Posts Tagged 'Carlos Kalmar'

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


Saluting 12/13

Saluting 2012-13Even though the Oregon Symphony’s 2012/13 season now belongs to the ages and most musicians have already slipped into summer vacation mode, Ol’ Beavey still finds himself daydreaming about the sonic glories revealed during the previous 16 programs. *heavy sigh* Old-school classics like Mahler’s brutal Sixth, Symphony No. 5 by Sibelius, and (of course) Beethoven’s epic Ninth… Contemporary gems like Andrew Norman’s Drip, Asyla by Thomas Adès, and Narong Prangcharoen’s trippy Phenomenon… Orchestral surprises like Antheil’s brilliant Jazz Symphony, Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra, and Mussorgsky’s kick-ass original version of Night on Bald Mountain… Visiting virtuosos like Alban Gerhardt, Jennifer Koh, James Ehnes, André Watts, and (of course) Stephen Hough… Oh, don’t get me started! Extra-special beavertail salutes go out to a pair of musicians who made this season extraordinary: Joe Berger on horn who produced so many astonishing sounds during 2012/13 that I simply lost track, and soprano Amber Wagner who graced the Schnitzer stage with Coach K. and Concertmaster Kwak to deliver the most transcendent moment of the year with her heart-rending, soul-searching, and mind-blowing performance of Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. Oh my, what a season!

Ready, Set, Koh – Part II

Alpine ActionFollowing intermission, Carlos & the Gang closed out 2012/13 with a classic, old-school gem: Brahms’ massive First Symphony. The oft-gruff composer took two decades to write this music, but it only took the Oregon Symphony about 45 minutes to knock it out of the proverbial ballpark and prove, once again, why they are Stumpland’s ultimate cover band. The stormy opening measures were underscored by the ominous timpani strokes of Jon “Animal” Greeney who (per the youzhe) held court with a kettle drum masterclass until the final roll of the rocking finale. Every freakin’ section demonstrated sublime moments of glory throughout… Captain Frank and the stand-up guys of the double basses… Mr. John Cox and the impressive array of alpine-infused horns… Evan ably leading the battalion of bassoonists… Jeffrey workin’ it with the sexiest line-up of brass you ever will witness. [Yowza!] And extra-special beavertail salutes go out to oboe god Marty Hebert, flute wonder Jess Sindell, and our kick-ass concertmaster Sarah Kwak: Um, y’all are simply brilliant. Period. Monday night proved to be the perfect capstone atop another transcendent Oregon Symphony season filled with surprises, loaded with talent, and chock-full of the most jaw-dropping music humanity has ever produced. I don’t know about you, but this rodent is already stoked for 2013/14 ~ YAY!

Ready, Set, Koh – Part I

Gypsy CurseBedecked in tails and a scarlet vest for the Oregon Symphony’s final show of the season, Maestro Carlos bounded out of stage right last night and picked up a mic to welcome the crowd and give props to Steve Price (a 41-year veteran of the viola section!) who was only a couple hours away from his retirement. The crowd cheered in appreciative admiration for this amazing musician, and the raucous applause segue-wayed perfectly into a rousing overture composed by Franz von Suppé. My apologies in advance for dropping an F-bomb so soon in this review, but there’s just one word, and one word only, that can adequately describe this opening number… a word that more conservative and learned reviewers usually avoid: FUN!

The joyous sounds of Suppé subsided and the stage was set for an utterly different kind of musical experience featuring 2012/13’s last guest soloist. Jennifer Koh’s elegant, strapless, floorlength gown of billowing indigo belied what was about to go down: Béla Bartók’s utterly primal Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra. The plucked harp strings that open this composition apparently conjure up some ancient gypsy curse, because without warning Ms. Koh was instantly possessed for the next 36 minutes by an untamed frenetic spirit. Her black bob cut bounced wildly atop her convulsive head as her fingers and her hands and her arms danced with supernatural speed and unearthly technique. Her fiddle shrieked and wailed as she shredded it with a bow that somehow did not break under the pressure of such vicious virtuosity. The mutual gratitude between Koh and the band was almost palpable following the concerto’s conclusion, as though everyone was relieved to have survived, unscathed by the brutal spell of Bartók. WOW!

