Friday, October 17, 2008

Alice Benjamin and David Granger in concert Oct. 18th

Alice Benjamin and David Granger first
began performing as duo soloist in 1998
with three performences of the Vanhal
Concerto for Two Bassoons with the San
Francisco Concerto Orchestra. They have
since performed the Vanhal with theUniversity of California, Davis, SymphonyOrchestra in 1999 and with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in 2000.
Tree Talk began performong in recital with Ellen Wassermann, pianist, with appearances in Santa Rosa, at the University of California,Davis, and for the incline Village ChamberMusic Society. Future plans include chamber music for two bassoons with other instruments.

"The Soloist were flawless." - William Glackin, The Sacramento Bee

Concert: October 18, 8:00 pm

Trinity Chamber Concerts

2320 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA 94704 // 510.549.3864

Available for Recital and Performence with Symphony Orchestra

Please contact:Alice Benjamin at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prokofiev and His World

It is safe to say that Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953) is among the most popular 20th-century composers -- indeed, "beloved" might not be putting too fine a point on it. This emotional connection has rested to some extent on the broad appeal and consequent familiarity of a generous handful of works. Most famous among them is "Peter and the Wolf" (1936), a symphonic dramatization of an old Russian folk tale with a narration that explains to the audience the different instruments of the orchestra. But in the composer's hit parade, Peter and his lupine predator rub shoulders with other masterpieces: the Haydnesque "Classical" symphony, First Violin Concerto and Third Piano Concerto (all 1917); the tartly comedic opera "The Love for Three Oranges" (1921); the dramatic Fifth Symphony (1945); the powerful opera "War and Peace" (1941-52); film scores for "Lieutenant Kizhe" (1933) and "Alexander Nevsky" (1938); and of course the ubiquitous ballets "Romeo and Juliet" (1935-36) and "Cinderella" (1940-44).
Regardless of their well-deserved popularity, however, these works form only the tip of Prokofiev's mighty oeuvre. On the consecutive weekends of Aug. 8 to 10 and Aug. 15 to 17, audiences at the celebrated Bard Music Festival, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., will have the opportunity to examine Prokofiev's compositions in the context of the tumultuous times in which he produced them. Characteristically, the selections will also include familiar and rare music by a wide range of Prokofiev's contemporaries, among them Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Reinhold Glière, Nikolay Myaskovsky, Aleksandr Scriabin, John Alden Carpenter, Francis Poulenc, George Gershwin and Vernon Duke (the Russian-born Vladimir Dukelsky).
"Prokofiev inherited a combination of Rimsky-Korsakov's folk-inspired late-Romanticism and the esoteric mystical symbolism of Scriabin but decided that the modern demanded something different," observes Leon Botstein, the festival's co-director, who will be conducting the American Symphony Orchestra in performances of major works by Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stravinsky and others. "He was fired by the idea to write great music for the masses. And without sacrificing the irony and sarcastic humor that we associate with modernity, Prokofiev succeeded because he is the most successful tunesmith among the modernists."
Like his younger contemporary and, in posterity's eyes, his rival, Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-75), Prokofiev is firmly identified with Soviet Russia under the stringent regime of Joseph Stalin -- coincidentally, Stalin and Prokofiev died on the same day. Yet one of the themes of Bard's Prokofiev "rediscovery" is illustrated on the cover of this year's program, a handsome photograph of the natty young composer striding along a Chicago street during his sojourn in America.
From 1918 -- when the Russian Revolution promised to make things difficult for creative folk at home -- to 1922, Prokofiev lived in America and summered in Europe, hoping to establish himself in the U.S. as a composer and concert pianist. Unfortunately, while he enjoyed moderate success, writing his "Love for Three Oranges" on commission from the Chicago Lyric Opera, he was unable to unseat Stravinsky from his position at the head of music's vanguard, and he could not escape the overshadowing presence of Rachmaninoff as a pianist.
For several more years Prokofiev tried his luck in the West, settling first in Germany and then in Paris, before going back to the U.S.S.R. for good in 1936. Hence the Bard Festival program opens with an essay that sets the themes for the two weekends: "The One Who Returned" for the first, and "The Faustian Bargain" for the second. Both the themes and the concerts that illustrate them promise fascinating investigations not only of Prokofiev's music -- in the context of music by major Russian and non-Russian contemporaries -- but of the enigmatic personality of the composer himself.
Simon Morrison of Princeton University, a Prokofiev scholar and the editor of this year's festival book, "Prokofiev and His World" (Princeton University Press), notes that "one of the very important things that we will tease out during the festival is Prokofiev's spirituality as a composer. Throughout his career, Prokofiev's strong commitment to Christian Science [which he began to study in 1924, after moving to southern Germany] conditioned his outlook. Following his fateful relocation to the Soviet Union in 1936, the adjustments to Soviet aesthetic doctrine that he was obliged to make were fairly easy for him on a conceptual level, because certain political ideals -- of transcendence and optimism and spiritual uplift -- resonated with spiritual ideals to which he was already long committed."
As examples of this positive outlook influencing his musical aesthetic, Dr. Morrison cites Prokofiev's original -- and suppressed -- happy ending to "Romeo and Juliet," which, with the agreement of the composer's heirs, Dr. Morrison resurrected. (Having received its world premiere performances by the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Bard Summerscape festival in July, the production, choreographed by Mr. Morris, begins a world tour this fall.)
Another example is the wartime Fifth Symphony, which, according to Dr. Morrison, Prokofiev himself described in Soviet media and in an interview for Time magazine as being about spiritual uplift, about striving to overcome obstacles, about striving to attain a higher form of human experience. "That is what Communist idealogy preached under Stalin, and that is very much what Prokofiev believed he could achieve through his faith."
Mention of the Fifth Symphony brings up another aspect of Prokofiev's oeuvre in comparison with that of Shostakovich, namely the expressive aspects of their music. When Shostakovich writes about wartime horrors, for example in his Seventh ("Leningrad") and 13th ("Baba Yar") symphonies, the notes forcefully convey his anguish over the events. Conversely, Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony conveys more a sense of the composer as observer and ultimately as commentator.
"Shostakovich's music is confessional; Prokofiev's is not," observes Dr. Botstein. "It is music as craft. In Shostakovich's case, the craft is subordinate to the need to use music as a personal vehicle. For Prokofiev, the issue is how to adapt craft to the culture of political expectation.
"In Prokofiev's music the person of the composer is at one step removed, which is why you can't unravel the music to find the man. But you have to understand the man to understand why his music takes the shape it does, and why, despite his openness to a variety of influences in Russia, Europe and America, Prokofiev's music always has a recognizable consistency -- a simplicity, a transparency, an absence of pretension, an absolutely brilliant use of form. Prokofiev is enigmatic, but he's original from day one."Mr. Scherer writes about classical music for the Journal. His current book is "A History of American Classical Music" (Sourcebooks).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Y.P.S.O. Needs Bassoonist

David Ramadanoff

This is a great opportunity for young Bassoonist in the Bay Area
We have openings for 2008-2009 for the following instruments: oboe, French horn, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, tuba, percussion, viola, violin.

Auditions are August 26 and 28, and Sept. 3, 4-9 pm. Please download an application form and return it by mail, fax or email with your date/time preference.

The following sections are full: cello, bass, flute. Please contact us in April to audition for the 2009-2010 season.

Young People's Symphony Orchestra (YPSO) is California's oldest youth orchestra and the second oldest youth orchestra in the United States.

P.O. Box 5593, Berkeley, CA 94705Contact: Phone (510) 849-YPSO(9776), Fax (510) 654-0274

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Local Composer Tim Silva Gets Hearing

Come and experience an evening concert featuring the music of Tim Silva. The program includes incredible performers from all over California!

Saturday, August 23rd
Cal State University, East Bay: Recital Hall (Music building, rm.1055)
Tickets: $15 adults, $5 students/children/senior
Parking: free!
Light refreshments will be served!
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.Hayward, CA 94542-3064

program info and free audio available at:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leave Chopins Heart Alone

Poland: Leave Chopin's Heart Alone

The heart of Polish-born composer Frederic Chopin rests in the Church of the Holy Cross, in Warsaw, Poland.

