Posts Tagged 'Alban Gerhardt'

Adieu to You, and You, and You

beaver photoAll things must come to an end, and the time has arrived for this large, surprisingly industrious, semi-aquatic rodent to hang up its blogging cap for good. Gentle readers, the past 3+ years have been an absolute hoot because of you, and I can’t say thanks enough for your constant support and encouragement. Extra-special beavertail salutes go out to all the victims musicians who agreed to tackle my inane questions this season, including pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Yossif Ivanov, high-flying cellist Alban Gerhardt, percussionist Sergio Carreno, pianist Martin Helmchen, conductor Hugh Wolff, bassoonist Adam Trussell, soprano Katherine Lefever, pianist/hero Stephen Hough [sigh], conductor Hannu Lintu, violinist Benjamin Schmid, the entire Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and rockstar fiddler James Ehnes. Trust me… the pleasure was all mine. And it may go without saying, but just in case: Thanks most of all to Maestro Carlos and the kick-ass musicians of the Oregon Symphony. Witnessing 76 (or so) brilliant technicians perform some of the greatest music ever composed with such passion and precision week after week will never get old. Seriously. Smooches to each and every one of you! Already looking forward to 2013/14, tell you what.

And speaking of next season, if you find yourself hankering for some bon mots from the classical beaver, feel free to drop in on *my Twitter account, which is quite possible even if you ain’t officially on Twitter. I’ll be sure to supply the best in orchestral coverage with 140 characters or less, guaranteed.

Let’s see… Express gratitude? Check. Plug my twats? Check. Well, I guess that’s it for this 474th and final post. Arrivederci from the Upper Balcony! xoxo, cb


cello shots – part II

tchaikovsky had a soft spot for mozart.  so when the russian drama queen began composing a show-off piece for the cello in 1876, he rather naturally turned back the clock and fashioned his variations on a rococo theme with late 18th-century elegance in mind.  from first note to last, the mood is delightfully carefree as the soloist riffs on a single melody, transforming the tune again and again with increasingly elaborate virtuosity.  monday night at the schnitz, the cellist occupying the hotseat was none other than *alban gerhardt returning to rip city for a second consecutive season – this time as the oregon symphony’s very first artist-in-residence.  good god: mr. gerhardt was most definitely in da’ house alright, captivating the slack-jawed crowd with an unlikely combination of decorative flourish and deceptively simple expression.  after uncle pyotr’s very brief orchestral introduction, the band politely faded into the background and generously allowed alban’s abilities to shine.  powerless to take my beady little eyes off the german phenom, the beav’s focus kept shifting from herr gerhardt’s left-handed fingerings to his right-handed bowings and back again, gripped by the intricacy of movement.  oh yes, the physical mechanics of his music-making were spectacle enough.  [how does he get his pinky to do that?! how does he barely drag his bow and still fill the hall with sound?!]  what perplexed this rodent more than anything, however, was the instrument’s rich, warmly quivering voice.  how does a cello sing such a song?  how do wood and string speak directly to a soul?  the questions, and the song, thankfully linger on.

what’s on tap?

saturday night at 7:30 and monday at 8pm, the oregon symphony backs up an internationally-celebrated cello virtuoso in some sweet, sweet stripped-down tchaikovsky.  but wait, there’s more!  an *ecstasy-fueled composition by thomas adès kicks off the program and a smash hit from the always-engaging Prokofiev finishes the night off.

why go?  like honestly, i don’t know which one of these 3 points is more kick-ass: 1) in less than a year, cellist alban gerhardt is back on the schnitzer stage. 2) this is the third consecutive classical show to feature a work by a living composer. 3) this week the band’s assistant principal bassist just scored tenure.

whoa nellie ~ there’s a lot to celebrate with this show!  if you haven’t done it already, grab your tickets now by *clicking on these five words or by calling (503) 228-1353 or by stopping into the box office on sw washington near 10th… today!

i heart gerhardt

during his visit last season, cello-playing phenom alban gerhardt was gracious enough to tackle 10 questions with the classical beaver… *click here now to check out that archived edition.  i’ll restrain myself this time ’round by posing a mere 3 queries:

when you played with the oregon symphony last november, the beavs noticed after your turn as soloist you sat in with the cello section during dvořák’s ninth symphony – something i’ve seen only once before!  what made you decide to sit in with the band?

