Posts Tagged 'James Ehnes'

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


Fanfare for the Uncommon Manitoban

Platonic LoveFor the past three nights, P-town’s ultimate cover band ended their program with Aaron Copland’s Symphony #3 – a composition whose well-known brassy chorales of American triumph made it an easy dedication to the recently terrified people of Boston. What preceded this symphonic sympathy note, however, was a pair of works so filled with palpably resilient energy, they were more than equal reminders of what’s best about the human condition. Kicking off the show was A Jazz Symphony written by the über-intriguing figure of George Antheil. Its herky-jerky syncopation, unpredictable insanity, and super sick stylings resulted in 8 solid minutes of perma-grinning for over 2,000 folks. [In my book, the kick-ass piano chops of Carol Rich were independently worth the price of admission.] And the evening’s soloist was Manitoban genius James Ehnes, whose deft display of violin virtuosity throughout the entirety of Bernstein’s Serenade was almost unnerving. Even from Row Y in the Upper Balcony bleachers, my ears were struck by the cool brilliance and unstoppable technique of Mr. Ehnes and his 298-year-old Stradivarius. Glimpsing the sublime moments when Jimmy’s fiddle teamed up with Nancy’s cello or Jennifer’s harp or Mike’s xylophone was like capturing sonic encomiums of love, tenderly delivered within a Schnitzer symposium. Oh, what a night!

James Ehnes Tackles 10 Questions

AntheilThe classical beaver is extremely proud to present its latest interview with *James Ehnes – an amazing fiddler who will be playing with the Oregon Symphony this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night. Last time Jimmy stopped into the Schnitz he stole my heart with a Bruch concerto, and this time he aims to do it again with a Bernstein number:

Mr. Ehnes, you’re scheduled to perform Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade with P-Town’s big band ~ How would you describe this work to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

It has a great mix of everything – lyrical melodies, great virtuoso writing, and a really raucous, wild ending with lots of percussion! (People who don’t listen to classical music always seem to like the idea of lots of percussion.)

Nice! Hey, I know it’s a long shot, but did you ever get to meet Mr. Bernstein or see him perform?

Unfortunately, no. I was only 14 when he died. I wish I could have known him, but I’m lucky to be friends with a number of people who knew him well.

I see that George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony is also on this All-American program. If this composer was a sports car, what would he be?

If Antheil were a sports car, he would be a Shelby AC/Cobra – a true American original.

Word. Um, speaking of composers, if you could invite 3 of them to dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?

Definitely Mozart – I think he would be a lot of fun. Berlioz would probably be very interesting. And I think I’d like to have known Mendelssohn; he seems to have been universally liked and admired. Where would we go…? There’s a REALLY great barbeque restaurant near where I live in Florida called Hickory Hollow. I’d take anybody there. And I’ll bet Mozart never had any good Southern barbeque.

Love the idea of Wolfgang chowing down on ribs! So… I’m wondering if you have any special pre-concert rituals or exercises or routines?

Not really. Life on the road can be so unpredictable; I think it’s best to just be able to roll with the punches.

Amen to that! Mr. Ehnes, you are a member of the Order of Canada – what are your responsibilities as a member and, more importantly, do you have a sword?

Sadly, I do not have a sword. Being a member of the Order of Canada is a tremendous honour; the idea behind the order is to form a very loose association of Canadians who each, in their own way, strive to make the country a better place. I hope I can do my part.

If I could buy you a drink, what would you order?

How fancy is the bar? Upscale: champagne cocktail. Dive: Bud Light. Either would make me happy.

Bud Light it is then. Hey if my math is correct, your violin will be celebrating its 300th birthday pretty soon – any plans for a party?

Ha! It’s an amazing milestone, but my Strad doesn’t like to party. Maybe it’s a good excuse for my wife and I to have a nice bottle of champagne!

The penultimate question: What non-classical music are you excited about?

My latest new favourite is Lyle Workman’s soundtrack from the movie Superbad. Great new funk, and some old classics like the Bar-Kays.

Can I just say I love your spelling of “favourite.” Sorry, just had to say that. Okay, final query: What are you expecting from Rip City?

I’m sure it will be a great musical experience. And Carlos is always wonderful – we’ve worked together several times in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dallas, and he’s one of my favourite conductors. I think it should be a really fun week!

Oh – you did it again! Alright folks, get your tix now to catch one of my favourite violinists play with my favourite band this weekend or Monday night. Mr. Ehnes, thanks so much for the chat!

checking in with the newbies

before embarking on summer vay-kay, it might be good to check in with some of the greenest members of the band… you know, just make sure they’re okay, not getting picked on, whatnot.  violinist emily cole and bassist ted botsford both joined the oregon symphony back in january and were nice enough to chat with the classical beaver for a spell:

well emily, with five months now under your belt, how’s it going?

I am beyond fortunate to be a member of this orchestra.  I get to play with fabulous musicians, all of whom have been very welcoming and supportive, as well as a wonderful conductor… and it’s my JOB.  I also get to live in Portland, obviously.  Since I moved here in January, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this town has to offer… especially in terms of food.  I have a long list of restaurants/food carts/happy hours I want to try!  Also, my family lives in Seattle, so I’m really lucky to be close to home.

ted, you liking it alright too?

