Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Majestic dvd

This year marks the 51st season of the Grand Teton Music Festival. In celebration of their 50th season, they commissioned Pulitzer and Grammy Award winning composer Jennifer Higdon. Now that world premiere performance, along with Beethoven's Pastorale Symphony, is available as a DVD/CD set from the festival.
The Grand Teton Music Festival is one of the most prestigious and finest musical gatherings in the world. Musicians from around North America come together by invitation and play under maestros ranging from (music director) Donald Runnicles to Bernard Labadie, and soloists such as Lynn Harrell, James Ehnes, and Stephen Hough.
So when you mix excellent new music to this fun and eclectic band of musicians, it is completely inspiring, for both the listener and the orchestra!
Clare and Higdon
All Things Majestic is about 20 minutes long and is in four movements. Teton Range sets the mood perfectly, mostly relying on the brass, but using the full orchestra to good use, for a true "maestoso." Not since Hovhaness' Second Symphony have chords struck so true for such a landscape! The second movement, String Lake, aptly features the string section, and even outdoes Smetana (Moldau) and Debussy (La Mer) for colors with a water theme. At this point, I have to mention the images from the dvd. They are spectacular scenes from Henry Holdsworth, Thomas Mangelsen, and Edward Riddell! Pictures run the gamut, and range in season, color, wildlife, day, night, and everything in between. Snake River continues the charming score by Higdon, using percussion and woodwinds to begin and returning to full orchestra, a scherzo for this all but in name symphony. Cathedrals, the finale, returns musically and visually to the mountains -and serves as a perfect peak to this modern masterwork.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 "Pastorale" is given a fine reading by the orchestra and Runnicles. This time for the dvd, steady video is shown of various nature scenes - far less compelling visually than All Things Majestic's awesome photos - but musically moving.

Here is a link to an interview and the entire All Things Majestic performance from Wyoming PBS.
We recommend this new release highly with the chance to see and hear the music on dvd and cd (http://www.gtmf.org/merchandise/). Bravo!!!
- host John Clare

Monday, July 30, 2012

Camp KPAC: One student's experience

Kelly Holguin, right, chats with TPR Operations Coordinator Paul Flahive.
On left: fellow student Michael Hardy-Holley.

Earlier this month, seven area high school students took part in Camp KPAC, an opportunity to learn about radio and recording with members of our staff.  Kelly Holguin of Clark High School wrote in with this reaction after the week ended:

When I was first notified that I had been accepted into Camp KPAC, I did not know what to expect. I listen to San Antonio’s classical music station often, and I adored the refreshing music that is so often forgotten in today’s society of fast-paced tunes and overwhelming sounds. But when it came to the radio station itself, I was, sadly, an amateur. However, that all changed after the first day of being with head director Nathan Cone. He, along with James Baker and Paul Flahive, were brimming with knowledge on all aspects of the radio business, from the technical undertakings of recording an artist, to the do’s and don’ts of an interview. I learned a variety of skills in every department that make up a radio station, and had the privilege to try my hand at interviewing, recording, and producing a radio-ready interview. Everyone at the station was very friendly, even while we were using their space and equipment. I had a wonderful experience with all the people that make up KSTX and KPAC, and feel entirely grateful for the opportunity to get the inside scoop on the radio business. 

Thank you for your kind words, Kelly! To hear Kelly's radio piece she produced, follow this link.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Live Release

cover courtesy of Decca
Lots to like from Valentina Lisitsa - her debut on Decca is a live concert from Royal Albert Hall. “Of course it’s a concert” she says, “but it’s also a celebration.”
She will perform in the US this winter and next spring - if you get a chance, see her in concert, but we can't recommend enough to check out her new cd and dvd. Fans of Russian repertoire will melt at the Rachmaninoff, and be stunned at her Scriabin. Chopin and Liszt devotees have floating, touching, and incredibly moving performances of Nocturnes and Etudes. Most impressive and powerful is Lisitsa's Beethoven. Here she is most expressive, spinning the Moonlight Sonata with grace, and at times, perfect momentum.
Bonus for the DVD includes Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and Valentina speaking, items you really should consider! It will be available August 7th.

