They had previously played in Fairbanks on June 23rd, in a joint appearance with the Fairbanks Youth Symphony, and in Kenai ao June 25th, sharing the stage with the Kenai Peninsula Community Orchestra.
Saturday's Anchorage performance, in the Discovery Theatre, certainly had its fine points. Under their director, David Ramadanoff (shown above, rehearsing the YPSO), the sound of the strings was perhaps the finest aspect of the ensemble. With 34 violins and 16 violoncelli, their string section is rather large. This showed off best in the detailed and vibrant string writing in parts of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite.
Stravinsky's three early ballets always sound better in live performance than on disc. I notice it every time I hear them or play in one of them live. The rich detail of these exotic scores comes across in recordings, but there is something ingenious in Stravinsky's spatial orchestration of these works in particular that becomes very vibrant on stage. Here's a link to a video of their performance last night of the Berceuse de Chat and Finale from The Firebird.
Here's a link to a youtube of them performing Dmitri Shostakovich's Festive Overture at the Shanghai Conservatory in 2007.
II. On Wednesday evening, Juneau's CrossSound Festival will be producing a single Anchorage concert at Out North Theater. It will feature several excellent musicians from Alaska and around the world, including pipa virtuoso, Wu Man.
Wu Man is one of the most amazing performers alive. Yo Yo Ma, the Kronos Quartet and Philip Glass, among many others, have worked with her. Besides being the Jimi Hendrix of the pipa, she has revitalized worldwide and popular interest in this Chinese cross between a lute and a mandolin.
Here is their Anchorage program:
[order will change]
☉ The Oort Cloud (2001 CrossSound Commission)
for gayageum, marimba, pipa, bari sax and trombone
Yuriko Hase Kojima
“As the title suggests, the artistic images and the musical ideas come from my interest in astronomy.
In this piece, the sounds of the three non-sustaining instruments - kayagûm, marimba, and pipa - embody cosmic dusts; and the sounds of the two low brass instruments - bari sax and trombone -
symbolize the boundless darkness of the universe.
“Composing for both the Western and Asian instruments, I did not try to use each instrument in an idiomatic way, but rather I tried to focus on the sounds themselves, simply played, with both traditional and contemporary techniques. This way, I could hear all the instrumental sounds as pure natural phenomena, as if they were happening far away in space.” - Yuriko Hase Kojima (Tokyo, 2001)
☉ Frozen Land in the Dry Sky (2010 World Premiere, CrossSound Commission)*
A Movement for World-mixed Chamber Ensemble: Yup’ik vocals, djembe, gayageum (Korean 12-stringed zither), pipa (4-stringed Chinese lute), mudang bells (Korean shaman bell-tree), marimba, saxophone, trombone and Western percussion
Cecilia Heejeong Kim (S. Korea)
“Based on the Yup’ik song Cayuurlakunguur or "Pulling Together" from Stephen Blanchett’s Pamyua repertoire, Frozen Land in the Dry Sky is a ritual song that expresses a prayer for supreme bliss and eternal life for the spirits of every living being. The music consists of two contrasting elements: modern impressionism and rhythmic unisons. These appear separately and together to support the nuances of the vocal part. The music is performed by an interesting mixture of ethnic and modern instruments.”—Cecilia Heejeong Kim (Seoul 6.2010)
*Supported by Sang Myung University / 이 작품은 2010년 상명대학교 학술연구비로 지원제작 되었습니다.
☉ The Great Secret Lies (2001 CrossSound Commission)
for pipa, gayageum, and marimba
Karola Obermüller (Germany)
“I know that they are talking, whispering to each other while I am lying in bed. I have been hearing them for several nights now. But it is getting worse: they are sitting in the icebox, and when I open it they are laughing at me, making jokes; they are sprawling hedonistically on the balcony, enjoying the sun and MY strawberries; they are flopping down in my grand piano, cackling around. They are EVERYWHERE. In addition I do not understand a single word - it is a real Babel of languages . . .
“This evening I ran into one of them that was sitting in the dust-bin and crying. I wondered why but I could not understand its whimpering. In its despair it started to sound, and, it’s hard to believe,
suddenly I felt like UNDERSTANDING EVERYTHING! I do not know why, but I now KNOW who . . . and where . . .
and what . . .
and I have to write it down, I have to hurry
- Karola Obermüller (Darmstadt, 2001)
☉ Change I (1992)
for pipa, gayageum, saxophone, trombone, cauyaq, marimba
Park, Jechun (S. Korea)
“This piece is based on the theme of Change I, which I wrote when I led the jazz-rock band ‘Mol-e mori’ in 1992. In m initial conception of the meter, the piece was supposed to change only one time. It ended up, however, with many meter changes: 3/4, 9/4, 4/4, 4/8, and 13/8 time.”—Park Jechun (Seoul, 6.2010)
☉ Night Thoughts (2005)
for pipa solo
Wu Man (China/CA)
“Inspired by the 12 Century pipa painting from the Dun Huang caves in Gansu Province, western China.” —Wu Man
☉ Collage (2000)
for pipa solo
Wu Man (China/CA)
“Performed in the martial style, Collage is a structured improvisational piece inspired by the classic solo pipa repertoire. The martial style is very dramatic and imitative and is recognizable by the quick and ferocious way in which the strings are strummed, making the pipa sound more like an electric guitar and less like an ancestor of the lute.” —Wu Man
☉ San Liu (Three Six )
Chinese traditional for pipa solo
“San Liu is a popular folk tune from the Shanghai area. It is often played by a small ensemble at a tea house.”—Wu Man
Here are two videos of Wu Man.
The first is a performance in Santa Fe, of one of her own compositions:
The second is an arrangement of a song by the late Bollywood composer, Ravul Dev Burman, performed with the Kronos Quartet: