Tag Archives: Beethoven

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra

My Dad and I had fun at the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra concert this past weekend. Thanks to my Peace Corps friend, Dorothy – who also happens to serve on the Sustaining Board with ProMusica, we were treated to a pair of complimentary tickets to last Saturday’s performance at the Southern Theatre.

Here’s what was on the program.

AUERBACH Eterniday (Homage to W.A .Mozart) for Bass Drum, Celesta, and Strings

MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1

Under the direction of Maestro David Danzmayr – who is a fun and animated conductor to watch – the program started with an introduction to Ms. Lera Auerbach herself who was both the composer of the first piece and the soloist for the Mozart Piano concerto.

Eterniday

I don’t know of much music that’s been composed by women, so it was cool to hear her music. She seemed quite likable. I’m almost sorry I didn’t like her music at all. Auerbach and Maestro Danzmayr took a few minutes to discuss the first piece with the audience, called Eterniday, which was written as an homage to Mozart.

There was nothing in it – even after the explanation of the piece itself – that made me think of Mozart. It was a bunch of hard, dissonent, glissando-filled music that – according to a friend of mine who was also there on Saturday – just sounded angry. She couldn’t figure out how it was an homage to Mozart either.

That said, the concertmaster, Katherin McLin, was absolutely incredible and did an amazing job with the many solos throughout the piece. The principal double bass, cello and viola did some impressive playing, too, but the violin! Wow! I swear that piece had her playing the absolute full range of the instrument.

One interesting tidbit about this piece is that it was written twice. Auerbach had written it and was traveling when an electrical fire started in her music studio burning down everything from the piano to her newly-written manuscript. I don’t care if you like something or not. That’s just the worst thing that could happen to a composer. Imagine how much music has been lost throughout history because of fires or floods or other such disasters. It’s just heartbreaking.

Speaking of Mozart

The Mozart piece was nice – Piano Concerto #20. The soloist (also the composer of the 1st piece) had a rather heavy touch on the keys – like I do when I play that same piece, though quite honestly, I only play the second movement. The heavy touch is one thing I don’t really like about my own playing! I don’t know – maybe I’m pickier on this piece even knowing that she still played it better than I ever could, but it just didn’t seem like her performance was polished. It was as if playing the piano solo were an afterthought, a side gig to the performing of her own music that was played that same evening.

As for the cadenzas – bleck. I absolutely did not care for them. We were playing Mozart now – she already had a chance to show her 21st century tastes. They don’t belong in 18th century music.

We were in a concert hall, not an SCA event, so they didn’t fit. I did not like them one bit. It’s as if we were listening to this lovely 18th century music and then BAM! We were yanked right out of it for no reason. When I go to a concert to hear a piano concerto by Mozart, I expect to hear a piano concerto by Mozart. I know that traditionally, pianists can create their own cadenzas, but this was billed as Mozart, not Mozart with a twist of Boulez or Lindberg.

She did say that she added that cadenza, which had originally been written for another pianist, to be more introspective and meditative so she could give it a 21st century perspective.

My line of thinking is this: Please save the 21st century perspective for 21st century music.

Maybe I’m a purist – I like original Hershey’s chocolate and I think our National Anthem should be sung as written, but I also love classical era music. So – don’t mess with Mozart!

Which leads me to the Beethoven

This was the absolute best piece of the evening – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1! ProMusica musicians – you outdid yourselves. OMG – WOW!

Obviously his earliest symphony as it’s Symphony No 1, it wasn’t as obviously recognizable as Beethoven. It was kind of Beethoven before he was Beethoven. You could definitely pick out parts here and there that were reminiscent, as it were, of his later works, but this was music of a man perhaps still figuring out his own style and it was just gorgeous.

This symphony was the greatest part of the entire concert and Maestro Danzmayr had to have been having so much fun. He was bouncing around and dancing the whole time – totally getting into it. His enjoyment was infectious. I would love to have seen his face while he conducted! For my part, THIS piece deserved the standing ovation it received from a very enthusiastic audience!

WELL DONE ProMusica! Thank you for an evening of great music!

Boston Symphony Orchestra: November 22, 1963

We all love or respect or admire President John F. Kennedy for different reasons.  As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I am grateful to President Kennedy because he started an organization that is now – and forever will be – near and dear to my heart, the United States Peace Corps.  It let me give something of myself in the service of others yet it wasn’t until my return that, like all returned volunteers, I realized I gained far more than I ever thought I could give.

