LINES Ballet wraps up its 30th Anniversary Season

Visionary choreographer, Alonzo King - Photo: Courtesy Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Visionary choreographer, Alonzo King – Photo: Courtesy Alonzo King LINES Ballet

San Francisco’s Alonzo King LINES Ballet rounds off its 30th Anniversary Season this month with a world premiere collaboration between the Company’s visionary choreographer, Alonzo King, and Edgar Meyer – Grammy® award-winning bassist and composer.  The set is by Academy Award winning designer, Jim Doyle, one of the world’s leading creators of water feature designs.

LINES Ballet's Yujin Kim - Photo:  RJ Muna

LINES Ballet’s Yujin Kim – Photo: RJ Muna

During its Anniversary Season, the internationally acclaimed LINES Ballet has celebrated three decades of the imaginative artistry, creativity and collaboration with which its name has become synonymous.   The Company was founded in 1982, by Alonzo King, a master of contemporary choreography, whose unique artistic vision has produced a repertoire of innovative and highly individual works.  Drawing inspiration from a range of what he refers to as “deeply rooted cultural traditions”, King has created a new perception of ballet, which is vividly illustrated by the distinctive style of his extraordinarily talented company of dancers.

LINES Ballet's Keelan Whitmore - Photo: RJ Muna

LINES Ballet’s Keelan Whitmore – Photo: RJ Muna

Alonzo King has works in the repertories of the Royal Swedish Ballet, Ballets de Monte Carlo, Béjart Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Hong Kong Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, and Washington Ballet, and he has worked extensively in opera, television and film.

He is also well known for his collaboration with noted composers, musicians and visual artists – such as jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, tabla master Zakir Hussain, actor Danny Glover, Polish composer Pavel Syzmanski, percussionist Mickey Hart, visual artist Jim Campbell, the BaAka from the Central African Republic, and the Shaolin monks of China. In the conceptual design, production and artistic direction of each project, he works closely with his Creative Director and Designer, Robert Rosenwasser.

Double bassist Edgar Meyer, has been described by the New Yorker as  “…the most remarkable virtuoso in the relatively unchronicled history of his instrument”.  Resident composer at the Alabama Symphony during the 2011-12 season, Meyer’s versatility embraces an eclectic range of styles – classical, bluegrass, newgrass and jazz – and his repertoire includes not only his own compositions, but also the music of Bach and the Italian Romantic composer, Giovanni Bottesini.

He has also co-composed with banjo player, Béla Fleck, and percussionist Zakir Hussain – their triple concerto for double bass, banjo, and tabla was commissioned for the opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, and recorded with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin.

Meyer premiered his Double Bass Concerto No 1 with Edo de Waart and the Minnesota Orchestra, the revised version of his Double Bass Concerto No 2 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and his Quintet for Bass and String Quartet with the Emerson String Quartet,

He has recorded works with violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Yo-yo Ma, mandolinist Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan, and has also released a solo recording on which he wrote and played all of the pieces – incorporating the piano, guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, gamba, as well as the double bass.

Edgar Meyer – on double bass and piano – together with his musicians – a cellist and violinist – will perform live with the LINES dancers in the forthcoming production.  King says:  “When I first heard the second movement of Edgar Meyer’s Violin Concerto, I was knocked off my feet. Its profoundly mesmerizing beauty and wave like repetitions, interrupted by rhythmic shifts, was an ideal world to construct choreography. The music seemed to embody the ancient with the new, with a stillness that moved, as odd as that sounds. From the moment I heard it, I wanted to work with Meyer.”

Designer Jim Doyle, is a specialist in the world of fog and water.  He is a Director at WET Design, a water feature design firm based on Los Angeles, and best known for its 9-acre Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.  In this LINES Ballet production, he will work with lighting designer Axel Morgenthaler, to create what’s described as “an elemental environment of liquid and light to accompany King’s work”.

Yujin Kim, one of LINES Ballet's extraordinarily talented dancers - Photo: RJ Muna

Yujin Kim, one of LINES Ballet’s extraordinarily talented dancers – Photo: RJ Muna

When not performing in San Francisco, Alonzo King’s Company tours extensively, and has appeared at the Venice Biennale, Monaco Dance Forum, Maison de la Dance, the Edinburgh Festival, Montpellier Danse, the Wolfsburg Festival, and the Holland Dance Festival.  This coming season’s schedule will include performances in Israel and throughout Europe, including appearance in Lyon, La Rochelle, Rouen, Marseilles and at the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s 30th Anniversary Spring Season Collaboration, with Edgar Meyer and Jim Doyle, takes place from April 19th to 28th at the Lam Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard Street, San Francisco.

LINES Ballet's Kara Paul - Photo: RJ Muna

LINES Ballet’s Kara Paul – Photo: RJ Muna

For further information and tickets, visit:

Double celebration at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw


The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam - Photo: Leander Lammertink

The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – Photo: Leander Lammertink

This year, both The Concertgebouw of Amsterdam  and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  celebrate their joint 125th anniversary.  On Wednesday, 10th April, the eve of the hall’s ‘official’ birthday, a combined celebration will take the form of a Star Jubilee performance, at which guest soloists Janine Jansen, Thomas Hampson and Lang Lang will join the orchestra and its Chief Conductor, Mariss Jansons.

Mariss Jansons, only the sixth Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 125 years - Photo: Marco Borggreve

Mariss Jansons, only the sixth Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 125 years – Photo: Marco Borggreve

The opening work, Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, is of special significance – it was performed at the opening concert of The Concertgebouw on 11th April, 1888.  The 2013 programme also includes songs from Das Knaben Wunderhorn and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen by Mahler, and the Suite from Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. Both Mahler and Strauss conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra on several occasions.

A new work has been commissioned for the occasion – Bob Zimmerman has composed a set of variations on the Dutch folk song Komt vrienden in het ronden (Come, friends, gather round) – and musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony orchestras will join the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in a performance of the Elégie from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

All musicians appearing at the Star Jubilee concert are donating their services, and proceeds will go towards the education programmes of both the Orchestra and The Concertgebouw.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - Photo: Simon van Boxtel

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – Photo: Simon van Boxtel

Since its founding in 1888, the Orchestra has had only six chief conductors.  Hailed by Gramophone magazine as “the world’s greatest orchestra”, it received its royal designation on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary in 1988.  It comprises 120 musicians from over 20 countries, and despite its size, it functions – according to its website – “more like a chamber orchestra in terms of the sensitivity with which its members listen to, and work in tandem with, one another”, requiring “both a high individual calibre and a great sense of mutual trust and confidence”.

With its own Orchestra Academy providing tuition to young talented musicians, the RCO reaches around 250,000 concertgoers each year, through approximately 90 concerts in Amsterdam, and 40 performances in some of the world’s leading concert halls.  It also participates in residencies at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, BOZAR in Brussels, at the Barbican Centre in London, and the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, and in 2004, launched its own in-house record label, RCO Live.  This year saw the launch of RCO Universe, an online application featuring enhanced concert recordings for iPhone and iPad.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is renowned the world over for its unique sound, and whilst the superb acoustics of its Amsterdam home play an important role in upholding this reputation, it’s also universally accepted that outside the Main Hall, there is no other orchestra which sounds quite the same.  The influence of its chief conductors – of which there have been only six in its history – and the calibre of the musicians themselves, are also acknowledged to be important factors.

The Main Hall of the Concertgebouw - said to have the finest acoustics in the world - Photo: Fred George

The Main Hall of the Concertgebouw – said to have the finest acoustics in the world – Photo: Fred George

It was Bernard Haitink who referred to The Concertgebouw as “the best instrument of the orchestra that it houses” – both the Main Hall and the Recital Hall are renowned for their exceptional acoustics.

Designed by Adolf Leonard van Gendt, Amsterdam’s most frequently patronised architect at the time, it was commissioned in 1882 with no requirement for a particular style – merely that it would fit a prescribed area of land on the outskirts of Amsterdam, be constructed in compliance with a set budget, and provide space for 2000 concertgoers.  “Seven years later,” according to The Concertgebouw website, “the swampy fields just outside the city limits boasted a wonder of neoclassic architecture”. The Concertgebouw has served as the venue for tens of thousands of concerts since its opening in 1888, and hosted countless musicians and international stars.

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - Photo: Anne Dokter

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – Photo: Anne Dokter

During this celebratory year, special Jubilee Concerts are being presented every month, in both the Main Hall and the Recital Hall of the historic Concertgebouw, with international luminaries such as Angela Gheorghiu, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Leonidas Kavakos, Menahem Pressler, Christianne Stotijn and Eva-Maria Westbroek as guest soloists.

Included in the jubilee activities will be a focus each month on a different period in the rich history of The Concertgebouw, presented in music, text and images, and at the end of the Jubilee year, there will be “a large-scale project based on West Side Story.

Two commissioned works – by Magnus Lindberg and Louis Andriessen – will make their international debut during the year, and a jubilee book entitled Bravo!, 125 years of The Concertgebouw and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is being produced.

The Concertgebouw was commissioned in 1882 and designed by Adolf Leonard van Gendt - Photo: Leander Lammertink

The Concertgebouw was commissioned in 1882 and designed by Adolf Leonard van Gendt – Photo: Leander Lammertink

Details of the 2013 Jubilee Concerts programme can be found on The Concertgebouw website:

New Rachmaninov album released

The newly-released album from Decca Classics - Photo: DG/Decca

The newly-released album from Decca Classics – Photo: DG/Decca

What better way to launch a new website dedicated to the performing arts than the commemoration on April 1st of the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sergei Rachmaninov.  One of the last great composers of the Romantic era in Russian classical music, he was also one of the finest pianists of his day.

To celebrate this occasion, Preview is delighted to announce that Decca Classics has just released an album of all four Rachmaninov Piano Concertos, together with his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring sensational Ukranian pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, with the London Symphony Orchestra led by Michael Francis, one of the fastest rising young stars in the world of conducting.

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov was born in 1873 at Semyonovo, near Great Novgorod, in north-western Russia.  He studied at both the St Petersburg and the Moscow Imperial conservatories, received piano tuition from Nikolai Zverev and studied composition under Anton Arensky.  It was at the Moscow Conservatory that Rachmaninov met the composer who was to make a deep impression on him, and who later became his mentor – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Rachmaninov was regarded as one of the finest pianists of his day - Photo: US Library of Congress/Bain News Service

Rachmaninov was regarded as one of the finest pianists of his day – Photo: US Library of Congress/Bain News Service

Rachmaninov was just 18 when he composed his Piano Concerto No 1 in 1891. Dedicated to pianist, conductor and composer, Alexander Siloti, it was apparently his second attempt at writing a concerto – and one to which he returned in 1917, revising it completely.

Considering the popularity of his work today, it’s hard to believe that the psychological effect on Rachmaninov following the failure of his next major work – his Symphony No 1 – deterred him from writing anything more for the next three years.  The work that followed this severe setback, however – his Second Piano Concerto – was worth waiting for,  judging by the enthusiasm with which it was received and the fact that it has since become one of his best known, loved and most frequently performed compositions.  Written between autumn 1900 and the following April, it wasn’t performed in its entirety until November 1901, with the composer himself as soloist at its premiere.

Rachmaninov didn’t write another piano concerto until 1909, the year in which he was invited  to tour the United States as a pianist, and he produced his Piano Concerto No 3 for the occasion.  Although these concerts were extremely successful and brought him great popularity, he didn’t return to the States until after he’d emigrated from Russia, a decision taken once he realised that the 1917 Revolution had completely changed life in Russia as he knew it.  Having lost his estate, his lifestyle and his livelihood, he departed from his homeland, with his family, and never returned.

He ultimately arrived in the United States in 1918, and it was in 1926, whilst he was living in New York, that Rachmaninov composed most of his Piano Concerto No 4. With more than a hint of Gershwin about it, this concerto was possibly inspired by Rachmaninov’s enthusiasm for the orchestral jazz which was so popular in the city at that time – the music of Gershwin, Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, Duke Ellington and also for the pianist Art Tatum.

Rachmaninov remained in the United States for most of the rest of his life, apart from a series of summers, between 1932 and 1939, which he spent at a villa he’d built on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, and where he composed his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in July and August 1934.  The premiere, at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, on November 7th of that year, was given by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, with the composer as soloist.

Rachmaninov died in Beverly Hills, California, on 28th March, 1943, shortly before his 70th birthday – “a man and musician of uncommon human and artistic integrity, sincerity and decency”, wrote the late Michael Steinberg, former programme annotator of the San Francisco Symphony.

Valentina Lisitsa has travelled a somewhat unorthodox path to international fame.  Born in Kiev, she began playing the piano at the age of three, and studied at the Lysenko Music School for Gifted Children, before enrolling at the Kiev Conservatory.  She enjoyed a period of moderate success as a solo pianist, but a few years ago was on the verge of giving up her desire to become a concert pianist, resigning herself to earning a living by becoming a piano teacher.

