Saturday, October 30, 2010

Treats and a Trick with the Humboldt Symphony

The Humboldt Symphony ushers in Halloween this fall with some spooky music treats and an extra-musical trick. It’s all part of a family-friendly concert on Saturday October 30 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

In the evening’s bag of symphonic music are two works with a Halloween resonance—especially the rousing Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky, as orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Generations have heard major elements of Night on Bald Mountain in movies from The Wizard of Oz to a disco version in Saturday Night Fever, and have seen it illustrated in Walt Disney’s Fantasia and a famous Bugs Bunny cartoon (“What’s Opera, Doc?”) Its association with Halloween was recognized recently as a theme in one of the "Nightmare on Elm Street”movies.

“We get this combination of inspired music orchestrated by one of the best orchestrators who ever lived,” said Humboldt Symphony conductor Paul Cummings. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

Inspired by a short story by Gogol that involves witchcraft, and with a melody originally conceived for an opera called “The Witch”, it depicts (in the composer’s words) “subterranean sounds from supernatural voices” and “spirits of the dark.”

Last on the evening’s program, its performance will include a surprise that relates to the Halloween theme. Symphony conductor Paul Cummings won’t reveal more, except that he hopes it’s something that families in the audience will enjoy.

Before that, the Symphony plays The Peer Gynt Suite #1 by Grieg, a musical depiction of a fantasy involving the hero’s adventures among trolls, including a euphoric dance and a frantic escape.

“Much of the suite is quite famous,” Cummings said. Elements of it have been used in many movies, television shows and even a video game. The “In the Hall of the Mountain King” section has been reinterpreted by pop groups such as the Electric Light Orchestra and Apocalyptica. But the original suite “has some beautiful orchestral music,” Cummings said, “and it features some terrific playing by our HSU students.”

The concert also includes a prelude by Johannes Brahms in a form developed by J.S. Bach, and a baroque ballet suite by Jean-Baptiste de Lully.

The Humboldt Symphony performs an all-family concert on Saturday October 30 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Symphony conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal, Humboldt Beacon.
Humboldt Symphony: The Program

With comments by conductor Paul Cummings...

1.Balletstucke (Ballet Suite) by Jean-Baptiste de Lully

“Lilly was most active in the 1670s and 1680s, the middle of the Baroque period. He was the chief court composer for Louis XIV, and was known as the dictator of the musical scene for decades, keeping other composers out of the picture. At the time he conducted, he didn’t use a baton but a large staff—like a walking stick—that he pounded on the floor to keep the beat. Unfortunately he hit his own foot and caused an infection that killed him.

This piece is classic dance music of the 17th century in four movements. It’s not exactly in its original form, because the Baroque orchestra was smaller. F. Mottl arranged it for a larger orchestra.”

2. Chorale Prelude: "Oh God, Thou Holiest" by Johannes Brahms.

“This was transcribed for orchestra by Erich Leinsdorf, probably from a composition for organ. It’s a hymn using long, slow notes played by a variety of instruments, while everyone else in the orchestra is embellishing and commenting on the hymn. This is a form developed by J.S. Bach, and in this piece Brahms is expressing his reverence for Bach.”

3. Peer Gynt Suite #1 by Edvard Grieg

“Grieg was a 19th century Norwegian composer, an ardent nationalist who wanted to celebrate the culture of Norway, and bring the great folk music of the culture to the attention of modern audiences. The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen asked him to write incidental music for Peer Gynt, his play about a Norwegian folk hero. He wrote 22 movements for the three hours of the play, but this music is never performed now. Grieg extracted two suites from this music, and we’re playing the first.

As a folk hero, Peer Gynt is kind of a scoundrel who travels around and has adventures, getting in trouble everywhere he goes. This suite follows some of those adventures. The fourth movement is In the Hall of the Mountain King, a very famous piece. Peer is being entertained by a group of trolls who serve the Mountain King. He joins them in a celebration but when he realizes they expect him to marry the King’s daughter, he tries to escape, and the trolls chase him. The music evokes this very well.

Much of the suite is quite famous. There’s some beautifully written orchestral music, and it features terrific playing by our HSU students—many solo passages are beautifully executed.”

4. Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky

“Mussorgsky was also a 19th nationalist, very Russian in character. This piece was conceived as an opera from a story by Gogol. It takes place on St. John’s Eve, which is just before the summer solstice, but has become associated with Halloween.

Mussorgsky wrote a little about what he was imagining when he wrote it, and you can hear it all in the music: ‘subterranean sounds from supernatural voices,’ ‘spirits of the dark,’ the Underworld. There’s vivid writing for the instruments capturing these dark tone colors and effects—you can hear wind blowing fiercely and picture flames and fiery scenes. It’s program music at its height.

The version we’re doing is quite an amazing orchestration by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who literally wrote the book on orchestration that was used in the 19th and 20th centuries. So we get this combination of Mussorgsky’s inspired music orchestrated by one of the greatest orchestrators who ever lived—the best of both worlds.

