Monday, January 30, 2012

Top Ten G/Rounds

We couldn't resist another Top Ten post, and the first for 2012 is "Top Ten Classical Music G/Rounds" for Ground Hog Day!
10.Handel/Halvorsen Passacaglia [listen]
9. Archangelo Corelli La Folia [listen]
8. Igor Stravinsky The Rite of Spring: Spring Rounds [listen]
7. Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 Feierlich Und Gemessen, Ohne Zu Schleppen [listen]
6. Orlando Gibbons: Ground [listen]
5. Ottorino Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances II: Bergamasca [listen]
4. Johann Sebastian Bach Chaconne [listen]
3. David Diamond Rounds [listen]
2. Henry Purcell When I am laid in earth [listen]

and the #1 G/Round is from Peter Schickele and PDQ Bach:
The Art of the Ground Round, for three baritones and discontinuo, S. 1.19/lb (P.D.Q. Bach): Loving is as easy 
Please, kind sir 
Jane, my Jane 
Golly golly oh 
Nelly is a nice girl

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quarteto Vivace Brazil on Itinerarios

San Antonio's venerable Tuesday Musical Club has a history of over 100 years. The Club was founded in 1901 by Anna Hertzberg, providing she and a group of her friends the opportunity to perform and discuss classical music. In October, 1923, Tuesday Musical Club presented the first of an annual series of concerts called Musical Teas. These "teas" are now known as the Artist Series Concerts.

The great thing about Tuesday Musical Club's Artist Series is that the musical spotlight is as likely to focus upon young ensembles as old, and long established artists. Such was the case last October when the fledgling Quarteto Vivace Brazil (at 4 years old the ensemble seems very young considering the 111 years of the Tuesday Musical Club) came to town with a varied program ranging from J.S. Bach to Astor Piazzolla.

The concert by the Quarteto parallels the programming criteria for Itinerarios. The music might be European, even American, but the performances are all rooted to Latin America by the nationality of the ensemble. As their name indicates, this is a Brazilian ensemble, which explains their inclusion of music by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho, better known in Brazil as Pixinguinha.

A few words about Pixinguinha will perhaps underscore his importance in the evolution of Brazilian music. Pixinguinha was a flutist, saxophonist, composer and arranger born in Rio de Janeiro in 1897. He is one of the most important composers of the Brazilian musical form known as choro, shepherding the 19th Century form into the 20th Century by introducing a more contemporary harmony and a jazz-like improvisitory character to this popular music of the streets. Listen for one of Pixinguinha's most popular choros, Carinhoso, on this week's edition of Itinerarios.

In addition to Pixinguinha, other highlights from the Quarteto Vivace Brazil's San Antonio concert will be blended into this week's mix of music with Latin American roots. Itinerarios airs at 7PM every Sunday evening on KPAC-San Antonio (88.3fm). The program is hosted by James Baker.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What she wore

Did you see The Enchanted Island last weekend in HD? It was a stunning performance which will be encored February 8th - a must see/hear if you didn't the first time around, or if you want to relive it again!
The all star, stellar cast included soprano Danielle de Niese, who was just on WNYC's Soundcheck yesterday.
de Niese shared her fashions today in the New York Times:
I was hugely happy with the performance and really relieved. There’s no margin of error with a live simulcast. After, I greeted friends and fans in a black one-shouldered tiered dress, also from Donna Karan. I paired it with black Sergio Rossi peep-toe pumps and a Marc Jacobs purse. Then it was off to Plácido Domingo’s reopened restaurant, Pampano, to celebrate the tenor’s birthday: 71.
We're also a huge fan of the new release Beauty of the Baroque - there's definitely a double entendre in that title! Especially gorgeous emotion and singing come back to back (Bach to Bach?! lol) in tracks 4 and 5: Handel's Air “Let the bright Seraphim” from Samson, Act III and Purcell's “Thy hand, Belinda – When I am laid in earth” (Dido’s Lament) from Dido and Aeneas, Act III. Run, don't walk, to get this recording!

Inspiration & Joy turned up to 11

Some artists are so "in the zone" that they seem unaffected by the world around them. Then there are those that feed off of life and transform it into their art. Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann were two of the later. It would seem that Alexander Scriabin's work habits were so ingrained and the world of music he inhabited so consuming that few outside influences could get at him. But one did, a beautiful young Russian girl the composer met in Paris, she stole his heart and inspired some of the composer's most lovely compositions.

