Tuesday, February 17

Hollywood SignA bit of a quiz today, to get in the mood as we begin our "KDFC Goes to the Movies" celebration. Can you identify all seventeen films represented here?  

(To see the answers, click and drag below to make them visible)
  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Bridge on the River Kwai
  3. Rocky
  4. Jaws
  5. High Noon
  6. Psycho
  7. Diva 
  8. Out of Africa 
  9. North by Northwest 
  10. Star Wars 
  11. Gone With the Wind 
  12. Schindler's List 
  13. Cinema Paradiso 
  14. Robin Hood 
  15. The Great Escape 
  16. Dances With Wolves 
  17. The Magnificent Seven 

Friday, February 13

Eight Seasons at Marin SymphonyThere's a pairing of the music of Venice and Buenos Aires in the next concerts by the Marin Symphony this Sunday and Tuesday, as they present "Eight Seasons" - with Vivaldi's four concerti, and Astor Piazzolla's The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. Music Director Alasdair Neale gives a preview of the concert, which will shine the spotlight on the soloist for both works, Jeremy Constant, celebrating his 20th season as concertmaster for the orchestra. 

There's more information about the concert at the Marin Symphony website.

The two works seem like a natural pairing, given the titles, but the Piazzolla works weren't originally conceived as a set, let alone a complement to Vivaldi's concerti. They started as individual tangos, which he would play (on the bandoneon) with his quintet. They came together as a natural pairing (including some winking quotations from the Vivaldi) when they were arranged for string orchestra in the late 1990s. Sometimes they're played on opposite halves of a concert, but Alasdair Neale wanted to alternate. "I think that’s the best way of really shaking things up – we see a season through Piazzolla’s eyes, and then we see the same season through Vivaldi’s eyes. I think it’s a better way of approaching doing those two pieces rather than doing...Vivaldi in one half and Piazzolla in the other. It provides more of a jolt." 

Jeremy Constant won't have a chance to rest during the performance. "It’s a tour-de-force," Neale says. "When I invited Jeremy to do that, I said ‘You need to think long and hard about it,’ and he said, I know, I know…’ I said, ‘Because this is you carrying the entire show, and that’s two forty minute pieces, but it’s a great opportunity for you to be showcased in your 20th year as concertmaster.’ And I’m very happy to say  he’s up to the challenge." And so are the other players in the orchestra. "The trick is going to be able to turn on a dime because obviously when you see the music through the filter of Argentine tango, that’s a very different stylistic and technical approach for everybody – not just Jeremy, but the rest of us too – than when you turn back and go to Vivaldi. It’s very easy to get complacent with a piece like Four Seasons, because we hear it in elevators all the time. It is a thoroughly original and gripping piece in the right hands. But I think it always helps to shed new light on it, and force the audience into viewing it in a different way."


Friday, February 6

From the Top at the SFCMThe NPR show From the Top will be coming to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, for a taping on Valentine's Day with a lineup of performers from their pre-college division, in addition to some special alumni guests. Soprano Lisa Delan and cellist Matt Haimovitz will be joined by an ensemble of student cellists for an excerpt from Angel Heart, and in the lead up to the taping they each have a concert that will also include host Christopher O'Riley. (The From the Top episode will air in early March.)


There's more about the program at the Conservatory of Music's website, and the From the Top site; the show airs on KDFC Sunday nights at 7.

Lisa Delan says the timing for all of these events was rather miraculous: "It was either serendipity, the good will of the universe, or my stubborn tenaciousness, but Matt was already going to come out and play on my concert on the 11th, since we’re premiering works that Luna [Pearl Woolf, Haimovitz's wife] had written for us, a cycle on Rumi poems." And she knew that both the Conservatory and From the Top wanted to arrange a taping of the show, focusing on the younger students.  "It seemed like the date was already in the air, it fit in perfectly, which also facilitated Chris coming out and to play the Rumi premiere, and Matt and Chris subsequently scheduling the Beethoven concert. So it was just a beautiful and unusual confluence of events that actually worked out." On Tuesday evening, Haimovitz and O'Riley will play works from their new CD, of the complete sonatas and variations which they've entitled "BEETHOVEN, period."  They'll join Lisa Delan the next night, for her Alumni Series recital in the new songs by Luna Pearl Woolf, on a concert that will also have Jake Heggie accompanying songs he wrote for her, and with pianists Kevin Korth and Robert Schwartz, pieces by Gordon Getty and David Garner. There wil also be a world premiere of a new work by John Corigliano, the first of a set that Delan, Haimovitz and O'Riley are curating that blends existing non-classical songs with new works. 

