Posts Tagged 'Oregon Symphony'

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

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!

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!

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!

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet Tackles 10 Questions

Juan and SidekickThis Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the Oregon Symphony plays host to not one, not two, not even three, but four (FOUR!) guitar virtuosi collectively known as the *Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The Beavs was lucky enough to chat with Bill, John, Matt, and Scott about their upcoming show, full-stop motets, and getting Steve Reich drunk. Hope you enjoy the read!

Okay Bill, let’s start with you: The LAGQ is scheduled to perform Joaquín Rodrigo’s Andalusian Concerto with P-Town’s hometown band. What can we expect?

I like to think of the Concierto Andaluz as a 25-minute travelogue to the southern coast of Spain. Our teachers and colleagues Los Romeros (for whom this concerto was written) were born in Malaga, and Rodrigo filled this piece with the sounds of strumming guitars and Arabian breezes wafting over the Mediterranean, epitomizing this beautiful region.

I’m feeling warmer already! Hey, I’ve seen a couple of guitar soloists perform with the symphony over the years – one was amped and the other was not. Will the 4 of you be electronically amplified?

We always prefer to play unamplified, but our experience of playing this piece hundreds of times with orchestra is that a little electrical help goes a long way. Guitars are delicate instruments constructed for the salon, and sometimes in a late concert hall, pitted against a full orchestra, they can lose the richness of their tone and become tinny. We try as best we can to be sparing and delicate in our use of reinforcement.

Nice! Okay, last question for you Bill, and it’s a doozey: What’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

In today’s world of instant streaming and digital downloads, music is in danger of becoming devalued by its easy accessibility. Before electronic media, it was a rare and beautiful thing to experience music first-hand. When I visit medieval cathedrals in Europe, I always think how it must have felt to be a lowly peasant in the Middle Ages, who never saw a building higher than one story, never saw colored glass, and never heard music on the organ; then walking into a church and hearing a full-stop motet! It would have been truly awe-inspiring. I hope that when people take the time and expense to hear music played live, they’ll get a richer, more human connection with the composer and the performers.

A doozey of a response ~ Thanks so much! Alright John, the hotseat is now all yours: What are y’all expecting from the Oregon Symphony?

Not really sure. It’s our first appearance with both the OSO and Maestro Kalmar. It won’t rain inside the auditorium, will it??

Just checked the forecast and the Schnitz looks dry until Monday night, but I’d bring a tarp just in case! [ahem] If you could invite 3 composers for dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?

I’d invite Stravinsky, Ravel, and Steve Reich to a really fancy restaurant, ply them with drinks, and trick them into signing contracts committing them to write works for guitar quartet!

Sounds like a plan! Speaking of plying, if I could buy you a drink, what would you order?

I’ve always wanted to try the Midas Touch, a beer brewed by Dogfish Head Brewery. It’s made from a 2,600 year-old-old recipe for beer made by the Sumerians… the recipe was found by an archeologist friend of the brewer.

Oh dear, *Bailey’s Taproom might be our best bet for that. If they’re all out of Sumerian suds, though, I’m sure we can find an Oregon brew to tide you over! Alright Matt, let’s turn to you and get back to guitars: Does anybody in the group play electric on the side?

I play quite a bit of electric guitar, and grew up playing many styles of music. When I was about 12, I started playing in rock bands and jazz bands. I’m still a total jazzhead, so electric guitar is a big part of that.

Sweet! Um, if this rodent had 48 hours in the City of Angels, what would you suggest?

I would explore LA’s famous (but still undervalued) food and music scenes. World class, anything you want. For music: Disney Hall, Hollywood Bowl, The Baked Potato, Catalina Bar & Grill, Vitello’s. For food: Soot Bull Jeep (Korean), Shamshiri Grill (Persian), Nyala (Ethiopian), India’s Oven, Al-Noor (Pakistani), Mas Malo (Mexican), Rocio’s Mole de los Dioces (Mexican), and La Super-Rica Taqueria (not really in LA – Santa Barbara – but worth the trip!).

You had me at Disney Hall, but thanks for the kick-ass recommendations! So… After 30+ years of performing, do you even get nervous anymore before a gig?

I think 99% of performing artists get an adrenaline rush before they perform. Even someone as experienced as Segovia was famous for dreading going onstage minutes before. I think the key is to focus 1000% on the music itself. Then you experience excitement, not nervousness.

My apologies to Scott because I only have one question left, but it’s all you dude: If the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet had a mascot, what or who would it be?

Juan Valdez. We love un buen café and Latin music!

Hilar. Oh wow, thanks to all four of you for the interview… I really, really appreciate it. Stoked for Monday night!