critical mass

There was a review of last night’s concert by James McQuillen, which you can find here at the Oregonian’s website.  I was interested to find that there was a pretty quick followup comment by “clarities” – I’ll quote the first paragraph here:

If it’s true that “Carlos Kalmar intends for the orchestra to pull its weight,” he’d better start by rehearsing his orchestra sufficiently and not antagonizing guests of such caliber as Joshua Bell. Kalmar and Bell were at odds through much of the Lalo — pretty absurd when you consider the nature of the work as a violin showpiece. The job of the conductor in this context is to do everything he can to support the soloist’s virtuosity. Bell’s frustration with Kalmar was evident both during the piece and between movements, when he could barely muster a half-smile in the conductor’s direction.

This bears a bit of clarification from someone who was involved in the rehearsal process and also sitting about five feet away from Bell and Kalmar during that process as well as the concert.  Josh has made no secret that he very much enjoys working with both the Oregon Symphony and Carlos Kalmar.  The Lalo was given an entire rehearsal the day of the concert, since Bell arrived the evening before.  There was quite a bit of give-and-take between Josh and Carlos during the rehearsal, and it seemed that they were working together with a good sense of what each other wanted out of the collaboration.  I remember and interview with Yo-Yo Ma where he said that the ideal relationship between soloist and orchestra is one where there is a healthy sense of tension, where the soloist had to push and pull against the current of the orchestra.  Carlos seems to provide this with every soloist that he works with.  Bell’s demeanor on stage didn’t strike me as being one iota different from any other time that he’s appeared with the Oregon Symphony, including when James DePriest was conducting. He’s not a touchy-feely soloist who is going to fawn all over a conductor or orchestra.  It’s not the way he rolls

As for whether or not the orchestra was rehearsed enough – sometimes an orchestra can have very little rehearsal time and pull off a great performance, at another time, the same orchestra and conductor might have exhaustive rehearsals and not everything gels in performance.

2 thoughts on “critical mass

  1. Charley

    I thought this first comment on the O website was wrong. I don’t know about and didn’t see any tension between anybody. For heaven’s sake, Bell probably wasn’t smiling much because he was in the middle of a 45 minute finger marathon. It’s got to be physically and mentally exhausting!
    Oh, and I was excited to hear that we were playing “tight”. Always good to know.

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  2. KB

    Back in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s when Mr. Bell was just a rising young violinist, he performed with the Oregon Symphony. I remember that because I was present at that concert and also remember that he played the Lalo Symphonie ! Anyone else remember that concert too ?

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