"We spent a long time coming up with a range of songs that all of us loved, but specifically were so strong both lyrically and musically that they could stand on their as lyrics or music," Delan explains. "For each of these songs, Chris is doing an arrangement for an instrumental cover (with himself and Matt) of the original music… And then we took the lyrics of each song to a composer who was not familiar with the original song, and asked that composer to set that as classical art song for soprano, piano and cello. I’m thrilled that the work we’re premiering on the 11th is Chris’s arrangement, and then John Corigliano’s setting of [Joni Mitchell's] ‘The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey’- which is from her ‘Mingus’ album, and it’s a fantastic piece with really compelling lyrics, and I know that John has really wrapped himself around those." They're hoping to record the collection this Fall, if the new works are ready in time. Delan's recital is dedicated to her longtime friend and accompanist, Kristin Pankonin, who was also an alumna of the Conservatory, and who died this past summer.


Tuesday, February 3

Where Angels Fear to Tread at Opera San JoseOpera San Jose presents the world premiere of an opera based on a novel by E.M. Forster - Where Angels Fear to Tread, by composer Mark Lanz Weiser and librettist Roger Brunyate. It's a work that got its start while the composer was still a student, in the 1990s at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. There are six performances between Saturday's opening and the 22nd.

There's more information about the production at Opera San Jose's website.

Mark Lanz Weiser says the opera's long path began several decades ago at music school; he's now on the composition faculty at USC's Thornton School of Music. "Angels was something that I started talking about with the Opera Director [Roger Brunyate] at Peabody when I was still a student there. And after getting rights to the novel, started working on it in the mid ‘90s." Practicality helped them to make some of their decisions. "We wrote the opera specifically for a Peabody performance," he says. "And one of the things that we took into consideration was the characters.There are a lot of female roles – a lot of sopranos and mezzos – and that’s because  music conservatories have an abundance of sopranos and mezzos that outnumber the men. What’s wonderful about it is, it has really grown since then, and has taken on legs that were beyond its initial conception." At first, Weiser had been thinking about taking on another Forster work, A Room With a View, until Brunyate pointed him toward Angels. "I noticed immediately it was more overtly dramatic than Room with a View, and might translate better into an opera." 

The plot, like Room With a View, centers around members of English society transplanted into Italy: as the family of an English widow who has married an Italian commoner tries first to protect her reputation, and then her child. "It’s set in 1905, it’s a romantic story in a lot of ways, so the vocabulary is very specifically neo-Romantic," Weiser explains. "But that being said, even though it’s neo-Romantic, opera allows you to write all kinds of music, and it depends on what’s going on dramatically. It starts out in this very… it’s primarily a comedy for a lot of it, and it’s very lush, and very romantic, but then there’s a dramatic turn at the end, and even parts in the middle, where I could write a very different kind of music. So it’s really very eclectic." The performances will be at the historic California Theatre in San Jose. 

Monday, February 2

The Pianist of Willesden LaneMona Golabek takes on the role of her mother, Lisa Jura in the one-woman show The Pianist of Willesden Lane which returns to Berkeley Rep tomorrow night. It tells the story, accompanied by piano, of Jura's experience as part of the Kindertransport, the attempt to rescue Jewish children during the Holocaust by taking them to the (comparative) safety of England. 

There's more information about the show at the Berkeley Rep website.

Mona Golabek's show is based on the book of the same title that she wrote, which researched and fleshed out the cryptic anecdotes her mother used to tell her during piano lessons. "She always told me that each piece of music tells a story," Golabek says. "We'd be in a Beethoven sonata, out of nowhere, as she was explaining to me about fortissimo and pianissimo, she would say, 'Well, did I ever tell you the time that Johnny King Kong read poetry to me at nighttime when the bombs came down?' And I thought, who is Johnny King Kong? Before I got an answer, we'd go right back into another passage, maybe we would switch to a Chopin Nocturne, and out of nowhere, she would say, 'well, what about when Aaron whistled the Grieg Piano Concerto to me?'"

It was while she was on a book tour, which often included performances of some of the works that are mentioned in the stories, that the idea of staging a show that would dramatize them. In the years since the book's publication, Golabek has been active in working with schools that read the book, and then see the staged performance, showing how music both saved her mother's life, and helped others. The role individual pieces played in her life are depicted in the play. "Clair de Lune played in her heart and soul as she was on the Kindertransport, the rescue train that brought her [from Vienna] to England. And she would describe to me in the piano lessons how she saw the moonlight coming through the turning of the windmills."