Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair

Giant Illustration at Anarchist Book Fair, 03.31.2012 Huge illustration of "The True Cost of Coal" by Beehive Collection, on display at the Anarchist Book Fair in Golden Gate Park.Saturday afternoon I had fun revisiting the Anarchist Book Fair at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. The event was crowded, & most attendees wore black & some sort of piercing. Anarchists obviously love paper. Every surface was covered with hand-outs, pamphlets, zines, posters & books. Titles like Abolish Restaurants are hard to ignore. I should have guessed that there is a SteamPunk Magazine. I opened an issue at random to an article called "How to Make Laudanum."

I was impressed by the format of Work, a book combining text, full page images & a poster. When I complained that I couldn't find the author's name, a representative of its publisher explained that ideas are more important than authors. Several exhibitors came from outside the Bay Area. The informative rep from ThoughtCrime Ink traveled from Canada to be here.

I enjoyed coming across Korrupt Label again, among the squatters outside the hall. It's not clear who is stalking whom. The true anarchists among the vendors never ask you to pay a specific price for their goods, because that would be coercion.

§ 2012 Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair
Saturday March 31 & Sunday April 1
SF County Fair Building (Hall of Flowers) , Golden Gate Park

Janet Packer & Geoffrey Burleson

Geoffrey Burleson & Janet Packer, 03.30.2012 Geoffrey Burleson & Janet Packer talking with audience members after their recital at Old First Church.Friday night violinist Janet Packer & pianist Geoffrey Burleson presented a program of largely unfamiliar works at Old First Church. Ms. Packer used a microphone to introduce each piece briefly. We learned that she sought out Polish composer Krzysztof Meyer to write Imaginary Variations for her. When she started to study the music, she couldn't find the theme for the variations. She asked the composer about this, & he replied that since the variations were "imaginary," there is no theme. The piece is in several discrete sections & is assertive & moody. It builds urgently in its 2nd half to a forceful, conclusive ending. Ms. Packer impressively played it from memory, as she did her entire program. She has a 17th century instrument that is mellow in the lower strings & sweet higher up. Her playing is direct, & she smiles often.

A jolly, toe-tapping Rondo by 20th century Italian composer Vittorio Rieti separated Imaginary Variations from Debussy's Violin Sonata, performed in an assured manner. Mr. Burleson played with clarity & a sense of security & never overshadowed the violin. His rippling piano passages sounded shimmery.

A large sonata written in 1900 by Gabriel Pierné took up the 2nd half. Ms. Packer described Pierné as an exact contemporary of Debussy, who was successful in his time but has since dropped from the standard repertoire. His sonata is profuse & fluid. The pianist has a lot of notes, often providing a fluttery, undulating background. The outer movements end in flashy codas, & the middle movement is light & dance-like.

The audience of about 40 was polite & attentive. A woman in the pew in front of me photographed Ms. Packer during the performance but fortunately without using a flash.

§ A Polish Premiere and Music with a French Flavor
Janet Packer, violin
Geoffrey Burleson, piano

Krzysztof Meyer: Imaginary Variations, Op. 114 (San Francisco Premiere; written for Janet Packer)
Vittorio Rieti: Rondo Variato in F major
Claude Debussy: Sonata in G major
Gabriel Pierné: Sonata in D major, Op. 36

Friday, March 30, 2012 at 8:00pm
Old First Church Concerts

Friday, March 30, 2012

SFCM: Così fan tutte

SF Conservatory Opera Theatre, 03.29.2012 Intermission at performance of Cosi fan tutte, presented by SF Conservatory of Music at Fort Mason.Thursday night I saw the 1st of 2 casts for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's production of Così fan tutte. The staging by Heather Mathews emphasized the story's goofiness. Characters often acted like clowns, & the cast did a good job hamming it up. The audience laughed in all the right places.

Maya Kherani was a sassy Despina, stealing a taste of hot chocolate by sipping directly from the serving pot's spout. Her voice is high & girlish, & she moves quickly. Soprano Julie Adams sings secure high notes, & her Fiordiligi does a slapstick suicide routine that deliberately upstages Dorabella's big aria "Smanie implacabili." I liked the big, chesty sound of mezzo Kate Allen as Dorabella, & she made me think that Dorabella really is the better mate for Guglielmo. The sisters were hilarious when they sobbed their way through the quintet "Di scrivermi ogni giorno."

As Guglielmo, baritone Efraín Solís made funny, wide-eyed expressions when disguised as an Albanian. I liked his hefty, mature-sounding voice. He acted appropriately incensed while singing "Donne mie, la fate a tanti" accusingly at the audience. The voice of tenor Sergio González as Ferrando seemed under stress, but he sang everything, even if he was sometimes soft. Bass Randall Bunnell looked & sounded youthful as Don Alfonso, & he was an elegant presence.

The action was placed correctly in the 18th century, on a set with mobile doorways, walls & a miniature classical temple. The chorus of 7 performed the scene changes & acted as supers. The final scene takes place at night, against a starry sky.

Cowell Theatre has no pit, so the orchestra was awkwardly splayed out in a narrow band at floor level in front of the stage. Conductor Giuseppe Finzi led without a baton, seated at a harpsichord. Tempos were fast, on the verge of rushed. The orchestra, especially the strings, did a good job playing together, despite being spread out.

I felt sorry for the gentleman on one side of me, who spent most of the performance half asleep, his head on his date's shoulder. On my way into the theater, I briefly conversed with a young opera fan who was under the impression that Nixon in China is a musical.

§ Così fan tutte
San Francisco Conservatory Opera Theatre
Giuseppe Finzi, conductor
Heather Mathews, director

Don Alfonso: Randall Bunnell, bass
Ferrando: Sergio González, tenor
Guglielmo: Efraín Solís, baritone
Fiordiligi: Julie Adams, soprano
Dorabella: Kate Allen, mezzo-soprano
Despina: Maya Kherani, soprano

Thursday, March 29, 7:30 PM
Cowell Theater at Fort Mason

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Book Sale

Spring Book Sale, 03.28.2012 Spring Book Sale at Fort Mason.The Friends of the SF Public Library Spring Book Sale is underway at Fort Mason. It's all about browsing & serendipity. Opening a book at random on the performing arts table, I saw a photo of a 1969 Meredith Monk performance in the Guggenheim Museum.  Prices are $1, $2 & $3, though the collectibles area is selling a 1st U.K. edition of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for $275. I felt a bit lame spending just $5 while everyone else was going up to the registers with shopping bags full of loot. Volunteers continually stock the tables, & prices drop to $1 or less on Sunday.

