The seduction starts at a dinner in 1874. At their table in the Grand Hotel sat Verdi, his wife, his publisher Ricordi and another guest, Arrigio Boito - a composer, poet and librettist with whom Verdi had worked before, Ricordi voiced the opinion that perhaps they could work together again. Verdi seemed in no way interested, especially in undertaking a new work. Perhaps they could revise Simon Boccenegra, the wily publisher offered. This, Verdi replied, "might" be of interest. This was how it began - a seven year correspondence on the idea of "a Shakespeare project". Verdi was perhaps more than half aware of what was happening. In a series of wonderfully evasive letters he explained that he could not commit to such an adventure, because if he requested a libretto, then he would feel bound to try to write the music, besides he was getting too old for such things.
Boito and Ricordi then went to Guissepina and only asked that he consider looking at a scenario. She told them to leave this work with her and under no circumstances were they to approach composer directly. Finally he did look at it, but still, he would not commit explaining that it was summer and he and his wife were off to Turin "to take the waters". On his own Boito wrote an imploring letter explaining that the composer need feel no obligation from whatever work he did on Verdi's behalf, "It was his honor to do so". This resulted in the first draft of the libretto, a masterpiece of its' own. Now - the mind working, Verdi began Otello in earnest.
The problems arose and were dispatched one by one in secrecy. As rehearsals started interest in the opera became a frenzy. The composer and his partner reduced the action to essentials. Four acts in which we moved "in reverse order " from triumph and apotheosis in act one with Otello's cry of "Exsultate" to the closing at love music, "Gia nella notte densa:"  
Gia nella notte densa   s'estingue ogni clamor.
Now in the dark night  all noise is stilled...
My pounding heart is lulled in this embrace and          calmed.
It is the last and only moment of peace the ill-fated couple will know. There follows a malicious declaration of hatred by Iago, Credo in un Dio crudel ...". Then climax follows relentless climax, the seeds of doubt are sown in innuendo and in dreams. In Greek tragic fashion we watch the hero undo himself . A handkerchief, a half overheard conversation, the swearing of a ferocious blood oath, "Si pel ciel ..." and then a vertiginous fit and near madness by the end of act three with operas most horrifying moment of schadenfreunde - " Ecco il Leone "/. As the multitude applauds he is collapsed in the dust. The final acts murder- suicide comes after an innocent's prayer and the ironic exchange :   
                         Otello : Think on your sins
                                                                             Desdemona: My sin is love
The end comes in odd stillness after a roar from the orchestra at the magnitude of the error with a whispered , "Niun me tema", Let no one fear me. He is already dead, there is only left the plunging of the dagger in his heart at his own hand. At the operas close the night of the premiere, February 5, 1887, there will be twenty calls of encore bringing the composer and cast to the stage.
This week the return of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera with a perfromance that is a true sonic spectacular, featuring Jon Vickers as Otello, Mirella Freni as his doomed wife and Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic; all at the top of their game. You won't want to miss this commited performance of Otello this Saturday at noon by joining us here on KPAC and KTXI.

by Ron Moore

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Host John Clare recently conducted the combined Children's Chorus of San Antonio in a work by Lowell Mason, O Music. Clare says, "It was fantastic! I enjoyed hearing all those voices, and seeing them come together - with a turn of the wrist." (see picture left)

This is a wonderful article about David Zinman (see picture right) and conducting we thought you might enjoy:
...Zinman insists ''there is no mystery''. Nor is there the equivalent of a musical semaphore code which trainee conductors learn precisely. ''It's all very personal,'' he says. ''Each conductor does it differently.'' But surely there must be some kind of international conducting language, otherwise nothing would get played? ''It's pretty simple. Essentially the musicians have the music in front of them. The conductor has to reinforce the music. Obviously if you put your fingers up to your lip, it means play softer. If you want something played louder, the [baton] gesture becomes stronger, bigger.

This coming May 23rd, we invite you to learn more about conductor Alondra de la Parra at a special event, TPR Presents Itinerarios! Here is an interview from her first appearance in San Antonio

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Central European Classical Tradition in Latin America

From the Fall of 1981 until the Summer of '87, I worked as a full time orchestral musician in Mexico, starting with the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico (OFCM), moving to the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico (OSEM), and finishing out that part of my professional career in the Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa (OSX).. I also spent 3 summers from 1988-1990 playing with the Mineria Festival Orchestra in Mexico City. These were wonderful years of rich music making and discovery. I loved the experience. It's my pleasure to bring some of that knowledge and enthusiasm to the weekly program, Itinerarios, every Sunday evening on KPAC and KTXI. Yes, I did have the opportunity while in Mexico to discover and play some of the songs of the Mexican popular songbook, and I even played several all-Mariachi programs with the famous Mariachi Vargas.

Convento y Parroquia de San Bernardino in Xochimilco
But much to the surprise of the curious, who still ask from time to time what the Mexican symphony orchestras play, the week to week business of the orchestras, whether the Mexico City Philharmonic, or the Bellas Artes Chamber Orchestra, is Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and Schumann. And, emphatically NO, it isn't elitism for Mexican orchestras to focus on this repertory. All of the orchestras play so-called runouts to various locales outside their principal concert halls. These concerts, often free, attract a cross-section of the Mexican population. It's the power of the music, speaking readily to the heart and soul, which makes classical music so popular. This explains why a public of students, housekeepers and shopkeepers will stand in line for hours to listen to Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the San Bernardino Church in Xochimilco. I saw it myself. I was there, and flabbergasted, though I soon discovered this to be normal, and not an anomaly.

For this reason, the fundamental nature of the core repertory of classical music, this week's edition of Itinerarios will feature a strictly European program of Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Haydn, Beethoven and Dvorak. It will be the performances which will provide the requisite Latin American roots, with the playing of the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM, pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, Martha Argerich, Gabriela Montero, and the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico.

Listen to Itinerarios Sunday evening at 7 o'clock on KPAC-San Antonio (88.3 FM) or online at Click "Listen Now", then "KPAC" to enjoy all the programming, in real time.

-James Baker-

Friday, May 4, 2012

Musical Paradox


Ludwig van Beethoven was of two minds when it came to music, on one hand he was the great Architect and the greatest living practioner of sonata form; the rules of the music game in his time. On the other hand no one would break these same rules with such abandon.

Nicolai Medtner won the great gold medal in piano performance and could have easily made a living playing other people's music, but creativity and the freedom of composition was his driving emotion and in pursuit of this happiness an impoverished life was his!

Two musicians that had to follow their hearts no matter what. Hear their musical experiments on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Makropulos, Janacek's Opera of Obsession

Living out much of his life in provincial Brno, yearning for the recognition and rewards of an international career that could only be won by performances and praise from Prague, Vienna and Berlin. Leos Janacek's life was one of the tensions born of big city dreams and personal and professional frustrations incurred trying to fulfill them. But, would we have the great works born of this very, perhaps necessary, creative hunger if Janacek had not so ferociously struggled and rebelled? 
Vocal nationalist, ethnomusicologist and one of the great composers of the twentieth century opera he finds perhaps the most comprehensive expression of these complex currents in a trilogy of operas dealing with women and love: Jenufa (that brought his first international recognition), Katya Kabanova and finally The Makropulos Case in which all these influences and storms crystallized.

Beyond his political and intellectual restlessness (he endlessly argued with teachers in his youth and contemporaries as he struggled for fame) in later life the full flood of romantic feeling would seize him in his sixties. After a brief infatuation with a singer, Gabriela Horvatova,and while still married to his wife Zdenka, his emotional world was focused and consumed by the figure of Kamila Stosslova, a woman thirty-eight years his junior who he met in 1917 in his 63rd year. She became the object of over 700 letters and a series of works inspired by his feelings for her including the chamber work, Intimate Letters.
In 1922 Janacek would attend a play by the prominent writer Karel Capek, The Makropulos Affair, and immediately send off a letter requesting rights to the work to transform it into an opera. In it all the rebelliousness, caprice, romance and obsessions of his life would take shape in a tale in which what begins as a court case and argument over an inheritance flies wildly out of control. As the drama progresses at the center of the case is the mysterious figure of the opera singer Emilia Marty. Slowly every character is drawn by her into an irresistible and overwhelming thralldom. Lawyers trying to conduct the case, fathers and sons become rivals, men threaten suicide, women envy her beauty and fame from her art. The question of why grows as each becomes more desperate to possess and solve the riddle of her attraction. The answer lay in magic and alchemy and a startling revelation that shocks them all.
Unravel the Mystery that is Emilia Marty in the Metropolitan Opera's final live broadcast this season. Please tune in this Saturday at 11:30 and see the solution to this maddening set of dilemmas. Janacek's Makropulos Case , here on KPAC and KTXI.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The visual listener

Are you someone that enjoys watching performances of classical music, whether it is in the concert hall, your computer or smart device? No doubt you will enjoy! There are hundreds of performances and documentaries to enjoy, and fairly easy to navigate.
I recently enjoyed seeing a series on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and a fabulous finale to Smetana's Piano Trio. Classical Clips also lets you share your favorites quite easily and quickly to various social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Profile correction

We're so happy that this month's OnTheTown Ezine features the KPAC Staff as well as a nice article on TPR Cinema Tuesdays.
There was a small error in the copy concerning James Baker's and John Clare's profile. The correct copy is as follows:
James Baker started at KPAC midnight April 8, 1993 with Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony, having lived off and on in San Antonio from 1975-1981 and 1987 until now. These days you can hear James on air weeknights from 6 to midnight Saturday (including Listener’s Choice) to Tuesday, cohosting Alternate Routes, and producing Itinerarios (music and musicians from throughout Latin America) on Sundays. An accomplished French horn player, James has a wide range of musical favorites: from the three B’s to Mozart, Strauss (Richard), Bruckner, Mahler, Wagner, Copland, Bernstein, Carlos Chavez, Arturo Marquez, Daniel Catan, Eugenio Toussaint, , Beatles, Chicago Symphony, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Eric Dolphy, Oliver Nelson (Blues and the Abstract Truth), Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla, Ella, and Diana Krall. He gardens (native plants mostly), birdwatches, runs, camps, and hikes with his dogs. James loves “sharing music with friends and this is how I like to think of KPAC, an opportunity to share the experience of listening to a wide range of music. I also love the chance to now and then interview musicians. Most memorable were interviews with Daniel Catan, David Amram (always fun), Sarah Willis (yes!), Wayne Barrington (my teacher and mentor), Anne Burt (wife of Alfred Burt - this interview was a true joy), and writer Gene Lees.” 
As for myself, I moved to San Antonio to be on air for KPAC’s afternoon drive, 1:30pm to 6pm weekdays and host Classical Spotlight Thursday afternoons. A radio veteran in markets from Las Vegas to D.C., I now do a lot of new media with blogger, twitter and facebook, providing hd video of classical groups and musicians. No doubt one of the few Inuit broadcasters (especially in classical music) I travel wherever and whenever possible, enjoying concerts, interviews, cigars and laughs. Andrzej Panufnik is one of my all time favorite composers, and music from living composers is a passion. Having talked with Pulitzer Prize winners to youth orchestra musicians, exploring creativity and musicality is not just part of my job, but a joy. 
Tune in for all of us at 88.3FM and find out more at