El día del juicio final

My friend and fellow blogger and music critic Sebastian Spreng spotted this in its former English version on my Music for All Seasons page on Facebook and asked if I had it in Spanish. Here it goes first in Spanish, then in English:

Los escándalos que involucran a hombres poderosos en el negocio de la música siguen siendo noticia.

Hace unos años, hubo acusaciones contra los directores Danielle Gatti y Charles Dutoit. Ambos perdieron algo de trabajo pero aún están activos.

Más recientemente, James Levine fue despedido del MET (Metropolitan Opera) cuando se hicieron acusaciones de acoso sexual contra él. También en el MET, se le pidió al director de escena inglés John Copley que se fuera por razones similares.

El año pasado, William Preucil de la Cleveland Symphony, su maestro de conciertos de 23 años, y el trombonista principal Massimo La Rosa fueron despedidos.

Bernard Uzan, de Florida Grand Opera, casado con la soprano Diana Soviero, anunció su retiro el año pasado después de que el Washington Post revelase sus actividades extramatrimoniales.

Y ahora, la semana pasada, Plácido Domingo ha sido acusado por varias artistas femeninas de acoso sexual.

Los hombres poderosos que pueden haberse valido de su influencia en el mundo de la música para salirse con la suya están siendo acusados. Algunos ya han perdido más que su reputación, convirtiéndose en intocables tóxicos debido a su comportamiento, ya sea reciente o en el pasado distante. Y bien, deberían hacerlo si de hecho son culpables de usar su poder para forzar a miembros de su sexo o al opuesto.

Pero una cosa que a menudo queda enterrada debajo de las alfombras rojas de las salas de concierto y los teatros de ópera es la complicidad silenciosa de las orquestas y compañías de ópera que contratan y luego emplean a estos hombres sabiendo muy bien en muchos casos lo que sucedía detrás de las puertas cerradas de los camerinos y optan por mirar hacia el otro lado.

Esto ha estado sucediendo no solo en el mundo profesional de directores e instrumentistas y cantantes, sino también en los augustos pasillos de los conservatorios.

Se espera que AGMA (el Gremio Americano de Artistas Musicales) que abarca los instrumentistas clásicos y los cantantes de ópera, tanto como los sindicatos de músicos de orquesta adopten una posición más firme cuando surjan estos asuntos.

El movimiento #MeToo ha provocado un cambio mundial, y finalmente vamos llegando al día del juicio final.

Rafael de Acha         http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com


The scandals involving powerful men in the music business continue to make headlines. A few years ago, there were accusations made against conductors Danielle Gatti and Charles Dutoit. Both lost some work but are still active.

More recently James Levine was fired from the MET when accusations of sexual harassment were made against him. Also at the MET, English stage director John Copley was asked to leave for similar reasons.

Last year the Cleveland Orchestra’s William Preucil, its concertmaster of 23 years, and the orchestra’s principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa were both let go.

Florida Grand Opera’s Bernard Uzan, married to Opera singer Diana Soviero announced his retirement last year after a Washington Post exposé about his extra-marital philandering.

And now, just this past week, Placido Domingo has been charged by several female artists of sexual harassment.

Powerful men who may have used their positions of influence in the music world to have their way sexually are being brought up on charges. Some have already lost more than just their reputation, becoming toxic untouchables because of their behavior whether recent or in the distant past. And well they should if indeed they are guilty of using their power to force themselves on members of their sex or the opposite one.

But one thing that often gets buried under the concert hall’s and opera houses’ red carpets is the silent complicity of the orchestras and opera companies that hired and then employed these men knowing full well in many cases what was going on behind the dressing rooms’ closed doors and chose to look the other way.

This has been happening not only in the professional world of conductors and instrumentalists and singers, but in the hallowed halls of Academia as well.

It is hoped that the American Guild of Musical Artists – the Classical instrumentalists and Opera Singer’s union, and the Orchestral Musicians unions will take a stronger stand when these matters come up. The #MeToo movement has brought about a world-wide change, and finally the day of reckoning is here.

Rafael de Acha           http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com




Even before the old Dulcian, aka as fagotto in Italy and as curtail to the Brits, became the now know to us as a bassoon, composers had begun to write for it.

Vivaldi wrote a couple of concerti for it. Mozart put it to work a few times. Later Grovlez, Hummel, Smalys, Jolivet, and Elgar composed sonatas and divertimenti for the bassoon. Hindemith wrote a showpiece sonata for it in 1938.

Shostakovich gave it a haunting passage in his ninth symphony, Ravel assigned a dreamy passage to it in the midst of his Alborada del Gracioso, and Stravinsky gave it a famously exposed solo in the opening of The Rite of Spring.

With its huge range and flexibility and its mellow bass-baritone timbre the bassoon anchors the woodwind family, and it often gets its up-close and personal moments in music for woodwind quintet. But here’s a CD of music for not one but two bassoons.

The music in the Bright Shiny Things (BSTC-0129) CD Tuple Darker Things comes from sources far and wide: with two Americans each represented by compositions that reflect a post-Adams/Glass/Reich aesthetic that has variously been labeled post-minimalism or totalism: Marc Mellits’ Black, a consonant duo for two bassoons, and Michael Daugherty’s Bounce, a playfully canon-like duet using echoing statements and answers.

Dutch composer Chiel Meijering’s Nocturnal Residents is a nervously humorous study in diverse parallel tempi and rhythms. Sofia Gubaidulina’s 1977 Duo Sonata is substantial in scope and duration, and infused with the Russian gravitas we have come to expect from this composer. Dutch composer Louis Andriessen wrote the award-winning Lacrimosa in 1991, depicting in its music a desolate landscape that calls for the two bassoons to seek each other’s tonality often using quarter-tone tuning.

Tuple is the name for the bassoonist duo of Lynn Hilman and Rachael Elliott: two accomplished and enterprising musicians who make their mark with this intriguing album, their first CD, excellently engineered by David Schall and produced by the artists and Louis Levitt.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Songs by Jules Massenet


It would usually be very hard to sit through a recital of twenty five songs by any one composer in a foreign language with almost all of the twenty five sung by one singer.

But in the case of the SOMM (somm cd O600) 2017 release of La vie d’une rose featuring songs by Jules Masenet, we deal with a varied selection of lyric gems superbly sung by the late lyric soprano Sally Silver, an exceptionally accomplished English artist who was accompanied in this recording by Richard Bonynge, and joined in several instances by mezzo-soprano Christine Tucci in duets.

Familiar as we all are with the operatic Massenet – Manon, Werther, Hérodiade, Thaïs, Cendrillon, Le Cid, Don Quichotte, we are surprised by the richness of the creations of the other Massenet: a composer of delightfully delicate songs, many for two voices, some belonging to groups and mini-cycles: Expressions lyriques, Poème d’amour, Poème d’avril

In one instance, the dramatic, partially-declaimed La dernière lettre de Werther à Charlotte utilizes some of the melodic and harmonic traits of Charlotte’s Air des Lettres from Massenet’s opera Werther. For the most part though the poetry belongs to the Romantic period of French literature spearheaded by Victor Hugo, whose Etre aimée and Le coffret d’ébène are compellingly adapted by Massenet.

Not all of the songs are lyrical in nature: there are dramatically stunners like Le petit Jésus and lively ditties like the Spanish inflected Nuit d’Espagne and Chanson pour Elle.

Ideally suited to supple voiced sopranos with a good command of French diction, these songs are well worth exploring by enterprising singers and deserving of listening by lovers of French music. The much missed Sally Silver and her vocal collaborator Christine Tocci are impeccably accompanied here by the masterful Richard Bonynge, elegantly wearing the mantle of collaborative pianist with the same stylishness with which he is known as a master conductor.

Producer Jeremy Silver and recording engineer Anthony Philpott deliver a CD the French would label haut de gamme.

Rafael de Acha       http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Baltimore Consort’s Shakespearean Music


Listening to the Baltimore Consort’s CD The Food of Love (Sono Luminus DSL-92234) made me feel musically deprived by the absence of any similarly accomplished ensemble dedicated to Early Music near our vicinity.

The consolation comes for me by listening to The Food of Love, a treasure trove of Elizabethan music performed by six superb specialists on an array of exotic instruments that include treble and bass viols, cittern, recorders, crumhorn, fifes, and bagpipes, in addition to the more familiar lute and flute.

The players are Mary Anne Ballard, Mark Cudek, Larry Lipkis, Ronn McFarlane. Mindy Rosenfeld, and soprano Danielle Svonavec. All six of these artists brilliantly bring to life the music of several contemporaries of Shakespeare, notably Thomas Morley, Richard Edwards, Robert Jones, Robert Johnson, attached to Shakespeare’s The King’s Men as composer in residence,  Anthony Holborne, and John Dowland.

The music is richly varied, with a number of familiar tunes revisited: It was a Lover and his Lass… O Mistress Mine… Bonny Sweet Robin… Greensleeves…Where the Bee Sucks…Willow Song… The less familiar but eminently accessible includes among other lively instrumentals: Heart’s Ease… The Buffens… and Kemp’s Jig, the tune that actor Will Kemp famously and uninterruptedly danced to for one hundred miles between London and Norwich.

Here’s a short sampler of the Baltimore Consort’s music-making: Tarleton’s Jighttps://youtu.be/G49NMFIK-2Y

Melancholy turns abound as in My Lady Carey’s Dompe, a charmer that hints in 1525 at the early arrival of the Baroque over half a century away.

Then one encounters early examples of incidental music such as the haunting Fortune my Foe that Shakespeare must have used to underpin key moments in his tragedies and comedies, in addition to the familiarly ubiquitous dance interludes and songs.

The presence of bouncy syncopation in Hollborne’s 1599 instrumental dance Fairie Rownde is both amusing and nothing short of surprising, belying the false conceit that much Elizabethan music is all laidback sameness. Far from it, this gem of an album played with Historical Performance accuracy and 21st century pizzazz is a revealing and often toe-tapping thing to treasure.

Kudos to Mark Cudek and Larry Lipkis for the scholarly and insightful booklet notes. The engineering by Daniel Shores and the producing by Dan Merceruio help place the Sono Luminus release of the Baltimore Consort’s CD The Food of Love at the very top of my list of 2019 favorites.

Rafael de Acha        http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Mesmerizing Music from Buenos Aires

daniedl tarrab

Composer, Bass Player, Conductor Daniel Tarrab and I recently became friends on Facebook and the likelihood of us remaining Facebook friends for as long as we both walk the earth is pretty good. Daniel lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I live smack in the center of the USA, so it is more than likely that we will never meet in person.

But that does not sadden me: I can get all the sadness, or, better, melancholy by listening to Daniel’s music again and again.

His is quintessentially Argentine music, or even more specifically: Buenos Aires music. Tangos of the sort I used to hear sung by Carlos Gardel on the radio growing up in Cuba.

But there’s been a lot of tango music flowing on the waters of the River Plate since Gardel went to the place where all the great music-makers go and where I hope to meet up with Daniel Tarrab some day, if I get lucky and I am admitted.

But meanwhile I have Tarrab’s music that I am playing on my Bose as I write this. The eight tracks on Tarrab’s CD Otra Mirada (Another Glance) could be danced to, I suppose.

Certainly La Lamparita (The Little Lantern) lacks the steadily syncopated one/ two/ three/ AND rhythm of many of the good danceable tangos, but it has plenty of melody to linger in the memory. Others, like Encuentro (Encounter) begin with preludes that portend passionately rhythmic outbursts ahead.

Still others, like El Quinto, Entrelineas and En la Cornisa have titles that even in Spanish do not give away what the mood of the music might be, not until Tarrab’s string orchestra and its spectacular soloists cut loose.

The music with which Tarrab mesmerizes the listener straddles genres, a DNA which this listener welcomes, as hints of jazzy riffs, classical cadenzas, and improvisatory flights of fancy bounce off each other seamlessly.

One hesitates to single out players in such company but I succumb to temptation and name Nestor Marconi one of the best bandoneon players I have ever heard. Violinist Pablo Agri brilliantly leads the strings and solos throughout, doing much of the melodic heavy-lifting on the CD.

And then there’s Daniel Tarrab on the piano, Daniel Tarrab on the string bass, Daniel Tarrab revealing his soul in every bar of every tango of every track of this memorable CD.

Otra Mirada is available from Silva Screen Records and Times Square Records.

Rafael de Acha     http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Strauss’ Salome and Salzburg’s Salami

hires-04_salome_2018_asmikgrigorian_c_sf_ruthwalzThe first stage direction we encounter in the libretto of Richard Strauss’ mercifully brief one act opera Salome is succinct: “A large terrace in the Palace of Herod, which sits by a banquet hall. Some soldiers lean over a parapet. On the right, an imposing staircase, on the left in the background an old cistern with a green bronze frame. The moon shines very brightly.”

Later Salome says to Herod: “I’m ready, Tetrarch” and the stage direction says: “Salome dances”

… and later… “A huge black executioner’s arm, stretches out of the cistern, holding the head of Jochanaan on a silver shield. Salome seizes it …”

And still later, at the very end of the opera, there’s a crucial stage direction implied in Herod’s last line screamed at his guards: “Kill this woman”

Follow those four key stage directions and you get a roadmap for staging Richard Strauss’ Salome, which the German composer arranged after Oscar Wilde’s same-titled play.

But in Romeo Castellucci’s train-wreck of a production for the 2018 Salzburg Festival, now available on DVD from UNITEL we get neither much of a palace nor a Dance of the Seven Veils nor the cathartic killing of the monstrous Salome. Not a chance.

Instead we get a creepy mono-chromatic set much resembling the basement of a mortuary establishment where the voice of John the Baptist seems to come from a gigantic hole in the ground. Later out of it comes the Prophet’s hairy naked body minus his missing head seated on a chair all set for Salome to do some kinky washing of his lower extremities.

We get no dance, just Salome doing nothing in a fetal pose next to a black stone. And at the end, Salome sinks into the hole in the ground like a crocodile before anyone can get to her. All this courtesy of director Castellucci.

The staging, if one can call it that, is horrendous but neither it nor the so-so singing of Strauss-Lite Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian deters the well-heeled 1% of Salzburg clad in tuxes and gowns from giving the show a self-congratulatory ovation celebrating High Kulture. Oh for the days of Teresa Stratas or Karita Mattila!

Others in the large cast are OK in their small supporting roles but the off-the-rack suits the men wear look like the remnants of a close out sale at Barney’s. The hapless singer of the role of Herodias is clad in a 1910 full length gown and hat belonging to yet another part of the come as you are costume design by none other the director Castellucci, who for some inexplicable reason has everyone but Salome sporting red or black make up that covers the face from the nose down.

Among the principals in the cast Hungarian bass-baritone Gabor Bretz delivers a stentorian Jochanaan, Julian Prégardien presents a nicely sung Narraboth, and John Daszak and AnnaMaria Chiuri scream their heads off as Herod and Herodias.

But too bad they could not hire another director so we could get Strauss’ Salome, not Castellucci’s Salami.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com



A friend sent me links to two recent productions: the Covent Garden/Barry Kosky Carmen catastrophe and the Aix-en-Provence Tosca travesty with Catherine Malfitano…

Here’s what I sent my friend by email and below it the links so that you can judge for yourselves:

Thank you for sending the opera package, which I would like to say I enjoyed but did not. Instead I sat in front of my computer screen thinking about a modified version of a great one-liner “After this, the deluge!”

Never a fan of Eurotrash opera I remain an unchanging traditionalist that loathes all the claptrap that passes for new ideas in the staging of opera. Watching the acting in both the Covent Garden Carmen and the Aix-en-Provence Tosca does nothing to dispel my conviction that most opera singers can’t act their way out of a paper bag. And this kind of directing does nothing to help the singing actor.

All the directorial idiocies in the world are no substitute for disciplined and intellectually grounded dramaturgical homework, and in both these cases we get a mishmash of superficial ideas and plain bad taste that betrays the intent of both composer and librettist.

Barry Kosky, the director of the Covent Garden Carmen reveals his trendy aesthetic when, in an interview part of the video he says (and I paraphrase) his Carmen uses a bit of Paris 1930’s, a bit of Weimar decadence, and so on…

Listening to and watching both these productions (partially I admit) reveals one recurring symptom of this kind of opera production: the singers are not all that good because the really good Carmens and Don Josés and Escamillos and Toscas and Cavaradossis and Scarpias in the business would not be caught dead singing in this kind of staging.



Tosca Complete Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEu55qres6A&t=2979s

Rafael de Acha     http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com


Protected by International CopyrightIn Southbound of the Circle (SONO LUMINUS 92232), a superb string quartet takes the listener on a journey into the far reaches of Icelandic music by award-winning composers Daniel Bjarnason, Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Mamiko Dís Ragnarsdóttir, and Haukur Tómasson.

Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, Helga Dóra Björgvinsdóttir, Þórunn Ósk Marinósdóttir, and Sigurdur Bjarki Gunarsson are the members of the Siggi String Quartet. Each and every one of them virtuoso soloists on their own, here they place their precise, focused, quintessentially honest, elegant, intensely emotional, and intellectually compelling playing to the service of the music.

In Daniel Bjarnason’s Stillshot the music begrudgingly stands still but for a moment to capture in sound one instance of stasis out of many fragments of reality depicted in restless snippets of melody that appear and evanesce like memories that leave no trace behind.

The quartet’s uncanny ability to flesh out in sound the ineffable is present in Una Sveinbjarnardóttir’s Opacity a four-movement string quartet that juxtaposes different soli for each of the quartet’s members allowing them only towards the end to just barely intertwine.

Valgeir Sigurðsson offers in his Nebraska a commentary on the similarity between his birthplace’s isolation and geographical vastness and Nebraska’s similar physical characteristics, utilizing sweeping, long lined melodic statements from the cello against ostinato broken chords in the upper strings that evoke aspects of nature, some rugged and unforgiving, some beneficent.

Mamiko Dís Ragnarsdóttir bucolic Fair Flowers celebrates the starkness of Iceland’s Tröllaskagi peninsula and the improbable survival and resiliency of its multicolored flora in a miniature polytonal tone poem.

Haukur Tómasson Serimonia is a study in motion in which pizzicato strings alternate with sforzando attacks that create a landscape of tonal and rhythmic uncertainty that does not go away but simply and gradually does a decrescendo that gently fades away .

SONO LUMINUS has created an excellent sampler of music far off the beaten path lovingly engineered by Daniel Shores and flawlessly produced by Dan Merceruio. To each and every one involved in this worthy project here is a hearty Icelandic Hamingjuóskir!

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com



Most of us are fairly familiar with the large-scale overtures of Carl Maria von Weber – Oberon, Euryanthe, Der Freischütz… – and barely acquainted with most of his chamber music. So here, with the release of the lovely DELOS 3561 CD CLARINET CLASSICS AT RIVERDALE, we get acquainted with Weber’s technically challenging and melodically satisfying Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B flat Major.

In the process we gladly encounter the superb clarinetist Robert DiLutis and the equally accomplished Mellifera Quartet

We also get to hear the polytonal Sonatina for Clarinet, op. 27 by Miklós Rózsa – not the film music Rózsa mind you but the concert music Rózsa – vaguely atonal, with hints of Debussy here and there and plenty of opportunities for both the clarinet and the quartet to shine.

With Alexander Glazunov’s Rêverie Orientale we get intoxicating exoticism and the superb clarinetist Robert DiLutis dazzling us again with his filigreed work.

Tracks 8 and 9 are given to the Swedish composer Erland von Koch’s Monolog 3 for solo clarinet, a bipartite composition both colorful and accessible.

Heinrich Joseph Baermann’s Adagio for Clarinet and Strings is a short and compellingly meditative piece for the prince of woodwind instruments.

Wilson Osborne’s quietly melodic Rhapsody for Clarinet concludes the CD in a quiet mood.

With a total playing time of sixty minutes, the DELOS CD provides an hour of musical enchantment with off-the-beaten-path music played by five superb artists, recorded at Riverdale House Museum in Riverdale, Maryland, perfectly engineered by Christian Amonson, and elegantly produced by Robert DiLutis himself.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com



The largest presenter/producer of performing arts in Ohio, UC’s CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) (CCM) has just announced its lineup of events for Season 2019-2020, including operas, musicals, plays, dance programs, symphony concerts, jazz evenings, chamber music concerts, and recitals by faculty and students.

$99 Orchestra concerts subscription packages with attractive discounts off single ticket prices can be purchased online at ccmonstage.universitytickets.com, over the phone at 513-556-4183, or in person at the CCM Box Office in the Atrium of UC’s Corbett Center for the Performing Arts

ORCHESTRAL CONCERTS WITH CCM Philharmonia, Mark Gibson, music director

7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20
DVOŘÁK: Slavonic Dance in C Major, Op. 46, No. 1 DVOŘÁK: Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53, with Giora Schmidt, violin BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Russian Easter Overture SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 102, with Dror Biran, piano PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1
LISZT: Totentanz SAINT-SAËNS: Carnival of the Animals BRITTEN: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31
BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, “Les Adieux” MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 in D Major

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15
DEBUSSY: Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune RAVEL: Piano Concerto BERLIOZ: Symphonie Fantastique
Louis Langrée, guest conductor

Rafael de Acha     http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com