It is one thing to fall in love at first sight, it is another thing to propose marriage and to be accepted; this must have driven Scriabin insane with joy. But the story doesn't end there. For a full account and all the music inspired by this painful first love, join me at the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Tosca, An Unlikely Masterpiece

Looking at the matter from our perspective, that is to say of over a hundred years since the premiere in 1900, it seems impossible to imagine that anyone couldn't like Tosca. In fact there was long contemplation on the "how of it " from the composer, he spent seven years just thinking about it and then four trying to finish it. Arguments between the librettist, the composer and his publisher seemed to never end. Where Giacomo Puccini was obsessed and intent, the writing team of Giacosa and Illica, were in no way in agreement. One thought it could be pulled off with the proper amount of work and radical alteration of the Sardou play written for Sarah Bernhardt. The other thought it hopeless and frankly hardly worth the bother. Shaw seemed to say it all when he dubbed it famously "an old fashioned, shiftless, clumsily constructed, empty- headed turnip ghost of a cheap shocker". Well, he hadn't heard Vissi d'arte, let alone Callas and Gobbi, so we can cut him some historical slack.
The magical translation from word and stage to opera house and music is an object lesson in, well, you just never know. It isn't that Shaw by modern standards is wrong, who would know of the play today without Puccini, but rather that the composer was right for his purposes. Incredibly he found the musical and architectural language, something between a wildly inventive recitative, so close to real speech and yet not. And more importantly the essential and crucial short hand that could communicate character, mood and endless forward action all at once. In the four vocal pillars of the work, Vissi d'arte (Tosca) purity and dedication in art as moral instruction to character; the Te Deum in the church, with organ no less (for Scarpia) mixing the sacred and the profane, lust and moral transgress that mocks religiosity and finally Mario Cavaradossi's two tenor home runs both romantic and idealistic. Recondita Armonia and E lucevan le Stelle are still being hummed after over a hundred years, all respect otherwise to Mr. Shaw. Then there is the quicksilver orchestration in which moods bel canto would have spun out in vast scena rendered in somersaults of emotion, like cinematic jump cuts and yet retain their lyric integrity. That the supposedly impossible is done and even has the sense of a living, breathing organism, is perhaps one hallmark of a masterwork and the talent of a great artist. Such is Puccini's Tosca; so good that it even shows up in movies!
Tune in this Saturday at noon for the Metropolitan Opera's production of Tosca, here on KPAC and KTXI .
by Ron Moore

The Legacy of Franz Schubert

To mark the birthday of Franz Schubert (1797-1828), born January 31st, we thought we'd close our celebration of his legacy throughout this month with some representative works of his final phase.

Composer Benjamin Britten has remarked that perhaps the most productive eighteen months in the history of Western Music was the period just after the death of Beethoven, and before the appearance of Wagner, Liszt and Verdi. In this period Schubert composed his Symphony #9 in C, the Quintet in C for strings, the last three piano sonatas, and the song cycle, “Die Winterreise.” That it could be accomplished at all is astonishing enough. That he never reached his mid -thirties (dying younger than either Mozart at 35 or Mendelssohn at 48) and was both impoverished and ill--well, that's stuff for the ages.

Poet, Tomas Transtromer.
Among the works and performers we’ll hear in this finale before his birthday are Wilhelm Furtwangler’s recording of the 9th symphony, Clara Haskil in the last piano sonata, the D.960, excerpts from the oratorio “Lazarus,” music from the piano trios, and the culmination of our Winter's Journey with a haunting “Leiermann” and songs from “Schwanengesang.” We will also feature a twentieth century artifact of Schubert's inspiration, a poem by the Swedish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature  2011, Tomas Transtromer, Schubertiade, read by Gemini Ink Director Rosemary Catacalos.

Please join us as we celebrate the extraordinary legacy and miraculous achievement of Franz Schubert this Sunday afternoon at 2pm on KPAC and KTXI.

--Ron Moore

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Classical Spotlight: Concerts!

There are lots of Classical Music Concerts to hear and experience this weekend!

