Taruskin Wins Esteemed Kyoto Prize

UC Berkeley Department of Music Professor Emeritus Richard Taruskin has been awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize. A notable honor, the Kyoto Prize has long been regarded by many as the most significant award available in fields that are traditionally not honored with a Nobel Prize.

Bestowed annually since 1985 by the Inamori Foundation, the Prize is presented in three categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences, and Arts and Philosophy. Taruskin joins prominent scholars to win the award including Noam Chamsky, Jane Goodall, Witold Lutosławski, and fellow UC Berkeley faculty member Richard Karp. The Kyoto Prize also comes with a 50 million Yen prize that will be awarded at the official ceremonies in Kyoto, Japan in November.

“It’s obvious that he is the most important music historian of his generation in this country – perhaps in the world,” said Princeton University musicologist Simon Morrison of Taruskin.

A world-renowned musicologist, music historian, and critic Taruskin came to UC Berkeley Music in 1986. Previously he served numerous roles at Columbia University where he earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. While at Columbia he worked as choral conductor and played viola da gamba with the well-known Aulos Ensemble.

While at UC Berkeley he published widely including his widely-lauded six volume “Oxford History of Western Music” which examines the whole of the European musical history. He retired from the UC Berkeley Department of Music in 2014.

Read more:
SF Gate
PR Newswire
Musical America (login required)

Pacific Rim Music Festival Ensemble Korea, new music

Sang-hun Kim performs a solo ajaeng in a premiere performance of "When He Was 600 Years Old" by Hi Kyung Kim

Sang-hun Kim performs an ajaeng solo in a premiere performance of When He Was 600 Years Old by Hi Kyung Kim

A recent April noon concert featured Pacific Rim Music Festival Ensemble Korea, in the Bay Area for this and additional concerts at UC Santa Cruz, to be followed by a performance at the Italian Academy, Columbia University in New York. The program featured both preview concerts of new compositions by composer Shi-Hui Chen, chair and professor of composition at the Shepard School of Music at Rice University (When He Was 600 Years Old for ajaeng solo) which was about Noah’s Ark, as well as Berkeley Music Department chair and composer Cindy Cox (Naseon II), which is Korean for “spiral”. The instruments revolve around a central pitch, becoming increasingly embellished as the piece progresses. Naseon II is the second part of a larger work; the first part features an extended solo for the haegeum.  Cindy Cox visited Seoul in the summer of 2015 as a Fellow at the National Gugak Center, and while there studied traditional Korean music. She learned first hand about the gayageum, geomungto, and ajaeng, all zithers, but played in completely different ways. The large audience in Hertz Hall enthusiastically responded to the varied instruments and sounds of the colorful performance.

Ensemble Intercontemporain

In addition to working with graduate student composers noted Parisian Ensemble Intercontemporain traveled to the Bay Area to perform works by Berkeley composers in a concert sponsored by Cal Performances. On two consecutive nights in November, November Cal Performances concert In Hertz Hall, they presented

Noted Parisian new music group Ensemble Intercontemporain traveled to the Bay Area to participate in two concerts in Hertz Hall sponsored by Cal Performances. They performed recent works by Berkeley composers, including a We met as Sparks by music faculty composer Franck Bedrossian and Cluster X by Edmund Campion/Kurt Hentschlager. While at Berkeley, they gave readings of student works, appeared in composer colloquia, and on two consecutive nights in November, participated in a concert in Hertz Hall.

Under the artistic direction of composer Matthias Pintscher, the 31-member ensemble lent its “bracing expertise” (The Guardian, London) to two programs of 20th-century gems on November 6 & 7 in a concert sponsored by Cal Performances. Included in the concert programs were the American premiere of a new work, We met as Sparks, by Music Department faculty composer Franck Bedrossian, (part of his cycle of pieces inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson). In addition, Berkeley faculty member Edmund Campion premiered a new work with live video, and the ensemble’s founding father Pierre Boulez was represented with sur Incises, his magnificent reimagining of his solo piano piece Incises, for three concurrent trios of piano, harp, and percussion. While at Berkeley, they did readings of student compositions and participated in composer colloquia.

Cal Day 2016

photo of concerto soloist

Performances by concerto audition winners are a popular tradition every Cal Day; good music, great audience, and comfortable seats in Hertz Hall. Come hear the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra!

The Music Department was pleased to display a wide range of musical activities for Cal Day visitors. Concert manager Quelani Penland programmed this annual open house for UC Berkeley with exciting events located both inside and outside Hertz Memorial Concert Hall and Morrison Hall, for all to enjoy. Inside events included the kid-friendly Music Connection instrument workshop, as well as sonatas and concerti performed by  talented Music students on piano, cello, voice, and even organ! Outside events include African Dance and Drumming, Celli@Berkeley student cello quartets—and this year a newly-composed concerto with carillon bells in the Campanile got in on the action, performing a carillon duet with an electronic component. The exciting Gospel Chorus closed out the afternoon. Watch out for Cal Day each year, usually scheduled in spring!

The Mendelssohn Project at the Magnes

Photo of Nick Mathew by piano

Professor Nick Mathew with the Erard piano at the Schumann Bicentennial in Hertz Hall

Spring 2016 marks the opening and launch of the Mendelssohn Project at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. One exhibition, two historic pianos, and fourteen lectures/performances sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, the Departments of History and Music, and the Magnes Collection. An exhibit curated by Francesco Spagnolo, “From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn” reawakens 18th-century intercultural dialogs and the history of the Mendelssohn family in a salon-like setting animated by Oppenheim’s painting, Lavater and Lessing Visits Moses Mendelssohn (1865), ritual, art, paints, books and manuscripts from the Magnes Collection and the Erard piano, a historic piano on loan from UC Berkeley’s Department of Music. Built in 1854, it is a seven-octave grand piano, approximately eight feet long. In 2001, Charles Rus, organist at the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist, San Francisco, purchased the piano from a moving and storage company where it had been abandoned by its previous owner. In the spring of 2007, Rus sold the piano to the Department of Music of the University of California at Berkeley. » read more »

Orchestra musicians perform with the Danish String Quartet

Cal Performances invited the Danish String Quartet to perform at Zellerbach Hall in February. Quartet members also performed with UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra principals for an appreciative capacity crowd in a free Friday noon concert. The program included the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Octet in E-flat major, op. 20. The talented and fortunate few orchestra members who performed were Lucia Petito, concert master; Peter Hintz, violin; Jane Kim, viola; and Mosa Tsay, cello. The crowd cheered when Mosa caught the bouquet with one hand, thrown from opposite side of the stage; her other hand was holding the cello (see Mosa easily catching blurred flowers in photo above).

The Berkeley Carillon at 100


Campanile and gingko tree

Sather Tower was completed in 1915, and so for the past year or so the university has been celebrating its hundredth birthday with a wide-variety of events. Celebrations began right after school began with a multi-media event with sound, light, and the participation of the earth in “Natural Frequencies,” a collaboration between several departments on campus. The department’s composer Edmund Campion created a musical composition involving two carillonists (University Carillonist Jeff Davis and Assistant Tiffany Ng), and the vibrations of the earth during the moment of performance, filtered through an electronic version of the Class of 1928 Carillon. The program was produced several times, and the audiences were in the thousands.

A contest, ‘Hack The Bells,’ invited anyone to produce a work of art involving the Campanile. Many of the submissions were various takes on music, and the winning work, Harmonize Place, was written by one of the department’s graduate students in composition, Rama Gottfried.

» read more »

2016 master classes for UCB Symphony Orchestra; Tchaikovsky 4

Maestro David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, January 30th

Maestro Robertson conducts master class

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Maestro David Robertson conducts master class for UCBSO members

Orchestra master class with Maestro David Robertson, music director of the St. Louis Symphony.

The UCBSO rehearsed Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 as part of the master class. Maestro Robertson was in town with the St. Louis Symphony that weekend to perform with Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall. 

Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, L.A.Philharmonic, February 20th

Conducting Master class with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the LA Philharmonic. The students were Jane Kim, Nicholas Koo, and Melissa Panlasigui, conducting excerpts from Brahms Symphony No. 1. All three are graduates of UC Berkeley and conducting students of David Milnes, and are associated with UCBSO: Jane Kim is associate conductor, Melissa Panlasigui is resident conductor, and Nick Koo is production manager. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that when Gustavo Dudamel took a break, the Cal Band showed up and played their signature song, Maestro Dudamel conducted.


Cal Day Music 2016

201304_Calday_008ew1The Music Department is proud to offer a wide range of musical activities for Cal Day visitors on Saturday, April 16, from 10am to 4pm. Events take place in and around the music buildings, Hertz Memorial Concert Hall and Morrison Hall, for all to enjoy. Indoor events include the kid-friendly Music Connection Instrument Workshop, as well as sonatas and concerti performed by talented Music students—on piano, cello, voice, as well as on the Noack organ in Hertz Hall. Outdoor events include African drumming and dance, cello quartets (Celli@Berkeley), followed by the energetic Gospel Chorus. Check calday.berkeley.edu for a full roster of events.

The Big Bong

Tsar Bell

The Tsar Bell in Moscow, largest extant bell , has never been played.

Also do check out the premiere performance of “The Big Bong” for carillon duet and an electronic modeling broadcast of the Tsar Bell at noon, 2pm, and 4pm, recreating the sound of the 218-ton Tsar Bell in Moscow, Russia. The Tsar Bell, largest bell in the world, has never been played because it was too heavy to lift from the casting pit. A structure was put over the bell to protect it, but in 1737 during the Great Fire of Moscow the roof caught fire. Guards sprayed water on the bell which caused it to crack several times, and an eleven-ton piece cracked off. The Tsar Bell has rested on a massive plinth in the Kremlin outside the Ivan the Great bell-tower since 1836 when it was finally raised from the pit, nearly a century after it was cast.

» read more »

Piano Institute 2015

On Sunday, October 25th, the Department of Music hosted a full day of piano recitals, lectures, masterclasses, lessons, and discussion featuring a noon concert recital on period instruments by exciting up-and-coming fortepianist David Hyun-su Kim, Turkish-born Schumann-and-Brahms specialist, Sezi Seskir of Bucknell University, and Andrew Willis of UNCG School of Music, Theatre and Dance, an eminent historian of the piano and leading authority of historical performance. Their joint noon concert on Sunday included Schumann’s piano cycle Carnaval, Chopin’s C-sharp-minor Prelude, op. 45, Brahms’s op. 116 Fantasien, op. 116 (1892), and Beethoven’s Fantasia, op. 77.

The visit of such artists represents a unique educational opportunity for the talented undergraduates of the music department’s piano program. More and more, we see that gifted young pianists choose to become double majors at Berkeley. This is the fourth year that the Piano Institute has taken place in Hertz and Morrison Halls. Faculty pianists Nicholas Mathew and James Davies organized the popular event. » read more »


photo of Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho, 2015 Bloch Professor in Music

After nearly three years of advance planning, world-renowned composer Kaija Saariaho took up residence in Berkeley as the 2015 Bloch Professor in Music. Everybody pitched in including the Department of Music, The Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), The Berkeley Symphony, The University Symphony, The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the ECO Ensemble, the Left Coast Ensemble and many others. I was able to coordinate Saariaho’s residency with a number of ancillary visits from her equally famous collaborators. Her husband, composer and audiovisual artist, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, accepted an invitation to be the first recipient of the David Wessel Residency in Music and Science; Cellist and Regent’s Lecturer Anssi Karttunen agreed to be the soloist in the Cal Performances Saariaho portrait concert with David MIlnes and the ECO Ensemble; Camilla Hoitenga, Jennifer Koh, and Susanna Malkki all agreed to appear on the stage with Ms. Saariaho for lectures and live performances. Cal Performances’ Matias Tarnolpolsky moderated the lecture series with Department of Music faculty Mary Ann Smart and others. It was miraculous that everyone showed up, and it all added up to a marvelous Bay Area festival surrounding the work of Kaija Saariaho. We are looking forward to welcoming Ms. Saariaho back at Berkeley this summer as a guest of Cal Performances OJAI North Festival.

