Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dangers of Play

Dear blog readers, I took a break last week, as I was on a break. I took my yearly trip with the family to Killington, Vermont, for five days of intensive skiing. Skiing is one of my life passions, and is something I am good at, other than playing violin. Many people ask me if it may be too risky and dangerous for a professional violinist to careen down intermediate slopes at highway speeds or double-black diamond ones with icy moguls. Well, it could be, but when one has a passion, one pursues it. Or at least that's how I look at life.

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.

-Ivan Stefanovic

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Reaction to Bruckner

As reactions to Bruckner's music go, there are two main camps: those that love him and those that hate him. I am in a third camp.

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.

-Ivan Stefanovic

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Four Seasons

Last week, during the snow, I saw enormous flocks of Canada (aren't you so proud of me not incorrectly calling them "Canadian"?) Geese, flying mostly South. It made me wonder if the little creature, that would otherwise never see even a second of fame judging from its looks, came out of the ground last week and didn't see its shadow because of the many TV cameras and people blocking the sun's rays from reaching him. Now I am thinking (and so is one of the long-term meteorologists that I follow-yes, I am a weather enthusiast!) that he was right, the back of the winter will be broken before we know it!

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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-Ivan Stefanovic

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Three BSO Orchestras! How can this be?

Dear readers, BSO is giving you several options for entertainment this week. We have split not only into two, but three orchestras with three separate programs. Crazy huh? I am participating in two of them. Beethoven: A Musical Hero, concerts for kids of different ages on Saturday at 11:00 am and Appalachian Spring, featuring our very own Madeline Adkins as soloist in the Bruch Violin Concerto, in Frederick on Friday at 8:00. There's also a part of the orchestra that's playing in a SuperPops program with Jack Everly and the Capitol Quartet titled Big Band Hit Parade at Strathmore on Thursday at 8:00 pm and at the Meyerhoff on Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm.

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.

-Ivan Stefanovic