Thursday, July 30, 2009


More from IKIF 2009, Philippe Entremont plays the Ballade #3 by Frederic Chopin, recorded & filmed by host John Clare.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Search results are in

Interesting stats from Classical Archives:
Top Most Searched Artists:
1. Herbert von Karajan
2. Marin Alsop
3. Valdmir Ashkenazy
4. Michael Tilson Thomas
5. Luciano Pavarotti

Top Most Searched Composers:
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
2. Johann Sebastian Bach
3. Ludwig van Beethoven
4. Frédéric François Chopin
5. George Frideric Handel

Top Most Popular Time Periods:
1. Baroque
2. Classical
3. Romantic
4. Medieval
5. Contemporary

Top Most Popular Genres:
1. Symphony
2. Concerto
3. Sonata
4. Chamber Music
5. Solo Vocal Music

Top Most Popular Instruments:
1. Piano
2. Violin
3. Organ
4. Flute
5. Cello

Top Most Searched Works:
1. Handel's Messiah HWV 56, Hallelujah Chorus
2. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No.14 in C#, Op.27, No.2('Moonlight')
3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K.467 ('Elvira Madigan')
4. Frédéric François Chopin - Nocturnes in E-flat, Op.9
5. Johann Sebastian Bach - Violin Concerto in A, BWV1041

Top Most Searched Operas:
1. Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro
2. Mozart's Don Giovanni
3. Verdi's La Traviata
4. Wagner's Die Walküre
5. Verdi's Aida

What are your favorites?

Not left in a cab...

From AP: A California man has pleaded not guilty to trying to sell rare violins that were stolen from a Los Angeles Philharmonic musician.
Anthony Eugene Notarstefano, who spent two years behind bars in France, entered the plea in federal court Monday.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller says the violins are worth almost $300,000 and were stolen from the home of violinist Mark Kashper in 2006.
Prosecutors say Notarstefano tried to sell the 18th and 19th century instruments for a fraction of their worth at several Paris music stores. A suspicious merchant called police and Notarstefano was arrested in 2007 and extradited earlier this month.
Notarstefano was indicted on charges of possession of stolen goods and taking stolen goods abroad.
He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

At least he didn't think about making them into a cd shelf like a previously stolen cello out in LA a few years ago.

Keyboard genius

Last week, host John Clare was in New York for a day at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival, and caught his friend Philippe Entremont on stage. Here is part of that performance, the opening movement of Schubert's final Piano Sonata, D. 960.

Tune in every Wednesday for the Piano Puzzler on Performance Today with Fred Child and Bruce Adolphe!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tristan is for kids?

From AFP...
“Children, create something new!” composer Richard Wagner famously said at the opening of the first-ever Bayreuth Festival in 1876.
While there is no new production at this year’s festival, the 98th edition, which opened on Saturday and runs until August 28, Wagner’s great-granddaughters, Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner, have come up with a brainchild to make Wagner’s music accessible to a wider and younger audience.
Entitled “Wagner for Kids”, the series is part of the new-look Bayreuth under Eva’s and Katharina’s leadership.
Just three-and-a-half hours before the curtain went up on the world’s oldest and most prestigious summer music festival on Saturday, six-to-10 year olds were treated to their own performance of Wagner’s first mature opera, The Flying Dutchman, in a version made palatable for kids.
The excitement was tangible as around 200 children, and their parents, waited for entry to the premiere on a rehearsal stage next to the Festspielhaus theatre, the opera house built to Wagner’s own designs.
Tickets for all 10 performances were sold out within hours of them going on sale: the children get in for free, while accompanying adults must pay 20 euros.
Author Alexander Busche, director Alvaro Schoeck and conductor Christoph Ulrich Meier have managed to cut The Flying Dutchman, which normally runs for two-and-a-half hours, down to 63 minutes.
And the orchestra has been reduced from about 150 musicians to 19.
An old steersman acts as a narrator, re-telling the story of the Dutch ship captain in search of redemption via a woman’s love.
The costumes of the different characters were designed by the children themselves in a competition launched in schools all over Germany in January.
The project was enthusiastically received by the young audience, and was their first-ever encounter with opera and classical music.
“I really liked it, everything about it. It was great fun,” said 12-year-old Andreas. “The sets were good and you could really follow what was going on.”
Timo, seven, said he particularly liked the sailors’ chorus, while Markus, eight, said he enjoyed the music.
Katharina Wagner, 31, said the aim was to make the series a permanent fixture on Bayreuth’s Green Hill.
The swashbuckling story of The Flying Dutchman means the opera lends itself more easily to a children-friendly version. But that could prove more difficult with Wagner’s later and more complex works such as Tristan and Isolde or Parsifal, Wagner conceded.

