Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ABS: Bach's Legacy

Sunday afternoon I attended the American Bach Soloists' impeccably prepared concert of sacred choral music. The program intermixed Bach with 19th & 20th century composers directly inspired by him. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas directed 33 singers, arrayed as a double chorus. They sang with clarity & a massed sound that was palpable. There were moments when I felt vibrations deeps in my ear canal or thought I heard pitches besides those being sung.

It was great to hear 3 Bach motets on the program. Baritone Thomas Thompson & tenor Jon Lee Keenan were soloists for the Bach Cantata 131, with Mr. Keenan sounding particularly plaintive. My German-speaking concert companion thought that Mr. Thompson consistently pronounced "du willst" as "du willt." 10 instrumentalists provided discreet accompaniment for the Bach works. The oboe obbligato in the cantata was clean & unfussy. My concert companion & I, as well as the couple seated next to us, were puzzled by a horn-like instrument with a curved bore that the program listed it as a taille or tenor oboe.

The chorus conveyed a distinct mood for each of Mendelssohn's Sechs Sprüche, which sounded luminous & optimistic. The Bach motet Der Geist hilft was both joyful & solemn. The chorus had great dynamic range & expressed a feeling of confident faith in Fest- und Gedenksprüche by Brahms. The version of Komm, Jesu, Komm by Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström clearly used phrases from the preceding Bach motet while sounding modern & sometimes intensely dissonant. The sopranos created a beautiful pianissimo on a high note at the end of one section. The program ended with Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt's Immortal Bach, which starts with a Bach hymn & stretches it out, creating eerie layers of sound & an uncanny silence at the end.

A woman seated behind me whispered appreciative comments aloud immediately following several pieces, & the audience gave the performance a standing ovation, though it almost felt unseemly to applaud during such a concert. It took a while for me to come back down to earth.

§ American Bach Soloists
Bach's Legacy
Motets and Choral Works by Bach and his Followers

American Bach Choir
Jon Lee Keenan, tenor
Thomas Thompson, baritone
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren, BWV Anh. 231 (Leipzig, after 1724)
Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131 (Mühlhausen, 1707)
    Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Sechs Sprüche zum Kirchenjahr, Op.79 (Published posthumously, 1848)
    Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226 (Leipzig, 1729)

Fest- und Gedenksprüche, Op. 109 (1890)
    Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Komm, Jesu, komm BWV 229 (unknown, but probably in Leipzig, before 1732)

Komm, Jesu, komm (2005)
    Sven-David Sandström (b.1942)

"Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich"
Chorale from Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 126
Cantata for Sexagesimae (Leipzig, 1725)

"Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich," op Posth.

Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh', BWV 478 (Leipzig, 1736)

Immortal Bach (1988)
    Knut Nystedt (b.1915)

Sunday, April 27, 2014, 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church

Monday, April 28, 2014

Opera Parallèle Double Bill

Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo
Saturday night I attended Opera Parallèle's double bill of Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel and Francis Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tirésias. The 2 works were presented in a continuous 100 minute performance that combined them into a single plot line, set in a Mad Max-like dystopian future. I was kept very busy absorbing all the things director Brian Staufenbiel put onstage, starting with a pre-curtain slideshow of newspapers & magazines from the future. The main scenic element is a large boat on wheels that is pulled on & off stage by the principals, who portray a troupe of travelling players. The Mahagonny Songspiel depicts their plight, & Les mamelles is a play-within-in-a-play that they put on. The 2 pieces complemented each other so well that my ears did not have to change gears when the music moved from Weill to Poulenc and then back again.

Members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus figured prominently as a band of orphans & sang & acted with gusto. They crowd-surfed one of their number, & their chorus of babies was one of my favorite parts of the show. Four supers represented a paramilitary guard, and there were 2 rather sexy dancers. Members of Resound Ensemble were a chorus of desert nomads & had a fair amount of choreography themselves.

Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo
The principals all gave dynamic performances. Soprano Rachel Schutz was sparkling in her sex change scene in Les Mamelles, & her high notes were astonishingly free & bright. Gabriel Pressier was an unstoppable baritone as her husband, his voice ringing & athletic. Tenor Thomas Glenn was an excellent comic actor in various Les mamalles roles, & his singing from atop the boat's mast in the finale of Mahagonny was chilling & taut. Baritone Daniel Cilli's voice was full & authoritative in the prologue to Les mamelles, & he displayed fancy footwork as a dueling gambler.

Mezzo Rene Rapier has a wonderfully grounded voice & an out-going stage presence. The blend of her voice with Ms. Schutz's in Mahagonny was gorgeous. Baritone Hadleigh Adams was engaging to watch as a goofy French policeman in Les Mamelles, & his voice is pleasingly clean & unforced. Baritone Aleksy Bogdanov sounded fittingly dark & infernal as Jimmy in Mahagonny, & I liked his horned headgear.

Conductor Nicole Paiement led a 19-piece orchestra alertly, & its sound was crisp. The ensemble was thin on strings, but I was glad to hear the percussion, piano & harp in the Poulenc. I was completely engrossed throughout the show, which successfully mixed absurdity & gravity. Only one audience member attempted to applaud in the brief space between Mahagonny & Les mamelles, but there was much applause during Les mamelles.

§ Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel
Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director / Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director / Concept Designer
KT Nelson, Choreographer

Rachel Schutz: Jessie/tirésias, La Cartomancienne
Gabriel Pressier: Bobby/le Mari
Thomas Glenn: Charlie/lacouf, Le Journaliste, Le Fils
Daniel Cilli: Billy/presto, Le Directeur
Hadleigh Adams: Le Gendarme
Aleksey Bogdanov: Jimmy/ Le Monsieur Barbu
Renee Rapier: Betty/ La Marchande De Journaux

Members of  Resound Ensemble
Members of San Francisco Girls Chorus

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
Apr 26, 2014 8:00pm

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Acis and Galatea at Cal Performances

Chelsea Lynn Acree, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson, Maile Okamura
(Photo: Ken Friedman )
Friday night I saw the world premiere of the Mark Morris's hybrid staging of Acis & Galatea. 16 dancers & 4 singers share the stage, with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorus in the pit. The dancers & singers interact to tell the story, though I found the effect a bit odd. Even though the singers are dressed similarly to the dancers, their diverse physiques set them apart, & I kept expecting the dancers to start singing.

The choreography illustrated the music & the bucolic scenario very closely. The dancing was very symmetrical & involved a lot of gracefully extended arms, frolicking, & running on & off stage. There were many humorous moments, such as when the dancers depicted meadow animals or the "ample strides" of Polyphemus. They also enacted the rolling boulder that kills Acis. It was often like watching a segment of Fantasia.

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki has a pretty, warbling voice & was a reassuringly solid Galatea. The strong, clear sound of tenor Thomas Cooley as Acis reached out into the hall easily. Tenor Zach Finkelstein's singing, in the role of a shepherd, was even & secure. Bass-baritone Douglas Williams got to ham it up a bit as a comical Polyphemus, & his voice was clean & focused. The orchestra & chorus sounded lively & springy under conductor Nicholas McGegan. They played Mozart's arrangement of Handel's music, & I enjoyed hearing clarinets & a fortepiano in the orchestra. There were several nice flute solos.

The bright green & yellow of the costumes & thorny, expressionistic backgrounds strained my eyes after a while. Dramatically the piece is tepid except for one purely theatrical moment when Ms. Panthaki was left alone on a bare stage to sing her lament for Acis.

Zellerbach Hall looked full, & the audience laughed at the amusing parts of the choreography. As soon as the music started, the woman next to me began pointing & whispered to a woman behind her, "I'm looking for Tanya." During the intermission I overheard audience members joking that they heard the lyric "Happy we!" as "Happy weed!"

§ Acis and Galatea (World Premiere)
George Frederic Handel
arr. by Wolfgang Amadeus Moart

Mark Morris Dance Group
Mark Morris, Direction & Choreography

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, Conductor

Sets by Adrianne Lobel
Costumes by Isaac Mizrahi
Lighting by Michael Chybowski

Thomas Cooley, Acis
Sherezade Panthaki, Galatea
Douglas Williams, Polyphemus
Zach Finkelstein, Damon
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director

Cal Performances
Fri, April 25, 8 pm
Zellerbach Hall

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don Giovanni at Opera San Jose

This Easter Sunday I attended the afternoon performance of Don Giovanni at Opera San Jose. The production is double cast, & Sunday's line-up sang out robustly & was uniformly loud, particularly mezzo Lisa Chavez as Donna Elvira, who in the quartet in act 1 was louder than the other 3 participants combined. Baritone Evan Brummel was a bear-like Don Giovanni, & his bellowing voice had a metallic ring. Baritone Krassen Karagiozov as Leporello has a smooth voice & is an athletic figure onstage. All 3 female principals sang with great strength. Baritone Bryan James Myer portrayed an indignant & resentful Masetto, seeming more like a Figaro than a peasant. Tenor Marc Schreiner sang "Il mio tesoro" briskly, but "Dalla sua pace" was omitted.

The orchestra played nicely. The woodwinds were balanced & together, & the brasses made a blended sound in the dinner scene. Conductor Anthony Quartuccio replaced the originally announced George Cleve. Tempos were square. Though Maestro Quartuccio seemed to mark every beat, the orchestra & singers were not always together. Mezzo Tania Mandzy Inala as Zerlina looked scared when she gave the conductor an urgent glance at the start of "Batti, batti."

The simple set consists of doors on both sides of the stage & an open space in the middle. The many scene changes are indicated by walls moving on & off, though all the locations are nondescript. The casts' 18th century costumes are attractive. There were no onstage bands at the ends of the acts. Instead of The Don descending to hell amid smoke & flames, Masetto sneaks up behind him & strangles him, then drags the body offstage.

For Don Giovanni's serenade in act 2, a mandolin is tossed into his hands from a doorway by an unseen stagehand. To complete the gag, Don Giovanni tossed it back at the end of the aria, but the mandolin bounced off the doorjamb & landed back onstage, at which point we saw a hand reach out to retrieve it.

I like the warm & supportive San Jose audience. They attentively followed the action & laughed at all the jokes. My opera companion & I arrived at the California Theatre early enough for me to hear the theater organ in the lobby & watch an elderly couple dance to one of the songs.

§ Don Giovanni
Opera San Jose

Conductor: Anthony Quartuccio
Stage Director: Daniel J. Witzke

Donna Anna: Jennifer Forni
Donna Elvira: Lisa Chavez
Don Giovanni: Evan Brummel
Leporello: Krassen Karagiozov
Masetto: Brian James Myer
Zerlina: Tania Mandzy Inala
Commendatore: Silas Elash
Don Ottavio: Marc Schreiner

Opera San José Orchestra, Chorus, Dancers and Supers

Sun., Apr. 20, 2014 3 p.m.
California Theatre

Monday, April 21, 2014

Opera Parallèle Rehearsal

Saturday afternoon Opera Parallèle held an open rehearsal for its up-coming double bill of Mahagonny Songspiel & Les mamelles de Tirésias. We heard substantial chunks of both works, with staging. The cast includes 7 principles, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, an adult chorus, 2 dancers & 4 supers. Opera Parallèle may be a small company, but there is nothing modest about its ambitions.

The show combines the 2 works into a single asurdist scenario. The performance starts with the Mahagonny Songspiel, set in an arid, dystopian future, where a troupe of travelling players is dragging a boat across a desert. The production features an actual boat, which can be wheeled all around the stage & becomes a stage-within-a-stage for the troupe's performance of Les mamelles. Conductor Nicole Paiement was very excited to demonstrate how the last notes of Mahagonny dovetail into the 1st notes of Les Mamelles without a break or transition.

This was a working rehearsal, & there were times when the performers were getting notes from 3 directors simultaneously. There will be a lot to watch. The young cast is charismatic & sounded great. Soprano Rachel Schutz has a spacious voice & gliding high notes & is a confident actress. It seems she will be wearing a very peculiar costume when she appears as Thérèse, before transforming into Tirésias. Baritone Hadleigh Adams is a persuasive actor, even when wielding a prop as silly as a hobbyhorse.

Following the performance portion of the rehearsal, there was a Q & A with the cast & artistic team, who all clearly enjoy working together. The rehearsal took place in the old Palace of Fine Arts location of the Exploratorium, which has been converted into a very cool campus for the Town School for Boys.

More rehearsal photos over at Barihunks.

§ Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel
Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director / Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director / Concept Designer

Rachel Schutz: Jessie/tirésias, La Cartomancienne
Gabriel Pressier: Bobby/le Mari
Thomas Glenn: Charlie/lacouf, Le Journaliste, Le Fils
Daniel Cilli: Billy/presto, Le Directeur
Hadleigh Adams: Le Gendarme
Aleksey Bogdanov: Jimmy/ Le Monsieur Barbu
Renee Rapier: Betty/ La Marchande De Journaux

§ Open Rehearsal
Town School for Boys (formerly the Exploratorium)
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 19, 2014

§ Performance
Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts’ Lam Research Theater
8 p.m. April 25, 26, 2014 and 2 p.m. April 27, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Used Book Sale at Fort Mason

The Friends of the SF Public Library are holding their Spring Book Sale at Fort Mason this week through Sunday. It's probably not the most efficient place to find a specific book, but browsing can be fun.

It's $3 for hardcovers, $2 for paperbacks. Other items like CDs are $1. On Sunday, everything goes for a dollar. Shoppers often fill shopping carts.

The collectibles area has interesting titles, though these are priced at more than a few bucks.

The last thing I need is more used books around my apartment, but there were no lines at the registers, so just for fun I bought this wonderfully judgy pocket guide to composers, from 1943. Wagner is called "the Führer of nineteenth century opera."

§ 4th Annual Spring Book Sale
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
April 16-20th, 2014
10 AM-6 PM
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

49 Geary Round-Up

Vivian Maier
Wilmette, Illinois
Girl In Clown Costume

circa 1967-1968
Tuesday lunchtime I peeked into a couple of galleries at 49 Geary. The Scott Nichols Gallery has a selection of photographs by the enigmatic Vivian Maier, a prolific & posthumously discovered street photographer who worked as a nanny in suburban Chicago in the 1950's & 60's while creating an archive of 100,000 negatives. Her work has only been known since 2009, but she is already the subject of news reports, exhibitions, books & 2 documentaries. The whole thing sounds like a post-modern stunt, but the pictures on display have an immediacy that is often arresting. There's a sense that the photographer saw something meaningful each time she snapped a picture. The images would not be out of place next to Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

John Chiara    
155 Somerset
, 2014
Camera Obscura Ilfochrome Photograph, Unique
34 x 28 inches
In the Haines Gallery, I enjoyed the washed-out colors & ghostly atmosphere of pictures of homes in the Excelsior district, taken in series by John Chiara with a camera obscura. There are no negatives, & the images were developed directly on photographic paper about a yard high. Unfortunately the exhibit does not show the camera obscura itself, which must be huge.

David Sokosh
Mike's Arm, Brooklyn

The Robert Tat Gallery is also featuring photography without negatives. David Sokosh's contemporary tintypes are made using 19th century processes & lenses, so each photograph is a unique object. The subjects look like they could have come from the 19th century as well. The dusky images have a potent presence & feel vaguely fetishistic.

