Monday, November 24, 2008

schedule for Nov. 24-30

The Ultimate Beethoven Festival
Roberto Minczuk, conductor

Symphony #4 and "The Fifth"

Symphony no. 4 in B-flat major, op. 60
Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67

Thursday, Nov. 27 at 8 pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall


Symphony #6 and "The Pastoral"

Symphony no. 6 in F major "Pastoral", op. 68
Symphony no. 7 in A major, op. 82

Friday, Nov. 28 at 8 pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall


Ode to Joy: Symphony #8 and #9

Symphony no. 8 in F major, op. 93
Symphony no. 9 in D minor, op. 125

Saturday, Nov. 29 at 8 pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall


Calgary Bach Festival Society
Advent Concert
Terry Edwards, conductor

Heinrich Biber: Mystery Sonata No. 1 "Annunciation"
Heinrich Schuetz: Sei gegruesset, Maria (Ave Maria)
Georg Phillip Telemann: Magnificat in G
W. F. Bach: Adagio and Fugue in d minor, Fk65
J. S. Bach: Cantata BWV 36 "Schwingt freudig euch empor"

Sunday, Dec. 14 at 3 pm
Scarboro United Church


Monday, Nov. 24
7:30-10 pm rehearsal (CBFS Advent Concert)

Tuesday, Nov. 25
10-12:30 rehearsal (Beethoven 5 and 6)
7:30-10 pm rehearsal (CBFS Advent Concert)

Wednesday, Nov. 26
10-12:30 rehearsal (Beethoven 5 and 8)
7-9 pm rehearsal (Beethoven 9)

Thursday, Nov. 27
10-12:30 rehearsal (Beethoven 5 and 4)
8 pm concert: Beethoven 4 and "The Fifth"

Friday, Nov. 28
10:30-1 rehearsal (Beethoven 6 and 7)
8 pm concert: Beethoven 7 and "The Pastoral"

Saturday, Nov. 29
10:30-1 rehearsal (Beethoven 8 and 9)
8 pm concert: Ode to Joy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

if it bleeds, it leads

An article in the Calgary Herald today, "Bleeding for Beethoven", includes some quotes from a phone interview I did with the reporter, Bob Clark:

For 31-year-old bass player Matt Heller, meditation will be part of the prescription.

"Think of the beginning of the Fifth Symphony. It's like never has there been a more strongly accented rest than that "Ba-Ba-Ba--Bum!"--where you have to feel that music so deeply in your body, in order to play it with the conviction it really deserves."
When I was talking to Bob on the phone, I did make a very emphatic eighth rest before saying "Ba-Ba-Ba--Bum!", though he doesn't seem to have transcribed that pause into the published quote. Oh, well.

The rest of the article is very amusing as well, especially Michael Hope's theories about Beethoven and psychotherapy:
"In terms of the physical preparation, the hardest thing about it is the fact that, well, Beethoven was a tormented guy," says Hope. "It was a pre-Freudian era before there was any kind of therapy, and he had to get all his frustrations and emotions out on the page--which has resulted in music that is really highly strung."

And that, in turn, Hope says, "is taxing for musicians, because it's passionate, and it's intense--all the time."
I suppose that music was an essential therapeutic tool, back in the pre-prozac era, along with lobotomies, literature, nature, rest, alcohol, leeches, and tight clothing, not necessarily in that order.

The print version of the article has another section with pictures and more quotes by musicians, myself included.

schedule for Nov. 17 - 23

"The Ultimate Beethoven Festival"
Roberto Minczuk, conductor

Symphony #1 and the "Emperor"
Angela Cheng, piano

Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3, op. 72b
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1, op. 21, in C major
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, op. 73, in E-flat major, "Emperor"

Thursday, Nov. 20 at 8 pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall


Symphony No. 2 and the "Eroica"

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2, op. 36, in D major
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, op. 55, in E-flat major

Friday, Nov. 21 at 8 pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall


Carnival of the Animals
Mountain View Connection

Camille Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals

Sunday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 pm
Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary


Tuesday, Nov. 18
10-12:30 rehearsal: Beethoven 3, Beethoven 1, Leonore

Wednesday, Nov. 19
10-12:30 rehearsal: Beethoven 3, Leonore
2-4 rehearsal: Beethoven 1, Beethoven 2
8-9:30 rehearsal: Carnival of the Animals

Thursday, Nov. 20
10-12:30 rehearsal: "Emperor" concerto, Leonore, Beethoven 1
8 pm concert: Symphony #1 and the "Emperor"