(WARSAW, Poland) — Like a religious relic, the heart of composer Frederic Chopin rests in a Warsaw church, untouched since it was preserved in alcohol after his death in 1849 at age 39. And that's how the Polish government wants to keep it.
Scientists want to remove the heart for DNA tests to see if Chopin actually died from cystic fibrosis and not tuberculosis as his death certificate stated. But the government says that's not a good reason to disturb the remains of a revered native son.
The heart lies in a jar sealed inside a pillar at Warsaw's Holy Cross Church _ and the only time it has been removed was for safekeeping during World War II.
Before it was returned in 1951, a doctor examined the heart and found it perfectly preserved in an alcohol that many think is cognac. Chopin died in France, where his body is buried, but he asked that his heart be sent to his homeland.
Cystic fibrosis, an incurable genetic disease, was not discovered until many decades after Chopin's death, and the scientists who want to examine the heart say many of his symptoms match that illness, including respiratory infections, recurrent fevers, delayed puberty and infertility.
A spokeswoman for the Culture Ministry, Iwona Radziszewska, told The Associated Press on Thursday that ministry officials consulted experts and decided that "this was neither the time to give approval, nor was it justified by the potential knowledge to be gained."
One of the experts consulted, the head of the National Frederic Chopin Institute in Warsaw, Grzegorz Michalski, argued the scientists failed to demonstrate that they had sufficient expertise carrying out such DNA tests or that the chances of success were high.
He said the "dominant view" of Chopin experts "is that the proposed research is going to serve first and foremost to satisfy the curiosity of the project's authors," while offering no "new knowledge that would have a meaningful impact on the assessment of the figure and work of Chopin."
One of the scientists seeking to do the tests, geneticist Michal Witt, acknowledged that DNA testing might not prove whether Chopin was afflicted with cystic fibrosis or not.
Part of the uncertainty, he said, comes from not knowing what condition the heart is in after so many years in alcohol. But he said his team was made up of experts, including forensic molecular biologist Tadeusz Dobosz, fully capable of carrying out the study.
Witt believes authorities rejected the testing because of the relic-like status of the heart of Chopin, the musical genius claimed as one of Poland's greatest treasures.
"I'm sure that played a major role, and it's understandable," Witt said.
Chopin was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, a village near Warsaw, to a Polish mother and French father. From an early age, he suffered frail health and nasal and lung infections typical of cystic fibrosis. He was so weak at times that he had to be carried off stage after concerts, and in his later years he taught piano while lying down.
Witt co-authored a paper in the Journal of Applied Genetics citing other symptoms indicating the possibility of cystic fibrosis. At age 22, Chopin complained facial hair wouldn't grow on one side of his face, a sign of delayed puberty. He also never fathered any children despite sexual relations with several women, including a famous relationship with the French writer George Sand, a mother of two children by her husband.
Though Chopin's death certificate says he died of "tuberculosis of the lungs and the larynx," the doctor who treated him, Jean Cruveilhier, said the death was caused "by a disease not previously encountered," according to historical documents cited by Witt in his paper.
Witt believes it is of more than just academic interest to investigate whether Chopin died of cystic fibrosis.
"It matters for those who are affected with cystic fibrosis, and with any other debilitating chronic disorder," he said. "Can you believe what message you send saying that you might become a genius even if you have a disorder like that? And it is a question worth answering if possible."
Associated Press writer Zuzia Danielski contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Friends In Low Places

Check out this fun concert featuring Tuba great Zac Spellman, The Bay Bones and bassoon players Lori and Mike Garvey and Mike Cooke playing Bugler's Holiday as a bassoon trio! Sounds fun!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quinteto Latino on the Move!


Quinteto Latino blends the vibrant colors and vigorous rhythms of Latin American music with the sumptuous voices of the wind quintet: flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon. Whether exploring new twists on traditional folk songs or premiering works by living composers, these five musicians perform with impeccable artistry and infectious energy - educating, enriching, and entertaining listeners of all ages and backgrounds.

Founded in 2001 by French hornist Armando Castellano, this unique ensemble is passionately dedicated to a dual mission: to expand the cultural boundaries of classical music, and to make that music available, relevant, and inspiring to entirely new audiences.


blog it

Monday, May 12, 2008

Keith Underwood Master Class

SUNDAY MAY 18, 2008
All Instrumentalist welcome

SUNDAY MAY 18, 2008
9:30 AM TO 5:30 PM

Keith Underwood is an internationally acclaimed performer and teacher. He is well known for his innovative teaching with particular emphasis on sound production and body awareness. He works regularly with instrumentalists from many major American orchestras. Keith has also taught and performed extensively in Japan, Europe, Mexico and Brazil.

(Morning session 9:30 AM- 1:00 PM
Afternoon session 2:00 PM- 5:30 PM)

For registration, please contact Julie McKenzie at, or at 415 566-4454
auditors may also register at the door at 9:00AM
*Enter at Opera house North stage door, Franklin and Fulton Streets

Friday, May 2, 2008

Summer Chamber Music Study

There is an opportunity for a few students of 15-25 age group to study the Chamber Music Repertoire (mostly WW quintets) in Southern California for two weeks from July 20 to August 2. They have never been short of bassoons before but seem to be this year. This shortage may result in half to full scholarships if you apply. You would be responsible for getting yourself out there.

Audition requirements for Bassoon:
(you may send CD/DVD/or MP3)
Mozart Bassoon Concerto K.191
Mvt. 1: mm35-71
Mvt. 2: mm7-30
Hindewith WW Quintet (Kleine Kammermusik)
Mvt.1 Letter D to 4 meas. after D
and letter F to 4 bars after F

Feel free to contact Ken Munday (the bassoon instructor) 818-970-6079 or e-mail, Steve Fraider in the 'office' to ask
questions(213-622-0355 or e-mail: