Author Archives: Leslie

FULL DAY OF DANCE© RETURNS!!!

The Full Day of Dance© a unique, wonderful feature of the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley will be back this August 8 & 9. Classes will be offered over Zoom.  ALL CLASSES ARE FREE! This is too good to be true, but it really is true. Lively offers an array of artist-teachers who are gifted dance artists who also excel in the art of teaching. PLEASE NOTE: (1)  Teachers will perform at the end of their class. You will want to sign up for the class to see the performance. (2) Classes are free, however you need to register to get the sign in code. Here are the artist teachers of Full Day of Dance© 2020:

Chrystal Bella Chen & Oscar Adrian Rodriguez are champion ballroom dancers. They will teach ballroom dance on Sunday afternoon, August 9. At the end of the class THEY WILL PERFORM!! You do not have to have a partner to learn the dance steps. No worries, you will enjoy it all!! The music is great, and Chrystal Bella and Oscar will help you improve what you already know or quickly learn what is new to you.

Audreyanne Delgado Covarrubias will teach Tap Dance on Saturday, August 8, and Pilates mat on Sunday August 9. Audreyanne is a MASTER of TAP. Do not miss the chance to learn and dance with her. She is an excellent and attentive teacher. After her class, watch AUDREYANNE PERFORM! You will wonder how she taps when it looks like her feet never touch the ground!!

Shambhavi Dandekar, Founder and Director of SISK in India and California will teach Kathak on August 8th. Kathak is a classical dance of India. All levels are welcome, beginners and experienced artists. Kathak tells stories with rhythmic feet, swirling turns, expressive arms. This is a GREAT opportunity to take a master class from one of the foremost Kathak artists. If you are a beginner, remember you will be at home! No need to be shy or worry about missing a step. This is your chance! Try it! By the way, Kathak and Tap can make a great combination. After her class, see SHAMBHAVI DANDEKAR in PERFORMANCE!

She’s back! Megan Ivey Rohrbacher teaches Physical Comedy on Sunday afternoon, August 9th. Last seen, she was given a going away party after a wonderful workshop she led at IDF@SV, 2018. Immediately after the cake and hugs, Megan went to Hawaii to get married. Now, all the way from Hawaii she will join in Full Day of Dance©.  And MEGAN PERFORMS AFTER HER CLASS!

Etta Walton!! Etta will lead her fantastic LIne Dances class on Saturday, August 8. Etta’s class is fun for everyone, even the person writing this post who is also the person facing the back wall while everyone else faces the front. Great dancing for everyone. Terrific music–western and soul and pop–and ETTA WILL PERFORM AFTER THE CLASS.

Annie Wilson has got that JAZZ! She taught and performed in the 2018 Festival, and we are happy she’s back! She will teach Jazz dance on August 8th. All levels welcome. Get ready for Jazz. At the end of the class ANNIE WILL PERFORM!

PLEASE NOTE:  ALL THE CLASSES ARE FREE, BUT YOU STILL NEED TO REGISTER. AFTER YOU REGISTER AND A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE CLASSES, YOU WILL RECEIVE SIGN IN INFORMATION.  FOR REGISTRATION INFORMATION AND SCHEDULE DETAILS WATCH THIS LIVELYBLOG!

SENATOR CORY BOOKER EXPERIENCED POLICE PREJUDICE

Senator Cory Booker, US Senator from New Jersey, wrote a courageous letter to his followers about the search for social justice and the blockades against achieving it. In his letter, he includes the op-ed he wrote for the Stanford Daily, the student newspaper. He was a columnist in the Daily. His op-ed recounts the life threatening situation he endured in Palo Alto while a senior at Stanford. He was an extraordinary student then as he is an extraordinary national leader now. A stellar student, he was also a star athlete on Stanford’s football team. He was a Rhodes Scholar (Queen’s College, Oxford), received an MA at Stanford and his law degree at Yale.

He wrote the article after the Rodney King verdict ignited protests, especially in the Los Angeles area. Please read it. It gives an immediate, personal description of the emotional turmoil felt by this outstanding man as a student and conveys the fear that he was forced to experience as he was surrounded by Palo Alto police holding guns on him.  I will transcribe it below. The italics are from the article.

Cory Booker: “Why have I lost control?”

1992: Cory Booker: Why have I lost control?

How can I write when I have lost control of my emotions. Not Guilty…Not Guilty…Not Guilty…Not Guilty. Not shocked–Why Not?

“TURN OFF THE ENGINE! PUT YOUR KEYS, DRIVER’S LICENSE, REGISTRATION, AND INSURANCE ON THE HOOD. NOW! PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL AND DON’T EVEN THINK OF MOVING!”

Five police cars. Six officers surrounded my car, guns ready. Thirty minutes I sat, praying and shaking, only interrupted by the command, “I SAID, DON’T MOVE!” Finally, “Everything check out, you can go.” Sheepishly, I asked why. “Oh, you fit the description of a car thief.”

Not Guilty…Not Shocked–Why Not?

In the jewelry store, they lock the case when I walk in. In the shoe store, they help the white man who walks in after me. In the shopping mall they follow me — in the Stanford shopping mall. Last month I turned and faced their surreptitious security: “Catch any thieves today?”

Not Guilty…Not Shocked–Why Not?

September 1991, Tressider Union, back patio. A woman was struggling with her bags. “Can I help you, ma’am?” “Oh, yes, please…WAIT! You’re black!” She hurried away.

Not Guilty…Not Shocked.

I’m a black man. I am 6 feet 3 inches tall and 230 pounds, just like King. Do I scare you? am I a threat? Does your fear justify your actions? Twelve people believed it did.

Black male: Guilty until proven innocent.

Reactions to my kind are justified. Scrutiny is justified. Surveillance is justified. Search is justified. Fifty-six blows…Justified.

Justice? Dear God…

I graduated from Stanford last June–I was elated. I was one of four presidents of my class–I was proud. In the fall, I received a Rhodes Scholarship–I approached arrogance. But late one night, as I walked the streets of Palo Alto, as the police car slowed down while passing me, as his steely gaze met me, I realized that to him, and to so many others I am and always may be a Nigger: guilty till proven innocent.

I’m struggling to be articulate, loquacious, positive, constructive, but for the first time in so long, I have lost control of my emotions. Rage, Frustration, Bitterness, Animosity, Exasperation, Sadness. Emotions once suppressed, emotions once channeled, now are let lose. Why?

Not Guilty…Not Shocked.

The violence did not surprise me. If I were the powers that be, it would not have taken me three days to call the National Guard. But maybe when you’re disconnected from reality you move slowly.

Poverty, alienation, estrangement, continuously aggravated by racism, overt and institutional. Can you leave your neighborhood without being stopped? Can you get a loan from your bank? Can you be trusted at your local store?

Can you get an ambulance dispatched to your neighborhood? Can you get the police to come to your house? Can you get an education in your school? Can you get a job? Can you stay alive past 25? Can you get respect? Can you be heard?

NO! Not until someone catches on video one small glimpse of your everyday reality and even then, can you get justice?

Our inner cities are stacks of dry leaves and lumber, waiting for a spark. This is but a mere campfire compared to the potential inferno awaiting us. Conditions are worsening and the Rodney King verdict is certainly not the most egregious injustice in our midst.

Why have I lost control of my emotions? Why do my hands shake as I write? Tonight, I have no answers.

Dear God…help us to help ourselves before we become our own undoing.

 

 

 

BEAUTIFUL BALLET CLASS@HOME

Margot Fonteyn, in the 1960s. After her retirement, she said that she did her barre everyday. It was “like saying my prayers.”

