The mighty Austin Symphony is here to save the day

Now that the Austin Symphony has consummated Part 3 of its “Mighty Russians” series, it has completely shed its former reputation for underplaying big music. Almost to a fault.

Music director Peter Bay opened the formal part of the concert on Saturday with the bright and bold “Carnaval Overture” by Alexander Glazunov. Dismissed by some critics in the 20th century as merely “academic” — in other words, glib, predictable, conservative — Glazunov is also capable of great orchestral virtuosity. This rousing performance — a taste of what was to come at the Long Center for the Performing Arts — made me want to dive right into his eight completed symphonies.

Lise de la Salle. Contribute by Marco Borggreve

Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 is all about the soloist, but the ensemble is given plenty of opportunity to introduce and expand on the piece’s gorgeous themes and variations. French pianist Lise de la Salle did not shy away from the famous concerto’s showiness. Compact and contained when off the bench, in performance, she swayed and nodded, extended her arcing arms, attacked the keyboard like an avenging angel, then caressed it like tender companion.

At times, de la Salle’s hands appeared to blur over the complicated finger work. (“I can’t imagine what the score looks like,” said a friend during intermission.) Besides technical skill and fearlessness, she added some interpretive touches, such as startling hesitations and a certain playfulness with the composer’s unconventional rhythms. These seemed to bleed right into her delicately rendered encore selection: a Debussy Prelude.

“How are they going to top that?” said the stranger seated next to me after intermission.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s “Manfred Symphony” is all over the place. Based on the poem by Lord Byron, it is at times unabashedly pictorial, at other times outright theatrical, always Gothic and so varied that a listener sometimes gets tangled in its taiga of melodies.

This is where we get to part about Austin Symphony’s plenteous sound. Remember back at Bass Concert Hall prior to 2008? “Manfred” would have shrunken to “Boyfred.” (Sorry.) Nowadays, the orchestra’s power rises, if not quite to the level of a major American ensemble, quite close, especially with the additional brass.

At times, it went right up to the point of excess. I felt a little pummeled. But that’s what “Manfred” calls for and the Austin Symphony delivered mightily.

Winners rejoice for 2018 Austin Critics Table Awards

Seems like yesterday when we sat down at Katz’s Deli to vote on the first Austin Critics Table Awards. Now a whole new generation of arts journalists are making the decisions. We could not be happier.

The following individuals and groups were honored Monday night at Cap City Comedy Club. (If I missed any, let me know.)

CRITICS TABLE AWARDS 2018

THEATER

Production (tie)

“Henry IV,” The Hidden Room Theatre

“Ragtime,” Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance

RELATED: “Ragtime” is an American classic.

Direction

Jason Phelps, “The Brothers Size”

David Mark Cohen New Play Award

“Wild Horses,” Allison Gregory

Performance by an Individual

John Christopher, “The Brothers Size”/”Fixing Troilus and Cressida”

Chanel, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”

Jennifer Coy Jennings, “Wild Horses”

Sarah Danko, “The Effect”/”Grounded”

Judd Farris, “Henry IV”/”The Repentance of Saint Joan”

Joseph Garlock, “The Immigrant”

Performance by an Ensemble

“The Wolves,” Hyde Park Theatre

Periphery Company

“Wimberley Players,” Wimberley

Improvised Production
“Orphans!,” The Hideout Theatre
“Speak No More,” Golden

DESIGN

Set (tie)

Stephanie Busing, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

Chris Conard/Zac Thomas, “Pocatello”

Costume

Buffy Manners, “Shakespeare in Love”

Lighting

Rachel Atkinson, “Scheherazade”/”Twenty-Eight”/”Catalina de Erauso”/”The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”/”Con Flama”

Sound

Lowell Bartholomee, “Grounded”

Digital (tie)

Lowell Bartholomee, “The Effect/Wakey Wakey”/”The Repentance of Saint Joan”/”Grounded”

Robert Mallin, “Enron”

DANCE

Concert

(“Re)current Unrest”, Charles O. Anderson/Fusebox Festival

Short Work

“Four Mortal Men,” Ballet Austin

Choreographer

Jennifer Hart, “Fellow Travelers”/“Murmuration”

Dancer

Anika Jones, “Belonging, Part One”

Rosalyn Nasky, “Come In!!!”/”Pod”/”There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe”

Jun Shen, “Belonging, Part One”

Ensemble

“Exit Wounds”/”Masters of Dance,” Ballet Austin

RELATED: Ballet Austin aims for the heart with “Exit Wounds.”

