Posts Tagged 'Joseph Berger'

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!

Sunday Night’s Big Top Ten

SomewhereThis rodent is slightly embarrassed by the woeful lack of top ten lists it has posted this season. Gentle readers, please accept my heartfelt apology. In an effort to boost my quota for 2012/13, here are my Top 10 Favorite Things (in chronological order) About Sunday’s Oregon Symphony Concert:

#10 ~ Maestro Märkl skipping any chit-chat and delving directly into a kick-ass tone poem

#9 ~ That whiplash conclusion of the piano concerto’s first movement

#8 ~ Joe Berger on horn. Period.

#7 ~ Mr. Gerstein’s slow, gentle fingerings

#6 ~ Kirill’s use of a mic to introduce his encore

#5 ~ The (sorta) surprise appearance of Storm Large, singing a perfectly beguiling Somewhere Over The Rainbow

#4 ~ Slamming a glass of white wine during intermission

#3 ~ Yoshinori and Mark as the clarinet wonder twins [Bravo!]

#2 ~ Hearing another Dvořák symphony for the first time

#1 ~ Crossing the Willamette River, following the love of my life back home

The Paper Bag Was On My Knee – Part I

Courtesy of Black Red Media dot comLast evening Stumpland’s big band bid farewell to Hannu Lintu… a guest conductor who is apparently the love child of Garrison Keillor and Plastic Man. The Finnish dynamo mounted the podium after wrapping up his opening monologue and – with one fabulous swish of his baton – conjured up Mr. Modest Mussorgsky’s biggest number for orchestra: Atop the Bare Mountain on St. John’s Eve. Gentle reader, you can forget what you think you may have heard countless times under a slew of different titles and various guises, because ol’ Beavey is here to tell you the 28-year-old Russian’s original 1867 composition is not pretty, is not polite, and is definitely not Disney-fied. The raw ferocity of this music instantly shocked Monday night’s audience, and our brilliantly savage Oregon Symphony maintained its reign of terror all the way through to Mussorgsky’s final note. Yowza ~ Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait another 146 years to hear this revelatory and unpolished gem again. [whew!] Seriously.

After somehow surviving their stay on Mt. Bald, Maestro Hannu and the band welcomed jazzman Benjamin Schmid to the stage for a fiddle showstopper penned by Camille Saint-Saëns. [Please allow me to address any pronunciation concerns that have just flared up with my mention of Monsieur Saint-Saëns. It’s really no big whoop once you get the hang of it: Simply put on your favorite beret, shove a hunk of baguette in your pie-hole, develop a severe sinus infection, tilt your head back, pinch your nose (firmly), and confidently declare: Saint-Saëns!] Now that we’ve cleared that up, let me get back to this violin concerto and vainly attempt to describe how smokin’ hot the Oregon Symphony’s wind section sounded. Let’s see… um, okay… Beautiful? Glorious?? Striking??? Fugheddaboudit. Last evening during Saint-Saëns’ slow middle movement, Joe, Todd, Yoshinori, Evan, Adam, Zach, Jess, Marty, and both Alicia’s brought it on. Y’all never, ever cease to amaze this rodent. [whew!] Seriously.

much ado about something – part II

black-clad angelto celebrate the birthday of a fellow soviet musician, comrade shostakovich wrote his second violin concerto in 1967, filling it with all the cheerfulness and gaiety of a dead puppy.  it’s one of those works that induce a few concertgoers to look over at their dates and give them a look that clearly says: why the hell did you drag me to this?  [like most of uncle dmitri’s music, easy listenin’ it ain’t.]  the genuine feelings and demanding virtuosity of every shostakovich piece i’ve ever heard, however, somehow win over this rodent without fail.  and when a guest soloist like mikhail simonyan is in the house to perform, wonders happen.  seriously.  black-clad and tailless, the twenty-something russian graced the schnitzer stage (and i do mean graced) with his 2-year-old fiddle and somehow calmed the anxious crowd despite the slew of sirens, whistles, and sudden door-poundings that occur without warning throughout this harsh concerto.  the final minutes of the work include an astonishing passage obviously written for a string quartet that the young mr. simonyan, like an angel beset by dissonance, miraculously tackled all by himself.  enthusiastic applause (tinged with relief) erupted after the concerto’s final note, and when mikhail returned for his second bow he did so (quite remarkably) with horn player joe berger in tow, graciously sharing the spotlight and well-earned recognition.  as an encore, the pride of novosibirsk asked for a low cello drone from trevor and marilyn (yay!) to support this gorgeous armenian dirge that languidly unraveled from his violin before an amazingly hushed hall.  wow.  the biggest beavertail salute goes out to mr. simonyan: thanks for visiting and hope to see you back in p-town really, really, really soon! [sigh]

a wolff in swan’s clothing – part I

compared to the titanic mahler 6 from two weeks ago, last night’s lean and clean symphony from papa haydn was practically chamber music.  (which sure as hell ain’t a bad thing.)  yep: franz joseph’s good ol’ number eighty-two is one of the earliest works the oregon symphony will play this season, and the band dutifully transformed itself into an elite force of classical technicians for the occasion.  buzzing with exposed skill, the schnitzer stage hummed along in perpetual motion through a delightfully tight network of melodic lines.  [yowza!]  although #94 bears the official nickname, i swear to god every symphony by haydn could be accurately called a “surprise” – and last night’s composition was no exception.  banging away on a smallish pair of old-school kettledrums, birthday boy jon “animal” greeney helped propel his comrades to a fun finish furnished with droning bagpipe basses, playful volume control, and unpredictable key changes.  viva la papa!  viva la papa!

antonín dvořák’s one and only piano concerto is so rare… [how rare is it?!]  um, it’s so rare the last time our oregon symphony performed it was over 22 years ago!  (compare that to Beethoven’s concerto #5 which we heard in 2010 ~ and we’ll hear it again later this season.)  having the good sense that pdx was long overdue for a reprise of dvořák’s rarity, *martin helmchen flew in from berlin to give us a taste of what we were missing.  unlike most other 19th-century concertos, uncle antonín discarded the prevailing piano vs. orchestra mentality and composed a truly collaborative piece of symphonic music that just happens to feature a giant-ass steinway front and center.  like a figure skater performing a perfect string of triple salchows by candlelight, mr. helmchen’s digital skillz were often blurred beneath the band’s overpowering symphonic shadow.  until the third movement, the beavs thought joe berger’s horn was the star of the program’s first half.  ah, but then an assertive piano kicked off the finale and it was clear whose name was on the schnitzer marquee.  with a dark, curly mop of hair bobbing above and a pair of black coat tails fluttering below, herr helmchen layed out some exquisitely wicked technique, his fingers dancing along the keyboard with slavonic joy and brutal virtuosity.  oh, yes.  viva la martin!  viva la martin!