Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
The way Beethoven expresses his feelings: "I love you"
The way Debussy expresses the same feeling: "It's a beautiful day"
This is how this weekend’s guest conductor, Louis Langrée, explained the way Impressionist composers convey their feelings to audiences. His audience was one drawn by Free Fall Baltimore, which allowed many to attend a working rehearsal of two masterpieces each of Mozart and Debussy that are part of a beautiful program that also features a masterful violin soloist James Ehnes. There are two concerts remaining, Friday and Saturday evening. Don't miss this treat for the ears!
Bolt for the BSO Update
Last Saturday, Bolt for the BSO came to a rousing end in the form of the Baltimore Running Festival, which we all lovingly call the Baltimore Marathon. Many musicians, administrators and Board members, as well as our Music Director, Marin Alsop (together with her son), ran an array of races from 5K's to the full marathon. Some ran as veterans of these events, many more ran for the very fist time.
It turned out to be a glorious day, with full sunshine backed by azure-blue skies and just enough of a breeze to make sweating a negligible side-effect. Some 25,000 runners from all states of the
BSO's "Bolters" had an additional goal - to, in a way, justify and thank all of the generous donors who helped us get, as of today, very close to our goal of raising at least $50,000 for our beloved orchestra. The good news is that there's still time, until November 1, for you to pick and sponsor a runner and therefore contribute in this inspired and oh-so-well run and organized effort by Cynthia Renn, our Governing Member Extraordinaire (and many others) to help this incredible arts organization continue contributing its talents to the city and state it's in, at the highest level of excellence. You can do so by going to this link: www.active.com/donate/Bolt2011, or, if you really like my blog, here's my personal Bolt fundraising page: http://www.active.com/donate/Bolt2011/B2011IStefan.
Here are a few of my impressions from the race:
-Favorite moment (other than the obvious one of crossing the finish line): The start of the race, after a heart-felt rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, with thousands cheering and confetti flying.
-Favorite sign alongside the race: "WORST PARADE EVER". Made me laugh so hard that I lost my pace for a few seconds.
-Favorite scene: Coming down the hill from
-Favorite not-so-legal, yet so Baltimore-like scene: A couple, set up with a small table in front one of the colorful row-houses in Charles Village, handing out beer in open cups to runners, as a Baltimore Policeman stands, ignoring them, a few feet away
-Favorite revelation: That the waters of the above lake were such a deep blue color because of the wind which, as we circled the lake and noticed whitecaps forming, hit us dead-on and followed us to the finish line, probably slowing down each runner's time by a few precious seconds.
-Favorite way to take advantage of a captive audience: Several musicians (bands) set up along the way, of which the one somewhere on
-Favorite effort at getting their sign noticed: A guy from Occupy Baltimore, near
-Favorite side-effect of the race: The many policeman manning the intersections in the impoverished parts of town, allowing some of our fellow citizens to feel safe enough this one time in a year to come out on their stoops, many in their pajamas, and heartily cheer on (and for some, sing and dance) the strangers that would otherwise be too scared to even drive through their neighborhoods. Touching and inspiring.
And now, I think I bought myself some bragging rights:
- Half-Marathon time 1:51:59 (about 8.5 minute miles), significantly better than last year's 1:57:something, which was my first ever race, after I had just started running that summer.
- 120th in my age category
- 1,200 overall (of about 11,000 half-marathon runners).
Not too bad for a second violinist :)
Friday, October 14, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Dear blog readers,
Now that the BSO's season (and other ensemble's seasons that I am involved in) is in full swing, and my kids are all settled in their schools, and, after I spent many hours on the phone with a not-to-be-named company whose name starts with the letter V and finally got my phone and Internet service troubles squared away, I promise to write more often, like I did last season. To help me with that, I propose to you a unique challenge: if you donate $25 or more (and do feel free to be more generous:) to Bolt for the BSO (see more on that in a recent entry below) in my name, you will buy yourself a right to ask me to write a blog (not just 2-3 sentences, I promise) on any topic that you choose, music-related or not. I know, I'm really putting myself on a limb, but wonderful people that organized this effort are working so hard on this, and I feel like this is a great opportunity to help from my end in this unusual way. As soon as I see your donation (I get a notice of it right away), I will write to you and ask you to post your topic of interest on the blog (as an answer to this post), or send me an e-mail with a topic, and I'll write a response within a few days.