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Concert/Opera

“Southwest Voices,” Chorus Austin

Chamber Performance

Golden Hornet Young Composers Concert, Golden Hornet

Original Composition/Score

“I/We,” Joseph V. Williams II

Singer

Marina Costa-Jackson, “La Traviata”

Jenifer Thyssen, “An Early Christmas”/”It’s About Time: Companions”/”Complaints Through the Ages”

Veronica Williams, “Songs of Remembrance and Resistance”

Ensemble

“Invoke, Beerthoven”/Golden Hornet Smackdown IV

Instrumentalist (tie)

Bruce Colson, “It’s About Time: Companions”

Artina McCain, “Black Composers Concert: The Black Female Composer”

VISUAL ART

Solo Gallery Exhibition

“Claude van Lingen: Timekeeper,” Co-Lab Projects

Group Gallery Exhibition

“Yo soy aqui / I am here,” ICOSA

Museum Exhibition

“The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip,” Blanton Museum of Art

Independent Project

2017 Texas Biennial

Gallery, Body of Work

Co-Lab Projects

Artist

Michael Anthony Garcia

SPECIAL CITATIONS

John Bustin Award for Conspicuous Versaility: Mary Agen Cox, Jeff Mills

Deacon Crain Award for Outstanding Student Work: Connor Barr, Kat Lozano, UT; Ben Toomer, Texas State

Outstanding Music Direction: Austin Haller for “Ragtime”

Outstanding Choreography: Natasha Davison for “The Drowsy Chaperone”

Horn of Plenty Award: Benjamin Taylor Ridgeway & Jennifer Rose Davis for the masks in “Rhinoceros”

Jurassic Spark Award: The Hatchery for creating the raptors in “Enron”

One Singular Sensation Award: Kaitlin Hopkins for the Texas State University Musical Theatre Program

RELATED: Kaitlin Hopkins takes Texas State to the top.

Always a Safe Flight Award: Barry Wilson & Team for Rigging Design & Execution in “Belonging, Part One”

Outstanding Touring Show, Dance: Johnny Cruise Mercer and Fusebox Festival for “Plunge In/To 534”

Architecture is Art Award: Blanton Museum of Art for Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin”

Mount Everest Award: Vortex Repertory Theatre for “Performance Park”

Flip the Table Award: David Wyatt and John Riedie for meritorious service to the Austin Critics Table

AUSTIN ARTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

Norman Blumensaadt (Different Stages) – company founder, artistic director, director, actor

Kathy Dunn Hamrick (Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, Cafe Dance) – company founder, artistic director, choreographer, dancer, educator

Michael and Jeanne Klein (Blanton Museum of Art, The Contemporary Austin, Ransom Center, et al.) – patrons, board members, civic leaders, arts advocates

Anuradha Naimpally (Austin Dance India, Cafe Dance) – company founder, artistic director, dancer, choreographer, educator

Austin Camerata splendidly fuses music and dance

From where I sit, “Austin Camerata” translates into “unadulterated beauty.”

At least it did last night when the Austin chamber orchestra played the Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

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But first, an historical note: Debra and Kevin Rollins, whose gift made the gray box theater possible, adored chamber music. And yet, during the first 10 years of the Long Center, not much of the genre has been heard in their Studio Theatre.

For a concert called “Reinventions,” the room sounded great! And there was enough space onstage to accommodate Dorothy O’Shea Overbey‘s dancers, who performed with the musicians during the final number.

Back to the music: Like other chamber orchestras, the University of Texas-associated string group — led offstage but not onstage by cellist Daniel Kopp — expands on the collaborative dynamics of a string quartet. Their measured romp through Edvard Grieg‘s “Holberg Suite” was precise, proportional and over way too soon.

All else melted away when guest violinist Chee-Yun arrived downstage, her red gown gown splashed against the orchestra’s workaday blacks, her performance lighted to their near darkness. And for good reason, because she could pull all those wild sounds from her instrument for Astor Piazzolla‘s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” These four tangos, composed independently but rearranged to match Vivaldi‘s “Four Seasons,” kept the near-full house on the edge of their seats.

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For the final piece, Dmitri Shostakovich’s somber and powerful Symphony for Strings, the musicians formed an arc around an open space for Overbey and her dancers. All of them are choreographers as well, so in sense, it was a collaborative effort not unlike the orchestra’s. Dedicated to the victims of fascism and war, the music is associated with the fire-bombing of Dresden and also could be seen as anti-Soviet. (A lot is read into Shostakovich.)

Mesmerizing — although at times crowded and unfinished due to a very short rehearsal period — the dark dance held together by a red scarf well matched the dark music. Visually, it was most arresting when musicians entered the dancers’ zone.

