Tuesday Dec 08, 2009

San Francisco Symphony & Chorus blog on Mahler's 8th (now up for 3 Grammy's!)

The recently released recording of Mahler's 8th Symphony by the San Francisco Symphony & Chorus has been nominated for 3 Grammy awards! I so enjoyed this piece when I performed it with the SF Symphony & Chorus in 2006 - in fact, we were supposed to record that performance but rumor was we weren't able to get the soloists we'd wanted.

The San Francisco Symphony Community site just posted a neat video about this Grammy-nominated recording/performance. Highly recommended for any and all classical music fans.

I miss singing...

Friday Apr 27, 2007

Slava died today

The world lost a great man today. Mstislav Rostropovich died today in Moscow. The New York Times has a warm and loving obituary (assuming you have a free login to read it). I re-joined the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in large part to sing with Slava - his widely used nickname - performing Babi Yar, a piece written by his teacher & mentor Dmitri Shostakovich.

Not only was Slava a great conductor, and a tremendous cellist, but he was also a world citizen who suffered the consequences of criticizing his mother Russia (whilst defending the writer & dissident Aleksander Solzhenitsyn). When the Berlin Wall fell, Slava flew there immediately, and gave an impromptu solo recital.

It was a tremendous honor to sing under his baton, and I will miss him greatly.

Tuesday Jun 20, 2006

From Italian Latin to High Elvish (and Orcish, and...)

Tonight we being rehearsing The Lord of the Rings Symphony.[Read More]

Wednesday Jun 14, 2006

Requiem Aeternam

This week and next we perform the Verdi Reqiuem. This piece, at this time, is filled with meaning for me.[Read More]

Monday Jun 05, 2006

Symphonly of not quite 500

The San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Pacific Boychoir, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and 8 soloists just completed a glorious run of performances of the Mahler Symphony No. 8.[Read More]

Friday Jan 27, 2006

What can happen when chorus rehearsal is in a garage...

The fun folks at Honda UK put together an ad for the new Civic that, along with the Carlton Draught Big Ad, is in the running for most innovative use of chorus in advertising. See a cached copy here.

Wednesday Jan 18, 2006

Veni Creator Spiritus!

Rehearsals have begun for the 2nd half of the 2005/2006 San Francisco Symphony Chorus program. Last night we began rehearsing Mahler's 8th symphony, which opens with the Latin text "Come Creator Spirit". Dedicated to "Meiner lieben Frau Alma Maria", the 8th symphony is one of the more challenging choral works. Like Mahler's 2nd symphony, he demands an incredible vocal range (the basses go from B below the bass clef to G above middle C - nearly three octaves!), and does so across a huge dynamic range (ppp through fff, and every step in between). Thankfully when we're down the gravelly parts of our range (the low B) its ppp - the most sound we could possibly make down there anyway, and likewise the high G is ff (since we couldn't do that quietly no matter how good our falsetto).

I've performed Mahler's 8th symphony with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus on two previous occasions, so last night felt like renewing an acquaintance with an old friend. Another old friend I'm looking forward to a renewed acquaintance with is the Verdi Requiem, which we perform in June.

If you are interested in attending any of these performances, now is a great time to get tickets! Today through Tuesday evening January 24th the Symphony Box Office is running a sale - all seats that cost less than $50 are available for $25, and everything else is available for $50 (including their very best, $107 seats). Details available here.

Thursday Dec 08, 2005

Act I: The Nightingale

We just finished the first of three nights performing Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Oedipus Rex (see my previous blog entry for details).

If Americans singing a Greek tragedy in Latin weren't odd enough, how about a Russian debut of a story about a Chinese court, with Japanese courtiers, sung in French? That's the first half of our performance, only done in San Francisco. And perhaps inspired by the Cirque du Soleil performance of Corteo which is playing in San Francisco through January 8th, we had 3 contortionists joining the performance, playing the part of the mechanical bird delivered by the Japanese emissaries to the court (and part of the reason why our hero, The Nightingale, departs the court).

For more of the story, you should read the program notes as printed by the San Francisco Symphony for the program. It's great being back with the Symphony Chorus!

Wednesday Dec 07, 2005

A Greek tragedy, semi-staged and sung in Latin...