§ Spring Book Sale
March 29-April 1, 2012
10 AM-6 PM
Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

55th San Francisco International Film Festival

SFIFF 55, 03.27.2012 San Francisco International Film Festival press conference attendees at the Fairmont Hotel.This morning the San Francisco Film Society held a press conference in the Crown Room of the Fairmont Hotel to announce the program for the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival. Board member Melanie Blum is acting executive director following the untimely deaths of Graham Leggat & Bingham Ray within just the past few months. Opening night, featuring Farewell, My Queen by Benoît Jacquot, is dedicated to Mr. Leggat. Closing night will feature Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, a documentary about Arnel Pinel, who lived on the streets of Manila as a child & went on to sing in a Journey cover band. When the real Journey discovered his performances on YouTube, they made him their new lead singer.

SFIFF 55, 03.27.2012 San Francisco International Film Festival press conference at the Fairmont Hotel with programmers Rod Armstrong, Rachel Rosen, Audrey Chang & Seaen Uyehara.Festival programmers Rachel Rosen, Sean Uyehara, Rod Armstrong & Audrey Chang gave an overview of the events & films. The festival is not programmed thematically, so they instead try to make the most diverse program possible. Ms. Rosen identified a grouping of "filmic takes on literature," including Bonsái, Oslo, August 31 & Patience (After Sebald). Mr. Uyehara identified Where Do We Go Now as a "crowd pleaser" & Compliance as a "crowd antagonizer." The documentary selections look interesting. Mr. Rosen pointed out 3 documentaries about strong women: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Ethel & Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present. Ms. Abromovic is expected to be in attendance. Mr. Armstrong listed It's the Earth Not the Moon, ¡Vivan las antipodas!, & Meanwhile in Mamelodi as documentaries about a sense of place. Mr. Uyehara remarked on the "uncomfortable" situations that Caveh Zahedi got himself into for The Sheik and I & praised the "unbelievably good" subjects of Only the Young, a documentary about young Christians. Ms. Chang mentioned Winter Nomads & Women with Cows as documentaries about animals.

Live events include a State of the Cinema Address from author Jonathan Lethem, musician Merrill Garbus & guitarist Ava Mendoza accompanying 4 Buster Keaton shorts, & Sam Green performing live with his documentary about Buckminster Fuller.

§ San Francisco International Film Festival 55
Presented by San Francisco Film Society
4/19 - 5/3 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Treasure Island Flea

Treasure Island Flea, 03.25.2012 Treasure Island Flea Mark in Building One.Sunday afternoon I visited for the 1st time the Treasure Island Flea Market, which occurs the last weekend of the month. Someone I met at the SF History Expo advised me this would be a good weekend to go, as it would be held indoors, in the art deco Building One. I felt a sense of discovery the whole trip, starting with Muni's 108-Treasure Island line, which takes less than 10 minutes to get from the Temporary Transbay Terminal to the Treasure Island gates. The panoramic view from the bus stop encompasses both bridges.

Victrola, 03.25.2012 Refurbished Victrola at Treasure Island Flea Market.The flea market was crammed into Building One's lobby & a narrow upper floor walkway. I saw lots of kids, so this is obviously a popular family outing. I enjoyed seeing & hearing 2 Victrolas lovingly restored by Golden State Phonographs. The woman from Tami Jo Studios was eager to share with me how her origami-like photo albums were constructed. I remembered seeing Korrupt Label's punk-inspired hoodies at Roadworks a couple of years ago, & it was cool to the meet the designer.

The Winery, 03.25.2012 Tasting room at the Winery on Treasure Island.Behind the building were food trucks & a hangar space converted into a huge wine-tasting room lined with barrels. The hangar also houses 2 Burning Man-related art studios. A woman in Marco Cochrane's studio gave me a demonstration of the 3D pantograph used to enlarge sculptures. The device was a revelation to me.

Peter Hudson's Charon, 03.25.2012 Glimpse of Peter Hudson's studio on Treasure Island.Around the back, I could peek into Peter Hudson's studio for a tantalizing glimpse of Charon, an enormous 3D zoetrope, which standing still looks like a bunch of skeletons riding a Ferris Wheel. I had no idea any of this was here. The next Treasure Island Flea will be held outdoors the weekend of April 28-29, 2012.


Napoleon at the Oakland Paramount, 03.25.2012 Orchestra pit for screening of Napoleon at the Oakland Paramount.This weekend I had the grand experience of seeing Abel Gance's Napoleon at the Oakland Paramount, accompanied by a live orchestra. I saw the 1st of 4 shows, which are touted as the only American screenings of Kevin Brownlow's 5 1/2 hour restoration. I sat next to a man who traveled from Chicago just for this event. Carl Davis composed the score & conducted the Oakland East Bay Symphony, lightly miked from the pit. I really enjoyed Mr. Davis's symphonic score, drawn boldly from Beethoven, Mozart & Bach & matching the film's heroic rhetoric. It truly enhanced the film & was especially effective during the battle scenes. Mr. Davis was careful enough to include the hurdy gurdy, which appears briefly on-screen. I loved the light cymbal crash that accompanies the return of the boy Napoleon's pet eagle. The orchestra was phenomenal, playing for longer than a Wagner opera with untiring strength & consistency. The musicians received their 1st standing ovation right before the dinner break, & at the end of the performance the pit elevator brought them up into view, where they received another huge ovation.

The screening is humanely provided with 3 intermissions, including an hour & forty-five minute dinner break, which allowed my movie companion & I to walk 4 blocks to our dinner reservation & back in plenty of time. The house was packed, & the lines for the restrooms & concessions required a hopeful frame of mind. I did not spot any costumes, but my movie companion saw someone in a Napoleon hat. I was impressed that the program adhered almost exactly to the advertised schedule, beginning a bit past 1:30p & getting out by 9:45p.

The audience applauded when the curtains were drawn back for the famous triptych finale & broke into applause several times more during the sequence. I'd say this is a once in a lifetime experience, but I believe that Patrick proved this untrue by attending both weekend performances. I waved to him at his seat up front, where he must have been practically inside the triptych. I somehow escaped the notice of SFMike, who has provided more background for the event here.