Give us more chamber music at the Rollins and more smart, collaborative work like “Reinventions.”

 

 

 

 

Austin Symphony roars through ‘Mighty Russians’

It started off tentatively and ended magnificently.

“The Mighty Russians, Part II,” a full banquet of symphonic music, opened with Tchaikovsky‘s short Piano Concerto No. 3. Soloist Olga Kern, a dazzling presence onstage at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, seemed content to traipse lightly through the first exchanges with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, which sounded “mighty” right off. Then Kern paused briefly before launching into the single movement’s big solo part. If there was any doubt about her command of this music, it was instantly erased by this far-ranging venture into pianistic possibilities.

Pianist Olga Kern. Contributed

The orchestra, cut down to pit size, next gave us four snippets from Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Sleeping Beauty,” all part of the “Bluebird” pas de deux. The Austin Symphony doesn’t play much ballet music, except in support of Ballet Austin performances, so this served as a pleasant palate cleanser, especially the flights of fancy from the flute soloist (was that Rebecca Powell Garfield?).

Kern returned for Prokofiev‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 and wasted no time showing her mastery of this extraordinary fast and complicated piece. Conductor Peter Bay made a perfect partner, bringing out all the colors of the symphony while Kern produced sounds from the Long Center’s Steinway that I’ve never heard before. The audience, various in the extreme, jumped to its feet at the end.

What could top that? Wait. I had never heard Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 in concert, so I was primed. Almost immediately the rich, demonstrative music, with its flinty hints of modernism and aching references to Romanticism, swept me away. I was transported back to my youthful self first intoxicated in concert by Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” A sense of wonder returned.

This was the way to end a season, with proof positive the Austin Symphony has arrived to the point where I don’t want to miss a single concert in the future.

 

Critics name finalists for 2018 Austin arts awards

It’s time. The Austin Critics Table Awards nominations came out this morning.

Buzz Moran at the Critics Table Awards at Cap City Comedy Club in 2008. That’s a decade ago! Michael Barnes/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The gathered minds invented new categories, both under the heading of Theater: Periphery Company, recognizing the theatrical body of work by companies outside of Austin proper, and Improvised Production, recognizing mainstage projects by area improv troupes.

That puts the number of official categories this year at 29 (7 theater, 5 design, 5 dance, 6 classical music, 6 visual arts). Critics also promise at least 11 special citations.

RELATED: 2018 Austin Arts Hall of Fame honorees.

The ceremony is 7 p.m. June 4 at Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. Admission is free. The public is welcome.

Logo for Austin Critics Table Award. By Michael Crampton for American-Statesman

AUSTIN CRITICS TABLE NOMINATIONS 2018

THEATER

Production

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, ZACH Theatre

Enron, UT Austin Department of Theatre & Dance

Henry IV, The Hidden Room Theatre

Pocatello, Street Corner Arts

Ragtime, Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance

The Repentance of Saint Joan, Paper Chairs

The Wolves, Hyde Park Theatre

Direction

Jason Phelps, The Brothers Size

Rudy Ramirez, The Revolutionists/Storm Still/Wild Horses/The Way She Spoke: A Docu-Mythologia

kt shorb, Scheherazade

Dave Steakley, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Benjamin Summers, Pocatello

Dustin Wills, Catalina de Erauso

Hannah Wolf, Enron

David Mark Cohen New Play Award

Catalina de Erauso, Elizabeth Doss

Fixing Troilus and Cressida, Kirk Lynn

The Repentance of Saint Joan, Patrick Shaw

Scheherazade, Scheherazade ensemble

The Secretary, Kyle John Schmidt

A Shoe Story, Allen Robertson & Damon Brown

Wild Horses, Allison Gregory

Performance by an Individual

John Christopher, The Brothers Size/Fixing Troilus and Cressida

Crystal Bird Caviel, The Moors/Fixing Troilus and Cressida

Chanel, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill

Jennifer Coy Jennings, Wild Horses

Sarah Danko, The Effect/Grounded

Sam Domino, Prodigal Son

Judd Farris, Henry IV/The Repentance of Saint Joan

Joseph Garlock, The Immigrant

Bill Karnovsky, Yankee Tavern

Katie Kohler, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Robert Matney, Henry IV

