Mark Harrell plays horn in the orchestra, but this week he has been sitting in the audience listening to us play a piece that he composed. Lucas is a champion of modern music, so it's not unusual for the KSO to perform pieces by living composers. This week has been different because Mark has attended our rehearsals and given the orchestra instruction on how he wants his piece to be played. Working directly with a living composer can be very rewarding or very frustrating. I always find it somewhat intimidating. Some composers get quite cranky when the live product doesn't exactly match the performance in their head. Mark is pretty easy-going, so it has been a joy to have the opportunity to work with him this week. I enjoy playing his music. He writes pieces that are easy to listen to. They are tonal and he generally follows conventional form. I also appreciate that the parts he writes for strings are idiomatic to the instrument.
The other unusual piece we are playing this week is Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes. This is a group of nine short waltzes with a chamber choir. The waltzes are often performed by choirs, but hardly ever with orchestral accompaniment. In preparation for this concert, many of my colleagues (including Maestro Richman) searched for a recording of the Liebeslieder Waltzes with orchestra and nobody could find one. It's too bad no one has recorded them because they are absolutely charming.
The next four days are packed with concerts for the KSO. Tonight and Friday the larger orchestra will perform at the Tennessee Theater while the chamber orchestra will perform at the Bijou on Sunday afternoon. The programs are different but share some elements. We will be playing Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes at all three concerts. The chamber concert will also feature Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony.