Monday, October 31, 2011

The Don a hit!

Did you go see it this weekend? What other productions do you plan on catching? Let us know in the comments!
The Met: Live in HD continued its sixth season Saturday with a live transmission of its new production of Don Giovanni, starring Mariusz Kwiecien, with an estimated attendance of 107,000 in North America earning a gross of $2.3 million. It was seen live on more than 850 screens. An estimated additional 109,000 people saw it live on 625 screens in 42 additional countries; 28 in Europe, nine in Latin America, and Russia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, and the Bahamas.
Delayed showings in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and encore performances in North America and Europe, are expected to boost worldwide attendance of Don Giovanni to 265,000. The encore screening of Don Giovanni in the U.S. is on November 16; the Canadian encores are December 17 and January 9.
The new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, by Tony Award winner Michael Grandage, was conducted by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi in his Live in HD debut. In a dramatic offstage twist, star Kwiecien was injured in the final dress rehearsal of the production on October 10 but underwent back surgery and a rigorous physical therapy regimen so that he would be able to return to the Met stage in time for this performance. The other stars of Don Giovanni included Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina, Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira, Marina Rebeka as Donna Anna, Ramón Vargas as Don Ottavio, Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, Joshua Bloom as Masetto, and Štefan Kocán as the Commendatore.
The live transmission, hosted by soprano Renée Fleming (who vists San Antonio this March with the San Antonio Symphony!), was directed by Barbara Willis Sweete.
The Met: Live in HD, the Met’s award-winning series of live transmissions to movie theaters around the world, has expanded its worldwide distribution to more than 1,600 theaters in 54 countries, the largest global audience the initiative has ever reached. In addition to Russia, Italy and Israel, new countries joining the Live in HD network this season include China, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Morocco, Slovenia, and the territory of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Don Giovanni was the second of 11 live transmissions to be shown this season. The next transmission will be the new production of Wagner’s Siegfried on November 5, the third installment of Robert Lepage’s new Ring Cycle at the Met.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In Memory of Eugenio Toussaint and Daniel Catan

In remembrance of several important Mexican musicians who passed away during the year past, the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico has erected a Dia de los Muertos altar in the lobby of their hall, the Sala Ollin Yolitzli, honoring Daniel Catan (1949-2011) and Eugenio Toussaint (1954-2011). May they Rest in Peace.

Listen to their music on the October 30, 2011 edition of Itinerarios.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dia de los Muertos on Sunday's Intinerarios

I do miss Mexico this time of the year. During my 6-plus years as a working musician in Mexico, I came to at least an informal understanding of the holiday Dia de los Muertos. In truth, it is today mashed up with Halloween. In some neighborhoods children "trick-or-treat", even alongside visits to light candles at a loved one's gravesite. Nevertheless, Dia de los Muertos is a cultural experience and I have never lost my fascination with it.

Especially vivid are memories from Toluca. There the market stalls surrounding Los Portales are overwhelmed with "sugared skulls" and "pan del muerto." It's really quite a sight.

And, of course, there are the altars, everywhere. These display pictures of the dead, favorite toys of deceased children, sugar skulls (for both the living and the dead), pan del muerto and candles, lots of candles.

On this week's edition of Itinerarios, KPAC's program of music with Latin American roots, we hear music by Gabriela Ortiz which expresses her thoughts on Dia de los Muertos while also serving to memorialize those who have passed. The Cuarteto Latinoamericano will play excerpts from Ortiz' Altar de muertos. As well, in keeping with the modern tendency to run Halloween into Dia de los Muertos, we will hear Enrique Batiz leading a performance of Camille Saint-Saens Danse Macabre.

As a footnote, I notice that the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico is erecting an altar in the lobby of their hall, Sala Ollin Yolitzli, honoring the passing this year of composers Eugenio Toussaint and Daniel Catan. May they Rest in Peace as their music continues to resonate life.

Itinerarios is heard every Sunday evening at 7 o'clock. It is hosted by James Baker.

