Friday, October 8, 2010

Musicians' Picks :: Emily Skala

Each of the musicians who makes up the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is a talented artist in his or her own right with unique musical tastes and ambitions. While they have a voice in repertoire selection, there are some pieces our musicians would love to perform that usually do not find their way into the BSO seasons. This year, Music Director Marin Alsop and the Orchestra have identified and programmed six selections that we call Musicians' Picks. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we will enjoy performing them.

Emily Skala is the principal flutist of the BSO (since 1988). She received her Bachelor of Music with Honors from the Eastman School of Music in 1983 and within five years of graduating was affiliated with six major American orchestras. Emily regularly appears as a soloist and recitalist in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West regions, has performed at the National Flute Associations’ Annual Conventions, as well as at many of the world’s most prestigious music festivals.

Emily has granted us a look into her thoughts on the Musicians’ Picks of this season.

Mahler: Symphony No. 7

Mahler 7 was especially intriguing because I last played it over a summer break during my years at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. I had been called to sub with the RPO (Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra), led by David Zinman. I played fourth flute alongside my teacher, Bonita Boyd, who was Principal Flute. I remember how exciting the sonorities were. This same excitement arose when, at 16 years old, I played my first Mahler Symphony (the 3rd) with the Aspen Festival Orchestra led by Sergiu Commissiona. For me, and many fellow musicians, there is nothing more thrilling than playing a Mahler Symphony. Perhaps it is because his use of percussion and bass are so visceral, or because more teamwork is required than in most works (the melody is passed back and forth between instrumental groups or players causing the phrase to take shape through the broad collaboration of the orchestra – you must therefore be attentive to what your colleagues have made of the thread before picking it up and continuing on!). The fact that his music is so programmatic, even if it is not declared outright to be, makes it so engaging it is bound to stimulate the imagination! As Marin says, “Who doesn’t love a good story?!” During the performance with my teacher, she had a terrible flu that week which caused her to leave the stage mid-performance. She returned just in time for one of her solos which she played beautifully. I was so very impressed with this feat; the Mahler 7 remains one of my favorite pieces to this day. It will be a special reward to play it again after all this time.

Barber: Essay No. 2, op. 17

Barber Essay #2 was one of the first pieces I played and recorded with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra shortly after joining the group in 1988. It is wonderfully written, evocative, and under played. The audience surely needs to hear this piece again, as do I!

Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra

Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra is a work that music students study in Conservatory. It was a ground-breaking work of its time because of its innovative use of tonalities and technical demands. Although I reluctantly admit, I do not remember the specific points my teacher made, I do remember the feeling my classmates and I experienced while we listened to it for the first time as amazement and awe fell over the room. We then compared several different orchestras handling of the concerto. Like Mahler, it is a tour de force for the entire group and we enjoy a good challenge here at the BSO! Unfortunately for me, it is a week before my concerto appearance and I will be home practicing the Pied Piper instead.

Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6

Prokofiev wrote some of the most difficult for flute in the entire repertoire. The week of the 6th Symphony is also the week of the notorious Classical Symphony, a frequent contender for placement on flute audition lists everywhere. If the 6th Symphony has anything in common with the 5th then we are in for an awakening – a true enrichment of our musical horizons. In all my years of experience specializing in symphonic repertoire (since about 14yrs old), I sadly admit that this is a piece I have never performed. I look forward to the opportunity to bridge this gap in my repertoire – perhaps this is why it has made it to the Musicians’ Picks.

Walton: Symphony No. 1

The William Walton Symphony No. 1 puts me in a similar situation as the Prokofiev. The only piece I know by William Walton is his Shakespeare Suite and potentially another whose title has escaped my memory. I would like to know more of this compose and I am glad that one of my colleagues thought to suggest it! I think it stands to reason we should be an even better orchestra after this season as we shall be much better-rounded!


  1. There was no time to get acquainted with him in detail, but at first glance is pretty good. interesting biography

  2. Bravi to Krieger and Skala.

    I agree with the previous review only to add that Mr. Krieger had an equal part in this cd. He is a collaborator not accompanist!