The Lively Foundation meets your needs to keep moving and stay fit during this time of sheltering in place. Our Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman, now offers an Adult Ballet class Tuesdays, 4 – 5 P.M. using the Zoom platform. The class is designed to use little space. It includes a thorough barre plus brief dance phrases which may be done in place or with very little travel through space. Everyone, Pros to Beginners, does barre exercises in ballet. It is the universal language. All ages, all levels of experience do the barre work daily or once a week; it is always the same. It offers so many benefits: work on your core and leg strength, breathe deeply, lift your posture, gain flexibility and self-confidence. And, maybe best of all, it is something you can do all your life.  Price:  $15 per class. Pay for 3 classes; get the 4th one free.  Contact: livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net

KEEPING QUIET, BY PABLO NERUDA

Now we will count to twelve/and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,/let’s not speak in any language;/let’s stop for one second,/and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment/without rush, without engines; we would all be together/in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea/would not harm whales/and the man gathering salt/would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,/wars with gas, wars with fire,/victories with no survivors,/would put on clean clothes/and walk about with their brothers/in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused/with total inactivity./Life is what it is about;/I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single minded/about keeping our lives moving,/and for once could do nothing,/perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness/of never understanding ourselves/and of threatening ourselves with death. /Perhaps the earth can teach us/as when everything seems dead/and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count to twelve/and you keep quiet and I will go.

–Pablo Neruda

With thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity which sent this poem by post card with a picture of a red fox.

Pablo Neruda, in Argentina, 1971

Lively Foundation Creates Community: Embarcadero Publishing

This article appeared in Our Neighborhoods: Mountain View and Los Altos, December, 2019, a magazine published by the Embarcadero Publishing Co., which publishes the Mountain View Voice, Palo Alto Weekly, Menlo-Atherton Almanac newspapers. Lively thanks Embarcadero Publishing for recognizing The Lively Foundation as a leader in creating community and selecting us to represent our community.

The first thing Leslie Friedman notices when she enters a room is the floor. Wooden? Concrete? Tiled? Her dancer’s eye is always looking for good floors for dancing. She is also always searching  for ways her work can serve the community. She brings people together to dance, to enjoy dance, to learn about our many cultures, and about each other. Her dance succeeds at building community.
As an internationally touring performer, choreographer, and artistic director of the nonprofit Lively Foundation that operates in Old Mountain View, her deep passion for life and her art energizes her choreography and performances. She is first American dancer or artist of any kind to perform with joint sponsorship of the US State Department and host countries around the world. These “firsts” include performances in Moscow and Leningrad/St. Petersburg, Russia; Beijing, Shenyang, and Shanghai, China; Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Warsaw, Lodz, Krakow, Poznan, Poland; New Delhi, Bengaluru (Bangalore), Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai (Madras), India; Bucharest, Romania; Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; Tunis, Tunisia, and more. Her performances in these cities plus London, Tokyo, Toronto, Seoul, were all given ovations and invitations to return.
She stirs up artistic presence on the Peninsula by inviting renowned dancers to teach and  perform in the annual International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley that she hosts in Mountain View.

Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman
First launched in 2012, the week long festival seeks to create performance opportunities for professional dance artists, offers intensive training for dancers and dance students, and invites the whole community to experience dance in professional performance. “Some audience members would be dance lovers, for some it would be their first time watching, for all we hope to give them the excitement and beauty of dance,” says Leslie. The Festival also attracts adults aged 15 and up to classes in a wide variety of dances and  exposes them to the new choreography created by the teaching artists.  Performances and classes include traditional dances from many cultures flourishing in the Bay Area: Irish set dancing, Salsa, Polish folk dance, Mexican Folclorico, Afro-Haitian, several kinds of classical Indian dances, classical Chinese dance. These are in addition to Ballet, Tap, Line Dances, Contemporary, Jazz, and Ballroom dances.

