Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Great May

The closing Masterworks concerts were the most well-attended that I can recall in recent memory. It was also the first time in a LONG time that Beethoven's 5th Symphony has had a fair audience, having had some unfortunate coincidences the past two times it was programmed. In March of 2006, the work's performance fell on the same night that the Lady Vols competed in the NCAA tournament, limiting our attendance, and the time previous to that, (not sure of the date) it snowed. It wasn't just the Beethoven that drew a crowd, though. Mason Bates' Mothership, which included soloists Christina Horn and Jorge Variego, attracted a new element of our community by blurring the genre lines between classical and electronica.

Also at those May concerts, a KSO violist was honored for her work in the area of Music and Wellness. Instead of paraphrasing a perfectly good press release, I'm including the release here…

     KNOXVILLE, TN - May 22, 2017 

     Eunsoon Lee-Corliss, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Assistant Principal Violist, is one of just five orchestra musicians from across the U.S. to receive the Ford Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service from the League of American Orchestras. The program, made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund, celebrates orchestra musicians and the inspirational work they do in their communities.

     Lee-Corliss will be honored for her exceptional work in the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s (KSO) Music & Wellness program, which places professional musicians into healthcare settings to provide live therapeutic music for staff, patients, and their families to enhance the healing process. She will be presented with her award at the League of American Orchestras’ 72nd National Conference in Detroit, June 6-8, and will discuss her work at an elective session for Conference delegates.

Eunsoon and her husband Scott are enjoying an extended trip to New England before she goes to Detroit to accept her award. New England is very lucky.



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On a beautiful Memorial Day Sunday morning in Poughkeepsie, NY, the Vassar College class of 2017 stepped forth into the future. We were on hand to see our son Richard receive his B.A. in Geography. I can't believe how fast that four years went! An astounding, “small-world” aspect of this Commencement was that Vassar's Interim President turns out to be Jonathan Chenette, the father of KSO principal oboist Claire Chenette! A respected pedagogue and accomplished composer, he has had a work performed by the KSO's Principal Woodwind Quintet at the Q Series. It was truly a treat to hear his opening and closing remarks, and to see him hand out 612 diplomas and shake 612 hands. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Do Not Dally, Come See Our May Finale

The Masterworks season finale concerts are always a memorable event, and this year is no exception.  There will be a variety of “looks” to the repertoire on these concerts, and it will mark the first appearance of a Keytar in our midst.  Each half of the concert will feature a 21st-century work followed by a standard repertoire classic. Opening will be Mason Bates' 2011 composition Mothership, a purely fun work which sees the orchestra sallying forth into the realm of electronica. The keytar is a small electronic keyboard instrument that is slung around the neck like a guitar, hence the name: KEYboard-guiTAR.  Christina Horn, from Knoxville band Hudson K, will supply the keytar wizardry and Jorge Variego will jam on bass clarinet in the improvisatory Bates work.  Strauss' tone poem Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks will close the first half.  After intermission, we shall present music from the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can composed by movie music luminary John Williams. Entitled Escapades, it is essentially a saxophone concerto featuring saxophone soloist Timothy McAllister, backed up by KSO principal bassist Steve Benne and vibraphonist Clark Harrell. The concert (and the season) will conclude with Beethoven's beloved Symphony No. 5.


Let me clear the air about the Strausses.  There were a bunch.  The one generally known as “The Waltz King” is Johann Strauss Jr., he of “Blue Danube” and Die Fledermaus fame.  His father, Johann Sr., is most remembered for his Radetzky March, which we performed on our most recent Bijou and Maryville Park concerts.  Hey, let's not forget Josef Strauss, Junior's brother, who blessed us with the Pizzicato Polka!  And there was, of course, Levi Strauss, a blues composer.  But no, none of these Viennese kindred; our Strauss du jour will be Richard, an early 20th-century German composer who took up where Wagner and Brahms left off.  His Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks has a cartoon-like, slapstick pace, genius orchestration, and a very prominent e-flat (soprano) clarinet part. Here is just one page from the Strauss score.


Some of my earliest musical memories are of a scratchy LP on our hi-fi, playing Beethoven's 5th.  As I recall, the first movement was far too scratched to play, so I skipped ahead to the second movement. I only remember being able to hear the loud parts of the third movement, and the finale is all loud, so as a punky little 4-year-old, I certainly remembered that.  Fast forward 50-something years, and with a dozen or more performances of the work under my belt, I am still amazed at how the second movement Andante con moto can be so rich and so pure at the same time.  A theme and three variations are presented by the cellos and violas; the one set of excerpts that has been on virtually every orchestra audition I've taken in the past 35 years.  (I wasn't thinking about that at age 4, trust me).  The extended coda patiently and gracefully winds down and even morphs into the centuries-old European theme La Folia.