It’s a well-known piece, and since it is now associated with Halloween, we’re presenting an extra-musical surprise during the performance. Part of the reason is that in the classical music world, we’re pretty conservative in our presentation. We’re downright stuffy. You come in, sit down, be quiet, don’t clap between movements, don’t talk at all—but enjoy yourself. So part of our effort is to lighten up a little, at least for this one piece. We do want to encourage people to come to concerts who might not otherwise come. At the same time, the music can stand on its own. We’re just going to be a little adventurous.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

HSU Student Composers Free Concert

New music by HSU composition students will be performed by faculty, Music Department staff musicians and students in a free concert on Friday October 29.

David Adkins, Sara Scibetta and John Garritano are among the composers participating.

According to composition teacher J. Brian Post, students experiment with both new and traditional approaches in composing, and typically reflect influences from American folk music, jazz, rock & roll, film scores and European art music.

Some of the evening’s music will be electronically produced, and some performed on traditional instruments.

The fall Composers Concert is Friday October 29 at 8 PM in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. There is no admission charge. Composers Concert directed by J. Brian Post, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, Humboldt Beacon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Impress Your Family with the Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra

Just in time for Homecoming and Family Weekend, the HSU Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra share the first (mostly) student concert of the school year on October 16 in the Fulkerson Recital Hall.

The Symphonic Band directed by Dr. Kenneth Ayoob features the dynamic suite adapted for band and brass quintet from Leonard Bernstein’s epic Mass, which Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The Humboldt Bay Brass Quintet led by Dr. Gilbert Cline joins the Symphonic Band for this striking work. Composer of West Side Story as well as orchestral pieces, Bernstein used multi-cultural and popular influences to energize his music.

Also on the Band’s program is the popular Undertow by the very young contemporary composer John Mackey (he just turned 21.) “It’s an exciting overture,” said Dr. Ayoob. “It has an infectious bass line and a compelling melody.” Mackey’s music has been hailed by the New York Times as “a terse, powerful explosion of transformative energy.”

Then in what Dr. Ayoob calls a “spectacular and brilliant composition” ideally suited to the Symphonic Band, there’s music to accompany a marching army in an excerpt from a work by French composer Hector Berlioz.

The Band’s final piece is Variations on a Korean Folk Song, a short but important work by American composer John Barnes Chance, based on melodies he heard while serving in the U.S. Army in Korea. There are five variations with different tempos and moods, with a powerful ending.

Then after the break the Jazz Orchestra directed by Dan Aldag takes the audience on a couple of train rides—on a fast New York subway in “GG Train” by Charles Mingus, and a more leisurely romp through the South on Duke Ellington’s “Happy-Go-Lucky-Local.”

The Orchestra also plays one of Ellington’s best-known melodies, “Mood Indigo,” but in a new arrangement by contemporary composer and jazz bassist John Clayton—one of three tunes by jazz greats with new arrangements. The others are Charlie Parker’s bebop classic “Anthropology” as arranged by Seattle saxophonist Mark Taylor, and Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy,” with an arrangement reminiscent of New Orleans jazz by saxophonist Mike Tomaro.

The Jazz Orchestra completes its set and the evening with some actual old school New Orleans jazz: Jelly Roll Morton’s “Black Bottom Stomp.”

The HSU Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra perform on Saturday October 16 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Symphonic Band directed by Kenneth Ayoob, Jazz Orchestra directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Finding Home: An Eclectic Evening with Soprano Elisabeth Harrington and Friends

With HSU faculty and graduates collaborating—including one of her own former students—soprano and HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington sings an eclectic program of opera, art songs, musical theatre and jazz, in concert at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Saturday October 9.

Harrington’s former student is baritone Christopher Hatcher, and their music together suggests the range of this evening’s program. They perform selections the 19th century comic opera Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti, with Jonathan Webster—another recent HSU graduate--on piano. They combine earlier on a piece by innovative 20th century French composer Gabriel Fauré: his “Pavane,” with a haunting melody that’s been recorded many times on a variety of instruments, with and without the vocal part. HSU Music faculty member Laura Snodgrass joins them on flute, with Jonathan Webster again on piano.

Harrington begins the evening with one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s earliest published works, written when he was 17. Exsultate, jubilate has been described as his first masterpiece. Harrington sings the final “Alleluia” section, which a Mozart biographer called "a jewel of a piece with its high spirits and its wit.” HSU faculty members Gil Gline and Robin Miller join in, on trumpet and piano.

With HSU staff pianist John Chernoff accompanying, Harrington sings Les adieux de l’hôtesse arabe, a song with a Middle Eastern flavor by Georges Bizet, and ( joined by Laura Snodgrass) Trois Chants de Noël for Soprano, Flute and Piano by 20th century Swiss composer Frank Martin.

