Saturday, February 19, 2011

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra...standing ovation for composer Donald Sosin! Stavinski-inspired program wows!

Composer Donald Sosin garners standing ovation!

Last night, fans of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, jumped up spontaneously and gave a much-deserved thunderous round of applause - a standing ovation, actually - for up-and-coming music composer Donald Sosin.

"Bravo," they cried out from their seats in the packed house at the Herbst Theatre in downtown San Francisco.

The music-lovers were responding to a remarkable "World Premiere" performance of a composition that Mr. Sosin scored for a lesser-known Harold Lloyd flick - "Now or Never" - which screened as part of an unusual program which was ultimately a departure for the well-respected local music organization.

In fact, the dapper Artistic Director  - Benjamin Simon (clad in a stylish fashion ensemble consisting of red socks, navy slacks, patterned vest, and bow tie, sans jacket) - noted that the offering was a bit of a milestone.

"This is the first program in my nine seasons as music director that has no string players in it! As a violist, I'm entering dangerous and unfamiliar territory."

But, the end result was terrific, none-the-less.

If anything, the night's stellar program was in keeping with the mission of the company.

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra is dedicated to the proposition that classical music not be boring, stuffy, expensive (last night's concert was gratis) or only for those with advanced degrees.

The evening's program attempted to accomplish that feat by virtue of a handful of powerful - and at times poignant pieces - that were uplifting with spirited nods to the works of Giovanni Gabrieli (Canzona per Sonare $4), Igor Stravinsky (Octet for Wind Instruments), Cindy Cox (Canon), and Donald Sosin (score for Harold Lloyd 1921 Silent Feature).

The concert was titled - "Now or Never" - and was inspired by a Stravinsky Octet.

The novel composition - by the somewhat-eccentric Stravinsky - singles out the unique sound variations of the clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, and trombone respectively.

In the notes, it was revealed that Stravinsky sought to discern the clarity of the timbre and texture - with the ultimate aim - of distancing himself from what he referred to as "emotionalism".

Apparently, Stravinsky instructed his musicians "not to interpret", but rather, to let the music speak for itself.

In a second "World Premiere" composition - Cindy Cox elaborated on that theme (and then some) in a musical composition that tended to be experimental in nature and not unlike an abstract painting in many respects.

For instance, Ms. Cox focused on the "colors" and the exquisite "tonal possibilities".

Ms. Cox appears to derive her musical language from - acoustics, innovations in technology, harmonic resonance, and poetic allusion - according to reviewers.

"Cox writes music that demonstrates an extremely refined and imaginative sense of instrumental color and texture. This is well-wrought, imaginative, and not easily classifiable music," asserted Robert Carl in Fanfare.

When I first approached Ms. Cox in the lobby, I was immediately struck by her warmth, and twinkling eyes!

To my ear, her music would lend itself well to the medium of film.

"Have you ever composed any scores for features," I quizzed.

The articulate soft-spoken woman was quick on-the-uptake.

"No. They tell me - "Opera" - but I would like to work in film."

Judging by the quality of the piece performed last night at the Herbst Theatre, I am predicting there will definitely be an assignment or two on the horizon for the talented artist, in that burgeoning musical market.

Donald Sosin's composition for the Harold Lloyd film score first took a bow in August (2010) after the culmination of a public performance at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield, Iowa.

The balance of the score was written at home in his studio.

"I sang ideas into my computer while driving and scribbled on scraps of paper, and gradually, the style and different themes of the score took shape."

The evening ended up being a tad synchronistic, too.

Before the concert on Saturday night, I took in an exhibition of a collection of art works by Miro, Chagall, and Alexander Calder at the Weinstein Gallery at Union Square.

Later, in the opulent environs of the Herbst Theatre, the in-house artist - Peggy Gyulia - noted that three paintings on display on stage were inspired by three of Stravinsky's contemporaries.

You've got it: Chagall, Miro, and Calder.


Shivers ran up and down my spine.

Once again, fate was whispering to me.

I was once-again on the path where the invisible hand of God was guiding me.



*Members Reception
  (February 19th)
  St. Mark's Episcopal Church
  Palo Alto
*First Congressional Church
  (February 20th)
*Empress Theatre
  (February 21st) 



Scene from Harold Lloyd flick!

Composer Cindy Cox