Tonight's live broadcast of Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela marks the start of Cal Performances program called "Berkeley RADICAL" - (which stands for Research And Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts and Learning). Dudamel conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in a outdoor concert he describes as unforgettable back in 2009, when he began his job leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Dudamel explains his relationship with the composer this way: “Beethoven is wonderful to play, but it’s very difficult. There are so many ways to interpret Beethoven. But the center of that music is one, and it’s the power of Beethoven’s soul.” The Ninth has assumed such cultural weight and symbolism over the years, but Dudamel says that soulfulness comes through in his other grand works too, and that's the challenge for him as a conductor: “Beethoven, all the time, in every symphony -- especially the bigger, the biggest symphonies like the Eroica, like the Nine -- this song to life, to the spirit… to the love.. is wonderful, but how to put that in every note?”
Thursday, September 24
The San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas kick off their 2015-16 season this evening, with a gala concert celebrating Broadway. They'll be joined by special guest vocalists Nathan Gunn, Alexandra Silber, and Kelsey Grammer - and you can hear it live hosted by Rik and Dianne tonight a little after 8 pm.
The curtain raiser will be the third of Respighi's tributes to the city of Rome: Roman Festivals - but soon enough the destination is Broadway, and the classics of music theater by Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe. The "Carousel Waltz" connects the orchestral world to the Great White Way, before the Symphony is joined by baritone Nathan Gunn for songs from South Pacific and Carousel. Alexandra Silber (who was Maria in last year's Grammy nominated performance of West Side Story) is Eliza Doolittle to Kelsey Grammer's Henry Higgins for scenes from My Fair Lady in the second half of the performance.
Wednesday, September 23
San Francisco Opera's next General Director has been announced - it's Matthew Shilvock, who's been serving as Associate General Director for the past five years. At the press conference making the announcement, Steven Menzies, chairman of the search committee said Shilvock was the strongest of all the 70 potential candidates from the U.S. and Europe they reviewed.
There's more information about Shilvock, who begins his tenure in August 2016, at the San Francisco Opera website, where you can also see the full video of the press conference.
He'll be only the seventh General Director in the company's history, and said all of his predecessors possessed a legacy of vision and passion. But he was especially grateful for the opportunities that David Gockley had provided him: "At every juncture, he has flung wide the gates of opportunity and possibility. What David has done, not only for me, but for this company and this art form can never be underestimated...Over the last decade, I’ve been privileged to work with increasing responsibility on many aspects of this organization. Being involved in over a hundred productions, and having the unique opportunity to work with, and be mentored by one of the greatest impressarios of this business, I have a very robust understanding of all the moving parts needed to produce the highest quality opera on an international stage."
Tuesday, September 22
The most recent exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford is called Artists at Work - and was inspired by two recent acquisitions, as well as the building immediately next to the museum. The new McMurtry Building is built to highlight the intersection of both study of art history as well as the creation of new works, and as the exhibit's curator, Alison Gass explains, there's a throughline to being an artist that can be seen in works from all eras.
"Artists at Work was really conceived as the celebration of the opening of the building," Gass explains. "The McMurtry Building is the place that houses students who study the history of art, and think about the history of art, and the lives of artists, and it also houses students who are learning to make art." The opening of the building this Fall followed on the heels of the museum acquiring the 29 sketchbooks of Richard Diebenkorn, as well as an early Edward Hopper painting called 'New York Corner.' The sketchbooks and the Hopper are on view at the Cantor in their own exhibits, but served as the jumping off point for this exploration of process, object, and place. "In the sketchbooks, you really look at the process of being Richard Diebenkorn. Actually kind of the process he went through, they’re very much about the hand of the artist. You also see these clear moments of inspiration, of things that kind of made him want to pick up a pen or a pencil and start drawing." Artists at Work includes 70 works from the collection - deliberately not in chronological order. "You’ll see works that are brought together only by virtue of this thematic connection but in fact, there’s no other reason why they would be together, and you start to look at works of course in a very different way when they’re next to unexpected things."
Monday, September 21
On an 'A-to-Z' edition of State of the Arts, it's Sibelius and his Symphony of Swans and Silence... The Finnish composer (and national hero) Jean Sibelius was commissioned to write a symphony to commemorate his own 50th birthday - he ended up revising it several times before it came to the version we know today, but one of its most memorable themes came to him on a morning in April when he looked to the skies.
We know which morning, because he wrote in his diary (along with the theme that recurs in the horns throughout the final movement): "Today at ten to eleven, I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, that beauty. They circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming, silver ribbon." That was April 21st, 1915. A few days later, he would write: "The swans are always in my thoughts and give splendor to life... Strange to learn that nothing in the whole world affects me - nothing in art, literature, or music - in the same way as do these swans and canes and wild geese."
The final movement in this performance starts at 22:20...