TPR Cinema: A Clockwork Orange Tonight, January 26, 2012 7:30 p.m. at Santikos Bijou (Rated R)

San Antonio Symphony
Beethoven 6 and 7 January 27 and 28, 2012 8 p.m., Majestic Theatre Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Beethoven Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op.68, “Pastorale” Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op.92

Olmos Ensemble
Saturday, January 28, 2012 4:30 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre (FREE) Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat major, Op. 16 Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20

San Antonio Chamber Music Society 
Sunday, January 29, 2012 3:15 p.m. at Temple Beth-El Pacifica Quartet Dvořák Cypresses Shostakovich: Quartet No. 9, Op. 117 Beethoven: Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No.1 “Razumovsky”

Musical Bridges Around the World
Beethoven Violin Sonatas 2 6:30 p.m. at San Fernando Cathedral January 29, 2012
Emanuel Borok, violin and Elena Portnaya, piano Sonatas No. 1, Op. 12, No. 1, No. 2, Op. 12, No. 2 & No. 3, Op. 12, No. 3

San Antonio International Piano Competition
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 7:30 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church Audrey Andrist, piano Sonata No. 22 in F, Op. 54 Sonata No. 31 in A-flat, Op. 110 Sonata No. 18 in E-flat, Op. 31, No. 3, “The Hunt” Sonata No. 15 in D, Op. 28, “Pastorale”

SAC Guest Recital
Bulgarian pianist Ina Selvelieva playing Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 110, Muczynki Desperate Measures(Paganini Variations), Three Pieces by Bulgarian composer Vesseline Stoyanov and the 2nd Sonata of Rachmaninoff. Thursday, Feb 2, 7:30 MacAllister auditorium

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The fest continues

We're looking forward to more Beethoven this weekend, from the SA Symphony, SA Chamber Music Society, Musical Bridges Around the World, SA International Piano Competition and the Olmos Ensemble.

Tomorrow night, TPR Cinema presents A Clockwork Orange! We thought we'd share part of Fantasia as the SA Symphony plays Beethoven's 6th and 7th symphonies on Friday and Saturday night.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Myer plays Beethoven's Theresa

From SAIPC, Spencer Myer plays the Sonata #24 by Beethoven

There's more tonight and this weekend with the SA Symphony, YOSA, Musical Bridges Around the World and SOLI Chamber Ensemble!

Two geniuses - one program…

Nikolai Medtner had it all, winning the Great Gold medal for piano performance at the Moscow Conservatory and a talented composer who had the respect of his peers. So why don't we music lovers hear more about him?

The answer is a combination of events not all under the composer's control. The Russian revolution and flight to the west for safety, added to this was Medtner's determination to promote his own music rather than give concerts of the classics. His friend Rachmaninoff secured a tour of America and here "Medtner Evenings" didn't go over too well. Record companies were interested in the pianist but Medtner wanted to record his own music and not what the A&R men thought would sell. Enter World War II and the composer, living in England, was separated from his royalties from his German publishers forcing Medtner into poverty. Even in our own time Medtner's bad luck continues with his greatest and most fluent of his advocates, the Australian pianist Geoffrey Tozer, dying far too young at the age of 55. Although he is gone, his recordings remain and on the Piano this Sunday you can hear Medtner's Fairy Tales and Second Piano Concerto performed by the man Tatiana Nikolayeva said "plays like a Russian".

Hear music for the brain as well as the heart on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Submitted for your approval...

To anyone lucky enough to be in or passing through New York City in the early nineties it was a scene worthy of Rod Sterling: Tout Manhattan, dressed nattily or casually and counting such luminaries as Charles Rosen and Susan Sontag (and my modest self) were crowded into subway trains filled to the breaking point on a Sunday afternoon and emptying in of all places, Brooklyn. People who probably rarely ventured south of Tribeca were rushing to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a space about the size of the Houston Grand Opera. The hottest ticket in the operatic western hemisphere was to be the revelation of a series of baroque operas, heretofore heard only on records. William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants had come to uncover a musical revelation, so successful and memorable were these performances that an anniversary performance of Atys was repeated decades later.

Decades before the musically precocious and Francophile Christie had left Yale and headed for France and more specifically Versailles.There he had access to ensembles and libraries of scores and all the early instruments a man could dream of. Recordings began to appear of Handel, Rameau, Lully, Charpentier, Campra and others.The problem then was, despite all these preparations, was where in New York could you put on these works? The Met, glorious though it is ... well, a barn - historically speaking. It is a product of democratic-aristocratic intentions circa 1880's and then 1960's: we Americans missed the Versailles part. The dream of a piccolo-Met, discussed for over thirty years has as far as I know never come to light. Works like Strauss' Capriccio and the whole world of chamber and baroque opera are almost impossible in such a space.These operas with nuanced and subtle instrumental sound was dwarfed in the Mets vast space and all those theorbos and harpsichords lines and melodies dying long before they reach the high seats. I know, having over about thirty years sat all over the Met from nose bleed section to the exalted orchestra seats. Once as a gift from a singer I was so close to the orchestra for the Ring that I could see the beads of sweat on Maestro Levine's brow. 