Crystal Bella Chen and Oscar Adrian Rodriguez perform Ballroom dance in the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley, 2019

“There is a rich variety of movement styles available for our open Master Classes on the Festival’s Full Day of Dance©,” says Leslie, “We encourage everyone to do what they love and also try something new.” All the classes are mixed levels. That includes beginners and pros.
“A ballerina will have an opportunity to learn Afro-Haitian Dance and love it as a beginner in the class. A complete beginner might have a wonderful time in Line dances or find a gift for Tap,” Friedman explains. “Professional dancers can showcase their work here. It gives them new audiences, a chance  to demonstrate and develop their art.”
Through the IDF@SV, Friedman said she hopes to bring the diversity of arts of different origins while involving the community in dance. She also believes it is possible and important that everyone finds a way to move that they enjoy enough to keep doing.
“Move whatever moves, wiggle whatever wiggles,” she said. “If my work inspires someone to keep moving, wow!”
]ennifer Urmson, a mother of two boys, was happy to endorse the way Leslie Friedman and The Lively Foundation build community. She started taking Friedman’s weekly ballet classes when a friend invited her two years ago. “I had not been dancing for a very long time, and I was nervous about the idea of doing ballet as an adult,” Urmson said, adding that as a child, she was told ballet was for bodies of a certain shape. “But Leslie is wonderful as a teacher, very open and supportive. I was really pleased that after a couple of lessons, I felt myself getting stronger and improving my balance.”
Within Jennifer’s class there was a woman in her early 20s, other moms, and retirees. A few of them were organize activities for their dance class friends outside class, such as going together to attend a ballet performance at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.
Urmson said whether you attend several classes or take part in a single workshop at the Festival, The Lively Foundation seems to have a way of connecting people.
“Months after the dance Festival, you’ll hear people exchanging highlights from the event when they run into one another around town,” she said. “Even if it’s just one class, you see a different side of people. You feel you know them better.” For more information about the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley, contact livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net
­—Esther Young, 2019; photo of Leslie Friedman demonstrating a movement for Julie Van Gelder, private student and Festival participant, by Magali Gauthier

Esa-Pekka Salonen & SF Symphony: Explore, Disrupt, Create

The San Francisco Symphony’s audience had an exciting encounter with Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen on Thursday, February 27. The program included Beethoven’s Overture to King Stephen, Opus 117 (1811); Salonen’s own Violin Concerto (2009); Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5, Opus 50 (1922). Repeated on the 28th and 29th, the program presented three big works each of which had muscular qualities that shook up classical expectations.

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven wrote Overture to King Stephen for a play by a German playwright, August von Kotzbue. The playwright was also a lawyer and journalist who was assassinated by a theology student who accused him of being a spy for the Russians. King Stephen is considered the founder of modern Hungary, late 10th to early 11th century. The reader may be excused if unfamiliar with the play; it is known mostly for what Beethoven created for it. It is an unusual piece of music. There are dramatic, long rests. There are themes that grow from Hungarian dances. There is intriguing syncopation, a rhythmic motivation for Hungarian dance. In addition to being completely different all on its own, Overture to King Stephen, written more than ten years before the Ninth Symphony, seems to offer musical predictions of what will come. There is even a theme suggestive of the Ode to Joy.  Like the other selections on the program and befitting for the Overture of a play, this work presents a sense of drama that captures the imagination.

Violinist Leila Josefowicz performs Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and Salonen conducting, February 27, 2020 at Davies Symphony Hall

Maestro Salonen composed his Violin Concerto for Ms Leila Josefowicz. A much honored artist, to say she is a dynamic performer is an understatement. The Concerto begins with nearly violent bowing which quickly repeats many times the same sounds. The qualities expressed by the work shift from orchestra section to section, sometimes led by the orchestra and sometimes by the violin, but the violin still dominates. In addition to being a master work for orchestra and soloist, it is an Olympic event of the physicality of making music. In its slow movement, the colors flow through the orchestra while a timpani insists on maintaining its beat. “I decided to cover as wide a range of expression as I could imagine over the four movements of the concerto: from the virtuosic and flashy to the aggressive and brutal, from the meditative and static to the nostalgic and autumnal,” says Esa-Pekka Salonen of his Violin Concerto. Surely its energy punches the music forward. There is a barely restrained explosion which is anticipated but still shocks with its sudden presence. Salonen’s Concerto is disruptive of form and style. Written for the classical orchestra, it takes the possible sounds, shakes them, steps out of line, and makes its own dance. It is not a shy, introspective dance. It is out there, in the open, daring but not especially caring if anyone else takes the dare. The San Francisco Symphony seemed to revel in it.

