Wednesday, September 2

On an “A to Z” edition of The State of the Arts, a look at musical Notation… which, like any writing, allows one person to transmit an idea to another without having to meet in person. A composer today can, it’s true, make a recording, or even Skype into a rehearsal and let the players or conductor know how the performance should go… But the system of notation that’s developed since the middle ages means that composer should be able to send a score off knowing it will be performed more or less as intended.

The standard of music notation that we use today is efficient – on a conductor’s score, each individual line corresponds to an instrument or section of the orchestra; reading from left to right, you’re moving forward in time… and at any point along the way, reading the page vertically will give a snapshot of the harmony being played.

Manuscript of Gregorian ChantThe standards of notation have been slowly refined over the years, although some of the principle ideas are very similar to the time of Gregorian Chants – when musical scores began to have an early “staff”, and the direction of melodies were determined by the placement of the noteheads.  The shapes and groupings of the noteheads indicated their duration, and how the pitch would be approached – connected or detached from the note that came before, or with an ornamental melisma. But the text determined the rhythm and phrasing, and since they were sung in unison, dividing the melodies into measures wasn’t necessary.

Bach ManuscriptHere’s an example of J.S. Bach’s handwritten manuscript, using notation that’s much more familiar to anyone who’s studied music. The staves are joined into a treble and bass grand staff, which is used for keyboard music, although this looks like one of the many Chorales that Bach wrote or reharmonized – which could be either played or sung. There are barlines separating the measures, and each of the four independent voices has a different rhythmic feeling. The melody in the soprano is slow and even, the bassline “walks” at a steady clip, and the tenor  voice has ‘dotted’ rhythms of long notes followed by short ones, in almost a heartbeat dah – – dit, dah – – dit pattern.

Chopin ScoreThis single measure from Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 2 No.1 trips off the fingers of a well-trained pianist, with a pattern of 22 notes meant to take the same amount of time as the 12 notes in the left hand. By not making the notes line up exactly, he creates a slightly relaxed and rhythmically free feeling (rather than one that tries to exactly work the math out precisely.)

In Charles Ives’ Concord Sonata, he does away with the barlines altogether at times; the piece is fiendishly difficult (but fortunately, it’s only for one performer, and not an ensemble that has to stay together!)

Thursday, September 3

The Golden Gate Bridge is the most-photographed bridge in the world. And that magnetic attraction for cameras extends to Hollywood, too. Whether it’s as a backdrop, a pivotal plot point, or being attacked by the elements (or giant sea-creatures) the bridge has proved irresistible to film makers, with several more added to the list this past summer, including San Andreas, Terminator: Genisys, Ant-Man, Pixels, and even Inside Out.

The iconic bridge, still going strong more than 75 years after it was built, has been used as a shorthand to establish a Bay Area setting.

Foul PlayIn the movie Foul Play, after she’s driven down the coast accompanied by the Barry Manilow song ‘Ready to Take a Chance Again,” Goldie Hawn’s character rounds a bend in her yellow VW Bug and a helicopter shot reveals the span ahead of her.

More recently, it’s appeared in both of the two “Planet of the Apes” reboots – with an attack on the cars crossing the bridge in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and ten years later, in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, weeds and moss cover some of the familiar and iconic International Orange paint, as mankind has been all but obliterated.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
In 1978’s Superman, the Man of Steel keeps a schoolbus full of children from falling into the water after an earthquake caused by Lex Luthor rocks and damages the Golden Gate.

The climactic fight between James Bond and the evil Max Zorin (played by Roger Moore and Christopher Walken) takes place atop one of the towers, to which his blimp is tethered, in A View to a Kill.

Here’s a trailer for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which features the bridge prominently…

And It Came From Beneath the Sea, which pits a giant octopus against the Golden Gate:

Friday, September 4

Here’s a whirlwind tour of the Wind Instruments, or Woodwinds (even though many of them are no longer made of any wood). Unlike the strings, which as a section have a continuous and uniform sound across their ranges, wind instruments have individual personalities and characteristic sounds that are so distinctive that there are often only two or three oboe players in an orchestra, balancing a few dozen violins.

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list – a number of additional instruments  extend the ranges of each example, but these are some of the most frequently found in an orchestra, and the wind instrument players will frequently be asked to “double” on other instruments, so a piccolo part will be played by a member of the flute section, English horn by an oboist, etc.

There’s a wonderful series of videos by members of the Philharmonia Orchestra introducing their instruments:

Wednesday, September 9

The season begins for Opera San Jose with Puccini’s classic Tosca – including some of the repertoire’s most memorable arias, as well as a most formidable villain: Baron Scarpia. Music Director Joseph Marcheso describes him as ‘carnal, sinister, and duplicitous,’ but “you’re always happy he’s on the stage doing whatever horrific things he’s doing at any time.”

There’s more information about Tosca, which runs from Saturday until the 27th at the Opera San Jose website.

This is the first of several perennial favorites for the company this year, followed by Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in November, and Carmen in February, and Andre Previn’s Streetcar Named Desire (a company premiere) closing the season in April.

Joseph Marcheso says Tosca is a model of efficiency: “It’s two and a half hours with intermission, and chock full of ‘Recondita armonia,’ [Scarpia’s] ‘Te Deum,’ ‘Vissi d’arte,’ ‘E lucevan le stelle,’ some of the most beautiful and rightly famous music that you can have…The joy of the score is that it’s extremely compressed. And Puccini actually was thinking about striking ‘Vissi d’arte,’ the aria, the very very famous aria, because he thought that that halted the momentum of the story.”

Thursday, September 10

A festival of free concerts begins the semester at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as they present their ‘Fall Classical Kick-off Weekend,’ beginning tomorrow night. There are performances of orchestral, chamber, piano, and vocal works by Haydn, Mozart, and a few contempararies who aren’t as well known. Scott Sandmeier and Scott Foglesong give a brief preview.

There’s more information on the San Francisco Conservatory of Music website.

It’s unusual for the Conservatory to welcome their students back this way, but Scott Sandmeier, music director of the Conservatory Orchestra, says members of of the faculty grew they idea of a festival out of the notion that an academic theme this year would be the Classical Era. “So we started looking to see what could we do, and what would be manageable in a short time that we could hit the ground running, and tell everyone, ‘Oh by the way, welcome, this is your first day at the Conservatory, there’s a concert next week, here we go…’”  Actually there are six concerts, plus a Sunday morning audio visual lecture (all free) that explore music that some might take for granted. “This era, what we call the Viennese Classical era, is actually one of the great unknowns of music history,” Scott Foglesong says. “People think they know it. But in point of fact, actually, this is an iceberg of an era. There are the Mozart and Haydn symphonies that we all know… all of these other composers that are almost all forgotten.”

The Conservatory Orchestra plays in two of the concerts, but Sunday afternoon’s programming reflects the ‘little bit of everything’ approach to the programming, with the theme of a musical idea: Mozart and G minor. Two of his works in that key, his 40th Symphony, and the Viola Quintet (with Viola Chair Jodi Levitz) are paired. And in their final concert Sunday at 4:00, guitar, piano and voice students show the way that musical embellishments were improvised during the era.

Friday, September 11

San Francisco Opera begins its season in a big way this weekend, beginning with the Opera Ball, then Luisa Miller opening tonight, with Sweeney Todd tomorrow, and the festive Opera in the Park free performance in Golden Gate Park on Sunday afternoon. This will be General Director David Gockley’s final season in that role, and he gives a sneak peak at the first two productions.

There’s more about the productions, and the upcoming season at the San Francisco Opera website.

He calls Luisa Miller a “gateway piece to Verdi’s most productive period,” and the Sondheim as “one of the most operatic of musicals.” David Gockley is particularly pleased with the strong leads – for the vocalism of Luisa Miller, it’s a must. “If you’re going to do it,” he says, “you have to have a whole line up of remarkable singers. And with Leah Crocetto and Michael Fabiano, and Ekaterina Semenchuk, the great Russian mezzo, with Nicola in the pit, we have got just the elements to bring this piece off.” Likewise with Sweeney Todd, despite a rather last minute sustitution. “Brian Mulligan has stepped into the role of Sweeney… He is as good a Sweeney as I have seen since the 1970s. Stephanie Blythe is certainly no Angela Lansbury, but she brings a kind of boisterous, bigger than life vocalism to the part, which to me totally resonates.”

Luisa Miller runs through September 27th, and Sweeney Todd through the 29th.

