Tag Archives: soloists

season announcements – soloists

I’m revisiting my previous post, in which I somewhat lazily dissected the season announcements  of three orchestras (Chicago, Seattle, and Nashville) for 2012-2013, to a look at the soloists that they’ve engaged for the season (plus those slated for the LA Philharmonic as well, to add some more (?) into the mix). Will there be any trends, any surprises? Not likely, but you never know. Continue reading

all quiet on the orchestral front

It’s the middle of the summer.  The dog days, one might say, at least here in Portland, where the mercury is expected to top 90°F again today.  There is little going on, classical musically speaking in Portland right now, except for the final concerts of Chamber Music Northwest‘s summer festival this Thursday through Sunday.  The action lies further away from the urban centers at this time of year.  My colleague James Bash linked to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony which starts up its concert run on July 27th.

Yeol Eum Sun

The Sunriver Music Festival in central Oregon begins its concerts August 13th, with a solo recital by Van Cliburn Competition Silver Medallist Yeol Eum Sun.  Oregon Symphony concertmaster Jun Iwasaki will be making his dual concertmaster and solo debut with the Sunriver Festival Orchestra on Saturday, August 14th, and Yeol Eum Sun will perform a concerto with the orchestra on Sunday, August 15th.

Jun Iwasaki – Photo: Absolute Images

young artists at the schnitz


If you’re a fan of the up and coming talent in classical music in Portland/SW Washington, then you are no doubt familiar with the Young Artists at the Schnitz concert.  It’s a great way to hear lots of great music for instrumentalists and vocalists with a great pick-up orchestra under the able direction of Niel DePonte – all performed by some of the region’s top young musicians and singers.

Get your tickets here.

jennifer koh goes to ’11’

Jennifer Koh – Photo © Janette Beckman

It’s been amazing, watching violinist Jennifer Koh play the Brahms Violin Concerto with us this weekend.  During the rehearsals, she was controlled, a bit reticent, and was clearly getting used to conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni’s approach to the score and the orchestra.

Then came the concerts.

A force of nature in an elegant blue gown came out on stage and tore up the Brahms concerto, taking her sound and phrasing to the breaking point.  Truly, her violin goes to 11!  She has such incredible concentration amidst all of this energy, and she chose the Kreisler cadenza rather than the more usually played one by Joachim, and it was amazing to watch her vision of the piece emerge over the run. The second movement was mesmerizing, and I don’t think that I’ve ever heard so little sound coming from the audience seats during this movement – with little of the coughing and fidgeting that often accompany a long slow movement.

We’ve been lucky to have two such wonderful violin soloists so far this year, with Baiba Skride giving a sober, nuanced performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto, and now Jennifer Koh with the Brahms.  And we still have Itzhak Perlman playing Bach, OSO concertmaster Jun Iwasaki making his OSO solo debut with the Korngold concerto, and Joshua Bell performing Mendelssohn.  It’s an embarassment of riches!

classical conflict

I just perused a recent article about the Florida Orchestra and some highly-publicized comments from subscribers about the contemporary programming that is being done by music director Stefan Sanderling.

I understand that some patrons don’t care for hearing anything written after 1870 or so. Fine. But why do they complain so about hearing something new and/or dissonant?

There are plenty of concertgoers who love more modern music, and they (for the most part) put up with the Brahms symphonies without writing angry letters to the orchestra’s management or the local music critic.

So, what makes the conservative patron more important than she who likes more progressive fare? Continue reading

stabler’s must-see list

Oregonian classical music critic David Stabler has posted his list of 10 guest artists that he’d like to see at the Oregon Symphony.  It’s a good list – I’d add Jonathan Biss, pianist; Tabea Zimmerman, violist (I know, I know…); Janine Jansen, violinist; and Daniel Barenboim, conductor/pianist, among others…

in situ

I’m once again back in PDX, and pretty tired from a busy two weeks at the Sunriver Music Festival.

Rachel Barton Pine

There was some early drama as Andre Watts was forced to cancel due to health problems, and a last minute replacement was found in the person of Rachel Barton Pine, the wonderful violinist from Chicago who made her festival debut last summer with us. This year she played the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, with her own cadenzas (wonderfully idiomatic, btw) and followed up with a dizzying set of variations on “Happy Birthday” in honor of the festival’s 30th anniversary.

alisa weilerstein
Alisa Weilerstein

The major soloist of the second week was the young cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who I was very eager to see and hear. After doing so, I’m a bit less inclined to be as excited. She is a cellist with a formidable technique, but in the Haydn D major Cello Concerto her rhythm was all over the map and her bodily and facial contortions were quite distracting. The Tchaikovsy Pezzo Capriccioso was more suited to her approach, which makes me worry about how her style will wear after a few years’ time. I hope that time will mature her stage manner and interpretive stances – if she settles down she could be the real deal. The end of the festival was especially bittersweet, as long-time concertmaster Philip Ruder was playing his last concerts – period – he intends to no longer play the violin at all after the conclusion of the festival. I admire his courage to put down the fiddle while still playing so well, and will miss his rare brand of music making. Philip is the epitome of class and a true gentleman and scholar. I wish him and his lovely wife Ruth all the best and many happy travels.

As for other activities, I did a hike up Mt. Tumalo with fellow OSO players Jeff Johnson and Mary Grant. It’s a nice hike (once you reach the top), but it covers about 1500 vertical feet in 1.5 miles. Still, it was much easier than Mt. Bachelor last year. I also did a fair amount of riding – I’d say I covered only about 75 miles over two weeks, but it was good to fit in that much with the rehearsal and concert schedule. We also bought a new toy – a Garmin Forerunner 301, which is a GPS-enabled fitness trainer which you wear on your wrist. Very cool and now we’re fighting over it. I may have to just shell out for the cycling-specific model…