Tag Archives: CSO

Classical Music All Day, Every Day

Our local classical music station here in Columbus, Ohio, Classical 101 (WOSA 101.1), is currently holding its spring fund drive to raise money for operations and the programming it provides to the listeners here and all over.

Classical 101 is public radio. It survives only thanks to the financial support of its listeners. Our local symphony survives the same way – 70% of its operations are financed by donations. Classical 101 however, doesn’t have that 30% funded by ticket sales. For some reason, they don’t sell tickets to the public to watch the on-air personalities, or hosts, while they’re actually on air! :-) That means, it’s up to us to keep them in business. It’s up to us to keep the music on our radios.

Sure we can’t buy tickets to see them on the job, (perhaps they like it that way?!) but we here in Columbus still have plenty of opportunities to see them live and in person, though I’ve only seen three of the four so far. These are fun people and they’re super smart. They know so very much about classical music. I learn a ton while listening!

* Jennifer Hambrick – shown below at a Westerville Symphony concert last summer, but who also writes the reviews for the CSO concerts for the Columbus Dispatch

Jennifer Hambrick

Jennifer Hambrick speaking before a Westerville Symphony Orchestra concert.

* Christopher Purdy – who always talks to us at his pre-concert chats before Columbus Symphony Orchestra concerts and who I will see again a week from Saturday for Mozart’s Requiem with the CSO

Christopher Purdy

Christopher Purdy at a pre-concert chat with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

* Boyce Lancaster who talks to us after ProMusica Chamber Orchestra concerts and – who I will see again this Saturday at the Southern Theatre after I see their concert with Beethoven Symphony No 1 and a Mozart Piano Concerto (No 20).

Boyce Lancaster

David Danzmayr – Philippe Quint – Boyce Lancaster after a ProMusica Chamber Orchestra concert

These chats before and after concerts last about a half hour or so – give or take – and all members of the audience who attend are most welcome to ask questions or just sit back and enjoy. Inevitably, humor is added in as well. Heck – even my (then 10-year old) nephew commented that he really enjoyed it and got a lot out of one of Mr. Purdy’s pre-concert chats! It’s always just enough to teach us something about the composer and the music so we all have a better appreciation of what we’re about to hear.

That’s what Classical 101 does for us. They play classical music all day every day – that’s their tag line. The actual live times though are, I think, during the week / during the day – from 6am through the Symphony at 7 with John Rittmeyer. They play an opera every Saturday afternoon, American and guitar music on Saturday nights and replay CSO and Ohio State University concerts on Sunday afternoons. Of course, Sundays always start with Sunday Baroque. Love that! Sunday nights are filled with organ music as well as Musica Sacra – sacred church music written through the centuries. (That’s how I discovered William Byrd several years back – beautiful music!) Heck – they even take requests on Fridays AND guarantee us some Mozart every day during the week at 12 noon for the Amadeus Deli.

You just can’t go wrong with Mozart!

Support them if you can

I’m a sustaining donor in that I’m set up to automatically donate $5 to them every month. See? You don’t have to donate a huge amount. (though I’m sure they won’t turn it down) You’re welcome to call in and donate whatever you want and / or whatever you can afford. It’s entirely up to you and it’s all appreciated! And it all adds up! If every listener were to jump in with $5, they’d probably be set! Every listener doesn’t call in – only a few call in. It’s tough.

I listen to Classical 101 via my iTunes radio listing on my laptop as well as on my phone with their app. You can download it from here.

Classical 101 - iTunes

My iTunes radio playlist – so far!

Remember when the jazz station in town changed its format to 80s music? Which has since changed a bit beyond that as well? Well – that change caused us to lose our only jazz station in town. (That I know of at this stage) Sure you can get a little jazz on Sundays on NPR, but you’re pretty much on your own after that. 103.5 / 104.3 – two stations – do they both have to be the same? Couldn’t one at least be jazz? That’s why you see, in the above picture, that my second station there is a jazz station – out of Toronto. Shouldn’t we have a station here in Columbus?

Don’t let something like that happen to our classical music!

You can support Classical 101 by calling them during the day at 866-485-1011 or by placing a donation online. So many cities don’t have what we have. Please join me in supporting this great music! :-)

 

Watershed Distillery

Last fall, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra put on its first Happy Hour Concert at the Ohio Theatre downtown. Welcoming all with free admission and even free appetizers, the CSO offered up some wonderful, mid-week concerts with the goal of bringing in new concert-goers right after work or who might not otherwise be able to enjoy a concert over the weekend.

Kudos to CSO marketing because these concerts are a fantastic idea for which they deserve nothing but praise. Not only do they present it in a far more informal setting, but they also get to introduce amazing music to a whole new audience. It brings in all kind of people to those dressed up for a fancy night out to people with baggy pants and ball caps. Oh yeah – and everything in between as well!

web_ohio

Watershed Distillery Logo – courtesy http://www.watersheddistillery.com

I heard that they were expecting 3-400 people at the first concert and ended up welcoming nearly 1,200! WOW! I’m sure the second concert had just as many because the best seats filled up quickly! Putting on any concert – especially a free one – isn’t easy. And I’m sure it certainly doesn’t come cheap which is why it’s so important to get the community involved. Fortunately, the CSO is on top of that. And, though more are always welcome, there are people and businesses out there doing exactly that: getting involved.

Enter Watershed Distillery.

Watershed spirits

Watershed spirits – photo courtesy http://www.watersheddistillery.com

Watershed Distillery is a locally owned and operated distillery of world-class spirits right here in Columbus. Located in Grandview (Columbus’ best neighborhood), it was founded in 2010 by owners Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo who liked the concept of locally owned and produced spirits. With that in mind, they put their heads together to make that a reality. Seven years later, they have Watershed Distillery – home to Vodka, Bourbon and two kinds of Gin.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dave Rigo between tours to talk about Watershed Distillery and its support of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Here’s our conversation.

Dave Rigo in front of Watershed's stills

Dave Rigo in front of Watershed’s stills

How did you end up supporting the Happy Hour Concerts? The CSO contacted us about happy hour concerts. It’s the right thing to do – to support the arts. We have an upscale brand and in our minds, we think that’s a good fit for the CSO.

Why support the Symphony? I personally think that with a 2 & 3-year old, there are so many things – whether its music or painting – that…it just is part of a cultural thing you have to have in order to balance out with everything else in the world. It makes you a better, well-rounded person. There’s so much that is a distraction (e.g. Smart phones) it’s nice to see someone more creative than me, to see what they’re able to produce. We can sit back and relax to forget about the world we live in sometimes.

Did you attend concerts prior to the Happy Hour Concerts? Oh yeah.

Vodka Line

Vodka and Four Peel Gin

What are your thoughts on the success of these concerts? Wow! We’d like to take some of the credit, but we didn’t think we’d have so many people. We obviously love the exposure to a totally different customer base that we sometimes don’t get in front of, so it’s a win-win. In talking to the CSO, they said they’d like to start appealing to a younger demographic. We’re a younger brand and we already appeal to the young professional.

Is this something you’ll continue into next season? Yeah – I think so! We’ve got one more left this year. If they ask us to be a part of it again, we’ll definitely do it.

So who’s your favorite composer? No idea! I like going, but, by no means am I able to answer that question! I could listen to anything – such a wide range of music. Country, rap, rock and everything in between! With young kids, I’ve been listening to a lot of Frozen lately! Rock / Grunge in high school to Country in college because the truck I had for my landscaping job would only get one station and that was country!

Watershed - bottles and barrels

Empty bottles and barrels at Watershed

Take a tour

Prior to the first Happy Hour concert, I’d never heard of Watershed before, despite the fact that I live walking distance from their distillery! That’s OK – I’m pretty much a teetotaler, so that’s not too surprising. That said, I was interested in learning more about them. Fortunately that was made easy because they offer tours! For $10, you can take a tour and learn all about the process as well as sample each of the four spirits they make. Either Greg or Dave will talk about the distilling process, show you around, answer any questions you may have and then treat you to a tasting at the end. While you’re there, pick up a bottle or two. I took my tour before Christmas, so I know they  make great gifts!

The next Happy Hour concert is this Wednesday, March 26 at the Ohio theatre at 6:30 pm. (Bar opens at 5:30 pm!). Look for Greg and Dave while you’re there!

Watershed Distillery products can be found in 700 bars and restaurants all over Ohio as well as in six other states! To learn more about Watershed Distillery and their world-class spirits, please visit their website and like them on Facebook. To read the rest of my interview with Dave as well as a Cliff’s Notes version of distilling (and more pictures!), check out my post Grandview: Watershed Distillery on my blog, Itinerant Knitter.

Zuill Bailey – Cello

Originally from Woodbridge, VA, cellist Zuill Bailey is the Artistic Director of El Paso Pro-Musica and Professor of Cello at the University of Texas at El Paso. In addition to his responsibilities at home in El Paso, TX, he spends a great deal of time traveling as a solo performer, as well as working as the Artistic Director of the Sitka, Alaska Summer Music Festival and Series, the Northwest Bach Festival (Spokane, Washington).

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting him before a performance he gave with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. This is our conversation.

Why the cello?  I grew up with music in the house. My sister played the violin. Mom played the piano and Dad was a music educator and clarinetist. In the 70s there was Suzuki teaching, a way of teaching young kids how to play at a very young age. My parents took me to concerts all the time, to the community and National Symphony in DC.  It wasn’t a matter of if, but rather what instrument I would eventually play. My sister already played the violin, so that was out. So, I started playing the piano and cello at age four. Once, I was back stage and ran into a girl playing the cello – and broke her cello. That sealed it for me though. Mom and Dad said it’s the one thing that stopped me in my tracks and got me to sit still.

Zuill Bailey - Diane Sierra

Photograph by Diane Sierra, Handout

Where did you go to school? Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins) and Juilliard.

Instrument: A 1693 Matteo Gofriller Cello, formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet.

What do you gain from performing? I’ve always found that when I play it creates a comfortable feeling – complete comfort – from my perspective and from the way it’s voiced. It’s most like a human voice in its range. Physical aspects – wrapping myself around it and feeling it vibrate – it’s an incredible feeling. It’s the beauty of life that is brought forth through the cello. That became why I wanted to do it – there’s a mutual therapeutic x factor that music brings.

What’s the best thing about performing in front of an audience? What do you hope they gain? Peace. I hope the audience gains peace. No – that’s too simplistic of an answer. I look for the fact that people are able to escape – at a concert – with such a multifaceted form of entertainment. We’re used to being fed information. At a concert, it’s interesting and healing to take a step back and have the music be a soundtrack to where you are as a person or in your own person where you go into your own head and your own thoughts – where we’re not so programmed to go. The visual is the creation, not a distraction. A movie gives us a story – the music adds the soundtrack to our own thoughts. I can face the audience and see how they’re experiencing it in their own ways whether they’re leaning forward, tapping their feet, closing their eyes, etc.

How often do you practice?  I play all the time, but my processes are in my head. I can sit in a quiet room and hear it just by looking at the score. The classical music catalog is enormous. Recording just documents pieces I play a lot or that are special to me. I’m always looking for the next project that allows me to grow.

Zuill Bailey

Image courtesy of Huffington Post

What are some of your favorite places to perform? My dream check list has been done – Carnegie, Lincoln Hall, Kennedy Center. I once played with a women’s prison orchestra in Anchorage. Music to these women means hope and freedom. Playing in villages in Alaska and in Havana, Cuba were also memorable.

It’s all about how people react to the music. In many ways I enjoy the smaller venues more because the people don’t get the performers as much.

How much do you travel? I travel about 250 days out of the year.

I’m running my first Bach Festival in Spokane, WA – 1st two weeks in March – gorgeous city. Every day is a new adventure for me. My upcoming schedule, for example is: hosting a pianist from England tomorrow – Chopin Nocturnes; Harrisburg, PA next week - Dvorak concerto again. Then, Fairbanks, AK; then Boise, etc. I’m still missing RI, but have hit 49 of 50 states.

Strange thing – I once woke up at home and wasn’t sure where I was!

How difficult is it to play with a different orchestra for every performance? I’m old enough, have been doing this enough so a lot of my friends are in these orchestras. Tonight I have friends coming in from Cleveland to hear me play. I love sharing and

I love that music brings people together.

I have some very strong friendships in some of these places. I also know a lot of the musicians in the CSO who also play with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. The cello is what brings all of this together.

What do you think of the CSO so far? It’s wonderful! I’ve played in Columbus – with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra - several times. I frequent festivals. Nice thing about this career – you do go back, you see how the cities have changed, how people’s lives have broadened.

Which concert are you most looking forward to playing this year? I have a couple of projects – Michael Daugherty has been commissioned by the Nashville Symphony to write a piece. We’re recording it next year. We’ll be working on that this spring.

What do you do for outreach? At 17 – I didn’t realize that this whole world would open up. …that it would be on my shoulders to cultivate this music. I perform outreach in three regions: West TX; Spokane, WA and Alaska.

The cello has opened the door to a lot of fun adventures. In Baltimore, I was asked to coach Ned Beatty to LOOK like he was playing the cello for Homicide and then I played the soundtrack. Then I was an extra. And then, when I moved to NY, I was asked to be on OZ. I saw that as the ultimate outreach – to bring music to people who may or may not have gone into a concert hall.  I try to figure out ways to bring music to the people.

Scene from Oz. Children, don’t try this at home. :-)

My students love to hear stories. They have no idea that I may have been in Australia the day before the lesson. It’s fascinating for me to see their reactions to these stories. It’s real world. A student may ask about something to which I respond “Hmm…I’m playing this on Friday, I’ll let you know.” I’ll come back with – NO! DON’T DO IT!  Or – it totally worked.

It’s very unusual to do more than one – teach, perform, artistic director… but I use them all to do a lot of outreach.

When visiting other cities, I like to visit schools. I always like to go to schools when I travel – or hospitals – anywhere to make the music accessible. Kennedy center would send musicians in our schools. This world-renown musician would come to our classroom – wow!

During festivals, we focus on making sure every artist visits as many schools as possible. The focus on arts in schools will ebb and flow. Kids are curious about the variety of sounds that can be made with a cello. And you never know what kids are going to ask.

What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music?  I always asked them – well, what do you like? And they typically set their own trap. They’ll mention different kinds of music, movies, video games… Did you know that was a cello that was playing that theme? Classical music is the use of these instruments, not necessarily Beethoven or Haydn – a general term for stringed instruments. It’s the highest form of creating these video games and movies.

Have you ever noticed when pop groups try to be classier? They either go unplugged or incorporate symphonic sounds.

What cello music should I have in my music library? Bach cello suites – everyone BUT Mozart has written something exclusively for the cello. Dvorak – the piece tonight is arguably the greatest cello piece written. It’s a symphony with a great cello part. Even Chopin, the piano god, the last piece he wrote is a cello sonata. The cello could, in the end, be a composers own voice for their story. The cello, being mellower (than the violin) is more difficult to write for.

Who are your favorite composers? Typical response is “whatever I’m working on.” Bach – beginning and the end. He wrote such perfect works for a single instrument that kind of encapsulates – everything! I typically go to the deep end when working on a composers – about their life, what they wrote, etc. They used such masterful expression through music – it was therapeutic to write this music. If you know this profile, you can empathize and understand them. Great music is great, but if you know WHY something was created, then it takes it to a whole other stratosphere.

