Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Warm Tunes for Cold November Nights

The November Masterworks concert pair this Thursday and Friday at the Tennessee Theatre boasts three essential masterpieces.  Beethoven's Violin Concerto will be in the unusual lead-off spot, with two tone poems following intermission; Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, and Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet.  Any of these works could either open or close a concert, and their content is gripping.

Beethoven's concerto for violin is a towering work in its genre, although it had a rocky start. Beethoven finished writing the solo violin part the day of the premiere, so that the soloist and dedicatee, Franz Clement, had to sightread parts of it at the performance!   Needless to say, these less-than-ideal conditions led to an unsuccessful debut, and the work lay in relative obscurity until 1844. At that time, 12-year-old Joseph Joachim resuscitated the work in London under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn.  Joachim would later become a close friend of Brahms, collaborating on the later master's violin concerto and contributing the work's cadenza.   Luckily, guest soloist Paul Huang will have had much more time to prepare than Franz Clement did back in the day.

Death and Transfiguration is a deceptively macabre title for a work that is chock-full of both energy and profound beauty.  Strauss's command of orchestration is just jaw-dropping, and guest maestro Joshua Gersen has his finger on the pulse of the composer's intentions.  The phrase “tone poem” has come to be a catch-all term for a programmatic work that is longer than an overture but usually shorter than a symphony.  It isn't that the music is particularly rhyme-y; it might as easily be called a “tone saga,” or “tone mural.”  Tchaikovsky's Overture-Fantasy “Romeo and Juliet” touches on all the moods and nerves of Shakespeare's drama, thanks to some of his most poignant coloristic writing. Check out the muted violas and second violins about 5 minutes in.  It is the most beautiful musical depiction of bullfrogs in the moonlight, serenading the two lovers. 

Performances are Thursday, Nov. 16 and Friday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre. Tickets found here.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Novemberfest

Anyone who has lived in this town for more than 10 or 15 years cannot deny the spectacular growth that the city has experienced in that period.  This “crescendo” has been encapsulated by the boom in craft breweries, ignited by a national trend thereto.  Knoxville currently boasts at least ten of these institutions, where ten years ago there might have been one.  The KSO has partnered with several of them in presenting a new and unique music-centric experience called “UnStaged.”  The idea is to bring classical music away from the concert hall, and present it in a more intimate setting in a more informal and thirst-quenching way.

Two promotional performances – “appetizers” – have already taken place at beer terminals in town, and a third is just a couple days away.  On October 5, cellist Stacy Nickell and violinists Ruth Bacon Edewards and Rachel Loseke performed at the Pretentious Beer Company on Central Ave. in the Old City.  The late Classical music patriarch of Knoxville, Norris Dryer, would have been so proud knowing that not only has a brewpub opened up below his old apartment, but also that classical music was being played there!  On the following Thursday, principal bassist Steve Benne, principal oboist Claire Chenette, and violinist Zofia Glashauser performed WAY out west at the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery.  Coming up this Thursday, November 2nd at 5:30, principal bassoonist Aaron Apaza, principal flutist Hannah Hammel and violist Eunsoon Corliss will hold court at the Casual Pint of Downtown at 421 Union Ave., next to the Oliver Hotel.


The main UnStaged event will take place on Thursday, November 9th at 7 pm at The Standard on Jackson Avenue in the Old City (next to Sweet P's Barbecue).  Compositions for various-sized ensembles will be performed in two different performance spaces within the venue, including Mozart's Symphony no. 40 and Milhaud's La creation du monde.  Beers from Alliance Brewing Co., Blackhorse Brewery, Crafty Bastard Brewery and Last Days of Autumn Brewing Co. will be featured.  Food will be tastefully provided by Knoxville caterer Nancy Kendrick, and between sets, the members of the KSO will mingle with concertgoers beer devotees.  The event is funded in part by a generous grant from the American Orchestras' Future Fund, a program of the League of American Orchestras. Tickets are here and include tastings from said brewers.