President Kennedy was shot and killed on this day 50 years ago.  It was before my time, but I know I’ve talked about this with my parents who were both attending Hanover College at the time.  Mom told me how she was in a freshman year biology class when she heard the news.

With my generation, we know where we were for the Challenger disaster: in band class. And sadly, where we were when for the Columbia disaster: halfway home after serving in the Peace Corps.

I saw this today on Upworthy.com

Taken from there:

In a powerful — and stunningly level-headed — decision, the orchestra’s music director, Erich Leinsdorf, sent librarian William Shisler to get the music for the funeral march from Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony. Shisler quickly distributed the music onstage, letting the musicians know what had happened.

This recording, from WGBH in Boston, begins when Leinsdorf takes the stage to announce the terrible news to the audience and captures the BSO’s heart-rending performance of the Beethoven symphony — a work they found out they were playing only minutes before.

This isn’t a video, just a recording.  It’s beautifully played, so listen to it all.  Don’t listen to it all, but you’ll only need to hear the first 30 seconds to hear everyone’s reaction to the news of the assassination of our president. How the musicians – especially the winds – were able to play at all is well beyond me.

May we never again have to share in such an experience.

Beethoven, Elgar and Montague

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing yet another fabulous performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, only this time – I had five other people with me! So instead of just writing about the performance, I thought I’d ask my friends and family to share their thoughts on the concert.

On last weekend’s program were:

Invictus – by OSU alumnus, Stephen Montague.

Violin Concerto by Edward Elgar with Ilya Gringolts on Violin (OMG he was so good!)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Maestro Thomas Wilkins was on the podium.

Meet my friends and family: Sarah and Bernadette are coworkers of mine. Mom and Dad are…well…Mom and Dad. And Ben, is my 11-year old nephew. Sarah has season tickets with me. This was Bernadette’s first-ever CSO concert. Mom and Dad go at least once or twice per year and Ben went with Sarah and me to his first concert last year for Beethoven’s 6th.

The concert was really great. It truly was. It started out a bit weird, got better with an amazing violinist then ended with the piece we all loved, but hey – don’t take my word for it. Take theirs!

MONTAGUE – INVICTUS

Sarah: “I really liked it”

Bernadette: I’m impressed with the composer…..but I am not too keen with present day composers, you know? I mean…..the piece itself sounded like JAWA and Star Wars or Galactica or something. it was interesting though.

Mom: I liked the idea that it was composed by a “hometown” guy, but I cannot say that I enjoyed it.  Very discordant, which was his point, I guess.  I prefer ‘musical’ music – with a melody.  This, to me, was more like 8 minutes of musicians’ warm-up.

Dad: Interesting, reminded me of Stravinsky.  Not my favorite style of music.  Could not find theme.  However, as a former percussionist, I thought the use of E-drums was kind of exciting touch.    Would not attend just for this style.  Prefer classical.

Ben: Meh. I didn’t like it.

Heather: Funky. Not something I could listen to a lot, but nice to try something new! I especially liked the percussion.

Sarah and Bernie

Sarah and Bernie

ELGAR – VIOLIN CONCERTO / ILYA GRINGOLTS – VIOLIN

Sarah:  I thought he was amazing. It was a little on the longer side but still very good.

Bernadette: OMG!  I never heard this violin concerto before by Elgar…..but my gosh!!!! The violinist was fantastic!!!!!!!  I didn’t hear ANY, ANY slip or slide – no mistake!!!!  And his notes were in tune and of perfect pitch – to the highest note!!!! I love him!

Mom: Loved the first movement. The second and third dragged and seemed unnecessary. The violinist was spectacular. Every note was clear and lovely. Amazing talent. Would love to hear him again.

Dad: He was fantastic. Made Elgar acceptable. Elgar seems to draw themes out too much for my taste.

Ben: It was ok. I got bored.

Heather:  Beautiful! (Bit long in the middle) but man oh man – Ilya Gringolts was absolutely fantastic!  He played exceptionally well and had the most beautiful tone! First and third movements were the best (especially the first).

Mom-Dad-Ben

Mom, Dad and Ben

BEETHOVEN’S 5TH SYMPHONY

Sarah:  I think they did a really good job with the Beethoven too - and that is one of my favs.