§ Vivian Maier
Out Of The Shadows
Scott Nichols Gallery
February 6 – June 14

§ John Chiara
de • tached
Haines Gallery
March 6 - April 26, 2014

§ David Sokosh
American Tintypes
Robert Tat Gallery
March 6, 2014 - May 31, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
This afternoon I was at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, mainly to stop by the food bazaar for an unagi bowl. This is the 1st weekend of the festival, which culminates in a parade next Sunday afternoon.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
There were a lot of people enjoying the street fair, so some of the booths had long lines.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
Sponge Bob was spending the day as a tout for the Boy Scouts.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
People played games of Go in the street.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
There are 2 outdoor stages, as well as the usual exhibits & street vendors.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
The origami exhibit is small, unfortunately, but these colorful hot air balloons look like they were fun to make.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
I saw fine displays of Lolita fashion among attendees,

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
... as well as cosplay folks having a leisurely day out.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
These slightly skittish furries behaved like escapees from a Disney park, trying to act natural in the crowd in order to avoid recapture.

§ Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
Saturday and Sunday April 12-13 and April 19-20, 2014
San Francisco’s Japantown

Friday, April 11, 2014

Opera Parallèle Preview

Wednesday evening Opera Parallèle previewed their up-coming double-bill of Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel & Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias, which will have 3 performances at YBCA, April 25 - 27. Conductor Nicole Paiement enthusiastically gave a slide talk about the 2 composers, arguing that they go well together because of their shared sense of aesthetics. Both drew from popular music, excelled at melody & experimented with the boundaries of tonality & dramatic structure. 7 singers were on hand to perform excerpts from both works, accompanied by industrious pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi. The young cast all sounded fresh & strong & dropped into their scenes with ease. Mezzo Renee Rapier was wonderfully sultry demonstrating the contrast between sprechgesang & singing in the Alabama Song, & soprano Rachel Schutz was such an engaging actress as Tirésias that I was ready to hear the rest of Les Mamelles right then. John Bischoff was standing in for just this performance, but his orotund bass voice was striking.

Director Brian Staufenbiel explained the production's "Überstory," which amalgamates the 2 works. First we'll hear Mahagonny, set in a dystopian future, where nomads search for water in a world where natural resources have been depleted. A theater troupe, dragging a boat on wheels across dry land, stops to perform Les Mamelles, followed by a "retrograde reprise" of Mahagonny. According to blogger SF Mike, who's a super in the show, we'll see a real decomissioned boat on stage. SF Mike's determined face can also be seen in the show's publicity photos.

Opera Parallèle PreviewThe Poulenc will be presented in a re-orchestration for smaller orchestra, which has its US premiere at these performances. Members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus are participating as well. When Maestra Paiement momentarily lost her place during her talk, she let out a "Merde!", which she translated for us as "that means a flower." "I forgot!" During the Q&A, Mr. Staufenbiel hinted that Tirésias would get rid of her breasts in a surprising manner quite different from what is in the libretto. A wine reception with the musicians & Opera Parallèle administration followed the preview.

§ Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel
Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director / Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director / Concept Designer

Rachel Schutz: Jessie/tirésias, La Cartomancienne
Gabriel Pressier: Bobby/le Mari
Thomas Glenn: Charlie/lacouf, Le Journaliste, Le Fils
Daniel Cilli: Billy/presto, Le Directeur
Hadleigh Adams: Le Gendarme
Aleksey Bogdanov: Jimmy/ Le Monsieur Barbu
Renee Rapier: Betty/ La Marchande De Journaux

§ Sneak Preview
Sol Joseph Recital Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
6 p.m. April 9, 2014
Free and open to the public
Handouts:  Les Mamalles, Mahagonny

§ Open Rehearsal
Town School for Boys (formerly the Exploratorium) 2750 Jackson Street
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 19, 2014
Free and open to the public

§ Performance
Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts’ Lam Research Theater
8 p.m. April 25, 26, 2014 and 2 p.m. April 27, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I was sold on Sharknado by its title alone. This low-budget disaster movie was made for the Syfy channel & was so bad that it picked up bigger audiences with each re-airing & eventually made it onto late-night cinema screens. I was elated to see it for myself at a Midnight Madness show at the Clay Theater over the weekend.

