San Francisco Performances

The Seasons Project at SF Performances

Vbo * Notes * 
The Venice Baroque Orchestra (pictured left) and Robert McDuffie are currently touring the United States in a program entitled "The Seasons Project." Their stop last night at Herbst Theatre was presented by San Francisco Performances. The evening started with Vivaldi's famous Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons), which was played with much energy and joy, but not very cleanly. There were glaring intonation errors. As the soloist and leader, McDuffie hammed it up and certainly was brazen. The second piece, Philip Glass' Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra (known as The American Four Seasons) came off better. McDuffie's attack was strong, but when called for, he could float over the other instruments beautifully. The influence of Vivaldi was clear in the work, yet it was distinctly by Philip Glass, hypnotically repetitive and vaguely cinematic.

* Tattling * 
There was much talking during the Vivaldi, but hardly any during the Glass.

Leah Crocetto's Salon at the Rex

Crocetto * Notes *
Soprano Leah Crocetto gave a recital of her favorite songs with pianist Tamara Sanikidze for the Salons at the Rex series yesterday evening. Crocetto began with "Ain't it a pretty night?" from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. She learnt this piece at the age of 18, and it sounded very natural for her. This was followed by 3 Rachmaninoff songs, 2 from the Opus 21 Song Cycle and the Vocalise (Op. 34, No. 14). Sanikidze milked Richard Strauss' lovely "Morgen," Crocetto sounded pure and clear. Her "O mio babbino caro" was spine-tingling. The rest of the program was in English and included "Sure on this Shining Night," "From Seamus," "The Boy Next Door," "The Man that Got Away," "When Did I Fall in Love," "Fly Me to the Moon," "All the Things You Are," "The Girl in 14-G," and "You'll Never Walk Alone." There were times when her volume was a bit much for the smallness of the room. She did sound equally comfortable singing art songs, arias, or standards.

* Tattling *
The recital was sold out, we were packed in fairly tightly, and I was between Axel Feldheim and John Marcher. The audience was well-behaved, though some expressed their enthusiasm by calling out "whoo-whoo" several times in a row during the applause. The clanking of silverware was heard during "Morgen" and Crocetto joked that this was her percussion section.

Brancoveanu sings Sviridov

Brancoveanu* Notes *
Yesterday afternoon San Francisco Performances presented baritone Eugene Brancoveanu in a recital of Georgy Sviridov, Maurice Ravel, Henri Duparc, Franz Schubert, and Carl Loewe. The performance began with Sviridov's Russia cast adrift (1987), songs set to 12 episodic poems by Sergey Yesenin. Brancoveanu conveyed the range of emotions in the music and text with warmth. He communicated tenderness, despair, and triumph with great clarity. His accompanist, John Parr, played the piano fluidly, and with an understated grace. There were only a few moments where they might not have been exactly together, but the 34 minutes of Sviridov were arresting. This was followed by Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, which Brancoveanu also sang at his Salon at the Rex two years ago. He dedicated the "Chanson romanesque" to his wife, who was in attendance. The "Chanson épique" was grave and measured, and the "Chanson à boire" was humorous.

After the intermission we heard four songs from Duparc, and Phidylé was particularly beautiful. Then came three songs from Schubert and three from Loewe. Brancoveanu's diction is extraordinarily clear, imparting the sensation that one can actually understand German. In most of these songs Brancoveanu sang as more than one character, using his falsetto more than once, to mostly good effect. Of especial interest here were the two settings of Goethe's Der Erlkönig, sung one after another. The encore was Strauss' Zueignung ("Ja, du weißt es, teure Seele").

* Tattling *
San Francisco Performances was kind enough to provide me a press ticket to this event, and as a result I sat behind the Chronicle reviewer, who pointed out an error in program notes, which lists Sir Edward Elgar as being the composer of Russia Cast Adrift. The late seating just after this work was performed, and a woman in leopard print climbed over said reviewer before deciding she ought to sit with her friends in the center of Row H instead, and duly climbed over him again. It may have been her mobile phone that rang twice in the middle of Schubert's "Die Stadt."