-Host John Clare

The Marriage of Figaro: The Real Mozart Emerges

A scene from Act I. Image: Wikipedia Commons
Mozart speaks of wanting to write a “new kind of opera” and this more realistic portrayal of life in all its complexity, as opposed to the old “opera seria” with its aristocrats, mythological and historical figures is finally eclipsed forever with the appearance of the Mozart-Da Ponte, “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Its plot by contrast is the simplest thing in the world. A day of events in which a young couple wants to get married and the obstacles placed in their path by older generations and diverse classes. The “simple conflict” of rival lovers (the Count vs. Figaro) for the hand of Susanna explodes into an exploration of well, everything. Contending classes, opposing generations, aspects of love- middle age and old age in pursuit of youth; youth aspiring to possess everything from a superabundance of emotion. Then there is an encyclopedic exploration of the moral world through comedy. Lies, hypocrisy, adultery, extortion, flirtation, nostalgia, the threat of violence, hope and love all reflected in a variety and depth of musical expression that is inexhaustible. Alternately the Count, Figaro, Susanna, the Countess and Cherubino as well as Barbirina all give us unforgettable music from the first moments to the last ensemble: “Cinque, deici” (counting space for a bed!), “Se vuol ballare, Non piu andrai”; Cherubino’s  youthful effusion “Voi che sapete,” and the Countess’ affecting “Porgi Amor”:

                                                  Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro

                                                   Al mio duolo, a’miei sospiri:
                                                   O love, bring some relief
                                                   To my sorrow, to my sigh;

                                                   O give back my love one

                                                   Or in mercy let me die.

So influential is the opera that it served as the touchstone for musical comedy (operetta and Broadway also) for over two centuries since its premiere in 1786. The comedies of Verdi, Rossini, and Bellini, as well as Strauss’ “The Rosenkavalier” and even John Corigliano’s “The Ghosts of Versailles” echo the Mozartian model.

Please tune in this Saturday afternoon at the opera for perhaps the greatest of all comic operas, Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” This Saturday at noon on KPAC and KTXI.

--Ron Moore

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rimsky-Korsakov Goes to the Opera

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was simultaneously the most learned of musicians and an autodidact; a great reader that for years thought he might be a writer and an obsessive traveler; he was a naval cadet, who had studied music but had it not been for Mily Balakirev he might never have become the titanic and indispensible figure that we know today. In the West he is above all else the composer of Scheherazade; in Russia he is also the operatic master and composer of The Tsar’s Bride.  

Courtesy of Wikipedia

It was through his studies with Balakirev that he was introduced to the men that would create Russian music as we know it. They became known as The Five or The Mighty Handful: Cui, Borodin, Balakirev, Mussorgsky and Korsakov. He read while at sea and would create in himself a master orchestrator and passionate editor. So impressive were his early creations that he was invited to teach at the St. Petersburg Conservatory while apprenticing himself to his fellow teacher Tchaikovsky becoming it was joked “it’s finish pupil “. Over the course of his dual career he would create for the stage or edit over 15 operatic works. Ironically his work as co-creator and scholar is better known than his own operatic work. These include Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina and Prince Igor. His relationship to Mussorgsky was especially close, they had been at one time roommates early in their careers and Modest would be the best man at his wedding.

The Tsar’s Bride is equal parts fiction, history romance and magic. At its’ center is a quintet of characters all in love with the wrong person. Two childhood sweethearts, Marfa and Ivan have dream of being married their whole lives. The parents are in agreement but a powerful nobleman, Gryaznoy, is obsessed with Marfa while carrying on an affair of convenience with Lyubasha. She is the unknown love of the Doctor Bomelius who holds a secret they all crave, a love potion. Gryaznoy asked:


I have something important to discuss with you.

Do you know whether there is any means

to attract a girl by enchantment?

Bomelius : There is such a means .

Courtesy of Wikipedia
It is from this seemingly off hand and whimsical remark that the entire drama of The Tsar’s Bride turns  as the lovers argue, barter, extort, murder, steal and go mad in pursuit of Bomelius' secret potion. Even Ivan the Terrible puts in an appearance as one who vies for Marfa’s hand ….

Tune in for this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and see what happens; here at noon on KPAC and KTXI. 

by Ron Moore

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


from the MFT webpage, used by permission
This week starts the second annual Mozart Festival Texas at UIW. Friday nights feature chamber music and Saturday nights are orchestral performances.
We thought we'd share some pieces by or facts about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart you might want to know.

1. Köchel catalogue number is number assigned in chronological order to every one of Mozart's known works. A work is referenced by the abbreviation "K." followed by this number. The first edition of the catalogue was completed in 1862 by Ludwig von Köchel.

