Perlman Showcases Virtuosic Performance as Player and Conductor

Photo by Susan Wyatt
Itzhak carried out dual roles Sunday in Houston
Itzhak Perlman has refined the fine art of multitasking in the 21st Century. Wearing both a performer's and conductor's hat Sunday afternoon to an adoring audience at Jones Hall, Perlman showcased his virtuosity as the world's greatest violinist. And in a lesser known role, but an equally invigorating and entertaining one, he revealed his passion for conducting with a demonstrably visceral style.

Perlman took his place as performer and conductor, but not before humorously inspecting his violin for potential foul play. After the crowd's laughter died down, Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2 filled the concert hall with a vital spirit all its own. A piece that required it to be played with skilled precision, the first part of the concerto, Allegro-Adagio-Allegro, exploded in the beginning with each performer pushing the piece's forte dynamic to its peak. A graceful contrast interrupted the bombast, and above the softened tones, Perlman magnified the solo's beauty. Violin Concerto No. 2 closed with the same vitality with which it began, galloping to its counterpoint until Perlman, with a charming grin, indicated to both the players and the audience the piece's end.

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Houston Theater District's Open House and Our Theater Awards Issue

Photo by Marie Noelle Robert
For entry level opera-goers: Sweeney Todd
Besides the ballet, the theater companies and the symphony, this year's 21st Annual Theater District Open House will feature food trucks in Jones Plaza, tango lessons from the Society for the Performing Arts and has expanded to include Bayou City Music Center and Bayou Place (known rather more for their rock music than classical works).

And even though Alley Theatre has moved to a temporary home at the University of Houston where its first show of the season The Old Friends opens Wednesday, its personnel will still be on hand to show visitors through its production rooms to plumb the mysteries of costumes and wigs and rehearsal halls.

Perryn Leech, acting board chair of the Houston Downtown Alliance and Houston Grand Opera's managing director, says this year as always gives visitors an up-close-and personal (and free!) look at the Houston arts scene with the added benefit of being able to sign up for discounted subscriptions. "There are good bargains to be had," he says.

Tying in to all the occasion, the Houston Press this week presents its annual Houston Press Arts Guide as well as the third year of our Houston Theater Awards, in which we draw attention to what we believe were the outstanding theatrical performances in our city during the 2013-14 season.

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Linda Eder Valentine's Day Concert Postponed Because of Weather

Categories: Symphony

Courtesy of the Houston Symphony
Singer Linda Eder
That bad weather back East means Linda Eder and her band will not be heading to Houston for a Valentine's Day concert it has just been announced.

So if you were counting on Eder and her group to put you in the mood, you'll have to wait till Thursday , May 29. All tickets for V Day will be honored for the spring performance or they can be exchanged for another symphony performance.

To keep love afloat, the symphony "in partnership with Spec's Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods, will offer a free Valentine's Day performance of Vivaldi's most popular work, The Four Seasons, led by Houston Symphony Concertmaster Frank Huang. The concert at Jones Hall is a non-ticketed event, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. performance. "

Tracking Through the First 100 Years of the Houston Symphony

Categories: Symphony

A photo from Houston Symphony Celebrating a Century shows a young Andre Previn, the famous conductor who was with the Houston Symphony from 1967-69

The Houston Symphony began in 1913 with 36 members and a first season budget of $2,500. Its founder was Miss Ima Hogg, daughter of the governor and longtime patron of the arts who was determined that Houston should have its own resident symphony.

Hogg even wrote the first newspaper ad calling for people to go to a Houston Symphony concert. Seats at the Majestic Theatre cost 25 cents to $1 for the show.

For 28 years, Carl Cunningham has worked on a history of the first 100 years of the Houston Symphony, making good use of the encyclopedic knowledge he gained first as a performing arts critic for the Houston Post (where I knew him) for 29 years and then as someone who writes liner notes for the symphony's programs for the past 17 seasons.

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Houston Symphony Honors the Dead With La Triste Historia

Animation stills by Tick Tock Robot

Similar to many other holidays, El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) has been commercialized and adopted by retailers hungry to sell masks and flowers. We see the image of la calavera (the skull) so frequently these days that its true value is lost, as if we forget that it represents the ultimate conclusion to this thing called life: Death.

Yet in the Mexican tradition, although it induces tears and mourning, Death is not something to be afraid of or vilified. El Dia de Los Muertos is a beautiful celebration of our loved ones and friends who have passed onto the next life, and we take the time to remember and honor them.

On Friday night in Downtown Houston (with showings on Saturday and Sunday as well), the Houston Symphony presented the classiest and perhaps most monumental honoring of the dead since the ancient pyramids were built. The world premiere of La Triste Historia tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers set during the backdrop of The Mexican Revolution. A classic scenario with not-so-classic characters.

