Ron Bierman has performed on saxophone and flute in several college and other orchestras. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where his studies included music theory as taught by Swiss pianist and composer Ernst Levy. His published work includes reviews of recordings, books, plays, films and live music performances for web sites and newspapers. He has an extensive library of books about music and over three thousand CDs. Now living in San Diego with his wife, he is the President of Advocates for Classical Music, an organization which has worked with local symphony orchestras to introduce tens of thousands of young students to classical music. He and his wife enjoy visiting classrooms with CDs and instruments in hand.
It was good to see Maestro Jahja Ling return to San Diego as Conductor Laureate while we await the arrival next year of his replacement as Music Director Rafael Payare. Nor did Ling disappoint. He seemed totally absorbed in the music produced by the orchestra he was largely responsible for rebuilding. The concert opened with 'Times Square: 1944' from the score of Bernstein's first Broadway show, On the Town. Ling, a Leonard Bernstein protege, bounced jauntily, swayed and nearly jitterbugged as he led the orchestra in the piece's changing moods. Freelancers alto saxophonist Mark Shannon and clarinetist Juan Gallegos added a touch of big-band jazz to nail the jazzy Broadway vibe.BWW Review: JEFFREY KAHANE PLAYS AND CONDUCTS AT SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY Jacobs Music Center April 18, 2018
The San Diego Symphony's season continued this past weekend with guest pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane. He opened at the piano in front of an orchestra reduced to half its usual size for Mozart's 27th piano concerto. After intermission there were roughly twice as many musicians for Samuel Barber's tone poem Music for a Scene from Shelley and Schumann's third symphony, the 'Rhenish.' Regardless of orchestra size or whether at the piano or podium, Kahane conducted with smooth sweeping gestures, and the orchestra responded well with clear section balances and attention to detail.BWW Review: CASE SCAGLIONE CONDUCTS THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at the Jacobs Music Center April 13, 2018
Cristian Macelaru made a favorable impression as guest conductor here last year and was scheduled to return again, a sign that he may have been on the short list of possible choices for Jahja Ling's replacement. But the San Diego Symphony has selected Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare as its new music director. That may have been a factor in M?celaru's decision to step in for Franz Welser-Most with the Gewandhaus Orchestra instead of appearing at the Jacobs Music Center in San Diego this past weekend. Not a problem. Young American conductor Case Scaglione did not disappoint as Macelaru's replacement.BWW Review: LA JOLLA ATHENAEUM PRESENTS ETIENNE CHARLES AND CREOLE JAZZ at TSRI Auditorium In La Jolla April 11, 2018
The Etienne Charles sextet's concert at La Jolla's TSRI Auditorium proved yet again that the Athenaeum's jazz program coordinator Dan Atkinson hasn't lost his touch. The series, which he founded in 1989, consistently features some of the best jazz musicians in the country in as many as 18 concerts a year. Atkinson has an unerring ear for talent, often booking terrific young musicians not yet widely known. That's why the La Jolla Athenaeum has been named one of the world's great jazz venues by both DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines. Before Etienne Charles came onstage, Atkinson's exceptional contributions to jazz in San Diego were formally recognized by both the Jazz Journalist Association and the city. Journalist Robert Bush first presented a 2018 Jazz Hero award on behalf of the association and then announced that San Diego had declared the day of the concert "Dan Atkinson Day."BWW Review: SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY PRESENTS JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WITH CHICK COREA at San Diego Jacobs Music Center March 28, 2018
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with pianist Chick Corea performed this past weekend as part of the San Diego Symphony's jazz series. When I last heard the band two years ago without Corea, I thought it was in a bit of a rut, and I can see why Wynton Marsalis, its usual leader, chose the pianist to stand in for him while he's on a composing break. Corea uses harmony and rhythm in a modern style very different from that of the Swing Era big bands like Ellington's that Marsalis had in mind when he formed the orchestra in 1988. He must have seen Corea as a refreshing addition at a first concert with him in 2011. In any event, 'rut' was no longer an appropriate term for many of the intricate arrangements premiered at that concert and reprised here last Saturday.BWW Review: SAN DIEGO OPERA'S FLORENCIA EN LA AMAZONAS at San Diego Civic Center March 23, 2018
The San Diego Opera's production of Daniel Catan's Florencia en el Amazonas was premiered Saturday at San Diego's Civic Center. Much has been made of the influence the magical realism of Nobel-Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez had on Marcela Fuentes-Berain's libretto, but most of the magic is in Catan's music. In this production, the voices and staging added another helping of enchantment. What little magical realism there is in the libretto, compared to Marquez's inventive, often disorienting novels, was largely lost in the mix.BWW Review: LA JOLLA MUSIC SOCIETY PRESENTS THE ACADEMY OF ST MARTIN IN THE FIELDS at San Diego's Jacobs Music Center March 20, 2018