Outside looking in on the Oct. 5 Pretentious Beer Co event



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

DYNAMICS AND YOU

DYNAMICS AND YOU

That ticking sound you hear, it sounds like when you've turned your car off and it's cooling down, right? Well, that is the players of the KSO collectively quenching, after an intense run of performances going back to September's Masterworks concerts. The Q Series, Unstaged, and Meet the Musicians slates were full, then the Chamber Classics season started up with a bang on Oct. 1. The Concertmaster and Friends recital at the KMA brought a new star into Knoxville's classical sky in William Shaub, and as if to dot the “ı,” the KSO performed John Williams' dynamic soundtrack to accompany the first Harry Potter film just this past weekend.

I called the Williams score “dynamic,” which is a word that has many meanings in music. It can be a noun or an adjective. As an adjective, it means “vigorous,” “vivid,” or even “vibrant.” The noun version can refer to the “vibe” or the “chemistry” of the group-- e.g., group dynamics. Specific to music, however, the notation of volume at which a player or ensemble should play, the size of the sound, is called the “dynamics.” This is notated with the letters f and p, which are the abbreviations for the Italian words forte (loud) and piano (soft). Multiples of these letters indicate extremes; I have seen as many as five in either direction, but usually only up to two. After three it just gets to be kind of a joke; I mean, we don't have little dials that louden us decibel by decibel, we have pieces of wood and metal, operated by our breath and hands. An increase in volume is called a crescendo, and a decrease a diminuendo (or a decrescendo, they are synonymous). These words can also be replaced with symbols, elongated “>'s” or “<'s” with which the wider, the louder. The usual term for these signs is “hairpin;” I guess “tweezers” would sound a little weird, but it's exactly that shape. A crescendo over several measures will usually just employ the abbreviation cresc., since the converging lines of the symbols would be visual pollution on the page. It's easy to overlook a 5 letter word in italics, however, so a player may boost his chances at correct execution by drawing a symbol in. Slide…




This is the cello part to Beethoven's Violin Concerto, last movement. You can see on the second line down where every other note has a swell on it. In measure 150, a typical Beethoven feature is found; the “crescendo to nothing.” (Not all crescendos result in a f). In measure 158 notice the word dimin. printed, and you'll agree that the dynamic symbol, if used here, would get in the way of other musical indications.

The effect of a composition's dynamics is dependent on each player's adherence to their parts' dynamic markings. A sudden (or subito) piano in the midst of a forte phrase is a lot more embarrassing to miss than the other way around. A sharply attacked note might have the letters sfz or just sf on it; this stands for sforzando and means “with sudden emphasis.” A similar notation is fp, meaning fortepiano, which is just a loud start to a note rather than a sharp attack. The distinction between these two markings can be enigmatic. As if all this wasn't enough, let's throw in accents. They're little “>'s” on a single note, meaning yet another attack scenario. Whatever the indication, the uniformity and force of each players' attack on that note must be worked out precisely; one can't just blat or scrape indiscriminately. Slide…




Here is the opening of Mahler's 4th Symphony. The whole spectrum of dynamic indications is here, as is typical with Mahler's persnickety (yet beautiful) music. Every measure has some sort of “diacritical marks”-- accents, accents under slurs, sforzandos, sforzandos under slurs, fortepianos… All of these must be unified and coordinated across the orchestra-- this is why we rehearse.

So if I said, “the ensemble's attention to dynamics made for an impressive group dynamic that resulted in a dynamic performance,” it appears that I have used the same word three times in one sentence, but I am really just pointing out that the word “dynamic” is a many-splendored thing.  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Concertmaster Series Sets Sail Again

The KSO's Concertmaster & Friends series has experienced a sea change, with a new captain at the helm.  Concertmaster William Shaub brings more youth and vigor to a series that was already pretty youthful and vigorous.  The series has always been a forum which combined virtuoso violin repertoire and staples of chamber music literature, and that will continue under Will's leadership.  The opening installments of the 2017-18 campaign will be this Wednesday and Thursday at 7:00, at the Knoxville Museum of Art.  The program will consist of works by Sarasate, Franck and Beethoven.