SF Performances' 2010-2011 Season

October 8 2010: Paula West, vocalist with the George Mesterhazy Quartet
October 9 2010: Takács Quartet
October 15 2010: 31st Season Gala
October 16 2010: András Schiff, piano
October 17 2010: John Williams, guitar
November 2 2010: Robert McDuffie, violin with Venice Baroque Orchestra
November 10 2010: Measha Brueggergosman, soprano and Justus Zeyen, piano
November 11 2010: Arnaldo Cohen and Mihaela Ursuleasa, pianos
November 11-13 2010: Sankai Juku
December 1 2010: Elza van den Heever, soprano and John Parr, piano
December 4 2010: The Bad Plus
December 4-18 2010: Alexander String Quartet with Robert Greenberg
December 11 2010: Turtle Island String Quartet; Mike Marshall, mandolin; and Cyrus Chestnut, piano
January 15 2011: Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
January 15-May 14 2011: Alexander String Quartet with Robert Greenberg
January 28 2011: Anthony Dean Griffey, tenor; Warren Jones, piano; and Paul Brown, fiddle
February 2 2011: Till Fellner, piano
February 10 2011: Daniel Hope, violin and Jeffrey Kahane, piano
February 19 2011: Hilary Hahn, violin and Valentina Lisitsa, piano
February 25 2011: Regina Carter, violin with Oakland East Bay Symphony
February 27 2011: Jenny Lin, piano
March 4-5 2011: Stephen Petronio Company
March 8 2011: Pacifica Quartet with Jörg Widmann, clarinet
March 18 2011: Christopher Maltman, baritone
March 19 2011: Duo Melis
March 20 2011: Julie Albers, cello and Adam Neiman, piano
March 24 2011: Leila Josefowicz, violin and John Novacek, piano
March 30- April 3 2011: Paul Taylor Dance Company
April 3 2011: Pavel Haas Quartet
April 7 2011: The Silk Road Ensemble
April 9 2011: Dubravka Tomšič, piano
April 16 2011: Tetzlaff Quartet
April 22 2011: David Russell, guitar
April 25 2011: Robert Greenberg Lecture about Philip Glass
April 28-30 2011: Lucinda Childs' Dance
May 14-15 2011: Edgar Meyer, double bass
May 21-22 2011: Doug Varone and Dancers
May 24 2011: Kate Royal, soprano and Chris Glynn, piano

San Francisco Performances announced their next season today. Frederica von Stade and Jake Heggie will be performing as well, but when is to be announced.

Official Site | Press Release [PDF]

The Rest is Noise in Performance

The-rest-is-noise * Notes * 
San Francisco Performances presented a delightful lecture from Alex Ross this morning in San Francisco's Herbst Theatre. The performance included musical examples from pianist Ethan Iverson. We were basically given a tour of 20th century music, Ross would talk about Schoenberg or Stravinsky or Charlie Parker, and then Iverson would play their music for a few minutes. Highlights included Gershwin's first piano prelude and Ross quoting Theodor Adorno on Sibelius in an absolutely ridiculous voice. The 90 minute event covered twelve composers and concluded with the audience suggesting about a dozen keys for Iverson, who took them and improvised a piece for us.

* Tattling * 
The audience seemed quiet and attentive, though a mobile phone rang as Ross was speaking about Bartók. Certain people did have difficulty sitting still for the duration of the lecture, perhaps because it lacked an intermission.

After the performance Ross and Iverson hawked and signed wares in the lobby. Axel Feldheim and I stood awkwardly near their table, and then greeted the Treasurer of WSNC, who was first in line.

Marino Formenti plays Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus

MarinoFormenti * Tattling * 
Marino Formenti's recent performance at Los Angeles Philharmonic convinced me to get a ticket for his performance of Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus in Berkeley yesterday, although I neither like nor understand Messiaen. Unfortunately, it turned out that I had to return to Southern California on Saturday morning for personal reasons, but was able to goad someone into taking the ticket I had purchased. As it happened, I arrived back in Berkeley in plenty of time for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's holiday performance. In fact, I was so early I was able to to over to St. John's where Formenti was playing to meet up with some of my favorite bloggers at the recital. I had thought it was unlikely I could go into the hall, since there was probably no intermission.

I was surprised to be able to hear some of the music from outside of the building, and when I entered the lobby, the person selling tickets asked if she could help me. Seeing the sign that said there was no intermission, I remarked that the piece had gone on for an hour already, declined buying a ticket, and sat in the hallway to wait for my friends. From what I could tell, I was missing a great performance, Formenti's playing is so appealing. I could only hear the forte bits of the music, as I was sitting by a rather loud water heater.

I do not know how long I was there before the ticket seller came up to me and said something about it being unfair that I was listening to the music and had not paid for a ticket. This was completely discombobulating to me, and I found I really had no response. I had been listening to what was audible to me, and maybe I should have paid for half a ticket, as she suggested, for sitting in a hallway. I did say in no uncertain terms that I was not going into the hall, as I think that would have been unfair, to disrupt the performance whilst it was going on. The person was placated when I told her I was waiting for friends that were in the hall. However, perhaps she has a point, I did listen to snippets of Formenti playing Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus, and to that end, I have made a nominal donation to San Francisco Performances. I also have a strong suspicion that I will not attend a performance presented by San Francisco Performances this season.

