Tag Archives: Rite of Spring

Soul of an Orchestra

Welcome to our last day of French Horn week here at Giocosity. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting all the horn players of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Don’t worry, I have a few more horn players for you to meet, including Arty Robinson, an up and coming horn player currently at The Ohio State University School of Music, but let’s talk some music first.

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French horns have quite a personality as well as a gorgeous sound. When they first started becoming popular, composers, such as Robert Schumann, were fascinated with them.

It was Schumann who said that “the sound of the horn is the soul of the orchestra.” From the La Jolla Music Society website, I learned this about him:

In the winter of 1849 Schumann became interested in the French horn. The recent invention of the valved horn gave the once-awkward natural horn much greater range, flexibility, and expressive power, and–working at white heat–Schumann set out to exploit the possibilities he recognized in the new instrument. He composed the Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano in four days (February 14-17, 1849) and then over the next three days sketched out the Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra.

Two horn pieces in a week’s time. That’s pretty impressive, don’t you think? Take a look at these two quotes.

Composers generally call on them when bravura is needed, but they also can supply a soulful, melancholy sonority as well.

 - Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson

I myself have always had a weakness for the sound of eight French horns playing in unison. Their rich, golden, legendary sonority transports me.

 - Aaron Copland

FAMOUS (OR NOT SO FAMOUS?) HORN PLAYERS

Helen Kotas was the first woman to be principal horn player for a major American orchestra

Sarah Willis is the first woman to play a brass instrument for the Berlin Philharmonic

I would rather quit several years too soon than 10 minutes too late.

 - Phillip Farkas about leaving his position as Principal Horn of a major symphony orchestra to become horn professor at Indiana University.

This is my favorite!

Who is this Beethoven? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known.

 - A 19th century local music critic about horn player, Giovanni Punto, upon playing the Sonata for Horn and Piano Op. 17 by Beethoven in Pest, Hungary.

YOU’LL WANT TO LISTEN TO THESE!

These are a few of the suggestions of pieces that were recommended this week as great examples of French horn music that we should all have in our music libraries. What I have here is just a small sampling, too! My personal favorite is the third one: the Mozart horn concerto.

I love everything by Mozart, so start with that, but be sure to listen to the Schumann. After that, try the Strauss. From there, venture out to some Wagner and then follow Gene’s advice and listen to “all the 5ths:” the 5th Symphonies by Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. (Throw in Beethoven’s 5th while you’re at it. It’s just good in its own right!)

After listening to all of those, figure out which ones you liked best and then try something else by that same composer and keep working your way out from there. Have fun with it! There’s a lot of great music to be heard! And if you think you’re ready to venture out again, away from YouTube, then why not try an actual concert? Mahler’s 2nd and a Mozart’s Horn Concerto #3 are both coming up!

COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA IN 3-5 YEARS

When talking to Erin, Adam, Julia and Gene, I asked them all where they saw the CSO in the next 3-5 years. They’ve already traveled a long (long) road within the last 5 years. They all spoke of having improved artistically under the leadership of Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni, but want to continue that trend with the next music director.

They all long for a longer schedule! (Obviously – they enjoy being working musicians!) Julia hopes for a new music director who can continue pushing them to make the best music possible.  Erin hopes for someone who can help grow the orchestra. Gene hopes for a return to a 35 week schedule, but knows that it comes down to fundraising. Adam hopes for a good balance of old and new, for innovation without alienating any existing segments of the audience.

Adam went on to say that in doing that, they could “catapult themselves into the next generation”.

THE NEXT GENERATION

This is the current generation of horn players within the CSO. Some are new. Some have been around for a while. So what about the next generation? What about some up and coming horn players?

Rite of Spring Horns

From left to right, Erin Lano, Julia Rose, Adam Koch, Gene Standley and Arty Robinson

While learning about the French horn, Maestro Wilson told me that,

There are regularly four members to the section (adding a fifth with the traditional assistant to the principal), so it is the largest wind section in terms of numbers.

