Thursday, April 30, 1998
A year ago, an enthusiastic crowd filled the large church at Mission San Juan Bautista to hear "Matins for the Virgin of Guadalupe" (properly Maitines para Nuestra Se¤ora de Guadalupe). The work, which was composed in Mexico City in 1764 by expatriate Italian Ignacio de Jerusalem, was written to honor the figure once called "Queen of Mexico and Empress of America," and this production marked the first time the piece had been performed in more than two centuries. The performance rang with stunning clarity and spirit under the leadership of Joseph Jennings, music director and conductor of Chanticleer, the outstanding San Francisco men''s choir, and its orchestra.
Now, Teldec has released on CD that production as recorded at Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio last summer (Teldec 21829). Stylistically, the piece ranges across centuries, from early plainchant, to high Baroque splendor, to "modern" pre-Classical textures and melodies. It is hard to imagine higher artistic vision and technical standards than Chanticleer''s in reviving this forgotten masterpiece.
The Alexander String Quartet, also from the SF Bay Area, has become popular with local audiences through local appearances sponsored by the Chamber Music Society and Mozart Society. In their last visit, program notes promised the complete Beethoven string quartet on Arte Nova label CDs. However, at the time, no Arte Nova product was available in this country. Thanks to a distribution deal with BMG (owner of RCA), that''s all changed. Moreover, the Arte Nova catalog is priced at $5.99 per disc ($4.99 at some of the large-volume retailers). I''ve just been relishing the Alexander''s Beethoven Quartet 13 in B flat, Op130, Volume 7 in the series (Arte Nova 54455).
Even more exciting (sorry Alexander) is the pairing of Beethoven''s fifth and sixth symphonies with David Zinman conducting the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich (Arte Nova 49695). These are, without a doubt, the most amazing and thrilling performances ever recorded. Pretty wild claim, you say? To start with, they are the first to use the new Brenreiter editions which incorporate an astonishing array of performance details not used since Beethoven''s time. Second, Zinman (arguably the greatest American conductor working today) and the Swiss orchestra etch those details so vividly that you won''t miss a one.
Other significant Arte Nova releases are Bruckner''s Symphony 6 in A with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting the Saarbrcken Radio Symphony (Arte Nova 54456), "Russian Baroque-Chamber Music from the Court of St. Petersburg" with music by Joseph Starzer, Anton Titz (I''m not making this up), Maxim Berezovsky and others (Arte Nova 51626), Britten''s Piano Concerto Op13 and Elgar''s Enigma with Skrowaczewski and Saarbrcken (Arte Nova 27769), and both of Shostakovich''s cello concertos with the Russian Philharmonic and cellist Kyrill Rodin (Arte Nova 49688). At this date, the catalog holds several hundred titles.
Even for us long-timers, it is hard to imagine that Frederica von Stade has been an opera star for no less than three decades. Put that together with her easy-going charm, generosity of spirit, and almost offhand sense of the characters she portrays, and one almost forgets her enormous stature in the world of opera. All one needs to do, however, is survey her repertoire. No mezzo-soprano in the last quarter century had developed a greater range of opera characters or concert roles than Flicka.
Though it took an inordinate length of time to bring her to Carmel, the Carmel Music Society finally hosted a von Stade concert in 1993. That appearance might otherwise have served to benefit the Monterey County AIDS Project, as it will this Friday at Sunset Center. In fact, the suggestion was made (and answered in the affirmative) years ago by von Stade''s cousin-in-law Margaret Clucas, who lost a son to AIDS--a son whose childhood was spent partly in the company of the young Flicka--and was an early MCAP volunteer, "back when the disease was still considered a sin," she says.
Von Stade''s career began at the top when the Metropolitan Opera''s Rudolf Bing engaged her under contract on the strength of her Met audition in 1969, when she was in her early 20s. No young flash in the pan, von Stade''s career only grew. Within the last decade, the versatile artist has sung operatic roles written for her by Dominick Argento >(The Aspern Papers), Thomas Pasatieri >(The Seagull) and Conrad Susa >(Dangerous Liaisons), and attracted new fans through her CD recordings of Showboat and The Sound of Music and such special telecasts as Flicka and Friends and Christmas with Flicka. cw
Last Week''s Quiz:What 17th Century English composer arranged Scarlatti keyboard sonatas into 12 concerti grossi? Answer: Charles Avison.
This Week''s Quiz: What respected American composer wrote what novel which was made into a 1990 movie starring John Malkovich?
The BYU Singers
Thursday, 8pm. Brigham Young University Singers perform for Salinas Concert Association. Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. $18/general; $10/students. 754-6829.
Mezzo Soprano Frederica von Stade
655-4522. >(See Hot Picks)
Saturday, 1pm; Sunday, 3pm. 27th annual competition of top university and conservatory chamber ensembles hosted by Chamber Music Society. Finalists compete Saturday; awards concert Sunday. Sunset Center, San Carlos Street and 9th Avenue, Carmel. Free admission. 625-2212. (Prize-winning art works by area high school students will also be presented.)
Santa Cruz Baroque Festival
Saturday, 8pm. "Parades, Acrobats & Beasts" focuses on comical Renaissance and Baroque music for violin, viol, harpsichord. Harpsichordist Linda Burman-Hall and members of Lux Musica. Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz. $15/general; $12/seniors; $8/students. 457-9693.
Pianist John O''Conor
Saturday, 8pm. Irish artist performs works of Beethoven, Schubert, Field, Chopin, Scriabin. Music Concert Hall, Brilliant Beethoven Center, San Jose State University, 1 Washington Square, San Jose. $15/general; $7/students. 924-4590.
Saturday, Sunday, 8pm. Sal Ferrantelli conducts Jan ek''s Our Father, Cimarosa''s Requiem, anthems and motets by Parry, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Lasso, Gawthrop, others. Carmel Mission Basilica, Rio Road & Lasuen Drive, Carmel. $20/reserved; $14/general. 655-0869.
Edison High School Band
Sunday, noon. Concert on the Green at Colton Hall, sponsored by City of Monterey. Colton Hall, Pacific Street, between Madison & Jefferson streets, Monterey. Free admission. 646-5640.
Sunday, 3pm. Cellist Nancy Skei & pianist Stephen Tosh play Bach, Bartok, Couperin, Debussy, Faure, Ravel, Stravinsky, and a new Tosh tone-poem, The Music of Erich Zann, inspired by the HP Lovecraft story. Unitarian Universalist Church, 490 Aguajito Rd., Carmel. $10/adults; $5/children 12 and under. 625-5633.