Bernadette: Always loved Beethoven….and his story (as well as Chopin’s and Mozart’s) – I’m sure all of them had a colorful life…..but you can hear the passion in his music! That 1st movement (the popular one) was also a piece of mine when I was a teenager – playing the organ!  =)

Mom: Beethoven’s 5th is one of my favorites anyway and the orchestra performed it so very well.  Loved it.

Dad: One of my favorites. Symphony did a superb job. Had me on edge of my seat watching sections play and enjoying.

Ben: I really liked watching the conductor!

Heather: LOVED IT!  Beethoven is awesome to begin with, but the CSO did a great job – especially in the last movement. The first few movements seemed like warm ups to the last one when there was just an explosion of beautiful sound. It sounded like they were really getting into it. I loved it. Love – love – LOVED IT!  I swear I’m not just saying this because I met them – the French horns were awesome!! WOW!

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Sarah: Overall I enjoyed it

Bernadette: I like the conductor…he was very ummm, what’s that word??? Not comedic, but “showy?” He was great! I enjoyed him as well as the orchestra  BRAVO to the whole concert! =)

Mom: So fun to watch the conductor. I do not normally pay so much attention to the conductor as I would not want him/her to be a distraction; but in this case, I made an exception. His entire body language enhanced the music. Some parts of the symphony just called for a nuance of movement, while others brought in all parts of his body.

Dad: (Maestro Wilkins) was really into all three selections. He seemed to immerse himself into Beethoven’s 5th. He added history and relevance in his pre-remarks. Would like to see more of him. Hire him when current one leaves. Overall-concert was great. I don’t have to listen only to favorites.  Kudos to symphony for another great performance.

Ben: (about Maestro Wilkins) He was cool!  Sometimes you didn’t see his arms; then they appeared, seemingly out of nowhere!

Heather: Great concert! I especially loved how Maestro Wilkins put everything in historical context prior to playing Beethoven’s 5th.

Oh – and for the record, on the way up to Mom and Dad’s – Dad (completely unsolicited) complimented the horn section, too! “The French horns sounded excellent.  They really did a good job tonight,” is what he told me in the car.

So, about that Schumann Concert Piece for Four Horns for next year…

 

A Few Good Insults

I’m not sure if these count as a bit of sarcastic wit combined with outright insults (I think it’s definitely a bit of both), but I thought you might get a kick out of reading these.  These are from a collection of 21 of the Best Insults posted recently by Classic FM.  Classic FM posts a lot of great stuff, so it’s worth spending a little bit of time on their site.

These are pretty fun.  Not so subtle as one might expect!

“Listening to the fifth symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes.”

- Aaron Copland

“I like your opera – I think I will set it to music.”

 - Beethoven

“What a good thing this isn’t music.”

- Rossini on Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

“It’s beautiful and boring. Too many pieces finish too long after the end.”

 - Stravinsky on Handel’s Theodora

“Wagner has beautiful moments, but awful quarters of an hour.”

 - Rossini on Wagner

“He likes what is coarse, unpolished, and ugly.”

 - Tchaikovsky on Mussorgsky

“What a giftless bastard!”

 - Tchaikovsky on Brahms

“Handel is only fourth rate. He is not even interesting.”

 - Tchaikovsky on Handel

“If he’d been making shell cases during the war it would have been better for music.”

 - Saint-Saëns on Ravel

“I liked the opera very much. Everything but the music.”

 - Britten on Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress

“He’d be better off shovelling snow than scribbling on manuscript paper.”

 - Richard Strauss on Schoenberg

“Bach on the wrong notes.”

 - Prokofiev on Stravinsky

Yeah.  Definitely not subtle, but kind of fun, nonetheless, don’t you think?!

Must See Classical Music in Columbus

Columbus, Ohio is a city filled with arts organizations and for those of us interested in listening to classical music, it provides us with a wealth of options.  The classical music concert season is starting in the next few weeks and whether you’re a veteran of going to see the symphony or looking to venture out for the first time, I’ve put together a list of what I think are some must-see concerts.

For those of you who might be new symphony goers, the classical music concert season follows the school year, so it starts in the fall a few weeks into football season and goes through collegiate finals weeks in May. After that, it usually takes a few weeks off before starting the summer pops season.  Plenty of music – all year long!

This is not an all-encompassing list – heck, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has 15 classical music series concerts this year alone – but it does offer up a nice sampling of things to try in the coming months.  Check this out – there’s something for everybody.  Maybe we’ll even see each other at some of these.  I sure hope so because there’s some great music on upcoming programs and the musicians are fabulous!

Columbus Symphony OrchestraComplete schedule

Mahler’s Symphony #2 – Resurrection – Friday, October 5. at the Ohio Theatre

Includes the Columbus Symphony orchestra playing alongside the Columbus Symphony Chorus.  Canadian soprano Dominique LaBelle, who sang at last year’s season opener of Beethoven’s 9th, will again be one of the soloists.  And if you thought Beethoven’s 9th was good, you shouldn’t miss this!  Be sure to listen for the French horns!

Beethoven’s 5th – Friday/Saturday, November 15-16 at the Ohio Theatre

Who didn’t love the movie Immortal Beloved with Gary Oldman as Ludwig von Beethoven?  Everyone recognizes his well-known 5th Symphony – heard anywhere from in the movie to the Google Chrome commercials and by everyone else who marks a dramatic moment by singing these four notes: DA DA DA DAAAAAAAA!

Rhapsody in Blue – Saturday, February 8 at the Ohio Theatre

Want a chance to hear that fabulous clarinet glissando at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue?  Here’s your chance – in an evening of nothing but music by George Gershwin.  One of the premier interpreters of Gershwin, pianist Peter Nero plays a variety of music such as Rhapsody in Blue, S’Wonderful, Someone to Watch Over Me, etc.  I bet that if you close your eyes, you’ll even be able to picture Gene Kelly singing and dancing!

Mozart’s Requiem – Friday/Saturday, April 11-12 at the Ohio Theatre

Speaking of movies, Mozart’s Requiem, left unfinished at the time of his death in 1791, but later finished by one of his students, is probably (in this writer’s humble opinion) the most beautiful piece of music ever written in the entire history of man. (No pressure, CSO!) It was the piece of music depicted at the end of the 1984 movie Amadeus that was being dictated by a very sick Mozart to an awed Antonio Salieri. Whether what happened on film was really true doesn’t matter as it’s a beautiful beautiful beautiful piece of music that you should see performed live if you possibly can.

Not enough Mozart for you? Never fear – there are two other concerts earlier in the season (November and February) that also feature his music.

ProMusica Chamber OrchestraComplete Schedule

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor -   Saturday/Sunday, November 9-10 at the Southern Theatre

Violinist Vadim Gluzman, who played the Alban Berg violin concerto with the CSO last May, is back to play one of Felix Mendelssohn’s most famous pieces.  While it gets a lot of play time on the radio, a live performance should not be missed!

Mozart Mass in C-Minor – Saturday/Sunday, February 22,23 at the Pontifical College Josephinum/Southern Theatre

Not to keep referring to movies, but if you have the Amadeus soundtrack, then you’re familiar with the Kyrie from this mass by W.A. Mozart, featuring soprano, Felicity Lott.  In the movie, it was in the scene when Mozart’s wife took some of his music to Maestro Salieri and was being played at the point he dropped all the manuscripts on the floor because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  Beautiful! This live version features the Lancaster Chorale under the direction of newly appointed music director, David Danzmayr.

Opera ColumbusComplete Schedule

Madama Butterfly – Friday/Sunday, November 22, 24 at the Southern Theatre

Puccini’s most beloved opera about how a Japanese maiden falls in love with an American Naval officer.  Originally a flop when premiered in Milan back in 1904 it has since become one of the most highly performed operas around the world.  Featuring Priti Ghandi as Cio-Cio San and Harold Meers as Pinkerton, this is performed in collaboration with the Ohio State University.

The Pirates of Penzance – Saturday/Sunday, March 8-9 at the Southern Theatre

Considered “light opera,” this Gilbert and Sullivan work features the character, Frederic, who is mistakenly apprenticed to the pirates through his 21st birthday – something made more challenging because of his having been born on February 29th!  With a constant theme of duty, everything works out in the end with this fun story.

Ballet MetComplete Schedule

Swan Lake – October 18-20 at the Ohio Theatre, October 25-27 at the Aranoff Theatre

Tchaikovsky’s beautiful ballet about a princess who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse only able to return to life as a princess if a prince swears his love to her.

The Nutcracker – December 12-24 at the Ohio Theatre

Don’t miss an opportunity to see Clara and her Nutcracker prince for yet another wonderful Tchaikovsky ballet.  With two weeks’ worth of performances, there’s a chance for everyone to see one!

Early Music in ColumbusComplete Schedule

Twelfth Night – Saturday/Sunday, January 4-5 at the First Congregational Church

The Early Interval will perform music from the 12th -17th centuries in France, Italy, Spain and North Africa on traditional instruments such as the recorder, bass dulcian, crumhorns, medieval lute, chitarone, rebecs, violin and pipe and tabor.  Don’t know what some of those are? No worries. Neither do I, but I look forward to finding out in this celebration of music marking the end of the Christmas season and welcoming in the new year.

Westerville Symphony OrchestraComplete schedule

Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 – Saturday, May 10 at Fritsche Theatre in Cowan Hall – Otterbein University

Didn’t get enough of the high seas with the Pirates of Penzance? Great! This symphony is actually titled “A Sea Symphony: A Song for All Seas, All Ships” and has text from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” It will be performed next spring along with vocalists from a variety of choral ensembles at Otterbein University.

Chamber Music Columbus - Complete Schedule

Dvorak Quintet in A Major, Op 81  – Saturday, November 16 at the Southern Theatre

The Pacifica Quartet plays along with pianist Marc-André Hamelin, who played just beautifully last year with the CSO. They’ll be performing quintets by Shostakovich, Dvorak and Ornstein.

Ravel and Mozart – Saturday, January 18 at the Southern Theatre

The Escher String Quartet will be playing Ravel’s quartet in F Major, Mozart’s Quartet in G Major, K.387 and Ainsi la Nuit by Henri Dutilleux.

New Albany Symphony OrchestraComplete Schedule

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – Sunday, October 13 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts

If you didn’t get to see the 9th, Ode to Joy, last year with the CSO, then don’t miss your chance to see it next month in New Albany, OH with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, featuring the Capital University Chapel Choir.

Holiday Concerts

Looking for some great Christmas music?  Most of these ensembles offer up some great music sometime in December that allows for audience participation and enjoyment.  Don’t worry, I’ll post it all later on, but between various pops concerts, the Nutcracker and more traditional music, I promise you’ll have plenty of options.  If you’d like, you can go ahead and get a head start by checking out their complete schedules linked above.

French Horn Week – coming up the week of September 23-27 here on Giocosity! 

Emotion Behind the Music

Are you a musician?  Do you sing?  Do you play an instrument?

Why?

What inspires you play or sing or perform? Where does that come from? What is inside you that creates your need, your desire to play music?

My Piano

When I was a kid, I was one of those hyperactive children from you know where – a kid only a mother could love!  (Thanks, Mom!)  Heck – I couldn’t even grasp spelling at first, so Mom and Dad – former teachers both – made it a game and taught me how to spell everything backwards so I could then flip them around and spell them forwards! While I don’t still do that today, I can say that it worked. That lesson stuck!  Growing up, I never really played sports.  And though I loved to read, I was never really a writer – that was my brother’s forte.  I only had music.  I started piano lessons when I was 5.  I played J.S Bach (Who hasn’t played Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring or any of his inventions?) and also some then-popular stuff like Piano Man by Billy Joel or the Entertainer by Scott Joplin then recently made even more popular thanks to The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. (Ahh…Paul Newman!)

Every day after school when I’d be frustrated, I’d go straight to the piano.  That was the only – well, best – thing I had available to me to relieve stress.  The music I played was something that had an appropriate place for me for any emotion.  If I were so angry that my hands were shaking, I would play Rachmaninoff – a great man who gave us lots of quadruple Fs in his Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. Beethoven’s Sonata Pathéthique was good for that as well.

Though if sad, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata would inevitably change my mood for the better by the end.  From there I progressed to the nice, symmetrical, always dependable, always resolving J.S. Bach.  As my mood lightened, I could then move on to some C.P.E. Bach and then some sonatas by Mozart, Clementi and Kuhlau.  Sometimes it took a while and I’d have to play through and relive every emotion on the keys before my mom figured it was OK to walk in and ask me how my day went by which time I’d give a positive account of the events. Though – I’m sure she always knew better.

Every Emotion Known to Man

Music encompasses every emotion known to man. It has to!  What inspires people to write music in the first place, but an emotional experience – sometimes a very serious and traumatic experience.  Think about the background of one of Tori Amos’ best albums: Little Earthquakes.  Many of these songs such as “Me and a Gun” or “Silent All These Years” were written to express her emotions over having been raped after a performance she gave.  Beautiful music can come from very dark places and for her, it helped with the healing process, though I imagine no one ever fully heals from something like that.

