Monday, August 27, 2007

Mozart in a heated tent

"Mozart on the Mountain"
Sunday, August 26th, 2 pm
Roberto Minczuk conducting

Mozart Overture to Don Giovanni
Mozart Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183 (173dB)
I. Allegro con brio
Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622
II. Andante
III. Allegro

Beethoven Symphony No.5 in C Minor, op. 67
I. Allegro con brio
"Lord Strathcona Troop Musical Ride"
marches by Sousa and others,
accompanying horse tricks
Rossini Overture to William Tell
Glinka Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla

Yesterday was my first performance with the CPO - I didn't really have time to get nervous though, since I was too busy trying to keep warm. It was an outdoor concert at the Rafter Six Ranch Resort, out towards Banff, and it would have been a spectacular setting, had the weather cooperated.

Instead, we had a muddy field beneath gray, dreary skies, and an incredibly stoic audience. Even before the orchestra buses arrived, they had encamped with folding chairs, enormous umbrellas, and wind-resistant parkas - it was like playing to a climbing expedition on Mt. Everest. (Actually one of the speakers before the concert was a politician who had climbed Everest.) As the speeches went on, and on, we could see them angling their umbrellas and adjusting their tents to keep off the driving rain. These people were prepared.

Moving up here from Florida, this weather issue is hard to dodge - people want to know whether I've ever worn a sweater, if I'm up on my survival and layering skills, do I know how to defrost my car in 20 below temperatures... I try to reassure people that I lived in Chicago and Boston, I'm familiar with snow and numb fingers, I'm prepared to invest in an engine block heater and long underwear. I just didn't expect I'd need them already in August!

This was definitely a tougher breed of classical music listeners than I'm familiar with from Miami, or Chicago or Boston for that matter. There were people yelling up to the stage to ask for people to take down their umbrellas, so the people in the back could see better. You definitely want to put on a great show, when people are subjecting themselves to extreme conditions to see and hear you - we didn't have it nearly so bad, with heaters and a big tent, but I was still shivering and clutching for blowing-away pages. Luckily, we had a fantastic soloist for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Steve Amsel. He's the orchestra's principal clarinetist, and he made a gorgeous arc of the slow movement and a playful chase of the 3rd. (He had some help from Tim Rawlings, our percussionist and personnel manager, holding his pages down.)

For an outdoor concert, this had some substantial repertoire - all those ricochet licks in the William Tell, the lightning-fast scales in Glinka, and some meat and potatoes in the Beethoven. And Mozart is always a test of ensemble, intonation, flexibility. Even with rain pounding on the tent, you still feel exposed. It's hard to judge an orchestra from hearing it in a tent and an acoustically dead rehearsal room, but it's nice to play in a section with strong leaders, and the orchestra generally responds well to RM. He challenged the orchestra to find lightness and character in the Mozart and Rossini, and depth and contrast in the Beethoven. So at least we had a focus, besides holding onto our music and maintaining circulation in our extremities.

The orchestra's next services are recording sessions next week, a film score using music by Tchaikovsky. Those will be indoors and climate controlled!

1 comment:

Bill said...

Congratulations on your first performance in Calgary. As one of your readers I feel some small buzz of pleasure, having followed you since your audition. Best of luck.

Bill