Last month I played a fundraiser for Rhapsody in School – a children’s project me and many other musicians in Germany have created.  In interviews on stage we all tried to make points why music is such an important tool for young people, and [rockstar violinist] Christian Tetzlaff said something which I completely agreed with: Parents should push their kids to play an instrument and then quickly try to find them an opportunity to play in a group, a band, or a youth orchestra.  Christian played in an orchestra from 11 years of age until 22.  I only did from 15 to 18, but this experience was absolutely crucial for me.  My father was an orchestra musician by conviction, 45 years in the Berlin Philharmonic, and I grew up with going to their concerts all the time.  My dream was to become a member myself.  Why this didn’t happen has many reasons, but in my heart I am just a musician, for me there is no difference in being an orchestra musician, chamber musician, soloist, teacher – I love all the facets of being a musician.  That’s the reason I often ask the orchestra to accept me to join them in the second half, if it is a piece which I know well.

with that response, i think you just became an honorary member of portland’s “yes on measure 26-146” campaign!  um, this saturday and monday at the schnitzer, you’re on tap to play tchaikovsky’s variations on a rococo theme ~ how would you describe this music?

The Rococo Variations for me are the most beautiful set of variations possible – one of the best pieces by Tchaikovsky.  They are pretty short (20 minutes) which is a plus, because he manages to say all he wants to say in a very condensed manner.  These seven variations are perfect little character studies with technical fireworks, gorgeous melodies, charming gestures, tragic depth – all rather difficult to perform as the change of characters and technical challenges are very quick and demand the highest concentration.

something tells me you’re up for the challenge.  okay, last question: you are officially the oregon symphony’s first artist-in-residence ~ anything you are especially looking forward to during your time in p-town?

I have come to Portland now for some years and I love this city, the Oregon Symphony, the entire organization, and especially my friend Carlos Kalmar, so it is a very special honor for me to be their first artist in residence.  As a matter of fact, it is not only their first artist residency, but also mine – I have never done it, so I am absolutely thrilled to come and try to be a worthy first candidate, bringing classical music not only to the concert hall but in unusual places as I have done several times in Germany… and also *once in Cleveland.  I am very curious how this will be received, but from my past experiences I am very hopeful!

well, whether it’s with the band or in the tram, ol’ beavey is confident that stumptown is gonna absolutely eat you and your cello up!  alban, thank you so much for taking time to chat… sooo looking forward to *all the festivities this week.  herr gerhardt is in da’ house, yo!

willkommen to our world

finally!  this week the oregon symphony welcomes their first ever artist-in-residence: *mr. alban gerhardt!  if you were lucky enough to catch this cellist last season when he made prokofiev’s symphony-concerto absolutely sing, then you already know p-town is in for a serious treat.  in addition to his saturday and monday concerts with the band, alban will be playing all around rip city in these totally free events open to the public:

thursday the 25th from 5-8:00 pm mr. gerhardt will lead a portland youth philharmonic master class at sherman clay pianos in the pearl district.  bring the kiddies!

friday the 26th from 4-5:00 pm he’ll be knockin’ out some bach in the lower level of pioneer place mall!

sunday the 28th from 1-3:30 pm alban will be facilitating a cello masterclass at portland state university’s lincoln hall!

monday the 29th from 1-1:45 pm herr gerhardt journeys up pill hill to perform a sweet bach suite at doernbecher children’s hospital before…

…boarding the tram (!) to play even more bach from 2:15-3:00 pm in the waterfront lobby of ohsu’s center for health and healing!

whew ~ are you ready for all this cello action?!  (i know i am.)  mr. alban gerhardt, on behalf of stumplandia: willkommen!