These concerts will happen Thursday and Friday, May 18 and 19 at 7:30, at the Tennessee Theatre. Hope to see you there!

Tickets are going fast, so secure them online here or call 865-291-3310.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Three Cheers for Blood Sweat and Tears!

On Saturday, May 6, the KSO will host iconic jazz/rock band Blood Sweat and Tears at the Civic Auditorium. This will be a repeat appearance by BS&T, who performed with us in 1999.


The late '60s saw two bands emerging as powerful forces in a “rock big band” genre that they alone created: Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Their successes soon inspired formation of similar bands such as Tower of Power, Cold Blood, and the Average White Band. Bands touring today such as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and St. Paul and the Broken Bones owe a debt of inspiration to this groove outpouring. The difference was that while Chicago enjoyed a long span of hits, (each one seemingly cheesier than the last), they didn't have a number one hit until 1976. On the other hand BS&T's second, eponymous LP, released in late 1968, won a Grammy for Album of the Year, no mean feat considering they were up against the Beatles' last recorded album (Abbey Road), and Crosby, Stills and Nash's first. And if I may, BS&T's eponymous LP (actually their second) refuses to sound dated, whereas the political and “flower power” complexion of some tunes on the first few Chicago albums often has me reaching for the “skip” button on the remote.

As with most legacy bands, there have been quite a few personnel changes over the years, to the point where there are no remaining original members performing with the band. This should not be of concern, as the “sourdough effect” of shared experiences between old members and new has kept the spirit of the original band alive. You don't go to a Yankees game expecting to see Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, one would hope, and in music, it's the same story.


Come on down to the Civic tomorrow night! What you'll hear will make you So Very Happy.


Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Tickets here.

To hear an interview with lead singer Bo Bice about the upcoming KSO concert on local station Classic Hits 93.1 with radio personality Frank Murphy, click here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Folklore and Myth

Our April Masterworks concert pair will be a treat for the ears, with classics by Chopin and Ravel, and lesser known works by Bizet and Osvaldo Golijov. Chopin's E Minor Piano Concerto will feature pianist Adam Golka, returning to Knoxville after his performance of Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto in 2009.



Golijov is an Argentinian composer of Romanian descent who melds two seemingly disparate musical genres-- klezmer and tango-- into one unique style. His music has been championed by Yoyo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, and a chamber arrangement of this particular work can be found on the SRE's New Impossibilities CD. Two short movements from Bizet's underappreciated opera The Pearl Fishers will usher in the Golijov work in a seamless tableau.


Back in February of 2007, we performed the complete Daphnis and Chloe ballet score (from which this week's Suite is pulled) under the baton of Lucas Richman. It's a lengthy, quirky work, close to an hour long, but when we arrived at the familiar part, (where the 2nd Suite begins) there was such a chill going up my backbone-- like when you see a spectacular sight that you haven't seen since you were a child. This week, the chills will be instantaneous, as the 2nd Suite begins with Ravel's rich depiction of a sunrise over the isle of Lesbos, from where the story originates. Wind players labor for years over the gently bubbling riffs that open the Suite, and the surges of dynamic power recall Esther Williams' synchronized swimming film extravaganzas from the '40s and '50s. Stravinsky called it “one of the most beautiful products in all of French music,” and you, too will be amazed that something so vigorous could also be so beautiful.
   
Thursday & Friday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre; tickets here. Facebook event here.
                  
                      

Friday, April 7, 2017

APRIL JEWELS

It's April, and for some people that means only one thing-- golf's Masters Tournament, taking place down in Georgia right now. On Saturday, the 8th, KSO audiences will be treated to the work of a Fiddle Master-- Nova Scotian performer Natalie MacMaster! In addition to the electrifying fiddle work, Ms MacMaster can dance the jig and strathspey like nobody's business. You will be amazed at what a large catalog of songs stems from Canada's Cape Breton tradition, and by the ensemble's dazzling precision. That's Saturday night at 8 at the Civic Auditorium. Be aware that there will be a Knoxville Ice Bears game on the other side of the building, so maybe allowing a little extra time to park will be a good strategy.

