Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wrapping up and Looking Forward

I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that the 2009 - 2010 season is over. There were some great moments this past year. Last week I had the opportunity to ask several colleagues what the highlight of this season was for them and what they are most looking forward to next season.

Highlights from this season:

* Petrouchka. Nearly everyone mentioned Petrouchka. Maestro Richman even named Petrouchka as one of his season highlights.

* Mozart Requiem also received numerous mentions.

Those were the two biggies. Other things that stuck out for individuals were:

Our performances of John Williams' The Reivers, Der Rosenkavalier, soloists Adam Golka, Rachel Lee, and Benjamin Hochman, Barber of Seville with KOC, Midsummer Night's Dream with CBT, and Cirque de la Symphonie (weren't they INCREDIBLE?!?!)

The biggest excitement about next season can be summed up in one word: Amadeus. Everyone mentioned Amadeus from musicians to audience members to Maestro Richman.

Close behind is the search for our next concertmaster. Similar to our Music Director search several years ago, three finalists will have an opportunity to come for a week to rehearse and perform with the orchestra throughout next season. The concerts we have programmed for the search all have big juicy solos for the concertmaster: Ein Heldenleben, Scheherezade, and Tchaikovsky's Suite from Swan Lake. Additionally, each candidate will give a recital the Monday of their residence with the orchestra.

Those are the two biggies in terms of buzz, but next season is packed with so many wonderful things that everyone I pressed beyond those two events all named different things: Firebird, Janacek Sinfonietta, Chris Botti, Midori, Prokofiev 5, Beethoven 9, Mozart 39, Les Preludes, the Gershwin concert, the John Williams concert... Violinist Lisa Muci put it best: "'s going to be one of those years when it's almost impossible not to buy all of the full subscriptions, because Maestro Richman has programmed so many exciting things..."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Festival of Reading

Congrats to the Knox County Public Library on another successful Festival of Reading. Every year I wonder how they can possibly top last years festival and every year it just gets better and better.

My daughter and I were able to catch the KSO story time performance at the festival. These performances are always fun, but this one was particularly exciting because it was the premiere performance of a children's book written in honor of our upcoming 75th anniversary season. Better Than Cookies, As Good As Cake was written by KSO cellist Stacy Miller. It is about a group of friends who get together to form a string quartet. Children are introduced to string instruments, the string quartet, and there is a lot of counting incorporated into the book. This may very well be the only book about a string quartet aimed at young children.

Jennifer Barnett, KSO director of education and community partnership and soprano supreme was the narrator for the story time performance.

Lucie and Ikuko play a duet.

Saturday was also a special day because two members of the quartet celebrated their birthday. Happy Birthday Bill and Stacy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Last night's dress rehearsal for the final Masterwork's concerts of the season was a true dress rehearsal. We donned our concert black or tuxedos a day early for the benefit of around 40 visual artists who attended the rehearsal. As we played they took pictures, sketched, and listened to the rehearsal. All this was in preparation for the orchestra's 75th season. Area artists have been invited to submit works of art depicting the orchestra. Artwork that is chosen will be displayed at a special exhibit beginning in October.

Fans of fine art won't have to wait until October, though, because tonight and tomorrow at the KSO's final concerts of the season local artist Mike C. Berry will be unveiling his depiction of the symphony - a work that was commissioned by the KSO to kick off the 75th anniversary season. Mike Berry has made his career depicting local landscape and life. He was voted "Best Visual Artist of East Tennessee" in a 2009 Knoxville News Sentinel reader's poll. Recently he was hired by ABC news to be a courtroom artist during the US vs Kernell federal trial here in Knoxville. He also has a blog, Postcards from Knoxville, where he posts a new postcard sized painting daily. Mike's paintings are stunning. I can't wait to see his painting of the orchestra.

A limited edition of 500 giclĂ©e prints of the work will be on sale during the concerts’ intermission and throughout the season. Print prices range from $100 to $250.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Final Countdown

This is the final week of the Knoxville Symphony's 2009 - 2010 season. For me this year has flown by. It seems like we just started the season! There is a lot packed into this week.

On Sunday evening my quartet played for the Lucas Richman Society. Before the concert there was a dinner. To be honest, meeting new people and mingling makes me nervous. Also, I am very intimidated by place settings that contain multiple forks and glasses. I don't attend formal events often and when I do I usually manage to spill something down my shirt or drop a buttered roll on the shoe of the person next to me. I'm glad that I attended the dinner on Sunday, though, because I had a wonderful time talking to the people at my table. It is a group who are just as passionate about the symphony and music as the musicians on the stage. And I didn't spill, drop, or break anything the entire evening.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon, the symphony began rehearsing for our final Masterworks concert of the year. I had forgotten how powerful the Pines of Rome is. HUGE amounts of sound coming from the stage as well as additional brass players in the balcony. Being in the middle of all that sound is an awesome experience. It is so tremendous you can feel it in your core. Tonight we will rehearse Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto with Rachel Lee. Prokofiev 2 is one of my favorite violin concertos and I'm looking forward to hearing Rachel's interpretation. Also on the schedule for tonight is Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, which contains one of the highest incidental solos for viola in the orchestral repertoire.

Masterworks takes up most of this week, culminating in concerts on Thursday and Friday. Saturday is the final performance of the season, though. On Saturday a string quartet from the symphony will be performing two story time concerts at the Children's Festival of Reading. If you've never attended, this is a fun event that is not to be missed. The festival kicks off the Knox County Public Library's summer reading program. It takes place at World's Fair Park this Saturday from 10 until 3. There are all sorts of things for kids to see and do including crafts, inflatable bouncy things, a magician, and, of course, KSO story time performances. A quartet from the symphony will be giving two performances in the morning. KSO story times are always nicely paced and interactive.

More information about the Masterworks concerts and Festival of Reading performances can be found on the main KSO website.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Circus is Coming!!!!

One of the best things about playing in the symphony is that I have to attend all the concerts. The programs we perform are hugely varied from small ensemble chamber music to full-scale symphonies to shows with world-renowned pops artists. Most of the time I feel like I have the best seat in the house - in the Tennessee Theater I probably have the best view of our pianist soloists of anyone in the entire house.

This week, though, I am insanely jealous of the audience. On Saturday we are performing a show entitled Cirque de la Symphonie. Acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and aerialists will be performing choreographed routines to live music. I'm really looking forward to the show but this is one where I wish I could be in the audience instead of on stage playing. Our playlist is hit after hit: Dvorak Slavonic Dances, Saint-Saens Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah, Dance of the Swans from Swan Lake, Les Toreadors from Carmen, Bolero, etc, etc, etc. This concert is going to be a fun one to play, which is my consolation for not being able to watch the performers the whole time. The KSO has a preview video of the show in it's main webpage and there are many others available on youtube. The musician buzz about this concert has been huge. Friends in other symphonies who have played the show say it is one of the best pops concerts they have ever performed.

If you would like to attend this concert, I highly recommend calling to reserve tickets ASAP. As of yesterday there were only 50 seats left.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne

Vocal giant Lena Horne passed away last night at the age of 92. May she rest in peace.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Final Chamber Classics Concert

As usual, the end of the season has snuck up on me. Weren't we just celebrating the holidays with the Clayton Concerts?! The KSO will perform it's final Chamber Classics Concert of the season this Sunday at the Bijou Theatre. This concert is a special one because there are a few things happening that are out of the ordinary.

* This is the last time Mark Zelmanovich will appear with the orchestra as a soloist while he is the concertmaster of the KSO. Mark will be performing Tchaikovsky's Meditation.

* Also on the program is the Concerto Grosso by Paul Ben-Haim. This is a piece that is not often performed, and if there even is a recording available, it has proved difficult to locate. This Sunday may be a once in a lifetime chance to hear this work. It is a neat piece: it's not terribly often that a work for a smaller orchestra not only calls for contrabassoon, but also gives the instrument an important solo. (Listen for Cora near the beginning of the Chaconne.)

* Have you ever attended a concert where the conductor simply left while the orchestra continued to play? It might just happen this Sunday....

Monday, May 3, 2010

KSYO Concert Tonight!

Tonight is the final Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra concert of the season. The kids and KSYO staff have been working very hard all year. The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra is a pretty incredible program. The program has five orchestras ranging in level from elementary age students who have never played in an orchestra before to high school students performing major symphonic repertoire. Kids as young as early elementary school age can participate. Many cities have a youth orchestra but there are not many cities the size of Knoxville that have as an extensive program as we do.

Tonight's performance is free and will be at the Tennessee Theater at 7:00. Doors will open at 6:30. All the ensembles will perform. The performance by the Youth Symphony will feature the winners of this year's concerto competition: Kenneth Trotter and Libby Weitnauer playing Holst's Concerto for Two Violins (Kenneth and Libby study with two KSO violinists: Miro Hristov and John Michael Fox), and Katherine Zhang (student of David Brunell) who will perform the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in A. Congratulations to Kenneth, Libby, and Katherine, and also to the runners-up of this year's competition: violinist Melody Falconnier and pianist Larry Shen.