New Conductor

From the San Antonio Symphony:

Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing announced that Akiko Fujimoto will be the new Assistant Conductor of the San Antonio Symphony. She begins her appointment in the beginning of January 2012. Her initial appointment is for the second half of the 2011-2012 season and the entire 2012-2013 season.

Fujimoto was engaged after a process which began in the late spring. Candidates sent video tapes and resumes to be reviewed by the orchestra’s Artistic Liaison Committee and Maestro Lang-Lessing. Four finalists conducted the orchestra for two rehearsals in early October. They also gave two demonstration talks and were interviewed by musicians and staff. Maestro Lang-Lessing engaged Ms. Fujimoto after reviewing orchestra surveys and receiving input from the Artistic Liaison Committee. Maestro Lang-Lessing said, “Akiko Fujimoto will be a great addition to the San Antonio Symphony. She has an engaging personality and speaking style, coupled with great musical skills.”

Ken-David Masur has left his San Antonio Symphony staff conducting position for new positions in Munich, Germany and San Diego. Ken-David was the Resident Conductor for four seasons, including the years during the Music Director Search. “We are grateful for all the fine work Ken-David has done in San Antonio and wish him well in his exciting new positions. We look forward to seeing Ken-David conduct in San Antonio in future seasons,” said Lang-Lessing. Masur will return to conduct in San Antonio several times this year, including performances of The Nutcracker with Ballet San Antonio, Holiday Pops and a classics concert in late March.

I am thrilled to work with Maestro Lang-Lessing and the fantastic musicians of the San Antonio Symphony,” said Ms. Fujimoto. “I look forward to being a part of the musical community in San Antonio.”

Hailed as “a very talented conductor who knows her score and her musicians” (Virginia
Gazette), Akiko Fujimoto has most recently served as the Conducting Associate for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the William & Mary Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the Williamsburg Youth Orchestras.

A native of Japan, Fujimoto attended high school in California and graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in music and psychology. She holds Master of Music degrees in conducting from the Eastman School of Music and Boston University.

As a member of the Virginia Symphony conducting staff, Fujimoto conducted the VSO in classical, holiday, and educational concerts including the Virginia Symphony’s 2009-2010 series of Young People’s Concerts and the Virginia Beach performance of the Classics concert featuring the world premiere of Behzad Ranjbaran’s Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. Fujimoto has also conducted the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and National Arts Centre Orchestra in performance as well as conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as part of the Orkney Conducting Institute.

Prior to arriving in Virginia, Fujimoto served as the Music Director and Conductor of the Mozart Society Orchestra at Harvard University where she led the MSO to many milestones, including performing with pianist and Mozart scholar Robert Levin.

Listen for an exclusive interview with Fujimoto Friday afternoon on KPAC, your classical oasis!

UPDATE 11:10am 10/28/11: Audio interview is now online. Listen here!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Young Masters Grant supports “rising stars of Texas”

Valerie Cowan

Since 2002, the Young Masters Grant Program has generously given funds to students from 8th to 11th grades. This year’s application deadline is quickly approaching; applications and audiovisual materials must be postmarked by November 15.

The Young Masters Grant Program is created and funded through the Texas Cultural Trust in order to help young Texas artists pursue opportunities that otherwise might not be possible for them. The students supported by the grant program include musicians, actors, writers, dancers, visual artists, media artists and more.

Cassandra Scholte Jensen, Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) program administrator, refers to these gifted students as the “rising stars of Texas.”

Recipients of the grant are awarded the title of Young Master and receive $2,500 per year for up to two years. In order to meet eligibility requirements, 8th through 11th grade students must receive passing grades in all academic areas, have legal U.S. and Texas resident status, and actively participate in an art program. Possible art programs may include a summer institute, a school-based program, a specialized course of study, or private lessons from a qualified instructor.

Jensen said the number of applications received “varies from year to year,” and the number of awards given depends on the funds available. The smallest class of grant recipients was 11, and the largest was 26.

Christopher Vo, now a professional dancer under the Lar Lubovitch Company, received the Young Masters Grant in 2002. Coming from a low-income family, Vo applied for the grant in order to attend a summer dance program at The Juilliard School. Without the support of the grant program, this opportunity would have passed him by. Juilliard awarded Vo a full scholarship to attend the program again the following summer, and Vo later graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Jensen said she received a phone call recently from the father of another 2002 grant recipient. Antonio Cisneros now works for the film industry, and his father called to express his gratitude for the opportunity the grant provided his son. After receiving the grant in high school, Cisneros went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Cinematography and Documentary Production from New York University Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television.

For more information on the Young Masters Grant Program and how to apply, visit the TCA website.

Fierrabras or Schubert Goes to the Opera

Like almost every other major romantic composer Schubert was an opera goer and dreamed of success in that world himself. He had had lessons with Salieri and was particularly fond it seems of Gluck, Mozart's Magic Flute and the stage works of both Cherubini and Spontini and Beethoven's Fidelio.

Unlike almost any other romantic composer Schubert had a natural affinity for writing for the voice.There are many many sacred works that show his progress and fluency in choral writings and a body of songs of unrivaled variety, depth and melodic invention. It was only a matter of time and following a series of one act works (that we know largely as overtures) and finally by 1822 the call came. The Vienna Court Opera Theater commissioned him to deliver a German language opera.The result,after an initial failure with Alfonso and Estrella was Fierrabras. For a libretto he turned to Josef Kupelweiser, brother of his friend Leopold a member of the Schubertiade circle and more importantly a secretary at the Court Opera. Which makes the result all the stranger. In the interval between the granting of the commission and the completion of the opera (May 1822 and Oct.1823) two events intervened. First, the arrival and rage for the works of Rossini and then the failure of Weber's Euryanthe. Fierrarbras was submitted and we read that Schubert was never paid, but also that Fierrabras was not rejected. It lay in unperformed limbo until the 1870's long after his death. Musicologist now pronounce it's music magnificent .

Please tune in to this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera for Schubert's long neglected Fierrabras, this week at noon on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Ron Moore

Friday, October 21, 2011

Piano Sonata in b

There are many opinions of Franz Liszt from the greatest pianist of all time to him a being a charlatan. But this 200th anniversary year has seen quite a number of fine recordings celebrating the accomplishments of this true romantic.

There is one work that will even gain the grudging respect of Liszt's detractors; a masterwork that truly is the "music of the future" as Liszt claimed - the Piano Sonata in b. He took on the formulaic sonata forms that so many composers ran into the ground with repetition and re-thought and re-engineered the sonata form into something new and much more complex.

On the Piano this Sunday a review of the sections of this one-movement work, some of the great performers of Liszt tackle the sonata's challenges and to end the program a complete and extraordinary performance of this paradigm shifting composition.

The b minor sonata of Liszt, this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Britten's Post-War Glory : Peter Grimes

Benjamin Britten had been a child prodigy. It has been said that he wrote over 800 compositions among his juvenilia; by 10 he was proficient on both the piano and viola He began composition lessons with Frank Bridge at age 14 and already was composing for the voice; his Quatre Chansons Françaises is remarkably advanced for a teenaged composer. He also completed a course of studies at the Royal College of Music, but his dream was to go to Vienna to study privately with Alban Berg, but his parents wouldn't allow it.

In 1939 he and the singer Peter Pears decided to follow a friend, the poet W.H. Auden, to America .There he encountered the music of Aaron Copland that greatly inspired him and the two men became friends. While in America he composed a sinfonietta and a concerto for violin. During a vacation trip to California Peter Pears showed him a poem he had brought to read by the 19th century English writer and naturalist George Crabbe (1754-1832) called The Borough, a work and poet admired by Byron. In it was the germ of the figure of Peter Grimes and an evocation of the coast of England which Britten so loved. He and Pears together began to develop the idea for the opera and carried the sketches back with them to wartime England.