So what will it sound like?

The Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation has chosen three teams to lead the acoustics, theatrical and cost consulting for the renovation of Municipal Auditorium into the premiere arts venue for San Antonio. Akustiks, an acoustical consulting firm, was chosen to lead the acoustical design of the facility. Fisher Dachs Associates, Inc. will lead the theatre planning and design for the new center, and professional cost consultancy firm, Venue, will oversee cost control activity on the project.
"Sound, theatre design and cost management are critical elements of the renovation and redesign process," said Rodney J. Smith, CFE, Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation Managing Director. "The acoustical and theatrical configuration of the new facility must accommodate a variety of arts organizations, all while staying within budget."
Akustiks has been responsible for some of the most successful acoustic design projects of recent years, including the recently opened new home of the Nashville Symphony - the Schermerhorn Symphony Center; the restoration of the Eastman Theater in Rochester and the new Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Akustiks brings a multi-disciplinary approach to projects, utilizing the expertise of musicians, acousticians, architects and engineers who have worked on concert halls, drama theaters, opera houses, dance theaters, Broadway theaters, music schools, amphitheaters and museums.
Paul Scarbrough, the Akustiks principal who will direct the acoustic design of the Bexar County Performing Arts Center said, "We could not be more excited to be part of the team for the Bexar County Performing Arts Center and to have this opportunity to contribute to the rich cultural life of San Antonio."
Fisher Dachs Associates, Inc. Theatre Planning and Design (FDA) is a 45-year old firm that consults on every aspect of theatre planning and design for a wide variety of performance venues. In recent years, the firm has helped to plan and design many award winning spaces in Texas, including Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth; the Long Center, Austin, and several university projects in the state. FDA was also the theatre consultant for the renovation of Radio City Music Hall, New York City; the new Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis; and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, among hundreds of others.
FDA was founded by eight-time Tony-award-winning lighting designer Jules Fisher and is under the leadership of Joshua Dachs, who will serve as Principal in Charge of the Bexar County project for FDA, assisted by Project Manager Adam Huggard.
"We've had the pleasure of working with Rodney Smith, LMN, Akustiks, Venue, and The Projects Group on other occasions", said Joshua Dachs, FDA's principal. "Having recently worked on the renovation study for the Municipal Auditorium, Adam Huggard and I are familiar with both the goals of the study, and the talented and dedicated team that we will be working with to make this project happen. We could not be more delighted to be part of it."
Venue is a professional cost consultancy firm primarily specializing in estimating and cost control of performing and visual arts facilities, with current or past projects in 23 states and 32 cities. Venue Principals Sean Ryan and Steve Ryan have extensive experience with large and complex renovation and new building projects in Texas.
"Colleagues in the arts world say our greatest asset lies in our ability to accurately predict the construction cost from the earliest available master plan or program and then keep the project on budget throughout the design and construction phases, particularly for such a complex and wonderful project as the Bexar County Performing Arts Center," Ryan said.
"As with every decision in this process, the Foundation has looked at companies who bring world-class leadership and expertise to bear on the project," said J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. Chairman and President of the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation. "Akustics, FDA and Venue each bring a high level of expertise, great diversity and innovative ideas."
The Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that is undertaking the renovation of the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium to build a world-class performing arts center for the citizens of South Texas. It currently owns the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium and the old San Antonio Fire Headquarters building to serve as the heart for San Antonio's cultural arts organizations. Upon completion of the renovations of the Municipal Auditorium, the Foundation will continue to own and operate the Municipal Auditorium and Fire Headquarters Building as the newly transformed Performing Arts Center.
On May 10, 2008, the voters of Bexar County approved the extension of the Venue Tax that will provide $100 million in funding for the Bexar County Performing Arts Center. With this public mandate, the Foundation will seek to raise an additional $32 million in private funding to renovate the historic auditorium and adjacent fire headquarters building.
The new performing arts center will celebrate the unique character of an historic property while offering state-of-the-art acoustical interior design. With access to the San Antonio River, the Bexar County Performing Arts Center will be a gateway to cultural arts for residents and visitors alike.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Steinberg, RIP