Wake, Party, Pilgrimage – Part II

Beethoven 9Like the Shrine of Lourdes, the Kaaba of Mecca, or the Standing Stones of Orkney, the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven calls out to believers the world over: “Come!” And come they did. This past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, well over 8,000 souls made their way to SW Broadway and Main to witness the Ninth’s power firsthand – as performed by the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Symphonic Choir, and four incredible vocal soloists, all under the sublime direction of a surprisingly scoreless Maestro Kalmar. [sigh] Written a full decade after #8, the Symphony No. 9 is astoundingly different music right from its first primal measures, much closer to Mahler than to Mozart in its size, scope, and song. And while much of the limelight (deservedly) shines upon its glorious climax, the 3 purely orchestral movements that precede it are as infinitely demanding of the musician as they are infinitely rewarding to the listener. After surviving the terribly Sturmy weather of the opening chapter, one is plunged directly into the second movement’s wicked turbulence – a crazed waltz through some dark German forest, briefly punctuated by a comforting woodwind chamber concert. Beethoven’s third movement? Dear. God. Pure acoustic tenderness, accentuated by tiny moments of triumph and terror that only underline the composer’s unforeseen compassion and warmth. [sigh] With 40 minutes of music already behind us, we were brought to the choral finale’s transcendent threshold – an epic closing movement that seems to encapsulate and proclaim all that is good and noble in Art. From the thickest string of the bass to the upper registers of sopranos everywhere, these are towering tones capable of breaking down walls and uniting neighbors. Perhaps most miraculous of all, the Götterfunken of Beethoven’s Ninth reminds everyone who has ears to hear, that even in the midst of rampant poverty, political corruption, and a long history of massacres at home and abroad, human beings are equally capable of peaceful creation. A decent reminder, indeed.

What’s On Tap?

beer tapsThis Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the Oregon Symphony and the Portland Symphonic Choir perform an overture by Paul Hindemith, Ballad of Heroes by Benjamin Britten (yay!), and a little sumpin’ sumpin’ colloquially referred to around the home office as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Frickin’ Ninth Symphony!!!

Why Go? Um, because you have tickets. As previously reported, all 3 of these upcoming shows are completely sold out! If you’re interested in attending tomorrow morning’s dress rehearsal, *click here for more details about that very rad and very rare opportunity.

And remember, there’s something else on tap for the band this weekend… a potential Grammy award! Look: All the nominees in this category are undoubtedly world-class, but because the Oregon Symphony’s recording captures such a brilliant and unusual program designed by Coach K., this rodent thinks we have a decided edge in the race. It seems like ages ago when Elaine Calder (my favorite ex-president right after Jimmy Carter) boldly predicted that not only would Music for a Time of War be nominated for Best Orchestral Album of the year, it would win the whole enchilada. We’ll find out Sunday if she was right. Claws crossed!

Homeward Bound – Part II

GoldenDuring intermission the fiddlers multiplied like rabbits, redoubling their numbers to join a universally beefed-up band for an epic Strauss two-fer: Death and Transfiguration followed seamlessly, without applause, by the composer’s posthumously published Four Last Songs.  [Intriguingly, Coach K. and the orchestra also employed this attacca format of musical collage in their most recent collaboration with a solo vocalist – a program recorded and *currently nominated for a Grammy.]  The singer joining the Oregon Symphony on Monday night was a voluptuous Roman goddess named Amber Wagner, who graced the Schnitzer stage 3 years ago for Rossini’s rather unsorrowful Stabat Mater.  Since that time, Hillsboro’s heroine has made both her European and Metropolitan Opera debuts, returning home not as a student, but as a bona fide star.  Sitting center stage during Death and Transfiguration, the soprano (thankfully) had zero poker face, instantly absorbed by the symphonic power, swaying, smiling, and stealing glances of a conductor in the midst of obvious delight.  Unsurprisingly, the tone poem set the tone perfectly as an introduction to the four final songs Richard Strauss ever composed, and as Ms. Wagner rose to greet her cue, instantly her own transfiguration from audience member to angel was complete.

At this point in our review, a more seasoned critic would handily describe the subsequent performance of Four Last Songs, dutifully noting the orchestral and vocal proficiency on full display. As this particular blogger begins to well up with tears when faced with the memory of Monday night, however, it’s probably best to skip any futile attempts at explaining the sublimely ineffable.  Instead, I leave you with Maestro Kalmar’s most apt description of Amber Wagner: Whenever she opens her mouth, gold comes out.  Indeed.  After the final last song was sung and the hushed strings, winds, and brass slowly left this world forever, somehow the sound of an intensely precious yet supple voice remained, offering hope that in the end – in the very end – everything would be okay.

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