After their return to London Pears was offered roles with the Sadler's Wells Opera and found great success. The final transformation of poem to libretto was offered to Christopher Isherwood (creator of Sally Bowles and Cabaret) but he declined ; the libretto was completed by Montague Slater and was accepted for production by Sadler's Wells in 1945 , it found immediate popular and critical acclaim from that day to this. Most praised is the transformation of the character Grimes into a a brooding and obsessed man who is still sympathetic despite his flaws because of his striving. The orchestral portrayal of the seascape and it's ever changing moods are especially noted for their power and effectiveness and now they now stand alone as a four part suite that is considered among the great concert works of the twentieth century. Conductor Colin Davis found a very special sympathetic affinity for the work and extraordinary success in his interpretations.

This Saturday Afternoon at the Opera we present his second commercial from a concert with the LSO. Tune in this Saturday at noon for a twentieth century classic, Britten's Peters Grimes here, on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Ron Moore

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Tree of Life: Alterna-Soundtrack

by Nathan Cone

Probably my favorite movie I’ve seen so far this year, “The Tree of Life” approaches for me a kind of magical or spiritual experience. It was recently released on Blu-ray/DVD, and you can read my full review online at TPR.ORG, but I wanted to devote this post to the music included in the film.

“The Tree of Life” was scored by Alexandre Desplat, the Oscar-nominated composer of “The King’s Speech” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” But while his official soundtrack contains an hour of wonderful music, very little of it made it into the finished film. Director Terrence Malick’s style led him to create a pastiche of sound from Desplat as well as other composers, classic and contemporary. Indeed, the most memorable musical moments in the film feature the work of Zbigniew Preisner, Ottorino Respighi, and François Couperin, not Desplat. Malick leans heavily on choral and vocal works, not for their librettos, but I think because the sound of these works expresses spirituality in its greatest sense.

If you were as enchanted by the music of “The Tree of Life” as I, then look below for a helpful guide to some of the best musical moments in the film, and links to iTunes and Amazon’s mp3 store -- so you can recreate the soundtrack yourself at home. Enjoy!

Ottorino Respighi’s “Siciliana” from his “Ancient Airs and Dances” beautifully accompanies scenes of newly-married life in the film. Shortly after Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain’s first child is born, Gustav Holst’s “Hymn to Dionysus” is heard as Chastain introduces her young boy, Jack, to picture books and wooden toys on the lawn.

Zbigniew Preisner’s “Lacrimosa: Day of Tears” brings the otherworldly images of the film’s cosmic sequence to life.

The accidental drowning death of a young boy is hauntingly underscored by an excerpt from Gustav Mahler’s “Titan” Symphony.

Images of the early days on earth, as well as the heavenly finale, are scored with Berlioz’s “Requiem,” both the “Agnus Dei,” and the “Domine Jesu Christie.”

Both the film’s trailer and the movie itself make wonderful use of Bederich Smetena’s “The Moldau.” The music accompanies scenes of joyous family life.

Angela Hewitt’s rolling piano arrangement of François Couperin’s “Les Barricades Mystérieuses” is heard as Jessica Chastain’s narration implores audiences to help, love, and forgive one another.

The stern father (Brad Pitt) regrets getting sidetracked by life, unable to fulfill his dream of being a great classical musician. In one scene, he plays Brahms on the record player, praising Arturo Toscanini’s conducting.

The closing credits of the film roll as “Welcome Happy Morning” is heard. The gentle piano music is by composer Hanan Townshend, who was studying at UT-Austin during the production of “The Tree of Life.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

That's more like it….

The sun is down and the sky is colored an intense violet and every now and again you smell wood smoke in the chilled night air. This is autumn, a brief season to be savored in South Texas.

On the Piano this Sunday music that evokes that special and short time when it isn't too hot or cold - the skies are an intense blue and even some of our trees change their leaves to match our growing expectations of winter to come. On the program autumnal music of Debussy, Edward MacDowell, Edvard Grieg and even some evocative music of Alexander Scriabin, so bundle up and enjoy the season of autumn on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, October 13, 2011


This weekend the San Antonio Symphony plays Liszt, in honor of this 200th birthday, coming up on October 22nd. We thought we would share some facts, fun and trivia about the great composer and pianist.
The only child of Adam and Anna Liszt, Franz was born in Raiding, Hungary. The small town came under the administrative aegis of the Esterházy family who employed Adam as a steward. Franz showed musical promise early, beginning lessons with his father before he was six; by the age of seven he was writing music. Three years later the boy was ready to make his concert debut in the nearby town of Sopron. This was followed by two more concerts performed before the cream of Austrian society. As a direct result, young Franz was given an annual stipend for six years to enable him to concentrate solely on a musical career. His father secured Karl Czerny, an ex-pupil of Ludwig van Beethoven, as Franz's piano teacher, while Antonio Salieri taught him theory. As both Czerny and Salieri lived in Vienna, the family moved there in 1821.
During his time in Vienna Liszt had the good fortune to meet Beethoven, who although profoundly deaf, attended one of his concerts and bestowed his blessing on the boy. Franz's reputation spread quickly, and before the end of 1821 he had been chosen as one of 50 composers (others included Beethoven, Czerny and Salieri) to write a set of variations to a waltz written by the composer/publisher Diabelli. By the autumn of 1823 Franz's father decided it was time to widen his son's audience and moved the family to Paris. Liszt took the Parisians by storm. He also completed his musical education by taking private lessons from Anton Reicha and Ferdinando Paer.

We recommend you check out more with Liszt's life and music with Liszt. Derek Watson. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 0198164998 (paperback).
This book describes Liszt's life in detail in an historical context. Approximately half of the volume is dedicated to a thorough biography, while the second half addresses his music in detail, as well as a description of Liszt's technique and teaching methods, explains the musical language, lists and describes all of his works by using excerpts from various works in separate chapters! Useful to all music lovers, it is especially valuable for those with a background in music.

Although he never played electric guitar or gave an interview to Rolling Stone, Franz Liszt has often been called the world’s first rock star. His abilities were such that even those who disliked his compositions, such as Brahms, were dazzled by his performances. Liszt inspired near-fanaticism among his many admirers, who went to great lengths to obtain even the smallest souvenir. At the same time, he caused scandals by entering illicit relationships with two married noblewomen.

Liszt spent the last years of his life traveling continuously. In 1886, the year Liszt turned seventy-five, he was invited to attend festivals honoring him in several countries. On the insistence of a former student, he chose to visit England, a country he had avoided for over forty years because of an unsuccessful tour during the Glanzzeit period. Although Liszt considered himself no longer fit to play, he was urged to perform several times by his admirers, who included Queen Victoria.
Liszt returned to Weimar satisfied, but in a weakened state of health; he was by then almost blind. His daughter Cosima, with whom he had reconciled, requested his presence in Bayreuth, where the festival devoted to the late Wagner was experiencing difficulties. On his way to Bayreuth by night train, Liszt caught pneumonia. In Bayreuth, he was tended to by the faithful students who followed him on his journeys, as well as by his daughter. Over ten days his condition worsened and Liszt died on the morning of July 31, 1886.

NPR has collected alot of great material on Liszt:

This is one of the most famous of parodies with the Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2:


In the aftermath of World War II Wagner's home, Wahnfried , lay partially in ruins from allied bombing . Winifred Wagner, wife of the dead Siegfried (Wagner's only son) through her war time connection with Hitler was forbidden from running the festival. The Bayreuth Festival had been co-opted by German wartime politics and Hitler's enthusiastic support ; thoughts ranged from divesting the family to dismantling the whole affair. Enter a compromise and a revolution. The mother was out and the two young brothers Wieland (1917-1966) and Wolfgang (1919-2010 ) were to run it jointly . This was the compromise . What no one expected in 1951 after repairs and fundraising was nothing less than a dramaturgical revolution - New Bayreuth.

Everything the old Bayreuth had known: insularity , nationalism , naturalistic sets , " duck hats " and bear skins , it was all gone. The clutter and darkness were banished - everything was now space and light . Tunic like dress, echoing the 'classical theater ' of Greece and Rome hung loosely from the characters bodies. The set was no longer time bound or nationally oriented - an international style that could be anywhere and anytime or the famous Wagnerian "mythic and outside of time ". Open ended and beyond the politics of the past - the break had been made and a New Bayreuth was born rising from the ashes of war . It had been a vision fourteen years in the making . Wieland had begun thinking this way in 1937 and by 1951 the 'new vision' could be unveiled. Psychology and symbol had replaced verisimilitude; openness had replaced enclosure , inference and ambiguity both filled (and emptied) the stage with light and space.

It was a vision that attracted the greatest performers, singers , designers and conductors. A series of recordings followed that testify to this extraordinary period of music making . Among them this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera's presentation of Wagner's Gotterdammerung of 1951, Live . A cast that mixed the old, Ludwig Weber( as Hagen) with the new Astrid Varnay (as Brunnhilde) and the great Knappertsbusch , who Furtwangler affectionately called ' Mein liebe Kna' ", and who had been personally excoriated by Hitler and Goebbels - there can be no better recommendation.

Join us this Saturday at noon for a little bit of Valhalla, here on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Ron Moore

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Share your knoweldge

At last month's PRPD conference in Baltimore, I learned about a unique online tool that allows users and media outlets to harness the power of their audiences to help facilitate sharing content with others around the globe. The website service allows users to tag YouTube or Vimeo videos with subtitltes in other languages. This could be a great way for KPAC, or anyone in America, to share their content with non-English speakers around the globe.

If you know another language -- any language -- consider giving this a try. Learn more at the website (linked above), or give it a try with our test video, an interview with conductor Alondra de la Parra.

Thanks for your help!

Nathan Cone

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tintinnabulation Inc or Russian music…

Alexander Scriabin's talent was a coupling of intellect and intuition and sometimes the two conflicted. The Russian composer created his Sixth Sonata in 1911 and it was one of the few works he never played in public, claiming the work was "nightmarish, murky, unclean and mischievous". A constant of his music, like all of the composer's work, was a fondness for bell rhythms and tonalities. If Scriabin's Seventh Sonata is composed of "heavenly bells" the sixth sonata is surely its hellish opposite.

Sergey Rachmaninoff, a friend of Scriabin, had a fascination with bells himself his most famous early work, the prelude in c-sharp minor is loaded with bell tolling and this continued in with his setting of Edgar Allan Poe's The Bells. On this Sunday's Piano program Rachmaninoff's most jingle-jangle jammed composition; the sonata in b-flat minor, the same key as Chopin's Funeral Sonata which as you might have guessed by now has tolling bells in it as well.

Have a ring-a-ding time with the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, October 6, 2011

10 Questions for the Gold Medalist

Next week, Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Nobuyuki Tsujii performs in San Antonio. We asked him ten questions about the recital and more!

10. What is your recital program for San Antonio?
1st half consists of works by Mozart and Liszt.
1st piece is 12 Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, maman" in C major, K.265.
I played this piece when I was a young child, just as many Japanese piano students do.
Its theme is lovely and very well known, following variations are enjoyable both for pianist and for audience.
I believe you'll like it.
2nd piece is Piano Sonata in A major, K.331 "Alla Turca", again by Mozart.
Its 3rd movement "Turkish March" is very popular, too, but it is first time for me to play this sonata in public.
I'm excited.
2 Liszt pieces, "Un Sospiro" and "Rigoletto Paraphrase" are my tribute to bicentenary of the birth of the composer.
They have beautiful melody, and they are technically very challenging.

2nd part is Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an exhibition".
It is demanding, not only technically but also about musical imagination.
Mussorgsky composed this piece inspired by pictures of his friend who died young.
It is also very well known as orchestral version by Maurice Ravel.
I learned about the original pictures and also listened to orchestral version, etc., and I came to the conclusion that it was written for piano and I can express the music perfectly on piano.
I know there are very many wonderful recordings by great pianists, but I hope you can hear and enjoy my own "pictures".

9. Are there any favorites on your program?
Yes, all of them.
I have a list of music which I wish to play in public and to share the joy of music with the audience.
I pick up some of them to compose season's program.
So, every piece I play in concert is my favorite.