Shown above, Ohio State senior, Arty Robinson auditioned for and made the substitute list with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra last fall where he’s been called to play at rehearsals and family concerts. In March, he had the good fortune of being called to join the horn section for their performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Click here to hear the CSO’s performance of the Rite of Spring.  If you listen carefully, you can also hear the tapping of the dancers’ feet on stage!

Like the rest of the section he, too, thinks of Stravinsky as a genius and even wrote a paper on him while still in high school!  (Hmm – wonder if I can get a copy of that!)

Arty told me that he’s been a part of the CSO’s Youth Orchestra programs and has studied with former 2nd Horn, David Urschel, since he was in middle school. He’s currently studying under professor Bruce Henniss at the Ohio State University School of Music and plays a Lewis & Duerk LDx5 French horn. Last summer he attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a scholarship student of David Wakefield, Horn and Chamber Music professor from Julliard.

Arty’s dream job would be as a horn player in the Chicago or San Francisco Symphony. I truly hope he makes it to one of those!

Perhaps the generation after him will someday consider a job in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as their dream job!!

**********

Well that’s it for French horn week! I hope that somewhere along the line someone out there is listening right now to one of the videos above. or is backtracking to Adam’s post to listen to his take on the theme to the new Star Trek movies, or kicking back and checking out the schedule of their local symphony. Heck – maybe someone will even think about suggesting that their child take up the French horn. Music is a wonderful thing and whether we listen to it or create it ourselves, it should always have a place in our lives.  I hope you agree!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read all I’ve written this week. I really appreciate it!  Now – what instrument should I write about next?! :-)

Many thanks to Arty for the use of his (group) picture on this post! 

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

Absinthe and Meringues

2013 is the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s debut of his ballet Rite of Spring.  For that anniversary, our own Columbus Symphony Orchestra performed it in collaboration with the Ballet Met Columbus.  The music and dancing were both funky beyond belief, but the performance was really great – a lot of fun.  In celebration of this anniversary, everyone’s favorite ice cream shop, Jeni’s Ice Cream, created a special flavor just for this occasion: Absinthe and Meringues

Yesterday, during what was the first nice day in central Ohio in about 3 years, I stopped by Jeni’s Ice cream for some ice cream.  I was happy to see that Absinthe and Meringues was still available and not just a special flavor only for the concert-goers.

Here’s a lovely trio of Absinthe and Meringues, Guava Cloverton and my favorite, Wildberry Lavender.  The person who scooped it up for me said it made for a very pretty combination.  I agreed.  I probably should have taken the picture before I took a few bites, huh?  Oh well.  And yes – I did eat the whole thing with a sample spoon.  Can’t help it.  I’ve done that since I was a kid!

Getting back to Stravinsky though: Jeni’s ice cream not only created a great blog entry filled with some fun pictures showing the making of the new Absinthe and Meringues flavor, but also a fabulous video set to the music of the Rite of Spring.  It’s worth a watch!

Though it’s still available at all the Jeni’s shops, I’m not sure for how much longer it will be available as it’s not even seasonal.  It’s available for a “limited time only.”  I’m thinking that just means until they run out.  So quick – hurry out to your local Jeni’s and grab some of this!  Though a little funky at first, like the music for which it was made, you’ll end up thinking it’s quite delicious!

This is a picture of the front window of Jeni’s in Grandview while I was sitting outside yesterday enjoying my ice cream.  Yum.

Undecided, but positively so? I think.

This past Saturday, I returned to the Columbus Symphony for their latest performance.  This was a special occasion because they were performing in collaboration with the Ballet Met – a group of wonderfully talented dancers.  Wow.  They were really good. Combine that with the fantastic orchestra and you’re sure to have a great performance.

I’m going to stop right there and apologize up front to the Columbus Symphony and also to the Ballet Met.  To all, I will be completely honest:  I am not a fan of the ballet.  I can appreciate the work and the talent and a performance, but I’m just not crazy about it.  I also don’t really care for Romantic era or 20th century classical music.   I’m sorry.  I just don’t.

Hey – some folks don’t like football (those who don’t are usually banished from the state of Ohio) and some folks don’t like spicy foods and some folks don’t like black licorice.  We all have our likes and dislikes.

I’d heard some pieces by these composers before – Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky – but I’d never heard these particular pieces, so I was going in and listening to brand new music.  That’s part of the reason to go though, right?  To expose myself to new things?  Well – I kind of feel like I was flashed (DON’T LOOK, ETHEL!) because this music was so different than what I normally like to listen to on the radio and at home.  Gotta love a good adventure once in a while though, yes?

This was not one of my season tickets, but I learned a friend was going to perform and I didn’t want to miss it.  I went there knowing I’d be exposed to something different, but also knew I was going to hear music that would normally trigger my involuntary reflex to change the radio station to anything else – including country.  (OK, maybe not talk radio.  I think I’d rather drive in silence than opt for that!)

Needless to say, while the performances were sure to be terrific, I was not at all expecting to actually like it.  Any of it.  My expectations however, were somewhat shot.  :-)   

So – those caveats out of the way, here’s what was on the program:

Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

BalletMet

Program:

DEBUSSY Syrinx

DEBUSSY Prélude à “l’Après-midi d’un faune”(Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun”)

RAVEL Rapsodie espagnole

STRAVINSKY Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Christopher Purdy said that during the first performance of Rite of Spring, 100 years ago, there were riots because it was so weird.  He also said that the first half of that performance included nice, happy music that was in a happy key (the entire piece) and had chords that resolved.  Ahh…music to my ears.  Rite of Spring: very different.  Definitely makes for an interesting story around this piece of music!  

Before the concert, during intermission and afterwards, I posted some thoughts on Facebook.   

Oh wow – much better seats than usual! For this concert I am WAY out of my comfort zone. (No really – Waaaaaayyy out) My favorite eras of classical music (Gershwin and Rachmaninoff excepted) are classical, baroque and early. This new-fangled, 20th century, modern stuff is going to seem very strange to my ears this evening! I LIKE chords that resolve…

***

Intermission: lots of really weird music at the CSO tonight! Not sure I like it yet. Seriously. Debussy and Ravel down, Stravinsky Rite of Spring to go!

***

I just saw Rite of Spring performed by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Met. I didn’t really have any idea what was going on (well – that’s not entirely true), but surprisingly, I actually liked it. It was very impressive. Tomorrow morning, I’m starting my Rite of Spring workout program. It’ll be great. Should be down to 100-lb ballerina weight in no time! (It really did look like they were getting a great workout!)

***

I went to the Columbus Symphony last night. Still not sure if I liked it. Normally, the music played (Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky) is the kind of music that, when heard on the radio, would cause me to instantly change the radio station – even to country music. I just don’t like late romantic or 20th century classical. (Few exceptions – like Gershwin, Rachmaninoff, late Beethoven) 

First half – didn’t like the music, didn’t really get the dancing. 2nd half (Rite of Spring) I THINK I liked it…would never listen to the music by itself, but the dancing was funky and while I didn’t get most of it, I really do think I liked it…but am still not sure. 

I’ll admit that were it not for the fact that I knew someone performing, I would not have bought a ticket. I had a really good seat though! Hmm…overall, I’m still kind of undecided about the music, but am glad I went. 

***

The music was well-played and the dancing – especially during Rite of Spring (no riots this time, by the way) – was fabulous!  Wow!  I’m really impressed with Ballet Met.  The choreography was really funky, but I liked it – despite my not understanding a thing of what was going on half the time!  I wasn’t expecting to like Rite of Spring, not at all, but I did.  I’ll be honest with you – I probably wouldn’t enjoy just the music just on its own, but with the ballet to go with it, it made for a great combination.

There was also Jeni’s ice cream afterwards: Absinthe and Meringues.  Like all Jeni’s ice cream, it was delicious.  Who cares what the temperature was outside?  We were all going to have some ice cream!  

After all that, I just might go to something like that again – even without knowing someone who was performing.  

Well done, Columbus Symphony.  Well done Ballet met.

Well done. 


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