Saturday, December 31, 2011

Z end!

Amazingly we finished our 23rd concert last night! 23 concerts in 24 months. It was great fun musically, and we awarded prizes to the people with the most letter cards. 6 of us will go to Chez Panisse for a meal, 5 people got wonderful (altho maybe tasteless) tote bags made from the sets of the "Dragon of Wantley" production. (L concert). Some got wine from A-Z winery and those who had come to "Z" for their first alphabet experience got Zinnia seeds......Hey, prizes! Then Gwyneth had made alphabet soup, alphabet cookies, and zwetchendatschi, for the whole audience!
Peggy Lucke compiled a list that included these stats:

Total number of concerts...23
Number of performers involved...66
Composers whose music was played...113
Blog Posts...115
Number of artists designing cards...20
Number of instruments played...18
Number of rehearsals!...137
Operas performed...1

And so it was...a lot of fun and a wonderful feeling of camaraderie amongst the performers and audience members. Many, many thanks to all who participated in every way! It was a great adventure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Z...little bits about the composers......

Alexander Zemlinsky was born in Vienna in 1871 and died in New York in 1942, having had to flee his native land. By 1893 he had written some chamber pieces which Brahms liked so much he wanted his publisher to publish them. He later wrote a few operas which have not stayed in the usual repertoire, though they are occasionally revived, and then forgotten again. He became friends with Schoenberg and taught him counterpoint. And though they were close friends, in fact Schoenberg married Zemlinsky's sister, Zemlinsky stayed with a tonal style of writing while Schoenberg moved on to the new 12 tone style.

Manuel de Zumaya (1678-1756) also wrote operas which are no longer performed. He was a priest and composer in Mexico, and in fact wrote the first full opera to be performed in North America: La Partenope. ( a topic Handel handled perhaps more successfully) This concert includes his interesting cantata "Si ya a aquella nave", with Lynda Higson, mezzo-soprano.

Juan Garcia de Zespedes (1619-1678) is another Mexican composer. (but he wrote no operas) He was also a singer and viol player and teacher. His "Convidando esta la noche" is a lively, fun piece that we will end the program with....with possibly some new lyrics!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Francesco Zappa! ( a great-great-great-great-grandfather?) was born in Milan. Sometime.
Grove Dictionary of Music just says "(b. Milan; fl 1763-88)" Isn't that lovely, to say when someone flourished? And that is known because of his dedication of the trio sonatas, one of which we will play, to the Duke of York. After teaching the Duke of York in Italy he moved to The Hague and continued teaching. His output is small but charming. Interesting that there are a few measures in the Sonata you will hear that are almost identical to bits in the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto, which was written in 1761.
Zappa lives.....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zipping up the series with zeal....

Zounds!! It can't be 2 years already! But December 30 will be our 23rd concert of alphabet madness! And we have a cast of thousands (give or take...) to celebrate with. Singers, string players, harpsichord, piano, clarinet and a comedienne!! And after the concert we move to another room at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts for a little reception/party and the awarding of prizes. And some zwetschendatschi (yum!) and other alphabetical treats. Bring your letter cards, there are prizes for all sorts of combinations, etc.....
The zillions of composers include Zumaya, Zemlinsky, Zwilich, Zéspedes, Zoilo, Zannetti, Zielenski and our favorite....F. Zappa.
The cast of thousands include: Cynthia Albers, David Bowes, Maria Caswell, Phebe Craig, Gwyneth Davis, Nancy Hayashibara, Lynda Higson, Larry London, Elly Lichenstein, Judiyaba, Karen van Sant, Marilyn Thompson, and you, our wonderful audience!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The concert in the Nursery

It was a very varied program at Grow Gardens Nursery last Sunday night. We hope the plants recovered from the Xenakis and thrived with the 15th Century choral music (that we stole and used for strings). Good to have shovels and rakes handy in case we dropped notes.....Mr. London is taking it all very seriously in this photo.
And now....on to "Z" last concert!
December 30 in Sebastopol, where we started!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Xenakis: Composer and Architect

Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)
Xenakis was raised in a music loving family and studied both music and architecture in school. Forced to leave Greece after WWII (where he had been a resistance fighter) he landed in Paris and studied with Le Corbusier. This picture is the Phillips Pavilion at the 1958 Worlds Fair in Brussels, which he designed. Looking at it might help in understanding the jaggedness of his music.
In Paris he also wanted to continue his musical studies. He was rejected by Boulanger, and Honegger, who said that the fact that there were parallel fifths and octaves in his compositions meant that they were not music. It was Olivier Messiaen who did finally accept him as a student. Messiaen introduced him to serialism and also encouraged him to use his mathematical and architectural skills in composition. That is the path he followed. He also went on to be part of the budding computer music world in the 1960's and 70's. His book, "Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition" was written in 1971 while teaching at Indiana University.
"Charisma", the clarinet and cello duet on this program is an edgy piece. In just 4 minutes he builds a sparse, varied, and yet unified structure.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We're back!