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

Danish composer Carl Nielsen began life in a large, poor family. He discovered music on his own at age three. He found that he could get different pitches from the sticks in the woodpile depending on their length and thickness. Throughout his life, he explored music from its most basic sources to the grandeur of his symphonies. A scholarship to the Copenhagen  Conservatory to study piano and violin began his understanding of music theory. He supported himself by performing violin and conducting in orchestras in the Tivoli Gardens, the Royal Chapel, the Royal Theater, Copenhagen Music Society, and Music Society Orchestra in Gothenburg, Sweden. His Symphony No. 5 is fantastically interesting and also dramatic. At first the music is anxious, and the anxiety is contagious to those who listen. The adagio is sensual and creamy. It is dangerous to get caught up in the adagio because the timpani will interrupt. In Nielsen’s symphonies there is a feeling of the confrontation of different poles, different energies combat for space. There may be a peace negotiation, but neither side will give in. A gift to his audience: after the changes of key alter our focus, the music rewards us by nodding, “yes.”

This was a triumphant program for both the SFS and its future Music Director. Watching them work together is thrilling.

Photo of San Francisco Symphony, Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting by Brandon Patoc, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.

BRILLIANT BALLET: SF BALLET’S CLASSICAL (RE)VISION

The San Francisco Ballet is a ballet lover’s dream: a company of gorgeous dancers who are precise, elegant, and bursting with energy and style. This season’s Program 2, CLASSICAL (RE)VISION offers SFB’s devoted audience a selection of five ballets.

On February 16, the program included Bespoke, choreography by Stanley Welch, music of Johann Sebastian Bach; Pas de Deux from After the Rain, choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, music of Arvo Part; Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, choreography by David Dawson, music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Concerto Grosso, choreography by Helgi Tomasson, music by Francesco Geminiani after Corelli; and Sandpaper Ballet, choreography by Mark Morris, music of Leroy Anderson. The middle three were “Director’s Choice,” and can change places with other dances through the run of the program, February 11-22.

Bespoke is a moving showcase for twelve dancers: five Principals, five Soloists, and two from the Corps de Ballet. The two Corps members, Alexandre Cagnat and Ellen Rose Hummel, show that SFB has its future insured with outstanding artists. This is a wonderful ballet in its musicality, design, and restrained but powerful emotion. Not having read the program note before seeing the performance, this audience member missed an important layer of the dance. However, the dance works on its own without explanation. Stanley Welch uses the technical heart of ballet to create art that can speak to everyone, even those who have never stepped inside a studio. He builds the dance from the basic positions and movements all ballet students and dancers practice around the world. Seeing these movements performed exquisitely to each angle, forward and backward, jumping and spinning makes the dance lover’s breath stop for a second. It is familiar and unknown. The dancers accelerate their movements, join together, exit the stage and return. Something is happening to them. That something is time. It happens to everyone. It happens without our permission. It happens to dancers so soon, too soon. As it turned out, those long, straight arms I admired were meant to suggest a clock. Some movements were there to suggest life scurrying past our eyes as a dancer flies from our visual and emotional connection to him. At the end of this ballet, the dancers sink into the stage floor two by two. Two men together, two women together, males and females together. As the final couple sinks to the floor, the light closes over the rest of the stage. Only one spotlight captures the pained expression of the last dancer down. It is a wonderful ballet, beautifully danced.

Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director of SFB, created Concerto Grosso in 2003 for the SF Ballet’s 70th Anniversary. It is terrific; brilliantly performed and exciting to watch. Five fabulous men danced at the height of their power and technical achievement. Once again, two members of the Corps showed that SFB has, in baseball terms, a very deep bench. All five danced at a great level of artistry. They included Lucas Erni, Corps; Max Cauthorn, Soloist; Benjamin Freemantle, Principal; MingXuan Wang, Corps; Lonnie Weeks, Soloist. This ballet sends shooting stars across the War Memorial Opera House stage. Graceful, lyrical, explosive, and soaring, the dancers showed all the virtuoso, versatile, thrilling dancing of San Francisco Ballet’s stellar male dancers.

