Author Archives: Charles Noble

About Charles Noble

I'm the Assistant principal violist of the Oregon Symphony, a member of the Third Angle New Music Quartet, and the Arnica String Quartet.

emperor gets new clothes in seattle

On Saturday morning I’m playing a children’s concert presented by the Seattle Chamber Music Society which features Peter Schickele’s (aka PDQ Bach) The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s a fun piece for narrator and mixed ensemble, and is my first chance since 1995 to perform with pianist Paige Roberts Molloy, with whom I last played chamber music at the Tanglewood Music Center (Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, coached by Leon Fleischer). I’m looking forward to this a lot!

coming fall 2017

a mahler for the ages

Quick bulletin: if you don’t have plans for this Monday night (May 22), make a point of coming out to the Oregon Symphony’s closing classical concert of the season: Mahler’s Second Symphony. Judging by how the first two performances have gone, this final one should be epic. Onstage brass, offstage brass, brilliant woodwinds, amazing vocal soloists, teeming masses of roiling strings, a huge chorus – this piece has got it all. And to that guy who let out the “Whoop!” after the end of the first movement today, glad you could make it, and glad you loved it, buddy!

Enjoy some of the ‘big’ moments from various conductors:

does this blog have a future?

This post’s title is definitely not click bait. I’ve been slowing my pace of posting over the past couple years, and if this continues at the present rate, I’ll be posting about once a decade five years from now! So, while this blog isn’t going on a formal hiatus, there most likely will be a distinct lack of updates for the foreseeable future. I welcome your comments and observations!

mozart for mom and spring is almost here

It has been a crazy month. On January 26th my mom died after a long struggle with dementia. The following weeks were taken up with arranging details of her memorial, going through thousands and thousands of pages of saved documents – some of which were important, most of which were not – reminiscing with my sister and my mom’s caregiver, and generally being exhausted. When we got back home after nearly three weeks away, it felt like we’d been on the worst vacation ever.

Slowly, I got back into the swing of things at work and teaching. When I’d gotten the news of my mom’s passing, I went into a panic about the upcoming playing obligations that I had over those next few weeks. The Oregon Symphony was very flexible and understanding with me taking leave to deal with the estate. Similarly, Third Angle and the University of Wyoming were very accommodating to my cancellations. The family does indeed come first.

One gig that I really wanted to try to keep was playing the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with my dear friend and former OSO and Ethos Quartet colleague, violinist Denise Dillenbeck. I know the piece quite well and know Denise’s playing equally well, so even though rehearsal and practice time was going to be at a premium, my thought was that I could make it happen without making a fool of myself. So, the concert is coming up this Sunday, March 5th at 4 pm. It features the wonderful young musicians of the Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia Conservatory Orchestra, and I’m greatly looking forward to it. I’m dedicating my performance to my mom. I think she’d like that a lot.

Here’s me playing the opening viola solo line from the second movement. This movement is one of the greatest things written for stringed instruments. It’s essentially an instrumental opera, a love duet, I’d like to think. See that cool shirt I’m wearing? That is a prized memento of Portland’s great classical radio station (of which I’m a board member) AllClassical Portland, which just happens to be the No. 1 classical radio station in America*!  Help keep a great thing going strong, and give what you can by clicking here.


proofreading in the electronic age

I read a lot of blogs. Most of them actually don’t really count as ‘blogs’ anymore. They’re more like mini news outlets. They’re essential, often covering niche subjects that the print media (if they even exist in a given community) can’t or won’t cover due to costs and assigning coverage based upon demographic respones (i.e. clickbait). Being a Portland resident, I’m into craft beer, and one of my go-to blogs is The New School. They provide an amazing service to the craft beer industry and consumers in Oregon and Washington. That being said, they desperately need a copy editor. This is what I encountered when I read their article on the new Breakside Brewing location in Slabtown:


‘They’re’ is used instead of the correct ‘their’. It’s a small thing – but they’re is a contraction of they and are. It’s not a possessive, which their is. My guess is that most (I see mistakes like this all over, even with some of the largest and most respected blogs) blog contributors are using a spell-checker and nothing else. The word is spelled correctly, and it is a homophone of the correct word, so it passes the (presumed) proof-reading pass before the post is published. I’m assuming that The New School has an editor of some sort. It looks like they do not, however. They seem to have a decentralized system of contributors. I sense that a lot of blogs operate in this way. One that does not: Oregon Arts Watch. I may quibble with some of their editorial stances, but they have editors, which I know from first-hand knowledge. I’ve been a periodic contributor to OAW, and Brett Campbell did an ace job of not only editing for grammar, but in making my piece (through pointed questions and suggestions) flow better and have a more cogent point of view.

I know that I’m being a nudge, maybe even a  nudnik. No one likes a know-it-all, least of all me! I’m also a far-from-perfect writer! There have been many occasions when I’ve hit “Publish” and then my fiancée’s eagle eye spots a typo that I had missed. Grr! What we write, however, and how we write it makes an immediate impression on the reader. Having a blatant grammatical error in the first paragraph of your post isn’t the way to inspire a reader’s confidence in what follows (and making matters worse in the example above, the lede containing the error was used as the subheader in the headline slider at the top of the blog). Don’t we, as bloggers, owe it to our readers to give them well-written posts? With the availability of online proofreading services such as Grammarly and Ginger, one needn’t go to the expense of hiring a professional copy editor or proofreader (though I’d argue that this would be well worth the expense for serious content-producing blogs). Anyway, I’ve been stewing over this for quite some time, and apologies for the ambush to the otherwise excellent The New School – you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time! I’ll keep coming back and will continue to recommend your site to my other beer-minded friends.

rest of the season – my picks

It’s mid-February, and that means that there are 103 days left in the 2016-2017 season. The 2017-2018 season was announced just two weeks ago, and it focuses attention on the bright, shiny, and new season ahead. So, in that light, I decided that it would be worth a look at the concerts that I’m most excited about in the current season – and there is much great music to enjoy!

Jeff Kahane, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and John Adams

This concert contains three of my favorite things, musically: pianist Jeffrey Kahane, the Enigma Variations, and music by John Adams. Kahane will play the gorgeous and slightly schizophrenic Schumann Piano Concerto. The Enigma Variations of Edward Elgar follows – with its transcendent Nimrod movement. [An amateur violinist claims to have discovered the secret of the variations – read the article here.] The concert opens with a piece co-commissioned by the Oregon Symphony for its centennial season (my first), Slonimsky’s Earbox, a riotous showpiece for large orchestra that happens to have a huge viola solo! Returning guest Christoph König conducts.

tickets & info

New work by Kenji Bunch, Souvenirs by Samuel Barber, and Dvorak’s Cello Concerto

This program presents three works linked by their being written in America. The big news on this concert is Portlander Kenji Bunch’s new work commissioned by the Oregon Symphony, Aspects of an Elephant. Here is a description of the work (which will be recorded for upcoming CD release) by the composer:

“I drew inspiration from the timeless parable of the so-called Blind Men and the Elephant, of which various versions have appeared throughout Asia and Europe since the 13th century. I especially liked the version in Rumi’s epic collection of sacred Islamic texts, The Masnavi. In this retelling, the men are not blind, but in a dark room with an elephant they can’t see; each man holds a small candle, which casts a faint light. They touch the mysterious beast in order to describe it to each other; naturally, they each come up with a very distinct impression of the elephant. For example, the man touching the tusk declares, ‘The elephant is a spear!’ while the man feeling a leg is convinced the elephant is a large tree. A heated argument ensues; each man believes his concept of the elephant is correct, and can’t imagine any other version being remotely accurate. There are six musical variations representing the different descriptions of the elephant. In each variation I feature small groups of solo instruments.

“This conflict escalates almost to the point of violence until the men realize the combined light of their individual candles has now revealed the true nature of the elephant, and that they were all partially correct in their assessments.

“I find this story engaging for a number of reasons. Without going into detail, its relevance to today’s deeply divided political climate is fairly obvious. Musically, it also seems to lend itself particularly well to the many different colors of the orchestra— which I feel is a compelling metaphor for a collection of diverse elements uniting to achieve a larger beauty. In addition to the different instrument families, I also feature some exotic percussion instruments, including five nested aluminum mixing bowls pitched low to high, of the kind you have in your kitchen. It sounds kind of like an Indonesian gamelan.

Aspects is, if not officially a ‘Concerto for Orchestra,’ certainly a celebration of the orchestra, and particularly the musicians of the Oregon Symphony, to whom this work is dedicated.”

Carlos Kalmar conducts.

tickets & info

Gil Shaham plays Korngold

I’ve been lobbying for years to get Gil Shaham booked to play here, and though I gave up on that hope long ago, my wish has come true this season! His gorgeous, rich tone is perfectly suited to the fin de siecle decadence of ErichWolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto. The program is rounded out with equally rich works by some other famous composers with strong ties to Vienna, including Johann Strauss, Jr. and Richard Strauss. Carlos Kalmar conducts.

tickets & info

Mozart’s Requiem

To tell you the truth, though I love Mozart’s Requiem, it’s not a piece that I find that rewarding to play. Be that as it may, it’s a towering masterpiece. It’s accompanied by Benjamin Britten’s transcription of a Chacony by Henry Purcell and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. Returning favorite Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts.

tickets & info

La Mer and Lansma

We don’t do enough French music, in my opinion, so it’s especially exciting to perform on of the greatest of French impressionist works, Debussy’s La Mer. Returning violinist Simone Lansma plays Benjamin Britten’s fantastic (and ever more performed) Violin Concerto. My jury’s out on what to make of Lansma. Her technique is so solid and beyond reproach that it’s almost impossible to take one’s ears off of that aspect of her playing to see what sort of depth she has as a musician. This piece will give us all a chance to find out! One of my favorite guest conductors, Jun Märkl conducts.

SoundSights returns with Stravinsky’s Persephone

Michael Curry, best known for his production design on the Broadway production of The Lion King, has created a production of Stravinsky’s seldom-performed ballet Persephone. The program begins with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 “Little Russian”. This should be a visual feast if the first two productions of SoundSights are any indication! Carlos Kalmar conducts.

tickets & info

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

Not much to say about this one. Perhaps Mahler’s grandest spectacle, and certainly some of his greatest music. It’s hard for me to keep my eyes dry during the huge choruses of the final movement. A fitting end to the Classical season. Carlos Kalmar conducts.

tickets & info