What is your favorite musical era? They’re just all such distinctive flavors. Growing up, my family didn’t travel a lot. I was very comfortable and specific in what I liked. The more I traveled, the more I liked. The variety is so important to have perspective. If you look at my recordings, they’re so different. I just keep broadening. When I step into the next chapter – I bring all that knowledge with me – and perspective – to appreciate the new language of Britten, for example, instead of being dismissive. It wouldn’t be the smartest thing for me to choose a favorite time period. I keep finding things that are interesting to me, but they’re interesting because of what I already know.

Classical music is all about interpretation. Buy several versions of Bach – compare and contrast. Why does this violinist sound different from this one? Why does this version sound different?

In your case, (Vladimir) Ashkenazy vs. Lang Lang – which do you like better? Buy another recording and find out WHY you love it.

Any good show off pieces for the cello? Show off pieces are things that people can’t believe can be done on an instrument. Flight of the bumblebee, etc. I often like to play the beautiful soft ones.

People can’t believe the cello can create that warmth and depth of feeling.

Do you have favorite cellists? Anyone you particularly admire? Rostropovich was the local cellist in DC. He’s probably the most historic, legendary cellist who walked the earth. He was a huge hero for all cellists – set the bar higher than I think anyone has. Through him, I was able to hear all the cellists we all know…

Rostropovich was bigger than music. He stood up for everything political – like Pablo Casals – used the cello to make a difference.

With my cello, I want to make a difference. I want to uh…it’s a loaded question! There are people I respect because their motives are pure. They’re genuinely trying to bring good to others. Those are my role models.

How about conductors? The more the conductor has worked with more people, the greater they are. The more they understand why people make the decisions they make. The more limited or inexperienced the conductor, the more severe opinions they have. Doesn’t happen very often, but when it has, it’s usually their first performance of that particular piece.

ZB - Telarc

Album Cover – photo courtesy of Telarc.

With a recording, it must be discussed how it’s played. We’re documenting an interpretation, not just a one-evening performance.

Gotta ask

Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius?  Or just plain weird?  Oh genius!

Benjamin Britten – (his music) is kind of like a struggle for humanity. You’ll witness the battlefield of understanding why there are these things that happen. Free flow – it’s a genius work. I wish I could take everyone aside to explain to them what I now know vs. what I didn’t know when I started. If I could, they would hear this music as the masterpiece that it is.

The linguist in me has to ask. Zuill – what’s the background of your name?  It’s a family last name. Scotch/Irish.

Ever break a string while performing? Of course! One time, I was so close to the end, I finished on the upper strings. It sounds like a gunshot – it’s almost a tension reliever. First I make sure the cello is ok and then continue.

Do you ever worry about transporting your instrument? Especially knowing how old and valuable it is? I did think a lot especially at first – about the care of this instrument. I’ve always had a cello in my hand. I certainly know how to care for it – it’s always with me. I take good care of it – it’s been around for 320 years. The good news is that it’s being played. If not played, it goes to sleep – it doesn’t vibrate, so these instruments have to be played. The world gets to hear it. Documented – in recording, concerts, it’s seen – such as a traveling exhibition.

I’ve had this one since my mid-20s.  I’ve had it for 17 years – mine for life.

It’s contagious – delving into the world of classical music!

What’s your favorite Jeni’s Ice Cream flavor?  Haven’t tried it yet.

Note to the city of Columbus: We clearly need to introduce Zuill to Jeni’s the next time he’s in town.

If you’d like to learn more about Zuill Bailey and the music he plays, I recommend you visit his website at www.zuillbailey.com His newest recording, Britten: Cello Symphony & Sonata, along with his other CDs can be purchased via his website.

Ravel and Bruckner

Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

I’m a subscriber to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and by subscriber, I mean I bought a 4-pack of tickets to the Masterworks Concert series, i.e. the classical (non-pops) concerts. When picking out my four tickets, I chose 2-3 concerts and my friend, Sarah, chose 2-3 concerts and fortunately we overlapped on a couple. Our four concerts included Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2, Beethoven’s 5th, Romeo and Juliet and Mozart’s Requiem. Pretty standard fare in the classical music work, but pretty awesome fare, to be sure! I never once considered the Ravel (bleh) or the Bruckner (I’ve heard icky things about his music). Remember – I bought my tickets before I started really expanding my music appreciation beyond Early, Baroque and Classical. Sure, I’d been mildly converted on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring last year, but that was enough, right?

Apparently not.

For this concert, I lucked into a pair of comp tickets to this weekend’s concert thanks to one of the musicians playing. (Thank you!) Here’s what was on the program and may I just say that I was pleasantly surprised! Here’s my view of the stage – much closer than usual!

Ravel Bruckner concert view

 Olivier Messiaen - Les Offrandes Oubliées
Maurice Ravel - Concerto in D Major for Piano (Left Hand Alone) and Orchestra
Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 9 in D Minor

With Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni at the podium, the concert started with a piece by a composer I’d never heard of before, Olivier Messiaen. As a French major studying in Strasbourg way back when, I never really delved into the classical composers, but I have a lot of music of pop singers like Jean-Jacques Goldman and Patricia Kaas. (Love Patricia Kaas – look her up. Great voice!)

Originally from the beautiful city of Avignon, Messiaen composed Les Offrandes Oubliées after completing his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. The program notes handed to patrons at the concert said that he was influenced by Stravinsky – as I imagine many composers were after Rite of Spring was performed. This is a piece of music with three parts – slow – FAST – slow. The middle / fast part was my favorite. It was the most intense and thanks to the loud parts, my nephew, Ben, would have loved it. (Last year at the concert with Beethoven’s 6th, Ben commented that there weren’t enough loud parts. He was 10 at the time.) Of course, the three parts corresponded to three theological categories, according to the program: the Cross, Sin and the Eucharist.

Is it really a good sign that my favorite part was the part depicting sin? Hmm. Something to ponder.

It was a wonderful piece though, performed by the CSO for the first time at this concert. I’d be interested in hearing more of his works.

Just one hand

I’ve read that roughly 16 million (yes – million) people lost their lives in WWI – about 2/3 – 1/3 soldiers – civilians. Another 20 million people were wounded. Among them was a pianist named Paul Wittgenstein. After the war, he went around commissioning left-handed piano pieces from a variety of composers such as Strauss, Britton, Prokofiev and Ravel.

Hearing of this piece reminded me of an episode of M.A.S.H. way back when, when Charles operated on a wounded soldier and had to make the decision to either save his leg or his hand. After choosing to save the leg, he learned that the soldier was a pianist who had graduated from Juilliard. I couldn’t embed the video, but click this link to see it. Skip ahead to about 19 minutes in to hear Charles Emerson Winchester talk about Paul Wittgenstein and Ravel.

M.A.S.H. Morale Victory

Pianist Benedetto Lupo performed this piece for us and wow was it beautiful. There were so many parts of the piece that made it sound like there were two hands playing. Amazing what you can do with a challenge and a little determination. (or a lot of determination!)

Funny that throughout the piece, I kept thinking  - boy, this sure reminds me of Bolero…

I liked the Bruckner!

And then the Bruckner. Bruckner’s last symphony is his unfinished Symphony No 9. Oddly, he actually wrote 11 symphonies, but according to our pre-concert chat with Christopher Purdy, Bruckner apparently didn’t like his first two symphony and numbered them as 0 and 00.

I know a handful of people who have outright said that they do not like Bruckner. I’d never heard his work before, so with each subsequent person who said that, I became more and more frightened to hear his music. Yikes! Something must really be wrong with it.

Sigh. There’s nothing wrong with it. Bruckner is just another Austrian composer – he lived from 1824-1896, so he’s in the romantic era, sure, but that’s not horrible, is it? No. Safe to say, it’s not, but I clearly hadn’t given him a fair shake…until this concert.

I really enjoyed this symphony and can now totally understand why brass players like to play it. My first thought while listening to this piece was

Gosh – sure is nice of the strings to accompany the brass!

That’s a little over the top, I’m sure, but since the brass were featured so prominently throughout the piece, one has to wonder! It was fantastic – the brass parts were excellent and it seemed to revolve around them. I kept thinking how intense it was and also how I’d like to hear more!

As for my nephew, Ben would have loved it – it had lots of loud parts! I noticed while watching it that there were nine (count ‘em 9) French horn players – including all five that I spoke to for French Horn Week. I noticed that the four hornists in the back row were playing something I learned is called a Wagner horn, or a Wagner tuba.

horn_and_wagnertuba

I found this picture thanks to google because I wanted to show you a side by side picture of the French horn and Wagner horn. I read that it’s kind of a cross between a French horn and a trombone. Bruckner used these horns in his later symphonies. In his 9th, the hornists go back and forth between the two horns – something made easier since they share the same kind of mouthpiece and fingerings.

There’s a brass ensemble out of Vermont who made it a goal to play the Wagner horns. (love the Lionel Richie reference)

All in all it was a wonderful concert that I really enjoyed. My friend and I were amazed with the gorgeous stained glass chandelier almost directly above us.

Ohio Theatre ChandelierFor my part, I couldn’t help thinking of the Phantom of the Opera especially after we learned that the chandelier itself weighs nearly 2-1/2 tons!

February is going to be a great month for concerts with the CSO: A cello concerto by Dvorak on the 1st (My birthday weekend! I’ll be 29. Again.), Lang Lang on the 6th for Prokofiev’s 3rd and lots of Romeo and Juliet music on the 15th (My nephew’s birthday weekend – he’ll be 12!)

On a side note, while I was there, I picked up my tickets for the Romantic Passions concert featuring cellist Mr. Zuill Bailey for a Dvorak cello concerto. About 14 of us from my Peace Corps alumni group are going to that concert, so in addition to the great music, I’ll have some great company.

Jean-Sébastien Roy: Concertmaster

Not long after he was named our new concertmaster, I reached out to Canadian violinist, Jean-Sébastien Roy, to see if he’d be interested in letting me interview him for my blog. Giocosity was barely two months old and I hadn’t even met with the French horn section yet, so I was coming to him out of nowhere with absolutely no interviews under my belt. Within a day he responded back with a yes and even offered to do it over the phone if I weren’t able to wait until October when he was planning to move to Columbus.

Wow. Talk about above and beyond!

Jean-Sébastien Roy

Jean-Sébastien Roy after my interview – probably happy for a break!

Last month I had the pleasure of meeting him downtown where he was kind enough to meet with me for a couple of hours while I asked him a myriad questions – about him, his music and his time so far here in Columbus.

If you’re just getting to know him, Jean-Sébastien Roy played as guest concertmaster with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra on two different occasions last year: the waltzes concert at the new year and the Mahler concert in February. He has played as guest concertmaster with orchestras all over the world – including with the Strasbourg Philharmonic in Strasbourg, France, where I spent my senior year in college, so I definitely wanted to ask him about that.

Here’s my interview.  Enjoy!

**********

Originally from outside Montreal (Joliette), Quebec, Canada, Jean-Sébastien joins the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as our acting concertmaster for the 2013-2014 season. In talking with him, I learned that he already had connections to Ohio.

Here are some of the basics: 

Education: Le Conservatoire de Montréal, Cleveland Institute of Music

Home Life:  I have a younger sister (5 years) who is a pianist.  Mom and Dad are musicians, too (Piano and guitar), but make their living at other jobs.   I also have a dog back home in Canada.

Any fun hobbies?  I’ve become a wine enthusiast.  (And yes, I like the Alsatian Rieslings!)

Why the violin?  It’s always been the violin – since I was two.  I started lessons at age four.

How often do you practice? Every day, but I sometimes have to take a day off from time to time.  It (orchestra playing) can get very tiring.

Do you ever practice as a section? Not usually. (Sectionals are) used more with youth orchestras. If you have time, it’s great, but it’s usually only used if there’s an occasional very difficult piece.

Instrument: 1745 Carlo Antonio Testore, Jacob Eury bow made in 1830  (From 2006-2009, Roy played a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius on loan to him after winning the 2006 Canada Council for the Arts Music Bank Competition)

1745 Carlo Antonio Testore Violin

1745 Carlo Antonio Testore Violin

What do you gain from performing? I gain a thrill of playing – you go for it.  The public wants to hear this piece, they’re here for a good time. You get on stage, you play your piece, people clap for you. When you rehearse, you start and stop. The energy isn’t the same.  If you screw up, nobody’s there to hear.  At concert time, you have adrenaline in you – you just go for it.  Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not as perfect as in a rehearsal because you’re nervous, but it’s a better experience.

COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

What do you think of the CSO so far? I love it – it’s a great orchestra.  They respond very well to the conductor.  They really care and wish to make the concert very good.  I’m still new, but I’m very happy with it.

Is it nice to be able to work with fellow Canadians Jean-Marie Zeitouni and librarian, Jean-Etienne Lederer?  Yes, but also Alicia Hui (Principal 2nd Violin) is from Canada – from Edmonton.

What should people here know about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra?  We’re just a bunch of people getting together and playing music.  It’s all very interesting with fun people, passionate people.  It’s very demanding to perform, so we might look a little still and focused on stage, but there’s a lot of passion with every performer.

Which concerts are you most looking forward to playing this year? Carmen in Concert, the Bruckner, Guy Braunstein (Former Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic – will be playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto)

Are you looking forward to any particular, upcoming guest conductors? Michael Stern – and Jacques Lacombe (French-Canadian).  Jacques Lacombe – he conducted when I was 10 at a festival put on by my teacher and I’ve seen him from time to time since then.

Ohio Theatre or Southern Theatre?  Southern has better acoustics, but with a smaller place, it’s easier to fill.  The Ohio – the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life.

JEAN-SÉBASTIEN’S FAVORITES

Place to perform outside of Columbus:  Europe in general – anywhere in Europe.  This music was born there, there’s so much history.  America has the incredible halls.  When you set foot in Europe, there are great halls where great performers have been for centuries, it’s very special.  You feel like you’re a part of its history.

Composers: Schubert, Richard Strauss, J.S. Bach, W. A. Mozart

Musical Era: End of the classical / beginning of romantic Mozart and Schubert were writing incredible music.  Beethoven just opened the door to everything.

Show off pieces for the violin: Brahms Hungarian dances

Take a moment to listen to this video of Jean-Sébastien Roy’s playing Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 20.

Pieces for the Violin: Mendelssohn violin concerto is a beautiful piece.  Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major Op us 77, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 Opus 47 “Kreutzer Sonata.”

Violinists:  Itzhak Perlman, Jascha Haifetz, Nathan Milstein, I love the old guys!

Conductors: Wilhelm Furtwängler (Berlin Phil 40’s), Sergiu Celibidache, Leonard Bernstein

Performances:  Hard to tell – very different playing in a symphony, playing solo, or in a chamber setting – most are special for different reasons.  The Mahler #2 was nice – especially being the concertmaster.

JSR Standing violin

Jean-Sébastien Roy
(Courtesy http://www.jeansebastienroy.ca)

GOTTA ASK!

You just arrived last month, so what parts of the city have you explored? German Village, Short North, Campus Area (I think!)

Can you sing the OSU Fight Song or Alma Mater? Not yet, but I just arrived. (OK – I’ll grant him that, but I came prepared and brought the music for the fight song with me just in case. Unfortunately, we met in a fairly noisy place, so Jean-Sébastien wasn’t really able to pull out his violin to play it for me. Next time.)

Any plans to see the Blue Jackets? Not sure yet – I don’t go that often.  Tickets in Montreal are really expensive. (For you hockey fans out there, Montreal took on Columbus this past Friday and unfortunately, the Habs beat our Blue Jackets by a score of 3-2. Sigh.)

Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius?  Or just plain weird?  Genius – the rhythm was incredible.

Finally – and most important – what’s your favorite Jeni’s Ice Cream flavor? There was an almond one that was amazing.  I also like the Poached Pear Riesling.

Again with the Riesling.  I think he might just need to check out some of our local wineries!

**********

Come back on Wednesday when we talk about Jean-Sébastien’s role as concertmaster, his thoughts on leadership within the orchestra as well as what violin music we should all have in our music libraries!  In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Jean-Sébastien and his music, visit his website and his bio on the CSO website.

Thanks very much to Jean-Sébastien for granting me permission to use some of the photos off his own website. 

 

My Favorite Concert

Oh my gosh – this was going to be so great – Rossini’s overture to the Barber of Seville, horn concerti by both Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart and a symphony by the father of symphonies himself, Haydn. Like a kid in a candy shop, I was grinning from ear to ear from the moment I sat down in my seat Saturday night at the Southern Theatre until I exited to walk to my car.  Except perhaps Billy Joel’s Piano Man, the best music in the world (in this writer’s humble opinion) comes from classical and baroque-era composers and this concert was going to give us at least three major pieces out of the classical era. Awesome!

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Playing a duel-role of both conductor and soloist was James Sommerville, principal horn player with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

When talking to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra horn players earlier this fall, I learned that our own Erin Lano had studied under James Sommerville at the New England Conservatory of Music. How fun to now play for her former teacher.

The concert was so enjoyable to me that I was on the edge of my seat – somehow trying to get closer to the source of the great music! Of course, part of that was out of necessity. It’s true that in the Southern Theatre upper balcony, short people (like me) can’t sit back in our seats if we want to be able to see the entire orchestra. I’m 5’3″ with shoes on – a benefit lost once I actually sit. Because of the high back of the seat in front of me, sitting back in my seat cuts off my view of the closest row of musicians, i.e. the concertmaster, the principal cello and the music director, so I lean forward. Totally OK with this – especially for this concert because it was so enjoyable!

Honestly, except for perhaps the performance of Mozart’s Requiem, this is my favorite concert of the year.  The CSO packed a lot of really great music into one concert.  Wow!

The concert started with a fun rendition of Rossini’s thrice-used overture to the opera, The Barber of Seville – something Mr. Sommerville commented would sound familiar to opera goers everywhere – as well as fans of Bugs Bunny. (upon hearing that the crowd laughed and the retired gentleman sitting next to me commented to his wife “I don’t get it.”  I didn’t explain it, but I’m sure his kids and grandkids would have understood the reference!)  Something I learned at last year’s concert at which Rossini’s William Tell overture was performed, was that Rossini was lazy.  Crazy talented, but lazy just the same.  The overture to The Barber of Seville was an overture to a comedic opera, i.e. a funny opera.  The overture itself is fun.  It’s lively.  It’s happy.  It’s energetic.

In an act that would make all environmentalists proud, Rossini recycled his overture for two other – dramatic – operas, including one written for the Queen of England called “Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra” (Elizabeth, Queen of England).  Hers was a serious, dramatic opera, but it had an oddly familiar, happy and bouncy overture to it.  Hmm.

Keep that serious nature in mind as you watch this video of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd!

Next up was a lovely piece by a Ukrainian composer, Valentin Silvestrov.  It was the brand new music for me of this concert.  Overall, it was pretty mellow in nature, but I especially liked the second movement, the Abendserenade, because of the texture added with the plucking of the strings.  It was very pretty, but if it were the last number of the evening, we all would have NEEDED that Surprise in Haydn’s Surprise symphony!

Next up was the start of some really terrific classical music candy for me: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3.  And with this, I learned how the soloist also conducted the Symphony.  He got them started and then they all pretty much kept up by ear.  The beauty of being an ensemble of such incredibly talented musicians is that they can do that!

James Sommerville was exciting to watch and a real treat to hear.  No wonder CSO’s Associate Principal horn player, Julia Rose, was looking forward to hearing him! When I asked her to which concert she was most looking forward to playing, she told me this one!  About Mr. Sommerville, she told me,

“He’s one of the best horn players out there.  I’ve been a fan of his since college.  An amazing musician!”

She’s definitely right about that! He had such a beautiful, warm sound. His tone was fantastic – I can’t imagine the control needed to maintain the same quality of tone throughout the entire piece whether he was playing piano or forte– both being volumes we could easily hear even way up in the upper balcony.

Time for Dad

After the intermission came time for Mozart’s dad, Leopold Mozart.  He composed the second horn concerto of the evening, again beautifully played by Mr. Sommerville.  I’d heard a part of this one before – a movement or so, but not the whole thing.  It was a lovely piece as well, but a bit more subdued.  Bear in mind that that’s due to the composition itself, not the performance.

In the day, the music was primarily written for the patron for whom a composer worked. He didn’t write for himself, he wrote for money and that was usually when someone requested the music. It’s not like they could really go out and sell their music on the open market though some tried and a few probably succeeded.  No, music was typically written only at the request of the nobility.  In Herr Mozart’s case, he wrote for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The music was nice, pleasant on the ears, predictable, nothing out of the ordinary.  Subdued.

During the pre-concert chat, we learned from Christopher Purdy that the French horns of Mozarts’ day were more like something like a formal hunting horn – a brass look, but with one loop and no valves, meaning that notes had to be changed with the embouchure.  Try playing a clarinet without any keys!  That’s essentially what they did with the classical-era French horns.  Crazy, huh?

WAKE UP!

Last up on Saturday’s program was a great symphony written by the father of the symphony, Franz Josef Haydn himself!  Symphony No 94 “Surprise.”  Don’t know what the surprise is?  You will when you hear the second movement!  Back in the day, according to what Mr. Purdy told us, Haydn would compose and conduct music that was well-received all around Europe – England, Austria, etc. During some of his regular performances in London he knew that at a certain point in the music, some people would drift off to sleep, apparently not caring that they’re in a public place.  Well – Haydn had a sense of humor and decided to kind of get back at those sleepyheads the best way he knew how: with music.

So in the 2nd movement of his Symphony No 94, he composed a soft, slow, melodic portion of the movement – very soft.  Very tranquil and relaxing…just a few strings…immediately followed by a rather sudden – and rather loud – single note by the entire orchestra.  WAKE UP!!!  I can just picture the old guy in front jumping out of his seat as if he’d just heard what was essentially a sudden musical explosion of sound!

Hee hee!  Love it!

Watch the first minute or so.  It’s a clever trick, I think!

Come on – you have to chuckle at that.  Makes me appreciate and love Haydn all the more!

Ahh – what a great concert.  I absolutely loved it.  Like I said before – I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Give me Baroque or classical and I’m happy as a clam.  Give me Mozart and Haydn and all will be well in the world.

Next up

Well next up is a great and hugely recognized piece of music: Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  Not sure you know it?  Well trust me – you do.

DA DA DA DAAAAAAAAA!

OK – what melody did you just hear in your head when you read that? Ten bucks says it was Beethoven’s 5th! Want to hear it for real? Well – you’re welcome to join me – and six of my friends (including my 11-year old nephew, Ben) on November 16th when we hear that along with Elgar’s violin concerto and a world premier by Stephen Montague. Beethoven’s 5th – it’s comfort music.  We all know it. We know what to expect and – for my nephew – it will have more “loud parts!” than last year’s Beethoven Symphony No 6.

Seriously – you can’t go wrong!

FREE CONCERT!

Hey friends!  The Columbus Symphony Orchestra is putting on a free concert this Thursday at the Ohio Theatre.  Here are the details!

Happy Hour!

Thursday, November 7

Happy Hour starts at 5:30PM, Concert starts at 6:30PM

Free Appetizers provided, drink specials will be offered.

Guest Conductor: Gregory Vajda

On the program:
MICHAEL TORKE: Run
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4
DVORAK: Slavonic Dances 1, 4, 8 Op. 46
IMG_1428From the CSO website:

What a great way to end the day! Raise your glasses and enjoy a free concert, complimentary appetizers, and special drink prices after work! Concert lasts 60-90 minutes.

What better way to sample some new music than to show up this Thursday.  Besides, you can’t go wrong with free food and drink specials followed by some fabulous, well-played music.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. Maestro Vajda is from Budapest, Hungary – a beautiful city.  You should hurry up and book a trip there!

Serendipity!

This past weekend, I worked at the Columbus International Festival at the Veteran’s Memorial in downtown Columbus.  My Peace Corps alumni group, CORVA (central Ohio Returned Volunteers Association, a 501-(c)3 non-profit organization) has a booth there every year to talk about the Peace Corps – a volunteer organization that started up about 50 years ago thanks to President John F. Kennedy.

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My Peace Corps friends and I love this festival because we get to tell stories about our time as volunteers to a whole new audience.  Seriously – we never get sick of telling stories – like that time I was given what I thought was just a wad of newspaper that was actually someone’s dentures needing to be repaired…  (no really – it’s true.  I’ll tell you about it sometime.)

All the kids who came to the festival were given “Passports” to take around to all the different booths to get stamped. I liked asking them to say hello in a different language, or to ask me a question about the Peace Corps. I got a lot of hellos and a lot of great questions. One really young girl though gave me Hola and Adios thanks to watching Dora! Another girl gave me hello in three different languages!  Yeah – I was really proud of her, though probably not nearly as much as her mom was!

The Columbus International Festival is great. In addition to having booths from all sorts of international organizations – clubs, educational groups, non-profits, etc, – it also has a stage used for music and dancing. While there on Saturday, I saw African drums, folk dancing, traditional dancing from India, bagpipes, etc.  It’s fun as well because there are lots of booths selling food from all over the world, so you can grab your Greek gyro, Icelandic coconut cookies (yum!) and Indian mango lassi, then grab a seat and enjoy the entertainment.

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Sounds like the symphony would fit right in, don’t you think?

Last May and June (and again a couple of times over the summer – and again in September…) I Emailed the good folks at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to encourage them to set up a booth.  I knew it was going on during a 3-performance weekend, but with staff, the Women’s Association of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra League and random volunteers such as myself…it should have been a pretty easy arrangement.  They said no.  When I followed up I didn’t get a response back.  $175 for a booth and a weekend’s worth of communication with potential patrons who are totally open to different languages, music and culture.  You could not find a friendlier, more receptive crowd and it would have been a great opportunity as well to not only sell the orchestra as a great arts organization, but also to really build the Email distribution / mailing list, but alas.  They said no.

A fantastic opportunity missed.

I’ve recruited a few more friends to go with me to the Nov 16 concert where they’ll be playing Beethoven’s 5th.  So while at the box office Friday morning picking up my tickets, I asked if they had any extra schedules that I could hand out at the festival.  I was given two packets of them. (I’m guessing at least 50 schedules per packet?).

Saturday after my shift working the Peace Corps booth (and enjoying a delicious lunch!) I grabbed a packet and started handing them out.  With maybe one exception, the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

No – they were ridiculously, enthusiastically positive!

The best way to describe it was that people were just hungry for information about the symphony.  Arts organizations aren’t always known for their ability to market themselves.  Some of that is driven by budgetary constraints but some is driven by just not being very good at marketing themselves. So – for the 100 or so schedules I handed out, I did my best to answer people’s questions and talk up the Symphony that I enjoy so much.

I’ll start with my one exception – which probably made me want to cry.  Here’s what I was asked by a lady who happily took a schedule:

Oh, so does this mean the Symphony has started playing again?! They’re no longer shut down?!

Wow. I quickly dispelled that myth, but it made me wonder where the CSO actually advertises.  I truly don’t know.  And it’s 2013.  The CSO was shut down for 6 months back in 2008! Why is it that people don’t know they’re back up and running again?

Well a couple of weeks ago, I happened to call the CSO and asked where they advertised. The next day, I received an Email in return that basically said that where they advertise depends on the series, e.g. Masterworks, Pops, Picnic with the Pops, etc, but it still didn’t tell me where. It still didn’t answer my question. So I sent a follow-up Email asking specifically about the Masterworks schedule. That was October 25 and so far, I haven’t heard back, but I hope to learn where because I know of Emails sent to subscribers and an occasional print ad in the Dispatch, but not of advertisements anywhere else.  Hopefully I’ll hear back soon!

Columbus to Hungary, Scandinavia and beyond!

With that question out of the way, I ran into a ton of responses like this while handing out CSO schedules:

Ooh! I want one! Give me one, too please!

Keep in mind, I walked up to people and put these schedules in their hands.  I didn’t just pile them on tables.  Heck – I even went around the whole festival and gave one to (pretty much) every booth as well as telling each and every one of them that Beethoven’s 5th was coming up in exactly two weeks and that I wanted more company back in the rear balcony.

One lady early on called me over to her booth telling me that she wants a symphony schedule, too.  Talk about serendipity!  She was working a booth for a Hungarian organization.  Why so serendipitous, you ask?  I’ll tell you!

This Thursday, November 7 at 630pm at the Ohio Theatre, the CSO is putting on a free concert directed by none other than a Hungarian-born conductor, Maestro Gregory Vajda (which I learned is pronounced VIE-duh).  The lady I spoke to, from Hungary herself, was very excited to learn that someone from Budapest was going to be conducting our orchestra not only this Thursday for a free concert (Free appetizers start at 530pm) but again in the Spring.

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People were extremely inquisitive!  They asked how to get tickets, when some pops concerts were going to be performed, whether or not certain composers were going to be performed – how someone missed hearing Carmen, to which I gladly let her know it would be performed in concert in May. And then another lady started talking about the who story of Carmen and all three of us got excited!!

Walking by the Scandinavian Club, (The Icelandic coconut cookies were awesome!) I was sure to tell how the CSO was planning to perform music by Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius.  And I told the German booth how Beethoven was coming up in two weeks.

It was so easy to make it appeal to them with such a multi-cultural selection of music on the schedule.  And if I could do it, anyone could.  I only reached about 100 people on Saturday during about a 20-30 minute time-span.  (Unless there were 100 schedules in each of those packs and I hit up a lot more people than I thought I did!) Imagine how many people could have been reached had the CSO had a booth there both days.  It’s not as hard as you might think.  All you need are more schedules and a few more people.

People want to see you, CSO.  They made that obvious.  They’ve declared that – and it was very loud and clear this weekend.

Back in the Peace Corps office in Sofia, Bulgaria, this quote was on a poster.  It says a lot, I think.

I’m just one person.  I can’t do everything.  I’m just one person.  I can do something.

Now imagine what a handful or a lot of people could do.  There’s power in that, you know.

Rachmaninoff and Brahms

Yea!  It’s finally here!

This weekend, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra started its masterworks season with some Rachmaninoff, Brahms and Estacio. The evening started when my friend and I enjoyed a tasty dinner in Grandview (Aab – Indian food. Delicious!) and then worked our way downtown to enjoy the first concert in our pack of season tickets.

