Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

An American Festival

March 18, 2015

My question in the last post (Who’s next?) has now been answered. Instead of a festival devoted to a particular composer the 2015 – 2016 San Antonio Symphony season will have a “Las Americas Festival”. The possibility of such a festival had crossed my mind but I ruled it out largely because of the steady exposure to new (mostly) American works we have enjoyed this season through the commissioned American Preludes performed as the first work at each concert of the 2014 – 2015 75th anniversary classical series.

Mike Greenberg has provided a helpful overview of the season highlights. He is particularly pleased we will have the world premiere of a cello concerto by Jeffrey Mumford. I wasn’t familiar with any of Mr. Mumford’s music, so I listened to a 90 minute representative sampling of his works released by Albany Records as TROY1473-74. While I’ve heard less accessible serious modern compositions, I’d have to say the most attractive parts of Mr. Mumford’s compositions are the titles. “In forests of evaporating dawns” is particularly evocative.

The season includes a brief nod to the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth but nothing by Carl Nielsen who shares the same year of birth. (By the way, Seattle is currently presenting a festival of all seven Sibelius symphonies.) Mr. Lang-Lessing has previously programmed Mahler symphonies for either the opening or closing concerts of the season. The Mahler 1st Symphony closes the 2015 – 2016 season. If I recall correctly Mr. Lang-Lessing played the same symphony in the concert that began his tenure as music director.

Richard Strauss’ opera Salome, performed in a fully staged production by Opera San Antonio, was a vital part of the recent Strauss Festival. I can’t think of any American operas the young opera company would be equipped to undertake. Philip Glass or John Adams seem out of the question. How about Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess? I don’t know how difficult it is to stage. It would fit in pretty well with the Festival and should be popular enough.

One personal complaint about the new season: There is no Bruckner symphony! It’s about time the symphony plays either the 5th or the 9th. The 8th would be wonderful, but maybe that’s asking too much. We can dream.


Who’s Next?

February 28, 2015

One welcome and very successful innovation San Antonio Symphony Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing introduced in 2010 was an annual festival focused on the works of a single composer. So far we have had festivals featuring the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Dvorak and Richard Strauss. Only works by the featured composer were performed during the first four festivals. This season (2014 – 2015) took a significantly different approach. In addition to works by Richard Strauss the works of other composers who either influenced Strauss or were influenced by him were included in the programs. The selections in a concert were usually related by a theme. For example, the waltz was the unifying link for an evening consisting of works by Johann Strauss Jr., Richard Strauss and Maurice Ravel.

I find it interesting to speculate on the festival composer for 2015 – 2016. If we look at composer birthday anniversaries there are two notable composers who were born in 1865: Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. A festival of both composer’s works could be quite interesting. Both wrote some exceptional symphonies, tone poems and choral works.

There are, of course, many great composers who haven’t yet been featured in a festival. I think some (Bach, Mozart, Haydn come to mind) would be unlikely because they use limited orchestral resources. Mr. Lang-Lessing has shown a preference for romantic period works. Richard Wagner comes to mind as a possible candidate. There are a number of standalone orchestral works but no symphonies or concertos. A gala concert of opera selections and/or a semi-staged portion of an opera would be doable. Opera San Antonio is not in a position to successfully produce a fully staged performance of any Wagner opera.

This is a long shot, but I think an Elgar festival would have a lot to offer. There are two symphonies (and an unfinished symphony in a performance version), a violin concerto, a cello concerto, a number of large-scale choral works and several fine overtures. In addition, there are enough chamber works to give local chamber music organizations some festival-related concert material. However, I don’t know that Elgar has enough audience appeal to make such a festival sufficiently attractive.

Festivals based on a couple of composers who wrote (almost) only symphonies would be a real challenge, especially for the audience. Symphonies by Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler have been programmed fairly frequently in recent years. A festival of either composer’s works would be too heavy for sustained interest.

It shouldn’t be long before the San Antonio Symphony announces the schedule for the next season. I’m looking forward to the announcement and expect I’ll be surprised by the choice of composer for the 2015 – 2016 festival.

San Antonio Symphony 2014 – 2015 Season

March 30, 2014

The San Antonio Symphony has announced their classical series for the first season in the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. There will be a slightly different approach to the annual Festival this season. Previous festivals have been devoted entirely to the works of a single composer. This year we will have a Richard Strauss festival but some festival concerts will include works by other composers who either influenced Strauss or were influenced by him. 2014 is the 150th anniversary of Strauss’ birth. San Antonio Symphony founding director, Max Reiter, was a friend of Richard Strauss and the symphony performed the American premiers of several Strauss works, including three of the Four Last Songs with soprano Kirsten Flagstad. Flagstad had performed the world premier of all four songs with conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, but found Fruhling too demanding on her aging voice and never performed it again.

The last few years I’ve created maps summarizing the symphony’s classical season. Here is the one for 2014 – 2015. Click to view a larger version.

2014 - 2015 SA Symphony Classical Season

2014 – 2015 SA Symphony Classical Season

Saltarelli String Orchestra April Concert

April 26, 2013
Photo of the Orchestra by Sergio Rodriguez

Photo of the Orchestra by Sergio Rodriguez

It has been a while since I’ve written about the Saltarelli String Orchestra. We’re still rehearsing every Monday night and giving concerts the last Monday of most months. The location is the First Mexican Baptist Church in San Antonio at 201 Meredith Drive. Occasionally, due to the way holidays fall, the concert will be a week earlier. For April the concert is on the 29th starting at 7:30. There’s plenty of parking and the concerts are free. You can always check for the concert schedule.

