Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014-2015 Masterworks series, Part 1

Time has gotten away from me somehow; Mid-June flew by, and now it's the Mid-Teens! We took a trip to Vermont to deliver our son Richard to Middlebury College, where he is attending the summer language program. (speaking of “Midd”-teens, har har har). Big brother Thomas lives in Middlebury, so it was a family reunion for sure. And YES, we watched the World Cup. Hopefully the USMNT will still be in contention on the 4th, GO USA!

I just don't know how I have gotten this far into the summer without rapping about the KSO's 2014-2015 season! It's inconceivable... I know I've told people about it, but not through this grapevine, I guess, so here it is...

The Masterworks Series starts on September 18th and 19th with a diverse concert featuring Hindemith's colorful Symphonic Metamorphosis, and finishing with the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto. Jon Kimura Parker will be the piano soloist in a show that also offers Michael Torke's Bright Blue Music, speaking of colorful. (Please note that he is not related to the ex-Monkee Peter Tork; the names are spelled differently).

I don't know if you saw the Metro Pulse on May 8th, but there was a letter from a reader, a classical music fan, who longed to hear the KSO perform some scary, Halloween-ish music in a darkened theatre. He listed some pieces, and I had to chuckle, because I knew already that there was quite some overlap between his list and the repertoire for the October 16th and 17th Masterworks performances. Guest conductor Sameer Patel, Music Director of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, will lead the KSO in Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, Dukas' Sorceror's Apprentice (with concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz as soloist),and Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique.. Three wild rides, and our house lights are always down at performances...

November brings a touch of the Alps as Maestro Richman will continue his journey through the rich catalog of the works Richard Strauss, bringing his Alpine Symphony to life for the first time in Knoxville. Opening the show will be Verdi's Overture to La forza del destino, and arias by Verdi and Mozart will complete the first half.

The January Masterworks concert pair is one of the most action-packed shows imaginable. Three iconic works will be led by guest conductor Lawrence Loh, resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. We shall go back to Berlioz, this time for his Roman Carnival Overture. Guest cello soloist Julie Albers will perform Shostakovich's manic 1st Cello Concerto, and we will finish with Tchaikowsky's ridiculously beautiful 4th Symphony. Taking in the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony we just performed in may, his 8th String Quartet that the Principal Quartet will perform in early November and this Cello Concerto, an opportunity for a very significant overview of Shostakovich's musical vocabulary is in the offing.

Stay tuned for the rest of the season...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fourth of July Before you know it

It's right around the corner, the 2014 Pilot/Flying J Independence Day Concert! Come on down to the South Lawn of World's Fair Park at 8:00 on the 4th of July for a FREE musical (and ballistic!) celebration of our nation's inception. This is to be the 30th Annual 4th of July concert, and the 238th birthday of Uncle Sam. We can't predict the weather, but trust me, it's going to be a beautiful night. Last year we learned that we can make even a rainy night outdoors festive.

Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz will perform the Rondo from Mozart's Haffner Serenade. This effervescent work has shades of Appalachian fiddlin' in it, but check it out: this Mozart work IS ALSO CELEBRATING ITS 238TH BIRTHDAY. Yep. Premiered the 4th of July, 1776, on the eve of the wedding of the SISTER of Sigmund Haffner the Younger, a pal and benefactor of Mozart. 

We heard that some of you missed Christopher Sanders (aka Santa Claus) at the Clayton Holiday Concerts this past December, so we've brought him back for the 4th. He will perform four numbers with the orchestra: the Pledge of Allegiance, Copland's The Boatman's Dance, America the Beautiful, and The Wheels of a Dream from the Broadway musical Ragtime.

I have to qualify a statement in the first paragraph. Yes, the fourth of July IS Uncle Sam's birthday, but I actually DO have an Uncle Sam, or should I say, my wife does. His name is Sam Ward. If you are up on your patriotic music, you'll know that the music for America the Beautiful was penned by a Samuel A. Ward in 1880. Although not direct descendants of this composer (he died childless in 1903), my wife and her uncle are definitely related to him.

Friday, June 6, 2014

KSYO String Camp and Other Summer Goodies

It's time for the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras' Summer String Camp! This will be the 20th annual camp, and it has come a long way since its humble beginnings. The first camp was held in the basement of (KSYO conductor) Kathy Hart's home 20 years ago, but the camp has grown to encompass four different levels of participation and takes place at Bearden High School. As explained on the KSYO webpage, the Prelude, Overture, Intermezzo and Finale groups are each geared toward a specific age group and talent level. Participants will get to work with KSO members and KSYO conductors for the week of June 16-20. I must add that the urgency for acting on your interest in this camp is high, since the deadline for applying to the camp is TODAY.


