Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mena Madness

Dear readers, after two successful weeks with our Music Director Marin Alsop (read Tim Smith's review here), we return to one of our very favorite guest conductors Juanjo Mena (pictured), who started rehearsals with us on Tuesday. I was too busy with practicing and with many other non-BSO related things (helping my oldest son get ready for his audition for Baltimore School for the Arts among them) to write last week, but I'd be curious to hear what everyone thought of the now-not-so unusual format of lots of verbal as well as musical communication from the podium. Marin is hands down better at it than most, and judging from the reception from the hall and Q&A period on Saturday (that was about as long as Shostakovich's Symphony itself), you like it. It'd be great to hear some comments from you, our readers and audience.

There are no plans for any words coming at you from the stage this week, and that may be a pity, since Juanjo has that quintessential soft latino accent that makes him sound even more charming than he is. However, he should have no trouble getting that charm across through the music. And Haydn's Symphony No. 85 exudes with typical humor and charm. On 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?

-Ivan Stefanovic

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year and Welcome Back!

Dear readers, after a much-deserved break for you and me both, we're back in the swing of things. Welcome back!

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!

-Ivan Stefanovic