You can win tickets to Sunday’s Fresno Philharmonic concert. Plus: “Bullets Over Broadway” opens in Visalia, and Ethan Bortnick performs live at the Tower Theatre
I have three promising weekend picks for you. They are the Fresno Philharmonic’s “Virtuoso Orchestra” concert (to which you can win a pair of tickets; for details, see below); the Central Valley premiere of the musical “Bullets Over Broadway” at Visalia’s College of the Sequoias; and a special performance by PBS star Ethan Bortnick with a select group of singers from the Bach Children’s Chorale. Read on:
Most of the time, a different stellar guest artist joins the Fresno Philharmonic at each concert for a solo performance. But for its next concert (3 p.m. Sunday, March 18), the orchestra is turning to one of its great talents within: concertmaster Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio.
“The Virtuoso Orchestra” will showcase Sant’Ambrogio performing Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” and Foss’ “Three American Pieces.” The program also includes Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 (“The Hen”) and Ginastera’s “Variaciones concertantes.”
In 2016 I did an interview with Sant’Ambrogio (here’s a link to the Fresno Bee story), who has been concertmaster in Fresno since 2010, and after talking with her, I came away even more impressed. After graduating from Indiana University and the Eastman School of Music, she landed a spot in the famed Cleveland Orchestra at age 24, then went on to become reigning concertmaster at the San Antonio Symphony for 13 years.
Barry Douglas, stellar pianist and gold medal winner in the 1996 International Tchaikovsky Competition, is a favorite of Fresno’s classical-music community. And it seems that Fresno is a favorite of his, too.
Salute to American composers: All three composers on the program were American, and knowing that going in, it definitely colored my perception. In the first piece, John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” I found myself thinking of bustling cities and bright prospects. Instead of latching onto much of a melody, thanks to the minimalism of the score, my listening experience was guided by the precise jackhammer tempo and the sharp sense of building something. In fact, I thought of buildings, and in a weirdly specific way: I got this image of tall, graceful skyscrapers under construction, the hard-hatted workers nonchalantly sitting on high steel beams taking a lunch break, the wind whipping amiably past as they ate sandwiches and chugged hot coffee from heavy-duty thermoses. I thought of vast American cities taking shape. The percussion section got a workout, as it has several times this season, and the precision and driving energy of conductor Rei Hotoda’s baton gave the experience a crisp vitality.
Chilingirian, Hakobyan and Bagratuni will perform Friday at Fresno State’s Concert Hall
Keyboard Concerts is best known for the world-class pianists it brings to Fresno on a regular basis. But the series also hosts several special events each season, including chamber music.
A concert at Fresno State (8 p.m. Friday, March 2) brings together three of today’s most prominent Armenian musicians: violinist Levon Chilingirian, cellist Suren Bagratuni and pianist/composer Karen Hakobyan. They have received international acclaim for their activities as performers, pedagogues, competition jurors and recording artists.
Options include an art song festival at Fresno State; and new theater productions in Reedley and Hanford
Here’s roundup of promising openings this weekend:
Focus on vocals
Art Song lovers, unite. Maria Briggs, a voice professor, has organized the first Fresno State Art Song Festival, which she’s calling “On Wings of Song.” The festival features a number of master classes and guest instructors. Here are three public highlights:
• On Friday, Feb. 23, Briggs offers a recital (7 p.m., Wahlberg Recital Hall).
• On Saturday, Feb. 24, there will be a student showcase recital and presentation of the “best singer” award (4 p.m., Concert Hall).
• Also on Saturday, guest faculty artist Vladimir Chernov of UCLA will give a recital (6 p.m., Concert Hall).
Briggs says that she started the festival because that while there are several opera programs locally, there is no current platform to showcase and enjoy the Art Song.
Virtuoso violinist is helping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth
Jennifer Koh played with the Fresno Philharmonic way back in 1996, so you’d forgive her for being a little hazy in the memory department when it comes to details. That was more than two decades ago, when the youthful talent was busy whipper-snapping her way into the elite ranks of the world’s concert violinists. Throughout the course of her significant career, she’s played lots of places.
It might come as a surprise, then, that as she returns to play with the Fresno Philharmonic on Sunday, Feb. 25, Koh’s recollections are crystal clear about one particular detail from her Fresno visit. Not to be too dramatic about it or anything, but it changed her life.
The music director of the Fresno Philharmonic at the time was Maestro Raymond Harvey. During rehearsal week, he invited the young Koh — a college student finishing up at Oberlin whose resume included making her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11 and winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1994 — to dinner at his Fresno High School-area home. He cooked a marvelous gourmet dinner for her, as he was known to do.
She was impressed. “How do you cook so well?” she asked.
Then she admitted to him that she was a complete klutz in the kitchen. How bad a cook was she at the time? Think of her at a level of starting-a-fire badness. (That really happened once when she tried to cook a steak that was frozen. She didn’t know she had to defrost it first.) Koh might have been a virtuoso violinist, but her culinary skills were seriously out of tune.
Bronfman regularly plays the world’s top concert venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Hertz Hall in Berkeley, the Schiller Theater in Berlin, and Symphony Center in Chicago, among others. The Israeli-American pianist is a regular soloist with the Vienna, New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, and the Boston, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco and Seattle symphonies.
He last performed for the Keyboard series in 2016.
His program for the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series at the Fresno State Concert Hall includes Beethoven’s Sonata in F major, Schubert’s Sonata in C minor, Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque” and Stravinsky’s “Trois Mouvements de Pétrouchka.”