Thursday, May 24, 2012

Come Out! Come Out! Wherever You Are!

Whether you are in Knoxville or Maryville, you have a chance to catch the KSO at an outdoor venue Thursday (7:00 p.m., Market Square) or Saturday (Maryville Greenbelt, 7:30 p.m., rain date Sunday at 7:30). Rain seems to be out of the picture for these evenings, so we shan’t accept that excuse for not attending. A wide-ranging mix of tunes will be played, from Rossini, Mozart and Respighi to Irving Berlin, Gershwin and Leroy Anderson.

Face it. You know that Market Square is the bomb when it comes to wining, dining and entertainment choices. No, I mean it. There is no cooler place on the planet right now than Knoxville. Well, ok, except for Cancun. The show on the Square can be a relaxing end to your day or a prelude to your evening’s carousing. Justin Townes Earle is playing a show at the Square Room just after ours.

Maryville’s Greenbelt Theatre in the Park is a sweet, lush oasis nestled between the Blount County Courthouse and Broadway Towers Housing. Our audience has been growing and, bless their hearts, has endured rain for us on occasion. Principal Clarinetist Peter Cain, who you remember from last week’s Overture to Mignon, will be soloing on a movement of the Weber Concerto. At both of these shows there will be a “clarinet sprint” in Leroy Anderson’s Clarinet Candy, about as tasty a little number as ever did you hear. It pits our clarinet section’s Mark Tucker aka “Tukka” vs Peter Cain aka “P-Cain” in a wherving dervish of derring-do in B♭.

I should add that these concerts are FREE!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Next Season, Part I

Hot on the heels of recovering from my French music gueule de bois, I turn my attention to the 2012-2013 Masterworks season to learn what the “hair of the dog” will be. It looks like straight-up classics, with some works that I welcome back especially warmly after long absences from my music stand.

The biggest news is that this season will be Maestro Richman’s TENTH!!! He made this announcement at last week’s concerts, but some may have misunderstood this to be his tenth wedding anniversary. (I’m not positive of the exact length of time, but I’m pretty sure he and Debbie have been married somewhat longer than ten years). Another change is the moving of the start time of our concerts, which will be 7:30 p.m., following a trend that many orchestras are now pursuing. This allows for earlier nights out, which the Thursday crowds will especially appreciate. It will also aid people in getting to restaurants before their kitchens close post-concert.

September 20th and 21st’s gala affair will start with Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, travel to a Lucas Richman original, Summer Excursions, then south of the border to Copland’s El Salon Mexico, and finishing with Rachmaninov’s hallowed Piano Concerto No. 2 with Orion Weiss at the keyboard. Fall continues on October 18 and 19 with another Lucas Richman original, Kol Nidre. Another fine French work, Bizet’s crackling Symphony in C finishes up the first half, while a suite from Bernstein’s Candide closes out the evening. The November 15 and 16 shows look to Germany for sources. Weber’s classic Overture to Der Freischutz starts, with new concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz then soloing on Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Maestro Richman will come full circle with Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, which you may remember is the piece he auditioned with here back in October of 2002.

Just as we did this season, we will have two guest conductors in ‘12-‘13. On January 24 and 25, Toshiyuki Shimada will lead the orchestra in a “favorites” concert, featuring Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto (with piano soloist Gleb Ivanov) and Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony. “The Romance of the Violin” is the theme of the February 21st and 22nd concerts. Violinist Brittany Sklar will join us for  James Newton Howard’s haunting A Village Romance from the M. Night Shyamalan 2004 film The Village, then dazzle us with Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. Dvorak’s Carnival Overture (which I somehow have NEVER played) and Tchaikovsky’s Polish Symphony (ditto) sandwich these two works.

March 21 and 22 will bring a taste of Spain to the Tennessee Theatre, with our second guest conductor, Kelly Corcoran. Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez will feature guitarist Ana Vidovic. Falla’s 2nd Three-Cornered Hat Suite, Turina’s Danzas Fantasticas and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol round out the program. The big guns of the season are saved for last; on April 18 and 19 we will perform Verdi’s masterful Requiem, and closing out the season on May 16 and 17 will be Stravinsky’s crowning achievement, The Rite of Spring. Appetizers for the Rite will be Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture and Lucas Richman’s Three Pieces for Cello & Orchestra, with cello soloist Inbal Segev soloing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A French Resolution

We’re working on the Masterworks May, four French works that span the period from 1866 to 1931. All four works on the concert have excerpts published in the ubiquitous cello excerpt books, published in the 50's (I guess), edited by Leonard Rose. Out of context, it is impossible to picture how these little bits fit into the greater picture. It was best to get ahold of 78 RPM recordings of the works; there are such links to the Lalo overture and a beautiful aria from Mignon below.

Each half of the concert opens with an overture, first the Overture to Mignon by Ambroise Thomas, and later the Overture to Le roi d’Ys by Edouard Lalo. The American premieres of both of these works took place in New Orleans, at the French Opera House. Mignon premiered in 1871 and Le roi d’Ys in 1890.

Ambroise Thomas, a contemporary of Charles Gounod (whose Romeo and Juliet was recently put on by Knoxville Opera), starts his overture with a clarinet solo. Later on, in the strings’ portion of the introduction, something was clearly “sampled” by Andrew Lloyd Weber in Music of the Night. The polonaise-like body of the work must surely have been a staple on Boston Pops concerts, just as the famous Gavotte is a staple on Suzuki recitals.

If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, the Ravel Piano Concerto in G is a desert island piece for me. As funky as Rhapsody in Blue but deeper. Outer movements that bend your mind while tapping your feet, sandwiched around the most gorgeous slow movement of anything ever.

Lalo’s opera is about King Ys (yes, his name is Ys, pronounced like the letter “e.” French is a strange language). His daughter Margared is betrothed to Prince Karnac. I’m going to leave the rest to your imagination. The PBS documentary on Johnny Carson is affecting me. Or maybe it’s the tequila.

Debussy’s La Mer is to the ocean as Holst’s The Planets is to the solar system. The first movement is entitled De l’aube à midi sur la mer, or “from dawn to noon on the sea.” At about 10:15, in the middle of Car Talk, the cello section breaks out in 4 part harmony with the most amazing bleu vignette; a veritable bleuprint for much of the big band horn harmony heard here in the 40's. The orchestration throughout the work is as brilliant as anything by Berlioz, Stravinsky or Bartok, and the brass really let the ship back and haul away on the mizzen to bring this seascape to a close.

VIVE LA FRANCE! Thursday and Friday at 8 at the Theatre de Tennessee.

Friday, May 11, 2012

“Yesterday” is Tomorrow; So Is Vestival

Our final Pops concert this season, “Yesterday Once More,” will be loaded with tunes by the Carpenters and similar artists from that very fertile early 70's pop period. Recent KSO Pops artists have also been part of this soft rock revolution– Burt Bacharach, Peter Cetera, Roberta Flack, etc.

The music of the Carpenters is to me one of those things that I fall back on when I need an example of something simple, beautiful and tasteful. I am just floored by the number of tunes that I remember from their arsenal. We will be playing just about of all of the hits.

We should be thankful states that the show will be performing this year with the St Louis Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Knoxville Symphony AND OTHERS (caps mine). That’s good company.


As we will be rehearsing for the bulk of the afternoon Saturday, we will most likely not be able to catch any of the goings-on at Vestival, South Knoxville’s art and heritage festival. The Vestal neighborhood of South Knoxville is the focus here. A wide variety of local artists, craftspersons and musicians will be on hand. Vestal is that funky neighborhood that is home to King Tut Grill, Pease Furniture, and The Candoro Marble Co.

Right next to Pease Furniture is the Ogle St. Barber Shop. I have been getting my haircut here since I arrived in this town in 1986, save for those few (dark) years ca. 1996-2003 when I let my hair grow long and avoided barber shops. I have it on a good authority that this is the barbershop where Mark Tucker (the KSO’s 2nd clarinetist, personnel manager, and librarian) used to go for haircuts when he was a child. It’s straight out of the 50's; except for the price of a haircut going up $1 every ten years, not much about this place has changed since Mark’s days here. That is the charm of Vestal; that steady, unafraid-to-be-itself neighborhood across the river.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Horse Smells Home...

In these last minutes of April, I contemplate the homestretch of the season. An all-Schubert Chamber Classics concert this weekend, La Mer and the Ravel Piano Concerto in G dominate the horizon. Throw in a Carpenters tribute concert and some outdoor shows, and my 26th season with the KSO will be coming to as perfectly joyful a close as have all of the other 25 seasons. Every season has been memorable in good ways. The hallmark of this season has been a plethora of cello solos, and purely coincidentally (or not?), the trifecta of cello quartets. Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet in February, yesterday’s Otello, and  eight of the sexiest bars of music every written, coming up in the first movement of Debussy’s La Mer on the 17th and 18th. And for those of you wondering about the William Tell Overture by Rossini, that’s actually a quintet. Interesting from a nerdy cellist point of view, I guess.

This weekend brings a chamber version of the Unfinished Symphony of Schubert and his Overture in the Italian Style, with a chamber music appetizer of his Trio in E♭. When I was in college, there were camps of players who loved the Schubert B♭ trio, and those who loved the other one. I was on the side of the B♭ trio, having played it several times now, but I have been won over; it’s not like the Red Sox vs. the Yankees or anything life and death like that. I really hope the weather is rainy this Sunday, because I hate to take people away from a beautiful May day in Tennessee. On the other hand, there is the E♭ trio. And the Unfinished Symphony.

Speaking of Yankees, I just lurve working with Gabe Lefkowitz and pianist Kevin Class.  Houston has ZZ Top, Seattle had Nirvana, and Knoxville, you’ve got us! Btw Kevin’s wife, pianist Bernadette Lo possesses 2 of the four hands that performed the Carnival of the Animals earlier this month.

We’ve all been chest-deep in Verdi up until Sunday. Schubert is taking us to the other end of the Romantic period. Meet us there...