Adele’s album “21″ was all written starting the day after she broke up with her boyfriend.  On the album “An Innocent Man” Billy Joel wrote the song “This Night” about Elle Macpherson.  On a cool note, no pun intended, he also incorporated Beethoven’s Sonata Pathéthique into that chorus.  Listen for it!

At Last I Can Start Suffering…

In the classic movie, Singin’ in the Rain, Donald O’Connor’s Character, Cosmo Brown, was told by the head of the studio that because of the success of the first Talkie, The Jazz Singer, they were going to turn their next movie into a talking picture.  His response: “At last I can start suffering and write that symphony!” He’s then told that he’ll be the head of the new music department to which he responds, “At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony!”

Sure it’s comedic, but it does make a point – that music can come from anywhere!

Music can express joy and happiness.  Music can vent frustration.  It can express excitement.  It can provide a celebration of happy occasions.  Music can also delve into the deepest, darkest places in our lives and when it emerges, it can sound amazingly beautiful.  Music. It’s always there.

I’m going to close with something I found online thanks to YouTube. We have our America’s Got Talent.  Britain has it.  Australia has it. Germany…so many countries have that kind of show.  Korea has it, too.  Here’s an example from that country, of a talented singer out of nowhere who’s had little or no formal training.  He’s a young man now, but as a kid he lived on the streets through what should have been all his grade school years, yet somehow he found solace and comfort – and inspiration – through music.  Listen to him sing. It’s just beautiful.

Now don’t even tell me you’re not both smiling and crying for joy!

Can you imagine having that much negativity thrown your way yet still managing to find beauty in this world?  I will never be unimpressed with the resilience of the human spirit.

Music did that for him.  Music.

Hello!

Hello there!  Just a quick post to say hello and let you know I’m here! I plan to write about a wide variety of topics with regard to classical music.  Why?  Because I grew up playing the piano and clarinet and I credit Mozart, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Clementi, Kuhlau and well – many others – with my continued existence.  My music and my piano were my healthy outlets growing up.  Well – thanks to Mom, too, but that’s another story!  Seriously though, Mom and Dad loved classical music and it was totally passed down to me.

I plan to talk about music, composers, musical ensembles, references to my crazy marching band days (YES – I can make the connection), festivals, travel venues, what it’s like inside an actual orchestra (which I’ll be learning as I write) and plenty of other things.  I’m sure Bugs Bunny and – if I’m lucky – Monty Python will make appearances as well. Continue reading →

Immortal Amadeus

In my third Columbus Symphony concert in three weeks, I had the good fortune of sharing the music with a friend of mine from work, Sarah, as well as my young nephew, Ben.  Sarah had been to the symphony before, but Ben never had, so I was excited to see how he took it all in.  

Ben has been learning the guitar the last couple of years and is into music.  In fact this year, he started playing the alto sax.  His first question to me when I picked him up on Saturday evening was: Are there going to be any saxophones? 

Sorry, kid.  No saxes.  Columbus Symphony – how about some jazzy tunes next time so my nephew can hear the sax?  No?  OK – I had to ask.

Last weekend, I went to the theater early to listen to a pre-concert talk by Christopher Purdy of WOSU radio.  It was fun – and insightful.  He talked about the composers and their music so we could learn some of the back story on what we were about to hear. I threw out the possibility of going again this week and both Sarah and Ben wanted to go.

Ben – waiting for Christopher Purdy to start the pre-concert talk

It was nice having a little while to learn about the program and Mr. Purdy always makes it both fun and interesting.  He included snippets of music and humorous anecdotes about the composers and times in which they lived.  It’s just the right amount of info to keep a 10-year old – already in a food coma from our earlier trip to Five Guys – interested before the concert started.  

The view from our seats – way up in the upper balcony

Like many of the CSO Masterworks concerts, this week’s concert was themed.  Titled “In Nature’s Realm,” it was performed in the acoustically-amazing Southern Theater which is a couple blocks south of the Ohio Theater in downtown Columbus.  Included in the program were pieces that all had something to do with nature: Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to William Tell (the reason why most everyone came to hear the orchestra play?); Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Elémens (Cool baroque-era music!); and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” in F Major, Opus 68 (not enough loud parts). 