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Is it already time for another Q Series concert?? Time flies when you're having fun, I guess. We are happy to provide you all with a smile-inducing smorgasbord of chamber music on Wednesday the 12th at the Square Room. The principal String Quartet is going to divide and conquer, with two duos filling out our half. Violinist Gordon Tsai and violist Katie Gawne will present the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia, while violinist Edward Pulgar and I will render for your approval Ravel's 1922 Sonata for Violin and Cello. The Woodwind Quintet will close the show with Endre Szervánsky's Wind Quintet No. 1 from 1953.


When you say “Handel-Halvorsen,” every string player's eyes light up and you can tell you've struck a chord (lol). The Passacaglia starts with a theme written by Handel, then a deftly written series of variations on that theme follows, written by Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen. Why we don't just call this the Halvorsen “Variations on a Theme by Handel” is beyond me; it would save so much explanation. Both it and the Ravel that follows are virtuoso works that have tremendous effect. This is not the Ravel of the Mother Goose Suite and Bolero, but an entirely different animal. Look for two amusing tunes in it; the first in the wacky 2nd movement which, I believe, inspired the Armor Hot Dogs jingle from the mid-'60s, and in its last movement, one that predicts the J Geils Band's song Centerfold (you know, with the whistling outro... I think it's a strathspey...). Although the Szervánsky quintet is the most recently composed work on the program, you will find it's accessibility pleasantly surprising.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Spring String Thing with Oboe Bling

Music of three centuries will be performed at the Bijou Theatre, Sunday April 2 at 2:30.  Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum will direct a pleasing program of Chamber Classics standards, with principal oboist Claire Chenette soloing in Mozart's Oboe Concerto.  Respighi's soothing Ancient Airs and Dances and Tchaikovsky's robust Serenade for Strings round out the program.

Claire has been principal oboist with us since 2014, coming from Iowa via LA.  It came as a pleasant surprise to me that she had settled here in the summer of 2014 just a couple blocks from our house. The coincidences were only beginning to appear, though, as I soon learned that her father, Jonathan Chenette, was the acting president of Vassar College, where my younger son Richard is currently a senior!  When he was home on break, Richard was walking the dog and noticed a car with a Vassar sticker on it.  “That's Claire's car,” I told him.  Jonathan is a composer whose music has been performed by the KSO's Principal Woodwind Quintet.  He was formerly on the faculty of Grinnell College in Iowa.  There he was a fellow faculty member with Mark Dorr, who is also the personnel manager of the Des Moines Metro Opera where I (and several other present and past KSO members) have spent many summers.  The Dorrs and the Chenettes were good buddies when Claire was growing up in Grinnell.

Respighi's neo-Renaissance music has a timeless sound that belies its 1932 composition date, and differs greatly from the grandiose tone poems he is known for, such as “The Pines of Rome.”  Based on compositions by 16th- and 17th-century composers Besard, Roncalli, Garsi da Palma and some anonymous composers, this folio of airs and dances is unique among the three such suites in that it is the only one composed for strings only.  Tchaikovsky's Serenade is also (obviously) for strings only, so please join us for the KSO's Spring String Thing!  Just be advised that due to the Knoxville Marathon, Gay St. will be closed off to vehicles Sunday morning.  I'm not sure when it will reopen, but do look out for and respect those runners who are bringing up the rear.  As usual, there will be a shuttle bus to carry concertgoers from the State St. Garage to the Bijou, starting an hour before the concert and returning to the garage up to an hour afterwords.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gabe Lefkowitz and Friends-- One More Time!

There's a Gabe Lefkowitz and Friends performance fast approaching at the Knoxville Museum of Art, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:00.  It's your last chance to hear Gabe featured on the chamber music series that he initiated upon his arrival in Knoxville six years ago before he concludes his tenure as KSO Concertmaster at the end of the season. Another varied program awaits, with music of Dvorak, Gershwin, Sibelius and Chausson.  Pianist Kevin Class will be a co-soloist with Gabe in the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet.

Note: Thursday's performance is sold out, but a few seats remain for Wednesday's performance, tickets here (or call 865-291-3310). Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Gershwin's Three Piano Preludes are jazzy and snazzy staples of the piano literature.  He had originally intended to put out 24 preludes, (one in each of the major and minor keys) like Rachmaninov had done, but the project was abandoned with only three Preludes making it to the publisher.  Gabe and Kevin will be performing Jascha Heifetz' arrangements of the Preludes for violin and piano.  The Sibelius work will be the Valse, originally composed for violin and piano, and Dvorak's ever-popular Humoresque No. 7 will fit neatly between the Gershwin and Sibelius offerings.  You may have heard the tune of the Humoresque as the setting of the warning posted in train restrooms; “Passengers will please refrain from flushing toilets while the train is standing in the station, I love you...”  It was a tune that musical humorist Victor Borge got a lot of mileage out of in his live performances-- I believe he did a bit about it in his appearance with the KSO in April of 1998.  In case you missed that, or even if you didn't, here is a clip of him performing it-- along with a lot of other of his patented silliness.

