Program and Practice--Ensemble Monterey attacks challenging 20th-century works but needs more musical boot camp.
Thursday, February 26, 1998
The most valuable thing about Ensemble Monterey has turned out to be its programming. Though its name implies a core group, Ensemble Monterey can and does engage professional musicians from throughout the Monterey Bay area, somewhat randomly. Under the leadership of John Anderson, programming seems to be the starting point, with musicians hired accordingly.
For those who find themselves frustrated and discouraged by the narrow and timid programming common among other local classical presenters (including radio broadcasters), Ensemble Monterey has indulged in a vast 20th-century repertoire for chamber ensemble without competition. To test the idea, all one needs is to compare EM''s programming during the last six years with any other area classical presenter.
Last Saturday, Anderson conducted music by Dag Wiren, David Amram and Peter Warlock (plus some early Mendelssohn) at Monterey Peninsula College Music Hall. A string nonet (of players mostly familiar in the Monterey and Santa Cruz symphonies) opened the program with Wiren''s Serenade, Op11 of 1937, a tasty bit of European classicism spirited with Swedish rural folk music, laced with the ironies of Kurt Weill. Flutist Kenny Stahl (one of a tiny handful of top-notch local musicians who also goes out to listen to other pros!) infused Amram''s Red River Valley Variations with savory and stylish turns (exactly the stuff that warranted including the otherwise lightweight piece in the program.)
If Stahl''s beguiling talent put the spin on the Amram, Ensemble Monterey''s reading of Warlock''s Capriol Suite, a piquant arrangement of Renaissance dances from France, threw it back on the performers--and not with flattering results. Although Anderson''s forces displayed ability, ensemble disciplines--such as attacks and balances--were left to the moment. Quel dilemme. Should one assume that EM''s musicians are capable of greater virtuosity, or are they in over their heads? This listener believes the former. In that case, more discipline is required. In restaurant parlance, presentation is at least half the sale. If criticism measures results according to available resources, EM needs to fulfill its inherent potential for higher standards of execution.
Five members of Youth Music Monterey''s Honors Orchestra have been selected to play in the California Music Educators All-State Band and Orchestra concerts in Sacramento on March 28. The musicians include trombonist Daniel Bebemeyer, violinist Erica Brewer, clarinetist Evan de la Torre, violinist Douglas Liou and contrabassist Tuan Nguyen. Liou attends Salinas High School; the others all are students at Monterey High. Brewer has also been tapped for the first violin section of the National High School Honors Orchestra annual concert at Phoenix, April 18.
Scholarship auditions for string students will be sponsored by the Monterey County branch of the Music Teacher''s Association of California on Sunday, April 26. Cash awards will be made in four divisions: junior (under 10 years of age), lower intermediate (10 through 12), upper intermediate (13 through 14) and advanced (15 to 18). Applicants must be currently studying (minimum, six months) with a teacher residing in Monterey County. Applications forms and information: 624-9541.
Last Week''s Quiz: What Greek, in 322 BC, wrote, "The flute is not an instrument with a good moral effect. It is too exciting."? Answer: Aristotle, in Politics.
This Week''s Quiz: What European nation''s archive of priceless classical recordings is, for want of funding, in the greatest danger of permanent loss due to physical deterioration?
Fresno Pacific Chorale
Saturday, 7:30pm. Roy Klassen conducts traditional and contemporary choral music of Hungary, Germany, England, Canada and the United States. St. Mary''s Church, Central Avenue and 12th Street, Pacific Grove. $6/adults; $3/seniors and students. 373-4441.
Opium: Diary of a Cure
Saturday/Sunday, 8pm. UCSC Music Dept. presents graduate composer Aaron Seeman''s opera based on the life of Jean Cocteau, directed by Rebecca Cress. Music Center Recital Hall, UC Santa Cruz. $6/general; $3/seniors and students w/ID. 459-2159.
Santa Cruz County Symphony
Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. John Larry Granger conducts Joan Tower''s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, Mozart''s Clarinet Concerto in A (featuring David Shifrin), Shostakovich''s Symphony 5 in D Minor. Saturday: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz. Sunday: Mello Performing Arts Center, East Beach & Lincoln streets, Watsonville. $17-30. 429-3444.
Pianist Lara Downes
Sunday, 7pm. Salinas Concert Association hosts San Francisco artist in a program of Gershwin and his contemporaries. Main Stage, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. $15/general; $8/students. 754-6829.
San Jose Chamber Orchestra
Sunday, 8pm. Barbara Day Turner conducts Meredith Monk''s New York Requiem, Memory Song (featuring soprano Randall Wong), Lou Harrison''s Suite for Symphonic Strings, Arthur Bliss'' Rout and Katrina Wreede''s What Goes On in the Ether. Hosted by New Music Works. First Congregational Church, 900 High Street, Santa Cruz. $12/general; $10/seniors; $7/students. 427-2225.