In this issue: “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from The Hard Nut in 360° choreographed by Mark Morris and performed by Mark Morris Dance Group; Debussy’s “The Snow is Dancing” (from Children’s Corner) and Rameau’s (arr. Ólafsson) “The Arts and the Hours” (from Les Boréades) performed by Víkingur Ólafsson; Beethoven’s Allegro Molto from String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, Razumovsky performed by Dover Quartet; “When I Say” performed by Jazzmeia Horn; A Hanukkah Music Sampler featuring Olga Avigail & Tango Attack, Flory Jagoda, Adam Sandler, Daveed Diggs, and Tom Lehrer

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Now, More Than Ever: Issue 48

Getting further into the holiday spirit, we begin today with visions of dancing snowflakes and conclude with a special Hanukkah music sampler. In between, we’ll enjoy a brilliant Icelandic pianist’s take on works by Debussy and Rameau, marvel to some of Beethoven’s most demanding music for string quartet, and thrill to a virtuoso display of scat singing by a young jazz singer already drawing comparisons to Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter, and Nancy Wilson. Something for everyone, from Now, More Than Ever!

“Waltz of the Snowflakes” from The Hard Nut in 360°

Mark Morris, choreographer
Mark Morris Dance Group

If you were to take an informal survey of the Cal Performances audience, asking patrons to rank their favorite moments from all of the concerts and productions they’ve enjoyed at UC Berkeley, I dare say that the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut would top the list (receiving strong competition, of course, from Alvin Ailey’s Revelations!). We took a look at this iconic dance work way back in Issue 2 (March 30) of this blog—something well worth rereading for some fascinating background concerning its history. (Just where did the idea come from for those fistfuls of “snow”? And who cleans up afterwards?)

This dazzling video, filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music using special 360° technology, affords the opportunity to place yourself right in the center of the action and become immersed in the physical reality of Morris’ beloved production. Just click/hold down and drag (back and forth, up and down) on the video for the full effect!

And speaking of The Hard Nut, our dear friends at the Mark Morris Dance Group are planning a special Home for the Holidays “Family Fun Day” on Saturday, December 12. Co-presented by Cal Performances, the event features Dance with MMDG classes for all ages to learn excerpts from the “Snow” and “Flowers” dances from The Hard Nut, a holiday sing-along with company music director Colin Fowler, and a hot chocolate and cookie recipe swap.

Debussy: “The Snow is Dancing” (from Children’s Corner)
Rameau (arr. Ólafsson): “The Arts and the Hours” (from Les Boréades)

Víkingur Ólafsson, piano

What could be a better follow-up to “Waltz of the Snowflakes” than Claude Debussy’s enchanting “The Snow is Dancing”? This comes from the composer’s Children’s Corner, a suite written between 1906 and 1908 and dedicated to his daughter when she was a toddler.

As Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson points out in his commentary, Jean-Philippe Rameau was Debussy’s favorite composer, something that makes the second selection here so appropriate. That Ólafsson made this transcription simply because he loves Rameau’s original music for Les Boréades speaks to the sincerity of his musicianship.

Ólafsson has made quite a name for himself as a Bach performer. (Turn back to the beginning of this video and you’ll see why!) He’s deeply resourceful and imaginative and the notes truly come to life under his fingers. One of the most promising pianists of his generation, Ólafsson has not yet performed in the Bay Area, but I look forward to seeing him here often in the future.

Beethoven: Allegro Molto from String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, Razumovsky

Dover Quartet

If you tuned in on December 10 for the premiere of our Cal Performances at Home streamed debut performance by the Dover Quartet (available online for viewing through March 10), you’ll have some idea of why this group is attracting so much attention lately (including a recent 2021 Grammy Award nomination). The Dover musicians, all things considered, are still pretty young, and they’ve only been together for just about a decade. All the more amazing that this performance is from a full seven years ago!

This extraordinary fugue, which closes the last of Beethoven’s great Razumovsky string quartets, is notoriously difficult, requiring both evenness of playing and supreme virtuosity from each performer. Just consider the astonishing section that begins at 2:09, featuring a passage repeated by each instrument, in which the player moves further and further up a single string, really fast. Watching the music move from violin, where the distance to be covered on that string is relatively small, to the viola and then the cello, where we have now doubled the ground covered on the fingerboard… well, it’s amazing that these gifted artists seem to manage it so easily—and with such uniformity of approach and sound. It all makes you think, “Of course, this is how it must be played!”