8. There must be a lot of travel since winning the competition – are there certain things you love or hate about hotels?
The Cliburn Competition opened window to the world for me, and I have had a lot of travel which I had never imagined before the competition.
About hotels, nothing to complain.
American hotels have more space than Japanese.
Travelling itself is generally smooth, unless air flight got cancelled by tornadoes.
Luckily, I'm not bothered by jet lag.
I enjoy local food and local drink anywhere.
Though, it is challenging to make a balance between keeping myself well and well shaped, because American food has bigger portion than Japanese and I feel like hungry when I completed a concert.

7. Travelling also includes different cultures and food – any memorable meals you’d like to share?
I always trying to have local food.
One of the most memorable food was Arros Negre, Paella cooked with squid ink, which I had in Mallorca island of Spain.
I don't stick to Japanese food during the tour, but one of Sushi restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, was memorable.
It is the best Sushi in US so far.
I would like to share with you but I couldn't find it on travel advisor.

6. Your Carnegie Hall debut will be later this season, how are you preparing?
I'm very much excited with it.
I believe the best preparation is to practice.
I'll try to enjoy this experience and I hope the audience enjoy the concert with me.

5. Do you hear from fans since the documentary A Surprise in Texas has been shown?
Yes, I often experience people talk to me at the airport, at the restaurant, and on the street.
In June, I visited Venice, Italy, and had an opportunity to play a piano at one of traditional building.
After I played piano, one lady came to me and said she was from Texas and had watched the film so that she easily recognized me.

4. There are quite a few wonderful cds that you have recorded, from orchestral concerti to the most recent Chopin – what’s in store for fans in the next few releases?
Thanks, my next CD is just out in the market.
It is Mussorgsky's Pictures and an Exhibition and 2 Liszt pieces, all of them I'm going to play in San Antonio.

3. Is there repertory you want to record that you haven’t yet?
Yes, quite a lot.
I'm planning to make recordings of Mozart in the near future.
Beethoven and Chopin are my lifework and I wish to make records of them time to time.

2. You recently graduated from college – what’s next, teaching? Or is there a keyboard hero you would want to study with or play for?
Graduating from college is, like winning the competition, just starting professional career.
I have quite a lot to learn and to study, I can't imagine teaching someone!
I would like to meet and listen to as much wonderful pianists as possible, but it is no less inspiring to play chamber music with great musician and to play concerto with great conductors and orchestras.

1. I’ve heard the Van Cliburn is a real challenge but a joy, with all aspects of music making – solo, chamber and concerti. How was it for you competing and how has it impacted your life?

Well, Van Cliburn Competition was very much demanding about repertoire.
I have to learn quite a lot of music, solo, chamber, concerto, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary.
However, the hospitality and atmosphere of the competition were so warm and human, I was able to relax myself and to concentrate on playing piano.
Honestly, I didn't think as I was "competing" at all.
I simply enjoyed playing and sharing great music with such wonderful audience.
Every time I survived the round, I was so happy with the fact that I was given further opportunities to have concerts with them.
By the way, last week (14th and 15th of September), I played duo concert with Ms. Son Yoel-Eum, in Tokyo and in Seoul.
I, and my parents, were impressed with her music during the competition.
I had opportunities to attend her concerts after the competition, but it was first time for me to play "duo" with her.
We played Debussy Petite Suite and Mozart Sonata for 2 piano K.448, and Rachmaninov Tarantelle for encore.
It was very much enjoyable and exciting concert, and I wish if I could do it in the States, too.

with very best wishes,
Nobuyuki Tsujii

Listen for all the scoop and behind the scenes with the music and musicians every week on Classical Spotlight, Thursday afternoons with John Clare on KPAC & KTXI.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Contrasting theatrical duo makes for a great weekend

Valerie Cowan

Two breathtaking but distinct theatrical performances made my weekend quite memorable. The first of which took place Saturday evening at the Lila Cockrell Theatre. The San Antonio Opera’s production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” adapted for opera by French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893), took me through a whirlwind of emotions as I watched and listened in awe to the musical spectacle onstage. The second performance took place at the Majestic Theater on Sunday afternoon, and allowed me to revisit all my childhood memories. Disney’s “Mary Poppins” attracted an audience of all ages. It was hard to resist humming along to all the familiar tunes as the performers of the hit Broadway musical sang and danced onstage.

Photo Caption: Maria Alejandres, who sang the role of Juliet, let me take a picture with her backstage after the show.

The stamina of the performers in both productions amazed me. Richard Troxell and Maria Alejandres, Romeo and Juliet respectively, were onstage and singing with full force the entire two-and-a-half-hour performance. I spoke with Cindy Sadler, who sang the role of Juliet’s nurse Gertrude, after the show.

“This particular performance for me is not physically demanding because my part is relatively small,” Sadler said. “For the two leads… it’s just extremely physically demanding because they’re just onstage the all the time.”

I was very curious about rehearsals and how the singers can possibly have the endurance to rehearse such demanding material for the amount of time it takes to put on such a flawless performance.

“We don’t rehearse the entire opera every time; we rehearse sections of it,” Sadler said. “We don’t sing out all the time. We do what’s called marking, which is basically just singing it softly or taking it down an octave. Singers are trained to preserve their voices.”

Watching a Shakespeare play as a French opera with English supertitles seemed oddly natural, even though Shakespeare originally wrote his plays in English. Shakespeare’s words are so musical and poetic on their own; it’s almost like listening to music even when there is no musical setting to the text. In Sadler’s eyes, the musical setting enhances the meaning of the text.

“Music adds emotion to words that words cannot express, and I think that this does so amply,” Sadler said. “There are significant changes to the original Shakespeare play that are necessary to make it into a musical drama because it takes longer to say something by singing than it does with just spoken word.”

Music also seemed the natural setting for “Mary Poppins.” Set to the familiar tunes of the original Disney film along with numerous new songs, the play moved swiftly from one spectacular song and dance to the next.

Two things never cease to amaze me about musicals: the young age of some of the performers and the ingenuity of the set design. The youths playing the roles of Jane and Michael Banks range in age from ten to twelve, and they’re up there singing and dancing in front of thousands of audience members like it’s what they were born to do. I think back to what I was doing when I was ten years old… watching movies like “Mary Poppins” in my living room, struggling with math homework, and going to the swimming pool with friends. That isn’t to say I didn’t accomplish anything or have a good time when I was ten; I’m just astonished at what these kids are capable of. As for the set design, I can never quite understand how it all works. From the nosebleed seats, props seem to magically move on- and offstage by themselves. If I paused to look at the program for a few moments, as soon as I look up, the stage would look entirely different.

There was never a dull moment during either of the performances this weekend. If you missed this weekend’s show times of Mary Poppins, it runs through this Sunday. Select tickets are still available on Up next in the San Antonio Opera’s season is Mozart’s Don Giovanni from February 17-February 19. For more information, visit

Monday, October 3, 2011

Flash! Symphony Musicians Mob Pearl Farmers Market!

Milder morning temperatures made for a perfect opportunity for musicians of the San Antonio Symphony to connect with the audience outside of the concert hall this weekend. On Saturday, October 2, members of the orchestra, led by YOSA's Troy Peters, conducted an impromptu flash mob at the Pearl Farmers Market, just off Broadway in San Antonio.

The ever popular "William Tell Overture" was performed by the group. As you can see in the below videos, just as quickly as it begins, it's over, leaving shoppers with a smile on their faces.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Iraqi Youth Orchestra in Bonn

We were touched this week by the story of the Iraqi Youth Orchestra, who are performing their very first concert abroad this weekend at the Beethovenfest in Bonn. The group's conductor, Paul MacAlindin, says it's still too dangerous for them to play in Baghdad, but he hopes the ensemble will be able to give concerts in the Iraqi capital within the next few years.

Read more of the story from PRI's "The World."

See a video about the Iraqi Youth Orchestra: