Exhilarating! I blogged about it, not to say that all orchestras should shout, but to show what can be done, to give an example of what orchestras could do, if they wanted to bring something new to their performances.
So here are other examples
Because of course Segerstam and the Sinfönia de Galicia (the terrific orchestra in this performance) aren’t the only ones in the orchestra world doing new things.
Marc Minkowski, for instance, has a recording of the Haydn London Symphonies, made live, in which something truly surprising happens in the slow movement of the Surprise. (The link takes you right to that place.)
Haydn’s idea, of course, was to startle his audience with an unexpected loud chord. But of course his chord isn’t surprising anymore. We know the piece.
So, Minkowski might have wondered, what could be a surprise? How about…but I’m not going to spoil this by telling you what happens. Let’s just say there are surprises, that they do what the loud chord probably can’t anymore, and that they don’t distort the piece in any way, even if they go outside the normal bounds of orchestral performance.
Way outside the bounds of what’s usual, the extraordinary, not as crazy as he might seem violinist Gilles Apap plays a cadenza in a Mozart violin concerto that…well, again I don’t want to spoil it. But such a triumph for personality — individual adventure — in classical music! Apap plays freely, we might say, and for a long time, having lots of fun. And not always (or not much at all) in Mozart’s style.
And yet when the orchestra comes back in, somehow it’s as if the piece was meant to hold Apap’s wild invention. The music truly sounds like it’s coming home.
Showing how much they loved music
Another unexpected moment: the encore at a Kennedy Center concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer conducting.
I went because I’d heard this orchestra plays vividly at home, and does surprising things. None of which was in evidence at this concert, which (for whatever reason; I can’t believe the performance was typical) sounded tired, almost phoned in.
Until the encore, that is, when the musicians stood up and sang. They sang a 19th century arrangement of a Russian liturgical piece, a capella. And they sang it beautifully.
Showing, to me, that they didn’t just love (which, from everything I’ve heard, I’m sure they do) playing in an orchestra. They love music.
Two last examples — so fabulous
I’ve talked about this triumph many times before — the student orchestra at the University of Maryland School of Music playing Afternoon of a Faun from memory, and dancing while they played.
I was at the performance, and — like so many others who were there, or who’ve seen the video — was dazzled. Easy to assume that dancing would muddy the musicians’ focus on the music, and that in any case orchestra musicians can’t dance.
But not so. Liz Lerman was the choreographer, and James Ross the conductor in charge of the music. And those two are very special artists, able to get extraordinary passion, skill, and commitment from those they work with. So the music was radiant, and the movement — taking off from how the musicians most comfortably moved by themselves — was entrancing
(Ross, important to note, didn’t conduct. There was a student conductor integrated as part of the dance, but he didn’t do much; the musicians largely played on their own.)
Not something every orchestra needs to do, but again, a demonstration of what’s possible.
And the orchestra did it again a year later with Appalachian Spring.
ROCO — formerly the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra — is one of the most fun orchestras in the US, one of the most successful, and — with many commissions and premieres in its 13-year history — one of the most artistic.
It’s in Houston. And deserves to be much more widely known. Should be in the Washington Performing Arts/Kennedy Center SHIFT festival! LINK (If that ever comes back, after a planned hiatus next season.)
Among many cool things ROCO does, there’s childcare at its biggest concerts. Which start early, so parents can bring their kids, and then go out for date night after the concert is over.
Plus, ROCO seems to have made a dream I’ve long had real – to make an orchestra a collective of musicians, with the musicians doing a lot of the planning.
You can hear about this in a lively podcast interview, featuring ROCO’s founder, director, and principal oboist Alecia Lawyer. One of the liveliest people in classical music, one of the true stars of classical music in our time.
The podcast lasts a little more than half an hour. It’ll fly by. You’ll have fun, I’ll venture to predict. You’ll leaern a lot. And become a ROCO fan. Especially if you go to their website LINK, and hear how wonderfully they play!