Pablo Sarasate was a Spanish violin prodigy from the later 19th century whose considerable technical prowess and pure tone were complemented by a distinctly Spanish compositional style which motivated his contemporaries throughout Europe.  He was the first to translate Spanish melody, rhythm and soul into violin-ese, inspiring the composition of Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and Lalo's Symphonie espagnole.  Will and pianist Kevin Class will perform Sarasate's Romanza Andaluza, from the “Spanish Dances” to open the program.

The first half centerpiece will be César Franck's iconic Sonata for Violin and Piano from 1886.  A highly regarded organist, pianist and teacher, Belgian-born Franck's composing output was sparse until this work (and several that followed) put him on the map in a big way.  The four-movement Sonata was presented to the titanic Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe as a wedding gift in September of 1886, and was performed at the wedding with a guest, Léontine Bordes-Pène playing the piano part.  The first public performance took place in a Brussels museum on December 16th of that year.  Somehow the concert ran long, and despite an official ban on artificial light at the museum, the two performers played the final three movements from memory in the dark.  Will and Kevin will have no such predicament, I assure you.

The concluding work will be Beethoven's Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4.  It's the only minor-key quartet in the Op. 18 folio of 6 quartets, which were commissioned by Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz (not to be confused with Lefkowitz!) of Bohemia.  Three of its movements are of an excitable, stormy nature, with only the Andante scherzoso quasi Allegretto standing out with a quirky charm for comic relief.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Soul of Chamber Music in the Heart of Downtown

The chamber side of the KSO will be in evidence this week as the Principal String Quartet will present a concert at noon at the Square Room on Wednesday, Sept. 27, and the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra will bring a diverse program to the Bijou on Sunday afternoon at 2:30.

The Square Room is on Knoxville's Market Square downtown, hence the name. It also happens to be square in shape, but most rooms are, so in this case, the venue is named after its location, not its design.

The quartet will perform music of Mozart, Piazzolla and Mendelssohn. Mozart's quartet K. 159 is not your average “Baby Mozart” quartet; there is a quirkiness to it that indicates the composer's impatience with convention- with being square. The first movement Andante grazioso has a gentle start and is neither slow nor fast; a piece you might peg as a middle movement. Oddly sized phrases and differing textures keep you guessing as to the musical destination. The middle movement in this case is an urgently skittish Allegro. It has to be one of the best G minor movements ever written, on a list dominated by Mozart's “emo” gems. The finale is a Rondo, but you will probably want to call it a Theme and Variations. More punchy, boppy, B-flat major fun than you can shake a stick at, from a 14-year-old composer who was holed up in Milan working on his eighth opera.

Astor Piazzolla took traditional string quartet playing for a wild ride in 1989 with his Four for Tango, written for the Kronos Quartet. Its highly percussive, urban complexion will set the table for Felix Mendelssohn's String Quartet op. 44, No. 2 in E minor. Mendelssohn's rich palette keeps the music bright and charming in spite of the minor tonality.


The Sunday Chamber Classics series concert will begin in Revolutionary times, with Haydn's Symphony No. 60, the “Distraught” from 1775. Prokofiev's “Classical” Symphony will bridge the 140-year gap between itself and the Haydn by melding classical-era constructs with 20th-century tonal cheekiness. The concert will close with Maestro Aram Demirjian leading HK Gruber's Frankenstein!! This narrated showpiece from the Third Viennese School has every trick in the book coming in to play; “a show with everything but Yul Brynner,” as we used to say in the '80s. Gruber is said to be a distant relative of the composer of Silent Night, Franz Gruber, but that is where the similarity ends. This is music you will want to fasten your seatbelt for! Listen safely...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Knoxville's Classical Heritage

Opening night of the 2017-18 Masterworks series is at hand! As the season unfolds, the repertoire will resemble a travelogue, with the first concert's offerings appropriately enough delving into things Knoxvillean.  Acclaimed soprano Joelle Harvey will grace our stage for Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a work which has put our town on the map in the most positive way possible.  Preluding that performance, Knoxville's Poet Laureate R. B. Morris will read the text of the work, which is pulled from James Agee's Pulitzer-winning novel from 1959, A Death in the Family.


The Agee connection will be evident again in Aaron Copland's Suite from his opera The Tender Land, which is inspired by Copland's brush with that author's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.  No one does classical Americana better than Copland, and this luminous work contrasts beautifully with the Rachmaninov.  A commissioned work by Michael Schachter entitled Overture to Knoxville will open the concert.  Schachter's compositional style is somewhere between Copland's and Rachmaninov's; I will be curious to hear audience members' opinions as to how the work musically relates to our city.  A crew of brass instruments placed in various places in the the Theatre gives the piece a "surround-sound" ambiance that will take you away.

The concert will close with Sergei Rachmaninov's final composition Symphonic Dances, a suite of three darkly vivacious movements brimming with Rachmaninov's orchestrating genius.  The Knoxville connection here is that the composer-pianist's last public recital took place at UT's Alumni Gym, just six weeks before his death.  The work means a lot to me because our son Thomas performed the two-piano version of the work at the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts in 2006.  Luckily, Thomas will be in attendance at the Friday night concert.  Yay!

This will all be Thursday and Friday night, at the Tennessee Theatre, 7:30 pm, tickets and info here. Please be aware of and bear with the various road closures in the immediate vicinity of the Tennessee; right now, it looks as though Clinch Ave. between State and Gay is closed to traffic, but the sidewalks are open.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Arts Educator Profile: teacher, violist, conductor Nina Mikos

Arts in Education week celebrates those making a difference through arts and music education in our community. Nina Mikos has been teaching in Maryville City Schools for 8 years and has been conducting with Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra for 4 years. She is most passionate about music education because it truly makes a difference in children's lives by fostering creativity, discipline, and social interaction.

Ever since the moment I played my viola for the first time, music has been at the center of my life. I was very fortunate to have incredible orchestra directors and private teachers in my community. Growing up, I was involved in as many musical groups as I could be whether it was orchestra, choir, or piano. Music became my identity and my source of inspiration.

As much as I have always enjoyed performing, I enjoy the human connection to music even more. The friends that I have made through music will last a lifetime. The students that I have
taught over the years have probably made a bigger impact on my life than I have on theirs. I started teaching private lessons when I was 15, and I have always felt strongly that to be a good performer, you have to be a good teacher, and to be a good teacher, you have to be a good performer. Because in the end, we are all working on the same skill sets and have the same drive to be successful.

"As much as I have always enjoyed performing, I enjoy the human connection to music even more. The friends that I have made through music will last a lifetime. The students that I have taught over the years have probably made a bigger impact on my life than I have on theirs."




Teaching has dramatically improved my playing, and performing has informed my teaching. I have
seen children grow in to young adults through the discipline, focus, and training that being in an
orchestra gives them. I don’t believe in talent – I believe that every child can be successful in music
through hard work, persistence, and dedication. There’s always a “hook” to loving music for every
child. Some students thrive off of challenge, some love collaboration with peers, and others simply
enjoy the music-making process. But every child will continue if they feel successful. And it is my
job to make them successful from the very first note they play on their instrument.

I am so fortunate to be a part of a vibrant musical community in Knoxville. I have 140
students in my orchestra program (grades 5-7) at Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School in
Maryville, I have the tremendous honor of conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra with Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra, and I also often play viola with the Knoxville Symphony. I feel blessed beyond words to be a part of this wonderful community with amazing friends and colleagues.


This post was authored by the KSO Communications Dept.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Arts in Education Profile: Violinist Zofia







This profile highlights a new KSO violinist and arts educator who spreads joy through music in many ways. Zofia Glashauser joined the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as a core violinist in the 2017-18 season and has contributed to Education & Community Partnerships programs such as Musical Story Times and Classroom Quartets in addition to lighting up the main stage with her professional and passionate playing. She has shared her personal story of how music education shaped her life path and changed her future, leading her to Knoxville. During the week of Sept. 10-16, Arts in Education week, the KSO is celebrating all arts educators, especially our beloved music educators, including Zofia, by telling their stories.


It is almost impossible for me to imagine life without the influence of the arts. My mother was a professional violinist and teacher. I grew up in Krakow, Poland where I went to a public music school from elementary through high school. At this school, music was not an elective, but the primary focus of

my studies. And so I began playing the violin at the age of seven, the same time I was learning to read and write. As a result, music is a fundamental part of who I am; it has shaped my personality and perhaps even my soul. It has helped me to appreciate the beauty found in the natural world as well as in artistic expression,
and has motivated me towards the pursuit of excellence in all parts of my life. A lifetime of music study has helped me to better appreciate history, style, and the diverse cultures of different countries.

"Music is a fundamental part of who I am...it has shaped my personality and perhaps even my soul."

Music opened my mind to a bigger world from a very young age. As a child, I traveled and performed with my school choir in many European countries. Later, I traveled even more with high school orchestras and an international youth symphony. Although being able to travel was in itself a wonder, meeting many great world class musicians was an eye opening experience. It was the primary reason I wanted to become an even better violinist. And, of course, music brought me to the United States, where I received music degrees from Western Michigan University and Northwestern University.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of learning a musical instrument, even for those who have no intention of pursuing music as a profession. It demands a strong attention to detail, a high level of preparation, and a great deal of personal responsibility. These are all traits that are valuable in most
professions. In my case, violin study helped form me into a bit of a perfectionist who can juggle multiple responsibilities and manage time well in the pursuit of meaningful artistic expression.



Before I joined the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, I was a member of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Northwest Indiana Symphony, and I was the Concertmaster of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. This position in particular gave me some very memorable experiences, including the opportunity to perform as a soloist several times with the orchestra. As a result of the various roles I played in these orchestras, I developed a strong work ethic in my preparation for a performance in addition to a strong understanding of the importance of the role of each member of an orchestra. Whether as a soloist, chamber musician, or as a section member, I am always thinking of being as
prepared as possible to play as beautifully as I can.


This post authored by the KSO communications dept.

Friday, September 8, 2017

This Season's Heavy Hitters

It's September! I think we're all surprised. There's a full musical inbox for the musicians of the KSO, with a season that I can only describe as “hard-hitting.” Every month brings a major repertoire piece with a signature moment for every instrument. Month by month, it's Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances, Ravel Bolero, and in November Strauss' Death and Transfiguration AND Tchaikovsky's tone poem Romeo and Juliet. January starts up with Dvorak 8th, then in February both Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini AND Scheherazade! Carmina Burana will be our March Madness, then Schumann's 2nd Symphony with that ridunculous violin part in the Scherzo. We'll close out the season in May with an all-American concert featuring both Rhapsody in Blue AND Copland's 3rd Symphony.

The Chamber Classics series is no less laden with treasures. Right off the bat, our October begins with Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, which along with the Schumann 2nd are violin audition staples. February 4th brings Bach's cherished 2-violin concerto featuring principal 2nd violin Edward Pulgar and new Concertmaster Will Shaub. The finale of the series looks to be one of the best ever, highlighted by Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks Concerto and Mozart's final symphony, the Jupiter.

I have to interject that it happens to be Antonin Dvorak's birthday! What a great canon of works has been left to us, and along with Tchaikovsky, one of two great composers to have spent time in the USA. I'm going to give my best effort at a pronunciation here, "div-OR-Jacques." Our season will include two keystone Dvorak works, the 8th Symphony in January, and his “American” Viola Quintet on the final Concertmaster Series concert in March.  Dvorak is best known for his New World Symphony and his “American” String QUARtet, but there is so much more than that. Recent years have seen KSO performances of his Piano Quintet and Quintet, his Bass Quintet, Symphony No. 6, Carnival Overture, Stabat Mater, and the Scherzo Capriccioso. His compositional style is always highly European, but his stateside stint cast a distinct PENUMBRA on his works, from the New World through to that phat Cello Concerto he wrote. Although I have never performed the concerto in its entirety, the techniques it requires have served me well in countless other musical circumstances, be they jazz, chamber, or orchestral. They force the cellist to learn to play in B Major, which is not a particularly kind key for the cello.


So anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TONY!!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

September Songs

Just around the corner lay the 32nd annual Ijams Nature Center Symphony in the Park, on September 10. I have only missed one of these concerts, back in 2014 when I had a broken finger. It's also notable that not one of these concerts has been rained out or even rained upon. Gates open at 5:30, and the music should start around 7:15. These concerts, set in South Knoxville's urban wilderness, have always represented a delightful return to the season. The concert is a fundraiser for the Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville's escape zone from metropolitan drudgery. The guest artists have also been a perennial treat, be they local entertainers (David Keith), UT coaches (Pat Summitt), or public figures (Senator Lamar Alexander). This year's guest will be Knoxville singer-songwriter Zoë Nutt. Check her website out here.



Tickets to the Ijams Nature Center 32nd Annual Symphony in the Park event here.


The KSO's celebration of Knoxville continues on September 21 and 22 with “Knoxville Postcards.” Along with relevant works by Barber, Rachmaninoff and Copland, a world premiere work by Michael Schachter will be offered, entitled Overture to Knoxville. In programming and commissioning the work, Maestro Aram Demirjian said; “...this program isn't just about the past -- it is also about the future, and the future partially depends on bringing new music into the world, which is why we have commissioned a new overture by one of my dearest friends, Michael Schachter. Michael is a composer who was just as endeared by East Tennessee's musical landscape as I was when he traveled here to soak in our city as he was writing the piece...” Mr. Schachter is busy composer, teacher and scholar who resides in Ann Arbor, MI. Here is a link to his website with musical examples.

See you at the symphony for opening night!


Friday, August 18, 2017

2017-18 Season Hits the Ground Running

Hello!  I'm back.  I've had some time this summer to reflect and clean out my mental in-box, and the 2017-18 season looms on the horizon. I hope you didn't miss me too badly! It's going to be fun, with some old musical friends combining with some new musical trends to create a crop of concerts well worth harvesting. Old friends like Carmina Burana, Dvorak's Symphony No. 8, Scheherazade, Rhapsody in Blue, and Bolero. New trends like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone live with orchestra, and “KSO Unstaged, which promises to break the mold of traditional concert venues. All of this, brought to you by “that old gang of mine,” the players of the KSO.

In the first 23 days of the 2017-18 season, we will be performing six comPLETEly different programs from six different series. Our first Masterworks concert, Knoxville Postcards on September 21 and 22, will be dedicated to the influences of Knoxville on classical music. Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, narrated by Knoxville's poet laureate, RB Morris; Copland's Tender Land Suite, the composition of which is said to have been inspired by Copland's reading Knoxville writer James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; and Rachmaninov's captivating Symphonic Dances are the major players in those shows. Hot on the heels of that pair, on the 27th, will be the first Q Series concert at Market Square's Square Room, with the Principal String Quartet performing works of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Piazzolla.