We have some new members and there is renewed energy and enthusiasm within the orchestra. One of our new members has gotten us some great publicity, adding the concerts to online calendars and creating a Facebook page for the orchestra. Be sure to visit and “Like” the Facebook page!

This month one of our selections will be the Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock (pseudonym of Peter Heseltine, 1894 − 1930). Composed in 1926, the suite is based on 16th century dance music. The movements are short and of dramatically contrasting tempos and moods. The stirring final movement is a  sword dance and has some surprising dissonances toward the end.

I hope you can join us for an evening of music Monday night!

SA Symphony 2013 – 2014 Season

March 8, 2013

The San Antonio Symphony has released the concert schedule for the 2013-2014 season. For the last few years I’ve been making an informative map of the works in the classical season. Here is the post for 2012 – 2013. A very successful Brahms Festival just concluded a few weeks ago. A Dvorak Festival is in store for next season. Here’s the new map, click on the image below to see the full size, legible version:

SA Symphony 2013 - 2014

SA Symphony 2013 – 2014

I’ve also created a timeline using the same data, showing the approximate dates the compositions were completed. Click here to view the pdf file.

The data map and timeline were created using Tinderbox software. Each new season I make minor modifications and the software does the work of creating the map based on the data I enter. The addition of a StartDate for each work was all that was required to generate the timeline.

By the way, the dates for the timeline came from either Wikipedia or Naxos Music Library.

San Antonio Symphony Musicians Wait for New Contract

August 25, 2012

Last season (2011 – 2012) the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony did an extraordinary thing. Lacking a new contract, they made a gentlemen’s agreement with the symphony administration to perform the season under the same terms as their previous, expired contract. They did this in hopes of encouraging the momentum new conductor Sebastian Lang Lessing brought to the symphony. Now, with the opening concert of the season on October 5, the players are once again without a contract. Jack Fishman, Symphony CEO and President, was reported as saying the contract negotiations will start “very, very soon”.

The San Antonio Symphony Players Association has a website and a Facebook page. John Clare of Texas Public Radio interviewed the members of the players’ negotiating committee. The full interview can be found at the bottom of this page. On that page you’ll also find a link to the letter the players’ negotiating commitee  sent to the symphony board.

The negotiations cannot start soon enough. The players have shown incredible dedication, sacrifice and patience. We all hope the organization will be able to move forward into an era of stability and fair compensation for these vital members of our arts community.

Get Ready for the 2012 – 2013 Season!

August 11, 2012

Many arts organizations have announced their 2012 – 2013 schedules. We’re going to have a lot to choose from! I’ve been busy updating with all the events. So far I’ve listed concerts for the San Antonio Symphony classical series, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, the Mid-Texas Symphony, Olmos Ensemble, Tuesday Musical Club Artists series, Symphony of the Hills, and the Hill Country Chorale. I’m eagerly awaiting the Camerata San Antonio schedule.

Of special interest, the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio is currently selling tickets for their inaugural concert. The concert covers an astounding range of music. As the website states:

The Perennial Contest will explore rarely experienced but engaging pieces that address the continuing debates among music and philosophy enthusiasts: tonality in music and the essence of being. Join us on October 26th for an evening of rich and exciting music that stirs the mind and invigorates the senses!

They’re setting themselves a high standard. I hope the performances can conform to the standard.

2012 – 2013 SA Symphony Map

February 25, 2012

The San Antonio Symphony has released the schedule for the 2012 – 2013 series. The last few years I’ve used Tinderbox software to create an informative map of the works in the series. Click the map to open the larger, legible version:

SA Symphony 2012 – 2013

So much Beethoven, So little Time!

December 17, 2011

Beethoven, W.J. Mähler, 1804 now lists EVERY OFFICIAL BEETHOVEN FESTIVAL EVENT! That’s right, all 35 events from early January 2012 through mid-February. The Beethoven Festival will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear so many Beethoven masterpieces within a six week span of time. Experience all of the symphonies, all of the works for solo cello, all of the piano sonatas, most of the violin sonatas… along with avant-garde and Beethoven inspired jazz. Make your plans now and let be your guide!

Rieu, Smiles, and the San Antonio Symphony

November 4, 2011

In September I posted  some thoughts concerning Andre Rieu and his October concert in San Antonio. Steve Porter attended the concert and came up with some advice for the San Antonio Symphony, which was published in the San Antonio Express-News. The advice can be summarized as: look happy, play happy music, make your audience leave the concerts happy and your financial troubles will be over. Here is that formula in action:

I challenge you to watch that and not finish feeling a little queasy. All the fake smiles, the blatant insincerity, the seasickness inducing swaying.

San Antonio Symphony CEO Jack Fishman responded to  Porter’s advice with a blog post. Fishman concludes:

There is nothing wrong with happy, but isn’t life far more complex and rich than just one emotion?

Thank goodness symphonic music is too.

Local blogger bgreinhart has a very perceptive posting taking exception to Porter’s advice.

Genuine emotion is so much more moving than fake happiness and smarmy enthusiasm. I’m so thankful for the San Antonio Symphony and the happiness and challenges that combine to make up a full and rewarding life.