We started with the usual pre-concert chat was in a different place this year.  Last year, they were all held all the way upstairs on the 4th floor in a corner space by the windows.  This year, it was down in the main floor seating area right as you walk in, kind of like they are at the Southern Theatre.  It was a nice setting for it and gave us a great view of the gorgeous Ohio Theatre.  I even ran into a friend of mine from my RPCV group.  Of course, I nearly always run into someone from my Peace Corps alumni group, because we’re all lovers of artsy and cultural events!

Speaking of which, (shameless plug) you’ll be able to meet us at the upcoming Columbus International Festival the first weekend in November at the Veteran’s Memorial.  I tried to talk the CSO into setting up a booth there – at least with volunteers and / or staff – so they could help get the word out in a festival replete with people who are interested in all different cultures and music.  Heck – I even offered to help volunteer that Sunday since I’m already working it Saturday morning with CORVA (My RPCV group) and have tickets to the CSO that Saturday, but apparently wasn’t convincing enough.  I’ll keep trying! Exposure! Remember my survey last summer and how everyone wanted to see a Symphony presence out and about at festivals and public events? Remember how asking about that was the one question the CSO itself put into my survey?  Well – here’s your answer!  I’m bummed that they won’t be there – this time! :-) That’s OK.  I’ll keep trying!  I’m a Cubs fan, so we’ll get ‘em next year!  Er… Something like that, anyway!

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This is Mr. Purdy talking to us pre-concert.  He told us how the Brahms Symphony No. 4 was a beautiful piece (It was!) that while still typical Brahms, had a lot of “new” elements in it that hadn’t yet been heard in music in the day.  He also told us how Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 was a graduation piece, of sorts, after months of therapy – needed when Rachmaninoff’s earlier piece was not at all well-reviewed. (Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 had been a flop as well, but I think they both ended up doing well for themselves!)  Mr. Purdy said that neither one was a “starving composer” or anything and were each famous and well-off in their day.

A big deal with tonight’s concert was the third piece on the program: John Estacio’s Brio.

Don’t know John Estacio?  I’d never heard of him either.  You should though, because Brio was really good!  He’s a Canadian composer apparently most well-known for his operas.  I read that he’s only a few years older than I am and according to Mr. Purdy, it’s a big deal for a professional orchestra to open their season with a relatively unknown piece by a living composer.  He went on to tell us that by the time the other pieces had been written, composers had moved on from being only a profession at the service of nobility and on to an actual profession.  Nice for the CSO to continue supporting that side of the music world though – much like orchestras did back in the days of Brahms or Rachmaninoff.

In our seats

The concert started out with his orchestral piece, Brio, which I really liked.  It was a fantastic piece that I hope will soon be recorded so I can add it to my music library!  It’s not in iTunes and I didn’t see it on any recordings of Estacio’s music, so I sent the composer an Email via his website asking about it.  Perhaps I’ll learn that something’s in the works.  Who knows?  I sure hope so! It reminded me though, of something we would have played in a band concert because it made a big use, I thought, of the winds and brass. It really was a terrific piece! My friend liked it equally as well. Hey CSO – want to make a new CD? When you do, would you please include Estacio’s music on it? Thanks!

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This is my view this year! Not so different from last year, instead of seat 110, I’m in 105 – just a little more centered. :-) (I took this one from 107)

Next up on the program was the piece for which I bought a ticket to this particular concert: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.  THIS is the piece of music I wanted to hear.  When the horn players talked about the “Brahms concert” I talked about the “Rachmaninoff concert!”

To me, this is a piece which I consider to be a saving grace of 20th century classical music – i.e. not exactly my favorite era.  Sure, Copland and Gershwin’s music is wonderful, but the things Rachmaninoff can do with the piano are unequalled! This concert, to me, was going to be a highlight of the season – along with Beethoven’s 5th and Mozart’s Requiem – a concert NOT to be missed!

In addition to that, the clarinet in the Adagio Sostenuto movement is so beautiful and Principal clarinetist, David Thomas, totally out shined the clarinettists on the recordings I have of this piece.  His playing was just beautiful!

A bit on the quirky side

For the first time since attending symphony concerts, I must say I was really, really disappointed with this performance (My text to mom at intermission had a third “really”)  I wasn’t disappointed at all because of the orchestra itself, but because of the pianist, Maxim Mogilevsky. Russian-born, we learned his great-grandfather originally debuted a piece written by Rachmaninoff. Mr. Purdy commented about his being in the family business as his parents and brother are all professional musicians as well.  While I have no doubt that he’s a good pianist, I thought him to be rather strange.  He was very fidgety and according to one patron in line for the lady’s room at intermission, he must have had the sweatiest hands in the business. Every chance he had, during even short rests, he kept grabbing a towel he had on the piano to dry off his hands, wipe his brow, wipe the keys. He would then go on to keep fixing his hair, wiping it, running his fingers through it, who knows? At one point early on, he even worked really hard during a rest to adjust his shirt under his arms reminiscent of when a sleeve is slightly twisted underneath a jacket.

None of that has anything to do with his playing.  It was just odd.  The weird thing about his playing though was this: he didn’t play it well. Like conductors, pianists are all open to their own interpretations. They can play around a bit with the tempo, add in their own personal emotion and style when playing a piece, etc.  When conducting a pianist, I imagine there’s quite a bit of challenge to conducting the orchestra to match the playing of the soloist.  Well, Mogilevsky, was a soloist in the truest sense of the word because orchestra be damned!  He was playing with or without them.  He took a quick tempo, but then rushed and rushed his way through it.

The worst part, I think, was that he made noticeable mistakes. Sure, a live performance won’t be exactly perfect like what one imagines from a recording that can be played over and over again before hitting save, but he played wrong notes – and in more than one spot.  Jennifer Hambrick’s concert review commented on that as well:

It might have been the Columbus Symphony’s umpteenth performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, but with Mogilevsky at the keyboard, last night’s performance was anything but business as usual. A nervous-seeming Mogilevsky performed the concerto’s solo-piano introduction with more dynamic ups and downs than usual and a crescendo that peaked too soon.

This erratic introduction became a metaphor for a performance that alternated between technical and artistic brilliance and nerve-racking imprecision. Mogilevsky’s interpretation of the second movement, marked by quicker-than-normal tempi, kept it from lapsing into sentimentality. But underlying it was a sense of panic not normally encountered in performances of one of the most intimate movements in the piano concerto repertoire.

Zeitouni skillfully led the orchestra in solidarity with Mogilevsky’s quick pace in the second and third movements. Mogilevsky’s technique or memory failed him at his entrance in the third movement. And throughout the movement, his tempo changes gave the finale a frenzied feel. Still, not a dull moment.

“Zeitouni skillfully led the orchestra in solidarity…” is an understatement because only an incredibly skilled conductor could have pulled that off and pull it off, Maestro Zeitouni did!  While the orchestra was great and the Maestro brilliant in his conducting, I unfortunately have to agree with the thoughts of an older (looked-to-be retired) patron whom I overheard exclaiming to his friend at intermission “Wasn’t that Rachminoff just awful?”

Like a fine sorbet

The intermission was just what we needed to cleanse our palate and ready ourselves for a wonderful rendition of Brahms’ fourth and last symphony.  I’d never heard it all the way through, but it sure lived up to all the hype!

Wow!  That’s just the first movement, but I definitely need to add this to my music library.  And to think that last year all I knew of Brahms was his ever famous lullaby.  I’ve since added the German Requiem – beautifully performed last year by the CSO – and now this, his 4th Symphony. (And this Saturday, I get to hear the 3rd with the Westerville Symphony Orchestra!)