Amber Quick, Pocatello/The Secretary

Performance by an Ensemble

A Chorus Line, Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance

Catalina de Erauso, Paper Chairs

Enron, UT Austin Department of Theatre & Dance

Pocatello, Street Corner Arts

The Seafarer, City Theatre

Vampyress, Vortex Repertory Company

The Wolves, Hyde Park Theatre

Periphery Company

Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart

Georgetown Palace Theatre, Georgetown

Fredericksburg Theater Company, Fredericksburg

Way Off Broadway Community Players, Leander

Wimberley Players, Wimberley

Improvised Production

The 48-Hour Improv Marathon: Hour 48, The Hideout Theatre

Broad Ambition, Girls Girls Girls

Deja Noir, ColdTowne Theater

The Kindness of Strangers, The Hideout Theatre

Latinauts: The Wrath of Juan, Prima Doñas

Orphans!, The Hideout Theatre

Speak No More, Golden

2018 Critics Table Awards June 4 jpg

DESIGN

Set

Stephanie Busing, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Chris Conard/Zac Thomas, Pocatello

Magdalena Jarkowiec, “In Here”

Lisa Laratta, Catalina de Erauso/The Repentance of Saint Joan

Roxy Mojica, Enron

Desiderio Roybal, The Father

Lino Toyos, The Drowsy Chaperone

Costume

Emily Cawood, “Fellow Travelers”/“Klein Blue (The Void)”

Jennifer Rose Davis, The Revolutionists

Cait Graham, Enron

E.L. Hohn, Catalina de Erauso

Buffy Manners, Shakespeare in Love

Cheryl Painter, The Moors

Barbara Pope, The Drowsy Chaperone

Lighting

Rachel Atkinson, Scheherazade/Twentyeight/Catalina de Erauso/The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time/con flama

Natalie George, 11:11:10/11:11:11/A Study in Release/Romeo and Juliet/There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe

Sarah EC Maines, In the Heights

Steven Myers, “Fellow Travelers”/”Murmuration”/“Klein Blue/The Void”

Stephen Pruitt, Parade/Juana: First (I) Dream/Glacier/Diet Fizz Radio/Bartholomew Swims

Alex Soto/Ilios Lighting, Belonging, Part One

Tony Tucci, Exit Wounds

Sound

Lowell Bartholomee, Grounded

Robert S. Fisher, The Moors/Wakey Wakey

William Meadows, Belonging, Part One

Robert Pierson & Dustin Wills, Catalina de Erauso

Drew Silverman, “A Meditation”

Jesse Wilson, with Brandon Guerra, John Clark Gable, and KIVI, Diet Fizz Radio

Digital

Lowell Bartholomee, The Effect/Wakey Wakey/The Repentance of Saint Joan/Grounded

Ashton Bennett Murphy, “Mirror”

Eliot Gray Fisher, “In the Ether”

Robert Mallin, Enron

DANCE

Concert

A Study in Release, The Illusory Impressions Project

Fall for Dance, Dance Repertory Theatre

First (I) Dream, A’lante Flamenco

Masters of Dance, Ballet Austin

Midsummer Offerings, Performa/Dance

Parade, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

(Re)current Unrest, Charles O. Anderson/Fusebox Festival

Short Work

“Finale,” Jennifer Sherburn

“Four Mortal Men,” Ballet Austin

“In Here,” Magdalena Jarkowiec/Fusebox Festival

“In the Ether,” Dance Repertory Theatre

“Murmuration,” Ballet Austin II

“Overseas Phone Call, 1987,” Magdalena Jarkowiec/Performa/Dance

“When,” Dance Repertory Theatre

Choreographer

Charles O. Anderson, (Re)current Unrest

Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Parade/Glacier

Rennie Harris, “Resurrection”

Jennifer Hart, “Fellow Travelers”/“Murmuration”

Taryn Lavery & Alex Miller, with Hailley Laurèn, Amy Myers, and Lucy Wilson, Diet Fizz Radio

Ray Eliot Schwartz, “Otras Puertas/Otras Rumbos”

Jennifer Sherburn, “Lapse”/”Finale”

Dancer

Charles O. Anderson, “(Re)current Unrest pt. 3: Clapback”

Ellen Bartel, “Attic”

Alexa Capareda, “Diet Fizz Radio”/”Overseas Phone Call, 1987”/”In Here”

Anika Jones, Belonging, Part One

Anuradha Naimpally, “Krishna the Divine Lover”

Rosalyn Nasky, “Come In!!!”/”Pod”/There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe

Kelsey Oliver, “Overseas Phone Call, 1987”/”In Here”

Oren Porterfield, “Fellow Travelers”

Emily Rushing, “Flicker.Burn.Repeat”