We are in a true "dress" rehersal for the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus (and soloists and dancers!) performance of Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Oedipus Rex. Unlike typical SF Symphony performances, this one is semi-staged. Everyone in the chorus wears a mask for the Oedipus performance (and a lucky few of us get to wear a second mask, which comes out at a strategic moment...). Yesterday they gave us more wardrobe - a red glove which makes an appearance at a pivotal moment.

We have a stage within a stage, on stage with us. It causes some challenges for some of the chorus. But with strategically located monitors showing us the maestro on camera, we can at least see when we are to come in (even if the audience may not be able to see us).

The Symphnony is doing a few new things this year. In addition to a semi-staged performance, they've also started their "6.5" series on a few Friday nights (concert starts at 6:30, with a live accompanied lecture about the subject). The Nightingale and Oedipus Rex will be performed tomorrow night Thursday December 8th, through Saturday December 10th.

Well, time to head back to rehersal...

Saturday Nov 12, 2005

O Fortuna!

It is always a blast to sing Carmina burana with the San Francisco Symphony & Chorus. We just finished 4 nights of this under the baton of visiting conductor David Robertson (Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of London's BBC Symphony). Soloists were soprano Patrica Petibon from France, baritone Christopher Maltman of England, and tenor/swan Richard Troxell of Maryland. We were joined by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus and the Pacific Boychoir (who we will see again this season in the Mahler 8 performances in May & June).

This set of performances felt very fresh to me, with Maestro Robertson setting different tempi almost every night - and a lot more changes in tempo than I'm used to. Keeps you on your toes! Another new thing was the first of the new 6.5 series - a set of Friday evening concerts that start at 6:30pm instead of the usual 8pm, and include a live 'pre-concert lecture' with conductor, orchestra, and in this case chorus. We started the 'lecture' by singing the opening number, which Maestro Robertson then dissected a bit in various different ways, illustrating all of the complex things that Orff has the orchestra doing. He then had us sing and play a few excerpts and entire numbers - the orchestral "Tanz", verse 1 of "Chramer, gip die varwe mir", baritone Christopher Maltman's "Estuans interius", verse 1 of "Olim lacus colueram" (where we meet tenor Richard Troxell but before his goose gets cooked), the children's chorus with soprano Patrica Petibon singing "Amor volat undique", everyone together on "Tempus et iocundum", and again in "Ave formosissima" which the Maestro also dissected a bit.

With a piece like Carmina burana that we've sung so many times (and done well enough with to win a Grammy in 1993!), we were all comfortable enough with it to have a little fun. So first as a surprise for Chorus Director Vance George, and then again in our first rehersal with Maestro Robertson, we substitued the words to O Fortuna with those from the Carlton Draught "Big Ad" commercial. For a while we thought the Maestro would ask us to reprise that for the 'lecture', but instead he only made reference to it.

Program notes for the concert are now available - for both Carmina burana, and also for Revueltas' La noche de los Mayas which was on the first half of the program.

Thursday Jul 21, 2005

[Re]Joining the San Francisco Symphony Chorus

After a hiatus of some years, I am thrilled to be rejoining the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. The Chorus is attached to the San Francisco Symphony, and is ably led by Vance George (to the tune of three Grammy awards!).

This professional chorus has a very demanding rehersal and performance schedule. In the upcoming season the Chorus is performing in 9 separate programs, with each program presented over 3 to 6 evenings - for a total of 34 concerts (so nearly 10% of the time we're performing!). In this upcoming season the Chorus is part of the following programs/performances:

It is going to be a great season, and I'm really looking forward to being back with the Chorus. Some of the pieces have become old friends (Carmina burana, Messiah, Mahler 8, and the Verdi Reqiuem). Others will be new to me. The Russian in the Stravinsky and Shostakovich will be a particularly fun challenge (I fondly remember my in first season with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in 1990, when we performed Alexander Nevsky by Sergi Prokofiev, conducted by Kurt Masur. He was a guest conductor visiting from the about-to-longer-be-East-Germany Stadtkapelle Orchestra & Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, where he almost single handedly convinced Erich Honecker to call off the police from stopping a pro-democracy march and thereby preventing a lot of bloodshed as the Communist East German government collapsed).

For tickets, contact the San Francisco Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 Monday through Friday 10am to 6pm, and Saturday noon to 6pm.

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Peter Korn

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