Sunday, November 21, 2010

The BSO Takes a Bite of the Big Apple

What an amazing weekend! Perfect weather, a pleasant bus ride, an excellent hotel (no bed bug reports as of yet), great restaurants, only a few delayed metro service stories...oh, and the concerts! BSO went to the Big City, and showed them (and the world) that we're still in top form, and just as capable of pulling off an excellent concert of classics (read NY Times review), as we did on Saturday night, as we are of bringing the house down with a boisterous rendition of the gospel version of Handel's Messiah (read review), as was the case on Sunday afternoon. Both in front of full houses of very pleased patrons who weren't afraid to show us that they liked it. It was so fun for us to play twice in two days in that legendary Carnegie Hall, with its impeccable acoustics and discriminating audiences.
On Saturday, the Barber Essay # 2 started off elegantly, and ended with all of Carnegie's decorations vibrating with our full sound. Our piano soloist in Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto, Macedonian Simon Trpceski, outdid himself in his debut with some amazing fireworks, and showed that soloists can still play chamber music with an orchestra, even in virtuoso pieces. After intermission, in Mahler's rendition of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, we achieved some incredible pianissimos, the kind which only top orchestras can do, just to end with forceful chords that had to invite an encore, bringing people to their feet. We all enjoyed a wonderful reception with many of our biggest fans and donors in an elegant Italian restaurant nearby.

Merriment couldn't last too long though, because on Sunday morning we had to get moving for a rehearsal of the Too Hot to Handel program. A few of us took a walk through Central Park before the afternoon concert. It was full of people, brought out by an amazing day.

In this post are a couple of photos I took while strolling around, hope you enjoy them and the fall colors.

Me, Chris Williams (Principal Percussion and Timpani),
Ken Goldstein (First Violin)

Then it was off to a different kind of concert, with a stage full of NYC kids that had been practicing for months, so they could be proud of their choral debut with us, in Carnegie Hall. What a feeling that must have been for them! They met and surpassed all of the expectations, and the audience was, once again, brought to their feet as Marin Alsop coaxed them to make even more noise, leading us to a rousing finale.

The buses returned late Sunday night, and now it's time for a couple days off before starting some new repertoire.

-Ivan Stefanovic

Thursday, November 11, 2010

BSO goes to NYC

This weekend, the BSO is embarking on a mini two-concert tour of New York City.

On Saturday evening, we'll be playing a program of classics, and on Sunday afternoon, a soul version of Handel's Messiah, cleverly named Too Hot to Handel.

The first program includes Beethoven's familiar Eroica Symphony, but with a twist: it's Gustav Mahler's version. He does leave a lot of it intact, but every once in a while one can hear some unexpected dynamics, comas in the middle of phrases, and the like. An interesting experiment, definitely worth hearing once, as a curiosity. However, that may have left me yearning for some genuine Beethoven, hence the quartet during my run (look at previous entry).
The rest of the program features Barber's emotional and powerful Second Essay for orchestra, and my (former, now that the country has separated) countryman, a brilliant Macedonian pianist Simon Tryčeski (I give discounts on private tutoring on the pronunciation of the last name (: ), with Prokofiev's exciting, fast-paced Third Piano Concerto. Concerts in Baltimore are on Thursday and Friday nights, then off to NYC we go!

-Ivan Stefanovic

There's Beethoven, and then there's... Beethoven

Consider this the tale of two Beethovens.

On Wednesday afternoon, on a glorious Fall day, with the afternoon sun accentuating the brightest leaf colors of the season yet, I went for a short run in Roland Park, before picking up my three boys from school. Into my ears the headphones were transporting the sounds of the "real" Beethoven, his Op. 132 String Quartet, which I had just started rehearsing with my colleagues, and which we will be playing on November 21st at the Chamber Music by Candlelight series in Guilford (more on that as the date approaches). It is one of his late quartets, at times simple, almost childish, at times complex and deep, and of considerable length. The choice of music, any music, you might be surprised, was an unusual one for me (and some of my fellow professional musicians) : we are often so saturated in music that to not listen to it can be rather relaxing. I am much more likely to listen to some of my favorite radio podcasts (isn't that one of the best inventions of late?), then to job to a music beat. However, other than the obvious reason that I needed to learn from this piece, and listening to it helps that process quite a bit, I realized there was another reason: I was in need of some real, pure Beethoven. More on that in my next entry.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

See You at Forte!

Before I get to this week's programs, I want to say how proud we all are of our colleagues that played solos in our Frederick concert at the beautiful Weinberg Center for the Arts last Saturday. Jonathan (in a triple role as a soloist, concertmaster and conductor), Shea, Fei, Gabe, Bill Jenken, Igor and Daruisz played beautifully and masterfully in a program filled with masterpieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. They all reminded us why this is one of the greatest orchestras around. One doesn't usually find that high level of solo playing in orchestra members that are, with the exception of Jonathan, not First Chair players. Bravo to all, and looking forward to another "in-house" concert.

Marin is back on stage this week, and we started on a couple of programs on Tuesday for this weekend. Thursday nights program was only at the Meyerhoff and featured Mahler's and Beethoven's Unfinished Symphonies.

Friday at Strathmore (8:15) and Saturday at the Meyerhoff (7:00), the program Analyze This: Mahler and Freud is sure to be one of the most unique ones we have presented in years. And don't forget, Saturday there's also a Forte Party in the Meyerhoff Lounge...I'll be there, so stop and say hi!

I hope to see you at our concerts!

P.S. Check out this cool webumentary with Marin Alsop:

Greener Fall Colors?

I hope you've been enjoying this beautiful autumn weather. It's such a pretty time of the year in Baltimore, with crisp mornings, bright rays of sunshine cutting through the many colors of the leaves, and the squirrels hurriedly stocking up for the winder. Except for when the crisp morning enters your house because your furnace quit working. Wednesday morning I was actually a bit late for a BSO rehearsal (which happens very rarely), because I had to wait for a service person to show up and fix what turned out to be a relatively minor problem.

I have taken advantage of the dry weather to ride my all-electric scooter (yes, with my violin on my back!) that I bought almost a year ago this month. I live by Belvedere Square, in a location that's about 5 miles or less from just about everything, so I sometimes make several short trips a day.

Last year, as I spotted this beauty in Fell's Point shop, I came to a realization that these trips, in addition to wasting gas, do a great job in keeping food on my auto mechanic's table. The scooter I bought is all electric, and it recharges in my garage in a few hours on minimal amount of electricity. I have since logged over a thousand miles without spending a cent on gas (plus it's almost noiseless, and, of course, doesn't pollute). So, if you ever see an unusual looking yellow/black scooter in town ridden by a black-helmeted guy with a violin case on his back, give me a honk!