Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's a Family Affair

Thanksgiving week. FINALLY a break! It has been a great 5 weeks of BSO classical concerts, with 2 guest conductors and 3 weeks with Marin. Mix in a couple of November chamber concerts, and I am a little tired out. One day away from the violin, then back to practicing. In two and a half weeks, I go to New Haven to perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Berkeley College (of Yale University) Orchestra with my son, Stephen conducting. I'm excited about this project, as I haven't performed any concerto with any orchestra for over 10 years. And the Sibelius is my favorite of many favorite violin concertos. There is nothing like it: it is a virtuosic workout for a violinist, but it is too great to call it a "showpiece." The orchestral writing is superb; after all, it is Sibelius.

Making music with my family goes back a very long way. When I was quite young, I used to play violin while my dad accompanied me on the piano. My brother took up the violin, and my sisters, pianists to start, eventually also learned the cello and the viola. So a least once a year we like to get together and play great string quartets. Now that there is another generation of string players, we can expand that to string quintets, etc. when we want to.

Meanwhile, I'm grateful that both my boys, Eric and Stephen, are home this week from law school and college. We'll have a nice Thanksgiving with my parents and my sister's family, who will all drive up from Virginia Thursday.

And if this weather would just clear a bit, we could manage one more outdoor tennis match this fall!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Joys of Engagement

Tonight I'm going to see Maryland Opera Studio's L'elisir d'amore (Elixir of Love) at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. (Yes, tonight is the last performance-not fabulous on the timing!) I've heard some great things about this year's opera students, so I'm hoping to thoroughly enjoy myself (as you will too, if you come.)
And now, similar to the Baltimore Symphony's multimedia for events, you can further engage with with the performance before and afterwards by going to the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library Previews page to find books, recordings, and scores relating to the event.
With so much cyber media these days, there's no excuse not to be an educated concertgoer!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Difference Between a Bassoon & a Violin

Here's a funny story to follow up on the performances of Beethoven's Symphony #4 that the BSO performed a few weeks ago, and that the Berkeley College Orchestra of Yale University also performed, with my son Stephen conducting, the same weekend.

We were comparing notes that week, and I asked how the violins were doing with the very difficult last movement. Stephen said the violins were really cooking, then he told me about the notoriously hard bassoon lick midway through the last movement. It is a few bars of very fast 16th notes more suited for violins than for bassoons! In the dress rehearsal, Stephen looked up at the bassoonist to give him a cue for this passage, but the bassoon was sitting on the musician's lap, and the musician just shook his head "no," as if to say "you gotta be kidding me."

In the end, Stephen and the bassoonist worked out the version of the passage to play for the concert. Seems like an effective technique; maybe I will try the instrument in the lap, shaking my head thing the next time we have an impossible passage! lol.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How I LOVE the Fall!

The beauty of the leaves on the trees, and especially the crispness of the air. I think I also love fall because, though a nice vacation at the end of the summer is always welcome, we get back to work on great music.

It's also perfect time for tennis, usually. A bunch of BSO guys play often on Monday: David Coombs, Ken Goldstein, Ivan Stefanovic, Chris Williams, Karin Brown's husband Dan. Jon Carney sometimes plays too, though not lately. We always whoop it up onthe court, pretending for a day that we are athletes, not just musicians.

Fall seems to be the only part of the year when I remember to ride my bike. I have a mountain bike, though I discovered that rough trails weren't exactly kind to the muscles in mmy forearms, which get enough wear and tear playing the violin. I live fairly near Worthington Valley, north of Owings Mills/Reisterstown, so it is easy for me to ride through a couple of neighborhoods and get into the great part of Baltimore County that is still horse farms, etc. Great vistas from my bike!

Mahler's Symphony No. 4 is on the program this week, conducted by Marin Alsop. There is such a great sense of peace in the work, less of the overt drama characteristic of most of his symphonies. It has been a long time since we performed it, so I will savor the rehearsals and performances of it.