Monday, February 20, 2012

It's A Family Affair

This week is sort of a crazy one chez Bryenton. The KSO, as you may know, is presenting Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 this coming Thursday and Friday. Meticulously crafted music as joyous and potent as any Wagner (not to mention shorter), from the German “family tree” of symphonists. The outer movements contain some of the most powerful music ever written, and the Mighty Wurlitzer will peal again, briefly doubling the volume that the 400-odd performers on stage– and backstage– are already making. The UT choruses provide a magnificent wall of sound and backstage brass band is thrilling.

It has been almost 30 years since the KSO has performed Mahler 2; even before my time, during Zoltan Rozsnyai’s tenure. People try to tell me that Kirk Trevor did it during his tenure, but it isn’t showing up on any of the databases. I think they’re getting it confused with the 8th; incredibly, an even more spectacular work which we did in the spring of ‘92. Or the third, which... has a big trombone solo. Or maybe it was a 1999 Oak Ridge Symphony (a rival orchestra) performance, in which a dozen or so current KSO members took part.

With all this talk of sound, it’s important to consider its opposite. The silences in the symphony are like another performer, the ears need that breath. Like everything else we play, this is an especially important work to avoid cell-phone solos.

Meanwhile, in another room of our house, my wife Helen is preparing for her performance on Saturday of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra. JCSO is another rival orchestra, of which she has been concertmaster for almost 20 years. It’s like Meadowmount South here. These are solos that I heard many times in the Concertmaster and Associate Concertmaster auditions we have held here in Knoxville in the past year-and-a-half. I have been saying, “Okay, can we please hear the Schumann Scherzo,” and she’ll start to play Happy Farmer! That show will be at 8:00 at Seeger Hall on the campus of Milligan College.

Helen was also concertmaster of the Oak Ridge Symphony for that 1999 Mahler 2. A bowed and dated first violin part on her music shelf gave it away. So there.

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