Classical Music Rocks
Commissions, competitions, premieres enliven classical music scene
Thursday, September 6, 2007
THE MUSIC GENERALLY CALLED CLASSICAL might in fact spring from any era within the last four centuries. This inexact genre is well represented on the Peninsula by the grande dame Carmel Music Society entering its 80th season, the prominent Carmel Bach Festival that just concluded its 70th, the Monterey Symphony, now a mature 60 years, and the Chamber Music Monterey Bay, a child at 41.
Each member of this cluster of forward-thinking, if backwards-looking, performing arts institutions has thrived not only because they deliver the highest level of artistry but because of their commitment to the future of the genre.
Highlights of the symphony’s new season at Sunset Center and Sherwood Hall include a performance of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez by guitarist Angel Romero, the first Monterey performance of a Mahler Symphony—the Titan—and a full production of Handel’s Messiah in a season that rarely intrudes on the 20th century. One work, however, will be a world premiere “fanfare” commissioned by the symphony after a competition open to composers of Monterey and San Benito Counties. “A symphony orchestra can’t just keep presenting the work of dead white European composers,” says Executive Director Joe Truscott.
The symphony is grooming new audiences too, especially for concerts at Sherwood Hall, where it offers inexpensive tickets to final rehearsals, family discounts and school group rates. “Our audience is slowly and steadily growing,” says Truscott of a trend that is not true for symphony orchestras elsewhere.
The Carmel Music Society also has worked hard for every new member of its audience. The season that opens in October is simply stunning, with Frederika Von Stade performing the opening concert and the Alexander String Quartet only one standout in a luminous lineup.
But beyond bringing world-class chamber ensembles to the Peninsula, the Music Society has long been devoted to developing the musicians of the future. For 31 years they have mounted a competition for West Coast musicians between ages 18 and 30. The finale concert of each season is always a rousing performance by the winner.
In an embarrassment of riches, the Chamber Music Monterey Bay season also opens in October, elegantly fulfilling its mission to perform an “innovative and exciting mix of the standard classical chamber music repertoire alongside great contemporary works performed by the world’s great chamber ensembles.”
The first concert tells much of the story: The youthful but already renowned Miró String Quartet performs a symphony by a young American composer, Kevin Puts, a work commissioned by CMMB. “His musical language, although contemporary, is very accessible, with rich beautiful harmonies, contemporary structure, a very different sound,” says Amy Anderson, CMMB director. In addition to contributing to such young musicians and composers, CMMB has a longstanding commitment to outreach and education, including their Kids Up Front & Free at every concert.
Bucking a national trend, the progressive outlook of local classical music organizations is assuring a new generation of audiences.