happy days are here again

holy schnike ~ the oregon symphony’s official classical season is knock, knock, knockin’ on portland’s door!  and while it is most certainly tempting to survey the upcoming brilliance of 2012/13 in all its orchestral glory, this rodent will do its darnedest to stay in the present moment.  sorry y’all, but future highlights like gustav mahler’s epic symphony #6, alban gerhardt’s inaugural turn as artist-in-residence, Beethoven’s always thrilling ninth, and mr. stephen hough’s cacao-fueled reappearance behind the steinway (currently 162 nights away) will just have to wait patiently.  now is the time to celebrate: just one more week until my furry little behind is once again planted in a lower balcony seat… just one more week until a baton-wielding maestro carlos summits the schnitzer podium… just one more week until p-town’s ultimate cover band blows my mind and breaks my tiny heart!  um, “eager” does not even begin to describe the current emotional state of this particular beaver.  everyone here at the home office agrees there is no better way to kick off 2012/13 than with an interview ~ and lucky for us we’ve got a doozey.  tune in wednesday night when the classical beaver chats with the oregon symphony’s first guest soloist of the official classical season!  yay!

arnaldo cohen tackles 10 questions

believe it or not, the final guest soloist of the season (!) is now in p-town, ready to shock and awe the schnitzer crowd this saturday, sunday, and monday.  you might recall the last time arnaldo cohen played with the band, he gifted us all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos [ahh… happy times].  this go-around he’s sticking to just one showstopper, but it’s gonna be a doozie: tchaikovsky’s massive first piano concerto.  the beavs threw 10 queries at mr. cohen, who managed to catch every single one…

how would you describe tchaikovsky’s piano concerto?

A trip to a wonderful unknown world.  This is a work which was considered to be so difficult that it could only be played by the devil.

whoa.  symphony #7 by sibelius opens up the program ~ any thoughts on pairing this work with the diabolical tchaikovsky concerto?

Both composers were true romantics.  Their works are impregnated with nationalism and rhapsodic elements.  Sibelius died in 1957 but composed his 7th and last symphony in the mid 20’s.  Apparently he did not enjoy “modern” music too much.

well, that’s his loss i suppose.  um, let’s say i had 48 hours in rio de janeiro… what should I do?

Visits to Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado (Christ statue), the botanical garden, and the Tijuca Forest.  In between, you could spend a few hours at Ipanema Beach while tasting a caipirinha – a drink that would help you think that happiness can exist forever.  A dinner at Porcão, a barbecue restaurant with a stunning view of the Guanabara Bay, will show that you can eat much more than you ever thought.  Following the dinner, a show with samba and Brazilian mulatas or, if you prefer something quieter, a concert with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra at the beautiful Theatro Municipal, built in 1909.

ready to pack my bags ~ wowee!  btw, you know who loves caipirinhas?  *alban gerhardt.  true story.  hey: last time i saw you with the oregon symphony, you knocked out an amazing performance of all 5 Beethoven piano concertos (plus the tripple concerto!) over 3 consecutive days.  no offense mr. cohen, but are you insane?

Wonderful memories… fantastic orchestra, conductor, and audience.  I have done this cycle four times before and did it again last year.  It feels like running a marathon where you are competing with yourself.  And so, you have to win!

and win you did.  if you could invite 3 composers for dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?

Can I invite two more?

okay.  i’ve already let other interviewees push the envelope…

I would call Liszt, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Schoenberg and would take them to a churrascaria in Rio.  Of course, caipirinhas would be the main drink.  I am sure that this would be quite an evening!

dear god, that’s quite a group!  so you’ve tickled a lot of ivories all over the globe ~ do you have a favorite piano to play?

My favorite piano is the one which can sing like the voice of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, sustain a note like the violin of David Oistrakh, and have an orchestral sound like the Berlin Philharmonic.  I have not found it yet, but am still searching.

what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

It is like watching someone cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope without any protection underneath.  In windy conditions.

brilliant response – love it!  okay, let’s see… our principal trumpeter says that playing his instrument has given him an underbite.  has playing so much piano physically affected your body in some way?

Our bodies have limitations and it is wise to recognize them.  Having said this, flexibility is ultimately the name of the game.

i’ll drink to that!  what are you havin’?

A good Pinot Noir from Oregon.

i’ll get a bethel heights reserve if they have it.  alright, last question already: what makes carlos kalmar such a great conductor?

A wonderful combination of a deep musical knowledge and sensitivity, with an efficient conducting technique, driven by a fascinating personality.

amen to that.  he’s also great at wringing out an encore number from the soloists, so watch out.  thanks so much for your sweet answers mr. cohen, and thanks for coming back to pdx… can’t wait to hear you soon!

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