Monday, November 3, 2008

New Music Performance

I played a very interesting program last week with the Towson New Music Ensemble. The director is Bill Kleinsasser with Julien Benichou as conductor. First off, let me say that the program was engaging and well-presented (at least 88% was performed extremely well!) Being live music and contemporary music at that, things happen, folks lose their place or don't come in because somebody else didn't come in. It's not like playing traditional chamber music - meters can change every bar and individuals regularly play on different portions of the beat. It's challenging!!....and I love it! Hats off to Kleinsasser for organizing such inviting and significant programs.

The program consisted of Cindy Cox's Axis Mundi; Samuel Nichols Axis; Bonnie Miksch Inklings on the loose; and Donald Martino's 1971 Pulitzer prize winning composition, Notturno. Kudos to flutist Sara Nichols solo performance of the Miksch work. Nichols was totally in command of this work for flute and computer-realized recording. Besides nailing one technical spot after another, she brought forth amazing colors and contemporary techniques. Bravo Sara!

The other Bravo goes out to conductor Julien Benichou. With all of the meter and tempo changes, one really needs a conductor who will be there every step of the way. Benichou doesn't miss a beat and makes what could be an ensemble disaster, music making every step of the way.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some time off .....

Last week was nuts with 4 Aida performances and a chamber music performance at Towson.  The faculty quintet burned up John Harbison's Quintet.  What a monstrous piece it is!  The piece is well-written and, I think pretty idiomatic for each instrument....although horn players might not say so!  The horn is up in the stratosphere quite a bit......Yay JB!

The other piece I played on the program was the premiere of Baltimore composer, Valencio Jackson's song cycle, The Seasons for voice(baritone), clarinet, bassoon and piano.  Beautiful writing...the kind that reaches you inside.  I'm ashamed to try to express my thoughts about this music as words do not come just have to hear it.  Not a seat available in the house, the most appreciative audience extolled a standing ovation at its completion.  I have not seen our Towson students so excited about a performance in a long time.  Bravo Valencio - you've touched our hearts and souls.

Changing the subject, for those of you who play in orchestra/band pits, a word of advice: when someone close to you in the pit is playing a solo, do not move around!!!  Nobody wants to hear you drop caps, reed cases, water bottles, etc.  Your solo-playing colleagues need your support and remaining still is part of that.  Thank you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Saturday night at the opera

Well, the opera managed to pull off a pretty exciting Aida Saturday night.. The singers are totally AMAZING. Antonello Palombi sings the role of Radames and I am reminded of the late great Pavorotti everytime this man opens his mouth. You should have seen him at the orchestra's first rehearsal. He was sitting in the back of the room with the other members of the cast and the sound that would come out his mouth (while he was sitting in a very relaxed manner) looked totally effortless. Palombi is the REAL DEAL.

Tiziana Caruso's Aida is extremely heart-felt and expressive.

The orchestra, as always, needs more rehearsal. We pull off these productions with only one day of rehearsals and then two more evening rehearsals (one of them being the dress). I am always in awe that we are able to go in there and perform without (usually) any major disasters (knock on wood!)! The members of this orchestra, especially anyone who plays solos, have to be rock-solid and extremely vigilant in watching the conductor. There is no room for day-dreaming and you have to be willing to move on sometimes little or no notice from the conductor.

The other big challenge for the woodwind section is our continuing to be placed under the lip of the stage. Now this would not be a problem if the stage were not also continuing to be extended at almost every production. Yikes! This situation forces the Principal players to have to force instead of just reacting to what they hear on stage. There are so many places in opera for a woodwind solo to be played much like one would play in a chamber ensemble. I look forward to the day when I can actaully hear what they are singing on stage and actually make music with these awesome singers. My woodwind colleagues are to be commended for playing so well under such challenging conditions.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This is my second posting. Another big week here in Baltimore. Finished one opera and started another. I feel extremely fortunate to be playing as much as I have so early in the season. I am particularly excited about this new piece that composer V Jackson has written for Baritone voice, clarinet, piano and bassoon. It is extremely gorgeous, well written, totally idiomatic for clarinet. I predict big happenings with this emerging composer. Oh, if you are interested the performance is on Oct 14 at TU.

Okay, question...if one perceives that the conductor is not following the singer on stage, should one go with the singer or the conductor? I had a colleague make the comment to me that the conductor is boss. Really? My instincts say go with the singer. What says you?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is blogging for me?

So, this is my first blog attempt and I am not so sure yet as to why I am doing this. I continue to be fascinated with how the world keeps getting smaller. I am in contact with friends and family better than I ever have been in my life - this is so cool!! Anyway, I am going to try to focus on the classical music scene from the perspective of the freelancing musician.

My past week consisted of performing a solo recital, 20 hours of rehearsals (one Mozart opera, one chamber orchestra and one woodwind quintet), and three performances. I also taught 9 one-hour lessons. Not bad for getting back into the season - YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't recommend this much activity on a regular basis - HA. It was sort of nuts but it's like this - you take it when you can get it! There are many weeks in the year when nothing is going on. Thank god for my teaching gig!! Yay TU!!!!

Speaking of TU, I am so proud of my students this year. They really sound like they practiced this summer; I like the fact that they all seem very interested in becoming better musicians. It's a lot of fun and I enjoy them very much. Yay clarinet studio!

So, what I have learned this week. It really paid off that I worked consistently hard this summer - practice does pay off!!! I felt extremely prepared to perform my recital last week. I think that I have improved a notch or two (knock on wood) from this experience! It is amazing to me that I can still get better at playing the "agony stick" - HA!