I’m really enjoying my time as an Oregon Symphony musician – it’s a great orchestra, and a great group of people.  Our bass section is small, but I’ve been impressed with how much sound 6 players can make – it’s an interesting challenge to support a full-size orchestra with our numbers, but I think we are doing pretty well.  I’m also really happy I had an excuse to move to the Pacific Northwest – the surroundings are incredible, the people are really cool, and the food and drink are amazing.

if you had to pick, what was your favorite piece to play this season?  ted, you go first this time…

One thing I really like about playing here is the adventurous programming – in the last five months, I’ve played a lot of really interesting and unusual music that I hadn’t even heard of before.  I especially liked Walton’s Partita for Orchestra from the concert we played with James Ehnes last month.  (And playing with James Ehnes was an amazing experience too.)

emily, any faves?

I will never forget playing Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem in Carnegie Hall.  Ever.  I also really loved playing La Mer.  As part of my tenure review that week, I sat on the first stand with Jun Iwasaki, and it was pretty thrilling to be right up there in the middle of all the excitement!  Emanuel Ax’s Brahms concerto was unforgettable as well.

ms. cole, any plans for summer break?

I’ll be playing a music festival in Astoria for a few weeks in June, going on a family vacation to Hawaii in July, and hopefully spending the rest of the time travelling to visit friends and going on exciting adventures!

well, i highly encourage you to stop in at ft. george brewery while in astoria.  and mr. botsford, any exciting adventures planned?

I’m playing at a couple of short festivals this summer and I’m thinking about putting on a solo recital in a few months.  I’m also hoping to start teaching – maybe you know of someone who wants to start playing the bass?  Other than that, I’m going to explore all that Oregon has to offer – hiking, plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and a trip to the coast.  Should be a great time if the summers are as nice as everyone says.

well, the bass is a bit too big for the beave, but i’ll keep my ears open for any prospective students and send ‘em your way for sure.  thanks again to emily and ted ~ have a super sweet summer!

these are a few of my favourite fiddlers…

rather unapologetically, the classical beaver remains basking in the glow of james ehnes and his performance of max bruch’s violin concerto numero uno monday night.  wowee – what an incredible show!  we here at the cb home office want to give a quick shout-out not only to mr. ehnes, but to all the insane violinists who have played with the band this crazy-good season… to ms. skride, ms. koh, and ms. hahn… a very sincere xoxo.

btw, the classical beaver finally got an oregon symphony cellist to tackle 10 questions… check in monday to find out who!

taking heroic measures, eh? – part I

last time we heard the os play music by sir william walton was way back in november, when major charles emerson winchester III was wandering around on stage drunkenly spouting off some shakespeare.  this time ‘round, coach kalmar decided to open up last night’s concert with walton’s partita for orchestra (um, partita being a fancy-pants word for “musical thing”).  with a bang from the mighty timpani, a thrilling swashbuckler began to unfold from the schnitzer stage.  for five rousing minutes, the boys in percussion traded crisp blows with the sharp strings and brilliant brass… the band sounding tighter than a gnat’s ass.  the mood shifted dramatically as joël “fear no poutine” belgique and marty “the wailin’ quail” hebert combined forces to bust out this delightfully creepy waltz on viola and oboe.  i imagined this is what those folks in *munch’s dance of life must have been listening to.  before parting, this 3-part partita wrapped things up with a wildly raucous jig based on an obscure theme from the old munsters tv show.  it’s fair to say that (yet again) maestro carlos introduced both the orchestra and the audience to one of their new favorite pieces.

and that was just the opening ditty – sheesh!  after some musical chairs, the band reconfigured to welcome violinist james ehnes, a newly minted member of the order of canada.  while michael j. fox currently outranks him in the official canadian hierarchy, i daresay it won’t be for long if he keeps playing fiddle like he did last night.  reminding me of a tuxedo-clad michael cera (+12 years), the commanding mr. ehnes proved his prowess as soon as he lifted that beautiful strad to his chin.  the violin sang, the violin whispered, the violin laughed, the violin cried… the violin basically did whatever the frack james ehnes wanted it to do.  and what music!  though this piece was new to the beaver, i have since discovered the concerto is one of the most popular works for violin, like evah.  written in the 1860’s by german composer max bruch, it is chock-full of broodingly romantic moments and over-the-top drama, with a slow middle movement that emerges out of nowhere to kill you softly with its song.  the firework finale packs some serious double-stopped heat, and effectively transformed the schnitzer crowd into one giant goosebump.  the band was clearly firing on all cylinders last night, with superbad mr. ehnes in the driver’s seat.  here’s to hoping his next pit stop in portland won’t be too far off in the future – i’m betting he’ll return as an officer of the order of canada.

what’s on tap?

tonight, sunday, and monday, the oregon symphony is gonna open up with bill walton’s partita before the final violin concerto of the season.  [sigh]  it’s also part deux of the band’s back-to-back Beethoven concerts with his symphony #3… who says we don’t need another eroica?

why go?  um, have you been reading the blog recently?  james ehnes will be tearing up max bruch’s concerto with his very oldschool 1715 marsick stradivarius – i guarantee it.  the band will be in full force for Beethoven’s stunningly kick-ass third symphony – i promise you.  if you’ve never been to the symphony before, this concert is the classical beaver’s pick for best show of the season for newbies.  please tell me you’ll be there!

this sentence will magically transport you to the oregon symphony’s website.

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