Thursday, February 25, 2010

Different Perspective

Athleticism has never been my prowess. When I perform as a soloist or as part of a quartet the thing that keeps me up at night is not the actual playing, it is the mere act of walking out on stage. I am a step aerobics teacher's nightmare because, for as much as I can control my fine motor skills, I am a gross motor dunce. So, I shouldn't have been shocked when, on Monday, I did my best impression of an Olympic ski crash. Only I was just walking. And there wasn't any snow. (Yes, I know that in there, somewhere, there is a viola joke just begging to be had.)

I'm fine. I'm not sure which is more badly bruised, my arm or my ego. I am, however, out for the week. This afforded me a rare chance to check out the symphony from the audience. Last night I attended the dress rehearsal for tonight and tomorrow night's Masterworks performances. It was fun, I really enjoyed listening. Things sound very different in the hall then they do from the first desk of the viola section. Last night the orchestra sounded particularly great in Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet.

Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream features actors from the Clarence Brown Theatre. It was quite entertaining. I got the giggles hearing the character of Thisbe performed in Shakespearean English with a Southern accent. If you are attending the concert and aren't familiar with the play, I would advise reading a synopsis. The actors from Clarence Brown are playing more than one role apiece, differentiated with different hats, and, of course, are not performing the entire play. It was interesting to see how Lucas and the actors from Clarence Brown put this together. There is a good balance of the actors and orchestra taking turns being the main focus. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much the orchestral passages enhanced the mood of the play. If you are able to brave this horrible winter weather we are having, I highly recommend attending tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blogger's Night!

Blogger's Night is coming up this week! I had so much fun meeting everyone at the reception last year, I look forward to seeing some of you again and hopefully meeting some new people this year.

I'm hoping that we'll have some new faces in the audience this week, so I'm re-running part of a blog I wrote last year in preparation for Blogger's Night.

Do I have to wear a tie / ball gown / tux?
Only if you want. Wear what you are comfortable wearing. You will see people in all kinds of attire at the concert from very formal to jeans and a teeshirt. Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

When do I clap?

This is a sticky question, and one that has been discussed and debated here. Tradition says to wait until the entire piece is over before clapping. To clap in the “right” place you can either count movements or do what I do and wait for someone else to start clapping before joining in. Another way to tell it it's time to clap is to watch the orchestra and conductor. If we still have our instruments up and the conductor hasn't turned around, it usually means we're only pausing between movements and the piece isn't finished. Don't stress too much about this. Even if you accidentally clap in the “wrong” place, applause is a show of appreciation and we like to hear it.

Can I take pictures of the orchestra / theater?

Yes, you can take still pictures of the orchestra and theater before the concert starts, at intermission, and at the end of the concert. When the lights go down and the concertmaster walks on stage to start the performance, we request that you stop taking any flash pictures. Video and audio recording are not permitted.

Where can I learn more about the pieces that I will hear?

The KSO posts program notes online. You can read about the pieces you will hear on Blogger's Night here. There is also a pre-concert chat that is free to anyone who is attending the concert. These start at 7:00. I highly recommend attending. They are led by the conductor and really give you a better idea of what to listen to during the performance. When I can sneak out of the house early enough, I like to listen to the pre-concert chat. Even though I've spent the week rehearsing the music, I almost always learn something interesting.

If you have any other questions, please post them in the comments section. I will do my best to answer them for you. I am looking forward to meeting my fellow bloggers at the reception after the concert!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Principal Quartet at Borders

My quartet has been rehearsing quite a bit lately. There have been several days in the past few weeks where, between quartet rehearsal and symphony rehearsal, I've spent more time with my quartet members than I have with my husband. Luckily we all get along. (And my husband is understanding about the strange schedule of a professional musician! He does want to write a guest post entitled "The Symphony Widow" sometime, though.) Usually a string quartet puts itself together; people mutually decide to play as a group. In our situation, the symphony has put us together because we are all in principal seats. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. Right now it's a successful mix of personalities and temperaments and I'm thankful. The give and take of rehearsing and performing with the quartet is very satisfying.

This Friday at 7:00 (tomorrow!), the Principal Quartet will be performing at the Morrell Rd. Borders. We'll be playing a few movements of the first Brahms quartet as a preview of our April chamber concert, some Mozart, a piece or two by Gershwin, and some other light classics. This is a free concert and we'd love to see you!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Next Season!

I am so excited. The KSO publicly announced the 2010 - 2011 / 75th anniversary season yesterday and it does not disappoint. You can check things out for yourself here, but I'll give you some highlights of what I'm looking forward to next season.

* Amadeus!!!! In September we will be collaborating with The Clarence Brown Theatre for a stage production of Amadeus. I have no idea if we'll be in a pit or on-stage. Either way, I have a feeling this will be really neat. (By the way, next week we are collaborating with CBT on a smaller scale for our Shakespeare-inspired Masterworks Concert!)

* We've got all sorts of wonderful guest artists scheduled. Dylana Jenson will play Tchaikovsky in September, Norman Krieger will play Rhapsody in Blue in October, Orli Shaham will play Chopin in February, Jeffrey Biegel will be back in April playing Bolcom, Joel Fan will play Rachmaninoff in May, Midori will play Mendelssohn in January, and Conductor Emeritus Kirk Trevor will be back for one concert in March with his daughter Chloe as violin soloist.

* We will be having our concertmaster search all next season. Three finalists will spend a week with the orchestra playing a Masterworks concert and giving a solo recital.

* Some great chamber music will be happening next season. My quartet will be performing Cowell's Mosaic Quartet and Beethoven op. 59, No. 1 in F ("Rasumovsky"). The Woodwind Quintet will also be performing a work by Barber, and Nadine Hur, Gary Sperl, and Cindy Hicks will be playing Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for flute, clarinet, and harp.

* We're scheduled to play some truly blockbuster pieces. Schubert "Unfinished" Symphony, Janacek Sinfonietta, Liszt Les Preludes, Strauss Ein Heldenleben, Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherezade, Prokofiev Symphony #5, Mozart Symphony #39, Beethoven Symphony #8, and Beethoven Symphony #9.

* Did I mention we're playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony?! I love this piece so much I have already started a countdown to our performances: only 424 days left....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Leontyne Price!

Yesterday was soprano Leontyne Price's 83rd birthday. There are many wonderful clips of Ms. Price on Youtube but I like this one in particular due to the audience reaction. Happy Birthday Ms. Price!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tchaikovsky Accordion Concerto

I feel a certain kinship with accordion players. The accordion is an under-appreciated instrument that is the butt of many jokes, sort of like the viola.... Really, great accordion playing is just as spectacular as any other instrument played well. Maybe even more because it is unexpected.

Lisa Muci brought this clip to my attention. All I can say is WOW! The 3rd movement of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto is a bear to play when you're just handling the solo part. This musician manages to not only play the solo part, but all the orchestral parts too. It is too amazing not to pass on to you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sound Bites

This morning the quartet had an extra long rehearsal. My brain is a little bit fried, so here are some small observations about our rehearsal process this past week.

* Yesterday the quartet rehearsed at my house. Progress on the Bartok was compared to a football game: 6 inches forward at a time and a whole lotta instant replay in slow motion.

* Unlike Miro's cats, my cat, and Andy's as well, doesn't seem to care one way or the other about Bartok. No singing along and neither hid nor parked themselves close to us.

* After one particularly heinous "crash and burn" moment in rehearsal yesterday we looked out the window and noticed an ambulance slowly driving by my house. I wondered if the neighbors had called.

* Some of the chords I have to play make me wish for a sixth finger: three note clusters, perfect fifths over three or four strings. There are some things that are just about impossible. I know that Bartok knew this and just didn't care. I like that. Pushing technique to the limit is how we get better. After all, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was declared unplayable at one time.

* I love Brahms but find it just as difficult to play as the Bartok. It's not as technically challenging; the phrases are so long it is easy to get lost in the middle. I need a GPS in the Bartok to guide me through the mixed meter and rhythmical craziness. I need one in the Brahms to perfectly shape the phrases.

* As much as I joke, the more we rehearse the Bartok, the more I like it. Modern music tends to be like that: the first listening leaves you a bit speechless but the more you get to know the piece the better you like it. Putting the Bartok together is very satisfying, both because it takes so much work to figure it out and also because it is a piece that is much greater than the sum of its parts. I'm really happy we're playing it, it's a wonderful piece. I also know I wouldn't have gotten to know it this well otherwise and this has been a great lesson to me in giving unfamiliar music a chance.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Grammys

Congratulations to composer Jennifer Higdon, who grew up in Seymour, TN; for her Grammy win last night! Higdon won the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for her Percussion Concerto.

As I watched the Grammys last night, I couldn't help thinking about what symphony pops shows will be like in another 20 years or so. It's easy for me to picture Taylor Swift performing a symphony show. Chris Botti is a no-brainer. I can even see Pink, The Dave Matthews Band, and Beyonce performing with a symphony in a dozen years or so (not together...). The Black Eyed Peas? Not so much. The thought of Lady Gaga performing with a symphony is both frightening and intriguing. (Much like Lady Gaga herself.) If it ever happens, I want to be there.

If you missed the Grammys or you want to check out the winners in categories that weren't featured last night on television, the entire list of nominees and winners can be found here.