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Mar 27

When Less is More

By billalpert | Music Picks , violin


Nathan Milstein – Perpetuum Mobile by Novacek.

One can find just about anything on YouTube. This clip from 1957 fits into the “sublime” category. Violinist Nathan Milstein gives us an absolutely sparkling rendition of Novack’s Perpetual Motion, a piece I’ve recently discovered. It’s a wonderful technical study, also worthy of the concert stage.

The challenge in music like this, indeed when learning anything new, is making it effortless. To that end, it appears that Milstein is barely working during this highly technical selection. Indeed, in this case it is the economy of motion and simplicity in approach that makes lets the music shine.

Violin (and voice) is frequently about working less, removing tension and preparing the music to a cellular level. When applied diligently, this philosophy can bring about stunning results, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate if you’ll invest three minutes and watch the video. Enjoy!

Mar 15

From String Quartets to Acting Lessons

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink

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Downtown Albuquerque, NM
I’d be remiss if I let too much time pass without thanking my studio and group students for allowing me the time to visit the recent American String Teachers Association conference in Albuquerque. I made the trip along with my dear friend and orchestra colleague, cellist Kyle Champion. Also making the trip were something like 2000 string teachers and students from across the USA and beyond, including fellow FSS instructor Wendy Waggener, and Redlands Symphony harpist Mary Dropkin.

New Mexico was beautiful and sunny; the workshops and concerts were inspirational as was the camaraderie and spirt surrounding the event. Certainly string teachers are a diverse group, yet within that group one can find a spirit of generosity and dedication to a common purpose.

Of special note: a recital by violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk. I heard Josh Bell play a the Mendelssohn Concerto with the LA Phil a couple of years ago; it was indeed an impressive concert. But this recital, which included works by Tartini, Prokofiev, Schumann and Saint-Saéns was even more so. Bell and Denk donated their time to ASTA, and were equally generous with the playing. I can’t remember any musician with as much celebrity as Bell putting so much energy into an evening of music, from first note to last. This while the duo needed to pack up and catch a red eye back to the east coast the very same evening. The music was transcendent; one could have heard a pin drop during the quiet moments in the packed full Kiva Auditorium.

Bell made many an ASTA attendant beam when he thanked the organization from the stage. His big break came after winning an ASTA competition in Minneapolis. A year later he was playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Another surprise from the stage: Bell dedicated his encore: March from the Love of Three Oranges, to “his idol” Jascha Heifetz, who penned the venerable Prokofiev arrangement. To me it was a surprise comment from a young player whose extroverted approach seems so different than that of Mr. Heifetz.

Another notable concert: that of the Shanghai Quartet. This virtuostic and innovative group didn’t draw the the big crowds of Bell’s recital. Too bad for those who missed another spectacular evening of all out, take-a-lot-of-chances music making. Perhaps string quartets have an undeserved reputation for being a bit cerebral. Certainly that wouldn’t apply to this group of four young musicians, now resident at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Check out a recording of violinist Yi-Wen Jiang’s quartet arrangements of traditional Chinese folk songs; they are gorgeous and ravishing, expertly written.

Dozens of musicians, artists and educators presented workshops. Mark O’Connor talked about (and demonstrated!) his “New American Classical Music.” My own idol, violinist Darol Anger, led several sessions on jazz and alternative styles. He’s every bit the musical genius that Josh Bell is, in his own unique way. Somehow he manages to touch the deepest part of me, every time I hear him play, even if it’s just a simple old fiddle tune. And there were the youth honor orchestras and ensembles; it’s impressive to see these kids playing so well and excelling in their lives. Kudos!

As my friend Kyle pointed out, a recurring theme for me was attending sessions that focussed on Yoga, Alexander Technique, acting exercises, singing, shoulder injuries and custom fitted chin rests. More and more, I’m realizing the skills of using the body properly, releasing tension and being “in the moment” are vitally important to me and my students. Students: you’ll be hearing more about this in the studio soon!

So again, thanks to all my students, as well as my very first teacher violin teacher Marjorie Marth, who covered my Suzuki group classes while I was gone, and of course to the dedicated folks at ASTA, who put on one of the best conferences ever!

Feb 09

Baroque Music Concert

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink

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The beautiful and acoustically inviting Calvary Chapel

I’d like to invite violin studio students, as well as all Alpert Studio students, families and friends to enjoy a concert of Baroque music in the beautiful setting of Calvary Church, Riverside. There will be a nice selection of vocal and instrumental music, and I’ll be playing a portion of Vivaldi’s exciting Four Seasons Concerto for violin. Please join us!

BLESSING OF BAROQUE

Orchestra, soloists and Chorus
The Lyric Symphony with Camelia Voin, conducted by Viorel Gheorghe
Selections by Vivaldi, Bach and Handel
Bill Alpert, Violin
Performing Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

At the Calvary Presbyterian Church in Riverside
Sunday February 17, 2008 at 4 pm, admission is free

4495 Magnolia Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501 • Directions

Jan 06

Studio 2008 Updates

By billalpert | violin , voice

Voice and Violin lessons will resume this week! Your lesson will be at your regular scheduled time, unless otherwise discussed. If you are unsure about your lesson time, please call or e-mail as soon as possible.

Note from Melanie Alpert to Voice Students:
Please try to be flexible during the month of January. Because of my rehearsal schedule, some lesson times may need to be rearranged. I’ll do my best to find a convenient time for everyone.