As part of First Tennessee Bank's 150th anniversary celebration, there will be a sort of grant lottery, called 150 Days of Giving, which will award $5,000 DAILY to a different non-profit organization. By visiting FTB's website, you can vote for the KSO and as many as nine other non-profits daily. (The Memphis Symphony and the Chattanooga Symphony have already been awarded grants). Rules and guidelines are also posted on their website.


Rebroadcasts of last season's KSO Masterworks and Chamber Classics series are starting up again soon, occurring on Tuesday evenings in July, August and September AT 8:00 on WUOT-FM, 91.9. Here is a schedule of broadcasts and repertoire that was performed on each.

July 7- Masterworks, September 19 (Reznicek Overture to Donna Diana, Beethoven Triple Concerto, Kodaly Hary Janos Suite, Wagner overture to Rienzi).

July 14- Masterworks, October 17 (Barber Overture to The School for Scandal, Richman Piano Concerto In Truth, Grofe Mississippi Suite,  Gershwin An American in Paris)

July 21- Chamber Classics, November 3 (Rossini Overture to L'italiana in Algieri, Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1, Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances, Stravinsky Pulcinella Suite)

July 28- Masterworks, November 14 (All Mozart)

August 4- Masterworks, January 16 (Strauss Overture to Die Fledermaus, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23, Tchaikovsky Suite from The Sleeping Beauty, Strauss Emperor Waltzes)

August 11- Chamber Classics, January 26 (All-Mozart)

August 18-  Masterworks, February 20 (Yardumian, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Hovhaness Symphony No. 23, Bloch Sacred Service)

August 25- Chamber Classics, March 2 (All-Baroque)

September 1- Masterworks, March 20 & 21 (Bach Brandenburg Concerti)

September 8- Chamber Classics, April 4 (Principal Quartet: Haydn Quartet op. 64, No. 5, The Lark, Villa-Lobos String Quartet No. 1, Schubert Quartet Death and the Maiden)

September 15- Masterworks, April 24 (Nielsen, Overture and Dance of the Cocks from Maskarade; Grieg Piano Concerto, Sibelius Symphony No. 5)

September 22- Chamber Classics, May 4 (Beethoven Symphony No. 2, Overture to Prometheus
and Romance No. 2 in F; Sarasate Zigeunerweisen,Paganini La campanella)

September 29- Masterworks, May 15 (Beethoven Overture to Fidelio and Piano Concerto No. 4, Shostakovich Symphony No. 10)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Keeping score

Something that is approaching with startling velocity is the Principal Quartet performance in early November, on which will be performed a late Beethoven quartet, his opus 132. (The concerts that feature the Principal Quartet have traditionally taken place in early April). Late Beethoven quartets are considered to be the ultimate in quartet playing; profound, beautiful and challenging. We have scheduled some rehearsals for this summer before quartet members go whizzing off in all directions. Some ingredients for a successful performance of any quartet are: hours of preparation, a bottle of wine (for the rehearsals), and... a score.

In college I took it upon myself to assemble a collection of scores to many of the works, quartets or otherwise, that I would be performing in my future. While the majority of the scores are miniature scores, the score that I own for the Beethoven op. 132 is actually in a textbook that I used in Music History class in undergrad. This collection of scores was published as the Music Scores Omnibus. I unearthed this Omnibus recently, and although in college I had little inkling of what my future would bring, it is now apparent that this textbook held clues to my future. Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that the Omnibus was collated and edited by two University of Tennessee professors, William Starr and George Devine. Those were just names on the cover, but upon moving to Knoxville, I soon learned of their musical importance to this town.

George Devine was a longtime (1947-1985) member of the UT music department faculty, teaching music history, orchestration, and instrumentation. The start of his tenure corresponds with David van Vactor’s arrival as the KSO’s music director, and founding of UT’s music school as we know it. The music library at UT bears Devine’s name in dedication. Upon his death in 1999, a memorial statement was read at the KSO Masterworks concerts that September. For many years, Devine was the provider of program notes for the KSO concerts.

William Starr’s name is universally known in the Suzuki education realm, and his tenure at UT was Knoxville’s “Golden Age of Suzuki violin.” UT was a world-renowned teacher training facility for years, until he accepted a position at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1986. Current KSO members Julie Swenson and Mary Anne Fee Fennell were products of this fine program. My wife Helen also studied with Dr. Starr at the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin (aka Suzuki Mecca). Along with starting this fine training program, Dr. Starr was concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony orchestra during the David van Vactor years. Dr. Starr spoke at Schiniki Suzuki’s memorial service in 1998. (Photo courtesy Nancy Daby, former violinist with the KSO in the late 80's and early 90's).