And speaking of the season being in full swing, don't miss this weekend's performances with Yan Pascal Tortelier, one of our favorite guest conductors, as he leads us in Sibelius' atmospheric Fifth Symphony (with a most dramatic ending) and Elgar's powerful Concert-Overture named In the South (as in Italy, which is the South to Britons). Cuban pianist Horacio Gutiérrez, who is an old friend of the BSO (we have produced several recordings with him under the baton of David Zinman), will play Mozart's opera-induced Piano Concerto No. 19 (make sure to listen for quotes from his operatic opus in the last movement!).
Check out this YouTube video of Tortelier, whose father was the eminent cellist Paul Tortelier, as a young and virtuosic violinist in a performance of the difficult La Tzigane by Maurice Ravel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15XGTHaJIu0
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I just wanted to clarify why I started this blog with "Dear fellow Bolters". Bolters, as I named ourselves, are members of the orchestra, administration and friends of the BSO who are running in the 2011 Baltimore Running Festival in October. We are members of Bolt for the BSO (hence "Bolters"), an organization that was started last year by a BSO Governing Board member in order to raise money for the organization.
We were very successful last year, and plan to be even more so this year. The fun aspect of this (other than running) is that you can sponsor me by going to this page: http://www.active.com/donate/Bolt2011/B2011IStefan, or any of us on the home page: http://www.active.com/donate/Bolt2011.
Thank you all for being our supporters in so many ways!
Dear fellow Bolters, I have spent the last couple of weeks in beautiful Montenegro (part of former Yugoslavia), where my sisters and I used to spend our summers in our parents' house, built some 50 years ago. I'm here now with my family of five (my wife Jennifer and our three boys), and also my older sister and her two children.
After recuperating from an overnight train trip from Belgrade to the Adriatic Coast which took much longer than anticipated due to some technical problems, and taking a few days off from training, I started running again.
My parents' place is located on the beach of a beautiful town called Sveti (Saint) Stefan, whose crown jewel is a unique city-hotel situated on a rocky island (now connected by a small bridge to land) that originally housed fishermen, starting around the 15th century, and now houses the rich and famous that can afford it. To get to that spectacular view and the beginning of my running path, there's a good warm-up in the form of a few stairs between the beach buildings. Then I am greeted by this view:
Next comes a downhill, with views of spectacular mountains just being touched by the sun, through these tall pines:
Further down, ok the side of the road, I take note of the newly ripe wild blackberries, which I consume on the way back:
The same fate awaits these figs:
In the middle of my path, I come upon two gates like the one below, which used to be stationed by guards watching over the royal grounds.
Montenegro used to be a kingdom, and the king's palace is still standing on a beautiful stretch of beach, now also turned into a luxury hotel:
Next is the tiny and precious Queen's beach, where one can imagine she could escape from her husband's ramblings about his prowess:
At the end of a longish uphill, the rays of Adriatic sun haven't yet reached the cozy fisherman's village of Pržno, where the catch of the day means literally just that in the beach-side restaurants, as the seafood is brought right to them and then presented to patrons on big circular platters for their perusal, in place of a menu:
Upon my return, I usually get right into my inflatable kayak that I travel with, and meander over to some isolated beach in the stillness of the early morning for a refreshing swim, as I await the sun to reach over the mountains into the blue-green water:
Then it's time for a jog up many stairs to the village for some fresh bread, eggs and oatmeal, and a hearty breakfast. A great way to start a day, get exercise, and then continue the "cross-training" with spear fishing, and more swimming, kayaking, climbing over rocky islands, and general beach fun with my wife and our three boys.