Jun Shen, Belonging, Part One

Ensemble

Exit Wounds/Masters of Dance, Ballet Austin

“Fellow Travelers,” Performa/Dance

“Otras Puertas/Otras Rumbos,” Fall for Dance

Parade, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

(Re)current Unrest, Charles O. Anderson/Fusebox Festival

“Resurrection,” Dance Repertory Theatre

There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe, ensemble

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Concert/Opera

Bach: Mass in B Minor, Panoramic Voices

Carmen, Austin Opera

La Clemenza di Tito: A Retelling, LOLA

Feast of Voices, Austin Symphony Orchestra with Chorus Austin

Southwest Voices, Chorus Austin

La Traviata, Austin Opera

Unclouded Day, Conspirare

Chamber Performance

Invoke, Beerthoven/Golden Hornet Smackdown IV

Golden Hornet Young Composers Concert, Golden Hornet

i/we, Austin Classical Guitar

It’s About Time: Companions, Texas Early Music Project

The Lavuta Project, Austin Chamber Music Festival

Virgo Veritas, Austin Chamber Music Center

Original Composition/Score

A Study in Release, Catherine Davis

Crone – for Chamber Orchestra, Samuel Lipman

i/we, Joseph V. Williams II

“Songs of Remembrance and Resistance,” Kevin March

Singer

Ryland Angel, Passio/It’s About Time: Companions

Cayla Cardiff, An Early Christmas/It’s About Time: Companions

Liz Cass, La Clemenza di Tito: A Retelling

Marina Costa-Jackson, La Traviata

Carolyn Hoehle, La Clemenza di Tito: A Retelling

Gitanjali Mathur, It’s About Time: Companions

Sandra Piques Eddy, Carmen

Heather Phillips, Carmen

Chad Shelton, Carmen

Jenifer Thyssen, An Early Christmas/It’s About Time: Companions/Complaints Through the Ages

Veronica Williams, “Songs of Remembrance and Resistance”

Ensemble

Aeolus Quartet, Virgo Veritas

Invoke, Beerthoven/Golden Hornet Smackdown IV

Tetractys, Golden Hornet Young Composers Concert

Instrumentalist

Bruce Colson, It’s About Time: Companions

Ian Davidson, Feast of Voices

Artina McCain, Black Composers Concert: The Black Female Composer

Carla McElhaney, Revel Classical Band at Beerthoven

Marcus McGuff, An Early Christmas

Ebonee Thomas, Black Composers Concert: The Black Female Composer

Bruce Williams, Feast of Voices

VISUAL ART

Solo Gallery Exhibition

“Anthony B. Creeden: Cacti and Semaphore,” GrayDuck Gallery

“Bucky Miller: Grackle Actions,” Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

“Claude van Lingen: Timekeeper,” Co-Lab Projects

“Larry Bamburg: BurlsHoovesandShells on a Pedestal of Conglomerates,” UT Visual Arts Center

“Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons: Notes on Sugar,” Christian-Green Gallery

“Rachel Stuckey: Good Days and Bad Days on the Internet,” Women & Their Work

“Raul Gonzalez: Doing Work,” GrayDuck Gallery

Group Gallery Exhibition

“Collectors Show,” GrayDuck Gallery

“Good Mourning Tis of Thee,” Co-Lab Projects

“In depth: a group show,” Davis Gallery

“Refigured: Radical Realism,” Dougherty Arts Center

“Staycation 2: What in the World?” Mass Gallery

“xoxo,” Museum of Human Achievement

“Yo soy aqui / I am here,” ICOSA

Museum Exhibition

“Rodney McMillian: Against a Civic Death,” The Contemporary Austin

“Line Form Color,” Blanton Museum of Art

“The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip,” Blanton Museum of Art

“Vaudeville,” Ransom Center

“Wangechi Mutu,” The Contemporary Austin

Independent Project

2017 Texas Biennial

Cage Match Project Gallery

The Museum of Pocket Art

Outsider Fest

Gallery, Body of Work

Co-Lab Projects

Dimension Gallery

GrayDuck gallery

Mass Gallery

Museum of Human Achievement

Artist

Jennifer Balkan

Elizabeth Chiles

Michael Anthony Garcia

Revi Meicler

Barry Stone

 

Setting the highest standards for the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria

Etherial location. Elegant crowd. Exquisite cuisine. Excellent art.

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The S.S. Hangover at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

For the past five years, the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria has benefited the Contemporary Austin. Hosts expertly employ the arboreal setting on the grounds of the Clara Driscoll villa to create an elevated atmosphere at dusk and into the evening. This year, that effort included the passage of the S.S. Hangover through the lagoon with members of an Austin music collective playing a dirge-like piece.

