Tag Archives: nancy ives

it’s the people, stupid

This past week I’ve been rehearsing and performing at the Portland Piano International Festival as part of the Festival String Quartet.

The quartet is quite a collection of people to play with! Violinists Alex Kerr, concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony and professor of violin at Indiana University, Sarah Kwak, concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, and Nancy Ives, principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony. What I love about working with people of that caliber is that they are usually always wonderful people to work with. So professional, true, but also easy going, confident, and pleasant. I often suffer from a major case of imposter syndrome, so having such amazing musicians being such supportive chamber music partners made me feel right at home.


Sarah Kwak rehearsing Sarasate with Arnaldo Cohen.

The first concert, on Friday, June 17, was with pianist Justin Bartlett, featured JS Bach’s Concerto No. 1, BWV 1052, and Franz Liszt’s Malediction, S. 121. Both were done with the accompaniment of the Festival String Quartet and double bassist Jason Schooler (Liszt).

The second concert, on Saturday, June 18, was a chamber music soirée with festival artistic director and pianist Arnaldo Cohen. Each of the members of the quartet played a piece from the Golden Age of Piano (1870-1930), which is the theme of this year’s festival. I opened the program with Liszt’s only work for viola, Romance oubliée (Forgotten romance), followed by Sarah playing Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantelle, Nancy playing Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante, and Alex with Brahm’s FAE Scherzo. Arnaldo played a Brazilian solo piece that I wasn’t able to get the name of, and then we all joined together for the first movement of Brahms’ great Piano Quintet, Op. 34.

Nancy Ives plays Chopin with Arnaldo Cohen.

Nancy Ives plays Chopin with Arnaldo Cohen.

Tonight, Sunday, June 19, we join pianists Charlie Albright and Alexander Kobrin for an all-Chopin concert. With Charlie, we’ll be doing the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, and with Alexander, the Piano Concerto No. 1. It’s quite tricky work, managing all of the rubato and the thick filigree of ornamentation that Chopin throws at us, but it should be a wonderful show. Tickets are available here.

principal cellist ives solos with Portland Columbia Symphony

Nancy Ives - Photo: Torsten Kjellstrand

Oregon Symphony principal cellist Nancy Ives will be playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Portland Columbia Symphony under the direction of Huw Edwards.

The Elgar is probably my favorite of the many great concertos for the cello. I regret that it’s always immediately identified with the late Jacqueline du Pre. It seems to be one of those unfortunate situations where a piece of music and a performer’s personal circumstances are conflated (a la the movie Shine and Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto) –  it makes for articles that tug at the heart strings but does little to enlighten us to what the piece has to offer.

Fortunately, Huw and Nancy have provided ample background on the piece in an interview with James Bash at Oregon Music News that you can read here.

Here are the concert details:

7:30 p.m. Friday, First United Methodist Church, 1838 S.W. Jefferson St.;

3:00 p.m. Sunday, Mt. Hood Community College Theater, 26000 S.E. Stark St., Gresham;

$30 adults, $25 seniors, $10 students, 503-234-4077,


Nancy Ives - Photo: Charles Noble

On my mind over the past couple weeks has been the dual concepts of appreciation and recognition. In one’s capacity as a leader of an orchestra, whether as a music director or as a guest conductor, I feel it’s vitally important to make certain that not only does one appreciate what they have in the ensemble before them, but that they give recognition where it is due.  A little bit of that can go huge distances in maintaining the morale of those of us in the trenches, so to speak.

This weekend, it’s been our wonderful principal cellist Nancy Ives who has gotten some long overdue appreciation and recognition.  The Brahms Second Piano Concerto has one of the most sublime and difficult lyrical cello solos in the repertoire, and I must say that Nancy has played her heart out in this weekend’s performances.  Emanuel Ax has been very effusive in his praise of her solos for the rehearsals and performances – he’s heard the best in the business play them – and tonight he gave an incredible show of recognition as one artist to another.

After the numerous curtain calls, he came over to get Nancy for another solo bow (he would take her up to the edge of the stage near the concertmaster’s chair for her bow), and they had a brief discussion, and she exchanged seats with concertmaster Jun Iwasaki, and she and Ax began to play as a joint encore, a movement from the ineffably beautiful Fantasy Pieces by Robert Schumann.  Ax played without a score – he’s doubtless played this piece hundreds of times with his recital partner Yo-Yo Ma – and he and Nancy played beautifully together.  She was relaxed and assured, and the sound just came with great ease from her cello.  Many of us in the orchestra had misty eyes, for this was a moment that was long overdue for Nancy.  No one tries harder than she does, and no one thinks more about the art and craft of making music than she, and I think that that very earnestness is often misconstrued, and it’s easy to lose sight of the sensitive musician-artist inside.  No one has a bigger heart than Nancy, and it was such a great moment tonight to get to see it exposed in all its glory at the Schnitz.

Brava, Nancy.

transfigured night

Tomorrow night (Saturday) I’m joining OSO colleagues former and current for a concert at a wonderful venue in Yakima, Washington called The Seasons.  The concert is entitled Classically Romantic, and features three blockbuster works from three different eras of music history.  The first work on the program is J.S. Bach’s magnificent and incomparable Chaconne from the Partita for Solo Violin in d minor, played by Denise Dillenbeck.  The chaconne is a baroque form in which a series of variations are made over a repeated bass line or chord progression [the fine line between the chaconne and the passacaglia remains a gray area for musicologists, at least according to this wikipedia article].  This particular chaconne is a world-encompassing piece, spanning every possible mood and emotion, as well as nearly every technical hurdle violinists of the 18th century might have expected to overcome in the process.  It is literally a cathedral of music, constructed by one performer on one instrument, one measure at a time.

The second work on the program is the String Quartet No. 1 of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  It is famous for the beautiful Andante cantabile second movement, which can stand on its own as an encore or occasional piece, but it really is a wonderful composition for string quartet that gives a more intimate view of a composer more known for huge ballet and symphonic scores that are full of color and bombast.

The final work on the program is a very early work of Arnold Schoenberg, his string sextet tone poem Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), Op. 4.  Based upon the eponymous poem of Richard Dehmel concerning two lovers walking in moonlit woods and a startling revelation from one to the other, ending in acceptance and deepened commitment:

Zwei Menschen gehn durch kahlen, kalten Hain;
der Mond läuft mit, sie schaun hinein.
Der Mond läuft über hohe Eichen;
kein Wölkchen trübt das Himmelslicht,
in das die schwarzen Zacken reichen.
Die Stimme eines Weibes spricht:
Two people are walking through a bare, cold wood;
the moon keeps pace with them and draws their gaze.
The moon moves along above tall oak trees,
there is no wisp of cloud to obscure the radiance
to which the black, jagged tips reach up.
A woman’s voice speaks:
„Ich trag ein Kind, und nit von Dir,
ich geh in Sünde neben Dir.
Ich hab mich schwer an mir vergangen.
Ich glaubte nicht mehr an ein Glück
und hatte doch ein schwer Verlangen
nach Lebensinhalt, nach Mutterglück
“I am carrying a child, and not by you.
I am walking here with you in a state of sin.
I have offended grievously against myself.
I despaired of happiness,
and yet I still felt a grievous longing
for life’s fullness, for a mother’s joys
und Pflicht; da hab ich mich erfrecht,
da ließ ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht
von einem fremden Mann umfangen,
und hab mich noch dafür gesegnet.
Nun hat das Leben sich gerächt:
nun bin ich Dir, o Dir, begegnet.“
and duties; and so I sinned,
and so I yielded, shuddering, my sex
to the embrace of a stranger,
and even thought myself blessed.
Now life has taken its revenge,
and I have met you, met you.”
Sie geht mit ungelenkem Schritt.
Sie schaut empor; der Mond läuft mit.
Ihr dunkler Blick ertrinkt in Licht.
Die Stimme eines Mannes spricht:
She walks on, stumbling.
She looks up; the moon keeps pace.
Her dark gaze drowns in light.
A man’s voice speaks:
„Das Kind, das Du empfangen hast,
sei Deiner Seele keine Last,
o sieh, wie klar das Weltall schimmert!
Es ist ein Glanz um alles her;
Du treibst mit mir auf kaltem Meer,
doch eine eigne Wärme flimmert
von Dir in mich, von mir in Dich.
“Do not let the child you have conceived
be a burden on your soul.
Look, how brightly the universe shines!
Splendour falls on everything around,
you are voyaging with me on a cold sea,
but there is the glow of an inner warmth
from you in me, from me in you.
Die wird das fremde Kind verklären,
Du wirst es mir, von mir gebären;
Du hast den Glanz in mich gebracht,
Du hast mich selbst zum Kind gemacht.“
Er faßt sie um die starken Hüften.
Ihr Atem küßt sich in den Lüften.
Zwei Menschen gehn durch hohe, helle Nacht.
That warmth will transfigure the stranger’s child,
and you bear it me, begot by me.
You have transfused me with splendour,
you have made a child of me.”
He puts an arm about her strong hips.
Their breath embraces in the air.
Two people walk on through the high, bright night.

(English translation by Mary Whittall)

It’s a sprawling work which pushes the boundaries of tonality to near their breaking point, but it’s also a staggeringly dramatic and beautiful composition, one with which all Schoenberg haters should be acquainted.  I prefer it in its original sextet version, but the orchestral version (also by Schoenberg) is quite satisfying in its own way as well.

nancy ives plays dvorak

Nancy Ives/Photo © Charles Noble

I had the pleasure of venturing North into the wilds of Vancouver, Washington to hear Nancy Ives, principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony, perform the great Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony under the direction of Salvator Brotons.  I don’t really want to write a review, other than to say that Nancy played brilliantly, and the orchestra played well.  A few thoughts: the hall at Skyview High School is quite good.  Despite having only five basses, the bass response was very clear and forceful.  The sight lines were very good from our seats about four rows from the back of the auditorium.  It’s a good place to have a concert, and the VSO is lucky to have such a nice place to make their concert home.  The concert repeats Sunday evening at 7 p.m. – you can find details here.

fearnomusic @ DISJECTA friday

Agniezka Laska Dancers – Photo: Chris Leck

Fear No Music will be presenting its second concert of the season, Home Grown: Fresh, Delectable Sounds by Oregon Composers, at Disjecta (8371 North Interstate Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97217) this Friday February 13th at 8 p.m.

It should be a fascinating and enjoyable concert, featuring some of the best dancers in the city as well as works by some of Oregon’s most renowned composers.  It’s a great way for a local new music ensemble to help celebrate Oregon’s 150th birthday.

Performers will include FNM regulars Inès Voglar, Joël Belgique, Mika Sunago and Joel Bluestone, as well as guest artists Evan Kuhlmann, Tomas Svoboda, Nancy Ives, the Agniezka Laska Dancers, and Gavin Larsen of Oregon Ballet Theater.

If you miss the program in Portland, it will be taken down the Willamette Valley :

  • EUGENE – 2/17/09 – Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon @ 8:00 p.m.
  • SALEM – 2/19/09 – Hudson Concert Hall, Willamette University @ 7:30 p.m.

You can purchase advance tickets here, or at the door.

Gavin Larsen in OBT’s production of Julia Adams’ Angelo
Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Here’s some info on the concert from their website:

As we prepare to honor Oregon’s 150th anniversary of statehood, we will participate in this historic event in our “fear no music” way by adding a fresh, musical twist to the excitement, festivities and pride associated with the anniversary. Join Fear No Music for the world premieres of three new works, written especially for this grand occasion, plus two new choreographies by Agnieszka Laska and Paul Drestrooper. Hear supernatural sounds created by composer Bonnie Miksch, Professor of Composition at Portland State University; experience acoustical journeys by the daring Robert Kyr; explore new sounds by Robert Priest, Artistic Director of Marzena; and revel in the ballet version of “Jilted” by Robert McBride and “Mama’s Song” by Jack Gabel. We are excited to collaborate with the Agnieszka Laska Dancers and Gavin Larsen, a lead dancer for the Oregon Ballet Theater, moving to the music of Tomas Svoboda, Jack Gabel, and Robert McBride. Also, featuring great works by John Peel, David Schiff and Ryan Francis. This concert is part of a regional tour that includes performances in Portland, Eugene and Salem.

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and presented as partners of Oregon 150. The concert in Portland is supported in part by a grant from RACC and Work for Art.

Portland Summer Ensembles debut session


I just got an email a couple days ago from Susan Franklin, who along with former OSO concertmaster Amy Schwarz Moretti, has founded the Portland Summer Ensembles program at Reed College.  Here’s a bit of what she had to say about the program and its genesis:

Amy and I started talking about having a chamber music camp in Portland several years ago. There are wonderful Chamber Music Workshops and Fesitvals all ove the country but nothing significant here in Portland. We have  a beautiful city, great Summer weather and lots of high level music and musicians,  it is about time! We both believe that introducing young people to chamber music and giving them the skills to do it enables them to keep music in their lives, whether they pursue a music career or go on to something else.

They joined forces with Chamber Music Northwest to provide this program for young musicians to study chamber music in an intimate setting and in a wonderful city during our beautiful summer season.

The faculty for the first season will be some of the best players both in Portland and from around the country:

Amy Schwartz Moretti (Director, Robert MacDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University),
Jun Iwasaki (OSO concertmaster)

Joël Belgique (OSO principal viola)

Nancy Ives (OSO principal cello)

Susan Smith (concert pianist)

Guest Arists:
Miro String Quartet

The week-long program will have differing tiers for players of different levels of experience and proficiency:

We intend this camp to be fairly high level, which does not exclude beginning chamber music players. We will have 3 levels, with the top level we hope being the good PYP type players and the 3rd level being kids who can play but are inexperienced. The week will consist of coachings, groups classes in things such as movement, rhythm and singing, a 2 hour workshop with the MIRO String Quartet, a faculty concert, attending CMNW rehearsals and 2 concerts – and will culminate in a student workshop open to the public in Kaul Auditorium.

For this debut session, they are looking locally for participants, as they are not set up for providing housing for out-of-area students, but they plan on expanding the program in succeeding years to a residential situation attracting high-level young players from around the country.  They also hope to expand the length of the residency and provide an adult chamber music workshop program as well.  Very exciting!

Enrollment is limited to 30 participants, and the deadline for applications is the end of January, so anyone who is interested should check out the program’s website right away for details: http://www.cmnw.org/summerensembles.html.  While there you can download and print out application and financial aid forms.  If you have further questions, contact Susan Franklin at 503.819-8357.