Ernest Chausson left us with only 39 opus-numbered works before his tragic death in 1899 (at age 44) in a bicycle accident.  He is remembered nowadays mainly for three works: his Symphony in B-flat, his Poème for violin and orchestra, and this Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet, but all of his works are significant and unique.  The concerto is a work that showcases the piano and violin, but also presents many passages of genuine sextet chamber music, bridging the gap between chamber music and concertante literature.  His style is reminiscent of Franck (with whom he studied composition) and Tchaikovsky, but predictive of Faure, Ravel and Gershwin.  As with Gershwin, one can only imagine the potential riches lost due to an untimely death.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March Gladness

The focus of our March Masterworks concert shall be twofold: a send-off for our departing concertmaster, Gabe Lefkowitz, and a nod towards the cultural celebration that is St. Patrick's Day. Gabe will be closing the program out with Brahms' Violin Concerto, while the music of Peter Maxwell Davies and Percy Grainger bring on the Irish flavor. “Hidden treasures” by Dvorak and Sibelius will fill out the program.



I have somehow managed to have never performed music of Peter Maxwell Davies, an English composer who, sadly, passed since the work was programmed in November of 2015.  The work we are playing, his An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, is a colorful work with a clever subplot.  Themes of bagpipe-y, Celtic character are tossed around by various instruments in the orchestra- flute, clarinet, horn and trumpet- but a surprise entrance by a piper near the end serves to affirm the efforts of the instrumentalists to “sound Celtic.”  Well, I guess it's not so much of a surprise now, but it's an amusing work with a big violin (fiddle) solo that careens and careers as would a wedding fiddler who had had a wee bit too much Glenmorangie 18.  That solo will be handled by concertmaster candidate finalist William Shaub, who comes to us from Houston.  Here is a link to a very amusing video of a performance of the work, with an introduction by the composer himself.

Dvorak's Scherzo Capriccioso is a tone poem written in the period between his 6th symphony (which we performed just a couple months ago) and his 7th.  There are gorgeous little solo passages for flute and harp, and the bouncy, waltzy nature of the work recalls Dvorak's own Slavonic Dances and the gracious, sweeping waltzes of Tchaikovsky.  Also on the program is Sibelius' Spring Song, a decidedly serene work which is a departure from Sibelius' usual musical style, which ranges from stormy to mercurial.

Gabe Lefkowitz is working hard these days, amid a 30-day schedule that sees him performing two concertos in Knoxville and one in Ocala, FL, along with the usual array of concertmaster duties that the Louisville Orchestra dishes onto his plate.  His two “Knoxville concerti” will be the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet at the KMA next week, and Brahms' Violin Concerto this week with the full orchestra.  The Brahms is one of the “Big Four” D-major violin concertos that dominate orchestra programming, the others being by Sibelius (played just last month!), Beethoven and Tchaikovsky (played by Gabe with us a couple years ago). 

My first broach with the Brahms came in college, when I played in the Hartford Symphony under the baton of Arthur Winograd.  Our soloist in that performance was none other than Itzhak Perlman in a gala concert opening the 1983-84 season.  It was just thrilling to share the stage with Perlman. Everyone agreed that it was fine Brahms, but that there was just a little something missing.  Turns out that a couple days after that concert, Perlman was admitted to a New York hospital with a kidney infection!  He'd had to cancel an engagement with the New York Philharmonic on account of his ailment.  I learned a lesson in dedication that day.  Gabe does not have a kidney infection, but his infectious enthusiasm for all things violin will be in evidence this Thursday and Friday at the Tennessee Theatre at 7:30. Tickets available at the door or online here.

PLEASE NOTE that there will be a St. Patrick's Day parade downtown on Friday starting at 7:00, and Regal Cinemas will be opening the new Beauty and the Beast film that night, so parking may be a real donnybrook if you don't allow a little extra time.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Journeying with the KSO

The next performance by the KSO will be Saturday night the 11th, when we shall mine a rich vein of pure Pop as Windborne's Music of Journey” travels into town. Cell-phones (formerly lighters) will be waving as the boys in the band channel Steve Perry's arena rock gang with some memorable tunes. The Civic Auditorium will be lit up like an arena, starting at 8:00. I remember their early hits, Lights and Wheel in the Sky, and remember thinking, hey, this band doesn't sound like they're from San Francisco. With former Santana members Neal Schon and Greg Rolie, and a drummer from The Tubes named Prairie Prince, they had a wide sphere of influence, evolving in the 80s into a Pop hit machine. Dang, could he sing high. A couple songs are staples at weddings; Open Arms and Don't Stop Believin'. I sure hope they do Wheel...