The opening of the Chamber Classics series will be October 1 at 2:30 the luscious Bijou Theatre. Haydn's Symphony No. 60, “Il distratto” (“The Distraught”), Prokofiev's freaky Classical Symphony, and a theater piece by Austrian composer HK Gruber entitled Frankenstein! New concertmaster William Shaub will then launch his build of the Concertmaster recital series on October 4 and 5 at 7:00 with music by Franck, Sarasate and Brahms at the acoustically spacious Great Room of the Knoxville Museum of Art.

On October 7 and 8 we will tap into one of the most successful series of children's books ever written, when we provide the soundtrack to the first movie based on J.K. Rowling's smash success, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone TM  at the Civic Auditorium. (Tickets to this show are sold through Ticketmaster, not the KSO box office). Then, after going FOUR WHOLE DAYS without a performance, we will host the Classical Mystery Tour, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album at the Tennessee Theatre at 8:00 p.m.


Hmmm, I'm going to drift into an advanced state of relaxation, as I am exhausted from simply WRITING ABOUT these concerts. Just wait until they actually happen! Check the KSO website for concert times and venues. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Single Tickets on Sale Monday, including "UnStaged"

KSO Goes “UnStaged.”

If you like classical music and craft beer, we have good news for you. KSO is launching a new series of events, "UnStaged," where guests can expect to hear the KSO with craft beer in hand or while standing in the midst of the Orchestra in an airplane hangar, with sound “taking flight” all around. Contrary to the typical concert setting and structure, small ensembles of musicians will play several sets of 10-15 minutes of music throughout the night.

The first of these events will take place in November at The Standard at Jackson Row. Crafted for your pleasure, one beer tasting from four local breweries will coincide with each of the four musical sets, all surrounding the theme of “creating” or “crafting.” Click here to find out more or invite your friends on Facebook.
Keep Calm: All tickets go on sale August 14 at 9 a.m.
Monday morning, both season and individual tickets to all KSO concerts will go on sale. Tickets are available by web, phone, or in person. Patrons can buy tickets to an entire series or one singular show. During the week of Aug. 14, handling fees will be waived for purchases made over the phone.


Get Opening Night Tickets for Just $20.
During the week of August 14, patrons may purchase tickets to the KSO Season Opening Concert, Knoxville Postcards on Sept. 21-22, FOR JUST $20 by calling the box office. This special $20 ticket price includes seats anywhere in the Tennessee Theatre pending availability.
Not sure what you’ll like? Here is a quick guide. View the entire KSO concert calendar here.

This post authored by the KSO communications dept.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Concertmaster Chat: Q&A with William Shaub

This September, the KSO will welcome new Concertmaster William Shaub, who accepted the position in May after an audition and two guest appearances on the March and May Masterworks stage. You COULD read his bio here, but it would be more fun to read the Q&A below and hear directly from our newest addition to the KSO family. Enjoy!


Q&A with the new Concertmaster, William Shaub


1. What is the main role of a concertmaster? What does being a concertmaster mean to you?

The role of concertmaster is to serve as a musical representative to the community, on behalf of the orchestra. When the concertmaster first enters the stage to tune, we walk out to greet the audience on behalf of all the musicians; a wonderful tradition! The concertmaster also prepares bowings (making sure all the bows go in the same direction), helps to focus attention on different musical styles, and serves to communicate the artistic ideas of the conductor to the string section. Every once in a while, the concertmaster has a violin solo in a piece, but most of the time, I’m a member of the violin section. To me, serving as concertmaster means overseeing the overall orchestral sound with the intentions of the conductor in mind, and that means attentively listening to everybody’s part and not just my own.


2. What do you wish people knew about playing in an orchestra or being a full-time classical musician?


I think that most people approach music like a hobby, a pastime, or an interest--and that is wonderful. In fact, it’s why we do what we do! But to be a classical musician and performer, we are as precise and serious as a brain surgeon. We take brightening someone’s day with music very seriously. This is somewhat because that service in itself is enormously helpful in society: If you’ve had a hard day, we are here to soothe those stresses with our music. It is also because we are handling some of the greatest works of art ever made, and they deserve the formalities of our professional approach.