Monday, September 14

San Francisco Chronicle’s classical music critic, Joshua Kosman offers some suggestions as part of our Fall Arts Preview, with both old and brand-new programming. There’s so much going on throughout the season it can be easy for individual performances to get lost in the flurry – here are just a few of the many he’s looking forward to.

Kosman says his regular beat guarantees that he’ll be attending many of the biggest concerts, so when choosing what else to target, it’s often to hear artists who haven’t been to the area, or particularly fresh repertoire: “I always more interested in hearing a program that’s got some new piece of music, or some unusual piece of music, or something I haven’t heard a lot of times before.  The greatest string quartet in the world can come through, and if they’re doing Schubert and Beethoven, I’ll go, if there’s some reason I should, but on the face of it, it doesn’t seem like it demands attention.”  Among groups that are offering new works, the San Francisco Symphony presents the West Coast premiere by their next New Voices composer, Ted Hearne at the end of this month; New Century Chamber Orchestra’s opening concert this week includes three works by Jennifer Higdon; and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho will be on Berkeley Symphony’s opening concert October 14, as well as showing up in the Eco Ensemble’s concert through Cal Performances on October 23rd, and on the 24th of October in the San Francisco Contemporary Music Player’s concert.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra starts Nicholas McGegan’s 30th season as their music director with the first performances (October 4-10) of a work by Alessandro Scarlatti in almost 300 years, The Glory of Spring, and San Francisco Performances presents Bridge to Beethoven (two concerts this fall, beginning November 4th, and two more in the Spring.) Joshua Kosman explains: “Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner, the violin and piano duo who are individually and collectively a terrific and interesting pair of musicians, have put together a four-concert series in which they’re going to take all ten of the Beethoven violin sonatas and pair those with new pieces that they’ve commissioned for this project from various living composers in response to those pieces. So there’ll be a little bit of a back and forth between Beethoven and his successors, which is pretty much everyone.”

With the San Francisco Opera season just begun, Kosman says he was pleased at their outside-the-box choice of Sweeney Todd to be one of their opening productions, and is particularly looking forward to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger this Fall, and the return of Karita Mattila for Janacek’s Jenufa in the second part of the season next Summer. He’s also looking forward to some news: “Sometime in the next… presumably in the next few weeks, San Francisco Opera is going to announce the name of the person that they’ve chosen to succeed David Gockley at the helm. This will be an interesting revelation because I can’t quite figure out who they’re going to get. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious candidate, there’s nobody we can point to and say ‘well… this is the obvious choice.’ So, whoever they’re going to get I think is going to be an interesting surprise.”

Tuesday, September 15

Herbst Theatre has been under wraps for more than two years, as it underwent seismic and other improvements. There’s an official re-dedication ceremony tomorrow, followed by an open house (additional open houses on Friday and Saturday) to show off its new look. The building, which was finished in the early 1930s, and had one overhaul in the ’70s, will look a little more like it used to – but now up to current code.

There’s more about the re-opening at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center website.

There was a preview tour during the summer, as the construction was coming to an end – and Lee Jones of Pankow Builders explained that much of the most important work done would be largely invisible when the hall reopened: “The point of seismic historic renovation is you don’t see it when we’re all done. And so there’s concrete shear walls down both hallways on the side of the Herbst Theatre, we demolished half of the ceiling, and the walls full height on this side of the corridor… there are shotcrete walls ten inches thick all the way from the basement to the roof, and then we just built the plaster walls back, had to rebuild the cornices… The seismic work for the most part you don’t see, it’s all hidden in the wall cavities.”

What will be immediately apparent to visitors are new side boxes with improved acoustics and sightlines, all new seats in the balcony, and a color scheme that leaves the disco era behind: “We repainted to the original 1932 paint specifications,” says Elizabeth Murray, Managing Director of the War Memorial, “which really enhance the view of the murals. The 1977 renovation had used a lot of pinks and oranges, we went back to the ochre color throughout the theater.” There are also adjustments to the hallway layout, no longer completely encircling the theater (which made for no real backstage for artists to warm up). The murals by Frank Brangwyn, celebrating their centennial this year along with the 1915 Exposition, have been protected, cleaned, and conserved as construction was going on all around them.

Herbst Theatre - (Joel Puliatti, photographer)
Herbst Theatre (Joel Puliatti, photographer)

Wednesday, September 16

The California Symphony is opening its season this Sunday afternoon with a program called ‘Passport to the World‘ – with European destinations represented by 11 short works. Music director Donato Cabrera says he likes to think of it as an ‘amuse bouche’ to the season, to whet the appetite for what’s ahead. Whether or not you can make it to the Lesher Center, later that night on Bay Area Mix you can hear the ensemble play Bolero from last season’s opener.

There’s more information about the concert at the California Symphony website.

Last year’s opener also had several shorter pieces – crowd pleasers that have nonetheless fallen off the list of what’s expected today for orchestral repertoire:  “We’re so conditioned to have the overture, concerto, intermission, symphony,” Cabrera says. “And to instead have an evening of shorter pieces by what looks to be on the page as disparate composers is incredibly, I think, enjoyable to a lot of people. They’re all these wonderful symphonic miniatures, that… while we all know them, they’re actually not performed that often in concert. That’s what’s so wonderful about this idea, is you have a whole evening of these miniatures that we all love.”

Representing Russia are Rimsky-Korsakov and Gliere, there’s a Slavonic dance by Dvorak, and Vaughan Williams and Elgar wrap up the opening half of the concert with Fantasia on Greensleeves, and ‘Pomp and Circumstance #1,’ respectively. Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance leads to a pair of Debussy favorites, arranged from piano (The Girl with Flaxen Hair and Clair de Lune) and the tour ends with Scandinavia – the Finland of Sibelius (whose 150th birthday is being celebrated this December 8th) and Norway of Edvard Grieg.

Thursday, September 17

>For New Century Chamber Orchestra’s first set of concerts, called Letters from Russia, they’ll be joined by soprano Ailyn Perez for two selections: the ‘Letter Scene’ from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, and the haunting ‘Vocalise’ by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Perez was glad for the opportunity to sing a signature aria from a role that her regular schedule hasn’t yet allowed her to take on. The concert will also include works by Arvo Part, Shostakovich, and Jennifer Higdon, this season’s featured composer.

There’s more information about the concerts, which begin in Berkeley tonight (and continue in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Rafael) at the New Century Chamber Orchestra website.

Ailyn Perez says there’s another reason she was glad to have a reason to work on the Tchaikovsky aria and improve her accent with Russian coaches – she’s going to be playing the character of a young, ambitious Russian soprano (also named Tatiana) in Jake Heggie’s upcoming opera Great Scott, which premieres in Dallas this fall. She says although she’s used to performing with either a full orchestra or a piano accompaniment, she’s enjoying the intimacy of these arrangments. “New Century Chamber Orchestra is really a wonderful group to work with. So Nadja [Salerno Sonnenberg] completely put me at ease, and even just right now, we just had rehearsal, and I’m facing the members, and so it feels like that wonderful chamber group experience, which is rare for an opera singer to have.”

Friday, September 18

Smuin Ballet opens its season, beginning in Walnut Creek tonight, with a program that has two premieres, plus the return of Ma Cong’s French Twist and the late Michael Smuin’s Bouquet. Amy Seiwert, the company’s choreographer-in-residence, premieres Broken Open – a work that she decided would involve the entire company – to the music of Julia Kent.

There’s more information about the performances at the Smuin Ballet website. After this weekend in Walnut Creek, they’ll bring the performances to Mountain View, and then San Francisco, and to Carmel in the Spring.

Seiwert says for this piece, she wanted to leave her comfort zone: “Oftentimes in my commission work, I work with fewer dancers, groups of eight, maybe ten. I’m very comfortable doing small, intimate work, very quiet work. I’m most comfortable making duets and trios. So I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to make something more massive, more of a rush to it.” There are still solos, duets and small groupings during the course of the work, but the full company is on stage together several times.

“There was quite a concept behind this piece,” she explains. “And it’s funny because the piece, I think, took a left turn and didn’t really start following the concept. It had a lot to do with seeing beauty in a scar. Seeing these things that either scar us physically, emotionally… What happens to the landscape, the environment, and how we grow from that.” But as the work evolved, she had to decide whether her original idea should guide them. “You have to decide whether you’re going to push the agenda of what your original idea was, or if you’re going to follow the piece. And in this case, I followed the piece…The day I really surrendered to that, and started following the art, instead of trying to push my pre-conceived notion onto it, I really started falling in love with it. And that was a good day.”

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…

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.

There’s more about the exhibit, which runs through mid-January at the Cantor Arts Center website.

“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.”

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.”

Thursday, September 24

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.

There’s more information about the concert at the San Francisco Symphony website.

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.

Friday, September 25

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.

There’s more information about the concert at the Cal Performances website. You’ll be able to hear it live on KDFC beginning at 7:30 tonight.

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?”

Monday, September 28

The Oakland Symphony begins its season with a slimmed down name, and a program that sings, dances, and makes a trip to Russia… Music Director Michael Morgan built the concert programming around Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and a Prokofiev Violin Concerto with the impressive young soloist Kenneth Renshaw.

There’s more about the concert at the Oakland Symphony website.

The Paramount Theatre performance will start a West Coast premiere… Mason Bates’ Devil’s Radio. “We consider Mason Bates ‘ours,’ because we played him first,” Morgan says. “And so I will often go to him and ask him for a piece for an occasion like the opening of the season… This concert, which is particularly dancy, because of both the Liebeslieder Waltzes and the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances… I thought Mason Bates was the perfect thing to open a dancy evening, because his music  is always so rhythmic and dance oriented.”  In addition to Kenneth Renshaw having a chance to shine, the orchestra’s Chorus Director will also be featured: “Lynn Morrow is going to conduct the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, about… I think she’s doing about six of them, because they’re very tiny pieces, because this is her tenth anniversary as the chorus master, and so we thought it would be nice to have her on stage, as opposed to just the results of her labor being on stage.”

Tuesday, September 29

The general manager of the Metropolitan Opera says their tenth season offering their ‘HD Live‘ series begins with a dream cast of Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Peter Gelb explains that the production, which will be simulcast into theaters around the country and the world, stars Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Dolora Zajick.

There’s more information about the series at the Met’s HD Live website. You can find out which theaters are going to be showing the opera here.

Peter GelbPeter Gelb has been an enthusiastic supporter of new techonology as a way of getting the word about opera to people who can’t come to Lincoln Center in person. But he says that’s always been the way at the Metropolitan Opera. “The Met, long before I came on board, was a pioneer in using technology. It began its historic series of radio broadcasts 85 years ago.” (And the broadcasts on KDFC will return to Saturday mornings in December). “As the technology continues to improve, the productions that we present in theaters get better and better, I think. And at the same time, we’re also experimenting with new ways of making the Met available – although not live – through different electronic platforms.” Those include a recent Android app, and partnerships with platforms like AppleTV, Roku, and Samsung.

Though he says there’s nothing quite like being in the same room with the orchestra and singers, there are benefits to the theatrical showings: “To see the performances in a movie theater in close up, you get to see details, nuances of performances that you might not capture inside the opera house when you’re at a greater distance… I’m not suggesting that it be a permanent replacement or substitute for seeing it at the Met. It’s sort of like a sporting event, you know, in the sense that It’s great to watch a Super Bowl on TV, but it’s also even greater to be there.”

Wednesday, September 30

The Green Music Center‘s season opening gala concert this Saturday night will star Lang Lang in a solo program of Tchaikovsky, Bach, and Chopin… On Sunday, he returns for a special combination master class and concert called ‘101 Pianists.’ His foundation has been putting on these events around the world – inviting 50 duo piano pairs to perform and be coached, this time on the stage of Weill Hall.

There’s more information about the concerts at the Green Music Center website.

The woman who was asked to select the pianists for the event is Robin Beloff-Wachsberg, who’s taught and judged competitions in the Bay Area for many years. “We have about 50 kids from Sonoma County itself – and the rest come from the Bay Area. It was really hard to limit the number of kids. There were more kids who wanted to do this than the hundred that we found.” The students who were chosen were those their teachers thought would best respond to the kind of coaching that Lang Lang will be providing. They’ll rehearse in the morning, and then return for the concert/masterclass in the afternoon. There’s a lead duo, who will be playing on an actual pair of acoustic pianos, the rest of the students will be on electric instruments. “You have a duo, who’s been trained by their teacher to play two duets,” Beloff-Wachsberg says, “one by Schubert and one by Brahms, the very famous Brahms Hungarian Dance #5, and the Marche Militaire #1 of Schubert. They’ve been practicing for many months with their teacher as a duo, and then they come to mix…with 49 other duos.”

You can see an example of how the “101 Pianists” program works in this video: