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La Monnaie's 2009-2010 Season

September 8-27 2009: Semele
October 20- November 3 2009: The Rake's Progress
December 1-22 2009: Iphigénie en Aulide 
December 1-22 2009: Iphigénie en Tauride 
January 19- February 4 2010: Elektra
March 15-20 2010: Ismène
March 16- April 3 2010: Idomeneo
April 11-13 2010: Medea
May 4-16 2010: Don Quichotte
June 11-30 2010: Macbeth

De Munt (La Monnaie) seems have a bit of an Ancient Greek theme next season, at least for seven of ten operas. One cannot help but be jealous that they will have not one but two Gluck works. The Rake's Progress is the Lepage production seen here in San Francisco last season. One can read more about De Munt's season on Summer is Coming In.

Official Site | 2009-2010 Season

Schiff plays Beethoven Piano Sonatas 27-29

Schiff * Notes * 
András Schiff performed his penultimate recital in his two-year cycle of Beethoven Piano Sonatas yesterday evening at Davies Hall. He played with a great intensity, with a beautiful legato without being overly luxuriant. By the time he got to his two encores, Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor and Mozart's Gigue in G Major, one could hardly make coherent observation, so gripping was the performance up until that point. It was clear that Schiff played Bach and Mozart rather differently than the Beethoven, and distinctly from one another as well. He seemed equally engaged with all of the works.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the Second Tier was more ill-behaved than ever, though at the very least, no cellular phones rang. Someone seemed to either have a dress made of cellophane or a boundless need for candies. There was rampant whispering, and a squealing hearing device.

The Hammerklavier was particularly moving, though all the noise was distracting. When near tears at one point, yet another wrapper was crumpled, and I burst into what I hope were silent giggles.

Before the performance an usher in GG loudly barked that there was not to be any photography. I was terribly confused as I had not observed anyone with a camera. My bewilderment must have been evident to said usher as he repeated himself slowly and loudly several times as if I did not understand English.

ERSO at Cal Performances

* Notes * 
The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra performed in Berkeley yesterday afternoon as the final concert in a tour of the United States. The rather large orchestra, conducted by Eri Klas, displayed a fine control during Pärt's Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. Likewise, the quiet parts of Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 in D major were played with sensitivity. The trombones did have a bit of an anuran sound.

* Tattling * 
The audience was well-behaved. We skipped out on Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, with Joyce Yang as the soloist, as it was a beautiful day.

The two encores were the Trepak from the Nutcracker and an Estonian piece. Klas was quite charming when he addressed the audience.

The Tallis Scholars sing Mouton, Praetorius, & Lassus

* Notes * 
The Tallis Scholars performed an incredible concert at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley an last night. Lead by Peter Phillips, the 10 singers produced a pure but almost palpable sound. Their volume was strong, though it helps that the venue has such good acoustics.

The program featured composers of the Renaissance polyphony, from Jean Mouton (c. 1459-1522) to Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629). The latter's work, Magnificat IV, was certainly a highlight of the evening, as was Lassus' Missa Bel' Amfitrit' altera. Purcell's Hear My Prayer was the encore to this fine performance.

* Tattling * 
The audience whispered, but was relatively quiet, there was one watch alarm at 9pm whilst they were singing O clap your hands from Orlando Gibbons. No one clapped at the end of the first piece, Palestrina's Surge, illuminare (part I), but there was applause for the Gloria of the Lassus.

During the intermission, one of the noisier patrons was loudly speaking about Los Baños, explaining it was "the Baths." He carefully drew out the name so it could be understood, but used an alveolar nasal rather than the appropriate palatal sound in Spanish. In all likelihood the place is actually spoken this way, but the pronunciation just never occurred to me on my drives up and down Interstate 5.

PBO's Wind and Waves

Elizabeth-blumenstock * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque gave an excellent concert last night in San Francisco. Their sound tends toward the clean and fastidious. The evening began with Francesco Maria Veracini's light, elegant Overture No. 6 in G minor followed by the jaunty Concerto a più instrumenti, Op. 5, No. 3 from Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco. Vivaldi's Concerto in D minor was played very well, the violinists, Elizabeth Blumenstock and Lisa Weiss were incredible. Less coherent was the Suite for Zephyr, involving pieces by Rameau, Marin Marais, and Jean-Féry Rebel. The works had an effusiveness, and at one point the piccolo came in and the sound was so bright that it was startling.

The second half of the concert started with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. The playing was lovely, though the trumpet sounded out of tune from the other instruments in the third movement. The part is very difficult, of course. Telemann's "Hamburger Ebb' und Fluth" was the finale, and was played beautifully.

* Tattling * 
The audience was only slightly chatty, but a person behind me in the orchestra section certainly fell asleep, I could hear loud breathing, and perhaps a few snores. The same person and his companion found the opening appeal for donations from the President of the Board of Directors to be very articulate, especially considering he did not use notes.

David Daniels and The English Concert

David-daniels * Notes * 
Countertenor David Daniels is currently on tour with the English Concert, to promote his latest recording with that ensemble. The first half of evening was devoted to Bach, starting off with Harry Bicket leading the English Concert in the Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major. They played primly, but not dispassionately. Daniels sang a potpourri of arias from Cantatas 170 and 82, Mass in B minor, and Saint Matthew Passion. In the middle of this was a break in which the ensemble played the Sinfonia from Cantata 42, the lack of unison in the woodwinds for their first entrance was distracting. Daniels has a pretty voice, with good volume, though at times his voice does have a cooing quality that is a bit columbid.

The second half of the performance featured Händel, and the English Concert played his Concerto Grosso No. 11 very beautifully. Daniels sang arias from Radamisto, Partenope, and Orlando. He seemed more engaged with these opera numbers than with the Bach. His encore, "Qual nave smarrita," from Radamisto, was lovely. One imagines he must be very good in this role.

* Tattling * 
There was a fair amount of whispering and talking during the music, but no electronic noise.

Ashkenazy conducts SFS

Yevgeny-sudbin * Notes * 
Last night Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted San Francisco Symphony in the world premiere of Steven Gerber's Music in Dark Times. The piece was commissioned by Ashkenazy and also dedicated to him.The fanfares of the first and last movements did not show off the brass to their best advantage, though the woodwinds sounded beautiful in the second movement. I was most drawn to the third movement, as it was a tarantella, and the various rhythms were of interest. The fifth movement "Elegy for Strings" was played with subtlety.

The main draw of the evening was likely Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The soloist, Yevgeny Sudbin, played in an almost ridiculously tasteful manner, with such restraint. He was able to find a percussiveness as well when necessary. There was a particular fineness in the strings, a precariousness. There were, however, two times in which the viola and the cello were a bit strident. Oddly, though the concerto did not come off, and by the end, I had the very strange physiological impression being stabbed in the forehead with a fork.

The second half of the concert brought us Belshazzar's Feast of Walton. Though the music was more akin to a film score than an oratorio, the chorus sounded lovely. Bass-baritone John Relyea gave a strong but perhaps unnuanced performance.

* Tattling * 
The composer Gerber was in attendance, and he ran from the audience to the stage in a very adorable way. One imagines he was quite excited.

The audience was perfectly terrible. A cellular phone rang four times in the Upper Orchestra during the quietest part of the Beethoven, in the second movement. Hot on the heels of this was a veritable chorus of watch alarms at 9pm.

If you happened to be distracted by some girl in the center of the fifth row who entirely lost her composure at the beginning of the Walton, I apologise.

Bishop Allen at the Rickshaw Stop

* Notes * 
The indie rock band Bishop Allen played yesterday at the Rickshaw Stop as part of their tour to promote their latest album. The music was blithe and cheery. They certainly were cute, as were the band that opened for them, Miniature Tigers. The venue at hand is quite close to both the opera and the symphony, and perhaps the atmosphere was what San Francisco Symphony had in mind when putting together the Davies After Hours event. As I stood at the rail of one of the landings, I almost felt I was at home in standing room.

* Tattling * 
The many young people in attendance were fairly noisy. One is always impressed with the consistency of appearance in any given audience, and this was no exception. I was particularly amused by the ironically hideous sweaters.

John Adams at JCCSF

John * Notes * 
John Adams was interviewed yesterday by historian Kevin Starr as part of the JCCSF's Arts & Ideas series. We heard about how Adams came of age when contemporary classical music was hostile to communicating with an audience and about how he came to California in a VW Bug without intending to stay for more than a year. Adams stayed out here, of course, teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for several years. His most famous pieces were discussed including Shaker Loops, Harmonium, Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, On the Transmigration of Souls, The Dharma at Big Sur, and Doctor Atomic.

Adams spoke of the piano as a tyrannical paradigm for composers, and interestingly he learnt clarinet rather than piano as a child.  He seems to strive for erudition, Gibbon is one of his favorite authors and he mentioned with disdain that young people do not find it cool to read Henry James or Dante. His advice to young composers was to "know everything." Likewise his comments on opera were rather amusing, that the essence of opera is surreal and that it also is a sort of specatator sport.

* Tattling * 
The "high sperm count" of Stravinsky's early works was mentioned, in opposition to his "taking the veil" in his serial period. Adams also spoke about how no one knew what to do with the Belgian-invented saxophone for a good thirty years until jazz came along. There was much teasing between Adams and Starr, and the latter was stumped about where the name for Adams' memoir came from.

In contrast, the audience was on fairly good behavior, there was no electronic noise in the form of cellular phones or watch alarms. Scattered talking was noted, but this was not terribly distracting.

Opéra National de Paris' 2009-2010 Season

September 14- October 14 2009: Mireille
September 17- October 2 2009: Wozzeck
September 18 2009- April 23 2010: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
October 3-17 2009: Die Tote Stadt
October 10-25 2009: L'elisir d'Amore
October 29- November 29 2009: La Bohème
November 7- December 1 2009: Salome
December 2-30 2009: Platée
December 3-24 2009: Andrea Chénier
January 14- February 4 2010: Werther
January 20- February 13 2010: Idomeneo
January 25- February 23 2010: La Sonnambula
February 11- March 14 2010: Don Carlo
March 4-28 2010: Das Rheingold
March 17-31 2010: Fénelon's Faust
April 24- May 15 2010: Billy Budd
May 7- June 3 2010: Les Contes D'Hoffmann
May 31- June 29 2010: Die Walküre
June 14- July 10 2010: La Donna del Lago  
June 25- July 12 2010: The Cunning Little Vixen

Official Site | 2009-2010 Season

San Francisco Piano Quartet

* Notes *
The San Francisco Piano Quartet played this afternoon as part of Noe Valley Chamber Music's 16th season. The performance began with three movements of Antonín Dvořák's Piano Quartet in E flat Major, then involved various bits and pieces of music from related composers, and finally ended with the last movement from the first piece. Interspersed thoroughout were educational segments from the pianist, Avi Downes. She basically would give a bit of history on the pieces and talk about how they were germane to Dvořák's American journey.

Harry Burleigh's In the Cold Moonlight resembled Chopin more than the spiritual for solo piano it is supposed to be. The opening movement of Goldmark's Piano Quartet in A Major was likewise lush and florid. The Three Preludes for Violin and Piano from Gershwin were exuberant and fun, more so than Sam Bass' Jazz Sonata for Cello and Piano, though the cello pizzicato in the latter piece was engaging. The Dvořák had a good deal of both playfulness and brashness. All of the playing was quite good.

* Tattling *
There was a rather loudly-barking dog nearby, but the audience itself was well-behaved save some person who unvelcroed something at least three times during the music.

During the intermission we were approached by the managing director of Noe Valley Chamber Music, who asked us how we found out about the concert. She noted our relative youthfulness, given that their audience is mostly over 50.

Davies After Hours at SFS

* Notes *
San Francisco Symphony's first Davies After Hours event was last night, after Nicola Luisotti again conducted Kodály, Bloch, and Brahms. The Second Tier Lobby was completely packed with people, and at times one could hardly move. This event seems intent on bridging classical music with a younger, hipper audience, not unlike the idea behind the Wordless Music Series. Cellist Alex Kelly played a set which included responses to both Bloch and Brahms. The latter was highly amusing, though I found the amplification distracting. Later Kelly played with the Mark Growden Sextet, a jazzy ensemble whose leader plays bicycle handlebars, accordion, and banjo. Though the music was not unenjoyable, the sensation of being crowded in by that many humans was, and we left early.

* Tattling *
There was quite a lot of chatter during the post-concert event, as one would expect. Much pushing occurred, and the Opera Tattler managed to squeeze her way to the balcony by the stage. Unfortunately, the conversations going on over there were utterly dull.

Many classical music bloggers were in attendance, including sfmike, M. C—, and Axel Feldheim. Also seen were administrators from SF Opera, both the General Director and the Director of Marketing were spotted.