“When I Say”

Jazzmeia Horn, vocals
Irwin Hall, saxophone
Keith Brown, piano
Endea Owens, bass
Anwar Marshall, drums

Back in April (Now, More Than Ever, Issue 5), we took a look at a cover of the wonderful Betty Carter staple “Tight,” performed by the red-hot Dallas-born and New York-based vocalist Jazzmeia Horn. This astounding young singer is working hard to keep the tradition of scat singing alive and thriving, and it’s a joy to watch someone perform these kinds of vocal acrobatics with such skill and self-assurance.

Horn’s 2017 debut album, A Social Call, was largely focused on jazz standards, but this song comes from her sophomore effort, Love and Liberation, a 2019 album mostly comprised of originals by Horn herself.

A Hanukkah Music Sampler

featuring Olga Avigail & Tango Attack, Flory Jagoda, Adam Sandler, Daveed Diggs, and Tom Lehrer

In recognition of Hanukkah, which began at sundown on December 10, I thought it would be nice to include a few appropriate songs (besides those that give me sweat-inducing flashbacks of Hebrew School!).

“Rivkele” (“My Dear Rebecca”) – Yiddish Tango

Music by Zygmunt Białostocki
Olga Avigail & Tango Attack

Headlining this Hanukkah music sampler is a terrific performance by Olga Avigail & Tango Attack (pianist Hadrian Tabęcki, bandoneon player Grzegorz Bożewicz, guitarist Piotr Malicki), filmed in Warsaw’s Cultural Center Wilanów. I love how the producers of this video took great pains to recreate the atmosphere of a pre-WWII Polish nightclub.

From the website Polish Jewish Cabaret:

[This] was perhaps Polish Jewish composer Zygmunt Białostocki’s most beloved and often-recorded song. It’s said that people requested it so often at the nightclubs, they would [ask for] it a second time while it was still playing the first time! Białostocki used snatches of familiar chasidic niggunim (melodies) to tell the story of a poor Jewish shopkeeper’s assistant who falls in love with a handsome goy when he comes to buy newspapers and dreams of a better life with him…

Zygmunt Białostocki was murdered by Germans, most probably in 1942, in the Nazi deathcamp in Treblinka, following the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto.

He saw her first when he went to buy something
And after that time would go often and ask her “Be mine,
I’ll shower you with gold. I’m the town’s nobleman.
Put aside your pauper’s clothes.
Wait, I’lll make you a queen. I won’t ask more than a small dowry.
For me you’ll convert [to Christianity], and in my palace I’ll take you to me…”

Oh, you my destined one, your sweet words are as beautiful as you are.
But my father and mother and the whole town will curse me:
“Rivkele, the small charming beautiful one, has run off with a Christian
And instead of a synagogue she goes to church.”
I’ll only be your friend. A huge outcry in town, that would be a real horror.
My father and mother would cry, my brother and sister and the whole house.
This is my beloved. Your sweet words shall remain holy and pure.
But our love, our holy love, must remain a dream.

And finally, a few additional personal favorites, some of which don’t demand (or deserve!) commentary. Enjoy!

“Ocho Kandelikas”

Flory Jagoda, guitar and vocals

Flory Jagoda—the legendary National Heritage Fellowship Award-winning Ladino singer and songwriter—wrote the immensely popular “Ocho Kandelikas” in celebration of Hanukkah. It has been performed by audiences—including countless schoolchildren—around the world, and covered by artists including Pink Martini, Alisa Fineman, and Idina Menzel. Here Jagoda performs with Susan Gaeta and Howard Bass.

Beautiful Hanukkah is here…
Eight candles for me!
Beautiful Hanukkah is here…
Eight candles for me, oh…

One little candle, two little candles,
Three little candles, four little candles,
Five little candles, six little candles,
Seven little candles, eight candles for me!

There will be a lot of parties
With joy and happiness!
There will be a lot of parties
With joy and happiness!

We’re going to eat little pastries
With small almonds and honey!
We’re going to eat little pastries
With small almonds and honey, oh…

“The Hanukkah Song”

Adam Sandler

“Puppy for Hanukkah”

Daveed Diggs

“Hanukkah in Santa Monica”

Tom Lehrer

Now, More Than Ever Full Playlist

Now, More Than Ever Spotify Playlist

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