Michael Steinberg, among the pre-eminent music critics of our time, died on Sunday, 26 July 2009 at the age of 80. Despite the onset of cancer more than three years ago, he continued to live a full and vigorous life. He was revered by professional colleagues – the musicians, conductors, fellow writers, composers, educators, and orchestra executives with whom he collaborated over the course of a six-decade career – and loved by hundreds of thousands of audience members whose ideas and feelings about music were shaped by the unerringly lucid and insightful commentary he provided in program notes and pre-concert talks. A teacher of music history and criticism, a chamber music coach, a narrator, he was also the premier writer of program notes for audiences of orchestral, choral and chamber music, his works appearing not only in symphonic program books, but also on recordings, most notably those of John Adams’ operas Nixon in China (1988) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1992).
Steinberg was born on October 4, 1928 in Breslau in the last years of Weimar Germany and spent his adolescence in England, his mother having campaigned successfully to get him to safety via the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that saved nearly 10,000 children in the months leading up to World War II. By the end of the war, Michael, his mother, and a brother 15 years his elder, Franz, had emigrated to St.Louis, Missouri. Steinberg studied at Princeton with Strunk, Babbitt, and Cone, graduating in 1949 with a degree in musicology. On a Fulbright scholarship, he spent two years in Italy, where he met his first wife Jane Bonacker (they divorced in 1977). Upon his return from Italy to the U.S., he was drafted and spent two years in the Army stationed in Germany in the 1950s. He served as head of the music history department at the Manhattan School of Music (1954-55; 1957-64), and taught at Smith College, Hunter College, Brandeis University, and the New England Conservatory. During these years, he was appointed music critic at the Boston Globe; his tenure in that position is the stuff of legend among serious writers about music.
Steinberg’s first staff position at a major orchestra was Director of Publications for the Boston Symphony (1976-79). In 1979 he joined the San Francisco Symphony as Publications Director and Artistic Adviser (1979-1989), which combined the tasks of writing program notes and designing the season’s repertoire, in close consultation with then music directors Edo de Waart, followed by Herbert Blomstedt. In 1983 he married Jorja Fleezanis, the Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony; when she was named Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra in 1989, they moved to Minneapolis. He became program annotator to the New York Philharmonic in 1995, while continuing to serve as pre-concert lecturer in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. He took the post of Artistic Adviser with the Minnesota Orchestra, while maintaining the positions of program annotator for both the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.
Even after announcing his formal retirement in 1999, Steinberg kept working. He wrote for the San Francisco Symphony. For the West Coast chamber music festival Music at Menlo, he introduced programs, coached ensembles, and led several evenings of their “Encounter Series.” He also coached students at the International Festival-Institute at Round Top, Texas. Each summer, public poetry readings were highlights of both the Menlo and Round Top festivals, where Steinberg not only gave his own memorable readings but also selected poems and lovingly coached both students and faculty in their readings. He believed poetry to be a vital component of music-making, and that performing musicians could arrive at a better understanding of musical phrasing and impulses by reading poetry aloud. In Jorja Fleezanis’ words, he believed that “rhythm, the gait, and the expression required to read poetry well are intimately linked to what is required to play music well.”
A frequent narrator, he gave the first performance of Aaron Jay Kernis’ La Quattro Stagioni dalla Cucina Futerismo (The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine) in 1991, and was often heard as the narrator in Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Survivor from Warsaw, and Ode to Napoleon, as well as Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait.
Larry Rothe, Publications Editor of the San Francisco Symphony and co-author of Steinberg’s last book, For the Love of Music (Oxford University Press, 2006) notes:
“In the last years Michael defined what it means to battle an illness. He continued to hang tough, determined not to let anything keep him from doing what he had always done, which was to put listeners in touch with the music. In his writing and in his talks, Michael knocked down walls with intelligence, wit, and a broad sense of culture. He was a great storyteller. He expected much from his readers and offered much. You get a taste of all this in his books: The Symphony, The Concerto, and Choral Masterworks, three compilations of his program notes. Another book, For the Love of Music, gathers his reflections on an array of musical subjects.
“In the way he lived, Michael mirrored music at its best. He was affirmative and honest and uncompromising, elegant and ornery. He spoke in beautifully paced full sentences and paragraphs. He wrote with the eloquence and generosity and fierceness he believed the music demanded. He knew that what happens between music and listener is a kind of love, and that music, as he said, ‘like any worthwhile partner in love, is demanding, sometimes exasperatingly, exhaustingly demanding… [but] that its capacity to give is as near to infinite as anything in this world, and that what it offers us is always and inescapably in exact proportion to what we ourselves give.’
“Writers have many reasons to write, but all writers share one goal: to remind readers what it means to be human. Not every writer gets there. Michael did.”
Michael Steinberg is survived by his wife, Jorja Fleezanis; his sons Sebastian and Adam, both from his first marriage; his granddaughters Ayla and Rae; his grandson Julian; his first wife Jane Steinberg; his nephew Tom Steinberg; and his nephew Andy (and Val) Steinberg. Concerts to celebrate Michael Steinberg’s life will be presented in San Francisco and Minneapolis at times to be announced.
The family will be receiving friends at home in Minneapolis on Tuesday, 28 July 2009 from 4pm-8pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Michael Steinberg & Jorja Fleezanis Fund to Spur Curiosity and Growth through the Performing Arts and the Written Word / attn. Shelli Chase / CHASE FINANCIAL / 7900 Xerxes Avenue South / Suite 910 / Minneapolis, MN 55431.

