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: 

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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:

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