Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle. That's how last week felt to me. Not only did we play a Side-by-Side concert with Baltimore County high school students and a very nice baroque concert with Madeline Adkins leading a slimmed down BSO, my quartet had a performance at one of our very favorite venues, Second Presbyterian, last Saturday evening.

Violinist Rebecca Nichols, violist Christian Colberg and I have performed together in the Atlantic String Quartet since our first concert a Second Presbyterian back in September 1995. Bo Li, our cellist, joined us in 2002. Sometimes the ASQ feels like my 2nd family. There is an intimacy in chamber music that can be remarkable. Thankfully, we are all friends and we thrive on the intimacy and on the great repertoire written over the centuries for string quartets.

After our performance of Schumann's 3rd String Quartet Sunday evening, a very enthusiastic fan came backstage to greet us. He mentioned that we performed the piece "with gusto," and that this was Schumann's 200th birthday year. Schumann is this man's favorite composer, so it was very satisfying to me that we provided him with an experience that he savored so much.

This must be Schumann week here in Baltimore as well. Gunther Herbig, one of our favorite guest conductors over the years, is on the podium to conduct Schumann's 4th Symphony, along with the Corialan Overture and the Third Piano Concerto of Beethoven. Garrick Ohlsson is our soloist for the concerto.

I'm excited about the week!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holiday Tidings

Both my boys (young men, I suppose) made it home for the winter break, although Stephen had quite a time getting out of New York on December 20 because of the snow storm. I finally was able to pick him up after 6 pm from a bus stop at a Best Western in East Baltimore that I didn't know existed.

After the December 23 - 2 pm Holiday Spectacular show, my wife Jeanne and I celebrated our 25th anniversary the way we have celebrated almost all of the others: by driving to Alexandria, VA, dropping our kids off with my parents there, then heading into Washington, D.C., always pretty deserted around that time of year. You can get great rates on hotels there because the city is so empty on December 22, so we have tried many different hotels over the years. We have a favorite though, the Willard. Normally we wouldn't be able to afford it, but on December 23 we could! We had dinner in the round bar there; the bar and the hotel itself are quite historic.

The next day we headed down to Charlottesville to visit my sister Laura and her family, just as we have for the last twenty-some years. It was a beautiful drive; the snow from the storm on December 19 was on the ground the whole way. Christmas was great, then on December 26 before heading home we played string quartets for awhile. Laura is the cellist, her daughter Emily and I played violin, and Stephen (though he is really a violinist) read the viola part with a viola borrowed from Laura's school. She is the director of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra, an award winning and well traveled group of young musicians. Last year they were invited to be a part of the summer program at Loren Maazel's estate in rural Virginia, learning and performing repertoire with older students and professionals. We read through a couple of short pieces by Glazunov, but also more popular fare, including a fun Star Trek arrangement.

My son Eric is still here for another week so he and I will check out the skiing at Whitetail today and catch a Washington Capitals' game Thursday. Eric is a big hockey fan. We don't have BSO rehearsals and concerts until next week, but I am practicing every day as a good violinist should.