Visual and musical artists do love a bit of theater!

Guests were in no hurry to pass up cocktails at key points in and around the villa, but the seated dinner took place under tents on the front lawn. Happily, I was placed next to designers Lydia G. Cook and Geoff Fritz from the Cambridge, Mass. firm of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture. They helped explained the company’s master plan for the Contemporary’s Marcus Sculpture Park, including connectivity to nearby Mayfield Park.

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Scene from the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: Imagine a new welcome at Laguna Gloria.

The modest but tasty dinner arrived courtesy of restaurateur Tyson Cole along with chefs Ed Sura of Uchiko and Joe Zoccoli of Uchi. (Note to other Austin charity hosts: You don’t need a big slab of animal protein to satisfy.) The evening climaxed with an unusually civilized live auction featuring work by artists close to projects at the Contemporary.

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Dr. Sam Rumi and Dr. Meena Vendal at the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

“When all was said and done, we raised more than $500,000 in the live and silent auctions,” reported the museum’s spokeswoman, Nicole Chism Griffin. “One hundred percent of these funds will go to support exhibitions at both of our locations. We also raised  $325,0000 toward the purchase of Ai Weiwei’s “Iron Tree Trunk.” Our goal had been $100,000 for the evening! This $325,000 will go toward fulfilling the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation’s challenge grant of $500,000 (for the purchase).”

I hear that some guests danced till the wee hours.

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Andre Revilla and Rachel Imwalle at the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Austin Symphony

Some notes on the Austin Symphony‘s recent concert at the Long Center.

• One way to fill a house: Schedule Beethoven‘s Fifth. It is the duty of artistic leaders such as Peter Bay to expand tastes and lead audiences in new directions. Still, the Fifth — if well done, and it was — satisfies and enlightens with each fresh interpretation. It comes with the added benefit of a standing-room-only crowd.

RELATED: Why I adore the Austin Symphony.

• I’ve tried to sit in every part of the Long Center house since it opened 10 years ago. Row 4 on the orchestra level was not the right place to take in the concert’s opening piece, Michael Torke‘s “Bright Blue Music.” All I heard was the lower range of the strings and all I saw were the polished shoes of the musicians.

• Turns out the same seat was ideal for Leonard Bernstein‘s “Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion.” Here, only the strings really mattered and they came together beautifully in conjunction with violinist Vadim Gluzman‘s playful then profound solo turn. Booked as part of the “Bernstein at 100” celebration, this near-concerto is a gem to revive more often.

• Bay has proven time and again that he can take epic forms to ever higher heights. Last season, it was Mahler‘s Sixth, an almost brutally difficult symphony to get right. With Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, the challenge instead is overfamiliarity. Bay and his always advancing ensemble treated the first movement with rhythmic clarity, the second with architectural balance, the third with taut force and the final movement with bristling brilliance.

Memorial concert planned for music school founder Margaret Perry

UPDATE: Admirers of Margaret Perry have announced “A Life in Music: The Margaret Perry Memorial Concert” for 11 a.m. May 25 at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church at 606 W. 15th Street.

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Margaret Perry with students at the Armstrong Community Music School. Contributed

Perry died on April 5. She asked for a concert rather than another kind of memorial service; also no photos or speeches. The event, of course, is free and open to the public, and folks will gather for a light lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the concert.

Perry chose the music and the musicians, who include:

Participating Artists:

Shelley Auer

Brett Barnes

Liz Cass

Jessa Cohen

Phil Davidson

Matthew Hinsley

Nora Karakousoglou

Sonja Larson

Paul Matthews

Carla McElhaney

Rick Rowley

Julia Taylor

Participating Organizations:

Austin Chamber Music Center

Austin Classical Guitar

La Follia

Texas Early Music Project

We Are the Chorus

Tanner Walterman

Karen White

ORIGINAL OBIT: Margaret Perry, founder of Austin’s Armstrong Community Music School, died Thursday morning of pancreatic cancer at age 66.

“A phenomenal loss,” said Austin philanthropy leader Mary Herr Tally. “This one hurts.”

In October 2017, Perry stepped down as director of the school, formerly associated with Austin Opera and named for humanitarian James Armstrong, who died last year, after learning of her diagnosis.

RELATED: Benefactor James James Armstrong has died.

“Margaret was an amazing person who took the school to heights James and I never imagined,” said Larry Connelly, Armstrong’s surviving husband. “James was always so proud to have his name associated with such a great organization.”