Valentina Lisitsa, one of the most viewed musicians on the internet - Photo: Sam Jones

Valentina Lisitsa, one of the most viewed musicians on the internet – Photo: Sam Jones

Her natural determination then kicked in, and she realised that having a talent without the ability to market herself wasn’t enough, so she learned to harness the power of the internet, and started posting home-made video clips (filmed by her husband) on YouTube.  To say that they have become something of a sensation is to put it mildly.  With over 50 million YouTube hits to her credit, Valentina Lisitsa is now one of the most viewed classical musicians on the internet.

She has a repertoire which includes 40 concertos, featuring works by a wide range of composers, from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin to Shostakovich and Bernstein, and a performance schedule which has taken in Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and the Musikverein.  She has appeared with some of the major orchestras in the United States, and also in Europe, Seoul and Brazil.  Her recital at the Royal Albert Hall last year was described by The Daily Telegraph as “a transcendent performance”.

British conductor, Michael Francis, has acquired an impressive reputation since he got his first conducting break in 2006.  A member of the bass section of the London Symphony Orchestra, he was called to take over a rehearsal of the Shostakovich Symphony No 4 – with no notice at all – for Valery Gergiev.  More step-in opportunities then presented themselves, as he stood in again for Gergiev, and for composer/conductor John Adams, in performances with the LSO, as well as for André Previn, with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter.  This resulted in a highly successful collaboration with Ms Mutter, including Francis’ debut with the New York Philharmonic, and tours to a number of European cities and the Far East.

Michael Francis, one of the fastest rising young stars in the world of conducting - Photo: Chris Christodoulou

Michael Francis, one of the fastest rising young stars in the world of conducting – Photo: Chris Christodoulou

Further step-in opportunities arose in 2010 – with the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony.  “In the small world of symphony conductors, Michael Francis is the real thing,” wrote Steven Kruger in The Berkshire Review that year. “And the world has noticed ….. He is clearly headed for a major career.”  Now one of San Francisco’s most popular guest conductors, Michael Francis led the 2011 and 2012 summer seasons in the city’s Davies Symphony Hall, as well as the 2011 and 2012 New Year’s Eve concerts.

A much sought-after name on the international conducting circuit, and acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Michael Francis has appeared with some of the world’s finest orchestras – in the US, Canada, the UK and continental Europe.  He is also Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.

The professional relationship between Valentina Lisitsa and Michael Francis began with a few recordings which they made together at London’s Abbey Road studios – and “there was an immediate natural relationship”, Francis says,  “Sometimes it just clicks.”  He’s a great admirer of her “very fresh” style, and even though “she’s come a slower route, it’s an amazing example of how technology has helped. She’s by far the most watched artist on Youtube.”

Valentina Lisitsa and her husband remortgaged their home to fund the hire of the LSO and the Abbey Road studios for these recordings, and if the initial online reception to the staged release of the e-versions is anything to go by, they and everyone involved in this production, are on to a winner.

“Each concerto is a perfect showcase for her talent,” says Classic FM. “In tackling these huge cornerstones of the piano repertoire in her debut studio album, Valentina Lisitsa proves it’s not just Rachmaninov who should be taken seriously.”

Music commentator, Norman Lebrecht, writes:  “The first thing that strikes you about this set is the pianist’s authority, her absolute conviction that each phrase can only be articulated in a certain way, her way.”

“In everything she does, there seems to be a special combination of utterly self-assured virtuosity and real lyricism and communication…” The Guardian (June 15th, 2012)

Following Michael Francis’ recent appearance with the Seattle Symphony, The Seattle Times’ Classical Review wrote:  “He is now well on his way to making a career in his own right. His credentials – clarity, lyricism and rapport with the musicians – were amply evident in his Thursday return to the Seattle Symphony.”  (March 16th, 2013).

Concert Review – Seen and Heard International referred to “the resplendent performance guest conductor Michael Francis drew from the Seattle Symphony”. (18th March, 2103)

Details on buying this album can be found on the Deutsche Grammophon website

Visit to view footage of the recording this album, and see Ms Lisitsa talking about the challenges which these works present.

Follow these links to read more about Valentina Lisitsa and Michael Francis