In case anyone had trouble getting into this blog, it actually was removed for a few days by Google. It somehow got trapped in a spam filter. After reviewing it I guess they decided that we really are not very scandalous!

Monday, October 31, 2011

"XY" Mysteries

Where is this concert?
One of the original aims of this series was to have concerts in as many different venues as possible. We have repeated a few wonderful ones. But now we get to have one in a very unlikely place...our local nursery! We have been buying plants there for years! (And we have to keep buying them because we are lousy gardeners and keep letting them die) Luckily we know the new owners of what was Bassignani Nursery. Carol and Clark Mitchell recently took over the business, and gave it a name that is easier to say: Grow Gardens. (we keep trying!)
The address is 1841 Gravenstein Highway, just south of downtown Sebastopol. We are rounding up chairs, but if you have a favorite folding chair, bring it along!

And what on earth are you going to play?
As to what we are playing....Eugene Ysaye (1858-1931) played and wrote amazing virtuoso violin music. Rachelle will show what that's about! William Young (died 1662) wrote much viol music. Gwyneth and Yaba can do that. Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) In Groves Dictionary of music it says; "His compositions arise from more abstract structures, often mathematical models." Larry and Yaba explore this curious world. Yradier will sound familiar and Yokoyama is very approachable, especially with Larry's interpretation. CodeX...Ahhhhh.....Maria, David, Gwyneth and Yaba are reveling in many codices and picking the best CodeX for the concert.......
A very varied concert. X-treme? No, interesting!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wrapping up "W"!

We wrangled space from the Pirate Exhibit at Petaluma Museum for this....One trio is acknowledging composer Brian Wilson, the other is playing "Stopping by Woods" by Janis Wilson.
We received a lovely email from audience member Gary Shepard: "I thought tonight's concert had a special feeling. The amazing acoustics, the intimacy, the lush, full sound, and a sense of passion and commitment on the part of all performers all combined to create an exciting experience....A true troupe of artists at their best."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the Wonderful World of "W"

We will wallow in the wildly changing 20th century at this concert. Music was finding many different routes through these strange times. And as the setting for this concert is a pirate show at Petaluma Museum, we will use the motto of taking anything from anyone....musically, of course. From the first half of the century we have the English classical music of William Walton (2 movements from the Piano Quartet) songs of Italian Wolf-Ferrari, the very sparse (as in short....very short!) modernism of Anton Webern and the cabaret style songs of Kurt Weill. All written in the same time period and yet so totally different in mood.
Then to represent the second half of the century, we have music of 2 living composers on the program! We have a piano trio by SSU composer Brian Wilson and a song (Stopping by Woods) by local though unrelated composer Janis Wilson for soprano, clarinet and cello.

So! Join us for a whacky wild ride though the "W"'s!!
Violin, Terrie Baune; Viola, Maria Caswell; Cellos, Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis; Clarinet, Larry London; Piano, Marilyn Thompson and for the Kurt Weill, Rick Riccardi; and soprano/narrator, Eileen Morris.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Victorious "V"

Last week we had a stunning turnout for the "V" concert! It was a gorgeous day, the O'Brien garden was overwhelmingly beautiful and the 8 cellists and soprano had a ball! There were even contributions from the dogs, who chased through at one point, and the blue jays, who apparently thought there was a very exuberant part written for them in the Villa-Lobos.
The concert was a benefit for Cinnabar Theater and raised over $4,000! This goes to the production of Don Giovanni there in the spring. All in all, it was a great day.

Friday, September 9, 2011 old favorite

One of the best known baroque composers is the Venetian, Antonio Vivaldi. The Four Seasons violin concerto is maybe the most familiar piece. But he was prolific not only in secular instrumental music, but sacred music and operas as well. As with most musicians throughout history, making a living was not always easy. He trained first as a priest, but gave that up rather quickly. When he was 23 he was appointed "maestro di violino" at Pio Ospedale della Pieta, an institution which cared for orphaned girls. It was a better job than it sounds; the concerts there were major social events in the city. And soon he was composing for the girls he trained to play. His employment there continued sporadically for decades. They would get annoyed with all his travel, fire him, commission pieces, hire him back, etc... He traveled more as he composed more operas and wanted to be in on the production of them. Strangely, his operas have not remained popular. Maybe A-Zed needs to look into doing one!

A very enjoyable book that is set in the Ospedale while Vivaldi was there is " Vivaldi's Virgins" by Barbara Quick. As it happens, she lives in Rohnert Park and has contributed a signed copy of her book to the silent auction at the concert tomorrow!
Yes! Tomorrow is the "V" concert. A benefit for Cinnabar Theater, and an extravaganza of cellists! A flock of cellists? A society of cellists? A crowd of cellists? A rowdy noisy bunch! That's it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heitor Villa-Lobos

Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos was born in 1887. His father started him on cello when he was so young that he used a viola, but held it like a cello. He loved it, and also guitar, at which he excelled. He was a lively and curious child, didn't take well to formal studies, but did start composing early on. From age 18-25 he traveled around Brazil collecting folk tunes to use in his music (this sounds like Bartok!) Later he told his friends in Paris, that he had been caught by a cannibalistic tribe and only spared because of his music. (could be....) The years 1923-1930 were spent in Paris where he and his music were a huge success. In 1930 he went back to Brazil and became deeply involved in music education for the masses. And he continued composing. Between 1930 and 1945 he wrote the nine works that make up the Bachianas Brazilianas. Two of these are for 8 cellos, and Number 5 adds a soprano. And those are the pieces we are playing on the "V" concert!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The "V" concert

A very nice article about the "V" concert/benefit by Geneva Anderson is on her blog: ARThound
She has put in a lot of information about the event there. I recommend it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The cellists......

for the "V" concert are: Kelly Boyer, Gwyneth Davis, Poppea Dorsam, Victoria Ehrlich, Leighton Fong, David Goldblatt, Judiyaba and Ruth Lane. And the soprano is Carrie Hennessey. A wonderful line up!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vivacious "V" concert...very soon!

On September 10th at 4pm: a varied, venturesome and vibrant program of virtuosi violoncelli! 8 cellists from all the orchestras of the Bay Area gather to play 2 pieces by Villa-Lobos: The Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 for 8 cellos, and No. 5 for 8 cellos and soprano, featuring Carrie Hennessey. Also Vivaldi Concerto for 2 cellos (with multi-cello accompaniment), Concerto in a-minor featuring SF Opera cellist Victoria Erhlich (accompanied by....yes...more cellists); 3 motets by 16th century composer Jacobus Vaet (played on cellos...) and Vivaldi Domine Deus (from the Gloria) sung by Carrie Hennessey (accompanied by.........cellos!!!)

All this outside under redwoods and presented as a benefit for Cinnabar Theater. Tickets are $20 general (be a Patron of the Arts!) or $15 underemployed, students... Tickets are available by calling Cinnabar at 707-763-8920 or at the door.
200 Queens Lane, Petaluma

Monday, August 15, 2011

My favorite "U"

Fun to play in a gallery with a portrait show up! Are those people in the pictures giving commentary or appreciation?

Friday, August 5, 2011

See "U" Sunday!

This Sunday at 6pm is our "U" concert and it is the 19th concert!
For this letter, we have a shorter concert. Just an hour, to enjoy time before (or after) dinner.
It's a mostly Uccellini program, as he wrote very lovely early baroque music for strings; violin sonatas and multiple violin pieces with harpsichord and continuo (cello, this time). But there are 3 other composers we have found!
Usiglio we wrote about already. And Utrecht and Utendal; both are in the penultimate volume of Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Amazing to see how we have worked our way through Groves!
Heinrich Utrecht has a slim listing. His birthdate is unknown, death only guessed at (1633 or later) but he did work as an instrumentalist, composer and "castle organist" for Duke Christian of Brunswick-Lüneburg at Celle. There are extant 2 collections of suites of stylized dances for small ensembles. We chose a Paduana.
Utendal, who was born in the Netherlands, went in 1564 to work as an alto in the court choir for Archduke Ferdinand at Prague. He became deputy Kapellmeister in 1572 and kept that position for the rest of his life. He wrote both sacred and secular music. And once again we are stealing a choral piece for our own use. Because it is beautiful.....

Monday, August 1, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Still Trying....

Charlie Lucke got some lovely clips of several the concerts, but we have had trouble getting them on to the blog. Finally we have one bit from the "M" concert and though the picture is fuzzy (our fault!) the sound is really sweet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Looking for useful "U"s

It's challenge to find composers for some letters of the alphabet! I was chatting with SF Opera librarian Laure Campbell about it, and about "U" in particular. She got a funny look on her face, said "wait a minute" and disappeared into some hidden cavern of green shelves that is somewhere beneath the carriage entrance to the opera house. She reappeared with a box of parts to the opera "Le Educande di Sorrento" by Usiglio! ....just orchestra parts, no score.....and very old and fragile. She thought it had been programmed in the 1930's, but not performed. The name on the music was Faustino Ziliani, so I googled him, thinking it would have been the conductors parts. He was a conductor, and singer and Austalia in the 1880's! But went back to Italy in 1889 in bad health. Hmmm. Digging further, Laure found that a Alessandro Ziliani, apparently a well known tenor from the 1930's and 1940's, had sung in SF in the 30's and, we think, brought music with him for future productions! are they related? We could not find out. And it appears that with WWll heating up he was unable to come back here, but the music remains. Untouched....until now! We are pulling out a Brindisi, a short drinking song, from it to do at the "U" concert.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Utterly delightful Uccellini

David Wilson and Maria Caswell are the featured soloists playing Sonatas by Uccellini, the featured composer of the "U" concert! August 7....6pm. Uccellini lived from 1603 (maybe) to 1680. He was not terribly well known or prolific, but wrote violin music which, for its time was pushing the envelope. He used more of the violin that was common before (higher notes!) and went into stranger keys than might have been comfortable then (B Major, b flat minor, e flat minor) and added big leaps! He was a violinist himself, as well as composer and maestro di cappella in Modena and then Parma (the paying gigs).
Cynthia Albers will join David, Maria and the continuo section in pieces for 3 violins called Bergamasca.
But Uccellini is not the only "U" composer we found......

David's photo by Lars Johannesson, Maria's by Charlie Lucke (at the "T" concert)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"U" will want to hear this!

Utterly upbeat and urbane....
An appetizer, or dessert, concert. An hour of Uccellini, Utrecht and Utendal played by David Wilson, Maria Caswell and Cynthia Albers; violins. Gwyneth Davis and Judiyaba; cellos. And Phebe Craig, harpsichord. The concert is in the Pelican Gallery, which is at 143 Petaluma Blvd. North, near Washington. The center of downtown Petaluma area and convenient to many fine restaurants, convenient for after the concert...or before! (We'll wait 'til after...)
Suggested donation is $10...more is acceptable.....if insisted on...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"T"oo much fun.

The "T" Concert was in a wonderful studio on a warm summer evening. We declared it a barefoot concert when we realized that we were all more comfortable without the restrictions of footwear!
Maybe that's what inspired Kati's wonderful dancing quality in the Tartini Sonata (Opus 1, no.9)
Mary talked a bit about the viol family of instruments, showing her gorgeous viola da gamba. It was made in Bach's time and he had other instruments by the same maker. There seems to be a great likelihood that it would have been in the same room with Bach at some point. Perhaps a silly thing, but actually kind of thrilling!! We usually think of the gamba as a softer instrument than the cello, but in this concert we played together quite
happily. In the second Paris Quartet of Telemann the gamba and cello traded solo parts by movement. And the Telemann Suite for viola da gamba solo with string and harpsichord accompaniment was a wonderful show by Mary of what the instrument and she can do! It was a great finale!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"T" guest artists

Kati Kyme, co-concertmaster of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and Mary Springfels, nationally known performer and teacher of the viola da gamba, lead the viols and violins in the July 5th concert. The composers include Tomkins, Telemann, and Tartini. See how these 2 families of instruments work....separately and together in an evening concert at the studio of Melinda Moreaux: 269 Woodward Ave, Penngrove.
Phebe Craig will be the mediator on hrpsichord and the other string players are: Maria Caswell, David Bowes, Gwyneth Davis and Judiyaba.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Halsey Stevens

The other lesser known composer on this program (besides Robert Sheldon) is the American composer Halsey Stevens, 1908-1989. His main job (composers rarely just get to sit and compose) was teaching at USC from 1947 until he died at age 80. He also wrote about music and in 1953 published "the Life and Music of Belá Bartók". The cello duet on this program was written in 1957 and shows Bartok's influence, being 5 short movements similar in feeling to Bartók's 44 Duets for 2 violins. A wonderful thing about Halsey Stevens is that he worked to make his music idiomatic to the instruments and also believed that music should communicate to the audience rather than alienate them. It seems obvious now, but particularly in the 1960's and 70's this was most definitely not always the case, as some of us can recall!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Crafters of Song......

Schubert and Schumann are familiar composers whose songs we have long enjoyed. But sometimes there are hidden treasures that could almost go missing if someone doesn't give a little push to get them into the public eye. One such is Robert Sheldon, a quiet man who taught at SF Conservatory, SF State University and Mills College. He just loved writing songs and in any spare when a student didn't show up for a lesson...would use a favorite poem and have a new song sketched out within an hour. Marilyn Thompson met him when she was a student and he a professor at the Conservatory. She accompanied his wife's voice students and became acquainted with the music that way. Now Carol Menke and Marilyn have recorded some 20 songs, ranging in mood from profound, to sentimental, passionate, even cute. BUT there are about 1000 more songs in his notebooks that are not even transcribed for publication or use! There are also instrumental works, choral works and 3 operas languishing.
On the "S" concert will be 3 songs for soprano and piano and one, Patterns, that also includes cello. Just a sample of what is hidden away.........

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Song Fest!!

Singers, strings, and of course, piano!
Soprano Carol Menke and tenor Corey Head will be singing on June 18 at 7pm. With Marilyn Thompson, pianist and string players tossed into the mix as well! Violinist Hilary Powers, and cellists Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis will supplement the song session. will be a benefit for the music scholarship fund at Sonoma State University!
Which is where the concert will room 1028 in the education wing of the new Green Music Center. The same place where the "P" concert was...a fun big tell your friends!

Other attendees, once removed, will be Schubert, Schumann, Richard Strauss, Halsey Stevens and Robert Sheldon. A sumptuous summer spread....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quantzert Views

QR Concert A-Zed photographer Charlie Lucke. Taken May 8 as the Alphabet Players quaffed Quantz, rollicked through
Rameau, recreated Rossini, reveled in Reina, rejoiced with Rosenmüller, resurrected Roman and continued their rumbustious romp through the alphabet.
Lower: Maria, Tyler and Phebe (Kathleen hiding behind) Upper: Gwyneth and David

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Those "R"'s!

Let's start with Johann Rosenmüller, probably the earliest composer on our program. He was born in 1615 and by 1650 was doing well as Director on Music of the Leipzig churches and to the Altenburg Court. Unfortunately he got into a spot of bother with the school boys and found himself in prison. But...he escaped, and by 1658 he was apparently composing and playing trumpet at St. Marks in Venice.

Then we have Johan Helmich Roman. Born in 1694 and known as the Swedish Handel, as he had studied in London for 6 years and idealized Handel. In 1721 he became Chief Master if the Royal Swedish Orchestra, and in 1731 organized the first public concerts in Sweden. In 1744, for the wedding of the Crown Prince Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, he composed one of his best pieces......Drottningholmsmusique. (I just wanted to write that)

Onward to our most modern composer on this program, Gioacchino Rossini, 1792-1868. He got off to a fast start compositionally....the quartet we are playing was written when he was 12!
He was fortunate enough to achieve great success with his comic operas early in life. His best known is Barber of Seville, from which we are stealing the Finale for our concert. He was a bit lazy about deadlines. Barber was composed in under 2 weeks! And he said, about composing overtures, "Wait until the evening before the opening night. Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be the presence of the copyist, or the prodding of an impresario tearing out his hair. In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald before 30."
The last 40 years of his life were devoted to pleasure, mostly of food. The dish "Tournedos Rossini" was created for him, probably by Escoffier. It is filet mignon on toast, topped with sliced foie gras, garnished with black truffles and completed with a Madeira demi-glace.
Not the diet most composers enjoy! The only piece written late in his life is one called "The Sins of Old Age"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

May 8 is almost here!

The 2pm concert will be of 17th and 18th century music.......harpsichord, strings, baroque flute.....
The music is by Quantz (our token "Q") a specialist in baroque flute. He wrote masses of flute music and a huge tome on playing flute, and many other things, which we will quote from.
The "R"s are Rossini, a man who appreciated life. He spent the first half of his life writing music (Barber of Seville and other comic operas) and the second half of his life wining and dining and enjoying. Also Rameau (a chicken piece for solo harpsichord, and a chamber piece) Rosenmüller, Roman, and Reina ( a gorgeous little gem played by 2 cellos and harpsichord).

Hope to see you there!
Sebastopol Center for the room....6780 Depot Street...just down from Screaming Mimi's Ice Cream.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Photographer Charlie Lucke caught Rufus and Zack announcing their encore.......
a duet by PDQ Bach (sure it starts with "P"!) called "The Lowland Fling." involved deep knee bends......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"QR" Concert is on the way......

May 8, at 2pm at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts Music Studio.
That is the place to be to hear "Q" and "R" composers played by Phebe Craig, harpsichord; Kathleen Kraft, baroque flute; Maria Caswell and Tyler Lewis, violin; David Bowes, viola; Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis , cello.

Bring your Mother....bring your kids...escape Mothers Day altogether!

Questions and Answers....all here!

You will not see this man at the next concert. Or should I say Quantzert..... But you will hear quintessential quartets and quintets (and trios...) of a quality and quantity that will make you quake and quiver and possibly make you want to quaff something quickly to recover from this questionable and queer writing. Perhaps a quiz is what we need!
Who is this man??
What do we need him for??
Where are the "R"'s???

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) composed prolifically for the flute, and wrote a tome on flute playing and performance in general, including chapters on ornamentation. His writing is opinionated, informative and educational. We will play his music and also choose bits to read from the book, and demonstrate how ornament is used to enhance the performance of baroque music.
And then we will move on to our favorite "R"'s: Rosenmuller, Roman, of course Rossini, and a couple others.....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sergei Prokofief

This Sunday, April 3, the Prokofiev Sonata for Cello and Piano will be on the "P" program.

I have been reading about Prokofiev's life to help understand his music, and what interesting times he loved in! He was born to an affluent parents in Russia in 1891. His mother was a pianist and his interest in music and composition was nurtured through his early years. By age 11 he had written 2 operas and several piano pieces (funny, I don't think those operas are in the repertoire anymore...) At age 19 his father died and he realized he would have to be finding his own way financially. He stayed at the Conservatory but was already finding commissions for his work and performing widely as a pianist. In 1917 things were heating up politically in Russia but he just kept moving to avoid trouble. In 1918 he decided to try his luck in the US, as new music was not the hot topic during the Russian Revolution. He had some successes here but in 1922 went to Paris, where he had better support for his music, where he joined his mother, and where he married a Spanish singer. He worked with Diagelev, knew Stravinsky, toured, and was doing well. But something called him back to Russia. In 1936 he returned, with wife and kids to Moscow, possibly not fully aware of the impact of Stalin's regime even on music. It was in 1936 that Shostakovich was being heavily criticized by the government. Didn't he notice?
It may be impossible to know how people really felt during that time. Prokofiev did write quite a bit of patriotic music. In 1939 it was a cantata "Zdravitsa" Hail to Stalin. Was this a survival technique? He split from his wife in 1941 and and a few years later she was charged with espionage and sent to a labor camp. He had taken up with a young woman who had strong party ties and who stayed with him for the rest of his life. And yet, in 1948, he was denounced for writing music that was "alien to the Soviet people". His response was to write an opera about a WWII Soviet hero. It flopped but he was left alone. And then, in poor health and a few years before his death.....he wrote the Sonata for Cello and Piano.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A look back at "NO"

Charles Lucke caught this moment of the Original universe Quartet playing Nielsen at the Pelican Gallery. A show of kids art was up and also very entertaining!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Plenty of "P"s!

The "P" concert is rapidly approaching!
It is Sunday, April 3, 4pm at Sonoma State. In Room 1028, which is the large rehearsal hall in the Music Education wing of the new Green Music Center. (the recital hall is not finished yet)

Marilyn Thompson, piano and Judiyaba, cello are on the faculty there and are being joined by friends in the SF Opera Orchestra. Rufus Olivier, bassoon and Zach Spellman, tuba will join Marilyn in a wonderful version of the Poulenc Trio (originally for piano, oboe, and bassoon...we're breaking with tradition here!) Leslie Ludena, violin and Marilyn and Judiyaba have unearthed a little known piano trio by Englishman Hubert Parry (1848-1918). The Prokofiev Sonata for Cello and Piano is a grand piece. And we couldn't have a "P" concert without some Piazzolla....yet another varied program!

If it's still raining......come anyway!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Other composers that are on the "ON" concert

Turlough O'Carolan is a name well known to Irish fiddlers and lovers of Celtic music. His music has staying power....he lived from 1670- 1738...and his tunes have never left the repertoire. An unusual start for a musician.....he became blind at age 18 from small pox, and as there was not much employment for blind people, he was taught harp and sent out to be a minstrel. It turned out to be his calling. He lived well traveling to the houses of the wealthy where he would be housed and fed in exchange for music and tunes honoring the landowners. He died at 68, a well known and respected musician. We will celebrate St. Patricks Day a few days late.....

Pietro Nardini (1722-1793) was a violinist and occasional composer. He wrote a few pleasing pieces.

Carl Nielsen is probably the best known composer on the program. But his work would not be described as "pleasing". Very interesting, very innovative, very unusual and very unpredictable could work. He was Danish and lived from 1865-1931. He attended Copenhagen Conservatory and started his career as a violinist, but composing was his calling. He loved Bach and trained well in counterpoint, but loved stretching the harmonic conventions that had been the norm.
Maybe he liked challenges....he married a sculptress who was determined to follow her career path rather than be a wifey, and sometimes left him with the 3 kids to go work at a different site. There were fights and separations but they were together until his death.
His music has become more accepted with the passing of time. The Symphonies are played regularly and the Wind Quintet is standard fare for that combination. The quartets are less known. This one in F Major, Opus 44, is a curious mix. The harmony does strange things and then will settle down and do something whimsical...or leave someone playing a pattern all alone. And there are lush full string moments that are thick and'll see.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who has heard of George Onslow?

Actually the musicians and music lovers of the early 19th century would all have known of him and heard and played his music! He lived from 1784-1853 and was a well respected composer. His quartets were considered to be in the league of Haydn and Mozart. Mendelssohn and Schubert spoke highly of him and in fact Schubert's great C Major quintet was inspired by Onslow's quintets.
Though he had English parents (who left England after a scandal) he was born, lived and died in Clermont-Ferrand, France. He was devoted to chamber music, and much in demand as a composer during his lifetime and beyond but somehow his music became neglected after World War 1. He led a quiet life, with the exception of a hunting accident in 1829, in which he was shot in the head! He survived but expressed the trauma in his Quintet Opus 38. It is named "the Bullet". We dodged the bullet and are playing Quintet Opus 6 no,19 on the "ON" concert.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

the alphabet marches "ON"

On March 20, the Expanded Original Universe Quartet will play an all string program at the Pelican Gallery in Petaluma. Nielsen, Nardini, Onslow and O'Carolan will be the composers.
More on them soon, but first an explanation of the strange name of the group might be in order!
Many years ago 4 of us were invited to play on a cruise in Alaska. And the name of the ship was the Universe. It was wonderful fun and for several years after that we kept going on the cruise with slightly different combinations of players. So all of us played there, but our Original group was Mari, Joe, Betsy, and Yaba. Gwyneth joined the next year with a slightly different group. It was a wonderful time on a not too state-of-the-art boat that actually, after a few more years, was found totally unsafe and destroyed. I suppose bits of it are still floating around the universe.....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Dragon of Wantley

This....THIS is the terrible and frightening dragon that brought such problems to Margery, her father Gubbins, Mauxalinda, and of course Master Moore of Moore Hall.
And all the villagers that ran away from it...the sheep, the cook......
But the orchestra played gloriously, the singers sang gorgeously, the dragon roared roariously and great fun was had by all.

And thanks once again to Charlie Lucke for the photographic evidence of the event!


Oh Dear.......Master Moore of Moore Hall has betrayed his betrothed.....and now has been found out!
Things are about to get sticky.....

Moore of Moore Hall

....and they all pleaded, "Oh save us all, Moore of Moore Hall"
...and he does! He does in that evil Dragon.
(Though the Dragon curses him "Oh, The devil take thy toe"....pretty rough stuff!)
He does it for Margery (the incredible Eileen Morris) who captivates him with her high notes and fancy ornaments!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the cast...

Jeff Fields is coming from San Jose to sing the role of Gubbins, father of Margery. A neighboring gent who seems to feel that it must be Moore's job to slay the dragon. He sums up nicely at the end "Most mighty Moore, what wonders hast thou done? Destroyed the dragon, and my Margery won. The loves of this brave knight, and my fair daughter, in Roratorios shall be sung hereafter...."
And then they sing a Roratorio!

the cast...

The lovely Bonnie Brooks sings the role of Mauxalinda.......and certainly doesn't deserve to be jilted by that rascal Moore!
Opera is so cruel.....
Her duet with the upstart Margery is a wonderful bit of cat-fighting...
"Go, Trollope, go....."