“Her imprint will be forever on the Armstrong Community Music School, the staff that followed her vision wholeheartedly, and the faculty that shared her mission of service and excellence,” said Rachel McInturff, the director of the school’s finance and administration. “Her wisdom guided many. Her laughter uplifted all. She will be deeply missed.”

Perry originally trained as a harpsichordist and played with various baroque music groups. She served for several years as pianist for Houston Ballet. Although she taught piano privately for decades, she was know to the larger arts community as a lecturer and arts educator. Often when she led the education efforts at Austin Opera, she helped explain the shows before each performance.

Perry served on numerous boards of directors before and after the founding of the Armstrong School in 2000. At the time, it was the only American community music school established by an opera company. She won numerous honors and was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jeff and Gail Kodosky, Laura Walterman, Austin Gleeson and other benefactors have established the Margaret Perry Endowment Fund which has already attracted $200,000 and is managed by the Austin Community Foundation.

A memorial concert at a time to be determined will feature music only, no speeches or photos, followed by a reception.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

Austin Symphony posts decisive new season

As Austin Symphony reveals its new season, Music Director Peter Bay talks about a decisive change in direction.

Peter Bay reveals decisive new season for Austin Symphony

“We are just going to play the pieces we ought to play,” Bay said over soup at Zax restaurant. “We got pigeon-holed into season-long themes. Now we will tie each individual concert together by a theme with variations.”

At times in past, Symphony seasons have seemed a bit tentative while trying to please key backers. Not this time out. Among the themed concerts in 2018-2019 season is an evening devoted to rarely performed works by women composers.

“They all would have had great careers,” Bay says of Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger and Fanny Mendelsson,” if being a composer was considered a career for women back then.”

Also on that program is a piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon.

The Symphony will salute the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, perhaps America’s greatest composer, with music from three of his Broadway shows as well as Divertimento for Orchestra.

It will also bring back nonagenarian pianist Leon Fleisher, who for a time lost the use of his right hand, and served as a mentor for Bay as a conductor.

“I owe him a lot,” Bays says. “He helped get my career started.”

The 2017 Texas Young Composers winner by Paul Novak, “On Buoyancy,” will advance to the Masterworks series.

“This is a first,” Bay says. “It deserved to be on the subscription program.”

Given all the tragedies in the news, the Symphony will return to another somber Requiem, this one by Johannes Brahms. Also, protean Robert Faires will reprise part of his one-actor “Henry V” for a Shakespearean program.

A dozen or so of the Masterworks selections are new to the Symphony, which has been keeping records since 1911, although spottily during a couple of decades.

ALSO READ: Archive of programs shine light on Symphony — and city’s — history.

The Austin Symphony’s 2018-2019 season contains some surprises.

And now for the complete 2018-2019 season:

MASTERWORKS I: SEPTEMBER 14/15, 2018

“The Mighty Russians Part III” Season Opener

Lise de la Salle, piano

Glazunov: Carnaval Overture, op. 45

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1in F-sharp minor, Op. 1

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

MASTERWORKS II: OCTOBER 19/20, 2018

“Happy Birthday, Lenny!”

Bernstein/Harmon: Suite from Candide

Bernstein: Divertimento for Orchestra

Bernstein: Selections from On the Town

Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

MASTERWORKS III: NOVEMBER 30/DECEMBER 1, 2018

“Tale of Two Titans”

Orli Shaham, piano

Paul Novak: On Buoyancy (2017 Texas Young Composers winner)

Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

MASTERWORKS IV: JANUARY 11/12, 2019

“Variation Voyage”

Leon Fleisher, piano

Ives/Schuman: Variations on “America”

Dvořák: Symphonic Variations on the Theme “I am a fiddler” for orchestra, Op. 78

Franck: Symphonic Variations, FWV 46

Britten: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34

MASTERWORKS V: FEBRUARY 22/23, 2019

“Brahms’ Requiem”

Conspirare Symphonic Choir

Heather Phillips, soprano

Paul Tipton, baritone

Brahms: Variations on the St. Antoni Chorale, Op. 56a

(Craig Hella Johnson, conductor for Variations)

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

MASTERWORKS VI: MARCH 22/23, 2019

“Creative Expressions” Celebrating Women Composers

Time for Three (Nicolas Kendall, violin; Charles Yang, violin; Ranaan Meyer, double bass)

Michelle Schumann, piano

F. Mendelssohn: Overture in C Major

Boulanger: D’un matin de printemps

C.W. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7

Kaprálová: Suita rustica, Op. 19

Higdon: Concerto 4-3

MASTERWORKS VII: APRIL 12/13, 2019

“Champions of Austria”

