OTTAWA, Illinois: 1967 – Review from Photo Metro

This review appeared in the magazine PHOTO METRO, in San Francisco, April, 1992. Selected photos from the book are below the text.

The little girl leans against the rail and the carnival ride whirls past her. In Jonathan Clark’s photograph, “Reverie: Carnival,” this image encompasses a sense of time, immediacy and distance that characterizes Clark’s collection, “Ottawa: 1967/1990.” Clark took these photos on a family trip to his hometown in northern Illinois when he was fifteen. He printed them in 1990. The results are a stunning revelation of what was once ordinary life and now lives most in memory and myth: the mid-western American small town. The images are precious for more than his­torical documentation. They speak of the moment the present becomes memory. The girl is still; the ride moves on. She stays in Ottawa; the carnival will travel beyond.
The presence of the black edge of the neg­ative bordering the prints and a white, enor­mous sky emphasizes the encapsulation of time. The artist acknowledges his medium. The frame creates the effect of looking through an old photo album and becomes a window. This is a picture of a very par­ticular place in this instant of time. The vast white space of Illinois sky, however, answers with a contradictory impression as it appears to reach out of the frame forever.
In “Cornhusker,” a man in jeans, workshirt, and cap appears out of a structure and breaks into the perfect whiteness. His irreg­ular form emerges from the line created by the nearly white symmetry of the top of the structure. He is rumpled, real, maybe better than monumental. Gazing past his work, he looks immobile.
“Ernie” is a farmer whose face is the only close-up in the collection. The astounding details of the print show the lines and creases on eyes and mouth, the salt and pepper stubble on cheek and chin, the bits of hay dust on cap and coat, and his dry, worker’s hand. The bill of his cap also juts into that white distance. Ernie is a man entirely of the present moment but with a far-away look in his eye. Neither he nor the cornhusker give clues as to what they are seeing.
“Barn” has multiple surfaces and some secret story. A profusion of underbrush—leafy, flowering, feathery or spiky—climbs a small hill toward the weath­ered boards and broken glass of the aban­doned barn. The artist has achieved a white-on-white contrast of church-like roof and empty sky.
The technique in the entire collection is advanced far beyond either what one might expect from a fifteen-year-old with a half­-frame, 35 mm camera or the current pho­tographic scene and its focus on mixed media and body parts. In that context, this is like leaving a heavy metal performance and walking in on a concert of Bach.
Each image is rich in textures and design. The “Service Station” man creates an immense, heroic diagonal diagram with his arms. A fence made of smaller slats of wood marches up the hill alongside the “Barn.” Its boards are flattened on a differ­ent plane, and a row of ferny growth beside the fence echoes these lines showing both the lightest weight and the darkest value.
The rich growth appears again as the grass between the girl and the carnival ride. The spinning machine has been plunked down on top of the native grass. In “Tractor in Cornfield,” one senses the shape and weight of each lump of earth, the rows of young plants, and seemingly every leaf on the distant trees around the field. The minute detail within a larger design calls the onlooker to wonder at reality, the here and now of the world of these pictures
A philosophy of seeing emerges from the contrast of that cornfield with “Shale Pile.” A bare tree trunk has fallen across a barren black pile with a pitted, rough surface. Its upward curve, cut twice by the angles of dead tree trunks is crowned by a glimpse of a leafy, frilly tree top. That living prize is beyond this pile; the picture promises that it exists, but where is not revealed.
In Ottawa, there is a lot of watching and waiting. The artist, essential onlooker, shows others suspended in their own activ­ities. A woman waits for a tire change, lit­erally suspended in the jacked-up car, and there is no suggestion that anyone but the viewer knows that she is there. A couple looks in a sweet-shop window; a child gazes out of a train window; two men, pro­tected by backyard shrubbery, sit calmly watching a barbecue. The artist captures himself in a self-portrait-with-camera in a rear-view mirror. This is the only reminder that this world is also autobiography. Time is not pushed by the inhabitants of these frames, nor does it ruffle them.
The world from outside Ottawa is represented in the carnival pictures. Two of them present side-show billboards for the viewer to read. Both describe the aftermath of Hiroshima. One proclaims a two-headed baby; the other issues a warning about atomic radiation: “Geneticists State Mutations So Produced Will Go Down Hundreds of Years.” If the denizens of northern Illinois see this as the best the other worlds have to offer, what advantage to corn and hogs?
The effect of us watching them watching and waiting is underscored by the artist’s appearance in the mirror. He is there but at a distance. Now part of the world away from Ottawa, his experience of coming home again is as a reflected reality.
Real time is still in this presentation of Ottawa. It is as though the people, usually alone or in pairs like the two hogs in the “Illinois Landscape,” could hold their breath and, being still, still be there. The artist shows us his “Grandmother’s Window” Through it we see her cut-glass bottles and plants, but not her. The beauty of these objects, glass window lighting glass and reflecting back, tells something about the woman who selected them, but they are still, and she is gone.
In this collection, Jonathan Clark reveals himself as an artist with an eye for the smallest forms of life who is yet not afraid to present such images in the largest world. The Cornhusker enters that vast white sky just as voluptuous leaves of corn break the emptiness with their arching growth. The magic of the here and now within these black-bordered frames is the power to pre­sent a true moment and the promise that these images are solid and real. We can watch like the people in the pictures, but we can never wait long enough to get those moments back. The honesty of the presen­tation, however, also suggests that to have the real is to have real loss as well.
All photos by Jonathan L. Clark. Top row, L to R: Barn, Corn; Lower row, Landscape, Ernie

GIVE LIVELY BOOKS!

It is time to make your list, choose gifts that are just right–time to select Lively gifts! The Lively Foundation helps you by offering three splendid Lively books. They are beautiful to look at, entertaining, and enlightening to read. You will be tempted to give one (or more) to yourself; better buy two of each!

OTTAWA, ILLINOIS: 1967 Photographs by Jonathan Clark, published by Nazraeli Press. This award winning book presents photos of the small town the artist lived in for his first 10 years. He took the pictures when 15 years old. Like the Mozart of photography, his art was already outstanding. Ottawa still exists, but the way of life there is different. You will see a time that is gone in meaningful, beautiful photographs.

THE DANCER’S GARDEN, This beautiful book has text and photos by Leslie Friedman with additional photos by artist Jonathan Clark and one  by Dennis Parks, English actor. Review and comments on this book call it “a treasure,” “a marvel,” and “a wonderful quirky, perky series of ruminations on gardens, flowers, plants, trees, cats, people, indeed life. It has magnificent photographs…It is an exhilarating read!”

THE STORY OF OUR BUTTERFLIES: Mourning Cloaks in Mountain View, Text by Leslie Friedman with photos by Jonathan Clark and Leslie Friedman. Jonathan and Leslie see a butterfly lay eggs on a willow tree. They bring the eggs inside to protect them, care for them through all their life stages, and release the butterflies into nature. Explore cultural ties with butterflies in Chinese legends, Shakespeare’s plays, American pop music, Mozart and Puccini. Climate change threatens butterflies and yet they symbolize hope.

All three books are available now, hardback, fine paper.  Prices include shipping. If you use PayPal, add $1.50 to price. To use PayPal: go to the landing page of livelyfoundation.org  Scroll down to the DONATE button. Follow PayPal instructions OR make your check to The Lively Foundation, mail it to The Lively Foundation/550 Mountain View Ave/Mountain View, CA 94041-1941

OTTAWA, ILLINOIS: 1967                    $55

The Dancer’s Garden                          $45

The Story of Our Butterflies               $36

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from The Lively Foundation!

 

Butterflies Released! Leslie Friedman’s New Book

The Lively Foundation is proud to announce the release of The Story of Our Butterflies: Mourning Cloaks in Mountain View, the new book by Leslie Friedman. It is a beautiful book with many full color, often full page photographs by Jonathan Clark and Leslie Friedman.

Front cover is a close up of the wing of a Mourning Cloak butterfly. Back cover shows Mourning Cloak caterpillars devouring willow leaves.

The story begins when Mr. Clark and Ms Friedman observe a butterfly lingering on a tiny branch of a pussy willow tree. They see that the butterfly has lain eggs and bring the twig inside to protect the eggs from predators. The story continues through all the stages of life: egg, about five different stages of caterpillar, butterfly. The butterflies were released in nature preserves. The continual and rapid growth of the caterpillars, their vigorous appetites, the beauty of the butterflies make a suspenseful and engaging tale,

The book explores the relationship of human cultures to butterflies through Chinese legends, Shakespeare’s plays, American pop music. It reveals the desperate plight of all butterflies as the climate changes. There are fascinating Appendices which include an array of butterfly information: how a border wall between the US and Mexico endangers butterfly existence; how to say “butterfly” in many languages; how butterflies symbolize hope for diverse individuals and groups. Questions are answered: does the woolly bear predict weather like an insect version of the groundhog? Did Nathaniel Hawthorne write about butterflies and happiness?

CHRISTMAS IS COMING! Remember books from The Lively Foundation: beautiful to look at, enlightening and entertaining to read. Be cozy this Christmas: shop from home and let Lively package and send your gifts. Ways to buy this book are listed below this picture.

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The Story of Our Butterflies: Mourning Cloaks in Mountain View is available now from The Lively Foundation. Two ways to order it:

#1) Make your check for $36 to The Lively Foundation and mail it to The Lively Foundation/550 Mountain View Avenue/Mountain View, CA 94041-1941   Price includes postage.

#2) If you prefer to use PayPal instead of a personal check, please add $1.25 for a total of $37.25. Go to the landing page of this site, scroll down to see the DONATE button, click on that, follow PayPal’s directions.   Price includes postage.

 

Stanford’s Company of Authors presents Leslie Friedman

Congratulations to Leslie Friedman, Artistic Director of The Lively Foundation!  Stanford University’s distinguished program, Company of Authors, honored her by inviting her to talk about her book, The Dancer’s Garden. Company of Authors presents Stanford related writers to talk about recent publication. The program took place over Zoom on October 24. There were 17 speakers all from a wide variety of fields. Leslie received her Ph.D. in History from Stanford. The event was free and open to the public; only pre-registration was required in order to receive the Zoom code.

The Dancer’s Garden, published in 2019, is available from The Lively Foundation and the Stanford Bookstore.

Response to Leslie’s talk was so positive that she immediately received an invitation to present her new book, The Story of Our Butterflies: Mourning Cloaks in Mountain View, in the next Company of Authors, April 24, 2021. This year’s Company of Authors was originally scheduled for May 2, 2020. It would have been live, in person, and on campus at the Stanford Center for the Humanities. The Stanford campus closed because of the pandemic, the Authors’ program, postponed, became a virtual event. With each author appearing individually from his or her home, the relationship of speaker to listeners became even more personal. The hugely successful event was created by History Professor, Peter Stansky. He serves as the moderator of the program. Professor Stansky gave Leslie an exceptionally generous introduction. Christina Fajardo of Stanford’s Continuing Studies coordinated the program and managed the technical direction.  It was a wonderful experience, and we are looking forward to April 24th next year!

Leslie’s Play, The Panel, Given Reading by Play by Play

Lively’s Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman, wrote The Panel, a one -act play, in 2005. It was accepted for performances at the Marin Festival of New Plays and received awards for Best Play, Best Actor, and Best Director. On September 27, 2020, The Panel was read – online – for an audience, also online, as the September event of Play by Play, an organization based in Oakland that presents readings of new one acts. Play by Play was founded by Judith Offer, herself a playwright and poet.

Please see link below to watch a video of the reading. This will be available for two weeks after the reading, closing, we believe, on October 11.

Originally scheduled for a live presentation in March, 2020, the pandemic forced that date to be canceled. Leslie said, “It was great to receive the invitation from Judith to put The Panel’s reading on Play by Play’s calendar.”  The readers all gave outstanding performances even though they were seen in a small screen instead of on a stage. Here they are:


Readers from top L: Pam Wong (The Young One), Laurie Mokriski (The White Ethnic Dancer), Torey Bookstein (The Great One, and The Jive Person), Paul Harkness (The Old One), Jonathan Clark (The Film Guy), Susannah Wood (The Moderator).

The performances were fantastic. The readers created a theater within the small, electronic box and brought their sometimes troublesome, often funny characters into three dimensional life. It was an exciting event! Some comments from audience: “I loved it!” “I loved it and thought it was perfect!” “We enjoyed it!” “The dialogue is incredibly clever! Thanks for a delightful afternoon.”

Here is a link to the recording of the reading. Please remember that this is a second generation recording and the sound may not be consistent. Thank you for your interest and CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CAST!

Share recording with viewers:
https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/zEGhNdHrWYpgk-5c53CR-vfXODBabO1S8tHpzkT7JoIBgIBf5kkxcr9dqm6bnX6a.qzLPJWjNfcNL_0z3 Passcode: !9PW3upU

 

 

 

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.