Unlike the first two concerts of the season, where Maestro Zeitouni didn’t say a single word to the audience – not even hello, welcome, yo, ça-va,? nothing. – he was rather talkative this time around.  He even had slides!  (Side note: loved the accent, but I was a French major, so go figure.  Ahem.)  Before each piece and while the seats were being rearranged, he talked about what they were about to play.  It was all really interesting so I hope he does it more often.  Sarah and I especially liked the part where he had the orchestra play little passages of the Rossini piece up against similar portions of the Beethoven for comparison.

In honor of Maestro Zeitouni’s slide show, I’m including a nature shot or two of my own.  Let me know if you feel inspired.

Griggs Reservoir Park – Columbus, OH

The order of the performance was as I listed it above: Rossini, then Rebel, then Beethoven.  Had I been given the option, I would have done the complete opposite: Start with the Beethoven, intermission, Rebel and then Rossini – so it ends with a bang.  Instead, the exciting piece was first and not-so-exciting piece was how the concert ended.  Ben told me that there just weren’t enough loud parts. 

Beethoven?  Not enough loud parts?

He was right!  According to Ben, the Beethoven was his least favorite of the three and I tend to agree with him.  It’s a beautiful piece, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not that exciting and it’s pretty long – about 50+ minutes.  It deserved its own half, sure, but the ending just, well, happened.  It’s as if they just stopped playing without the benefit of a definitive ending.  It even took us, the audience, a moment or two to realize it was over.  There was no exciting finish.

Had it ended with Rossini, we would have been excited.  We would have been jumping up and down in our seats.  OK – so maybe not the jumping up and down in our seats part like we did back at IU when we played the William Tell during the second half of all the Hoosier basketball games – but the excited part, definitely!  And no – I didn’t yell out I! U! during that part.  (I thought it though!)  The Rossini was the fun piece of the evening and would have been a fitting end to the concert.   

Heck!  Maybe we can just put together a completely new concert!  Maybe we can pull some Beethoven pieces from Immortal Beloved and throw in some music by Mozart.  We’ll title it: Immortal Amadeus!  Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, a Mozart piano concerto or two, and some more Beethoven, perhaps his 7th symphony since I really like the Allegretto movement.  If Beethoven can make up his own 4-1/2 hour long concert, I’m happy to do the same.  

Yet an other opportunity for the folks at the CSO to roll their collectives eyes at my idea.  (They still haven’t called me about being a seat filler for the clarinet section.  So bummed.)  

With regard to this weekend’s concert, I personally liked the middle part the best: Rebel’s Les Elémens.  Loved it, actually.  Jean-Féry Rebel (more French!) was a court composer for King Louis XIV.  He starts off with a funky dissonant chord at the very beginning to make the audience go “hmm,” and then it’s all wonderful, Baroque, musical goodness to the very end.  I’ve already downloaded it off iTunes.  

Glinka last week – hein – it was OK, but Rebel, I really, really liked.  Thank you, CSO, for exposing me to something really terrific!

Scioto River at Griggs – Columbus, OH

All in all, it was a wonderful concert, at least according to me, the non-10-year-old.  The Beethoven was beautiful.  You can’t go wrong with Rossini and I absolutely loved the Rebel.

Ben told us all afterwards that he really liked the concert, so I hope to be able to take him to another one – perhaps in the new year. Maybe I’ll introduce him to some more baroque music in the new year when the CSO puts on a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  

Still no saxophones, but we can work on that!

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

The last time I went to a concert, it was to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra with my dad.  It was at least 3-4 years back and I’m sure it had something by Mozart on the program.  (Or J.S. Bach, since that’s Dad’s favorite)

Since then, hard times have kept me from going to more.  C’est la vie, hein?  And while I love my favorite Grandview coffee shops, I occasionally want a little something more on the weekends, something not just work-related.

So, with good music in mind, I decided to forgo vanity for a while in exchange for season tickets.  Thanks to not entering a salon for what seemed like ages (yeah, yeah, yeah – I’m a girl, ok?!), I now get to hear some fabulous music by great composers like Rossini, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Mozart and by a bunch more I’ve not even heard of, such as Rébel, Glinka, Berg, and Paulus.

Thanks to becoming an official season ticket holder (and this is the really cool part!) I also get to go to the season opener at which Beethoven’s 9th Symphony will be performed. We’re talking a full symphony, a full chorus, you name it – a true performance.  And we thought the Som Sabadell flash mob was impressive!
This is going to be so incredibly awesome!!  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see it LIVE!  October 5th – I cannot wait!!