3. How often, on average, do you practice? When you’re tired or don’t LOVE a piece of music, what motivates you to keep going?


On average, I practice 4 hours a day and I take a day off about once per month. When I’m not in love with a piece of music, I try to fall in love with a little something about it. Maybe it’s a phrase or two in the piece, or perhaps it’s the end result of playing the work. Some pieces are designed specifically to make you better at your instrument. When I work with students, I often share the importance of starting the practice day (especially a day when you’re not up for practicing!) with a piece that you absolutely love--it could be anything from Star Wars to Schumann’s Piano Quintet. I believe that enthusiasm is a lifelong joy, it’s infectious and completely necessary towards developing an expressive technique.


4. Why Knoxville?

I first learned about Knoxville and the orchestra here when I met Gabriel Lefkowitz at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston (at the beach!) I would later find that this orchestra and this city is growing rapidly, with an energy that is really special. I discovered that the quality and professionalism of our orchestra in both the concert hall and the greater Knoxville region is second to none, and our nationally-renowned commitments to community engagement, education, and innovative programming fit with my vision as an artist. I was excited about the opportunity to be here!


5. Name something you enjoy about each of the following: playing in a small ensemble, playing a solo, playing in full orchestra/leading it as the concertmaster
.

In a small ensemble, I enjoy the intimacy and directness of communicating with other players. Playing a solo is wonderful because of the opportunity to fill a hall with my sound--it is an exhilarating mode of expression. When playing in a full orchestra, I get to hear the sounds of other instrument families and really listen to what they have to say. There is nothing like a brass chorale in the middle of a Mendelssohn symphony: you cannot reproduce that kind of magisterial moment with strings!


6. What experiences, in school or otherwise, have prepared you for the position of KSO Concertmaster?


After attending Juilliard in NYC, I was based in Houston for one year prior to coming to Knoxville and I auditioned for a spot on the artist roster of Da Camera Chamber Music and Jazz. With Da Camera, I performed in alternative venues throughout Houston, from hospitals and classrooms to new music and jazz hubs. Outreach became an every-week experience, and reaching new audiences was now a very real part of my life instead of just “a good idea.” I also made numerous recordings of great violin music for Da Camera’s Houston Methodist Hospital Video Series, which will be broadcast to patients on demand--a very heartwarming project. Reaching broad audiences is something I hope to do as a member of our orchestra, and my experience on this artist roster was good preparation.



7. What is something you’d like your fellow Knoxvillians to know about you?

I would like them to know that I am always happy to chat about sports. I am a big Cleveland Browns fan (I am originally from Canton, Ohio), so I am also an expert on the NFL Draft. I have also enjoyed playing tennis from a very young age. I can replicate Andy Roddick’s unique serve but at one-third of the speed! I enjoy watches and watchmaking, and I’m not the only musician to be fascinated by them--singer/songwriter John Mayer has an unbelievable watch collection!





8. A large (and attractive) part of this job will be to program, perform in, and headline the Merchant & Gould Concertmaster Series; three pairs of concerts held at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect from that series in 2017-18?

In programming the exciting 2017-2018 Merchant and Gould Concertmaster Series, I chose pieces out of a passion to tell the wonderful stories behind the music. Since many of them are pieces from the chamber music repertoire, I get to do it with my new KSO colleagues. The opportunity to perform with them outside of the orchestra is a great way for me to get to know them intimately as musicians. I get to hear their sounds and their musical voices up close for the first time and establish a chemistry. It’s exciting and many of our collaborations coming up are must-see events for this reason!


(From a gondola in the beautiful mountains at the Breckenridge Music Festival)


This post authored by the KSO Communications Dept. and Concertmaster William Shaub.

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.