2. Pushkin's play Mozart and Salieri is based on the "supposed rivalry" between Mozart and Antonio Salieri, especially the idea that it was poison received from the latter that caused Mozart's death. This idea is not supported by modern scholarship.

3. Mozart helped "create" the Piano Quartet! You can hear both his piano quartets this Friday!

4. His wife Constanza wrote that his voice "was a tenor, rather soft in speaking and delicate in singing, but when anything excited him, or it became necessary to exert it, it was both powerful and energetic".

5. He was born "Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart" but "In Italy, from 1770, Mozart called himself 'Wolfgango Amadeo', and from about 1777, 'Wolfgang Amadè'." No one really listened to his and either called him Wolfgang Amadeus or Wolfgang Gottlieb!

6. Mozart usually wrote his Piano Concerti for himself. The 21st Concerto is on tap this Saturday night.

7. Mozart not only played keyboard but violin as well. Very well. He was concertmaster of the Archbishop's orchestra.

8. Mozart never finished his Requiem Mass, but has been completed by several others, including his student Franz Xavier Sussmayer.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meyerbeer and Bastille Day

Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, his hymn to religious tolerance portrayed as a vast historical drama, was the work for which he had prepared all his life.
courtesy of Wikipedia
Now considered the touchstone of grand romantic opera, as it became codified and immensely popular at the Paris Opera; it was the product of a hybrid personality. A cosmopolitan talent that none the less is now considered quintessentially French and the perfect work for this Bastille Day weekend. Born in Germany, educated in Italy and reaching his fame in Paris he moved easily between all three worlds. Thus Jacob Liebmann Beer, became in time Giacomo Meyerbeer fusing the names of both sides of his family and his Italian opera education. He had been a great child prodigy and for a time found it difficult to choose between being a pianist or composer. Moscheles considered him one of the great virtuoso’s of the day and Clementi had been among his teachers as had been Salieri. He was wealthy and worldly and he knew everybody who was anybody; this circle included Rossini, Wagner and Berlioz just to name a few and envy was perhaps inevitable. Berlioz coined the phrase “He was lucky enough to be talented and talented enough to be lucky “. We in our time see him through the distorted historical lens of Wagner’s brutal polemics and the rarity of live performances of his work.

As Les Huguenots will prove this has nothing to do with the quality of his work and everything to do with the demands of his talent and the works that sprung from it, most notably this one. By the way, it was the first opera in Paris Opera history to reach a thousand performances and is considered by historians to be the most popular opera of the nineteenth century; it was the work that opened the present Covent Garden and when performed at the Met, because of the immense demands on singers, was known as “The Night of Seven Stars “. Making immense vocal demands as it does on the three leading sopranos, a tenor, a bass and two baritones! 
courtesy of Wikipedia

The plot of the opera is a fusion of all that he had learned as a musician from his youth, education and mature travels and studies. Berlioz called it an encyclopedia of music. The plot combines a real event, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, August 23, 1572. Historical figures of the time: Marguerite de Valois, De Retz, Maurevert and historical speculation as to who was responsible and how that tragedy that took up to 30,000 lives (there is to this day no agreement) unfolded. Meyerbeer constructs five massive acts on his vast historical canvas and overlays history with operatic romance. The work moves freely between the private lives of two lovers Valentine and Raoul and historical figures bent on statecraft using love as an object of policy - the result is disaster.

The work portrays an attempt at religious reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in the Reformation and a threesomes misunderstanding each other. The plot escalates from romantic confusion to political machinations then accidental humiliation, a near duel, an impossible reconciliation and finally concludes with a great historical catastrophe. There are endless beautiful arias, duets, trios and ensembles. Which is the problem - needing seven superb singers and weighing in at almost four hours in the modern theatre it’s almost impossible to mount. What survives in the popular imagination is a single, stunning aria:

                             O beau pays de la Touraine!

                                 Riants jardins, vert fontaine,

                                                                                                  Oh lovely land of Touraine!

                                                                                    Smiling gardens, green fountain,

                                                                      Gentle stream that scarcely murmurs,

                                                                   How I love to dream on your banks…

The problem is you need Dame Joan Sutherland to sing it, and luckily we have her.

Tune in to this Bastille Day special for Meyerbeer’s monumental and rarely heard Les Huguenots, this Saturday at noon on KPAC and KTXI.

by Ron Moore

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Camp KPAC - An Adventure in Radio

“At school, most of my peers, who hardly know me, would consider me a quiet, shy girl. There is one thing, however, that is slowly allowing me to return to my normal self. Something that allows me to get out of my box and experience life. That something is creativity.” 
(from an essay submitted by one of the students chosen for this year's Camp KPAC)

Radio campers observe the KPAC control room.
The inaugural Camp KPAC has been meeting throughout this week of July 9, fueling the curiosity of a hand-selected group of young people about the craft (and magic) of radio. About 18 months in the making, from initial suggestion to first run, Camp KPAC is serving as an introduction to the skills of interview and basic audio production. So far, so good!

Interview in progress.
As one of the instructors, along with Nathan Cone and Paul Flahive, I have marveled at the smarts and creative energy this group of seven students has brought to the project. Yes, I was apprehensive as we counted down the final days before camp opened on Monday. First, we crossed our fingers that the students who had been chosen to participate would arrive with curious minds and the spirit to learn. Day one proved we had just such a group. I also admit to losing a few night's sleep over concerns about the mixed group of local high school musicians who had agreed to serve as guinea pigs, to be questioned and prodded in interviews one day, then put in front of microphones another day with instructions to play their Bach and Mozart. Again, I needn't have worried, for these young musicians were not only comfortable speaking to a microphone, they were also extremely proficient at playing for the mics.
Rachel Halvorson playing Bach.

It's a lot of territory to be covered, to get from never having interviewed anyone before, to learning an audio editing program new to everyone, to now the final day and a looming deadline. As I told the kids today, deadline is what drives radio, it's what motivates us to stay on task, to put as much creative and technical energy as possible into a project, yet have it broadcast-ready when the clock says “play.” It's not entirely unlike having a research paper or a science fair project ready when the teacher says “pass it in,” yet here it is really a voluntary commitment – these kids could well be hanging at the mall with their friends, but instead they have come with a genuine enthusiasm and readiness to learn.

Lauri Pearson sharing her passion for music and radio.
On Wednesday, we were privileged to be visited by Lauri Pearson, a San Antonio based radio and television professional whose work is on the other side, so to speak: commercial broadcasting as opposed to the not-for-profit broadcasting of public radio. But her message was Universal and on point. We work in radio because we love the medium. In Lauri's case, the passion came from an even deeper place. “I love music. My life is nothing without music.”

When I thanked Lauri for taking the time to talk to us, I mentioned that I thought she had “lit some fires” with what she had said. In reply, Lauri wrote:

“James, it was my pleasure! Great young people with passion and smarts, craving the paving of their own way... I feel much better about the future now. :)”

I hope that our group of young adults who have devoted their time and energy to this week of learning feel something akin to Lauri's enthusiasm. This is certainly an uplifting experience for those of us in the business of radio, to see an interest and (dare I say it?) passion for this precious medium of communication which we call radio. I can hardly wait for the final day, not for the goodbyes, but rather to celebrate what each individual has been able to accomplish during this intensive week of learning. Thanks to all!

-James Baker-

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bellini and the Art of Seduction

Each kind of opera or period of opera has a method. In Handel there is the dazzling ornament and lyric power; in Mozart and Gluck’s classicism, elevation of thought is expressed through purity and clarity of vocal line. The German romantics especially Wagner, aspire to epic intention, magical affects and architecture, conveying a cumulative power. The goal of which is to simply overwhelm us and leave us dazed and senseless under a torrent of motifs and shifts of emotion. Vincenzo Bellini‘s art by contrast is the art of musical seduction. We are offered (and may go on or depart in our attention) beauty after beauty. It is a voyage though a tale and musical landscape in which each turn and precipitous cliff, every sudden contrast greets us with a melody, and ensemble more unexpected and exhilarating than the last. We stop and falter at our own peril and finally go on and on hungering for more. 

