Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday Muse

Good morning!

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."
-Johannes Brahms

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Note at a Time

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.

-Ivan Stefanovic

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Muse

Good morning!

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."
~Gustav Mahler

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Muse

Here is your second Monday Muse quote to get your creativity started for the week!

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

Memories of Schumann

A boy is lying in a hospital room bed in the Swiss Alps, listening to a beautiful orchestral piece on a radio that is sitting next to his unfinished meal that most Moms, including his, would not call a meal for their son. The son in question is 14 years old, and he just underwent a minor, yet for him, frightening, surgery on his big toe. He's now enjoying the ebb and flow of the piece, almost as much as the view out of his hospital room window, through which he is following hang gliders as they gracefully descend from the snow-capped mountain peaks, circling ever so slowly, until they finally land on a grassy field. This nirvana is only occasionally interrupted by cheers coming from a few rooms down the hallway, the common room, where the patients that are able and allowed to move are watching the Los Angeles Olympic Games on a TV set.

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.

-Ivan Stefanovic