Friday, July 24, 2009

American Music?

What is American music? In the classical world most of it was watered down European "isms" Impressionism, Neo-Romanticism and more. Charles Ives was a Connecticut Yankee that studied music in this country and took his dissonances, "straight up, like a man". On the Piano this Sunday Baseball, Hawthorne and Emerson. You don't get much more American than that, on the Piano hear it at 5pm on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Composer Idol? is bringing the concept of the composer-in-residence to a new global level with the launch of its inaugural Digital Composer-in-Residence competition. Composers from around the world are invited to submit their works online at the Dilettante Music site, and compete for votes from a worldwide audience of fans.
A likewise international panel of judges − including just-announced additions Jennifer Higdon and Jonathan Nott − represent six cities in the U.S., UK, and Germany and will select three finalists. Their works will be posted on the Dilettante site where fans will select the winner, putting decision-making in the hands of the community. Composers can submit their work until September 1st, 2009.
The judges, whose backgrounds range from conductor, music director, educator as well as fellow composers, will be selecting the finalists based on quality, originality, and creativity. "What we are really looking for is a composer who can embody the spirit of the Digital Age," explained Higdon, whose recent addition now makes the judging panel complete. "Ideally, the finalists will bring a contemporary spirit to their compositions while creating works that resonate with audiences across cultures, races, and even geographic location."
The competition extends the Dilettante platform which already allows a vibrant community of classical music lovers to discuss and discover music. It culminates November 5 with the announcement of the winner at London's Wilton's Music Hall, the oldest surviving music hall in the world, where all three finalists will program the concert with their own contest entries and with other influential musical works. To engage the Dilettante community further, the event will be webcast on the Dilettante site, and on the Dilettante YouTube channel.
The year-long residency, which launches at the concert, will also be promoted on the site with a 'Composer's Corner' blog on the homepage, and a podcast series. The winning composer-in-residence will be able to further interact with Dilettante members by leading online masterclasses and participating in forum discussions, giving the site's members unprecedented access to a composer-in-residence. The year concludes with a live performance of the winning composer's newly-commissioned work, at a date and venue to be announced.
Deadline to submit to the competition is September 1. Entries should not exceed eight minutes in length and must be a chamber work for a maximum of eight instruments. Detailed guidance on competition rules is available at

Confirmed Judges
Andrew Burke: former head of LSO Discovery, the London Symphony Orchestra's community and education programme, and current Chief Executive of London Sinfonietta. Andrew has previously worked in education roles at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and at Blackheath Concert Halls in South East London.
Michael Christie: the music director of the Phoenix Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the Colorado Music Festival, Michael Christie first came to international attention in 1995 when he was awarded a special prize at the First International Sibelius Conductors' Competition in Helsinki. He was then invited to become an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and subsequently worked with Daniel Barenboim in Chicago and Berlin. He has embarked on a range of interdisciplinary collaborations with visual artists, dance companies, and theatre groups, along with contemporary composers such as Ligeti, Golijov and Tan Dun.
Jennifer Higdon: One of America's most frequently performed composers, Higdon's recent commissions include works for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, and the Tokyo and Ying quartets. In 2005, the Telarc release Higdon: Concerto for Orchestra / City Scape earned a Grammy® award. A winner of both Pew and Guggenheim fellowships, Higdon holds the Milton L Rock Chair in Compositional Studies at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Anna Meredith: a British composer of acoustic and electronic music, Anna Meredith was the Composer in Residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 2004-2007. Her new work, which was commissioned by the BBC, will premiere at the BBC Proms on August 9th, 2009.
Nico Muhly: a rising star in contemporary composition, the Juilliard graduate's work was featured in the Oscar-winning film The Reader. Muhly's compositions have been performed by the American Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and many others. In 2006, his work It Remains to be Seen was commissioned by Boston University's Tanglewood Institute Orchestra to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Jonathan Nott: Principal Conductor of the Bamberger Symphoniker since 2000, Nott began developing his career in Germany and went on to guest conduct many renowned orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic with whom he recorded the complete orchestra works of Gyorgi Ligeti for Teldec. The British-born conductor was also music director of the Ensemble InterContemporain (EIC) 2000-03, and remains its principal guest conductor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feeling better

Mexican star tenor Rolando Villazon, who cancelled all his 2009 engagements after a cyst wasfound on his vocal cords, said he is already training his voice again after successful surgery.
In a note on his website, the 37-year-old singer said: "I am very happy to tell you that my surgery went very well, and that everything looks even better than we could have hoped. I have begun the re-training process, and am in very good spirits."
Villazon, who already had to take an extended break from the concert platform and opera stage in 2007 due to vocal problems, continued: "I can't wait to sing for you again."
But he appeared cautious about when that actually might be.
"It is good to have to walk a long path. One learns not to take any step for granted, or regard the sight of a flower as unimportant.
"There is no applause without a pair of hands, there is no song without two vocal cords, there is no performance without an audience... Have a great summer!"
Villazon, who shot to super-stardom alongside Russian soprano Anna Netrebko in Verdi's "La Traviata" in Salzburg in 2005, announced in April that he was cancelling all his performances this year.
Next year, he is scheduled to sing the title role in Mozart's "Idomeneo" in Paris, team up with Netrebko and Latvian mezzo Elina Garanca for Bizet's "Carmen" at the Vienna State Opera and sing the role of Des Grieux in Massenet's "Manon" in a new production in London.
Villazon is also due to star in the world premiere of a new work by Mexican composer Daniel Catan in Los Angeles in September, alongside Placido Domingo.
But it is unclear as yet whether he will be fit enough to appear in any of these performances.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Remembering Walter Cronkite - posted by James Baker

Like so many, I came of age watching newscasts of Walter Cronkite. I still recall rising early in the morning to watch Mr. Cronkite give his live coverage of the more often aborted than launched space flights of the early Mercury, then Gemini and Apollo manned missions. Like the rest of America, I trusted Walter Cronkite.

My fondest personal memory of Walter Cronkite was based here in San Antonio. I was in my first year as a member of the San Antonio Symphony. This turned out to be the last year for the Music Director Victor Alessandro and perhaps the beginning of the end of the parade of top tier soloists through the Alamo City. But the 1975-76 season of the SA Symphony saw violinist Henryk Szeryng, cellist Leonard Rose and Los Romeros on stage at what was then known as the Theater for the Performing Arts. The likes of Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Grace Bumbry and Carol Neblett sang regularly with the orchestra's fully staged opera. Yet with all the illuminati to whom the orchestra was accustomed, we were genuinely excited by the announcement of a special concert which would feature Walter Cronkite and Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait."

I don't recall the particulars of this Walter Cronkite special event, but surely it had not only the orchestra, but also the community, anticipating the wise Mr. Cronkite's recitation of Lincoln's words. The afternoon of the concert was stormy, with enough wild weather between Dallas and San Antonio that flights were being cancelled. Alessandro chain-smoked nervously as word came that first one and then another flight was cancelled. But the rehearsal went on, sans the words of Lincoln, for in true show business spirit it was believed the show must go on. After yet another flight was scrubbed a hurried meeting of Alessandro and the orchestra's management was held. The piccolo player, a licensed pilot, was called from the ranks of the orchestra. Would it be possible, she was asked, to fly to Dallas and retrieve Mr. Cronkite? Everyone was grasping at straws, desperate to get the valued soloist to San Antonio safe and sound; and then the phone rang. It was Cronkite's management. He was in the air and would make it for the concert, but not the rehearsal.

The commentators today are speaking of Walter Cronkite as the most trusted man in America. On that evening in San Antonio he was the most trusted soloist. The orchestra rose out of respect for Mr. Cronkite as he and Alessandro entered from the wings. The audience applauded respectfully and the words of Lincoln, "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history," resonated from the voice of Walter Cronkite. Yes, Walter Cronkite proved he could be trusted that evening. I am sure the audience never knew the circumstances of this spontaneous, unrehearsed performance, but they had no reason to doubt that what they heard that evening came from the hearts of a trio of great Americans: Lincoln, Copland and Walter Cronkite.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Life with fewer rules...

Like so many good things in life music has rules, lots of them. And years ago one of the few ways a composer could let his hair down and shoot from the hip was to call a piece a Fantasie, Phantasy, Fantasy. On the piano this Sunday you can hear a quick tour of composers and performers stretching their limits.

The Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on Texas Public Radio.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cactus Pear Cactet?

The Cactus Pear Music Festival goes through this Sunday July 19th. There's more here.

Host John Clare recently spent some time hearing a rehearsal with the Young Artist Program (YAP) and director Craig Sorgi.

They are working on Schubert's Trout Quintet, the Vaughan Williams' Quintet, Dohnanyi Serenade, Dragonetti Concerto and other selections.

You can watch part of the rehearsal yourself, including the low strings singing some of the Trout!

(best seen in full screen as it is a widescreen video)

MJ on the violin?

Thought this was interesting, he'll be touring more and more in the US...from CNN:

Not every classically trained musician has the gumption to interpret Michael Jackson on the violin. But German-born virtuoso David Garrett re-imagines "Smooth Criminal" with such fervor that you'd think Jackson had intended the song to be played by the instrument all along.

David Garrett uses his 300-year-old Stradivarius to play Mozart -- and Michael Jackson.
"I always loved his performances because as a lot of classical musicians are perfectionists, he was," said Garrett of the late singer. "He was really one of those people who was really old school, always looking for better performances. [He was] definitely a big influence [on me]."

Recorded before Jackson's death, Garrett's "Smooth Criminal" cover appears on his self-titled debut album, which has enjoyed three weeks atop the classical crossover charts since its release last month on Decca Records.

As comfortable playing Bach's "Air on the G String" as he is Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" (both of which appear on the album), Garrett makes no bones about the fact he's trying to attract a younger audience to classical music by injecting shots of rock and pop.

Already a celebrated artist in Europe and Asia, the 28-year-old worked his way into the spotlight in the United States with help from his PBS special "Live in Berlin."

And his chiseled jawline and playful blond ponytail seem to help sway the female contingent. After spotting him recently on NBC's "Today Show," actress Kirstie Alley declared on Twitter that Garrett was her new crush.

But she'd better get moving if she wants to keep up with him. Garrett, who studied with renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman at New York's Juilliard School, recently set a record as the world's fastest violinist, a feat to be documented in 2010's Guinness Book of World Records. He played "Flight of the Bumblebee" in a dizzying 66 seconds.
Put another way, that's 13 notes per second. Really.

David Garrett recently dropped by CNN and shared his (humble) theory of why he often gets called the "David Beckham of classical music" and why he thinks the genre has failed to enthuse young music listeners in the past.

CNN: So who's cooler: Mozart or Metallica?

David Garrett: Oh they're both in my world very, very cool. And they both have a huge influence on my performance and what I play on stage.

CNN: When you mix pop and rock with classical music as you do, do you get the cold shoulder from classical purists?

Garrett: About 70 percent of my concertizing is core classical. So most of them know that I've been pretty much a very conservative classical artist all my life. ... I just use these semi-classical works in order to get younger people interested in what I do when I play the Beethoven, the Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, which is a big piece of my heart.

Read more of the interview here on CNN.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

That's smART

From "kammerblogger" Dr. Dick Strawser:
One of the statements that was made at yesterday's "Rally for the Arts in Pennsylvania" was that Art is the Heart of Pennsylvania (or of any community, by extension) though one could argue it is also (if not more importantly) the soul.

Signs reading "You Can't Spell SMART without ART" (or for that matter,
HEART) focused on the importance of young people's exposure to the arts, whether it's active (as students taking lessons to become performers whether they become professional artists or not) or passive (as an audience to experience a response to that art).

Follow this link to read more and to see youth in musical action, as well as a brilliant discussion on TED.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Piano stop

It's far too hot for this in San Antonio in the summer, but what a great idea this winter or spring!
The piano was standing innocently near the Millennium Bridge, minding its own business except for a cheeky come-on — “Play Me, I’m Yours” — printed on its side. For a 24-year-old Australian tourist named Lauren Bradley, it was as alluring as a sign saying “Free Chocolate.”
“I live away from home and don’t have my own piano, so any chance I get to tinker, I take it,” Ms. Bradley said, spotting the piano after crossing the bridge. Without even sitting down, she pounded out the beginning of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” as passers-by recorded her brief performance on their cellphones.
There's more of the story here at the NY Times...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New fiddler in town

Renowned violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will join the faculty of the Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin in fall 2009.
"The University of Texas at Austin is proud to offer a home for the top creative minds of the world," said Provost Steven Leslie. "We strive to create a culture of excellence that generates intellectual excitement, transforms lives and develops leaders. A world-class talent, Anne Akiko Meyers sets the standard for artistic leadership and I am proud to welcome her to our faculty."
Audiences in Austin know Meyers from her recent solo appearance at the Butler School of Music's Starling Distinguished Violin Series and from her multiple performances with the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
"Anne Akiko Meyers is a celebrated concert violinist of the very highest order," said Doug Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts. "She performs with technical virtuosity that never overwhelms her musicality. She performs with an unmistakably lush tone that she uses to explore an adventuresome repertoire. I'm looking forward to her extraordinary standard of professionalism and artistry coming to The University of Texas at Austin."
Meyers' portfolio includes multiple premieres of works by composers such as David Baker, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon, Wynton Marsalis, Olivier Messiaen and Somei Satoh among others. She has recorded more than 20 albums, brings a commitment to teaching and new music, and remains a participant in community outreach programs around the world.
"I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with the incredibly talented faculty and build on the inspiration the Butlers have afforded The University of Texas at Austin," said Meyers. "I believe the students and quality of music making will be the talk of the world. I look forward to passing on the traditions that I learned from my mentors and incredible teachers throughout my life."
In addition to teaching master classes globally, she has been a panelist at the Juilliard-hosted Starling-Delay Symposium and has adjudicated numerous competitions. She was recently the first violinist to be named Regent's Lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Ms. Meyers has achieved much in her 20 years of concertizing around the world," said B. Glenn Chandler, director of the Butler School of Music. "I am very pleased that she has decided to make our school the place where she will now focus her attention on passing those performance skills on to the next generation of young violinists."
In her concert career, Meyers has been a regular guest at some of the most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center and Suntory Hall. She has also performed with some of the world's most recognized orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, l'Orchestre de Paris, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, Tokyo's NHK Symphony and the Vienna Symphony.

Be sure to hear our interview with Anne from Classical Spotlight in March 2009: mp3 file.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Casted Diva

An update from Joyce DiDonato on her blog and facebook page...check out her blog entries, some really funny items from Bette Midler and "Ankles Away"?!
[pictured are Joyce in her new pink cast and wheelchair with her husband Leo.]

Lining up

This afternoon, it's once-in-a-lifetime alignment of numbers in date and time: 12:34:56 on 07/08/09. Cool huh?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The show must go on!

"All star cast member now is wearing a cast"...Joyce DiDonato fell and broke her right leg early in act one of The Barber of Seville on Saturday, July 4th, the opening night at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She returned to the stage to finish the evening’s performance, and blogged into the night about her adventure and its aftermath. The Kansas City trouper said “the show must go on”, and she plans to be back on stage in the sparkling production tonight (Tuesday, July 7), as well as in subsequent performances on July 10, 13, 15, and 18.
After DiDonato had finished delivering her showpiece aria “Una voce poco fà”, she tripped and fell as she ran off stage. Her manager, Simon Goldstone, watching in the audience, knew immediately that there was a problem when he saw her use the signal that theater folk use to ask for some ice! “For act two, she came in with a cane. Some people in the audience clearly thought it was part of the show,” he says. But that was just the beginning. DiDonato was determined to finish the show, and after the final curtain she was rushed to the nearest ER. The opera is nearly three hours long, and she spent about four hours in the ER of University College Hospital before being released. She was assured that while this kind of break is painful, it heals quickly (the broken bone is the fibula, the outer bone of the lower leg); the orthopedic specialist who saw her the next day said she should be able to perform in a day or two. Accordingly, she was fitted with a new fiberglass cast in shocking pink – to match her costume. It’s rumored that the Royal Opera House is planning a wheelchair entrance for tonight’s performance.
The Independent’s Edward Seckerson, whose review was one of the first to appear in London’s papers, reported at a time when the extent of DiDonato’s injury had not yet been determined:
“Joyce DiDonato’s dazzling Rosina was hanging on for dear life at that point having stumbled and sprained her ankle in the second scene. She battled on, of course, singing with delicious innuendo and fabulous aplomb, and the crutch she used came in useful when she trashed the set in the storm scene. But then no one was ever buying that ‘I am a well behaved girl’ line. DiDonato has the attitude; she owns this role.”
DiDonato recently began a new exclusive recording relationship with Virgin Classics. Her debut album, an all-Handel collection called Furore, has been a Billboard bestseller since its release in January 2009. Her next album, slotted for release in the fall – when she returns to New York City to star once again in “Barber” at the Metropolitan Opera – is, appropriately, an all-Rossini album.
Take a look and listen here to an interview about Furore with host John Clare. [Classical Spotlight mp3 from January 15, 2009]

Summer concert

Austin Symphony Concertmaster Jessica Mathaes presents "The Violin
According to PKW." The performance will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday July 12 at the Hyde Park United Methodist Church.
The concert will feature works for and including the violin all written by
P. Kellach Waddle. There will be also two works by special guest
violist/composer Lawrence Wheeler. Wheeler will perform these works right before performing in the premiere of Waddle's new trio for Violin, Viola and Piano entitled " The Attack and Reign of The Broken Stained Glass Angels" with Mathaes and pianist Nikki Birdsong.