Edmund Campion
Professor of Music
Director, Center for New Music and Audio Technologies

In addition to master classes and private lessons with student composers, Ms. Saariaho participated in a number of appearances, including five public Bloch lectures featuring conversations with several of her distinguished collaborators and a colloquium featuring violinist Jennifer Koh. Ms. Saariaho also appeared at other Bay Area venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Mill Valley, with many performances by the Berkeley Symphony, Cal Performances Eco Ensemble, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and Left Coast Ensemble. Her residency was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of Music, the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, Cal Performances, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

In a Center for New Music online review, Adam Fong writes that the Saariaho residency is a “reassertion of the SF Bay Area as an international new music hub…the Bay Area’s community of enthusiasts for new, experimental, creative music has long been supercharged by a steady influx of artists from across the musical spectrum,” (including composer-performer-educator George Lewis two years ago), centered around the UC Berkeley Department of Music and CNMAT.

Piano Institute 2015 at Hertz Hall!

Photo of Seymour Lipscomb

The Piano Institute 2015: David Kim, Sezi Seskir, Andrew Willis, Hertz Hall, Sunday October 25, 10am–6pm including a  NOON CONCERT with Schumann, Chopin, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Calling all pianophiles! Hertz Hall hosts a full day of piano recitals, lectures, masterclasses, lessons, and discussion on Sunday October 25, featuring a noon concert recital on period instruments by exciting up-and-coming fortepianist David Hyun-su Kim, Turkish-born Schumann-and-Brahms specialist, Sezi Seskir of Bucknell University, and Andrew Willis of UNCG School of Music, Theatre and Dance, an eminent historian of the piano and leading authority of historical performance.

Their joint noon concert on Sunday includes Schumann’s piano cycle Carnaval, Chopin’s C-sharp-minor Prelude, op. 45, Brahms’s op. 116 Fantasien, op. 116 (1892), and Beethoven’s Fantasia, op. 77. This fabulous event is truly not to be missed! At 3pm, the performers will convene again in Hertz Hall to discuss “Historically-Informed Performance and Modern Musicianship,” “Musical Topoi in Brahms’ Late Piano Works,”
 and “The Baroque Fortepiano.” At 4:30pm that same afternoon, Andrew Willis has kindly offered to conduct a public masterclass featuring two senior music majors in UC Berkeley’s piano program, the talented James Lim and Theodora Serbanescu-Martin.

Due to generosity of our patrons, all events at The Piano Institute 2015 are FREE and open to the public.

The Piano Institute began four years ago when Suzanne Macahilig (alumna of the department, authority on Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and student of Seymour Lipkin) approached the music department to ask if we would be prepared to host a piano-related long weekend, for which she would do the hard work of fundraising and organization for her fledgling non-profit. The department jumped at the opportunity, because the profile of the keyboard had already been boosted by the recent appointment of pianist-professors Nicholas Mathew and James Q. Davies to the music faculty, to join Professor Davitt Moroney, who had for many years run a vibrant keyboards program for music majors from Morrison Hall.  The Piano Institute seemed a perfect opportunity to expand these efforts still further, and integrate into the department’s more general strategy to expand the profile of piano-playing for our students and build a piano-playing community at Berkeley. Added to this, the event seemed to chime with renewed pedagogical efforts to engage active learning models on campus by combining the best of scholarship with the best of performance. These emerging priorities are reflected in a series of proposed curricula changes that are due to be implemented in the music department in the very near future.

The visit of such artists as David Kim, Sezi Seskir, and Andrew Willis represents a unique educational opportunity for the talented undergraduates of the music department’s piano program. More and more, we see that gifted young pianists choose to become double majors at Berkeley rather than go the traditional conservatory route – as the openings for graduates from the large US conservatories have diminished. Several pianists currently in the program are winning major international competitions. We want to be sure that our recently revised undergraduate curriculum provides enough opportunities for these talented undergraduates; collaborating closely with dynamic new arrivals at Berkeley, such as Cal Performances (for example), and enlisting the help of friends of the piano in the Bay Area and beyond.