soloists walking the tightrope

This week we’ve been fortunate to have the wonderful violinist Chee-Yun in town (replacing the ailing Arabella Steinbacher) to play the Dvorak Violin Concerto.  She’s playing so well – a great combination of clean playing and grab-you-by-the-throat intensity that’s often lacking in the newer generations of violinists (you often get either clean playing, or passionate playing, but seldom both at the same time).

As the member of a string section, I’m fairly constantly in awe of soloists – either those who play out in front of the orchestra, or who play from within.  There is such an added level of concentration that is demanded when you’ve got the spotlight entirely on you, and often the most exposed passages are also the most treacherous ones.  If you screw up as a principal wind player (or even a non-principal), it’s usually pretty obvious, whereas in a string section you’ve got a bit more cover (unless you totally blow a rest or some other catastrophic failure).  So when I see an assistant principal player like OSO flutist Alicia DiDonato-Paulsen step up and play some really fine solos (especially in the Rossini/Respighi ballet score), I very much have to tip my hat to them – they’re coming out of their comfort zone just to the right of their principal, and having to step up their concentration and game a notch or two.

This stuff is very much on my mind right now, as I find myself struggling through my usual January/February doldrums which usually culminate in a major crisis of my worth as a player (and by extension, as a person).  This week’s concert was made up of three pieces that I’d never played before, two of which I’d never even heard before, and that always causes me to put more pressure on myself to try to learn my parts even more thoroughly that I usually do, and to be hyper-critical of myself when I fall short of my objectives.  So as someone who is working mightily to try to keep my A-game these days, it’s humbling and inspiring to see both a soloist from outside the orchestra, and those from inside the orchestra playing so wonderfully.  It’s too easy to start taking these stellar performers for granted.

flutist makes impression in pittsburgh

If you came to tonight’s Oregon Symphony concert (and given the modest numbers in attendance, you most likely did not), you might have noticed that our principal flutist, David Buck, was not on stage.  (He was capably covered for by assistant principal flutist Alicia DiDonato Paulsen in many solo turns in the Rossini.)  It turns out that David was playing a series of concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony as a guest principal this weekend.  It’s a tremendous honor, Pittsburgh is one of the big, major orchestras, and like the OSO is also led by an Austrian conductor, Manfred Honeck.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The woodwinds throughout provided nuances that blended well, especially the solos of guest principal flutist David Buch [sic], of the Oregon Symphony.


From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

The surprise was the impressive guest principal flute David Buck. He’s principal flute of the Oregon Symphony.


mozart, dutilleux, and more

Monday marks the beginning of the rehearsal period for our next Classical concert, November 21-23.  Conducted by Resident conductor Gregory Vajda, this program will feature a pretty diverse group of compositions.

Though not the major work on the program, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for winds will feature four of our outstanding wind principals: David Buck, flute; Martin Hebert, oboe; Carin Miller, bassoon; and John Cox, horn.  It’s a wonderful work, and is one of those discovered pieces in which the solo parts and a rough score were found in Mozart’s own hand, but for which there was no autograph of a completed score.  The orchestral parts were most recently reconstructed by musicologist/pianist Robert Levin.  Here’s a short video introduction to the piece by New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert:

Also on the program: the Second Symphony “Double” of Henri Dutilleux.  It’s entitled the Double because it features a smaller ensemble pitted against the larger full orchestra.  It’s an early piece of Dutilleux, who is considered to be the heir to the tradition of Debussy and Ravel, and is one of the first pieces where his mature voice emerges.  What is his sound world? Think early Webern and Schoenberg as they relate to Brahms and Mahler.  His music is tonal, very French in its outlook, but decidedly modern, with hints of the Impressionist school clearly in evidence.

An early overture of Mendelssohn opens the program, and the (sorry for the cliche) swashbuckling Le Corsaire Overture of Berlioz closes the program.