§ Abel Gance's Napoleon
Restoration by Kevin Brownlow
Score created & conducted by Carl Davis
Performed live by Oakland East Bay Symphony
March 24, 25, 31, April 1
Paramount Theatre, Oakland

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Salon at the Rex: Beijing Guitar Duo

Salon at the Rex Hotel, 03.21.2012 Salon at the Rex Hotel.After having to relocate to the Adagio Hotel, San Francisco Performance's salon series has unexpectedly moved back to Hotel Rex for the rest of the season. The Beijing Guitar Duo performed their hour-long program from memory & emphasized technical proficiency & precise ensemble. The Sontina by Castelnuovo-Tedesdo was played with delicacy. Meng Su introduced the selections & told us that Assad wrote Maracaípe for them. The title refers to a beach in Brazil, whose beauty & melancholy inspired the composer.

The duo played guitar arrangements of 5 of the Eight Memories in Watercolor, originally a piano piece by an 18-year-old Tan Dun. Its folk song melodies are sometimes galloping, sometimes watery. Since the guitar is so quiet, it was easy to hear the click of someone's digital camera during the final movement. The program ended with a suite by 20th century Brazilian composer Radamés Gnattali. Each of the movements is named for a Brazilian composer, & the music is gently lilting & relaxing.

In the Q&A afterward, we learned that Yameng Wang was forced to start practicing the guitar at a very young age by her father, who was an amateur guitarist. At the time she hated it, but she now thinks her father was right. We also learned that the duo feel it is important for them to perform without music, even though memorization is a challenge.

§ Salon at the Rex
Beijing Guitar Duo
Meng Su
Yameng Wang

Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Sonatina Canonica, Op. 196
Assad: Maracaípe
Tan Dun (arr. Manuel Barrueco): Eight Memories in Watercolor, Op. 1
Gnattali: Suite Retratos

Wednesday, March 21
6:30 pm
Hotel Rex

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SF Gay Men's Chorus & Stephen Schwartz

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, 03.20.2012 San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus on the stage of Davies Hall.Tuesday night I was at the first of two performances by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus featuring composer Stephen Schwartz. The program included songs from Godspell, Wicked, Pippin & a medley of songs from Disney movies. The 270 member chorus sometimes performed fancy choreography, & there were many short break-out solos. A small band accompanied the chorus, & conductor Timothy Selig led with broad gestures. I've never seen any of Mr. Schwartz's musicals, so I did not recognize a single song, which my friend in the chorus thinks is bad.

Mr. Schwartz made a showy entrance, rising to the stage on the pit elevator as he played the piano & sang in French. He sang 4 songs in the 1st half, accompanying himself on the piano. His singing is rough, but he communicates the words clearly. In the 2nd half he accompanied soprano Melody Moore in 2 arias from his opera Séance on a Set Afternoon. She was so yearning & emotionally engaged that she nearly stopped the show. I was surprised when Mr. Schwartz chose to sing another song himself after her. The chorus then premiered Mr. Schwartz's Testimony, which begins with a series of soloists singing self-despairing words from the It Gets Better campaign. The piece is quiet & earnest & ends on a hopeful note. Members of the chorus hugged each other at the end, & the performance received a standing ovation. Mr. Schwartz composed Testimony specifically for the chorus without accepting a fee. It will be released on YouTube on Thursday, so it is a true gift.

The concert's performers also included The Choral Project, a well-prepared mixed chorus from San Jose. They sounded crisp in Kéramos, an a capella piece written for them by Mr. Schwartz with a text by Longfellow. Their female soloists sang with clarity in "Meadowlark" & "For Good."

The show had a ton of lighting cues & a couple of miscues. The stage was plunged into darkness midway through one of The Choral Project's numbers, & the lights inexplicably came up on the audience during another. In "That's How You Know", the audience cheered when a same-sex marriage tableaux appeared on stage. I liked the simple rendition of "Beautiful City," sung in unison & accompanied only by the piano. Right before the 2nd half, a friend & I waved to our chorister friend but got no reaction. We later learned that he saw us but had been instructed to preserve decorum by not waving back.

§ Enchantingly Wicked, An Evening With Stephen Schwartz
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus
Dr. Timothy Selig, Artistic Director & Conductor

Music from Godspell:
"Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord"
"Day by Day"
"All For the Best"
"All Good Gifts"
"We Beseech Thee"

"Popular" from Wicked

Schwartz at the Movies:
"Deliver Us" from Prince of Egypt
"God Help the Outcasts" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
"Colors of the Wind," "Just Around the Riverbend" from Pocahontas
"Through Heaven's Eyes" from the Prince of Egypt

"Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife
"For Good" from Wicked
Featuring The Choral Project

Selections featuring Stephen Schwartz & Vocal Minority

"When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt

"The Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden
Featuring The Choral Project

"That's How You Know" from Enchanted

Music from Pippin:
"Corner of the Sky"
"Magic to Do"
"Morning Glow"

Selections featuring Stephen Schwartz, Melody Moore, & The Lollipop Guild

Testimony (World Premiere)

"Beautiful City" from Godspell

"Defying Gravity" from Wicked

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 — 8 PM

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Celebration of Bay Area Music

Sunday afternoon clarinetist Brenden Guy (pictured) presented a pleasing chamber recital of new music. About a dozen musicians, in various combinations, played works by 7 composers. Only one composer is dead, giving this program a higher freshness quotient than American Mavericks. The young performers, drawn from the SF Conservatory of Music, are friends as well as colleagues, giving the event an intimate feel. The single movement of David Conte's Sonata for Clarinet & Piano is nicely melodic, & Mr. Guy's playing was unfussy & open. A wind quintet gave a lively performance of Eight Figments, a suite of short, contrasting character pieces by Nicholas Pavkovic. Before playing the ethereal China Gates by John Adams, pianist Sarah Cahill showed us the original score. Her playing was clear & even. She suffered a memory lapse near the end & stopped to open the music to get back on track. The 1st half ended with an appealing Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello & Piano by Joseph Stillwell. I liked its elegiac 1st movement & mordant 2nd movement with its raucaous finale. Both the piece & the performance were completely engaging.

Mr. Guy's playing was free & cheerful in Aaron Pike's Child's Play for vioin, clarinet & piano. The music is bright & playful & fits the piece's title. Conductor Barnaby Palmer led an ensemble of 5 in Dan Becker's S.T.I.C., which is dense, busy & chugging. Violinist Kevin Rogers was a virtuosic soloist in Bloch's Nigun, playing deep into the strings. Mr. Conte introduced his Sextet closing the program, explaining that he arranged it from his orchestral piece that pays homage to Copland. It is melodic & expansive, & even in reduction it had a rich texture. I enjoyed the sextet's lively performance & the spirited playing of cellist Michelle Kwon.

Besides Mr. Conte, composers Mr. Pavkovic, Mr. Stillwell & Mr. Pike were also present. Mr. Becker was ill & unable to attend. The grateful Mr. Guy presented flowers to some of the performers & took a moment to thank all the participants & the audience. He also acknowledged Ms. Ames, no doubt embarrassing her against her wishes.

§ A Celebration Of Bay Area Music
Presented by Brenden Guy

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1978): David Conte (b. 1955)
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Miles Graber, piano

Eight Figments (2010): Nicholas Pavkovic (b. 1963)
Valinor Winds
Sasha Launer,flute
Jessica Huntsman, oboe
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Alexis Luque, bassoon
Sivan Adato,Jrench horn

China Gates (1977): John Adams (b. 1947)
Sarah Cahill, piano

Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (2012): Joseph Stillwell (b. 1984)
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Kevin Rogers, violin
Erin Wang, cello
Aaron Pike, piano

Child's Play (2011): Aaron Pike (b. 1984)
Kevin Rogers, violin
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Aaron Pike, piano

S.T.I.C (1995): Dan Becker (b. 1960)
Kevin Rogers, violin
Michelle Kwon, cello
Sasha Launer,flute
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Miles Graber, piano
Barnaby Palmer, conductor

Nigun - No.2 from Baal Shem Suite (J923): Ernest Bloch (1880 - 1959)
Kevin Rogers, violin
Miles Graber piano

Sextet (1999; arranged 2011): David Conte (b. 1955)
Tess Varley, violin
Cassandra Bequary, violin
Kevin Rogers, viola
Michelle Kwon, cello
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Miles Graber, piano

Sunday, March 18, 2012, 4:30p
First Unitarian Universalist Church

American Mavericks: Chamber Music featuring Meredith Monk

I was at the last American Mavericks concert Sunday afternoon. The program opened with Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood, performed by 5 percussionists, each playing a pair of claves. They executed 3 cycles of layered, clicking patterns without a score. The 15 minute rendition sounded bright. Someone in the back of the orchestra spoke up loudly several times, & the lady in front of me exclaimed "dreadful" out loud.

Meredith Monk gave the premiere of her Realm Variations, for 7 singers & 7 instrumentalists. The piece features a long piccolo melody, played by Catherine Payne with a solid & seamless tone. The voices are used like instruments & sing nonsense syllables instead of words. The 20 minute piece has a drowsy, aimless mood. All the singers were very still, & it was fun to see The Standing Room on stage.

After intermission pianist Jeremy Denk joined 3 members of the SF Symphony for Echoi by Lukas Foss. The piece is sort of an evil jazz suite. The 4 musician seem to play sometimes with each other & sometimes in disregard of each other. The performance felt intelligent.  Mr. Denk played alertly, with his characteristically flamboyant releases. Cellist Peter Wyrick produced sounds by pressing down very hard on the strings with the fingers of his left hand. Clarinetist Carey Bell played beautifully pure & connected melodies & then made his instrument bark & squeal. In the 3rd movement he played directly into the piano & into the drumhead of the timpani. Jack Van Geem was an ambidextrous percussionist. The audience laughed when he threw a tantrum in the 4th movement & angrily struck the piano with mallets. He also played a garbage can lid.

There was a long break to rearrange the stage, then MTT led a chamber orchestra of about 20 in 2 settings of James Joyce poems by David Del Tredici. His music is harsh. The clashing high & low dissonances of Ecce Puer hurt my stomach. Soprano Kiera Duffy has a high, solid & steely voice, & she maintains a feeling of balance even when jumping between the extremes of her range. Some passages of Nightpiece had her sounding like a squeaky toy. I did not like the amplification of her voice. The other soloist was French horn player Nicole Cash, who played her quieter part with a mellow, rounded tone. The concert ran overtime, & my concert companion & left immediately after the piece was over & began jogging up Franklin Street to our next engagement.

§ American Mavericks: Chamber Music featuring Meredith Monk and members of the SFS
Members of the San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble
Jeremy Denk, piano
Kiera Duffy, soprano

Steve Reich: Music for Pieces of Wood
Meredith Monk: Realm Variations (World Premiere; San Francisco Symphony commission)
Foss: Echoi
David del Tredici: Syzygy

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 2:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

 § Photo Credit: Jesse Frohman

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Creators Project

The Creators Project, 03.18.2012 Origin by United Visual Arts, The Creators Project, Fort MasonSunday morning I stopped by Fort Mason to check out the Intel-sponsored Creators Project. I was told that 6,000 showed up the previous night for the technology-inspired art installations, talks, films & live music. The event has already blogged about itself here. On Sunday morning the installations were still up & being visited mostly by families wandering over from the farmers' market.

The Creators Project, 03.18.2012 The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk, The Creators Project, Fort MasonI really liked Chris Milk's The Treachery of Sanctuary, in which viewers see their projected silhouettes unnervingly transformed into birds. I was also punished by Barney Clay's Life on Mars Revisited, in which viewers are trapped in a room & blasted with a David Bowie music video played loud enough to break up kidney stones . After it was over, one of the viewers asked, "Do people actually like this?"

§ The Creators Project
Fort Mason, San Francisco, March 17 - 18

American Mavericks: MTT, Emanuel Ax, and John Adams

It was a full house at Saturday night's big American Mavericks concert featuring premieres by Mason Bates & John Adams. Mr. Bates is an earnest composer. His Mass Transmission is a 25 minute choral piece with a text about an early radio link between The Netherlands & its East Indies colonies. The chorus was in the terrace, accompanied by organist Paul Jacobs at a console on stage, next to conductor Donato Cabrera. Mr. Bates sat at a laptop at the back of stage. The choral writing is simple, solemn & chordal. Recorded sound effects frame the piece, which drifts off into silence at the end. Gamelan & jungle sounds are evoked in the middle section. The piece received warm applause & a scattered standing ovation.

