main: December 2007 Archives

What an amazing sight! A Tuesday night regular subscription concert of the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. The fourth repeat of a program that, while very nicely put together, is not what you would call a box-office blockbuster: Chavez's Sinfonia India; Dvořák's Violin Concerto; Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony.

Outside on the Lincoln Center plaza were clots of people shouting out "Does anyone have a ticket to sell?" It reminded me of the signs people hold up every day at the Bayreuth Festival (consistently sold out years in advance), but such a sight is rare indeed in our concert halls. The reason? Simple - a 26-year-old Venezuelan conductor who is now an extraordinarily "hot" property in classical music: Gustavo Dudamel...

December 28, 2007 11:17 AM | | Comments (4)

You like to think that after visiting 115 U.S. orchestras you would have seen just about every model there is. But number 116 was unlike any other orchestra I've seen. The Longwood Symphony Orchestra (in Boston) is in its 25th season. Its budget is about $250,000 per year, but to give that proper perspective one must factor in that the musicians are not paid. This is a volunteer orchestra, about 75 percent of whom are doctors and medical professionals. Its board chair (Nick Tawa) is a surgeon, and its president (Lisa Wong) is a pediatrician. Both also play in the orchestra. The music director is Jonathan McPhee - he's been there for about three seasons, and has been encouraging growth, both artistically and scope of activity. They won the League of American Orchestras' MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagement last year...

December 21, 2007 10:48 AM | | Comments (3)

In my last blog I wrote about a weekend visit to the Boise Philharmonic and the Walla Walla Symphony, and focused on the Boise part of that trip. This week, on to Walla Walla, Washington. In Walla Walla, I did not get to hear a full concert by the orchestra; my schedule made that impossible, so I heard a Sunday afternoon family concert instead. And only a smaller core of the orchestra performed at this. Since about half the musicians live in Walla Walla, and the other half are "imported," for the most part the group I heard were the residents. So much was impressive - the fact that the family concert consisted of two new works, one especially written for this event (and concurrent school concerts). The Three Legged Monster by Israeli composer Tzvi Avni has been played much in Europe, but I have never encountered it. It is a wonderful, witty, terrifically crafted alternative to The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. The second piece was commissioned for these concerts (imagine that). Gwyneth Walker's Voices in Song, commissioned for the orchestra's centennial, incorporated a fine local children's chorus. And the orchestra, once again, played terrifically under Music Director Jaacov Bergman, especially considering they had had to learn both pieces...

December 14, 2007 9:39 AM | | Comments (2)

It happened again. More than once. Someone would ask me where I was going next in my travels to various American orchestras, and I would answer: "Boise, Idaho and Walla Walla, Washington." "Oh," would come the response. "I'm sorry." It seems that most people still do not understand the actual thrill I feel when traveling around the country and encountering orchestras - and the immense gratification I get from visiting two more orchestras that serve as vivid demonstrations of the good health and vitality of orchestras in the United States...

December 7, 2007 9:29 AM | | Comments (3)


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