ginastera’s variations

In 1953 Alberto Ginastera wrote a wonderful piece for symphony orchestra called Variaciones Concertantes. It features prominent solo turns for the principal players of all the sections of the orchestra. On YouTube I was fortunate enough to find a rarity: the 1968 recording of the work played by the Boston Symphony under Erich Leinsdorf. Continue reading “ginastera’s variations”

boston cello quartet debut album a must buy


The Boston Cello Quartet, comprised of four young cellists from the Boston Symphony, will release its debut disc on February 5th. The BSQ was founded in 2010 by Blaise Déjardin, Adam Esbensen (formerly of the Oregon Symphony, and a Corvallis native), Mihail Jojatu and Alexandre Lecarme. They rotate lead players for each piece they perform, and each player is brilliantly suited to the task at hand, showing the virtuosity and flexibility of the quartet, both collectively and individually.

The album’s title is ‘Pictures’, and this is undoubtedly due to the fact that the centerpiece of the disc is a virtuoso arrangement of selected movements from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.   The arrangement, by Blaise Déjardin, is quite breathtaking in its simplicity and ingenuity. Listening to each of the movements, I found myself quite forgetting Ravel’s virtuoso orchestration, and simply enjoying the tonal possibilities of the four cellos, and the beautiful playing throughout.

There is a wide selection of material for just about any mood on this disc – from the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, to Debussy’s Clair de Lune, to Piazzolla’s La Muerte del Angel. And the piece de resistance may be the final encore selection by Déjardin, his Mozart Variations, which has the temerity to combine Mahler, Mozart, John Williams, Rossini, McCartney, and Haydn into a delightful bon bon.

The sonics of the disc are as superb as the playing. I recommend this disc most highly!

It drops February 5, 2013 and is available through iTunes, CDBaby, and


conspiracy theories

Once again I made the mistake of reading the auditions forum at the website. Once again, there are conspiracy theories being proposed about the results of another major audition – in this case the recent Boston Symphony percussion auditions (one of the winners is a current member of our section here in Oregon). This seems to be a common refrain on this particular site. The fix is almost always in. It makes me wonder how many of these people are those who didn’t make it to the finals, or didn’t win the audition. There’s nothing as sad and hurtful as the expressions of sour grapes. It doesn’t matter how many people who are already in professional orchestras go onto the forums and try to set the record straight – their opinions are almost universally devalued and the discussion always goes back to allegations of nepotism or favoritism. There have been quite a few very respected professionals that have left the myauditions forums due to the overwhelming voices of negativism that exist there. I know players from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Minnesota Orchestra who will never go back to these forums again because of attacks that they’ve sustained in the course of trying to rationally explain the decision-making process of the professional orchestra audition.

It doesn’t matter how great the player(s) are who win. It always goes back to the fact that someone without a connection never had a chance to prove themselves in the audition process (many auditions are resume screened due to the limited time scope of the audition process – the last Oregon Symphony percussion audition had 110 participants). There is always a (to some) compelling argument that there was an injustice in some aspect of the audition process. No one bothers to think about the damage that this does to the winners’ reputation – immediately they are seen as illegitimate winners in the eyes of the people that frequent the forums, and the whispering campaign begins in earnest.

To my thinking, the problem with the vast majority of audition takers is that they are simply not prepared for the audition experience. They suffer from a case of believing their own hype. They think that they are owed a job, and when their greatness is not recognized, then they react with anger and immediately begin to cast aspersions on the process.

It’s gotten to the point that I almost wish that the audition rounds should be broadcast by closed-circuit to the waiting area for the other candidates. Then they can hear how everyone else did, and be able to see a playback of their own audition. Because, most of the time, no matter how well you thought you played (or actually played), someone else played better than you did. Perhaps lifting the veil of secrecy (from the candidates, at least) would alleviate some of the suspicion that seems to be endemic in the audition circuit these days.

Auditions are expensive both for the candidates and the orchestras that are searching for new members. An audition might cost between $500 to $1500 for the candidate, depending if they need to buy a second ticket for their instrument and if they need to stay in a hotel. Orchestras that don’t own their own hall have to rent the space and pay the committee members for their time. The stakes are high for everyone. Audition committees hate not hiring people for their open positions. Really. We would love it if we could find the perfect fit for the position 100 percent of the time, but there are times when this just isn’t possible.

To bring this to a close, I’d just like to say to the musicians that choose to dispute or tarnish the results of auditions: get real. There is no conspiracy or complicity in the vast (99.99%) majority of auditions. Music is a tough business. It chews people up who are sensitive and eager to please, and spits them out with no regard for their feelings. Is this the way it should be? No. It should be a more compassionate model, but this is at loggerheads with the costs associated with running auditions, and the bottom line will always be a tough obstacle in any arts organization. But this is the way things are done now, and they certainly are a lot more fair than, say, forty years ago.

Stop griping and start practicing.