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.
In 1962 West Side Story won 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Musical. Is it still worth seeing more than half a century later? Sure is! Jerome Robbins' energetic choreography remains riveting, and Leonard Bernstein's marvelous score is a perfect frame for Sondheim's affecting lyrics.
A live performance of its musical soundtrack by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra gave the film aneven greater impact. The dances seemed that much more energetic and exciting, and the closing Romeo and Juliet-like death scene more wrenchingly emotional. I don't think I've ever before heard more audible signs of a movie audience trying to repress tears.BWW Review: LA JOLLA MUSIC SOCIETY SUMMERFEST CARNIVAL! at the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall August 7, 2018
'Carnival,' the opening concert in Cho-Liang Lin's last season as music director of the La Jolla Music Society's Summerfest, was an unusual jumble of works. Bartok's Contrasts for clarinet, piano and violin was written for jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman. It is based on Hungarian and Romanian folk dance and, though composed 80 years ago, includes bitonality that still imparts an edgy 'modern' flavor. Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileirassuites for eight cellos and soprano werewritten to honor Bach with Brazilian-influenced melodies and rhythms. And Saint-Saens wrote Carnival of the Animals, a work for 11 instruments, on a lark. He refused to publish it during his lifetime, thinking it would detract from his reputation as a 'serious' composer.BWW Review: GODFATHERS OF LATIN JAZZ at San Diego Symphony Bayside Amphitheater July 31, 2018
The San Diego Symphony's 2018 Bayside Jazz Series continued with 'Godfathers of Latin Jazz,' a concert inspired by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's merger of bebop and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Dizzy had wanted something new for a 1947 Carnegie Hall concert, 'One of those tom toms' he said, thinking of the different hand-struck drums played by Latin percussionist Machito and others. To get the effect he wanted he added Cuban conguero Chano Pozo.BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY PRESENTS THE ARTURO SANDOVAL SEXTET at the Bayside Amphitheater July 21, 2018
It's a marriage committed to musical excellence. Jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos says of his wife Lorraine, 'She's a classically trained guitarist, and her practice can be intimidating at times.' That helps motivate him to practice more, usually four or five hours a day. But she has said, his practicing inspires her to practice more because she feels guilty if she doesn't. Fortunately for the couple, and perhaps the neighbors, they both have successful careers that prevent them from escalating into a friendly, but potentially fatal, competition.BWW Review: MAINLY MOZART'S THAMOS, KING OF EGYPT at San Diego's Balboa Theater June 26, 2018
Thamos, King of Egypt, a play by Tobias Philipp, baron von Gebler, premiered in 1774. Mozart completed incidental music for it, the 18th Century equivalent of a movie soundtrack, in 1780. Before Mainly Mozart's performance of a concert version of the play, conductor Michael Francis, with a typically mischievous smile, said the original with Mozart's music would make for a really boring four hours. Mozart supported that view in a letter to his father saying he couldn't use the music he'd written because the play had failed. Francis and director Cynthia Stokes solved the problem by slashing the baron's text to a farcical smidgen while leaving Mozart's music intact. The result clocked in at less than an hour.BWW Review: MAINLY MOZART at The Balboa Theater June 13, 2018
Every year since 1989 Mainly Mozart has been bringing many of the best orchestra musicians in the country to San Diego to perform a month-long series of concerts ranging from solo recitals to orchestral. When Michael Francis succeeded founding music director and conductor David Atherton in 2015 he reemphasized the organization's name by planning a six-year chronological traversal of Mozart's music. The first-year featured Mozart as prodigy. This year, the third, Mozart is a 'rebel' breaking ranks with the music establishment and the control of his father Leopold.BWW Review: EDO DE WAART CONDUCTS THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY at the Jacobs Music Center June 1, 2018
Conductor Edo de Waart opened the last concert in the San Diego Symphony Orchestra's 2017-18 Jacobs Masterworks series with Overture to Candide. The overture has been perhaps Leonard Bernstein'smost frequently programmed workduring this, his centennial year. The cheeky, riotous piece is always taken at a brisk pace and sometimes, as in this performance, to the very edge of control. De Waart studied with Bernstein, and his interpretation was consistent with the composer's own. While the orchestra played well, the performance did miss a bit of potential unbuttoned fun.BWW Review: SAN DIEGO OPERA'S ONE AMAZING NIGHT at The Balboa Theater May 17, 2018
The San Diego Opera's last concert this season was billed as 'One Amazing Night.' The program was originally scheduled to feature soprano Lise Lindstrom and tenor Rene Barbera, but Barbera was released from his commitment when he was offered a Teatro alla Scala debut as Ernesto in a new production of Don Pasquale. He's sung multiple time in San Diego, and will likely return, but the company understood a La Scala debut means too much to an opera singer's career to stand in his way. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley, who had previously performed with Lindstrom in the San Diego production of Salome, was an effective stand-in. Earlier this season Grimsley played the pirate king here in Pirates of Penzance with surprising comic flair, though best known for dark and heroic roles.BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY CONDUCTED BY FABIEN GABEL at The Jacobs Music Center May 11, 2018
The San Diego Symphony, along with many others, is this year celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. The first half of the Symphony's 'Dances Suites and Serenades' concert consisted of 'Three Dance Variations' from Bernstein's balletFancy Free, and Serenade (After Plato's 'Symposium'). Fancy Free was choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Robbins collaborated on all of Bernstein's ballets and his hugely successful Broadway musical Westside Story. Fancy Free features three sailors on leave who want to impress two young women. Since two doesn't equal three, except possibly in fake-news reports, they dance to showoff and help the women decide which two suitors will win approval. Galop, waltz and danzon variations provide solos foreach sailor in which todemonstrateskill and personality.BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY CONDUCTED BY JAHJA LING at The Jacobs Music Center April 23, 2018
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.