A full orchestra, led by MTT, premiered the cheeky Absolute Jest by John Adams. It's fast & furious, noisily riffing on motifs from Beethoven, most notably from the 9th Sympony & the late string quartets. It reminded me of those PDQ Bach pieces made entirely of quotes from other pieces, & Mr. Adams obviously had fun writing it. The St. Lawrence String Quartet were an aggressive concertino of soloists, the 2 violinists playing like they were sawing their instruments in half. The piece received enthusiastic applause & a standing ovation. Mr. Adams was present to take a bow with the performers.

MTT addressed the audience before the Feldman Piano & Orchestra piece, mainly to warn us to be very quiet. Even though the piece requires a large orchestra, it is near silent. It has a spatial feel, with small events scattered over an empty expanse. Soloist Emanuel Ax was intent & focused. He makes no wasted motions. The audience was quiet for the piece's 25 minute duration, & Mr. Ax received warm applause.

There were so many musicians on stage for Edgar Varèse's Amériques that I worried someone would fall off. There were over a dozen percussionists, 8 horns, 5 trumpets & 2 harps. The piece is loud & extroverted & has a stomping vitality. A siren wails periodically. MTT led without a baton & sometimes hopped into the air. He gave us an ear-splitting finale, & the audience cheered. Because the stage had to be rearranged between every piece, the concert ran overtime. A gentleman in the row in front of me misled me as to the identity of the heckelphone.

§ American Mavericks: MTT, Emanuel Ax, and John Adams 
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Donato Cabrera, conductor
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
San Francisco Symphony
Paul Jacobs, organ
Mason Bates, electronica
St. Lawrence String Quartet
Emanuel Ax, piano

Mason Bates: Mass Transmission (San Francisco Symphony Commission)
John Adams: Absolute Jest (San Francisco Symphony Co-Commission)
Feldman: Piano and Orchestra
Varèse: Amériques

Sat, Mar 17, 2012 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Photo credit: Mike Minehan

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cypress String Quartet: Call & Response 2012

Cypress String Quartet, 03.16.2012 Audience members at intermission of Cypress String Quartet's Call & Response program at Hebst Theatre.Herbst Theatre had the energy of a beehive for the Cypress String Quartet's Call & Response program Friday night, featuring the world premiere of Philippe Hersant's 3rd string quartet. This is an outreach concert, & a third of the attendees looked younger than 12. The Cypress Quartet plays warmly & makes a pretty sound. The Haydn String Quartet Op.20 No.1 had a smooth sheen. I like cellist Jennifer Kloetzel's effortlessly plump & happy sound. She introduced the Beethoven late String Quartet Op.127 & told us that of the 90 concerts the quartet does a year, the Call & Response concerts are their favorite. This particular Beethoven quartet was chosen because it is Mr. Hersant's favorite. The interpretation was burnished & without rough edges. In the 1st movement, there was a nice contrast between the chordal passages & the unstable melodic sections. The Scherzando had a dainty feel. 1st violin Cecily Ward has a consistently sweet tone, even when she plays high up on the G string. The quartet tired a bit in the final movement, & 2nd violin Tom Stone almost stumbled when he stood up at the end.

After intermission, Ms. Ward introduced Mr. Hersant, & he described the 3 movements of his new quartet as 3 pieces of different length & character. The 25 minute piece is colorful & immediately appealing, & the Cypress Quartet gave it a glowing performance. A slow, sad melody, introduced by the cello, unwinds in the 1st movement, which sounds a bit like Shostakovich. Violist Ethan Filner played a lovely solo high up on the instrument, accompanied by pizzicato from the rest of the quartet. The short 2nd movement is a brusque scherzo with fanfare-like themes. The long 3rd movement opens with an unexpected duet between the 2nd violin & viola, & there are many surprising mood shifts. Each player gets virtuosic solos, & there is a shimmering passage near the end where the cello sings over a fluttery accompaniment. The piece ends rather suddenly, with a bright flourish.

The audience was generally quiet & gave the performance an immediate standing ovation. They selectively applauded the 1st movement of the Haydn & the Scherzando of the Beethoven. A woman in the row in front of me was chaperoning 3 very young children, one of whom wanted to go home after the 1st half. The woman seated directly in front of me carried in a large shopping bag, which flopped over noisily during the Hersant. 2 camera flashes went off in the 2nd half.

§ Call & Response 2012

Cypress String Quartet
Cecily Ward, violin
Tom Stone, violin
Ethan Filner, viola
Jennifer Kloetzel, cello

Haydn: String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op.20 No.1
Beethoven: String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op.127
Philippe Hersant: Quatuor à Cordes No. 3

Friday, March 16, 2012, 8:00pm
Herbst Theatre

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alain de Botton: Religion for Atheists

The 500-seat Kanbar Hall at the JCC was near capacity for this appearance by author Alain de Botton, who gave a 45-minute talk covering topics in his new book, Religion for Atheists. He thinks the central doctrines of religion are "implausible," yet he finds religion's art & stories "charming." Secular culture falls short in education, guiding us through life & building community. We can look to religion to see how to do better. Mr. de Botton freely admits to approaching religions cafeteria style, just picking out the "best bits" to make up his meal. When someone asked him where one goes to find other like-minded atheists to put these ideas into practice, he replied, "Start your own religion."

Mr. de Botton, with his erudite British accent, understated wit & youthful cheeriness, talks exactly like the voice I hear when I read his books. He told us that earlier in the day his flight here from Kansas got hopelessly delayed, so he chartered a plane along with 2 other guys going to Silicon Valley. Because this flight cost thousands, he urged us to buy the book.

Thursday, Mar 15
Starts at: 8:00 pm
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

Thursday, March 15, 2012

American Mavericks: MTT, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman

The 1st half of this American Mavericks concert was a theatrical performance of selections from John Cage's Song Books featuring MTT, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman. The score is a collection of directions, some of which result in musical performances & some of which are behaviors. There were always several independent things going at once, yet the piece had a feeling of calm. I never worried about what it all might mean.