SF Performances' 2009-2010 Season

September 30 2009: Thomas Hampson, baritone 
October 4 2009: Imani Winds 
October 10 2009: Paula West, vocalist
October 10 2009: Peter and Zoltán Katona, guitars
October 18 2009: Juilliard String Quartet
November 12-14 2009: DV8 Physical Theatre
November 13 2009: Xuefei Yang, guitar
November 16 2009: Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano
December 1 2009: Angela Hewitt, piano
December 3 2009: Anonymous 4
December 5-11 2009: Marino Formenti, piano
December 5-19 2009: Alexander String Quartet with Robert Greenberg
December 12 2009: Pepe Romero, guitar
December 15 2009: Marc-André Hamelin, piano
January 10 2010: Steven Isserlis, cello and Kirill Gerstein, piano
January 12 2010: Nathan Gunn, baritone
January 16- March 27 2010: Alexander String Quartet with Robert Greenberg
January 22 2010: Richard Goode, piano
January 23 2010: Brad Mehldau, piano
January 23-24 2010: Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company
January 24 2010: David Aaron Carpenter, viola
January 29 2010: Pavel Steidl, guitar
January 30 2010: Luciana Souza Trio
January 31- February 6 2010: Midori, violin
February 4 2010: Shantala Shivalingappa
February 17 2010: King's Singers
February 18-20 2010: Akram Khan Company/National Ballet of China
March 9 2010: Jennifer Koh, violin
March 16 2010: Thomas Adès, piano
March 20 2010: Quartet San Francisco
April 2 2010: Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano
April 3 2010: Alexander String Quartet
April 6 2010: Alisa Weilerstein, cello and Lera Auerbach, piano
April 15 2010: Kuss Quartet
April 22 2010: Yuja Wang, piano
April 24 2010: The Rest is Noise in Performance
April 25 2010: Yevgeny Sudbin, piano
April 29 2010: Manuel Barrueco, guitar
April 29- May 1 2010: Compañía Nacional de Danza
May 2 2010: Kronos Quartet
May 4 2010: Skride/Vogler Trio
May 16 2010: Eugene Brancoveanu, baritone

San Francisco Performances announced their next season last week.

Official Site | Press Release [PDF]

Magdalena Kožená Recital

Kozena-mathias-bothor-deutsche-grammophon * Notes *
Magdalena Kožená opened gave an abbreviated recital on Tuesday night in San Francisco. She was ill, and the low notes in her opening Purcell songs were a bit rough. Her accompanist, Karel Kosarek, seemed to lose his place during Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben, but Kožená sang well. Her voice is rich and hefty. After the intermission it was announced that she would not being singing Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder, as her lower register was giving her trouble. She did sing Duparc's L'invitation au Voyage, and only one or two notes were problematic.

* Tattling *
The balcony of Herbst Theatre was nearly empty, and the audience was silent nearly the entire time. This performance did demonstrate why I had to be goaded into going. Recitals can be rather unsatisfying, even when the performer is quite talented, as was the case here.

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.

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.

Trio Mediæval at Herbst Theatre

  * Notes *
Trio Mediæval had a concert last Sunday at Herbst Theatre. The singing certainly had a hypnotic quality, and the singers' voices sounded perfectly beautiful together. Some of the percussion from Birger Mistereggen was silly, though I very much liked the use of hand chimes.

* Tattling * 
The audience was well-behaved. There was some pronounced yawning, but this was only a minor distraction.

Elza van den Heever's Salon at the Rex

Elza * Notes *
The lovely
Elza van den Heever gave a recital of various songs for the Salons at the Rex series yesterday evening. Van den Heever began with five Brahms Lieder. She skipped a verse in "Die Mainacht," and was somewhat loud as she sang the word "Morgenrot." Her German diction was nearly perfect, only the vowel in "strahlt" was possibly off. She sang three Richard Strauss songs quite beautifully, "Morgen" was particularly fine. Next came three Debussy songs, two from Fêtes Galantes and "Green" from Ariettes oubliées. These she sang nicely, with good control of her volume. The last three songs on the program were in English, and Elza has a fine grasp of this language as well. She was cute singing Gershwin's "By Strauss" and was quite nearly sassy. Her voice was a bit too operatic for "I Will Follow My Secret Heart" and "I Am a Stranger Here Myself," and I was relieved she did not sing Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," though it was on the program. Elza's encore, a song in Afrikaans, was gorgeous.

* Tattling *
The recital was sold out, possibly a first for this performance series. The audience was well-behaved, and there was only one watch alarm at 7pm during "Von ewiger Liebe," right after the words "Redet so viel und so mancherlei."

Elza's floral black and white dress and black patent leather heels were both elegant and sweet.

Eugene Brancoveanu's Salon at the Rex

Brancoveanu* Notes *
Yesterday evening
Eugene Brancoveanu gave a recital of Gerald Finzi's Let us Garlands Bring, Schumann's Dichterliebe, and Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée. The room for the Salons at the Rex series is rather intimate, and Brancoveanu started off a tad too loud in the first few songs. His diction in English is nearly perfect, I only detected a few stray vowels here and there that perhaps were not quite right. His German diction was startlingly perfect, and when John Parr, the accompanist, mentioned that Eugene grew up in Germany, it became clear why. The percussiveness of "Die Rose, die Lilie" was done well, "Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen" was sung with great delicacy, and "Die alten, bösen Lieder" was absolutely beautiful. The three songs of Don Quichotte à Dulcinée were cute, and certainly Eugene was adorable, especially when he sang the "Chanson à boire," in which he included an impressive head bobble. The encore was the aria/canzonetta "La Nebbia."

* Tattling *
The turnout was good, nearly every seat was taken. Eugene videotaped the performance for his wife, who was unable to attend. There was only one watch alarm at 7pm, somewhere in the first few rows to the right.

Hotel Rex seems to have a resident pug, who is very quiet, well-behaved, and friendly. Soprano Heidi Melton was possibly as charmed by said pug as I was.