posted by James Reel
"NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies" involving issues NPR covers, according to NPR's code of conduct. Well, fine. But Lisa Simeone, host of World of Opera (which we do not happen to carry), is not a journalist, she's the host of an entertainment program, and she doesn't even work for NPR--she's paid by a station that produces the series, and NPR merely distributes it. Yet NPR is now refusing to distribute the program because Simeone was helping organize a political protest. There is absolutely no justification for this, aside from the justification that the sniveling cowards in charge of NPR want to avoid attacks from right-wing extremists. Shouldn't America expect more backbone from NPR?
posted by James Reel
I spend so much of my time working in radio and print that I've passively resisted efforts to get me onto TV as well, but I ran out of excuses when the AZPM news folks asked me at the last minute to interview the Tucson Symphony's new executive director for Arizona Illustrated. I complied, taped the interview, and then moved on to other things, forgetting that it had an actual airdate. That has come and gone, but things seem to live forever on the Internet, so if you're interested, you can watch the interview online. Try to ignore the bags under my eyes; I did the interview at the conclusion of my morning radio shift.
posted by James Reel
English music professor Barry Cooper is at it again. He has pieced together a fragment of a quartet movement that Beethoven wrote but discarded while he was toiling on his Opus 18 No. 2 quartet. Cooper admits that Beethoven wrote only a single instrumental line for about half the movement, which means that Cooper has had to fill in a lot of blanks. This is underwhelming news; Cooper is the man responsible for piecing together n the 1990s a bunch of Beethoven sketches that he billed as "Beethoven's Symphony No. 10." It turned out to be one of the dullest, un-Beethovenian pastiches imaginable. Let's hope Cooper has honed his Beethoven impersonation in the interim.
posted by James Reel
Chamber Music Plus has just announced that it will cancel this season and regroup; the situation is being called a sabbatical. Here's the letter that has just been released by pianist Sanda Schuldmann, Chamber Music Plus's executive director ...
After eight great seasons of wonderful Sunday afternoons at the Berger, Harry and I have arrived at a very difficult decision. We will not present the 2011-12 season, Rhythms of LIFE at the Berger. This decision is not any easy one for us, but it is essential for our well-being, and ultimately in how best we may serve you our loyal and caring audience in future years.
Harry and I have presented forty consecutive seasons of Chamber Music PLUS, thirty-two in Connecticut, eight in Arizona, and six of these seasons we shuttled back and forth between Connecticut and Arizona doing concurrent series in both states. One must possess ‘a fire in the belly’ to live up to high standards, ours and yours, and we simply are in need of a break, a hiatus, to reconsider our futures, and to re-invigorate ourselves for that future.
Though we pre-sold more advanced subscriptions than ever before for the 2011-12 season, (thank-you for your vote of confidence), the economic realities of state, regional and foundation funding is nearing zero, and this makes it near impossible to maintain the level of excellence you have become accustomed to. We are confronted with worrying more about raising enough monies to pay for the productions, and to pay us a minimum wage, than in making the best art possible. We ask you for your understanding that we need a sabbatical year every four decades!
We ended last season on as high a note as one might imagine: André Watts, Michael York, in a world premiere from Harry. We wish to remain at that high level, and so we need a bit of breathing room to look at the options available to do so that make sense for all concerned.
For those of you who have been with us since our Arizona inception, you’ve witnessed over 30 new works and such international luminaries as Lynn Redgrave, Lou Gossett, Jr., André Watts, Jasmine Guy, Elke Sommer – the list is long and prestigious. Harry now has the opportunity to bring many of these works first witnessed at the Berger to audiences throughout the country, opportunities that come about once in a lifetime. So we ask your permission to allow us to take the coming year to restructure and reconsider new approaches and opportunities for what we can do here in Tucson and nationally.
We fully intend to keep you abreast of our adventures and to provide you with information on all future local performances. We hope you will take pride in knowing that you helped us get to where we are and will cheer us on in the future.
Your tickets will be fully refunded to you and checks will start going out within the next week. This will take some time so please bear with us.
We thank our Board of Directors who back this decision 100%, our dedicated volunteers, and above all YOU our beloved audience, whom we hope we will see in the years to come.
Chamber Music Plus
posted by James Reel
Worthy horn and recorder SACDs I reviewed for Fanfare a year or more ago ...
RHAPSODIE – FANTASIE – POÈME * Ben Jacks (hn); Barry Tuckwell, cond; O Victoria; Queensland O * MELBA MR 301117 (hybrid multichannel SACD: 71:11)
DAMASE Horn Concerto; Rhapsodie. KOECHLIN: Poème. DUKAS Villanelle. SAINT-SAËNS Morceau de concert. MARSHALL-HALL Phantasy
Ben Jacks, principal horn with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, seems poised to become the next big thing in the horn world. Or so this new disc suggests; not only does Jacks implicitly bear the seal of approval of a celebrated predecessor, Barry Tuckwell, who serves as this program’s conductor, but Jacks’s playing stands on its own: lithe, technically impeccable, and displaying the varied coloring you’d be more likely to expect from a vocalist.
Nearly half this disc is devoted to works by Jean-Michel Damase (b. 1928), a composer who may be familiar to aficionados of woodwinds and harp, but perhaps to few other listeners. If you know his sonata for flute and harp, which has been recorded several times (most notably in the 1960s by Rampal and Laskine), you’ll know what to expect from the two horn scores here, dating from 1987 and 1995: a blend of angularity and French lyricism, comfortable for Poulenc fans, and often demonstrating melodic roots in Fauré. Damase wrote the Rhapsodie in 1987 upon a suggestion from Barry Humphries, best known for his comedic alter ego Dame Edna. There’s nothing funny about this music, though; Humphries requested something “inspired by the ocean and the atmosphere of the coast” to be performed by Barrry Tuckwell. Like Debussy’s La Mer, it recounts the passing of a day at the seaside, and its great technical demands pose no apparent problems for soloist Jacks. Damase’s more abstract and traditionally structured Horn Concerto from 1995 features some of Jacks’s loveliest playing on this disc.
Charles Koechlin’s Poème, from 1927, is as substantial as either Damase work (each lasts roughly a quarter of an hour). This is Koechlin’s orchestration of his Horn Sonata, intended to be played by an orchestra’s principal hornist from his or her usual seat rather than next to the conductor. The soloist weaves through a woodwind-rich texture rather than dominating the stage, giving Jacks several opportunities to display his fine legato, with soloist and conductor maintaining careful balances throughout.
The remaining items are more modest in duration, though not necessarily in technical demands. Jacks may lack a distinctively French tone, but he has just the right Gallic aplomb in the familiar and viciously difficult Villanelle of Paul Dukas, presented here in a sparkling and colorful new orchestration by Paul Terracini. The same can be said for the other standard-rep piece here, the Morceau de concert of Saint-Saëns. There’s one last novelty to mention, a lovely but relatively unfocused Phantasy (as the Brit-oriented spell it) written in 1905 by George William Lewis Marshall-Hall, a London-born contemporary of Dukas who became a major musical figure in Australia during the first decade and a half of the 20th century.
Melba’s DSD surround sound is spacious and full, and the packaging, as usual for this Australian label, is elegant but not overdone. In every respect, this is a fine release. James Reel
DIALOGUE: EAST MEETS WEST * Michala Petri (rec); Chen Yue (xiao, dizi) * OUR RECORDINGS 6.220600 (hybrid multichannel SACD: 67:46)
YAO HU Rong (Fusion) M NIELSEN Stream RUI LI Peng Zhuang (Sparkling-Collision) SEJLUND Butterfly-Rain GANG CHEN Greeting from Afar MONRAD EastWest-project 16 SIQIN CHAOKETU Yan Gui (The Wild Goose Returns Home) ROFELT Circonflexe RUOMEI CHEN Jue (Very Rare and Fine Jade) MURASHKIN Cascades
Contemporary Chinese pieces alternate with works by young Danes on this recording teaming the European recorder family with its Chinese analogs, the xiao and dizi. All of these pieces were written, mostly by composers under 30, in 2007 especially for this project spearheaded by the two performers. Most of the Chinese pieces sound distinctly Chinese, through the composers’ choice of scales and use of note-bending and other Asian playing techniques. A couple of them quote Chinese melodies, but none of this is travelogue music. Peng Zhuang, for instance, sounds like an extract from Orff’s Schulwerk. The Danish pieces, I suppose, are also typical of their culture, yet the greatest interest here is not hearing who uses a pentatonic scale and who does not, but how the various composers cause the two wind instruments to interact. Rong, for example, has Michala Petri and Chen Yue engage in independent but parallel play, whereas Stream establishes a closer, more interdependent relationship between the two lines. The Greeting from Afar by Chen Gang (not the composer by the same name responsible for the “Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto) is a playful piece calling for the highest instruments from the dizi and recorder families, while Circonflex requires the players to switch among the full range of their instruments. Some of the pieces, like Cascades, are lovely, rippling, and fluid, while others are a bit more thorny. This is certainly not New Age meditation music, but neither is it strenuously avant-garde. Both artists play superbly, and the audio quality is notable for what it lacks—there’s no high-frequency distortion, no extraneous noise, no strange coloration, nothing but the natural sounds of the instruments recorded in the flattering acoustics of a Danish church. James Reel
posted by James Reel
Since 1971, Aug. 26 has been designated Women's Equality Day. There are so many "special" days that people tend to ignore most of them, so in case you haven't heard of it, this is the day that marks the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the United States. It's also intended to call attention to women's continuing efforts toward full equality. It's going to be a very long time before there's a 50-50 mix of music by male and female composers on KUAT-FM, mainly because of the problem of history: We draw our music programming from the past 600 years or so, and until the current generation very few women had careers as composers. Still, there are scattered talented figures from the past, and a great many women active today, and we're sampling their work through the day. We'll have miniatures and major works alike from Amy Beach, Jacquelyn Sellers, Valerie Coleman, Marion Bauer, Elinor Remick Warren, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Pamela Decker, Jennifer Higdon, Ursula Mamlok, Joan Tower, Victoria Bond, Jocelyn Swigger, Libby Larsen, Roshanne Etezady and Katherine Hoover ... along with the usual material by dead white males.
Aug. 27 is the 125th anniversary of the birth of violist and composer Rebecca Clarke, so on that day we'll play a few of her works to celebrate the occasion, alongside those of her fellow birthday celebrant, Eric Coates.
And I happened to notice that Monday, Aug. 29 is the feast day of the beheading of John the Baptist; note that his "regular" feast day is June 24. So this seemed like a perfect opportunity to ... well, not exactly celebrate, but mark the occasion with as much music as I could find about that instrument of his demise, Salome. Between about 10:20 a.m. and noon on Monday, you'll hear some of Richard Strauss's music for that anti-heroine (including a piano-roll recording of Strauss himself playing the "Dance of the Seven Veils"), plus items by Archibald Joyce, Alexander Glazunov, Paul Bowles and Henry Hadley. And, just so it doesn't all seem too disrespectful, we'll begin with Healey Willan's Missa Brevis No. 11, "Missa Sancti Johannis Baptistae."