In addition to these concerts, two friends and I are also going to a performance at the Southern Theatre to hear Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Beethoven’s 6th Pastoral symphony.  They just hope that I don’t yell out “I! U!” during the Lone Ranger section of the William Tell since that’s what I used to do when I played it with the Pep Band back at all the Indiana basketball games in Bloomington.  Yeah. Probably not a good idea.

The beautiful Ohio Theatre, across from the Statehouse in downtown Columbus, has been home to our symphony, or CSO, for over 40 years. The majority of the concerts I see this season will be there.  In fact, the CSO is credited with saving the Ohio Theatre itself from demolition because it had once run into such a bad state of disrepair.

Among the locals here in Columbus, it’s no secret that the hard times we’ve experienced the last few years, have been shared by the CSO, but for them, over the last decade.  Patronage dropped.  The musicians took pay cuts.  They had a different conductor for every single performance.   There were times that they were probably unsure as to whether or not the CSO would even survive!

In 2010, our symphony brought in a new Music Director, the up and coming Montreal native, Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni.  Not only was he a skilled and charismatic conductor, but he was hired with the hope that he would lead the CSO out of the abyss and back to more successful times.

What I’ve dug up and read about him online is pretty darned impressive.  Like many of us these days he, too, works more than one job.  In addition to starting his second full season as the Music Director of our orchestra here in Columbus, he’s also the  newly-appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the world-renowned chamber music ensemble, I Musici de Montréal.

Someday the term “world-renowned” will be used to describe our symphony, too.

It is said that his conducting style is simply incredible, very energetic and animated. One person I spoke to used the word “amazing” to describe him.  While the bio page on the CSO website desperately needs to be updated, the I Musici biography page has some good info and calls him “expressive and convincing” among other positive terms. The Handel and Haydn Society calls his style “eloquent yet fiery.” The Seattle Times called his performance of Handel’s Messiah “…edgy and exciting…”.

Aside from conducting, he apparently travels – a lot.  As a fellow travel-addict, I can totally appreciate that.  Of course, he travels to and from all his numerous guest-conducting gigs, not to mention splitting his time working jobs in two different countries.  I’m sure he’s accumulated an absolute ton of airline miles by now!  Heck – I think he may have traveled to more US states than I have and I’ve lived in a lot of them!

In the U.S., he’s conducted anywhere from New York to Oregon to Texas to Hawaii (lucky dog!) as well as all over Canada, pretty much hitting every NHL city up there save, perhaps, Ottawa.  Smart man.  I wonder if he needs an assistant.  Let’s go Jackets!

He’s a young director, not yet 40, but it’s not as if he gained the title of Music Director on a whim.  Our Maestro is very well-educated. He has three masters degrees from the Montreal Conservatory in theory, conducting and, yes, percussion. In one of the preview videos he makes before each concert, he totally geeks out on all the various percussion instruments used in one of Mahler’s symphonies. In his defense, I know percussionists (my dad included). I’m not sure there’s a single one who wouldn’t also go nuts over a huge hammer.  Hmm.  Could just be a guy thing.

Via Twitter though, I happily learned that they plan on making these videos again before the concerts this year.  You can follow their sporadically-active twitter account here.

If you’re not yet impressed, check out this interesting tidbit: he has perfect pitch. Yeah.  Perfect pitch. You know, that talent that allows him to tell you that the horns of a Prius, Impala, F150 and Jetta combine to make a G-minor diminished 7th chord*.

All kidding aside though, even musicians within the orchestra have commented that his ear is a huge advantage because he can hear anything from any instrument at any time.  They cannot get away with anything which makes them play all the better. He can tell during a rehearsal when something is potentially off and can therefore make the necessary adjustments before the final performance.  That, in turn, makes the concert-goer’s experience that much more enjoyable.

While I’ve not yet seen him perform live, my expectations of our symphony now are extremely high. He is said to be able to draw the highest quality of music out of those he directs so I look forward to hearing that in person.

On a final note, no pun intended, I’m going to see the Columbus Symphony Orchestra three times in October and then not again until January.  If he’s as good as I’ve heard he is, then November and December are going to make for two very long months!

* No fact-checking done. I have no earthly idea if this is actually true or not! 

Sources: In addition to the articles linked above, here are two more from which I sourced some of the details included in this blog post.  Enjoy!  

Photo credits: Both pictures of Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni were from the Facebook pages of I Musici and CSO, respectively.  The Ohio Theater picture is my own.

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