Friday, Nov. 21
10:30-1 rehearsal: Beethoven 3, Beethoven 2
8 pm concert: Symphony #2 and the "Eroica"

Saturday, Nov. 22
10:30-1 rehearsal: Beethoven 4, Beethoven 7

Sunday, Nov. 23
2-4 dress rehearsal: Carnival of the Animals
7:30 concert: Carnival of the Animals

I'll write a separate post or two about the Beethoven festival so far. It's worth noting, though, that Tuesday, Nov. 18th was also the day of two CPO auditions: for principal trumpet and section cello. That was a very long day for audition candidates as well as committees -- the cello audition finished just after 9 pm, while the trumpet audition concluded at 10:30. Both auditions had a winner and some very competitive finalists, and we look forward to welcoming two new musicians into the orchestra very soon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Joel Quarrington master class

Before the National Arts Centre Orchestra's tour date in Calgary last Friday, bassist Joel Quarrington gave a master class at the University of Calgary School of Music. Three young bassists played for Joel: two of Charles Garrett's students at the U of C, and a 13-year-old student of Sheila Garrett.

Joel's approach to teaching, like his playing, is irreverent, inventive, and joyful. After the first student played the first movement of Hindemith's Sonata, he suggested that maybe she could have more fun with the bow -- a clever way to talk about technique without being pedantic about it. He demonstrated an exercise for starting notes distinctly, playing a scale with 4 notes hooked on each bow, and encouraged the student to play it with a solid core sound without pressing. Joel had his own bass there, a 17th-century Maggini, and the student's sound production seemed to improve just from hearing him play a few notes.

Since Joel plays German bow on a bass tuned in 5ths, it wasn't always easy to imitate his playing. He was very accomodating to the players' individual preferences, though, and tried to adjust his own technique to better match what they were trying to do. "Excuse my French bow," he said after playing some fast off-string strokes. He showed the first student, who was sitting on a high stool, how she could better access the upper register of the instrument, by sliding back on her stool and getting more weight over the fingerboard -- Joel's physique is completely different from hers, but she still seemed to find some benefit from the adjustment.

The second student was the 13-year-old, playing the first movement of the Dragonetti Concerto. Joel got him working on fast, fluid shifts and demonstrated the infamous shifting drill - I learned it as "vomit" - to improve accuracy. This raised some set-up issues again, and Joel discussed why his own preference is to sit on a stool for solo performances, while still showing the student how he could manage the shift better while standing.

With all three students, Joel emphasized the need for consistent scale and bowing studies. At one point, he noticed a stack of papers in a bookcase nearby -- the master class was held in a crowded little violin teaching studio room -- and found a sheet with various bowings attached, "like a ransom note" he said. He encouraged everyone to get a set of bowing variations like that one -- whether from an abandoned violin studio, or an actual bowing method -- and work on producing a quality sound with all sorts of articulations.

The last student played the first movement of Bottesini's 2nd concerto very impressively. Joel asked her if she had any issues she wanted to bring up -- she talked about off-string strokes, which again brought up scales and bowing variations. Joel helped her clean up the end of the cadenza, a dizzying whir of 16th notes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

week of Nov. 9 - 15

Carnival in Prague
Simon Streatfeild, conductor
Cenek Vrba, violin

Dvořák: Carnival Overture, op. 92
Smetana: Ma Vlast: Vltava (The Moldau)
Smetana: The Bartered Bride: Three Dances
Smetana: Z Domoviny
Dvořák: Gypsy Songs: No. 4, Songs My Mother Taught Me
Dvořák: Humoresque
Suk: Meditation on the Old Bohemian Chorale Saint Wenceslas, op. 36
Dvořák: Symphonic Variations, op. 78

Saturday, November 15 at 8 pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall

for opera and education program info, click here

Tuesday, Nov. 11 (Remembrance Day)
10-12:30 am rehearsal (Carnival in Prague)

Wednesday, Nov 12
12:15-12:45 Lunch, Learn and Live
(discussion of 'Carnival in Prague' program with Pierre Simard and Simon Streatfeild)
7:30 performance: Calgary Opera's Faust

Thursday, Nov. 13
10:15 am performance: The Orchestra Games
1:15-3:45 pm rehearsal (Carnival in Prague)

Friday, Nov. 14
10-12:30 pm rehearsal (Carnival in Prague)
8 pm performance: Calgary Opera's Faust

Saturday, Nov. 15
10-11 am SMATS (Saturday Morning at the Symphony): "The Art of Strings"
11:05-1:35 pm open rehearsal (Carnival in Prague)
8 pm concert: Carnival in Prague

For our last program before a marathon Beethoven cycle, the CPO has one of our crazy Czech grab-bag concerts. I'm hoping people won't overlook this one, though, since it has some of the interesting music we'll play all year, especially the Dvořák Symphonic Variations. It sounds like Dvořák's take on the Brahms Haydn Variations -- a deceptively simple theme transformed into weird and wondrous new forms, then reconstituted for a stirring finale.

