Posts Tagged 'Martin Hebert'

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!

Sayonara Benaroya

OSO in the Queen CityNear the end of her performance last night in Seattle, the sexually assertive Storm Large sang one of humanity’s age-old queries: “What is the use? Beauty will perish and youth will pass away.” We are all left to decide for ourselves what’s the use of it all, but the beautifully youthful energy the Oregon Symphony generated with their opening number certainly gave this rodent a reason to carry on. I remember with great fondness when the band kicked off their 2010/11 classical season with Narong Prangcharoen’s impressionistic Phenomenon, and getting to hear it yet again was a total blast… especially within the acoustically charged confines of Benaroya Hall. Once more, the Mekong River marveled and the fireballs fizzled with mysterious intensity, thanks in large part to Concertmaster Kwak and her magical army of string players. Bravo!

Intermission was followed by Franz Schubert’s Symphony #8 – a bittersweet pair of movements brought to life gorgeously by P-Town’s orchestra, spearheaded by Chief Oboist Marty Hebert who seared miraclulous melodies directly into my soul. Maestro Carlos didn’t so much finish the famously unfinished symphonic wonder, but chose to submit a wonderfully colorful epilogue instead: Maurice Ravel’s La Valse (which followed Schubert’s two movements without pause for applause – a favorite artistic trick firmly lodged up Coach K.’s sleeve!) With downright Mahlerian creepiness, the work felt like a final late-night waltz around the dance floor with Death, who stubbornly insisted on taking the lead despite any futile attempts at resistance. Big beavertail salutes to the always spot-on percussion section, with extra-special props to Mike and his seductively subdued cymbals. Hearing Ravel is a revelation, and when it’s played live by our hometown band at the top of their game? Dear. God. I urge you gentle reader, for the love of all that is holy, catch this concert tonight or tomorrow at the Schnitz!

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.

Homeward Bound – Part I

Grad TidingsGoot Eevnink… The first words out of Maestro Kalmar’s mouth last night were not only welcoming, they were prophetic.  Turns out the evening was going to be very good indeed – the final performance of a 3-day homestand featuring the band’s intrepid music director back on the podium and soprano Amber Wagner back in the Beaver State.  It was a special occasion after all, so the program appropriately kicked off with some occasional music from Mozart: his “Posthorn” Serenade No. 9 to be precise.  What could have been utterly forgettable classical Musak® in the hands of most composers, the recessional accompanying Salzburg Benedictine University’s latest batch of grads in 1779 was penned by a 23-year-old hometown genius, and we humans still find ourselves playing the music without any expectation of turned tassels or tossed caps.  Elegantly joyful and perfectly crafted, Wolfgang’s episodic serenade served as a brilliant showcase for the elite group of orchestral musicians assembled.  On flute and oboe, principals Jess Sindell and Marty Hebert stuck every complicated landing, flawlessly illustrating the technical marvel that is the Oregon Symphony woodwind section.  And what about those strings?!  [sigh]  The violins never sounded sweeter, once again weaving sonic wonder, skillful precision, and powerfully surprising emotions under the leadership of newly minted concertmaster Sarah Kwak.  After seven movements of absolute acoustic pleasure, the Schnitzer crowd was dismissed for intermission, instilled with a great spirit of encouragement and expectation for the very, very near future.  O ~ the Joy!

My Winner With André – Part I

Orchestral TwisterIf someone asked me a year ago who the heck Paul Hindemith was, I probably would have guessed astrophysicist, movie director, and congressman before discovering the guy was actually a 20th-century composer and violist from Germany.  I know this now thanks to the Oregon Symphony, who kicked things off last night with Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra in their very first program of the new year.  [And if this music is any indication, 2013 is gonna be a wild ride with the band… Ooh-Whee!]  The incredible 12-minute work blasts off in a whirlwind of strings, and immediately seized the Schnitz like a single-wide trailer twirling helplessly inside an orchestral cyclone.  At times, the eye of this ferocious twister would pass over, making space for an absolutely insane trio of violin/oboe/bassoon that offered little consolation amidst the storm.  [Big beavertail salutes go out to Carin, Marty, and Concertmaster Kwak for blowing and bowing me away!]  Pure, spontaneous applause broke out after the second movement, giving guest conductor Christoph König a chance to catch his breath.  Built like a gymnast and dressed like a priest, Maestro CK-2 displayed fascinatingly fluid movements on the podium all night, slyly drawing out moments like Jess and Zach’s utterly magical flute-and-piccolo duet in Hindemith’s slower middle movement.  [Um, Wow!]  The composition ended with a powerful percussive punch right in the cochlea which left last night’s crowd a bit dazed.  Conductor König eased us into an ovation, deftly inviting particular musicians to momentarily rise for the applause before finally asking the entire band to stand.  This unusual conclusion (along with the clapping that peppered the piece earlier) made for the most organic and authentic audience reaction this rodent has ever witnessed, unexpected yet strangely reassuring – sorta like Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra.