William Hagen, violin

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor

MASTERWORKS VIII: MAY 17/18, 2019

“A Shakespearean Evening”

Robert Faires, actor

Chorus Austin

Berlioz: Excerpts from Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17

Walton: Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER POPS SERIES

POPS I: OCTOBER 27, 2018; Dell Hall

“Wizard of Oz” – Film with Orchestra

POPS II: DECEMBER 29/30, 2018; Palmer Events Center

Ella & Louis

With Byron Stripling & Carmen Bradford

POPS III: FEBRUARY 9, 2019; Dell Hall

“Singin’ in the Rain” – Film with Orchestra

POPS IV: MAY 31/JUNE 1, 2019; Palmer Events Center

The Broadway Soprano

Lisa Vroman

SPECIAL EVENTS

OCTOBER 28, 2018; AISD Performing Arts Center

Halloween Children’s Concert

DECEMBER 4, 2018; Hyde Baptist Church

Handel’s Messiah

TBD

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER TEXAS YOUNG COMPOSERS CONCERT

DECEMBER 2019; Austin area

Christmas in the Community

JUNE – AUGUST 2019; Hartman Concert Park

Hartman Concerts in the Park

JULY 4, 2019; Vic Mathias Shores

H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks

 

Longtime Austin Symphony manager Ken Caswell dies

Kenneth “Ken” Caswell, who managed the Austin Symphony from 1980 to 1998, has died.

Kenneth Caswell. Alicia Mireles/Austin American-Statesman

“The entire Austin Symphony family is saddened by the passing of former executive director, Ken Caswell,” said Anthony Corroa. “Ken was a kind and gentle man.  He led the administration of the orchestra with passion. His great love for symphonic music will live in the hearts of all those who knew him.”

Caswell retired during a major shift in symphony culture that preceded the hiring of current conductor and music director Peter Bay.

Caswell was descended from an old Austin family whose name pops on landmarks all over the city. He spent his later years in relatively modest family house on a big piece of land in between Laguna Gloria and Mount Bonnell.

He was a collector of vintage piano rolls, which preserved performance of greats such as composer Claude Debussy, and he transferred them to modern recordings.

UPDATE: Services for Caswell will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 at Good Shepherd  Episcopal Church at Windsor Road and Exposition Boulevard.

Classical guitarist Matthew Hinsley named Texas Citizen of the Year

Earlier this month in Galveston, Matthew Hinsley, executive director of the Austin Classical Guitar, accepted the Texas Citizen of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers. Later that week at the AISD Performing Arts Center, Hinsley gave a brief pre-concert talk about what makes his nonprofit a nationwide model for arts-based community service.

Matthew Hinsley, executive director of Austin Classical Guitar, has been named Texas Citizen of the Year. Contributed by Austin Classical Guitar

We asked him to share his thoughts about the intersection of music and activities that many usually ascribe to the domain of social workers.

RELATED: Austin Classical Guitar honors the plight of refugees.

“In music school, in the most wonderful ways, I was taught to refine my musicianship,” Hinsley says. “Most everything at my core today — my work ethic, my sense of authenticity, my appreciation for individual strengths and weaknesses, my tenacity — has its roots in my relationship to guitar and the mentors who shaped me.”

His journey as a public servant through music began 21 years ago in Austin.

“In some ways — the obvious ones — that service grew directly out of my training,” Hinsley says. In other ways — perhaps less obvious — work in service stretched me from the very beginning and has never stopped. Because the myth for many young artists is that if you just get good enough at what you do, the world will come to you and watch you do it. But that notion is rooted in fallacy — because it is rooted in a model of the universe with oneself at the center. And that is not how the universe works.”

He believes that, as a public servant, he most constantly look at his community and ask who is being served and how can they be served better?

“It demands flexibility in every aspect,” he says. “It has led us to realizations that music can heal and engage so many people in such profound ways — but not perhaps the ways we thought we knew. So if it’s developing classroom-based systems for guitar education, or a Braille-adapted curriculum for students at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, or the Lullaby Project at Travis County Jail, or musical puppet shows for kids in Austin Public Library branches — we live and flourish in this irony that while the world may not revolve around that which we have, it most certainly can interact in beautiful and mysterious ways with that which we can be.”

So an award from the National Association of Social Workers makes some special sense.

“It represents a vote of confidence that we have at least begun to leverage the great art we are so fortunate to have roots in, toward something that is reaching diverse people in unexpected ways,” Hinsley says. “What excites me most, is that each day when something new happens, we are made aware of just how many more opportunities for meaningful connection there are yet to explore.”