Christie's grounding breaking, exquisite and critically acclaimed presentations had to be put on at alternate venues. In the early years we were treated to Lully's Atys (perhaps the greatest operatic- ballet performance I have ever seen) Purcell's King Arthur and Rameau's Castor et Pollux. Some of these were stage versions put on in Lincoln Center spaces. To cap it all off we were offered as a finale an evening of all Charpentier (Marc Antoine,1643-1704) and his ravishing motets and cantatas.

The fanfare for the upcoming "pastiche", The Enchanted Isle, must be a kind of solution to the baroque opera in the Met problem. I keep hearing the terms like extravaganza and grand. Perhaps this combination of baroque masters in the aggregate, Handel, Rameau and Lully, let alone the Shakespeare plot might have ramped up the scale. Either way, the music will be glorious. Please tune in to the Met this Saturday at noon and hear what William Christie and his magicians have in store for us all. 
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SAIPC shines with Myer

From SAIPC last night, Spencer Myer plays part of the Waldstein Sonata by Beethoven:

Next Tuesday, January 24th, Christopher Guzman plays more of the sonatas, and talks with host John Clare about the concert on this week's Classical Spotlight, Thursday afternoon at 1pm on KPAC & KTXI.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spencer Myer playing #BeethovenFest

Enchanting at the Met this weekend!

Joyce DiDonato
The Enchanted Island received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera (heard Saturdays at noon on KPAC & KTXI) on New Year’s Eve and runs through the end of this month. It is a pastiche: creative use of leftovers, a "Franken-opera" formed from other operas by Vivaldi & Handel. It stars Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels and Plácido Domingo.

The live HD screening of The Enchanted Island is this Saturday January 21st (locally seen at Cielo Vista 18, Fiesta 16 Theatres, & Cinemark McCreeless Mall) at 11:55am. Joyce DiDonato, Sycorax, is joined by Luca Pisaroni who plays her son, Caliban, to answer a few questions from a class in Utah:

Here is the trailer for The Enchanted Island:
And from the second act of The Enchanted Island with Joyce:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Beethoven Festival: Violin Sonatas 1

Enjoy this movement from Beethoven's Sonata #8 "Eroica" from San Fernando Cathedral last night with Musical Bridges Around the World:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Musical Offerings in the Shadow of Beethoven

An afternoon of chamber music at #BeethovenFest, Musical Offerings presents In the Shadow of Beethoven.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beethoven Festival: Sonatina

From TPR Presents Beethoven! here is Astrid Topletz in the Sonatina in F:

Scriabin 101

If Mozart and other Classical composers have their music compared to architecture then the late compositions of Alexander Scriabin relate more to EKGs or seismographs. It is emotional upheavals that are portrayed rather than the calm, predicable terraces of a building.

It wasn't always the case, when Scriabin was young it was Chopin that informed his musical landscape, but with age and exposure to the music of Liszt, Wagner and Schumann, not to mention LOVE, the composer became aware of an emotional subtext under the notes. With Scriabin's discovery of the theosophists, the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and Sigmund Freud new and exciting horizons opened up for the composer to explore.

Enjoy an introduction to a composer that dared all, with Scriabin 101 on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, January 12, 2012

McCormick to retire

Just in from CCSA:
The Children’s Chorus of San Antonio announced today that Founder and Artistic Director Marguerite McCormick will retire in May, 2014 after thirty years of dedicated service to the organization. The CCSA will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2013-2014 with a series of special events in addition to their full concert season. In preparation for McCormick’s retirement, the CCSA will implement a series of strategic actions over the next two years to strengthen membership and ensure the organization is meeting the needs of the community. McCormick chose to make the announcement now so as to guarantee a successful transition. “It is vitally important that there is continuity in the program” she remarked, “and that the transition is healthy and positive for our young artists, their families and the organization as a whole.” McCormick will leave a long legacy of service to young people in San Antonio, starting with founding the CCSA with 33 singers in 1983. During her tenure, singers have travelled around the country and around the globe and have made their mark on the San Antonio community. Performance milestones include several premieres, recordings and a fully staged baroque opera. The program has also blossomed into a multi-faceted organization with six performing ensembles, two neighborhood community programs and ten early-childhood classes serving almost 400 young people annually. The 30th Anniversary season will include a recital of alumni who are now professional singers, special performances and a grand celebration in fitting tribute to their Founder. McCormick remarked “Exciting events are in the planning stages for 2013-2014, our 30th Anniversary Season. It will be a wonderful celebration of singers past and present and will provide opportunities for our audiences to enjoy the best of CCSA. This season offers a fitting close to my leadership of the Children’s Chorus.” To prepare for transition, the CCSA will implement a series of strategic actions over the next two years and ensure its programs are healthy and ready for new leadership. The CCSA has recently received a generous grant from the Lila G. and Vesey F. Taylor Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation to jump-start the process. The organization will start by conducting a series of focus groups with a broad cross-section of the community to facilitate discussion, gather data and gain valuable insight into their perception of the CCSA and the role of music in the lives of their children and students. “The San Antonio Area Foundation has made a commitment to strengthen nonprofit organizations,” said Sandie Palomo-Gonzalez, the Area Foundation’s assistant vice president of grants and programs. “We are pleased that this grant to the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio will help build a strong future for their organization while supporting arts in our community.”

Dreams of Norma

Joan Sutherland as a young singer still living in Australia believed herself a mezzo-soprano. Her early goal was to dedicate herself to the heroines of Wagner, with a special affinity for Isolde. Among the students that accompanied her in recitals was a very confident young man they all called Ric. He was a few years older and on his way to London for study at the Royal College. In his parting remarks after their rehearsal he advised her that she was capable of a much wider range of roles than she imagined and suggested she consider the then almost completely unknown works of bel canto. Sutherland won great local success and finally cash rewards enough to try her luck in London and was offered entree to Covent Garden and it's program for young singers .
She would eventually reach London herself, accompanied by her mother. Teachers there informed her that she was in fact a soprano of potentially great range and began to remake her voice. Incredibly, despite her youth, she was offered a part in Norma, as Clotilde. She would be on stage with no one less than Maria Callas who was reviving the bel canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti. These experiences both inspired her to redirect her aspirations. She too now dreamed of following in the footsteps of Callas and singing the great bel canto parts. Her career flourished and took her to New York and Carnegie Hall. The year was 1961 and again  success was hers and she made a friend of an American who also debuted that year, Marilyn Horne. They would over the next few years visit each others home, cook together and shop.This personal sympathy, besides the supreme artistry of two of the twentieth centurys greatest singers, would create a special dynamic and dimension of mutual understanding that permeated their stage performances. Besides, Ric turned out to be Richard Bonynge (steadily making a name for himself as a conductor and a specialist of the bel canto era) and they would soon marry. By the nineteen seventies the stage was set for a series of the greatest performances and recordings of the period. Popular magazines featured profiles of the two singers, hand in hand on stage in concerts perfectly blended in the most arduous and ravishing of duets, O remenbranza! from Norma.The dream that had begun for the young unknown girl in Australia who later confessed that for bel canto she relinquished Wagner and followed another path, despite the fears and doubts of many, including her mother. Teamed with her husband conducting and Horne as Adalgisa these three now would helped to reestablish the works of Bellini and Donizetti in the great opera houses of the world. Pavarotti would pronounce her "One of the greatest singers of all time."  
 Tune in this Saturday at noon for a Met archival special of Sutherland and Horne at the peak of their powers and the roles and performances they made legend,Bellini's Druid  high-priestess Norma and her rival and friend Adalgisa, here on KPAC and KTXI. 
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Potpourri of Beethoven

Cover for Beethoven's Third
We are looking forward to more Beethoven all this month. This weekend the lead group, the San Antonio Symphony starts with the First and Third Symphonies in the Majestic Theatre.

Musical Offerings plays the Ghost Piano Trio with a program called In the Shadow of Beethoven Sunday afternoon at Christ Episcopal Church.

Musical Bridges Around the World starts their complete Violin Sonatas with Gary Levinson Sunday night at San Fernando Cathedral.

We have always enjoyed Rolf playing Beethoven:

Soundtrack Review: "The Artist"

This week, a minor controversy erupted online when Kim Novak, star of the 1958 film “Vertigo,” took out an advertisement in Hollywood trade publications to object to “The Artist,” an utterly charming silent film set during the transition from silents to talkies in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  In question was the film’s use of the “Love Theme” from “Vertigo,” a music cue so utterly and completely married to Hitchcock’s classic that while I found its use in “The Artist” unobjectionable, I did find myself listening to the music more than watching the movie for a few minutes!
Director Michel Hazanavicius has defended his use of the music, which is unfortunately overshadowing Ludovic Bource’s original music for the film. Bource’s score fills all but four of the tracks on the official soundtrack to “The Artist.” And while the soundtrack does not include the Bernard Herrmann cue from “Vertigo,” a sharp-eared listener will find references to Herrmann’s score for “Citizen Kane,” which are matched visually in the film, itself a loving tribute to the movies.
As befitting a silent film, the soundtrack opens with an overture, and then introduces the characters and setting through melodies that are alternately lush and romantic, or bouncy and jovial, evoking the happy-go-lucky era 1920s Hollywood – or, at least the way we thought it was.
Both “George Valentin” (named for the title character) and the “Fantasie D’Amour” are based on a jazzy riff that’ll put a spring in your step. The “Waltz for Peppy” is love in full bloom. Later in the score, we get to the long, linear lines of “In the Stairs,” as Valentin’s star begins to fade, and his love Peppy Miller ascends to superstardom as a singing, dancing, talking movie star.  It’s at the end of this cue that you may hear a faint echo of the opening chords of “Citizen Kane,” by Bernard Herrmann.
As the plot of “The Artist” develops, the music becomes a more urgent. Valentin, obsessed by his inability to keep up with the times, becomes despondent and almost does the unthinkable.  His plucky puppy comes through for him, and the film ends with a triumphant dance number. Bource’s music here is reminiscent of the classic big band sound favored by Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson, with a touch of Hollywood thrown in.
“The Artist” was one of my favorite movies of 2011, and had me smiling for most of its running time. The soundtrack is equally as magical to listen to!
--Nathan Cone

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beethoven Fest: First Sonata for Piano & Cello

Here is Ken Freudigman and Kristin Roach of Camerata San Antonio playing the First Sonata for piano and cello by Ludwig van Beethoven:

 The Beethoven Festival continues tonight with SAIPC and pianist Naoko Takao at St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Room for cello variations

From yesterday's Camerata San Antonio concert, Ken Freudigman and Kristin Roach play 12 Variations on the Magic Flute by Ludwig van Beethoven:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Camerata SA kicks off Beethoven Festival

SA Opera on hold

San Antonio Opera has canceled their performance next month of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Learn more from a news story on KSTX with executive director Terry Frazor.
KPAC's John Clare spoke with the President of SA Opera board Jorge del Alamo about the situation: mp3 file

More than you bargained for…

There used to be a tradition at the Moscow Conservatory were upper classmen would take a freshman pianist and give them some music of Nikolai Medtner to sight read. The music can look deceptively easy and after a few stumbles the newcomer realizes that there is still much to learn about music in general and Medtner in particular.

Medtner was an intellectual and composed music that pleased his mind as well as the ear. This January the Piano celebrates two Russian composers with ties to the Moscow Conservatory; Alexander Scriabin and Nikolai Medtner. I start with Medtner and his third concerto where the entirety of his musical life is portrayed in its three movements. Plus something from his Paris years with his Theme & Variations and one of the most melodic of his Forgotten Melodies, the Canzona Serenata.

Hear the musician that Rachmaninoff thought was the composer of the future, Nikolai Medtner on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Best of 2011

Here are ten of our favorite interviews from 2011 on Classical Spotlight:
John and Joyce in Houston, TX.
Janine Jansen on Beau Soir

Sharon Isbin on Guitar Passions

Dmitry Sitkovetsky on Haffner

Joyce DiDonato on Divo/Diva

Ruth Moreland on Sacred Tranquility

David Kim on Redeemer Fine Arts

Marguerite McCormick on Spring Song

Sebastian Lang Lessing on Liszt

Angèle Dubeau on Portrait

Itzahk Perlman on his Recital

Plump, delicious Children

In Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel everything appears in two's. Heavenly intervention and malicious intent, there is paternal alienation and deepest love with a search for adventure and the desire for domestic safety; the meaning of being lost through a wandering in a dark wood and being found - different and changed by experience, but only after the brush with danger. It is all done though a magical process of blending what would seem to be impossible: the most innocent intention and the deepest intuitive knowing. Humperdinck's gift of conjouring up childlike experience (with echoes the Magic Flute) and profound lyricism (with touches of Parsifal) yields a unique work, Hansel and Gretel.