The night began with the return of conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, who previously was an associate conductor at the Houston Symphony several years ago. It was easy to see why this man is/was a crowd favorite; his smile and energy and heart makes your best friend in an instant, with enough flair and command to move even the stodgiest of works into symphonic masterpieces.


As he raised his baton, the whole room seemingly came to attention, ready for the ride through the emotional musical journey that was set before us. Watching Prieto maneuver up and down and sideways made it clear that being a conductor is one of the most satisfying jobs in the whole world. Sitting in the audience that night became a festival of enjoyment and wonder, with the senses of sound and sight creeping towards overload.

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Mayor Parker Announces Houston's Fall Arts Season

A crowd of whose who in the Houston arts community gathered last Friday on a very sticky morning for Mayor Anise Parker's official opening to the Houston Fall Arts Season. Held on the front lawn of the Menil, the purpose of the address was to give a preview of what is to come this year for Houston's robust art community and reflect on the success the city has seen in regard to its "Houston Is Inspired" tourism campaign, which has been running for several months now.

Opening the commencement was the Director of the Menil, Josef Helfenstein, who spoke on behalf of the "over 500 arts organizations" actively creating and producing art in the city. Helfenstein was followed by Executive Director of classical music company, Musicqa, Joseph Wilson. Wilson gave a sneak-peek into the upcoming installation exhibition "What Time Is It," which will open in downtown's market square on September 28. The exhibition is a collaborative effort between Musiqa and artist Jo Ann Fleischhauer that incorporates music and art with the concept of time.

Mayor Parker chats with Musiqa's Joseph Wilson and HAA's Jonathan Glus.

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Friday Night: The Chieftains 50th Anniversary Tour At Jones Hall

Photos by Pete Vonder Haar
The Chieftains with the Houston Symphony
Jones Hall
February 15, 2013

When your band's been around for half a century, you could probably be forgiven for reliving past glory and staying safely within the established confines of whatever envelope you've developed for yourself. Just don't tell that to the Chieftains, who celebrated their 50th anniversary last year by releasing an album (Voice of Ages) and now embarking on a 28-city tour.

That kind of longevity also brings a certain amount of respect from your peers (or so you'd hope), and any Chieftains show is likely to be loaded with special appearances and surprises. That was certainly the case Friday night at Jones Hall, where the Chieftains were joined by the Houston Symphony and several guests, providing a satisfying mix of Irish tradition and classical sensibility.

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Houston Symphony Announces 2013-14 Season; Here's What's Not to Miss

Categories: Symphony

Andres Orozco-Estrada (c) Julie Soefer.jpg
Courtesy Houston Symphony
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the new musical director for the Houston Symphony.
Although some say that metropolitan orchestras are on the decline with symphonies including Philadelphia and Louisville declaring bankruptcy over the past decade, the Houston Symphony is going full steam ahead as it announces its lineup for its action-packed centennial season. Here are the concerts not to miss as the symphony says goodbye to musical director Hans Graf and welcomes newly announced musical director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, whose official debut will be in October 2013.

Centennial 100th Birthday Concert
Friday, June 21, 2013

The first ever performance of the Houston Symphony, sponsored by Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg, was on June 21, 1913. Exactly 100 years later, this kickoff event of the new season will celebrate the centennial milestone by bringing the power of music to all with a free concert in Miller Outdoor Theater. Selections will include popular works such as Beethoven's Ode to Joy, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, and selections from Holst's The Planets.

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"Silent Shadow of the Bat-man" Now Online, in Its Entirety, with Two Star Symphony's Original Score

Recently, Discovery Green presented something of a rarity: a premiere viewing of a new(ish) silent film complete with original score as performed live by Houston's own invaluable symphonic oddball geniuses Two Star Symphony.

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Free for All: Katherine Howe, Taikoza and Theater District Open House

Thumbnail image for House Velvet 275.jpg
Best-selling author Katherine Howe signs and discusses her new book, The House of Velvet and Glass, at Murder by the Book on Friday. Howe, who was born in Houston, was trained as an art historian and Velvet and Glass, like her debut release, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, features a detailed, accurate depiction of the physical world her characters live in, from architectural details to popular art to, in this case, the spiritualist practices of the upper classes. The book is set in 1915, a time that, Howe notes, saw a great cultural and social change. Like the other women of that time, Howe's main character, Sibyl Allston, was born in the Victorian era but lived to see the dawn of the 20th century.

Katherine Howe appears at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, visit the bookstore's Web site or call 713-524-8597.

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