My batteries will, I trust, be fully charged and ready to go for both the Bolt for the BSO Half-Marathon in October, as well as the next great season of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Monday, June 6, 2011
This week the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs our last concert of the 2010-11 Season, Verdi's Messa de Requiem on June 9-12.
But don't worry! You can still join the BSO at any of our summer concerts!
"I adore art...when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear."
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
We hope that everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
This week the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra welcomes piano great Emanuel Ax on June 2-5.
"It is not hard to compose, but what is fabulously hard is to leave the superfluous notes under the table."
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Last weekend, as I was putting together some raised vegetable and herb beds in my garden, I had my two younger sons as my helpers. They really enjoyed themselves when I asked for their help with drilling holes in the wood, and then fastening the screws, as much as any boy enjoys using power tools. We also make our own compost and we find that it's such a pleasure to not only recycle paper and plastic, but to also reuse our leftover food to grow more food. That task, of getting it out of the compost bin and mixing it with the soil before planting, I left for myself, knowing what kind of "yuck" reaction I'd get from them (I, for one, think it smells slightly sweet, a testament to how much fruit we all eat).
Then there was some clean up to do, left over from the winter and spring, around the new garden beds-leaves, twigs, general yard refuse. My middle son started raking it, but it was a relatively big area, and he got tired and discouraged after a while. When I saw how he was doing it, I walked over to him, marked several smaller square-shaped parcels, and told him to do them one at a time. His face brightened, and, like any parent would, I saw a teachable moment. I reminded him how I have, in some of our cello practice sessions, told him to never look at any big problem straight in the eye, and to instead divide it into many more manageable problems, ones that can be solved without him feeling overwhelmed. Then I took a step further, and said that he can use that tool in any life situation that requires problem solving. That was of course a step too many, because at that point he rolled his eyes in the "there goes Dad lecturing me on life again" and proceeded to do as advised, but still, he got the point.
I had a couple of opportunities lately to practice what I preach. First, I realized that I use just such a way of thinking when I, in my typical fashion, made myself go up the steep Falls Rd. to Roland Ave. hill for the second time in a run, as I get myself ready for the Bolt for the BSO-in my case, Half-Marathon in October. Instead of looking up to the top of the hill, I usually look at the beautiful houses on the side of the road, one by one, and then it seems so much easier. The next opportunity came when i was facing hundreds of seemingly unrelated, fast (REALLY FAST) sixteenth notes in a really cool William Walton Symphony #1 that I had to get ready for the first rehearsal on Tuesday, for this weekend's concerts. It seemed a daunting, almost impossible task to look at the endless black circles with stems on the page and think, "I am going to have to play this in front of thousands of people in a concert soon." But, when approached slowly, one measure, one phrase, one furiously paced page at a time, it became, well, possible that I might survive. Not to mention that I was encouraged by the fact that dozens of my colleagues were using the same practice method at that very same time.
Come this weekend and see how well it worked! As I said, the Symphony, which we have not played in decades (if ever), is quite a power house of emotion. The rest of the program, led by the very methodical and very musical guest conductor Carlos Kalmar with Karen Gomyo on violin, is Mahler, Sibelius and Walton on Friday, May 27 at the Meyerhoff and Saturday, May 28 at Strathmore.
P.S. Check out this beautiful rainbow I caught on a walk last week, between a rehearsal and a concert, as it was trying to imitate the graceful architecture of Strathmore Hall.
Monday, May 23, 2011
This week we are preparing for our Classical Concert of Mahler, Sibelius and Walton with Carlos Kalmar, conductor and Karen Gomyo, violin. Our Monday Muse celebrates the composer Gustav Mahler.
"A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything."
Monday, May 16, 2011
Our BSO SuperPops concert this week features Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Movies and some of their most well known movie musical favorites such as Oklahoma!, The King and I and Carousel.
"After the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution, songs became part of the story, as opposed to just entertainments in between comedy scenes."
~ Stephen Sondheim
Friday, May 13, 2011
That boy is me, many years ago, and the setting is a city hospital belonging to a small town of Samedan, just up the valley from Interlaken (my colleagues reading this will get a kick out of this, since I am one of only a few that didn't go to the well-known American summer camp, Michigan's Interlochen). I was a representative of my native country, then called Yugoslavia, in this camp where the Youth Orchestra of European Countries was rehearsing for a 10-day long Tour of Europe. Great experience for a budding musician except for the fact that, after having gone through a week of rehearsals, I got an ingrown toenail after a strenuous hike (and wearing some ill-fitting shoes) in the Alps just at the end of that week, and landed in the hospital with blood poisoning that could have ended something a lot more important to me and my loved one than that Tour.
The piece that I was listening to from my hospital bed was Schumann's darkly dramatic Manfred Overture, one of three Schumann pieces we are playing in this week's concerts, and one that we had rehearsed so diligently in the week prior, while enjoying the gorgeous vistas through the oversize windows of the orchestra room. That's why this piece always stirs up some strong memories in me, and why I look forward to playing it every time it's on the program. Robert Schumann had a very interesting life, and it shows in his works, so what better way to grasp it but through the BSO Robert Schumann - A Romantic Original concert this week on Thursday and Sunday in Baltimore. And on Friday at Strathmore and Saturday at Baltimore Marin Alsop, in her usual casual, yet informative style, will unravel Schumann's life in front of your eyes (and ears, of course) for the Off the Cuff performance of Schumann's Beautiful Mind. Not to be missed!
And during the Overture, if you look carefully, you might see small figures flying through thin mountain air in my eyes.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Well, that's what has recently been the talk of the town among our legislators, who make decisions for a "company" called USA, in regard to cutting down the National Endowment for the Arts. Now, you may say that the NEA sometimes uses its funds to support things you, or I, or just about nobody considers art and many other more concrete things in our life (like sports scores for example) is in the eye of the beholder. But, even if you say you don't care for art at all, you have no use for it in your life, and we need to make sure our cities survive these crises. So, if you don't care to feed not just the mouths but also the souls of our fellow citizens, let's just talk sheer numbers: the Arts are responsible for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to cities in which they thrive, and lead to over $5.7 jobs annually. In the Baltimore area alone, all things put together, BSO's contribution to the region's coffers is estimated about $18 million!
On Wednesday, we had about 20 very special people on the Meyerhoff stage with us during our rehearsal of Brahms' Second Symphony. What makes them special is that they commit to the BSO not only financially (and very generously), but also in so many other ways. They are BSO's Governing Members, and they go out of their way and organize fun gatherings in order to meet us, get to know us personally, and help us stay afloat. They spread the word about what we do, bring people to concerts, and organize fun and lucrative fund raising events (see Bolt for the BSO, coming up this fall). They are the ones that really care about the music, many of them know it well, and also know that without them we wouldn't be here.
Dear Legislators, please don't let people like that be the alone in keeping our cities in the black. We all deserve better.
And now, let's forget the numbers and talk music: this week's concerts are sure to move your soul, with some great masterpieces led by a conductor new to the BSO, Cornelius Meister, who is bringing the best in us. The program includes Bruch's rarely heard Violin Concerto #2, with our great Concertmaster, Jonathan Carney. See you there.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Our concert this week features Brahms' Second Symphony who, besides being one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period, was a man of simple lifestyle who generous supported the causes of others. Learn more>>
"What would become of all historical biography if it was written only with consideration for other people's feelings?"
~ Johannes Brahms
Monday, April 18, 2011
Our first guest blogger is Cathy McClelland. This is what she had to say about her experience:
In 2010 I did my first 5K and had the time of my life! Not only did I finish better than I could ever have imagined in the race, I had the best time raising money for the BSO. I not only walked/ran a race for the BSO but I ran a competition with other participants to see who could get the most donors and the most money. Our challenge was who could get the most contributions and from how many countries and states where involved. Everyday I would check to see where I stood in the totals. I hope that this year others will have the same great experience. Wouldn't it be great if we had donations from all 50 states? Staff from the BSO cheered us on and met us at the finish line. I know all of us who participated had a GREAT time. Please join us this year.
Want to help Cathy reach her goal this year? Support her here.
Friday, April 15, 2011
As I settled into an unfamiliar seat (the only ones whose feel I know were about to be occupied on stage by the orchestra members), realizing that I have never taken in a concert at Strathmore from that vantage point, I was pondering how many of my fellow audience members were wondering if the musicians' bus was running late. The stage was strangely empty, and it was about time for a downbeat. But this orchestra, like many orchestras outside of the U.S., makes a collective entrance that is as dramatic as it is, well, musically sensitive. There is something special about hearing the first piece of music in a concert emerge from a void of musical sound, rather than hearing most of the tunes from the program before the concert actually starts. As they quickly took their seats, that familiar figure of almost aristocratic poise but relatively quick pace emerged from the left, a slight but distinctive smile on his face as he greeted the audience.
The first sounds of Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter's Overture washed over the hall (all right, I'll now try to stop the maritime references) and reminded me and many of the BSO colleagues that traveled south for this concert of the type of sound Maestro Temirkanov drew from us when he was in town. Being of Russian origin, where choral tradition is strong and those deep, sonorous Slavic men's voices dominate the landscape of music, he always build his string sound from the ground up, that ground being thick and very firm underfoot (see, we're back on dry land). The basses in St. Petersburg Philharmonic are situated right behind the first violins, on the left side of the stage, and also behind the cellos, where are in the place familiar to us as reserved for second violins. The effect of this seating is startling and very, well, effective. The orchestra also seemed to sit more closely together, giving them a very cohesive sound that embraced the audience like honey hangs on a spoon. This was especially true in the Brahms' Fourth Symphony, which reminded me of a concert of, I think, his Second Symphony that Temirkanov conducted with the BSO years ago.
The great violinist Pamela Frank was a soloist in that concert, and, she chose, like only very few of her colleagues in the soloist circles, to join us in the second half, playing from the back stand of the Second Violins. As a very inspired and heart-felt reading drew to a close, Temirkanov bowed to the audience, then looked a Pam, in order to acknowledge her once more. I watched his face turn from a smile, to a display of puzzlement, then to maybe a smirk of self-satisfaction, as he seemed to manage to move her to tears. (Another explanation of her reaction is, I think, that as soloists, these incredible musicians sometimes miss out on the many joys of making and creating great music together with so many people on stage).
But I digress, though I really don't want to turn this into a review of the concert-that's better left for the professionals. The soloist in Tuesday's concert was a great cellist Alicia Weilerstein, who played a very deeply felt and energetic, virtuoso performance of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto. Right after, during intermission, Maestro Temirkanov was clearly pleased and touched to see so many of us there. Orchestras and conductors form a bond in every concert, at home and abroad, on tours, and that stays with us a memories never to be forgotten.
There are many such wonderful memories we share with David Zinman and there surely will be those that we'll recall once Marin Alsop leaves town. In the meantime, the ship sails on.
P.S. I understand there are only a few selected tickets left for our performances of Charlie Chaplin's movie The Gold Rush on Saturday night, and maybe a few more for Sunday afternoon. The music is absolutely beautiful and witty, and the movie is, well, Chaplin-definition of a genius. I strongly urge you to come and bring everyone you know. It's a rare movie that everyone in the family can enjoy, and, yes, it is very special when it is accompanied by a live orchestra.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Kids his age, some younger and some older, were also on the Meyerhoff stage on Thursday night and Sunday afternoon, playing their debut with the BSO in front of adoring Moms, Dads and siblings, as well as out regular audience. They come from areas of the city where even the free Circulator bus is not an option for a bit of fun because, simply, there may not be anyone available to take them downtown, as both parents might be working most of the day (and some at night). But that didn't stop them from attending the classes of the Bucket Brigade, a beginner percussion program, or later switching to cello, violin or flute, after their regular Elementary school classes, as part of BSO OrchKids program. For those of you that don't know, it's based on an extremely successful program in Venezuela, called El Sistema, which has by now created thousands of kids that play in hundreds of youth orchestras across that underdeveloped country. There are only a couple more such programs in the United States so far. And I say so far, in spite of the recent calls for cutting of public funding for arts in schools, non-profit organizations, and such. The fact is that arts bring millions of dollars to our cities' economies, and without them they could not survive. But, even if not a single of the OrchKids children ends up in the music field as part of their lives, or takes up an instrument to play it again, or even becomes one of our patrons, they will have developed life-long skills of team play, discipline, long-term work that pays off in small increments, patience, and too many more to mention here that they can't get any other way. Their brains will also develop in such way that will increase their success in other fields (and we don't need studies to prove that, OrchKids have the stats if you want to see them).
So let's stop and think where our efforts and money should go. More arenas and stadiums, so that we can subsidize multi-million dollar contracts that our sports teams demand, or concert halls and opera houses where orchestras are falling one by one with minimal support from our government.
Thank you all who have contributed to the BSO over the last almost 100 years of its existence, and let's help it reach its centennial with the musicians and staff on solid financial ground, so we can continue to entertain, and, yes, educate our children.
They are truly our future.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Normally I would react to words like these the way any 5 year old does, even though I'm far from being that young anymore: with great joy and anticipation. I am an avid skier, and one of those people that just can't get enough snow. I always find it magical the way snow transforms any landscape into something so clean and pure (at least for a short while, here in the city). But it's almost April in Baltimore people! I have already had a run or two outside, in shorts and short sleeve shirts, and have reluctantly given up any dreams of doing just a few more runs in a neighborhood ski resort. Enough is enough! Daffodils need to come up unhindered, tulips don't need to fight through the the white stuff to display their rainbow colors, and forsythia won't be happy to have its sunny flowers weighted down by a blanket of white.
Whether it happens or not, the BSO is playing some sunny pieces on the first half of its concerts this weekend. Another of our favorite guest conductors, Yan Pascal Tortelier, is leading us in the elegant Valses Nobles and Sentimentales by Ravel as well as Grieg's melodious and very romantic Piano Concerto with my fellow alumnus from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Orion Weiss as a soloist. The second half displays the orchestra in Lutoslawski's powerful and very unique-sounding Concerto for Orchestra. Don't miss it!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
"Violas can be more expressive, I know that, because I am married to a violist," he says, making a viola joke on the spot.
"Count like you count your money," he quips, displaying his true Swiss roots (with a German accent and an Italian name) after some wind players miscounted the measure he wanted to restart with.
These are quotes from the BSO's Tuesday morning rehearsal with one of our most beloved guest conductors, the immensely funny and likable Mario Venzago. They may portray an almost childish personality, full of humor and joy of life, but may also sound a bit insincere. However, while Mario has the entertainment capability of a stand-up comic (and one with a very charming accent), he is anything but insincere. He is a very serious musician, one that dives very deep into every note, phrase and movement of every piece he rehearses and performs, and emerges with a net-full of the richest musical expression that is backed up by years of exploring music at the highest level. And he manages to do it all with an unending smile and flair that always puts the orchestra in the best of moods. When someone is that much into music, one can't help but get involved with them, and go to great lengths to please them, even if one doesn't necessarily agree with every musical idea.
"This sounds like acne," he says of some unwanted accents in a lyrical phrase that the cello section just played.
"You now go to sleep, true artists need sleep," he tells the winds as he is about to spend time rehearsing some bumpy passages in the strings.
"Trumpets are 40, no, 42% too loud, he specifies, again drawing on the background of his native country, where I remember the Alpine trains having a timetable that looked just like that (13:34, 13:59, 14:07), and actually managed to adhere to it!
"If you play it like this, I have to go to court," he mocks, with gratitude, when the brass manages a sound he asked for that is nowadays rarely produced in Beethoven's Fifth outside of the so-called Performance Practice ensembles, the ones that include as much of the techniques from the composers' era as possible.
I have known Mario since I was 14, as a young violinist representing my native country of Yugoslavia on two successive European Youth Orchestra Summer Tours, which were both based in Switzerland, and during which he was our Assistant Conductor. He hasn't changed one bit, and that's a good thing.
Come and enjoy his musical artistry in concert this week, with Schubert's Fifth and Berg's beautiful Violin Concerto with Baiba Skride as a soloist.
P.S. Oh, and if you don't know who Mr. Bean (a.k.a. actor Rowan Atkinson) is, check him out as he conducts a band playing holiday carols.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
For those of you interested in finding out about the fly overs (and if you have kids, you should be-they find these really special, as my three boys do), read the weather blog by Frank Roylance in the Baltimore Sun, or find his blog on the Web (right after you read mine of course (: ).
Now you're asking yourselves what this has to do with music or the BSO. Well, absolutely nothing. But it sure is nice to look up at the sky every once in a while, with a purpose or without. We spend too much time looking down at our important (we think) every day happenings, forgetting that we're part of something much larger.
Check out our Pops concerts this week on Thursday (Strathmore), Friday and Saturday (Meyerhoff) at 8pm and Sunday (Meyerhoff) at 3pm. They're entitled a Celtic Celebration: Music of the Emerald Isle, conducted by the ever-entertaining Jack Everly, and are sure to send you dancing on your way home (or at least up to the garage). You might even want to look at the night sky while you're at it.
Friday, February 25, 2011
It is so dangerous playing Mozart's Magic Flute. I am writing this at 11:40 p.m. on a bus on the way back from Strathmore after our first performance of this incredible piece of music, and we're no where near half way home. My back is hurting a lot more than it was after skiing Ovation with my two older sons twice, a double-black diamond slope in Killington with a 45% pitch at the top, laced with a combination of moguls, ice, patches of fresh snow, and a few rocks thrown in for good measure. At least then I could stop and stretch whenever I wanted to. Tonight, after another endless yet out-of-this-world beauty of a slow movement, one in which especially Second Violins end up suffering as our bow arms are constantly hovering over the lower strings, all I could do was put my arms down for a few seconds before it was time to continue. There were times when pain was so unbearable that I thought I'd let out a sound that Mozart didn't call for in his score. But all that was worth the pain (at least that's what I'm saying now that I'm somewhat supported by a semi-comfortable bus seat, and able to move when I want).
The music and the story this week don't, of course, need to be advertised, but what makes this production special is that the singers, every one of them, are of such high quality, with both their singing and acting. I strongly encourage every one of your to hurry and get yourselves and your loved ones some tickets for our leftover performances in Baltimore for this Saturday or Sunday. You'll laugh, cry, cheer, and be very entertained, and we can this prove ourselves that we actually don't need special effects (though there is a bit of fake thunder and a few cool lights (: ) to enjoy a very special evening.
It's almost midnight, and the bus trip is almost over. Time to drive home and stretch a taut back before hitting the sack.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Bruckner was a troubled man. He struggled with life in general and relationships in particular. Those with his fellow human beings and those with God. And it shows—his music consists of seemingly unrelated sections: a listener will be subject to an almost John Adams-like series of chord professions that don't seem to go anywhere or serve any purpose other than to progress chords, just to have that halted, somewhat abruptly. What often follows is a gorgeous, Mahler-like section of beautiful heart-felt melodies, just to return to the wondering music of almost minimalist qualities.
The second, slow movement of the Sixth Symphony, which we are playing with Maestro Juanjo Mena tonight and Sunday at the Meyerhoff as well as Friday in Wye Mills, is particularly bursting with gorgeous melodies. But the last couple of minutes of the Symphony are, again, searching chord progressions that, well, don't seem to end in any tangible result of that search. It doesn't seem that he ever answers many of the questions he poses in his music. Come and join us, and see if you can find the answers for him.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I absolutely love all four seasons for what they are (and not just Vivaldi's or Piazzola's which we are playing later in the year :) and really love a good snowstorm, so I am a bit upset that we may not get any more, though the last one, despite its measly foot or so, was rather impressive. As you can imagine, I was extremely happy with last year's prolific winter, so I guess I shouldn't complain. The saving grace may be that I am lucky enough to get a week off next month and head north, to Vermont, for a family ski trip, where they have been buried for weeks. However, when I return after five days of hardcore skiing (I've been skiing as long as I've been playing violin, it's a big passion of mine), if it has to be spring, let it be. That means the bike and the electric scooter come out of the garage (I use them for commuting), and a return of jogging outside without having to dodge black ice. That's my newly discovered passion, ever since BSO decided to do a fundraiser called BOLT for BSO and I ran in the Baltimore Half-Marathon as a result. And it won't be long before we runners start complaining about the humidity. As I said, I love all seasons!