Harrington sings three songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, an eclectic contemporary American composer of musical theatre and song cycles. Gordon is known for creating music for the words of modern poets, and Harrington’s selections include “Heaven” (with lyrics by Langston Hughes) and “Wild Swan” (text by Edna St. Vincent Millay.) She also sings Gordon’s signature song, “Finding Home” from his 1999 show, Dream True. Pianist John Chernoff accompanies.

With HSU faculty member Robin Miller on piano, Harrington ends the evening with a song that combines opera and jazz: “The Girl in 14 G” by Jeanine Tesori, from the Kristen Chenowith album, Let Yourself Go.

Elisabeth Harrington and friends perform on Saturday October 9 at 8 pm in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets: $8/$3 students and seniors from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Faculty Artists concert produced by HSU Department of Music.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye Online, Humboldt Beacon, Tri-City Weekly.
Elisabeth Harrington & Friends: The Program

Elisabeth Harrington, soprano
Christopher Hatcher, baritone
Laura Snodgrass, flute
Gil Cline, trumpet
John Chernoff, piano
Robin Miller, piano
Jonathan Webster, piano

Alleluia from Exsultate, Jubilate by W. A. Mozart

Gil Cline, trumpet in B-flat
Robin Miller, piano

Les adieux de l’hôtesse arabe by Georges Bizet

from Les Pêcheurs de perles
“Me voilà seule dans la nuit…Comme autrefois”

John Chernoff, piano

Trois Chants de Noel for Soprano, Flute and Piano by Frank Martin (1890-1974):
Les Cadeaux
Image de Noël
Les Bergers

Laura Snodgrass, flute
John Chernoff, piano

Pavane Opus 50 Gabriel Fauré

Laura Snodgrass, flute
Christpher Hatcher, baritone
Jonathan Webster, piano


from Act I of Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti
Recitative: “Quel guardo il cavaliere” Aria: “So anch’io la virtù magica
Recitative: “E il dottor no si vede!…”
Duet: “Pronta io son”

Christopher Hatcher, baritone
Jonathan Webster, piano

By Ricky Ian Gordon (b. 1956):
Wild Swans
Finding Home

John Chernoff, piano

Jeanine Tesori: "The Girl in 14G"
from Kristin Chenowith – Let Yourself Go

Robin Miller, piano

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Legendary Pianist Natalya Antonova in Class and All-Chopin Concert at HSU

Natalya Antonova is the definition of a living legend, as a pianist and as a teacher. She is coming to Humboldt State University in both of these roles, culminating in an all-Chopin concert on Saturday evening, October 2. For local audiences and students “it’s an incredible opportunity,” said pianist and HSU Music professor Daniela Mineva.

As a performer, Antonova is “a superb stylist and extraordinary technician,” Mineva said. “Her gloriously artistic playing seduces with sensitivity and powerful interpretations. Many of her peers refer to her piano recitals as life-changing events.”

Natalya Antonova began studying piano at the age of four at the Leningrad Conservatory, where she would later become the youngest professor since the school’s founding in 1862. She has performed throughout the world, participating in many international festivals, and has given hundreds of master classes and lectures, from the Moscow Academy of Music and the Paris Conservatory to the New England Conservatory and Taiwan University.

"She represents the best of the famous Russian School of Piano Playing," Mineva said, referring to a set of approaches and techniques originally developed in the 19th century, which also honors individuality.

At HSU her solo concert will honor the 200th anniversary year of Frederic Chopin’s birth, providing a diverse sampling of his work beginning with his first published piece, the Rondo in C Minor. “Chopin banished the ordinary from his music, and opened the door to an emotional ambiguity that continues to intrigue listeners,” writes NPR’s Ted Libbey. “Every piece he produced was a pearl.”

Antonova will play Chopin’s Scherzo #1 in B Minor and his Fantasy in F Minor. In the concert’s second half, she performs 10 of the 24 Preludes Chopin composed in the 1830s as a series of short pieces, each in one of the 24 musical keys. She concludes with a two movement work, Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante, originally published as a work for piano and orchestra.

Currently a professor at the Eastman School of Music, Antonova is also a legendary teacher, with many successful international pianists among her former students. In addition to her performance, she will teach a Piano Master Class in Fulkerson Hall at HSU at noon on October 1, free to HSU students and the community. “As a teacher,” said Daniela Mineva, “Ms. Antonova is simply magical.”

Natalya Antonova performs an all-Chopin concert on Saturday October 2 at 8 pm in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets: $8/$3 students and seniors from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Guest Artist Series concert produced by the HSU Department of Music.
Natalya Antonova: The Program

Dedicated to the 200th year anniversary of Chopin

First part:

Rondo c-minor op 1

Scherzo #1 b-minor op 20

Fantasy f-minor op 49

Second part:

10 preludes op 28

Andante Spianato and Grand Brilliant Polonaise op 22