Posted at 3:22 AM on March 10, 2010
by Ward Jacobson
Filed under: Programs
The Symphonic Dances was Rachmaninoff's last complete work, composed initially for two pianos. Supposedly, the composer himself was surprised by how great the orchestrated version sounded when he attended its premiere. As he was being congratulated and patted on the back he is reported to have said, "I don't know how it happened, it must have been my last spark."
Posted at 3:48 PM on March 10, 2010
by Laura Ciotti
Filed under: Parker Quartet
The Parker Quartet just returned from their final "outstate" concert in the Artists-in-Residence series, playing last week in Decorah. They will perform again at the Varsity in Minneapolis on April 15. Read the quartet's previous entry
Being in Decorah was a particularly great experience for me because my sister Chrissy now lives there! Chrissy is a cellist, and is teaching this semester at Luther College. She recently received her DMA from Rice University in Houston, TX.
On the day of the concert, I had a bit of time to explore Phelps Park, which is very close to Chrissy's apartment in Decorah. It was incredibly beautiful, and a great place to be on the afternoon of a concert--very refreshing, but not strenuous to explore. Below are some pictures from the park. And yes, that is a buffalo in the last picture. Fake, but life-size. Don't know who put it there...
Other little surprises:
- The Hotel Winneshiek is a very nice, old world style hotel with a unique structure, big comfy rooms, and bathrooms elegant and large enough to be called a luxury studio in New York City. By the way jet tubs are sweeeet.
- The music department at Luther College is the largest department at the college!
- I had the opportunity to listen to an undergraduate quartet play the opening movement of Mozart's Dissonance quartet. We spent an hour discovering how beauty reveals itself in the Adagio, and they helped me realize that the character of the Allegro is like going to a party.
- Oh what a great hall. 350 seats, good acoustics, good vibe, nice design. . . Who would of thought that Decorah would have a fantastic chamber music hall??
- Oneota food coop. A very satisfying coop.
- Jess and I visited a nice little shop called Grooves (I think). I like to sort through used CD's and DVD's when we are in random cities and this was a great place to do that. We walked away with 3 albums for $16. 1) Nina Simone 2) Music of Zaire and 3) the Forrest Gump soundtrack.
All in all, I had a good time visiting Decorah and it's nice to see that music lives strong in that town. Signing out - Dan
And what a great 'traditional' concert space! I was remarking with one of the teachers at Luther College, how fortunate the students were to have that hall as a recital space. The hall seats about 300 (i'm guesstimating), so it is not a small hall, nor is it a large one. It's got a high ceiling, nice wood, nice color aesthetic, and overall a great acoustic, which gave everything a nice glow. It was also intimate; never at any point did I feel 'lost' on stage, or that we were losing the audiences' attention.
One word about yesterday's audience, and the audiences we've played for in the past month - I wish we could have audience like this all the time! Thanks in large part to the promotional skills of MPR, every concert we were playing to a full house. The demographics were varied, from young kids to college students to grizzled chamber music aficionados, and you could sense that everyone there was engaged and there to listen. During the Q&A session, a young woman asked us why we loved music, and loved playing music. My answer to her would be "for moments like this." It may sound a little corny, but is there any greater satisfaction than knowing that this music that we play - this music that is so much greater than us, and that we spend hours, days, and entire lifetimes studying, internalizing, and presenting - is reaching out through time and space, and, in one way or another, affecting them in a profound way?
On a more personal note, yesterday was also special because it was my birthday. It is not rare for concerts to fall on our birthdays - Dan and I were griping backstage that this year both of us had 'working' birthdays - and it was not the first time that this had happened. I found myself contemplating that, for better or for worse, the quartet really is like a family. I don't remember the last time I celebrated a birthday with my own family - I left home when I was 16 - and this year, not only am I not home, but my girlfriend is out of town as well. But the one thing that is constant? I know that my quartet will be there - whether by choice or not! - to commemorate another passing of a year with me. It was certainly nice, at the end of the concert, to have an entire audience of people sing 'Happy Birthday' to me. Thanks for that.
Special thank you to Chris Cross and Steve Staruch of MPR, to Jubal and Chrissy, faculty at Luther College, to the students who played for us, and finally, to the audience, without whom none of this would have been possible.
When to applaud at classical concerts . . . when not to applaud . . . are there rules, and where did they come from--all this makes for an recurrent and robust theme of discussion in the classical world.
Critic Alex Ross has given this some thought, and in this recent speech, gives some history, some personal observations, and some suggestions.
Classical Host Mindy Ratner and Performance Today producers Kate Saumur and Jeff Bina are making beautiful music together this Sunday as part of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra's performance of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana."
Mindy Ratner has been singing alto with the Minnesota Chorale for some time. She told me she loves the words. "They're filled with love and longing, and a fair amount of mischief. Although we sing about the unfairness of life and the cruelty of Fate, there's a lot of fun to be had along the way!"
Her favorite part is the "hapless tale of the Roasted Swan...poor guy!"
That 'poor guy' has his own solo movement that begins with one lone bassoon played by PT's Kate Saumur who says "just before he sings, the first bassoon has a very high, kind of comical/lamenting solo, and then one obnoxious low note. I call it my 'dead swan on a stick' solo. The scary part is not the high stuff, but resetting your embouchure and pulling that down-in-the-basement low C from out of nowhere."
Kate told me she loves the huge gong crashes in the opening and closing choruses. They make her want to be a percussionist!
That's PT's Jeff Bina's role. He is one of a whole band of percussionists playing the snare, chimes and sleigh bells. He says he loves the snare because it's "so crisp and exacting. I play on all the boisterous outbursts and I add the exclamation mark at the finish of each song. The sleigh bells are impossible to keep quiet. I wrote in my part when to pick them up, so they'll be covered by a loud part in the music!"
If Carmina is not enough to get your blood roiling, also on the program is one of the sweetest pieces ever written, Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Serenade to Music."