Two Lyric Pieces for Solo Violin:
The Mist in the September Wine: Aria-Bagatelle for Solo Violin (2008)
On Passing Texas Churches At Mystic Sunset: Hymn for Solo Violin (2005) WORLD PREMIERE Bottled Dreams in Liquid Oak: Sonata-Ballade in One Movement for Bass and Violin (1994)
Staring At the Unremembering Moonlight: Elegy for Violin and Piano (2000) WORLD PREMIERE
Two works for Viola Unaccompanied performed and composed by Lawrence Wheeler --
Nine caprices for Solo Viola, Op. 1 (1970)
Caprice #8, "Elegy"
Caprice #9, "Passacaglia on a Theme by Brahms"
The Attack and Reign of the Broken Stained Glass Angels: Trio Gloratio for Violin, Viola and Piano (2009) WORLD PREMIERE
The Flowers of Darkness: Sonata in forma di 4 Legendes for Solo Violin (2007-2009) WORLD PREMIERE OF FIRST THREE MOVEMENTS

Monday, July 6, 2009

Listening to your brain

From the New Scientist:
What does the human brain sound like? Now you can find out thanks to a technique for turning its flickering activity into music. Listening to scans may also give new insights into the differences and similarities between normal and dysfunctional brains.

Brain scans created using functional MRI consist of a series of images in which different areas light up with varying intensity at different times. These can be used to determine which parts of the brain are active during a particular task.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Classical Spotlight: American Music Special

Join us this afternoon for world premieres and new music! First up is a local youth, Nicco Athens (left) and his Five Tableaux. He'll start his final year at Juilliard this fall, and we talk with him about music and growing up in San Antonio.

Next, Joseph C. Phillips, Jr (right) is celebrating the release of Vipassana on Innova Records. There's lots to appreciate on this cd, with stellar performances of his group Numinous. We'll sample Into all the Valleys Evening Journeys and learn more about this powerful and engaging music.

Finally, Philippe Entremont (center, with Danielpour left and host John Clare right)turned 75 last month, and Richard Danielpour wrote a tribute based on five cities in the conductor/pianist's life: New York City, Tokyo, New Orleans, Paris and Vienna. The work is called Souvenirs.

(Best to watch the video above in full screen since it's a widescreen shot!)
Classical Spotlight: July 4th edition honors the 233rd birthday of the US and new music! 2pm on KPAC & KTXI.

Round Top on Texas Matters

You can hear this report on Texas Matters on TPR, and see it here:

An indepth, high definition look at the International Festival-Institute at Round Top with founder James Dick, conductor JoAnn Falletta and reporter John Clare.

Classical Jackson

News from the UK about Michael Jackson:
Besides his epic run of concerts and an on-again off-again pop comeback record, Michael Jackson was allegedly working on something else at the time of his death – an album of classical music.

Composer David Michael Frank claims he was approached about the project about two months ago. He and Jackson had met in 1989, working on a TV tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. Two decades later, the star invited Frank to his home in Los Angeles's Holmby Hills. They discussed classical music – Frank says he was "impressed" by Jackson's knowledge – and then the singer showed him "two demos of two pieces he'd written". Neither composition was complete.

"For one of them, he had a whole section of it done in his head," Frank told Billboard yesterday. "He had not recorded it. He hummed it to me as I sat at the keyboard in his pool house and we figured out the chords – I guess this recording I made is the only copy that exists of this music."

Jackson asked Frank to work on orchestral arrangements of the pieces.

At the time of their meeting, Jackson appeared in good health. "He seemed totally healthy, not frail, and gave me a firm handshake when we met," Frank said. "[He] had a good voice and was in good spirits. He was very skinny, but from what I knew, he was always thin. He was also taller than I pictured, but he might have been wearing some platform shoes. And he was impeccably dressed."

The composer did not see Jackson again, though he received a call a few weeks ago to see how the arrangements were progressing. "He mentioned more instrumental music of his he wanted to record, including one jazz piece," Frank said. "I hope one day his family will decide to record this music as a tribute and show the world the depth of his artistry."

David Michael Frank is primarily a film and TV composer, working on television series such as The Mole, Fortune Hunter and Above the Law.
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And you might enjoy this video of an organist's tribute to the King of Pop on the King of Instruments:

Who needs Fireworks?

With South Texas' dry conditions fireworks are dangerous but musical fireworks can stir the blood. This Fourth of July weekend is for celebrating America's independence and what better way than hearing U.S. composers mark important events and a spirit of freedom with their music?

On the Piano, Charles Ives' give us a March in Two Keys, George Washington "wings it" to heaven courtesy of Virgil Thomson and Elie Siegmeister celebrates American authors on The Piano, this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

YOSA Strings

Gene Dowdy will lead the top orchestra at the YOSA String Camp starting this next Monday. Gene talked with host John Clare about the camp and what to expect. Take a listen to their conversation:
MP3 file

Find out more here. And listen to Steven Payne talk about the camp as well here.

A Laurel and Hearty Welcome

Great to read a new classical blog here in San Antonio, by Jack Fishman!