SCVA Participants Reminder:
This year’s competition will be held on Saturday, January 12 at 9:00 a.m. Location: at the recital hall at 10722 Arrow Rte., Suite 104, Rancho Cucamonga

Note to Violin Students from Bill Alpert:
The violin studio is going to a flat monthly tuition rate. The monthly tuition will include approx. 45 lessons per year and all recital fees. Note that the tuition rate for each month will remain the same whether there are 4 or 5 weeks in the month. For continuing students, the monthly rate will be equivalent to the cost of 4 regular lessons. Please read my complete studio policies which includes information about cancellations, studio requirements and more.

Let’s all plan and enjoy and musically exciting and rewarding 2008. See you soon!

Jan 03

An opera to save the world

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink

The Ring Photo
A scene from Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” (courtesy Metropolitan Opera)

Richard Wagner’s epic The Ring is a collection of four operas that have inspired concert goers, film makers, film composers, artists of all manner and even soldiers in combat for 150 years. It’s twenty hours of music that encapsulate legend, love, war, incest, racism and even the creation of the universe.

Productions of this mammoth work are legend in themselves. People plan for years and travel thousands of miles to attend. The mother of all Ring productions can be experienced at a specially built opera house in Bayreuthe, Germany, where Wagner staged his original production. You’ll need to buy your tickets early, maybe a couple of years early. Seats are running about $2000 each, per opera. Yes, a trip for two including air fare should be easily doable for only about $25,000 🙂

In case you don’t have the 25K, here’s plan B:

Find a quiet hour, brew a cup of tea, pull up a comfy chair and point your browser to the WNYC public radio podcast The Ring and I. It’s a fabulous production from WNYC’s Radio Lab. I’m a regular listener to this fine series, and this particular podcast is one of the best shows about classical music I’ve ever heard. You can download the mp3 here!

It’s extra credit for all Alpert Studio students, and a great way to introduce your non-musical friends to opera. Let us know what you think!


Dec 28

Melanie Alpert cast in King and I

By billalpert | Events , voice

King and I original production publicity poster
Original Broadway production poster

I’m proud to announce that Melanie Alpert was recently cast in the role of Lady Thiang in an upcoming professional production of King and I at Performance Riverside. Performances run from Feb. 1 – 10. The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic will be directed by John Vaughn, and will also feature Barbara Hinrichesen in the role of Anna and studio student Michael Stugis as Louis.

Based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, the musical has been a favorite of audiences since its original 1951 Broadway production.

From Wikipedia: The musical opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on March 29, 1951 and starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna, and a then mostly unknown Yul Brynner as the King. The production was directed by John Van Druten, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with scenic and lighting design by Jo Mielziner, and costumes designed by Irene Sharaff. Of course Brynner appeared in the 1956 film version, opposite Deborah Kerr.

I hope the our entire studio family will come out and support Barbara and Melanie in what is shaping up to be a wonderful and enjoyable production. For information visit Performance Riverside’s Website

Dec 26

Sweeney Todd: Art is where you find it

By billalpert | Reviews

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Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd

Unremittingly gruesome, Sweeney Todd doesn’t seem to be the obvious choice for release around the holidays. Yet the film, adapted from Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical theater piece, works on many levels. Certainly this movie could succeed on the star power of its actors. Likewise, the beauty of the score could carry the movie, as could the performances or the cinematography. Tim Burton paints a gloomy, ghastly, surreal world. Yet somehow, the camera finds artistic beauty in each shot.

“You know it when you see it” is the often stated maxim that separates what is vulgar from that which is art. When you watch Sweeney, I think you’ll agree that it stands tall in the socially redeeming value department. Still, don’t take your young children!

Some critics have found fault with this film’s casting of movie stars into roles normally filled with dramatic and/or operatic voices. And so, on yet another level this film is brilliant. The cast and production brings their own vision of this musical theater masterpiece to life. Just as a Bach fugue survives adaptation into a tuba quartet, the story of Sweeney Todd works, even thrives, with barely a trace of bel canto singing to be heard.

For this writer, the lesson is twofold. First, a great musical work will stand the test of time unblemished. It lives anew with each performance. Second, as artists, it’s our job to bring our own complete and compelling vision to the music we perform. Singers or not, Depp and company did just that.

10 Second Review: Nothing beats a great performance of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. This film is no exception. Don’t miss it!

Here’s a trailer

Dec 25

A Holiday Wish

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink

Christmas presence
by Ralph Marston

There is a light in the darkness. It is love; it is joy.

There is a pure and simple radiance with a positive, joyous
power. It warms the hearts of those who value peace and
love.

The spirit of Christmas transcends beliefs, traditions,
culture and customs. It speaks directly to the heart, of
love and grace, of giving and of renewal.

In the pure, limitless power of love, life is created and
sustained. In the radiance of this day, love’s presence is
joyously expressed again and again, in countless ways.

In this moment, new life begins. And love is the
ever-present purpose that drives every other purpose.

On this day, you have a glimpse of how truly blessed you
are. Give love, give joy, and you have even more.

Dec 24

Music Pick for your Holiday

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink

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If the holidays bring out your traditional streak (i.e. are you listening to Perry Como, Andy Williams and the like?), here’s an album you’ll be sure to love: John Rutter’s Music for Christmas, on the Hyperion Label. It’s choir (Polyphony) plus orchestra (The London Sinfonia), conducted by Stephen Layton. You can buy it on Amazon

Maybe I’m a bit late for this year but then again, there’s always next year. The choral sound is magnificent, the arrangements are sublime, and it’s just a lot of fun. If you like Rutter, you’ll love this!

May your holiday be blessed with good cheer, and may the music of the season whisper beautiful hopes and dreams in your ear!