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra, with first violinist and music director Joshua Bell, performed Friday night at San Diego's Jacobs Music Center as part of the La Jolla Music Society's ongoing Orchestra Series. Over the years the series has featured only the best of the world's symphony orchestras, including many that often appear in world top-ten lists. The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, a chamber orchestra with only 43 musicians rather than the 80 or so usually on the stage in a symphony orchestra, isn't competing with the top ten, but it's still worthy of a world-class tag, especially with Joshua Bell as music director and soloist. For much of its 60-year history, the orchestra has performed without a conductor, which is why Bell gives the downbeat and occasional cues from his first-chair seat in the violin section.BWW Interview: Elaine Alvarez of San Diego Opera's Production of Florencia en el Amazonas March 17, 2018
I spoke recently with Elaine Alvarez who will be singing the lead role this weekend in the San Diego Opera's production of Florencia en el Amazonas by Mexican composer Daniel Catan and librettist Marcela Fuentes-Berain. Alvarez told me that when she got a call from the San Diego Opera's General Director David Bennett, 'I was at a train station in France, and it was cold. I started jumping up and down! And he was like, 'Do you think you're going to be ready to sing this? Is this in line now with where your voice is.' And I'm like, a hundred percent! Yes! Yes! Yes!' Spanish was her first language, Florencia appealed to her Latin heritage, and she knew her voice was ready. She'd sung Beatrice in Catan's earlier opera Rappaccini's Daughter and was delighted with the opportunity to make her San Diego debut with another of his works.BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY CONDUCTED BY EDO DE WAART at the Jacobs Music Center March 11, 2018
Edo de Waart has become a welcome repeat guest-conductor for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. His no nonsense, experience-based authority at the podium appears to have won the respect of players, Symphony management-and certainly, San Diego audiences. Friday's finale brought an immediate standing ovation and sustained shouting and applause throughout an unusual four curtain calls. Since standing Os have become almost perfunctory, it was a pleasure to participate in one that was actually deserved.BWW Feature: SAN DIEGO OPERA 2018-19 SEASON at the San Diego Civic Center, and More March 8, 2018
The San Diego Opera's 2018-19 season will feature three grand operas at the city's Civic Center and three smaller-scale productions at other venues. Seasoned opera buffs are likely to fill the 3000-seat Civic Center for The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto, and Carmen. But elaborate three-hour productions are a hard-sell for inexperienced listeners, many of whom believe that 45-seconds is about right for 'in-depth' news reporting. That's where the opera company's highly successful 'Detour Series' of shorter and more contemporary-feeling performances comes in. The two operas in that series next season are an English adaption of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, and Three Decembers, a chamber work by Jake Heggie, one of today's most successful operatic composers. The Detour series and the season conclude with 'One Amazing Night,' a recital devoted largely to Puccini and Verdi.BWW Review: SAN DIEGO OPERA'S TURANDOT at the Civic Center February 27, 2018
The San Diego Opera's new production of Puccini's Turandot held rapt attention throughout its three acts in spite of a dark plot that's implausible even for opera, and a lead character less loveable than Lady Macbeth. Powerful men from other kingdoms flock to win Princess Turandot's hand by answering three riddles. This being long before the internet, none of the men seem familiar with them when Turandot asks for solutions. This is a serious oversite on their part. Twelve suitors, in the past year alone, have experienced the beheading failure entails. The 13th, Calaf of Tartary, succeeds only to have Turandot renege on her promise to marry the one who has the answers. When her father the emperor insists an oath is an oath, Calaf puts his head on the block again by swearing he will die if Turandot discovers his name by morning, otherwise she must marry him. She agrees, determined to discover his name before the sun rises.BWW Interview: Lise Lindstrom TO SING TURANDOT IN SAN DIEGO OPERA'S PRODUCTION at the San Diego Civic Center February 18, 2018
ise Lindstrom has returned to San Diego to sing the lead in Puccini's Turandot. We spoke for nearly an hour in a rehearsal room at the San Diego Civic Center where she'd just finished working on makeup for the performance.
You might think that someone with Lindstrom's powerful voice would have known, and been told from the age of twelve or so, that she was destined to become an opera star. But it didn't happen that way for the well-known dramatic soprano, nor is it likely to for any other would-be diva. No matter how potentially great your voice is, it takes a bit of luck and a whole lot of hard work to become a success.BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Jacobs Music Center February 15, 2018
Sameer Patel, Associate Conductor of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, made his subscription series debut with Liszt's Les Preludes, the fifth symphony of Sibelius, and the world premiere of Adam Schoenberg's violin concerto Orchard in Fog.
