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 Classicalendar.com 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.

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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

Classicalendar.com 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 Classicalendar.com be your guide!

Tired of the same old eggs?

December 17, 2011

This recipe is from Make it Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason. The whites and yolks are separated, then the whites are beaten and combined with unsweetened coconut. The yolks are nestled into the resulting mounds and the assembly is baked until browned. The yolks turned out about medium and the dish was a welcome change from the same old eggs.

Coconut-nested Eggs

It’s a Great Time to Own an Amazon Kindle

November 12, 2011

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of electronic books for a long time. I was an early adopter, buying a Rocket e-book reader about 10 years ago. It never really caught on. I knew an ebook reader from Amazon probably had the greatest chances of succeeding due to Amazon’s extensive connections with publishers. I bought the first version Kindle for almost $400. The electronic ink display really was almost like paper and the 3G connectivity made it ridiculously easy to buy and download books from Amazon. Compared to later Kindle versions the first unit looked more like a prototype than a finished product. I describe the sad loss of my first Kindle and my impressions of Kindle 2  here.

Amazon recently announced the introduction of a new line of three Kindles. None of the models have physical keyboard, which I think is a big step backward. I don’t use the keyboard much for annotating, but it comes in handy for entering search terms. The Kindle Fire has sparked the greatest interest. It is a color tablet beautifully designed not only as an ebook reader but a web browser and multimedia viewer. The $199 price is very appealing in the increasingly crowded tablet market. I don’t think Amazon expects to compete with the iPad, but the Kindle Fire may have many of the essential features consumers are expecting from a tablet computer.

image of Kindle Fire

The new Kindle Fire Tablet

Ultimately it doesn’t matter how great the hardware is if the books you want to read aren’t available for the device. I think this is where Amazon has pulled far ahead of the competition. Amazon currently has about 765,000 books available for the Kindle. Recently Kindle books have become available through public libraries. They are checked out just like physical books, typically for two weeks, and are no longer readable after the expiration date. Locally Kindle ebooks are available through the Lone Star Digital Library. Amazon has now made another feature available to Amazon Prime members. They call it the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. It allows Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle device (applications for personal computers or tablet computers are not included) to borrow one book a month from a list of about 5000 titles. Unlike books borrowed from a library there is no time limit, but you can only have one book at a time. The titles are divided into categories and subcategories and can be browsed from the Kindle device. This feature is in addition to unlimited Netflix-like movie streaming and free 2 day shipping for Amazon Prime members. Maybe I should have titled this post It’s a Great Time to be an Amazon Prime Member!

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.

Mac App Store Updates

November 4, 2011

I’ve been using Apple Mac computers at home for several years. It’s definitely a more pleasant environment than Windows. Hardly anything ever locks up and I haven’t heard of any widespread malware issues. But you have to wonder about some design decisions. Not too long ago Apple started selling software through an App Store application. It’s a centralized way of browsing, purchasing and installing new software. Apple does some vetting of the applications, so developers must meet certain quality and interface consistency requirements to have their software in the App Store.

This is all good and helpful. It would seem updates would also be a greatly improved experience with the centralized control of the App Store. After all, many non-App Store applications, both Mac and Windows, check for updates automatically and let you know immediately when an update is available. Not so with the App Store. I have a few purchases and thought I’d be notified somehow when updates became available. No, can’t do that. To check for updates you have to open the App Store application and look for a numerical badge on the update tab (or click on the updates tab). Why can’t this be integrated with the software update agent that so seamlessly keeps the operating system updated?

I checked with online Apple Support and found the following, updated September 13, 2011:

Updating apps that were purchased from the Mac App Store

Software Update does not show updates available for apps that were purchased from the Mac App Store. To update your purchased apps, open App Store on your Mac, then click the “Updates” view at the top of the App Store window. This will show all available updates for apps currently installed on your Mac.

I hope this needless manual checking will be addressed in a future ….  err….   update.

Andre Rieu at AT&T Arena

September 17, 2011
Andre Rieu

Andre Rieu in Concert

On October 18, 2011 at the AT&T Center a seismic musical event will explode in San Antonio. At least that’s the impression you get from fans of violinist and conductor Andre Rieu. Here is an excerpt from a review of a London concert in April 2011:

The whole place erupted with clapping whistling and shouting. People were on their feet and cameras were clicking. Any worries I had about Andre not getting a rapturous welcome were forgotten. Andre and JSO [Johann Strauss Orchestra] marched waving and smiling down the aisles towards the stage. Everyone knew they were in for a night of pure fun and wonderful music.
Andre looked magnificent and handsome on stage. Blue eyes shining. Wide dazzling smile. The music and applause died down and the audience was eager to hear what Andre had to say. Every ladies heart melted at the sound of his voice.

I’m a little puzzled by the Rieu phenomenon. There is a cult of personality, obviously. Rieu’s wardrobe, hair, and conducting style (conducting while holding or playing his violin) are all deliberate evocations of the 19th century.  The artistry is sufficient for the material, but not exceptional. Rieu tends to turn most everything he plays into a sort of Johann Straussian bonbon. And if the music can’t be so conformed he doesn’t play it.  Australian reviewer Eamonn Kelly  commented on Rieu’s public and private demeanor.

Behind the scenes he is a bespectacled, conservatively dressed, mild-mannered Dutch businessman and a perfectionist with tight control over every aspect of the Rieu industry. On stage, he presents as a carefree spirit in full Strauss attire, overflowing with joie de vivre, spontaneity and playful informality.

The sheer spectacle involved in a Rieu concert can be outlandish. In his Rieu profile for Strings magazine David Templeton notes that Rieu doesn’t like anyone to refer to his concerts as shows. However, doesn’t this sound just a little over-the-top showy?

Perhaps what confused me was the massive, onstage replica of Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Castle, Rieu’s enormous traveling set that measures 410 feet wide, 100 feet deep, and 115 feet high. It comes complete with a pair of real ice rinks and a grand ballroom measuring nearly 900 square feet, all decked out with shimmering golden chandeliers, an authentic hand-painted ceiling, splashing fountains, and 14 carriages pulled by 36 horses.

I’ve loved the music of Johann Strauss II all my life and I really  don’t think it needs that kind of help. All artistic considerations aside, I’m sure the  upcoming concert at the AT&T Center will be a memorable show.

Two Special Concerts on 9/11

September 9, 2011

The Mid-Texas Symphony will open their season with a special concert dedicated to the heroes of 9/11. The concert begins with director David Mairs’ composition Lacrimosa et Benedictus (For the Victims). The program continues with Aaron Copland’s much loved Lincoln Portrait and Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 3, Eroica. The location is Seguin’s Jackson Auditorium, 4:00 pm. Here is David Mairs talking about his composition.

The Boerne Concert Band will be featured in a concert on Boerne’s Main Plaza at 6:30 pm. Other groups will also be performing.

Camerata San Antonio in Boerne Tonight

September 9, 2011

The first big events of the season on Classicalendar.com are the concerts by chamber ensemble Camerata San Antonio. Most of their concerts are held Thursday in Kerrville, Friday in Boerne, and Sunday in San Antonio. Tonight’s concert will feature music by Haydn, Kodaly, and Brahms. Camerata San Antonio is made up primarily of musicians from the San Antonio Symphony.