A tornado strikes LA, resulting in flash floods, the destruction of the Santa Monica Pier, & giant man-eating sharks dropping from the skies. Homemade bombs are used to disperse land-based waterspouts, & at the climax the hero chainsaws his way out of the belly of a shark. A fleeting reference to global warming & a MacGuffin involving a bowl of shark fin soup hint at an ecological theme.

There couldn't have been more than 20 people at the midnight screening, but there was much vociferous laughter & howling nonetheless. I felt enjoyably like I was 12 years old again. A sequel set in New York is in production, called Sharknado 2: The Second One.

§ Sharknado (2013)
dir: Anthony C. Ferrante

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

SFS Rehearsal with Blomstedt & Carey Bell

San Francisco SymphonyLast week, a friend who is a San Francisco Symphony subscriber took me along to a closed rehearsal for donors. We sat in the 1st row of the loge & watched conductor Herbert Blomstedt rehearse the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto with soloist Carey Bell, the Symphony's principal clarinetist. There was a reduced orchestra, grouped closely around Maestro Blomstedt, who stood on the stage floor instead of a podium. The arrangement had a cozy feeling. The violins were split, with the cellos next to the 1st violins. The piece's important snare drum was right behind the violas. Many of the musicians wore brightly-colored leis, which they had apparently received at a luncheon before the rehearsal. The youthful Mr. Bell, resembling a graduate student more than anything else, wore a t-shirt with a picture of Brahms on it. When my friend pointed out an elderly man with a cane onstage, it took me a while to recognize principal cellist Michael Grebanier.

There was constant starting & stopping, & Maestro Blomstedt gave a lot of instructions to the players. He sang the opening melody before giving them their 1st cue. He seemed to be making sure that everything had a light but clear articulation. Mr. Bell's playing was smooth, tidy & calm, though he got looser in the rehearsal's 2nd half. At one point the orchestra applauded his execution of a particularly tricky passage. Toward the end of the rehearsal, Maestro Blomstedt attempted a run-through without stopping, but just as they got into the home stretch, a union timekeeper appeared onstage, began stealthily approaching the conductor, like a cat stalking its prey, & cut the music off mid-stream.

For those who arrived early, there was a lecture by Alexandra Amati-Camperi of USF, who gave a detailed breakdown of the concerto. A woman seated next to me asked if I played the clarinet, because she saw me writing notes.

§ FRIENDS Private Rehearsal
San Francisco Symphony 

Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Carey Bell, clarinet

Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 12:30p
Davies Symphony Hall

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Austin Kleon at Flax

Last week Austin Kleon give a talk to an SRO crowd of creative-looking people at the art store Flax. His new book, Show Your work, reframes self-promotion as social sharing & is aimed at those wanting to promote themselves better. It's a somewhat cartoony book combining words & pictures & looks like a fast read.

Mr. Kleon comes across as a friendly inspirational speaker for the Millennial Generation. He drew pictures on a flip chart to illustrate his slogan-like points, such as "Your work does not speak for itself" & "Share your process." We learned about the genius -- the stereotypical lone creator -- vs. the "scenius," which is a network of people stealing & then sharing one another's ideas. Mr. Kleon warned us not to become human Spam, & said if you want to meet someone, don't email them. Instead, shine a spotlight on them.

In the Q & A, Mr. Kleon earnestly provided helpful & pragmatic answers. Flax employees offered cookies & beverages to attendees. A man who saw me taking notes sidled up beside me & whispered, "Why buy the book when you can just write it all down?"

§ Book Signing with Austin Kleon
Tue, April 1, 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Monday, April 07, 2014

SFIFF57: Opening Press Conference

San Francisco International Film Festival photo IMG_20140401_101440_343_zps10352c94.jpgLast week I attended the San Francisco International Film Festival's opening press conference, which was held under an outrageous chandelier at the Fairmont Hotel. Noah Cowan, the SF Film Society's 4th Executive Director in as many years, briefly touted the Film Society's educational & grant programs, then festival programmers Rachel Rosen, Rod Armstrong, Audrey Chang & Sean Uyehara gave a general rundown of festival events.

