Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

It certainly has been an eclectic summer, musically speaking! From Tchaikovsky to Michael Jackson to the Eagles and NOW, this week, to famed Baltimore composers Philip Glass and Frank Zappa. I practiced the Zappa music today; it looks like he probably admired Bela Bartok (I do too), as he uses lots of irregular meters, snap pizzicati (where we pull the string hard enough while plucking it to make it hit against the fingerboard of the violin) and glissandi (obviously sliding between notes).

But before we play Glass and Zappa Friday night, Thursday night we FINALLY get to perform Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. We were supposed to do it (three times, I think) in February, but there was that little blizzard or three we had. We lost all of those performances.

I love Porgy and Bess; besides all the wonderful songs that became so popular, there is lots of less familiar music that Gershwin composed in between the songs. After all, opera is mainly a piece of music that just happens to have a plot and characters, right? So while characters are performing some action other than singing, or the strange changes are occurring, instead of just waiting, we in the orchestra play some pretty cool stuff. Actually it is some of the most intense symphonic music that I know of by Gershwin, very moody and dark, action packed. Since we often perform only the songs from the opera, we don't get to play these fairly serious sections nearly as much. I am excited to rehearse and perform them this week.

And to top it all off, Marin will be back (a rarity in the summer!) to guide us through all the music Thursday and Friday. I'm looking forward to seeing her again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Playing Planet Earth last week was cool. Great photograph, of course, and nice music. I especially liked the way George Fenton, composer and conductor, worked the soprano's voice into the texture in such a beautiful, almost eerie way. It was also nice that at the conclusion of the concert Mr. Fenton expressed some optimism that, because we all value the beauty and diversity of the earth, we will begin to the solve the great problems that are challenging our environment. Let's hope so! (It was great this morning to see that BP may have gotten a better cap on the leaking well; as I write this they are still testing it.)

Our concert on Saturday, conducted by my good friend Christian Colberg, was really fun. Two great young soloists, Sirena Huang and Conrad Tao, playing Tchaikovsky's most famous two concertos, the Violin Concerto and the Piano Concerto No. 1, and his Capriccio Italien. Christian does a remarkable job on the podium, especially considering how much of a newcomer he still is to conducting professionally. Too bad he is leaving us at the end of this summer season to become the Principal Violist of the Cincinnati Symphony. We will miss him greatly!

If you missed it, you can see him in action again this Saturday at our FREE Artscape concert at 2 pm at the Meyerhoff, conducting us in the Capriccio Italien and a few other pieces. AND then that night we repeat last Saturday's program at Strathmore. Come check it out!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


And Serena's not too shabby, either. The Orioles, on the other hand... so sad to see all the losses. It's not as if they aren't trying. Good thing there are lots of opportunities to win games, with 162 of them each year!

This week we are playing the soundtrack to Planet Earth Live video; should be pretty cool, as that was an amazing series.

Then come out and see Christian Colberg, BSO violist and talented conductor. lead us in an all Tchaikovsky program. I can't wait to see what he does with Capriccio Italien!