Like most people who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century, I never listened to much classical music. Like many young journalists, I wanted to write about rock and roll and spent five years or so doing so. But writing-about-popular-music years are like dog years; one year in the pop music world is five years in the regular world.
Before you know it, you’re ignoring the guy who really wants you to come and hear the band he’s bringing to town (several times), but you pass on Widespread Panic again and again because they have nothing in common with REM or RUN-DMC.
In the early 1990s I began going to a lot of chamber music concerts and operas at the Spoleto Festival USA and fell in love with both. It’s not hard to do when you are listening to the St. Lawrence String Quartet and seeing completely whacked out opera productions.
For a long time I didn’t go to that many classical concerts in
Out of a sense of duty (even before I was writing about classical music) I’d drag myself to the S.C. Philharmonic. The war horses were dragged out and flogged not all that well. And it was never loud enough. (That has changed dramatically with new music director Morihiko Nakahara, engaged players and a solid staff and board.)
About five years ago I meet some of the newer faculty members at the USC music school, the first being pianist Marina Lomazov, who I met at a gallery crawl in the Congaree Vista. Between Lomazov and composer John Fitz Rogers and Joe Rackers, an exceptional pianist who is also married to Lomazov, I found myself going to more and more concerts at the school and most of those are by faculty members. Nearly all of them were good and many way beyond good. My favorite concerts of the Southern Exposure contemporary music series also almost always the ones by the USC faculty.
The music school keeps hiring more and more new, good and – to add some icing - really nice and fun faculty members.
As the school year draws to a close only a few concert remain so take advantage while you can.
The final Chamber Innovista concert coming up Sunday, April 19 at sounds pretty innovative. The Quartet for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano by Andre Mehmari, (pictured above) a 32- year-old composer and musician who played on the Spoleto Festival jazz series a few years ago, will be performed by Rebecca Nagel, oboe Joseph Eller, clarinet, Peter Kolkay, bassoon, and Joseph Rackers, piano.
Staying south of the border the group will play a work by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltasl, written in 1936 to honor writer Federico García Lorca, who was killed during the Spanish civil war. In another direction is Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano by Francis Poulenc. It’s not free, but at $15 not bad. And where else are you going to hear something by Mehmari?
I’ll be there unless the weather is nice – which it usually is on Sunday spring afternoons. In that case I’ll be in my kayak listening to water music.
Professor Christopher Berg performs an all too rare concert at the school Monday night at . He’ll play Federico Moreno-Torroba's Sonatina and works by Agustin
Barrios, Julia Florida and Don Pérez Freire.
In an email Berg told me, “USC made me a distinguished professor last June, which immediately made me think of what La Rochefoucauld wrote, ‘The world oftener rewards the appearance of merit than merit itself.’ So, to prove him wrong I've been busy: I was on sabbatical and finished the first installment of my ‘Re-Imagination of Performance’ series for the leading guitar journal and my teaching at USC has kept me busy. I had 25 students audition for entry into the guitar program for 2009-2010. And then, of course, keeping up concert repertoire and performing. Earlier this month I was at
Well enough until the concert.