Saturday, June 1, 2013


Wow. A transforming weekend. (Last weekend) Without going into too many details, since the last entry I’ve been to New England, where our son Thomas received his B.A. in Art History from Middlebury College in Vermont. Moving him from his dorm happened in a driving rain, which started Thursday night and never stopped pouring even as we left on Sunday afternoon. The high temperature while there was 45. I also attended a graveside service in New Hampshire for my Aunt Nell, my dad’s brother’s widow; she was 94. It was 65 years ago Thursday that she and Uncle Earl stood up beside my parents, who are both still up and about and went out to dinner that night. It being Memorial Day, it was appropriate that my parents and Richard and I should visit our ancestor’s graves; my roots run deep in the Granite State.

While waiting FOUR HOURS for a late plane in Charlotte, I had time to flip backwards through my calendar, in hopes of collating a “top ten” list of great moments from this past season. I got to about 7 when our flight was cancelled, at which point there was nothing to do but freak out. But I’ve narrowed it up and so here it goes, in no particular order.

6. Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, the “deep end” of the January Chamber Classics concert, featuring principal horn Jeffrey Whaley and tenor Cody Boling. Deep, rich tonalities from England’s most fertile musical mind.

3. Verdi’s Requiem. Thrilling choral music by one of the masters of drama. “Surround-sound” brass and a cornucopia of wonderful tunes, all with a distinct Italian accent.

8. Dvorak’s Piano Quintet. I had never performed this work until January, at Remedy Coffee with concertmaster Gabe Lefkowicz. It was like a late Christmas present.

4.  Sweeney Todd. It’s hard to believe this was part of the ‘12-‘13 season because it started so long ago- the earliest start to a KSO season ever. Sondheim’s score still scares me.

1. The Rite of Spring. Not much needs to be said here, a tour de force for the orchestra. Although it was my fifth time performing the Rite, the individual performances were the best this time, adding up to a totality that was waaaaay more than the sum of its parts.

2. Principal quartet concert in April. I had only performed the Beethoven op. 95 quartet before; the Debussy, Borodin and Richman works were all new to me. The Debussy especially was a challenge, having heard so many good recordings of it and wondering just how we would put it together. At the end of the day, though, I was just as likely to be humming tunes from Lucas’ work as from the others. Written more than half of his lifetime ago, Movements for String Quartet left me hoping that more quartet music would be forthcoming from him.

9. La fanciulla del west. I enjoyed revisiting Puccini’s strangest opera, having done it almost 30 years ago at Spoleto. There were big giant déjàvus that left me feeling like Buddy Hackett running through the big “W” in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

7. Bernstein’s Candide. This was only a suite from the opera, but it came out of nowhere to win over players and audience members alike who were unfamiliar with it. The overture is just the tip of the iceberg here; Make Our Garden Grow (the closing chorus representing the other end of the iceberg), gets me every time, and Bernstein’s sense of humor carried the show all the way with fine singing by Boris van Druff, Jeff Austin and Karen Nickell.

10. Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Although we hear Korngold’s music (and that of his countless imitators) a lot, it is usually in movies. Here was a work that featured concertmaster Gabe as soloist, and he really knocked it out of the park. The concert finished with Brahms’ 4th, (maestro Richman’s audition piece from ten years ago), inviting reflection on ten great years.

5. The May Chamber Classics featured Within the Quota, music for a ballet by Cole Porter. A somewhat obscure but very charming period piece, some of Porter’s musical effects were just laugh-out-loud funny.

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