Speaking of journeys, the Story Time string quartets of the KSO are well-traveled of late, performing in libraries in 20 counties across East Tennessee this spring. (The full schedule can be found HERE). From Rockwood to Erwin, from Huntsville to Kingsport, children will be treated to three books read to the accompaniment of a string quartet! The books are geared toward pre-school aged children, and the titles are Stella & Roy by Ashley Wolff, Marianne Berkes's Marsh Music, and The Berenstain Bears' Ready, Get Set, Go! Here is a photo of one of our two Story Time quartets, ready and set to go. There is always a “hands-on” demo following the performance for kids to try out the instruments; a tiny cello and two tiny violins will also make the... Journey.



KSO Story Time Quartet; Ted Kartal, Rachel Loseke, Bill Pierce and Elise Blake



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sunny with a Chance of Scotch and Strings

Although normally (so far) accompanied by howling winds and ice-slick sidewalks, this year's Scotch & Strings performance at Boyd's Jig & Reel in the Old City should be unimpeded by meteorological issues. S&S promises a tasteful and tasty cross-section of the scotch realm with the KSO's Principal String Quartet providing a handsome selection of drinking music for your Sunday evening.

Last year's installment of S&S included an arrangement of a tune by glam-rock forefather David Bowie, who had recently passed. Who knew so early in the year that a horrifyingly large number of pop/rock musicians would ultimately be claimed by year's end? In addition to Bowie Prince, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Keith Emerson AND Greg Lake from ELP and Leonard Cohen plus about 20 more MAJOR forces from all reaches of the rock world would be gone. As if to add insult to injury, New Year's Eve saw the passing of William Christopher, aka “Father Mulcahy” on MASH. I have taken it upon myself to arrange tunes by three such artists for tomorrow night's performance (ELP, Leon Russell and Dan Hicks), songs that work so well for string quartet even without lyrics that I couldn't pass up the chance and challenge. 

There will also be music of Mozart, Holst, Journey, The Charlie Daniels Band, and more, while the Jig & Reel will provide heavy hors d'oeuvres and a steady stream of scotch starting at 5:00. I know, that's when Bar Rescue is airing on SPIKE, but just this once, I suggest TiVo-ing that and coming on down to the Old City. Remember Humphrey Bogart's last words; “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis...”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

BRILLIANT FIREBIRD, AND A PAGE TURNING

The KSO's Masterworks series rolls on this week with a feisty Glinka overture, Beethoven's first piano concerto, a dance suite by groundbreaking composer Florence Price, and Stravinsky's vivid Firebird Suite. Guest maestra Mei-Ann Chen will direct, accompanying piano soloist Lise de la Salle in the Beethoven. It will be one of the last chances to catch Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz on the Masterworks stage, as he soon concludes his tenure with the KSO this spring, before he devotes his energy to his Concertmasterly duties solely with the Louisville Orchestra.

Ms Chen's energy on the podium is abundant, and she had some great analogies to make the orchestra go beyond the notes and play the music. She recently concluded her tenure as Music Director of the Memphis Symphony and currently leads the Chicago Sinfonietta, in addition to guest appearances worldwide. She is also a champion of the music of Florence Price, whose Dances in the Canebrakes we are performing this Thursday and Friday.

Florence Price was an early 20th-century African-American composer who was born in Arkansas and educated in Boston at the New England Conservatory, and in Chicago, where she studied composition with Leo Sowerby, among others. Her music may remind you of that of William Grant Still, whose African-American Symphony was performed on the Tennessee Theatre stage in November. That is not merely a coincidence, as both he and Ms Price both grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Dances in the Canebrakes was orchestrated by Still from Price's piano suite. It has an easy-going, Southern manner, and frankly, I can't get it out of my head right now.

That would be a good way to describe the effects that the rest of the program should have as well. Glinka's classic Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla is the epitome of punchiness, with its great tunes and breakneck pace. Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 probably holds that tune in your head you've been trying to identify for the last two weeks. The Firebird Suite is one of the “Big 3” Stravinsky ballet scores; be ready for THE most startling fortissimo wake-up chord in history, which starts Kashchei's Dance after the lush Rondes des princesses has pacified you.