The high-tech staging began with recorded bird songs & involved amplification, live video, colored lights, & flags waving in an artificial wind. The audience applauded when Jessye Norman was revealed, like a hierophant, in one of the house-like structures on the stage. Besides producing beautifully rich & velvety pitches, she played cards & typed on a manual typewriter. Meredith Monk, sporting 2 long pigtails & wearing a white pinafore, did a goofy dance around the stage & sang a song on "The best form of government is no government at all." Joan La Barbara comfortably sang at the extremes of her voice, wrote a note to someone & delivered a wrapped gift to Immanuel Ax, who was in the audience. MTT used a Cuisinart to make a smoothie, which he drank. 8 members of the SF Symphony also played & contributed additional vignettes. Cellist Amos Yang carefully tore newspapers & dribbled a basketball. Stephen Paulson tried playing his bassoon with a bow.

I saw 6 walk-outs in the 1st tier, where I was sitting. The elderly couple next to me brought a pair of binoculars to watch the shenanigans on stage. The 35-minute performance received warm, supportive applause & cheers for MTT & the 3 vocalists. A gentleman seated behind me must have been puzzled by Ms. Monk's appearance. After the lights went up he asked, "Who was the little girl?"

After a long intermission, a traditional orchestra was back on stage. Lukas Foss's breathless Phorion is a brilliant piece which never strays far from the Preludio of Bach's Partita in E major, fracturing it & whirling it around the orchestra. Concert Master Alexander Barantschik soloed the melody brightly. I especially enjoyed a passage where the percussionist tries to play the theme as fast as possible on the chimes. The performance was a thrill. Its sharp ending sounded like breaking glass.

Jeremy Denk was soloist for the loud & virtuosic Cowell Piano Concerto. He vigorously pounded out tone clusters with his forearms while also giving the impression of precision. The piece is riotous, & has an over-the-top, triumphant ending on a blazing major chord. The program ended with Sun-treader, a loud tone poem by Carl Ruggles, with a big timpani part & a line-up of 7 horns. It has a lush, movie-score atmosphere, & I found it bombastic.

§ American Mavericks: MTT, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman

San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Joan La Barbara, vocalist
Meredith Monk, vocalist
Jessye Norman, soprano
Jeremy Denk, piano

John Cage: Selections from Song Books
Lukas Foss: Phorion
Henry Cowell: Piano Concerto
Carl Ruggles: Sun-treader

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

§ Photo credit: © Kristen Loken

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pocket War and Peace

I found this impossibly pint-sized edition of War and Peace in a used bookstore & couldn't resist it. It's the Maude translation, on 1,700 pages of thin India paper, printed in 1957 by Oxford University Press.

The text includes an introduction, endnotes & 3 fold-out maps. The binding is fragile & cracking, but no pages seem to be detached or missing. Now one of the smallest books in my library is also one of the longest.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Merola Opera Summer Season

The Merola Opera Program has released their summer 2012 season, & it's nice to see that they are back to doing 2 staged operas instead of one. This summer we'll get Postcard from Morocco by Dominick Argento & Mozart's teenage effort, La Finta Giardiniera. Early music specialist Nicholas McGegan is scheduled to conduct the Grand Finale concert at the Opera House.

§ Merola Opera Public Performances

Schwabacher Summer Concert
Thursday, July 5, 7:30 PM
Herbst Theatre

Outdoor Schwabacher Summer Concert
Saturday, July 7, 2:00 PM
Yerba Buena Gardens, Free Concert

Postcard From Morocco
by Dominick Argento
Libretto by John Donahue
Thursday, July 19, 8:00 PM
Saturday, July 21, 2:00 PM
Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center

La Finta Giardiniera
by W. A. Mozart
Thursday, August 2, 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 4, 2:00 PM
Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center

Merola Grand Finale
Saturday, August 18, 7:30 PM
War Memorial Opera House

American Mavericks: Chamber Music

Kithara, 03.11.2012 Kithara instrument by Harry Partch. American Mavericks festival at Davies Hall.Sunday afternoon I heard the 1st chamber music concert of the SF Symphony's American Mavericks series. Pianist Jeremy Denk played 5 short, colorful Cowell pieces with clarity. He jauntily pounded out tone clusters with his fists, elbows & forearms & played inside the piano with reserve. He made the melody of Episode emerge clearly out of its flurry of notes. For The Aeolian Harp, Mr. Denk removed the music rack & plucked the strings while holding down keys, making a quiet, antique & zither-like sound.

The 8 young performers of PARTCH, wearing old-timey clothes, created a theatrical performance out of a set of Harry Partch pieces with spoken texts evoking the Great Depression. In San Francisco, 2 performers dressed as newsies hawked local papers. By the Rivers of Babylon presented the world's most lugubrious sermon, accompanied by an organ-like instrument that plays microtones. Barstow exposed us to the dreariness & weariness of hitchhiking. The performers received enthusiastic applause, & audience members crowded to the edge of the stage to get a closer look at the unusual instruments before they were taken away.

After intermission, a string quartet drawn from the SF Symphony played Terry Riley's G Song, which sounded like a Bach chaconne. The quartet's silvery playing had a nice freedom. The final work was the latest incarnation of Morton Subotnick's Jacob's Room, a theatrical work for amplified voice, string quartet, keyboard & electronics, with a text about the holocaust. Vocalist Joan La Barbara interspersed recitation of the text with growling, inhaling, cooing & other extended vocal techniques, all of which she executed with smoothness & ease. She used separate microphones to make her voice come from opposite ends of the stage, & in 2 cadenzas her voice is electronically sampled & sent ricocheting around the hall. The instrumentalists spend much of the time stuck in a relentlessly churning pattern. A mood of fear dominates, though I did not feel like the work had enough ideas for its 30 minute length. The audience gave the performance a warm response & a scattered standing ovation.

Susan Key & Morton Subotnick, 03.11.2012 Susan Key interviewing Morton Subotnick in the Wattis Room at Davies Hall for the American Mavericks festival.Surprisingly, there were a lot of empty seats. Pre-concert, Susan Key interviewed Mr. Denk & Mr. Subotnick in the Wattis Room in front of a small audience. The interviews were also streamed live on the Web. Mr. Denk discussed his admiration for Charles Ives & told us that playing tone clusters with his fists was more painful than playing them with the forearms. Mr. Subotnick is an impressively vital 79-year-old, & at the end of his interview he pulled out his iPad & demoed an app he designed that allows children to sketch with music.

§ American Mavericks: Chamber Music featuring Joan La Barbara and members of the SFS

Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor
Joan La Barbara, vocalist
Jeremy Denk, piano
Members of the San Francisco Symphony

Henry Cowell
Selections for Solo Piano
Advertisement (1917), Episode (1921), The Banshee (1925), Exultation (1921), The Aeolian Harp (1923)
Jeremy Denk, piano

Harry Partch
Five Pieces
Sextet from Castor and Pollux (1952), San Francisco (1932), The Letter (1935), By the Rivers of Babylon (1931), Barstow (1941), Reprise: Sextet from Castor and Pollux

Terry Riley
G Song for String Quartet (1980)
Dan Carlson, Amy Hiraga, violins
Jonathan Vincocour, viola
Peter Wyrick, cello

Morton Subotnick
Jacob's Room: Monodrama (2012) (World Premiere; San Francisco Symphony Commission)
Joan La Barbara, vocalist
Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor
Jesse Stiles, music supervisor/electronics
Sam Oliver, Paul Brancato, violins
David Kim, viola
Margaret Tait, cello
Peter Grunberg, keyboard

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 2:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dan Hoyle's The Real Americans

In this one-man show, Dan Hoyle describes his idealistic cross-country road trip to encounter the "other" America. His plan is to eat pie & to get to know people outside the "liberal bubble" of San Francisco. Instead of narrating his experience in the 1st person, he performs a series of cartoony impersonations of the people he meets. It's a dismaying pageant of bigots, closet cases, racial stereotypes & people who believe Obama is a Muslim. Mr. Hoyle also includes a sitcom-like quartet of his San Francisco pals, who provide context & commentary.

The trim Mr. Hoyle, dressed in t-shirt, jeans & running shoes, looks like a teenager. A handkerchief & a handful of baseball caps are the only other costume. He switches between characters efficiently & finishes the intermissionless, 90-minute show without breaking a sweat. The show has been extended through April 14th. The house staff had to bring out folding chairs to accommodate everyone at the sold-out performance on Friday night, delaying the start. It's general seating, so it pays to show up early. Afterward, I expressed my disappointment at the shallowness of the portrayals, but my theater companion pointed out that there's probably not a lot of thinking going on in these characters' heads.

§ Dan Hoyle's The Real Americans
Written and Performed by Dan Hoyle
Developed with & directed by Charlie Varon

The Marsh, San Francisco, Studio Upstairs
9 Mar 2012, 8p

§ Photo credit: Brendan Furey

Weill Hall Inaugural Season

Weill Hall Inaugural Season Announcement, 03.09.2012 Press conference on the stage of Weill Hall at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.Friday afternoon, the Green Music Center at Sonoma State announced the inaugural 2012 season in the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall. Members of the press sat on the stage of the hall for speeches from Chair & major donor Sanford I. Weill, Artistic Director Jeff Langley, Programming Consultant Robert Cole, Sonoma State Professor Lynne Morrow & Sonoma State President Ruben Armiñana. The inaugural season is star-studded, featuring Lang Lang on opening night. The 2 vocal series include Stephanie Blythe, Joyce DiDonato & a rare North American appearance by Elīna Garanča. Yo Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter & Vadim Repin appear in the instrumental series. The San Francisco Symphony will also present 4 programs, & the hall will be the home of the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Weill HallPresident Armiñana modeled the hall after Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall. Weill Hall seats 1,400, & its gorgeous wooden interior is warm & inviting. The back wall can be opened up unto a terraced lawn to accommodate an outdoor audience.  Besides touting the acoustics & the inaugural season's big-name roster, the speakers stressed the hall's use as a musical lab for the university's students. Sonoma State music students supplied short musical breaks. A 15-piece brass band played 2 fanfares from choral balconies at each end of the hall, & we heard a solo piano & a soprano. Even with all the seats empty, the hall was not overly reverberant & echoey. The singer did not have to sing loudly in order for her voice to resonate throughout the space.

Following the presentation, everyone moved to the adjoining Prelude Restaurant for sandwiches & a Q&A. The fancy restaurant has a relaxing patio with firepots & a waterfall & already does a brisk business in wedding receptions.

§ 2012/2013 Season at a Glance

Lang Lang, piano
Saturday, September 29, 7:00 p.m.

Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas
Sunday, September 30, 7:30 p.m.

Karina Gauvin, soprano
Michael McMahon, piano
Saturday, October 13, 8:00 p.m.

“An All American Celebration” with John Adams & the International Contemporary Ensemble featuring Jeffrey Kahane, piano
Saturday, October 27, 8:00 p.m.

Modigliani Quartet with Joyce Yang, piano
Sunday, October 28, 3:00 p.m.

Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano | We’ll Meet Again: The Songs of Kate Smith
Craig Terry, piano
Saturday, November 10, 8:00 p.m.

Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers
Sunday, November 11, 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 15, 8:00 p.m.

Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano | Drama Queens
Alan Curtis, conductor | Il Compleso Barocco
Tuesday, November 20, 8:00 p.m.

Tallis Scholars | Love is Better Than Wine
Peter Phillips, Director
Saturday, December 8, 8:00 p.m.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale | Handel’s Messiah
Masaaki Suzuki, conductor | Bruce Lamott, chorale director | Sherezade Panthaki, soprano | Fabiana González, mezzo-soprano | Dann Coakwell, tenor | Dashon Burton, bass-baritone
Sunday, December 9, 3:00 p.m.

Yo-Yo Ma, cello, and Kathryn Stott, piano
Saturday, January 26, 7:00 p.m.

Barbara Cook, soprano
Saturday, February 16, 8:00 p.m.

Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Lambert Orkis, piano
Saturday, March 2, 8:00 p.m.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Thursday, March 21, 8:00 p.m.

Vadim Repin, violin
Itamar Golan, piano
Sunday, April 7, 3:00 p.m.

Elīna Garanča, mezzo-soprano
Tuesday, April 9, 8:00 p.m.

Lila Downs
Wednesday, April 18, 8:00 p.m.

Tara Erraught, mezzo-soprano
Marcelo Amaral, piano

Sunday, April 21, 3:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Jeffrey Kahane, conductor and piano
Saturday, April 27, 8:00 p.m.

§ Inaugural Season Press Announcement
for The Donald & Maureen Green Music Center
Friday, March 9, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ebène Quartet

Thursday night I heard the Ebène Quartet in their 1st San Francisco performance. The quartet is youthful & charismatic, & they pulled me in right away with their pianissimo opening for the Mozart String Quartet No. 15. Their interpretation was lightly romantic & conversational, with individual players speaking out when appropriate. They make a warm, blended sound with a luscious texture. I felt like I should have been eating an eclair while listening to them.

The quartet plays delightedly from moment to moment, & I always felt drawn in. The 2nd movement of the Borodin String Quartet No. 2 had a fluttery, floaty start. The final movement had a lot of bite. Cellist Raphaël Merlin is an animated & flirtatious performer, often smiling & looking at this colleagues. There was something cute about his pizzicato & the way he made the famous slow movement melody sound like singing.

The Ravel String Quartet was picturesque & colorful. The musicians gave the pizzicato ending of the 2nd movement a humorous flourish. Violinists Pierre Colombet & Gabriel Le Magadure play closely together, with a yearning feeling, & sometimes rise out of their seats. Mr. Colombet in particular has a very smooth bow arm. Violist Mathieu Herzog is a grounded player & wears an amusingly gruff expression. He sometimes sounds like a cello.

The charmed Herbst Theatre audience gave the quartet a standing ovation. We applauded for quite a while before they came out for another bow & an encore. Mr. Merlin complained about their too-early flight out of SFO the next day & encouraged us to buy their jazz CD in the lobby afterward as early Christmas gifts. Their encore was a jazz version of the Beatle's "Come Together," with Mr. Herzog as a wry, dead-pan soloist, dangling his viola on the floor when not playing. Mr. Colombet contributed a flashy violin improvisation. I would have gladly stayed to hear the rest of their jazz program.

§ Ebène Quartet
Pierre Colombet, violin
Gabriel Le Magadure, violin
Mathieu Herzog, viola
Raphaël Merlin, cello

Mozart: String Quartet in D minor, K. 421
Borodin: String Quartet No. 2 in D Major
Ravel: String Quartet in F Major

The Beatles: "Come Together"

San Francisco Performances
Thursday, March 8, 8pm
Herbst Theatre

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Joshua Foer at The Booksmith

Joshua Foer at The Booksmith, 04.05.2012 Joshua Foer speaking at The Booksmith about his book Moonwalking with Einstein.On Monday night, author Joshua Foer appeared at The Booksmith on Haight to talk about Moonwalking with Einstein, his account of how he 1st attended the 2005 USA Memory Championship as a reporter, then spent the next year training for it. To his surprise, he became US Champion, setting a record for memorizing a deck of cards in 1 minute, 40 seconds. Along the way, he researched the history of memorization techniques, going back to ancient Rome. He explained how he was delivering his talk without notes by using a memory palace to remind him what to talk about next. The real lesson of his experience is that we constantly need to choose to be attentive. He ended by telling us, "To live a memorable life, you have to be a person who remembers to remember."

Around 40 people attended the event, & many seemed to have read the book already.  Mr. Foer is a friendly & conversational story teller, & he displays a healthy skepticism. He sees humans continually outsourcing their memories, first with pictures & writing, & soon with augmented reality & implantable Google chips. We're in the midst of a shift in the meaning of what it is to be human, & he wishes that the people leading the way were humanists rather than technologists.

§ JOSHUA FOER / Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Mar 5 2012 7:30 pm
The Booksmith

Monday, March 05, 2012

Parker Quartet

Morrison Artists Series, 03.04.2012 Reception at intermission of Morrison Artists Series performance.Sunday afternoon the Morrison Artists Series at SF State presented the Parker Quartet. The quartet's members are young, & their performance was so clean I could have been listening to a CD. They make a sheen sound, & no one voice ever dominates. Their ensemble & intonation in the Debussy String Quartet were very accurate. Violist Jessica Bodner played her solo in the 2nd movement with incisiveness & bite. 1st violin Daniel Chong played perfect parallel octaves in the final movement. His playing can be virtuosic, & he digs in without sounding rough. The audience applauded after the 1st & 2nd movements & clearly enjoyed the piece's sweeping final bars. In the pause after the 1st movement, a stagehand inexplicably strode on stage, approached the quartet, then ran off.

2nd violin Karen Kim introduced the quartet Ainsi la nuit by not-dead composer Henri Dutilleux & informed us that it was cellist Kee-Hyun Kim's birthday. She explained the piece's structure, & the quartet played excerpts so that we could hear some of the recurring motifs. The work is atonal & features a lot of insect-like sounds. Its mood is mysterious, nocturnal & agitated, & it ends with a shudder. The quartet played complex passages containing pizzicato, ponticello, slides, col legno & very high notes with a straight-forward confidence.

During the intermission, the audience attended a reception with coffee & cookies on the stage of an adjacent hall, & there was a raffle drawing for a set of CDs before the 2nd half. The program ended with Schumann's Quartet No. 3. The bold playing of the 2nd movement's 5th variation stood out. Mr. Kim played a light & floaty cello pizzicato in the Adagio. The unusual encore was Microlude No. 5 by Kurtág, in a neat performance.

§ Morrison Artists Series
Parker Quartet
Daniel Chong, violin
Karen Kim, violin
Jessica Bodner, viola
Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

Debussy (1862–1918): String Quartet in G, Op. 10 (1893)
Dutilleux (1916–): Ainsi la nuit (1973–76)
Schumann (1810–1856): Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3 (1842)

György Kurtág: Microlude No. 5 for String Quartet, Op 13 (on E)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

San Francisco History Expo 2012

SF History Expo 2012, 03.03.2012 The action at the SF History Expo in the Old Mint.This afternoon I briefly checked out the San Francisco History Expo, going on this weekend at the Old Mint. The main draw for me was a chance to get inside that historic building, which the SF Historical Society plans to turn into a museum. Rooms on the 1st floor were crowded with volunteers representing dozens of local organizations, from neighborhood historical societies to the Park Service to the Masons of California. The downstairs vaults were also open. The expo was busy. I saw a lot of great old photos of the City as well as people in historical costumes. I learned an embarrassing amount for someone who has lived here his whole life. I had no idea SF once had a Greek Town. I didn't know about our Railway Museum either. The 1st streetcar built for Muni still exists & is being refurbished for return to service this year.

§ San Francisco History Expo 2012
March 3-4, 2012
The Old Mint