The work began as a Christmas gift at the suggestion of Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Witte, later librettist of the "fairytale opera" or Marchenoper. She adapted a series of scenes from the Brothers Grimm, adding her own poetry. Would he put it to music for the children, for Christmas? It swiftly evolved from adaption to singspiel (partly spoken and partly sung) to the universally loved fairytale opera that we know today. The prize winning and serious Humperdinck who had seen the Ring and been invited by Wagner himself after a meeting in Italy to come to Bayreuth, now turned all he knew into a tale for children that simultaneously blends childlike innocence with musical artistry of the highest level. Beginning with two youngsters hungry and looking for diversion with an undertone of the impish and the rebellious, all as the holiday season approaches. They were suppose to have been working at their father's broom business, but played and danced to forget their hunger. There follows a scolding from mother and her tears over the family's desperate plight. Then the father arrives loaded with food and presents only to find to his shock and amazement the children have been sent into the dangerous wood by the now frantic mother. Lost and lured by the temptation of a Gingerbread House (and a feast!) after an encounter with the Sandman followed by one of the most lyrical prayers in all of opera they fall asleep looked over by the appearance of fourteen angels. They are awakened the next morning by the Dew Fairy and then comes final almost fatal encounter the Witch, whose intention is to eat them. They escape and triumph over all obstacles returning at last to home.
Like the subject matter itself, the life of the holiday opera was something of a fairytale. Doubtful of it's value Humperdinck was astonished when Richard Strauss, it's first conductor pronounced it "a masterpiece". It's next performance taken up by no one less than Gustav Mahler. 
Tune in to this weeks Met presentation and a perfect close to the holiday season, Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, this Saturday at noon on KPAC and KTXI .
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gli Unici in concert

Classical Spotlight will feature three tenors, Gli Unici performing this weekend at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium in a benefit for Haven For Hope. There is more information here.
Tune in Thursday at 1pm on KPAC & KTXI.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Soundtrack Review: "Shame"

The fifteen-track soundtrack to director Steve McQueen’s harrowing tale of sexual addiction, “Shame,” carries with it a melancholy mood, despite the appearance of party tunes like the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” and Blondie’s “Rapture.”
Harry Escott’s original music for the film appears on three tracks, opening the album with the main character’s theme, “Brandon.” Escott’s music is characterized by slow-moving chords and an underlying melody from the low strings. There’s a persistent ticking in the background, and the high strings eventually take over the theme, which lasts about eight minutes.  Escott’s music is similarly structured in the cue “Unraveling,” and is limited to solo piano chords for the film’s “End Credits.”
The rest of the album is a mix of sounds that evoke the chilly world of wintertime in New York; Blondie and the Tom Tom Club are joined by Chic and Chet Baker; John Coltrane’s famous “My Favorite Things” is here, but it’s mysteriously upcut by a couple of piano notes by the disc’s sequencing.
Glenn Gould’s marvelous renditions of Bach hold the album together. In the movie, Brandon listens to Gould’s magic even as he sinks further into the abyss.
At the center of this soundtrack is actress Carey Mulligan’s naked rendition of “New York, New York.” The minor key and chromatic piano flourishes give way to a heartbreaking, a capella section as Mulligan struggles to hold the tune through tears, transforming the powerful anthem into a plea. It’s well worth the download (link above, and see trailer below for a sample).

--Nathan Cone

Monday, January 2, 2012

Borrowing Beethoven?

We're looking forward to the Beethoven Festival this month and next...Beethoven was such an incredible figure - no doubt if you catch even just a portion of the concerts, you'll hear how Beethoven has influenced so many composers after him!
We'll be screening A Clockwork Orange and also sharing "TPR Presents...Beethoven." As a great example of how influences can be made, here is Kevin Puts' Inspiring Beethoven (note there is some odd artwork, not designed by TPR or Kevin Puts!) :

We also thought a play by play of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and this "Raiders of the Lost Archives" might be useful as a look, in general, about borrowing (and cooler visuals!) :