Norma is perhaps the summit and capstone of the bel-canto ideal and this seductive method. Ironically his goal, if I remember correctly, was to be “the greatest, after Rossini “. Like Schubert and Mozart his life was extremely short. And like them in those few years due to his prodigious talent, he would achieve undeniable mastery before his death at 33, two months shy of his birthday. Bellini was one of music histories greatest prodigies. Tales of his early accomplishments are legendary; in any event by the time of his death he had been active for over twenty five years starting his composing it is claimed at five or eight. The great trilogy for which he is remembered: La Sonnambula, Norma and I Puritani should have been a middle period with even greater glories to follow!

courtesy of Wikipedia

courtesy of Wikipedia

In a landscape of hopeless and insane libretti few seem less inspiring than that for this week's opera. A Druid Priestess, a Roman Consul and her protégé. What could be more remote? That Bellini and the librettist Romani could turn these historical figures into living breathing human beings should be enough, he would then transfigure them in a world of melody so elevated and a vocal line so extended and yet true that we are not only convinced, we are ravished. They create a world of powerful and universal dualities; sacred and profane love; incipient nationalism and treason; violence or forgiveness and finally a union of sacrifice and love that resolves them all. There is a seductive physicality to Bellini that reminds one of the sculptures of Canova: smoothness, directness and virtuosity, even in the ensembles. After the great overture each of the two acts gives us classics in all forms: aria Casta Diva; duet  O remenbranza … ; trio  Oh, di sei tu vittima and the great closing ensemble at the funeral pyre, La rea io son. It never stops and both Chopin and Wagner would draw lessons from his example. But the most famous, what people end up singing on the way home has survived for over a hundred and eighty years:

                                                      Casta diva , che inargenti

                                                   Questa sacre antiche piante

                                              Chaste goddess , who doth silver

                                                  These ancient sacred trees,

                                                    Turn upon us thy fair face

                                                     Unclouded and unveiled,

We think it will leave you singing too. Please tune in this Saturday at noon for Bellini’s Norma, here on KPAC and KTXI.

by Ron Moore


Monday, July 2, 2012

Sounds of the Fourth

Several concerts to enjoy for Independence Day this year around San Antonio:

Patriotic Pops at Coker United Methodist Church on tonight, July 2 at 7 p.m.
The event includes: Stirring Patriotic Music by the Chancel Choir and Coker Orchestra 
An Ice Cream and Apple Crisp Dessert Celebration after the concert
An Apple Pie Baking Contest featuring guest celebrity judges
A vintage automobile show before the concert
More at http://www.coker.org/patriotic_pops

USAF Band of the West - Tuesday at 7pm Concert Band at Byron Steele High
Byron Steele High School 1300 FM 1103 Cibolo, TX 78108

4 July 2012: Concert Band 4th of July Performance City of San Antonio July 4th Celebration Woodlawn Lake San Antonio, TX Performance time- 7:45 PM
Top Flight 4th of July Concert Lady Bird Johnson Park, Pioneer Pavilion 432 Lady Bird Dr. Fredericksburg, TX Performance time- 7:30 PM

5 July 2012: Concert Band at San Marcos Plaza San Marcos Plaza Stage San Marcos, TX Performance time - 7:30 PM
More at http://www.bandofthewest.af.mil/

Heart of Texas Concert Band - Wednesday at 11am at the Alamo
- Wednesday night at 6pm in San Marcos
More at http://www.heartoftexasconcertband.com/

Soundtrack review: 'Prometheus'

Prometheus - Courtesy Sony Music
For the past few weeks, I’ve been living with “Prometheus” in my head. Ridley Scott’s not-really-a-prequel (yeah, right) to 1979’s “Alien” has inspired both frustration and fascination on the part of its built-in fan base.  And while debating the film’s merits in my own head, I’ve also been listening to the score repeatedly, largely written by Marc Streitenfeld, but with key themes by Harry Gregson-Williams, and even a visit from our old friend Jerry Goldsmith, whose theme from “Alien” is heard during one cue.

Streitenfeld’s music is dark, based around the low strings in the orchestra.  Sometimes he opens up the brass section, or augments the score with synthesizers and choirs that howl with strange effects for action scenes.  Other times, the music functions more to create atmosphere, reminiscent of the tone clusters of Penderecki.  There are occasional plaintive melodies, such as “Invitation,” that hint at the film’s plot, of a tragically misunderstood message, perhaps?

My favorite theme from the film is not actually by Streitenfeld, but Harry Gregson-Williams, whose melody, “Life,” opens with a noble French horn, taken up by the low strings, and carried through with brass, full orchestra, and choir. It’s a majestic piece of music that I think captures the hope and wonder of the two archaeologists who convince billionaire Peter Weyland to fund an expedition to a far-off world that goes horribly wrong.

--Nathan Cone