That's Thursday and Friday, February 16 and 17 at the Tennessee Theatre, 7:30!


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We knew the day would come, when our esteemed concertmaster would attain to and achieve higher ground, and that day has arrived, as you have read recently. In August, Gabe Lefkowitz was selected to be concertmaster for the Louisville Orchestra, after holding that position with us here in Knoxville since 2010. This season he has been splitting his time with both groups; how is that even possible?!


The Gabe Lefkowitz and Friends Concertmaster Series brought a needed new chamber music twist to the KSO's programming, with a humble beginning at Remedy Coffee in the Old City, and graduating to its current home at the Knoxville Museum of Art. I always asked myself, how on earth did he learn so much music so well at such an early age? Add to that performances of concertos by Mozart, Korngold, and (next month!) Brahms, carry the Paganini, and that equals a large sum of music. It was not merely “chops and charts,” however, that won everyone over. Gabe is well-read in music and out of it, and leads an active, robust lifestyle that most men his age just wish for. Tumbling, tennis and triathlon are just the “leisure-time” activities of his that start with a “T.” None of this would matter, though, if he wasn't a thoroughly nice guy with a huge heart, and that's the part about him that I will miss the most. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

KSO Concertmaster News

The KSO Seeks its Next Concertmaster – Two Auditions this Spring!


With the departure of KSO Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz at the end of the current season, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is now in the process of searching for a new Concertmaster. Much like the search several years ago, two finalists will be invited to perform as a guest concertmaster on a Moxley Carmichael Masterworks program with the Orchestra in March and April 2017 led by Music Director Aram Demirjian, as well as present a solo recital with piano accompaniment.

Each recital will be held at 8:00 p.m. at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the main campus of Pellissippi State Community College located off Hardin Valley Road. A map of the campus and parking areas can be found below. Recitals will take place on the following dates:



Recitals will last approximately one hour and include a question-and-answer session, allowing patrons to get to know our finalists. These recitals are free to attend, and no tickets are required. Mark your calendars for the following concerts at the Tennessee Theatre where the finalists will perform as guest concertmasters:




William Shaub


Born in 1992 in Canton, Ohio, William Shaub was a recipient of the Louis Persinger Scholarship as a student at the Juilliard School, where he studied with Cho-Liang Lin and Masao Kawasaki and received the bachelor's and master's degrees in five years. Shaub performed his concerto debut with the Canton Symphony Orchestra at age 12 and has since performed as a soloist and in recitals throughout the United States. He made his recital debut in New York as one of ten "Exceptional Young Artists" at the Starling-DeLay Symposium at Juilliard and he is the winner of an inaugural Zarin Mehta Fellowship with the New York Philharmonic Global Academy.  Shaub has served as concertmaster of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, the Music Academy of the West Festival Orchestra, the Juilliard Orchestra, and Rice University’s Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra. During his time at Juilliard, he led the conductorless Juilliard Chamber Orchestra at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. He performs on a violin made by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, from 1865.

 Vivek Jayaraman

Vivek Jayaraman (Vi-VAKE Ja-yah-RAH-mahn) is currently Concertmaster of the Canton Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Florida Orchestra in St. Petersburg, FL. As a Concertmaster, Vivek has performed regularly with the New World Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland, and the Shreveport Symphony. He recently completed an Artist Diploma in Concertmaster Studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music studying with Cleveland Orchestra Concertmaster, William Preucil. Additionally, Vivek has performed as a section musician with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.  In addition to his studies at the Cleveland Institute, Vivek received a Bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music studying with Charles Castleman and a Master’s degree in Orchestral Performance from Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Glenn Dicterow, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. Vivek plays a modern violin built in 2005 by Roger Graham Hargrave on generous loan from a dear friend.

authored by the KSO Communications Dept.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bohemians in Paris

This weekend, the KSO will collaborating with the Knoxville Opera Company to produce Puccini's La Bohème, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. This staple of the opera literature, written in 1896, hovers in the top three of the most frequently performed operas worldwide, and for good reason. It is the Puccini opus previous to his Tosca, which the KOC and KSO performed “progressive-dinner” style last spring. Puccini foreshadowed themes for Bohème in his embryonic Capriccio Sinfonico, performed on the October, 2016 Masterworks pairs. If you attended that concert, the themes should sound wicked familiar to you.

