Tag Archives: Chopin

Charlotte Bronte: The Bats of Haworth

The Lively Foundation is proud to announce that the Browning Society of San Francisco, a prominent literary and theater society, has invited our Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman to make a presentation on January 12, 1:00 p.m., the Sequoias, 1400 Geary, San Francisco. Admission is free. A reception with cake, coffee, tea follows the talk.

The Bronte sisters, Emily, Anne, Charlotte, painted by their brother, Branwell.

Leslie will show the video of her dance, THE BATS OF HAWORTH, which is accompanied by spoken excerpts from the writings of Charlotte Bronte, and music of Chopin. The dance is a trio about the Bronte sisters. This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights. The presentation will include a talk about the sisters and their art as well as about the choreography. Dr. Friedman choreographed and danced in this work.

The presentation is free and open to the public, Jan. 12, 1:00 p.m., at the Sequoias, 1400 Geary Blvd., San Francisco. You may enter through the buildings Post St. entrance, sign in, take the elevators to the top floor. For more information, please contact Dennis R. Parks, 415/668-0332 or dennisrparks@yahoo.com  or find the Browning Society on Facebook.

HEROIC, BELOVED: Lively’s Concerts for Women’s History

Heroic leslieThe first one was in March, 1996. HEROIC, BELOVED, a concert of dances about real, historic women, or set to music by women, with lyrics by women, or ideas about women. Every Spring season, 1996 – 2010, The Lively Foundation presented the concerts with new works, guest artists, at home or on tour. From the beginning, it was the FIRST and the ONLY concert for Women’s History Month AND the FIRST and the ONLY production by an arts group to aid breast cancer patients.

In San Francisco, the concerts included choreography by Leslie Friedman for company dancers with Leslie and solo performances by Leslie. On tour through the US, the concerts were all solo. Performances presented by universities and civic organizations appeared in California, Washington state, Iowa, multiple times in various cities of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee. Leslie’s dances included a dance about Harriet Tubman set to a song by the Oakland based group, Higher Ground; a dance with music by Edward Elgar written for a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; music by Jon Deak for writing by Willa Cather; a song by Tina Turner dedicated to dancer Mary Craighill; Embrace Tiger, Return Rhinemaid to Mountain, a satirical dance for a Cole Porter song; a Brahms violin sonata for Clara, a dance about Clara Schumann; the velvety vocal of Miss Helen Humes’ ballad, Every Now and Then; the rousing spiritual, Come Down, Angels, written by Undine Smith Moore. And more: The Bats of Haworth, for example, a trio with music by Chopin and text from Charlotte Bronte.

“It amazed me when I got a call from some other dancers wanting to know who my funders were because they wanted to do a program like this, too!” recalls Leslie. “My funders?! I did the program because it needed to be done.

PDillardMy first guest artist, opera singer Pamela Dillard, was beautiful. She sang Come Down, Angels with me dancing, too. She said she always ran in the Avon event in San Francisco and was delighted to help. At one performance, Gloria Guth Pasta, my dear friend from graduate school, came with her cancer support group. That was a moment to remember always. That was my ‘funding.'”

Picture: top:Leslie Friedman, Washington, D.C.; photo by Jonathan Clark; Pamela Dillard

 

Barantschik, Nel, Wyrick Meet Beethoven, Chopin, Shostakovich

Chamber music at the Palace of the Legion of Honor is always a high point of San Francisco’s musical season. Remarkable musicians playing some of classical music’s finest selections in a theater that looks like the inside of magical music box: it’s great. Sunday, November 1, opened the season with Beethoven’s Trio in G major, Opus 1, no. 2; Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Opus 54; and Shostakovich’s Quintet in G minor, Opus 57. Each one was a gem. The character of each was entirely different from the others. I mention that for readers who may think narrow thoughts about chamber music. You have been misled; these are peak musical experiences. 14708Alexander Barantschik, the Concert Master of the SF Symphony, violin; Anton Nel, piano; and Peter Wyrick, Associate Principal Cello of the SFS formed the trio for Beethoven. Michael Grebanier, SFS Principal Cello was scheduled to perform but replaced by Wyrick. The music was delightful. Beethoven plays with bright emotions, letting his lyricism and great heart carry the listener into an ideal natural world. The Scherzo movement offers syncopation and suggests a folk dance. The Finale: Presto sweeps aside any constraint, calling upon the pianist for virtuosic performance and yet keeping all three in an exciting ensemble. It was thrilling to watch and to hear these artists.

800px-Frédéric_Chopin_by_Bisson,_1849Extraordinary pianist Anton Nel heads the Division of Keyboard Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has performed frequently with the San Francisco Symphony as well as the Cleveland, Chicago, London orchestras, and in partnership with Alexander Barantschik in the Chamber Music series. His performance of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 was a gift. Although a life long Chopin devotee, the Scherzo was not familiar to this Hedgehog. It was performed with exquisite style and taste. Nel gave Chopin the leading role and by doing so showed his own brilliance. It is a big piece, not at all a piece of another, grander work. The listeners were given much to embrace and absolutely stellar musicianship.

600full-dmitri-shostakovichIn the Shostakovich Quintet, SF Symphony musicians Florin Parvulescu, SFS violin, and Jonathan Vinocour, SFS Principal Viola, joined Barantschik, Nel, and Wyrick. Concert goers who feel they know Beethoven and Chopin could have been quite surprised by the selections by those composers on this program. They were both fresh and profound. They may have been most impressed and surprised by the Shostakovich. His music is not played so often, was shut out of programming for decades, and when presented now opens the mind and heart with forceful, beautiful, sometimes soul wrenching music. While Shostakovich suffered greatly when out of favor with Stalin and his henchmen, this Quintet was written and premiered during a brief interlude of acceptance. It is glorious. Its premiere was 1940, but it sounds new and full of life. Its performance by this quintet of champion musicians provided music that could send the entire audience aloft. The persistence of the Russian dances in the last movements whirled us along while a thoughtful, musical spirit appears as if to whisper a reminder of a quiet secret. The audience called the quintet back for multiple bows. Each of the performers deserved whole hearted cheers.

Pictures from top: Beethoven, photo of Chopin by Bisson, 1849; Shostakovich.

EMANUEL AX, PIANO, at San Francisco Symphony

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Emanuel Ax performed a magnificent, wonderful, loving recital of works by Bizet, Rameau, Debussy, and Chopin at the Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, January 11, 2015. There is little to write about his performance except that it was wonderful. He is a great artist. His presence is low-key. There is no fuss and bother, no gesture that is not part of playing the piano with an understanding of the music that goes far deeper than the notes and with technique that has mastered every nuance, tone, color, rhythm. Like a baseball player who is hitting better than .300 for the season and still is the first one in the park to take batting practice, Mr. Ax could be seen from Davies’ Hall’s foyer over the SFS closed circuit t.v.s practicing until the ushers were forced to open the doors to let the audience be seated. His selections were not the usual fare for a pianist’s performance. He opened with Bizet’s Variations Chromatique de Concert. A dazzling display of musical color, it is also an astonishing virtuoso challenge. From the beginning, Mr. Ax showed that he was the Master and could make the piano would do whatever amazingly difficult turns the Master required. Dismissed as merely virtuosic by a music commentator who didn’t get it, the piece is a musical joy. Shall I point to center field and hit the home run exactly there? Ok, that’s what I will do. Shall I jump up and, while staying up there, cross my feet front and back six times just to show that a human could do such a thing? Ok, I’ll do that. And, I will do it beautifully because beauty counts.The Rameau selection, Suite in G major/minor from Nouvelles Suites de pieces de clavecin, was also a splendid surprise. It is full of invention from this late 17th-early 18th century composer. Each piece of the suites called for either a specific, unusual action of the pianist or musically suggested a image in action. For Les Tricotets (The Knitters) the pianist’s hands play closely together as though the melody is being unfurled like a scarf from knitting needles. La Poule (The Hen) has the music suggest the bird. However, by describing them in these brief phrases I am in danger of simplifying music which experiments with harmonies and rhythm as well as the physical act of making music. Approaching Debussy, the listener may anticipate being in a more familiar, early 20th century, musical world. Debussy never disappoints until one thinks it possible for him to be predictable. The selections were Estampes (Prints): Pagodes, La Soiree dans Grenade, Jardins sous la pluie. They were elegant, mysterious, beautiful in a way in which Debussy helped to teach us to find beauty. The delicate Pagodes was inspired by Debussy’s fascination with Japanese art which was just coming to France and captivating the Impressionist painters, as well. At times it suggested a small, graceful water insect which can tip toe across the surface of a pond. La Soiree dans Grenade had a snip of jazz inflection with its light touch of a Spanish accent. Debussy’s Homage a Rameau, in addition to being a fitting addition to the Rameau on the program, is a graceful and rhythmic tribute to the composer Debussy greatly admired. L’Isle joyeuse is completely extraordinary. Listeners whose closest association with Debussy is Prelude to L’Apres-midi d’un Faune especially should seek this music. It seems to capture all of Debussy’s love of nature: plants, water, strange and famiiar animals. It is an Eden one can almost touch, but only almost. After the intermission came Chopin. Mr. Ax chose Four Scherzos, written from 1832-1842. The great composer lived such a brief life, 1810-1849, that the time span of the Scherzos is significant. I will not describe them. I am still overcome by their intensity, range of emotion, magnificent and purposeful virtuosity. Each one had its own terrors and passion and its own troubled peace. Find them and listen. To find Emanuel Ax in concert, one need not travel far. He will play with orchestras in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Dallas, Los Angeles, Vancouver, in addition to an extensive European tour. Hear him live.Photos, top, Emanuel Ax; below: Bizet, Debussy, Rameau, ChopinBizet

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