Les Preludes is one of 13 tone poems written by Liszt. He invented the single-movement form as a way to evoke specific scenes or moods. Liszt sites a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine in the score, but it appears it wasn't his original inspiration since Les Preludes is an adaptation of an overture written for an abandoned larger work based on a different text.BWW Review: MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES at The Lyceum Theater February 1, 2018
Maria de Buenos Aires, a 90-minute opera by Astor Piazzolla and librettist Horacio Ferrar, is the latest in the San Diego Opera's innovative Detour Series. According to the company's website, the series name indicates its productions are stops on 'a route that is different from the ordinary.' Piazzolla's opera is decidedly such a stop. Unlike probably any other operatic work, far more of the libretto is spoken than sung, dance scenes feature tango rather than ballet, and the surrealistic libretto intensifies mood and emotion, much as music does, without adding much clarity to the plot line. That leaves a lot of space for production crew creativity. Director John de los Santos took advantage. He kept the cast in eye-catching motion and tailored scenes to make major plot lines clearer. Still, Piazzolla and Ferrar weren't after realism. Without a complete rewrite of the libretto, the opera, or tango operetta as Piazzolla called it, will have as much in common with the paintings of surrealist painter Salvador Dali as Puccini's verismo.BWW Review: MINGUS DYNASTY at TSRI Auditorium January 30, 2018
The Mingus Dynasty Septet plays often at the Jazz Standard in New York City, one of the top jazz clubs in the country. La Jolla's Athenaeum Library brought them to San Diego for two performances that included a tribute to Charles Mingus's Tijuana Moods album, originally recorded in 1957 and finally released in 1962. The septet, appropriately enough, played first in Tijuana. The following night I was at the TSRI Auditorium near the UCSD campus to see a repeat performance of the all-Mingus program.BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Jacobs Music Center January 27, 2018
Conducting with a combination of precise hand signals and smooth sweeping arm gestures, Jader Bignamini went all-out to please and entertain in his guest appearance with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, and he succeeded. Thefamiliar works he selected seemed to forma spectacular five-movement concerto for orchestra.BWW Interview: Bruce Stasyna of MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES at Lyceum Theater January 24, 2018
Bruce Stasyna, San Diego Opera's chorus master, will also lead the orchestra in the company's upcoming production of Astor Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires. We met in the Civic Center's Copper Room recently to discuss that, his career, and more.BWW Review: SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY at Jacobs Music Center January 19, 2018
Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare opened his San Diego Symphony Orchestra guest appearance with Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture. Payare conducted with vigorous dramatic motions, and the orchestra responded by bringing the work's romantic themes and stirring gestures to life. Principle English horn player brought exceptional warmth and beauty to the score's first solo. She wasn't unique in her excellence. Every soloist and section managed even demanding tempos and dynamic changes with pleasing tone and precision.BWW Review: DAVID DANZMAYR CONDUCTS THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY at Jacobs Music Center December 8, 2017
Conductor David Danzmayr opened his guest appearance with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra with Mid-20th century Polish composer Gra?yna Bacewicz's Overture of 1943. It was a intelligent choice; her music deserves to be programmed more often. Although she received many awards and commissions during her lifetime, her name is largely unfamiliar to contemporary audiences. The overture is a brisk workout for every section. The piece's little more than five minutes features rapidly scurrying strings, heroic brass, virtuosic wind solos and boisterous percussion. Danzmayr's demanding interpretation built excited anticipation for what was to follow. The overture is a terrific way to open a concert.BWW Review: SAN DIEGO OPERA'S PRODUCTION OF AS ONE at Joan B Kroc Theatre November 14, 2017
If a spouse transitions from one sex to another in a state where gay marriage is illegal, is the marriage still valid? There are many possible reactions to that question, including heated discussion, juvenile giggling, or reactionary distaste. Composer Laura Kaminsky chose empathy for those most directly affected. The result was her first opera, and it is a striking statement at a time when empathy for anyone different is in short supply. As one, a chamber work for two singers and string quartet, does a compelling job of describing a transgender's struggle with sexual identity. It is the latest offering in the San Diego opera's d tour series, which features smaller-scale works outside the usual operatic repertoire. Kaminsky's choice of artistic partners was as fortunate as her timing. Kimberly Reed, a transgender woman, and Mark Campbell, one of today's most successful librettists, collaborated to produce a story that feels real and has emotional impact.