Long Live the Spring!
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Thursday, February 3, 2011
I haven't heard the Pops program, but I can still vouch for the quality and entertainment value, as our standards are always high...but you knew that already:) The Beethoven program, which we already may have played for some of your children (they came in their yellow school buses on Wednesday and will again Friday), is a great overview of Beethoven's life, with him being presented by a great local actor Toni Tsendaes, as adult Beethoven, as well as two pianists from different stages of his life. It's a great and entertaining story, narrated as always by the eloquent Rheda Becker, and featuring excerpts from some of Beethoven's best music. So, bring your favorite kids (they don't have to be your own;) and treat them to something special (something that doesn't take 30 seconds in the microwave or features all manners of weapons) that will stay with them and make them think.
The Frederick concert, as I mentioned, features our fantastic Associate Concertmaster Madeline Adkins in Bruch's romantic Violin Concerto, as well as beautiful Mozart's 40th Symphony, one of the first pieces I ever played with the BSO (20 years ago), as well as Copland's oh-so-American-sounding Appalachian Spring, in a 13-player version, all conducted by the energetic Carolyn Kuan. And don't forget to arrive early and have a meal at one of Frederick's many tasty establishments all just steps from the hall.
Hope to see you at any or all of these, you won't regret you came! And if you do make it out, I would love to hear what you thought.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
the program is Brahms' gorgeous Violin Concerto featuring 26-year-old Augustin Hadelich, who makes his BSO debut this week, as well as a local premiere of Puerto-Rican born Roberto Sinfonia's No. 4. We just started rehearsing it Tuesday morning, and it has many moments where one can imagine a great movie, yet to be made, that the score could accompany. Any producers among us?
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I spent my days off with family, and, as luck would have it this winter of difficult travel, had some family members visiting me for a change. It was nice to decorate the house, then just sit back, relax, and let them worry about how they'll get here! My kids had a good time with the visiting cousins, and everyone took a few days off to recharge their batteries. During the short breaks like that, I don't touch my instrument unless I need to (and I give the kids a break from theirs), knowing that, even if it takes a bit longer to get back in shape, there'll be more hunger and enthusiasm for it once we're back.
I did, however, play a couple of New Year's concerts in Meyerhoff and Strathmore with the Strauss Orchestra of America, which reproduces, on this side of the Big Pond, those wonderful concerts that have started the new year for decades for many Europeans. I grew up with that tradition as well, and for me the calendar doesn't truly turn until I see the broadcast. And this year I got to play it, which was even better! I remember being in Vienna with my wife Jennifer many years ago and convincing the guard at the famed Musikverein Hall to let us just peek in, as they were getting it ready for the concert with hundreds of flowers. He told us to run and that we had to be back in two minutes. Who knew that I'd be back there many years later with the official backstage pass issued to me as a musician in the BSO, which was there on a European Tour!
Speaking of the orchestra, I celebrated 20 years since I started my job in it on January 3, 1991. Even I can't believe it when people ask me, time flew by so quickly. I was 21 years old, just out of college (I know, I just dated myself (: ), and now I own a house and have 3 wonderful sons. Funny how things sometimes just work out!
Please check out the link for this week's concerts: Music from Star Wars plus Icarus at the Edge of Time, as our Music Director Marin Alsop returns with an exciting program, then do yourself and some friends a favor and buy some tickets.
Hope to see you there!