As a reaction to the rash of historical operas that dominated Italian opera in the late 19th and early 20th century, a new style of work called verismo opera became popular, seeking to capitalize on the popularity of the Scapigliatura or “disheveled” Italian poetry movement of the 1860s, and incorporating “slice-of-life” elements found in the writings of Zola, Maupassant and Ibsen. Other composers such as Giordano, Leoncavallo and Mascagni carried the torch of the verismo phenomenon, but Bohème put verismo- and Puccini- on the map to stay.

I have a long history with Bohème. In the crowd scene in Act II, there's a singing part for an extremely young child, the task of which fell to our son Richard in the KOC's February, 2003, production at age 7. So every time we get to rehearsal number 13 in Act II, I get this nervous feeling in my stomach as I recall the anxiety that came with the huge buildup to this spotlit moment, regardless of who is singing it.

Anyway, there shouldn't be any anxiety on the listener's part, as Puccini's score is chock-full of achingly beautiful phrases and grandly boisterous scenes, and the tragic ending doesn't mar the effect of some truly comical moments. Come on down to the Tennessee Theatre Friday at 7:30 or Sunday at 2:30 for a whirlwind trip to Paris!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Quintessential Quartets at UT's Recital Hall

Please join the Principal Quartet on Sunday, January 29, 2:30 as we present two highly celebrated works by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Note that we are in a new venue for this concert, the posh new Powell Recital Hall at the Haslam Music Center on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Parking for this concert should be readily available in Lot 23, or in meter spaces (meters will NOT be in effect) on Volunteer Boulevard.

Although not known primarily for his chamber music, Tchaikovsky nonetheless hit a home run with his op. 11 Quartet No. 1 in D, from 1871.  Buoyed by the success of his tone poem Romeo and Juliet, and encouraged by Russia's “Group of 5” composers, (Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky Rimsky-Korsakov, and especially, Balakirev), Tchaikovsky led the charge in creating a uniquely Russian musical language and aesthetic.  The centerpiece of the work is the Andante cantabile second movement, a work often excerpted and arranged for string orchestra.  Notice the use of mutes by the players in this movement to create a divinely serene atmosphere, and the “Amen cadence” at the end which holds further divine connotations.  (Whereas most music is based on cadences that travel from “V” to “I,” the Amen cadence progresses from “IV” to “I” after firmly establishing the “I” or tonic).  The transparent, open harmonies of the first movement and Scherzo led one early reviewer to dub the work “the Accordion.”  The nickname would have seemed derogatory if the accordion was not more reputable in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe.


Both Beethoven and Tchaikovsky are “used to” having their works be concert closers, so a quandary arose when deciding concert order for this program.  It might seem “normal” to go from old to new, but in this case, we had to consider how each work ended.  No other Beethoven quartet ends with a fugue, and no other fugue by any composer PERIOD holds such excitement and madcap verve, except for MAYBE the finale of Mendelssohn's Octet.  If the Op. 18 quartets are the book of Genesis of Beethoven's quartet output, the Op. 59's are surely the Psalms.  All through the work, there are sudden outbursts of virtuosic playing that one cannot leave unattended in one's practice.  I was introduced to one particularly famous (or infamous) cello lick when I was 19, and have been working on it assiduously in the 20 years since.  (Little humor there. “Yeah! Very little!”)  The “dance movement” of this work is a minuet which leads into the fugal finale via a coda; a scherzo would have been too much given the fugue's intensity.

Fasten your seatbelts!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Czech Out Our January Concert!

Our busy January continues with Masterworks on Thursday and Friday, January 19 and 20, 7:30, with guest Maestro Andrew Grams leading the orchestra through a Smetana tone poem and Dvorak's 6th Symphony in D.  Our guest violin soloist will be Bella Hristova, performing Sibelius' jaw-dropping Violin Concerto. All three works were written between 1875 and 1903, but they couldn't be more different in content and scope.

The concert will start with Šárka from Bedrich Smetana's Má vlast “(My Homeland).” Although this is also Czech music, or more specifically Bohemian, it is an entirely different animal.  Smetana was a very successful opera composer, having achieved success early on in Gothenburg, Sweden, of all places.  The Czech legend of the female warrior behind Šárka is charming, rustic mythology at its best.  Listen for the incongruous low bassoon notes depicting the snoring of the warrior men.  The KSO last played Smetana's music in April of 2015, his Overture to The Bartered Bride, and the rhapsodic onslaught of notes continues where that work left off.

The Dvorak 6th which closes the concert is actually a three-in-one package deal.  Therein Dvorak happily clicks the “Brahms 2” and “Beethoven 8” filters on his mental search engine, and the synthesis of these two works with his own unique genius adds up to rich symphonic experience on a par with his “New World” Symphony.  The last four Dvorak symphonies are all timeless classics; it's important to acknowledge that Dvorak is about way more than just his 9th.  The second movement Adagio is pure orchestrating genius, succeeding where Brahms had sometimes failed at balancing heart and mind.  The “dance movement” of this symphony is a furiant; a Czech dance that alternates triple and 2/4 rhythms, sort of like “America” from West Side Story, only backwards- and 80 years earlier.  If you like Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, then step right up, because he is at the top of his game here.

No winter weather is in the forecast, so come on down to the Tennessee Theatre later this week!  Look out for the new traffic pattern on State Street, is it seems to be two-way north of the new stop sign on Union Avenue.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Big Band Music from the 18th Century

PHEW!  The sudden snow almost put the kibosh on our Wizard of Oz pops, but things are looking up weather-wise for Gabe Lefkowitz and Friends' penultimate concert at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Wednesday and Thursday, January 11 and 12, we will perform music of Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart in the Great Room, and I am pleased to say that the Thursday night concert is SOLD OUT!  (Limited tickets remain for Wednesday night).  Even the stage will be crowded, as this installment of GL&F boasts a much bigger band; the Vivaldi (“Spring,” from The Four Seasons) and the Bach (Concerto for Oboe and Violin) will feature a 10-piece orchestrina typical of the Baroque. Mozart's delightfully pure Clarinet Quintet will finish the concert.

After this weekend's bracing weather, it looks like we'll be getting a proper January Thaw.  Vivaldi's “Spring” has a lot of the musical devices of nature: the tweeting birds, the rivulets of melting snow, even a barking dog (the solo viola in the 2nd movement).  You can almost hear the sap running in the maple trees!  After the Vivaldi, Principal oboist Claire Chenette will join Gabe for one of Bach's “other double concertos.”  The contrasting timbres of the oboe and violin go together like peaches and cream in this highly conversational, delicately interwoven work.

Mozart's Clarinet Quintet is nestled neatly in the Mozart catalog between his famous Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and his social commentary opera Cosi fan tutte.  Principal clarinetist Gary Sperl will provide the woodwind flavor for this work.  I reiterate that I did perform the quintet with Gary in 1985 at a restaurant in Charleston, SC.  One of the treats of playing at the Spoleto Festival was the profusion of high end restaurants at which festival participants could perform chamber music in exchange for a meal, or rain check for one.  By the end of our stay in Charleston, some of us had a backlog of “meal tickets” to use in just a couple of days.  We were pretty well-fed by the time we got on the plane to Italy!  Ahh, to be young and working cheap.  ANYway, Gary pulled together a quintet and we deployed our forces at a place called Celia's; how he remembered the name of the place is beyond me.  Little did I know that I would be joining him in the KSO just a year later, let alone that I would be playing the Mozart with him 32 years later.

Special thanks to the law firm of Merchant and Gould for underwriting this series, and for the Knoxville Museum of Art for hosting us.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cellos and Trumpets and Horns, Oh My!

It's coming this Saturday night at 8! The world's most seen movie will be shown at the Civic Auditorium, with the accompaniment of a LIVE orchestra!

The art history class I took in college had a unit on motion pictures. My professor, Bernard Hanson, placed a lot of emphasis on how the score could make or break a movie's appeal by going way beyond merely filling silent frames. We covered some great classics; Citizen Kane, Alexander Nevsky, and Ben Hur, among others. The upcoming Pops concert, with the KSO under James Fellenbaum playing Herbert Stothart's Oscar-winning score to The Wizard of Oz, will present a very fine example of effective use of music to advance the plot.


The Wizard has been such a pervasive cultural icon in the 75 years since its release. I recently had the pleasure of watching the film with my mother, who saw it at age 12 when it first came out. Just trying to picture the collective "oohs and aahs" that surely occurred at that moment when Dorothy stepped out of the little house into Munchkinland, marking the birth of color film on the big screen. The movie has spawned (among other things) a rock band (Toto), an Elton John album (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road), a donut-like treat (Munchkins), a song by America (The Tin Man), and a whole galaxy of internet memes. Here are some of my favorites...

OOPS



Speaking of rock bands named "Toto..."



Truth in advertising


This one reminds me of the joke from the 80s, when Ted Turner was "colorizing" a lot of classic b&w movies. It was said that he wanted to "colorize" the first 10 minutes of The Wizard of Oz...