Opening night film is The Two Faces of January, an international thriller based on a Patricia Highsmith novel. The centerpiece film is Palo Alto, a film by yet another Coppola, based on a book by James Franco. Mr. Franco, who already did a good job publicizing the film last week, is also represented in the festival as the director of Child of God. The closing night film, Alex of Venice, is another film from an actor, Chris Messina.

Richard Linklater will attend for a 3rd time, receiving the Founder’s Directing Award & presenting Boyhood, which was shot with the same cast over a span of 12 years. Live events include Thao Nguyen accompanying short films, including Charlie Chaplin’s The Pawnshop, & Stephin Merritt accompanying the silent horror film The Unknown, starring Lon Chaney. Hasan Minhaj will appear in an evening of stand-up comedy.

The documentary Return to Homs was mentioned several times during the press conference. Bob Weir is expected at the screening of the documentary The Other One. All that Jazz, Manila in the Claws of Light & Queen Margot are being shown in newly restored versions. All About the Feathers is the 1st film from Costa Rica to play at the festival. I'm glad that The Trip to Italy, a follow-up to Michael Winterbottom's entertaining The Trip, is on the program.

3 films have been added since the printed schedule came out: Begin Again, Calvary & The One I Love. During the Q & A, a journalist asked if there were any films "made under dire conditions."

§ 57th San Francisco International Film Festival
April 24–May 8, 2014

§ Opening Press Conference
Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 10:00 am
Fairmont San Francisco

Saturday, April 05, 2014

2014 Schwabacher Debut Recital with Steven Blier

Schwabacher Debut RecitalLast weekend I attended a Schwabacher Debut Recital program featuring 4 Adler Fellows. There was lovely singing throughout. Each performer presented a set of songs by a different composer. Short ensemble numbers for all 4 separated each set. Steven Blier was the accompanist & host, providing amusingly pithy commentary. He referred to the 1st set of Villa-Lobos songs as "art song in a string bikini." Soprano Maria Valdez sang them with a liquid, space-filling voice & displayed impressive dynamic control. Mezzo Zanda Švēde has a stunningly rich & substantial contralto-like sound, & she gave her set of Grieg songs in German an appropriately deep & dark texture.

Tenor A.J. Glueckert sang a set of Frank Bridge songs that ranged from the cheerful & floaty to the psychologically spacey, & his voice was consistently clear, ringing & fluid. Baritone Hadleigh Adams did a terrific job selling the hipster melancholy, nostalgia & regret of songs by New York composer Gabriel Kahane, whom Mr. Blier described as "the love child of Schumann, Faure & Stevie Wonder." Mr. Hadleigh sang with a neat, even & natural sound that was easy to listen to. He also acted the song's emotions with discreet & unaffected gestures.

The interstitial ensemble numbers were lighter in mood & acted as palate-cleansers, though the Smokey Robinson selection felt out of place. The singers seemed careful about balancing their voices. In their encore from Candide, they all sang out more, revealing just how much they had been holding back during the recital.

Mr. Blier has a muscular condition that restricts the use of his upper arms, & occasional allowances must be made, but his musical intentions are always definitively clear. After the audience applauded during the 1st set of songs, he asked for "vociferous applause" only at the black lines in the printed program. The concert was absorbing, & the audience gave extended applause for each singer's set, though there seemed to be a policy that performers not take a 2nd solo bow.

§ 2014 Schwabacher Debut Recitals
Presented by San Francisco Opera Center and Merola Opera Program

New York Festival of Song
In the Memory Palace

Steven Blier, piano
Maria Valdes, soprano
Zanda Švēde, mezzo-soprano
A.J. Glueckert, tenor
Hadleigh Adams, baritone

HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS (1887 - 1959)
Cançao da folha morta
The Ensemble

From Floresta do Amazonas
    Canção de amor
    Cair da tarde
    Melodia sentimental
Maria Valdes

I seraillets have
The Ensemble

EDVARD GRIEG (1843 - 1907)
From 6 Songs, Opus 48
    Lauf der Welt
    Die verschwiegene Nachtigall
    Zur Rosenzeit
    Ein Traum
Zanda Švēde

Come live with me
The Ensemble

FRANK BRIDGE (1879 - 1941)
Go Not, Happy Day
When You Are Old and Grey
Dweller in my Deathless Dreams

A. J. Glueckert

Two Fairy Tales
The Ensemble

The Memory Palace
    7 Middagh
    Merritt Parkway
    North Adams
Hadleigh Adams

You've Really Got a Hold On Me
The Ensemble

Encore: Quartet from Leonard Berstein's Candide

Sunday, March 30, 5:30 p.m.
Temple Emanu-El’s Martin Meyer Sanctuary

Thursday, April 03, 2014

SF Sound Salon

sfSound photo IMG_20140325_195623_zps47d910b8.jpgLast week I finally visited the Center for New Music, where I heard a performance in the SF Sound Salon Series. The venue is a narrow storefront with good acoustics, though noises from the street & the building's plumbing leak into the space. There were about 15 people in the audience, all of whom seemed to be friends of the performers. I felt I was sitting among elite auditors.

Violinist Benjamin Kreith & guitarist Travis Andrews began the evening with 2 duos that both picturesquely depict nighttime. Carlo Prosperi's In Nocte seemed to be about a restless night, & David del Puerto's Jardín bajo la luna (Garden in the Moonlight) had a definite Spanish flavor & was often effusively romantic. Mr. Kreith & Mr. Andrews were affable performers, & their musical intentions were always clear.

There was a slight delay while Mr. Kreith hunted down his misplaced music for Elliott Carter's Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi for solo violin. Mr. Kreith did a nice job making the piece's compressed, contrasting phrases sound fluent. Mr. Andrews used a travel guitar without a sound hole for Örjan Sandred's Cracks and Corrosion II, in order to minimize feedback from the piece's use of sound processing software. I liked a recurring effect that sounded like a bunch of bubbles rising up through water. The piece has an uncanny atmosphere, & Mr. Andrews played with exactitude.

After a break, clarinetist Matt Ingalls joined Mr. Kreith & Mr. Andrews for a short improvision. Mr. Andrews provided arpeggios underneath interjections from the other 2 players. The performers seemed amused when their improvisation came to a halt without warning.

To end the evening, Mr. Ingalls was The Terminator of the clarinet in a powerful 30 minute solo that utilized a range of unconventional techniques. He ricocheted notes around the space, played while swinging the instrument wildly, blew barely audible whistling noises, & kept up a tenacious circular breathing for most of the half-hour. In one astounding section he was an implacable clarinet-playing machine as he executed an impossibly rapid stream of notes, sounding like an electronic instrument & creating the illusion of 3 voices going at once. His peformance culminated in a sustained, piercing passage that created buzzing vibrations deep in my ear canal. In his introductory remarks, Mr. Ingalls called these "difference tones," which are a perceptual phenomena created by the ear. After a few minutes, though, I was beaten into submission. I started experiencing the sensation as pain, so I sat through the conclusion of Mr. Ingalls' performance with my fingers crassly in my ears. I felt like I had a screwdriver jammed into my ears for an hour afterward.

§ SF Sound Salon Series
Benjamin Kreith / Travis Andrews Duo; Matt Ingalls solo

Benjamin Kreith, violin
Travis Andrews, guitar
Matt Ingalls, clarinet

Carlo Prosperi: In Nocte
Mr. Kreith & Mr. Ingalls

David del Puerto: Jardín bajo la luna
Mr. Kreith & Mr. Ingalls

Elliott Carter: Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi
Mr. Kreith

Örjan Sandred: Cracks and Corrosion II
Mr. Ingalls

Mr. Kreith, Mr. Ingalls, Mr. Andrews

Clarinet Solo
Mr. Ingalls

Center for New Music
Tuesday, March 25, 2014: 7:49 pm