See the San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2, now through February 22. San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, SF. Contact: 415/865-2000 and www.sfballet.org

 

 

 

 

 

Beethoven & Anne-Sophie Mutter: BRAVO! BRAVA!Part II

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter brought a full program of Beethoven chamber music to San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, January 27. it was a stunning event which demonstrated that chamber music, in this case two trios and one quartet, is not something slight or limited in its musical character or expression. This music being all Beethoven, that thought should be underlined and in bold-face type. It was an enormously successful performance both in the artistry of the musicians and the thrills experienced by the audience.

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Among her good works, Ms Mutter is dedicated to the development of young artists. The three musicians who played with her in this performance all began their careers with the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. These artists include: Vladimir Babeshko, violist; Daniel Muller-Schott, ‘cellist; Ye-Eun Choi, violinist. In addition to touring with Ms Mutter, each one appears independently with distinguished orchestras around the world as well as their extensive touring performances with Ms Mutter through Europe, the US, Asia, and South America. Together with Anne-Sophie Mutter they achieved the remarkable effect of becoming what Ms Muller describes as “this one huge string instrument in which to tackle the profoundly philosophical string trios [in E-Flat major, Opus 3 and in C minor, Opus 9, no. 3] and the Harp Quartet [Opus 74] by Beethoven.”

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Trio in C minor (Opus 9, no. 3), written 1796-98, is a forceful, tempestuous work which contrasts precise decorum with drama, dissonance, and defiance toward the conventional. Although early in his career, Beethoven is already Beethoven. A passionate, almost anxious expression emerges. Beethoven, central to the tradition of Western classical music, is always innovative and even seems to laugh musically at what his audience would expect serious music to be. His minor mode music shifts to a calm, quiet major mode to end the Trio in a whisper.

A special delight of chamber music is that the audience can easily watch the music move from instrument to instrument, see the rhythm overlapping or interrupting from one instrument to another, experience the force when they suddenly play together. The String Quartet in E-flat major, Opus 74, 1809, offered many opportunities to see the instruments run after one another, skip rhythms, and finally catch up to express a musical energy. The Quartet ends with a view of too-many-clowns-running-out-from-too-small-a-car which lifts this listener’s heart when Beethoven creates that event in his symphonies. This was a splendid performance of a piece with deep philosophy of both fear and joy.

String Trio in E-flat major, Opus 3, 1796, reminds the listener of the Classical world’s sounds that surrounded Beethoven as he moved into the physical and imaginary world of Mozart. Order and clarity are the rule. Beethoven was able to assimilate those values into his own deeply colored, sometimes wild, always Natural while thoroughly human world. Which is, of course how Mozart had created Mozart, assimilating what was into what he was, too. A favorite portion of the lengthy Trio for this listener was in the second Minuet when the violin soars into space while the others accompany with a steady, repetitive rhythm and sound. The Trio is clear and present Beauty.

The audience knew it was hearing music that had both beauty and meaning. We all stayed on our feet applauding. The musicians, after four curtain calls, relented and repeated the Scherzo of the first trio. The moment was rhapsodic. Ms Mutter will return June 4-6 to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. She is one of the Artists-in-Residence for this Beethoven250 Birthday festival.

Fashion note:  As reported in Beethoven & Mutter, Part I, Ms Mutter is noted for her beauty as well as her trademark strapless gowns. For this chamber music performance, she kept the strapless concept but took a creative step. She appeared wearing pants fitted to the legs and a strapless top. The pants had black and silver designs. The top was a soft yellow color. Fitted close to the body, it had a short skirt beginning at the waist, divided on the sides, and extending just over the hips. She wore black shoes which had very high, narrow heels and appeared to have a platform under the metatarsal. Fantastic.

 

 

 

Beethoven & Anne-Sophie Mutter: Spectacular!, Part I

Anne-Sophie Mutter performed a recital of Beethoven Sonatas, January 26, and a chamber music concert of Beethoven Trios and a Quartet, January 27, at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. Two days of great music performed by great artists: proof that heaven can be here on earth.

Anne-Sophie Mutter, violinist, Lambert Okris, pianist

Ms Mutter was the main reason that Davies Hall was filled with avid fans. Those who did not know the pianist playing with her were in for an amazing treat. Mr. Okris is a superb, eye opening musician. He has performed with Ms Mutter for thirty years. He has also toured with Mstislav Rostropovich for more than eleven years. He performs as a guest artist with symphonies and specializes in both period instruments and contemporary works. The partnership of Ms Mutter and Mr. Okris lifts the character of their performance into the sublime. One could revert to out of date, show biz phrases and say there is no second banana here.

Anne-Sophie Mutter

The first of their three sonatas was Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 4 in A minor, Opus 23 (1801). It is a tightly focused, brilliant piece. The piano and violin have an interesting conversation, but each instrument has a mind of its own. The program note by James M. Keller refers to it as “repartee.” It is the kind of repartee one might expect from Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy: not when they are cooing, but when they are lawyers on different sides of a case. Sharp and bright, the rhythms are surprising, always something unexpected. There was something new around each corner, and it had more corners than easy curves. Intricate and challenging, it was a complete delight.

Lambert Okris

Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 5 in F major, Opus 24, “Spring,” (1801) was fresh, bigger, very different from Opus 23. Beethoven seems to give himself more room to develop the innovative presentation of this sonata. The violin and piano are equals but it is the violin that takes the lead. While Beethoven did not give this sonata its nickname, “Spring,” it is fitting. The music suggests the weather is just right for an amble through the arboretum. We are pleased by the new leaves and early blooms which open us to nature as they open themselves to life. We do not hurry even though we want to see it all. The Scherzo shows the piano and violin meeting, deciding to dance together but not quite together until they whirl around in the middle of the movement. Closing with a Rondo, this sonata is all warmth and smiles, and was played above the artistic heights.

The Kreutzer sonata, Sonata for Piano and Violin in A major, Opus 47 (1802-03) is twice so long as either Opus 23 or Opus 24. It is symphonic in its breadth and power. The two instruments were able to reach the effects one might imagine only coming from a full orchestra. Beethoven makes the music run full tilt and stop suddenly. He plays with breath and rhythm, always challenging what the human heart and mind can do. Imagine a great ballet dancer leaping, spinning in air, and, in mid-spin, suddenly stopped. Body and mind are suspended. Just as suddenly as the pause began, an apparently reckless, headlong race begins again.

It was a privilege to be in the audience for this performance. This writer had known about Anne-Sophie Mutter, and this was our first time to hear her live. She is an extraordinary artist, full of power and grace. Beethoven & Anne-Sophie Mutter, Part II, appears in the next post.

Ms Mutter and Mr. Orkris satisfied the applauding, bravo-ing crowd with an encore. It was a selection by John Williams from the movie, Cinderella Liberty. Her latest recording is Across the Stars with adaptations of his movie scores made for her by Williams.

P.S. A fashion note: Through her career, Ms Mutter has been known for her beauty and her trademark strapless gowns. Her appearance in this recital did not disappoint. She wore a gown which could be every woman’s dream. Strapless, it had a full skirt which puffed away from her body. The skirt alternated matte black panels with panels which seemed to be laid over that matte silk. These were darker black, maybe velvet, maybe lace, with charming designs, maybe appliques, going up and down. A black ribbon around her waist was tied in a bow in the back. Her strapless bodice repeated the black and lace theme and appeared to be a layer over the base of the bodice. It had what I remember as a black lace ruffle at the top. I remember very long ago reading a review of a pianist. The writer criticized her for what she wore. I thought then and still think now that was a terrible thing to do. I believe commenting on a musician’s appearance is a dreadful faux pas. However, Ms Mutter and that dress defy the rule.