Last Friday's Tchaik 5 with the NACO gave a lot of people new respect for the excellent acoustics in Jack Singer Concert Hall -- with proportionally immense string and wind sections and a sold-out audience, it felt like the room was resonating at its true full capacity. Here's a picture of our bass section, 12 members strong, including the inimitable Joel Quarrington (more on him later!)

l to r: Matt Heller, Theo Chan, Trish Bereti-Reid, Marjolaine Fournier, Vincent Gendron, Sheila Garrett, Murielle Bruneau, Jeff White, Joel Quarrington, Hilda Cowie, Charles Garrett, Graeme Mudd (hidden)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

discussing "Getting Musicians Involved"

Adaptistration blogger Drew McManus wrote a post this week under the title "Getting Musicians Involved" which addresses concerns I raised last week, in a post on orchestra websites which offer "contact a musician" features.

Drew very thoroughly outlines the steps that management and website administrators could take, to make this a meaningful and useful feature to patrons, and not an unwelcome burden to musicians. I actually think it might empower some musicians to communicate with audience members.

It's worth reading Drew's post as well as its comments, which raise some other interesting questions about this idea. In matters of audience communication, I think, it's not a question of whether we need to do more, but how to do it well -- Drew provides some excellent answers, and as always a forum to discuss them.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

unprecedented victories

The CPO and Calgary Opera are opening a new production of Gounod's Faust this Saturday; this past Tuesday, we were in the orchestra pit at Jubilee Auditorium, about half-way through the 3rd act when news came that Barack Obama had won the presidential election. It actually came from Rob the violinist's cell phone, which was picking up a news website, and Jeff the bassist passed the message on to me.

It's difficult to really celebrate in the midst of playing a long French opera, but it was still an amazing moment. As much as I'd wished and hoped this would happen, it was such a validation to hear it become reality. Last night I watched both McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech, and I was impressed by both of them. However serious the problems we face in the US -- and I know they're incredibly serious -- for at least one wonderful day, nothing seemed insurmountable any more.

I haven't written much this week, since I started November with a short-lived attempt to write a novel for NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month -- and then quickly became too busy to even contemplate such a massive undertaking. It felt a bit like trying to run a marathon without any training, long, tiring, and increasingly painful. I have new respect for writers of fiction or any long form, which seems to involve a miraculous combination of imagination and discipline. Perhaps I'll try again next year, if I've written some pieces longer than a blog post by then. Everything seems impossible, I suppose, until you actually see it happen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

week of Nov. 2 - 8

"The Orchestra Games"
an education concert for kids

Pierre Simard, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano
Jonathon Love, narrator

John Williams / arr. Riggio: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
Chopin: Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise, Op. 22
Gregory Smith: Orchestra Games

performances on Nov. 6 and 13 at 10:15 am

at Jack Singer Concert Hall


East Meets West
National Arts Centre Orchestra
Pinchas Zukerman, conductor
Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Alexina Louie: Infinite Sky with Birds (NACO only)
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto no. 1, op. 23, in B-flat minor (NACO)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony no. 5, op. 64, in E minor (CPO and NACO)

performance on Friday, Nov. 7 at 8 pm

Jack Singer Concert Hall


Faust, by Charles Gounod
Calgary Opera
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

all performances
at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium:
Saturday, Nov. 8 at 8 pm
Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 pm
and Friday, Nov. 14 at 8 pm

Sunday, Nov. 2
7-10:30 pm rehearsal (Faust)

Tuesday, Nov. 4
10-12 pm rehearsal (The Orchestra Games)
7-10:30 pm rehearsal (Faust)

Thursday, Nov. 6
10:15 am performance: The Orchestra Games
7-10:30 dress rehearsal (Faust)

Friday, Nov. 7
1-3 pm rehearsal (East Meets West)
8 pm concert (East Meets West)

Saturday, Nov. 8
8 pm performance: Calgary Opera's Faust