martin hebert tackles 10 questions

true story: at some point during yuja wang’s knockout performance of the rach 3 in february, i suddenly heard somebody in the front floor seats singing along.  seriously, i fully expected to see security running down the aisle at any moment.  after craning my neck to scope out the situation, turns out what i actually heard was marty hebert playing this insanely beautiful passage on the oboe.  this guy can blow, i tell you what.

what goes into being the principal oboe for the band and how long have you been doing this insanely phenomenal work?

This is my fifth season with the OSO.  I’ve been playing professionally in orchestras for quite a few years, mostly as principal.  The position of first oboe holds it own leadership qualities in an orchestra.  By virtue of the way it has been traditionally used in symphonic music from the Baroque to the Romantic, it is very often the lead voice, especially of the winds.  Also, since I sit in the geographic center of the orchestra, the principal oboist is in a unique position in terms of communication and influence, both with the conductor and the rest of the orchestra.

why is the oboe so awesome?

OK, there’s a subject for a whole book right there.  Suffice it to say that I like the sound, and what the instrument can do.  Frank Zappa said (I’m paraphrasing here) that most musicians play an instrument because they fall in love with the sound of it – it’s only later, over time, that they fall victim to its behavioral traditions.  I would say also that the oboe is known for its capacity for very subtle nuances of musical phrasing.

if you weren’t a musician, what profession would you choose?

I don’t think they have a name yet for what I want to be when I grow up. That said, I’ve always been interested in science, particularly the biosciences.

what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

Wow, another book.  But to boil it down: it’s the dialogue.  The interplay between audience and performer, between one performer and another, and every so often, between audience members (I once saw a fistfight break out in the middle of a concert I was playing in).

sorry, but that guy had it comin’.  any favorite works this season?

Several – which I guess means, no one favorite.  Debussy’s La Mer was a treat.  I’ve always loved the Prokfiev Fifth Symphony, which I hadn’t played in many years.  The Brahms Second Piano Concerto with Emmanuel Ax was a standout for me.  Higdon Percussion Concerto.  I’m also really looking forward to the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra in May.  And in general, I have to thank Carlos for introducing me to some really wonderful new (to me) works over the last few years.

you are also a native clevelander (woot, woot!)… um, anything in particular you miss about c-town?

I grew up in Cleveland Heights, just up the hill really from University Circle.  So I miss all that – the Art Museum, Severance Hall, Case Western, Coventry, Little Italy.  Oh yeah, and Stadium Mustard.  (I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Cleveland Indians)

ah yes, the magical land of coventry.  [sigh]  hey, the beaver knows squat about reeds – mind schooling me?

OK, the books have already been written.  But here’s a couple of facts: I make my own reeds; almost all professional oboists do.  It’s made from arundo donax, the same variety of bamboo that all reed players use – clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, bagpipes.  The difference for oboists is that our reeds are so small, and scraped so thin, that they don’t last.  Playing time is best measured not in days, weeks, or months like some of those other instruments, but in terms of playing hours.  For me, that would be somewhere between 1 and 20 hours of playing time.  So basically, I make reeds every day.

if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

Depends if I’m also eating (and what I’m eating) or not.  I like a good craft beer, with or without food – moving here to Beervana was a revelation.  And you can’t beat Oregon pinots – nor their Burgundian counterparts – as an accompaniment to good food.  And every so often I indulge in a single malt.

the tribe is only 1.5 games behind the top of the central division – i say break out the lagavulin!  btw, are you stoked by any non-classical music?

Yep.  But rather than give you a list of my faves or influences, I’ll just say progressive rock, jazz, fusion.  I’ve probably listened to more of these kinds of music in my life than to classical, which is fine, since I prefer my classical live.

last but certainly not least: what sets the oregon symphony apart from other orchestras?

Me, of course.  (Everybody knows that oboists are nothing if not egomaniacal)  Seriously, each of the individuals in the orchestra participate in the ‘corporate’ culture that is the OSO.  This culture has evolved over time to make it the well-oiled machine that it is today.

well-oiled indeed.  can’t wait to hear the machine again this weekend after a long spring break.  thanks marty!