Having just come off French Horn Week, I now understand why all the horn players were looking forward to the Brahms Concert!  It was a terrific piece for the French Horn. (And of course, I probably watched that section more than any other on Saturday!)  It looked like there was a fifth horn player added to the mix, but without binoculars, I couldn’t tell who it was. Principal Gene Standley, though, had solos throughout the piece which sounded incredible every single time!  Then I saw parts where only he and Adam Koch were playing, then I’d see only Associate Principal Julia Rose and Erin Lano playing.  The entire section was incredible and did not disappoint for even a second!

Hmm…when talking to them last month, they all told me I should listen to Schumann’s Concert Piece for four horns.  Think we can talk the CSO into adding that next year?  Think they take requests?

The entire orchestra sounded great in the second half of the concert.  I was so pleased!  All in all I enjoyed the concert.  The Brahms was wonderful and I loved Brio!  Sure the Rachmaninoff wasn’t what I expected, but I always have my friends Vladimir and Van for that!

In the theatre itself, our seats were great and the orchestral sound that reached us in the rear balcony was wonderful as usual!

Our next concert with our season tickets will be next month when we hear Beethoven’s 5th on November 16.  For that concert, we’re working on getting some of our coworkers to join us.  Fingers crossed we can talk a few people into buying tickets!

Between now and then I’ve picked up an extra ticket for the Mozart: Father and Son concert with French Horn soloist / conductor, James Sommerville, teacher of the CSO’s own Erin Lano, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person after the concert.  She and Adam Koch asked me which section was going to be next.  While I’m working on the bassoon section, I asked for suggestions.  They both pointed me straight towards Principal violist, Karl Pedersen.

Hmm…maybe I can talk him into playing some of Mozart’s Symphony Concertante?  Of course, I’d also need a violinist for that!  Scheming…

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Don’t Look ‘Em in the Eyes!

“You never eyeball a horn player. You just don’t. They’re stuntmen. You don’t eyeball stuntmen when they’re about to dice with death.”

 - Sir Simon Rattle, Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker

WELCOME TO FRENCH HORN WEEK!

Welcome to my week dedicated to the brass instrument known as the French horn.

Having pretty much only ever played with mellophones in marching bands and not with actual French horns, I’ve learned quite a lot the last few weeks while talking to the talented horn players of my Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO). I hope you enjoy reading about this wonderful instrument and meeting the CSO horn players as much as I have.

Today you’ll be treated to a double dose of musical goodness as I introduce the French horn itself followed later this morning by the first of four horn players, Erin Lano.  Tomorrow morning, you’ll get to meet Adam Koch.  On Wednesday, Julia Rose and on Thursday, Principal horn player, Gene Standley.  By Friday, when you’ve had a chance to meet everyone and soak in a bit of how the French horn fits into the world of music, I hope you’ll enjoy some more great samples of music as well as our thoughts on the future of the CSO.

Symphony seasons are just starting up and these musicians are people who do nothing but create beauty in the midst of chaos. If your life is as hectic and crazy as mine, you’ll want to support them because maybe, just maybe, you could use some of that beauty, too.  If all goes well, maybe you’ll even be inspired by the end of this week to go hear your local symphony play.  I promise you, it’ll be worth the trip!

But until you get there, I hope you’ll feel free in the meantime to join in the discussion every day, leaving your thoughts on the French horn and music as well as saying hello to each of these amazingly talented musicians.

So with that in mind, I bid you welcome!

**********

“God made some people Horn players; others are not so fortunate.”

 - Anton Horner, first horn professor at Curtis Institute of Music 

THEY’VE COME A LONG WAY

French horns originally got their start as nothing more than carved out animal horns or even conch shells used primarily to send signals over long distances. Over the centuries, they eventually became a bit more formal in a way – made of metal with a single loop used most often in Renaissance Europe by men on horseback sounding the hunt. There were no valves, so the horn player had to use his breath and his embouchure in order to play different notes.

Playing the French horn is still a challenge today.  According to Associate Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson,

The French horns are…the bridge between the woodwind and brass sections.  They appear in both brass and woodwind chamber music settings, as their sound can have the warmth of woodwinds yet the power of the brass.

It probably is one of the most difficult instruments in the orchestra to learn as technical success relies not only on pressing the right buttons, but a keen sense of pitch and a strong control of embouchure.

During the 17th century, modifications were made to the Hunting Horn, or Cor De Chasse, to turn it into the French horn similar to what we know today. The rest, as they say, is history.

FH JR Cantesanu

I WOULDN’T TOUCH THAT WITH A 12-FOOT HORN!

OK, so that might not catch on as well as not touching something with a 10-foot pole, but horn players everywhere are working to change that.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned about the French horn.

  • When uncoiled, a French horn is 12′ long.  (See?)
  • Screw bell – ever see one of those big, clunky French horn cases? Being able to unscrew the bell makes it much easier to carry. You can see the joint in the picture above of Julia’s horn. It also makes it compact enough to fit inside the cabin of an airplane because no musician wants to check their instrument with an airline.
  • Southpaws take note! It is the only brass instrument that is played left-handed.
  • French horn players however, switch to the right-handed Mellophone when playing in marching band as it plays the same range, but is more easily portable.
  • The French horn has the smallest mouthpiece of all the brass instruments.
  • Handstopping – horn players can change the tone and essentially add more notes just by using the right hand which rests inside the bell while playing.
  • Often thought of as one of the hardest instruments to play.
  • Often seen in Christmas decorations. (Think we can change it from Three French Hens to Three French Horns?)
  • Makes for a tasty pastry!
  • French horns have their own cocktail!  French Horn Cocktail   Ingredients:  2.5 cl Vodka, 2 cl Chambord (Raspberry liqueur) and 1.25 cl Lemon Juice. Chill the cocktail glass while making the cocktail, and once chilled rim the glass with salt. Shake the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into the chilled rimmed cocktail glass.  Cheers!

The French horn itself has definitely evolved over time with its popularity’s really coming into being during the romantic period.

Maestro Wilson has this to stay about that evolution:

You find the best writing for horn from the romantic era to the present time.  The instrument in the classical (and baroque?) periods was just so difficult and unwieldy and even limited in the pitches it could deliver that composers like Mozart and Haydn used it primarily to reinforce the harmony and supply fanfare effects on occasion.  Beethoven’s music is the earliest I can recall that uses it with any particular soloistic flair.

Later on today, you’re going to meet Erin Lano, the first of four CSO horn players.  She, along with Adam Koch,  studied at Rice University, home to Professor Bill VerMeulen, Principal horn player with the Houston Symphony and former Principal Horn player with the CSO. He had this to say about them.

I couldn’t be more proud of Erin and Adam. They are both terrific hornists and people.  I have been so fortunate to both play in the Columbus Symphony and now help staff its horn section with wonderful students. I wish everyone the best.

JUST BEAUTIFUL

To me the French horn is a beautiful instrument.  I love the middle voices and, with apologies to trumpet players everywhere, the best part of Fanfare for Common Man by Copland is when the French horns come in.  Mozart, Richard Strauss and Schumann have some beautiful pieces for the horn.  But, because I cannot deny my love of science fiction, I have to say that I absolutely love the theme music to all of the Star Trek movies which strongly features the French horn.  The theme to the Star Trek remakes (with J.J. Abrams at the helm) are especially nice.

Even if you’re not into SciFi movies, you can’t deny the beauty of this haunting melody.

Now if I’m really lucky, I’ll get one of the CSO horn players to play the theme to Star Trek for me.  I don’t even care from which movie or show.  I know for a fact that at least two of them played with the Cincinnati Pops in a concert that featured Star Trek theme music, so I know they know it. I’m optimistic! (scheming – scheming – scheming)

**********

So glad you made it to French Horn Week!  Come back starting at 10am today to meet Erin Lano!

Bring on the Horns! (Preview) – Don’t Look ‘em in the Eyes – Erin Lano – Adam Koch – Julia Rose – Gene StandleySoul of the Orchestra – Thank you! 

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