The Dragon Cast.....

Corey Head is singing Master Moore of Moore Hall.
It is his job to slay the evil Dragon and win the heart of the fair Margery in the process....thus dumping the loyal Mauxalinda in the process. Typical opera betrayals, battles, and general villainy that ends happily. And he sings the should be famous drinking song, "Zeno, Plato, Aristotle all were lovers of the bottle"
Ah, the great opera lyrics......

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who was Lampe?

John Frederick Lampe was born in Saxony in 1703 but spent most of his life in Britain. He played bassoon in one of the theater orchestras in London, wrote a textbook on thoroughbass and composed a fair amount, though did not actually have many successes.
Handel was the great composer of the city then and brought Italian style opera and many Italian singers to perform his operas. Thomas Arne, compose of "Alfred" (which contains Rule Brittania), was the active English composer. Lampe married the sister of Arnes wife in 1737. And that is the year he composed his best known piece, "The Dragon of Wantley". There is a preface to the early edition in which his librettist describes "many joyous hours...chopping and changing, lopping, ekeing out and coining Words, Syllables, and Jingles, to display in English the Beauty of Nonsense, so prevailing in the Italian Operas."
It seems clear that the satire was aimed at Handel and the rather unheroic hero, Moore of Moore Hall was was spoofing a popular Italian singer then in London, Farinelli.
So in the spirit of the Beauty of Nonsense, we present the Dragon of Wantley.

There was a sequel..."Margery, or a Worse Plague than the Dragon"
I'm afraid there is very little chance of any of us seeing did not do as well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Alphabet Soup

We've gotten a little untraditional in our alphabetical wanderings.......
But now we have it sorted out.

"L" ......the Dragon of Wantley, will be February 19, 8pm at Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa.This opera was written by a bassoonist in Handel's orchestra (Lampe) who seems to have gotten a bit tired of taking it all too seriously. We will do a semi-staged version (meaning singers can use their music) with a string orchestra, harpsichord and recorders. And in addition to the 4 solo singers there is a mini chorus....really a cast of thousands by A-Zed standards!

"NO...... is ON!!!!
Just say "yes" to "no"!! Our schedule mix up left little time for 2 concerts for "N" and "O".
So we have combined them and on March 20, at 7pm, the expanded Universe String Quartet will play Nielsen, Onslow, Offenbach, and Nardini. We have searched for the music for a Nono quartet but not been able to find it. It might be just as well to say "No" to Nono........

"P"......will be April 3 at the Green Center at Sonoma State University. Marilyn Thompson, Judiyaba and friends will play a pleasing plethora of P composers.....

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mmmmmmarvelous "M" concert January 6

Elizabeth Blumenstock has a resume that would wear out the computer battery! Suffice it to say that she has recorded prolifically, traveled extensively as a soloist throughout the western hemisphere and now comes to the Petaluma Museum to perform chamber music with old friends from Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and VOT Music.

The program is mostly rather early early that some of the dates are questionable. Marini, Monteverdi, Merula, and possibly Mielczewski were all born before 1600. (for reference, Bach was born in 1685) The latest composer is Martini (unfortunately we won't have refreshments to match the composers names) who was born in 1706.
It's a wonderful representation of that age of gorgeous and very intimate music.

January 6, 7:30 at the Petaluma Museum 20 4th Street, Petaluma. $15/20
The other performers are Maria Caswell and Cynthia Albers, violin; David Bowes, viola; Gwyneth Davis and Judiyaba, cello; Phebe Craig, harpsichord.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The First Year!

Well friends!
We have had a year's worth of Alphabet Concerts now!! We are almost halfway through our quirky series. Only almost, because we did have to postpone the "L" concert (which will be performed on February 19th) and it's been a wild ride. 31 musicians have performed on 11 concerts! We have found music that was new to us, some that was really a bit obscure...and some that was newly written! It has been a wonderful chance for us as musicians to connect and reconnect with our colleagues and a chance to meet and see friends in the audience regularly.
It has been a lot of work (that part is never part of the original idea!) and very rewarding.
We thank everyone who has been involved and look forward to more fun and festivities in 2011! 13 more concerts! a semi-staged opera included, and ending with Z and a big party...and of course the prizes! Lots of prizes! Don't lose track of your letters!
And see you soon!
"M" is next week! January 6 at Petaluma Museum at 7:30.
See you there!