david buck (and dudamel) on pbs

David Buck - Photo: Absolute Images

If you missed Wednesday night’s broadcast of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Gala concert on PBS Great Performances series, you’ll have another chance to catch it.  It will be rebroadcast in HD in the Portland area on Comcast channel 710 at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.  There are some great close-ups of  David, and he gets a solo bow, too!  Check your local listings for HD and standard-def  broadcast times.

misc orchestral stuff

Photo: Kirk McKoy - Los Angeles Times

I became aware of a recent LA Times article about the LA Philharmonic’s principal violist Carrie Dennis through Marjorie Talvi’s blog.  Here’s the headline: Carrie Dennis is easy to notice in the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  The sub-headline is: Yes, she’s the principal violist and deeply respected by her peers. But what makes her stand out are her animated movements during concerts.

I’m bothered by this, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, that this story exists at all.  Why would someone at the LA Times choose to run this story? Is an animated presence on the stage of a major orchestra such a big deal? Was the story planted by someone within the orchestra?  It just seems like such a strange angle on the story about this particular player (who is known in the biz to be quite an animated player).  She’s had such an illustrious career for someone who is in her 30’s.  Why not focus on her start in the Philadelphia Orchestra, her stint in the Berlin Philharmonic, and her arrival to the Los Angeles Philharmonic?  I guess it’s just doesn’t smack of what little controversy they were able to dig up about her amount of bodily motion when she plays.  Another thing that bothers me, no one in her section would go on the record with attribution, except for Jerry Epstein, who retired at the end of last season.  That makes me wonder where the buzz that prompted this article came from.

Another thing that sort of hangs in the air in this article is the dwelling on the fact that she’s a female principal – it almost seems a little like the fetishizing of Cynthia Phelps during the first part of her tenure as principal violist of the New York Philharmonic.  She was a darling of the New York press, and was often written about more for the gowns she wore on gala nights than how she played.  It just goes to show that when you’re a woman in a position of power, you’ll always be taken by appearance first, and by talent second.  And that makes me sad.  Shouldn’t we be past that sort of thing?

on auditioning

Well, it’s been quiet here at the blog for some time, so I thought it might be a good thing to tell you what I’ve been up to.  I went down to Los Angeles this past Sunday to take the audition for the 3rd chair viola position (Assistant principal) of the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Monday.  I didn’t win.  Not even close.  But I played well, and I was in plenty of good company, for this is a plum spot in arguably the best financially positioned orchestra in the world, with a great, iconic performing space, and the hottest young conductor in the world in his first year as music director.

Last week, someone on Twitter tweeted a line from the television program 30 Rock: “An audition is a grotesque carnival of human misery”.  Truer words have never been spoken.  No matter what you do as a performer – playing an instrument, singing, acting, even presenting a visual arts portfolio – being called out onto the stage to play little snippets of music as technically perfect, yet ineffably musical as possible while under the most intense pressures – including money, vanity, reputation, personal neuroses, disappointing your favorite teacher – is one of the most excruciating and unrewarding activities that humans voluntarily deign to undergo.  A couple years ago I auditioned for a similar position with the Seattle Symphony, which you can read here, here, here and here.  I’ll give no similar blow-by-blow this time, I just don’t have it in me.  But I’ve emerged from another fruitless, grotesque carnival with my playing raised to a new level, and with a recital program beginning to form in my mind that I’m very excited to start working towards.  Besides, I love my orchestra, the Oregon Symphony, my first and only real job as a musician, and I have many wonderful colleagues and friends that it would have pained me greatly to leave, so life goes on, and I am content.

Here are a few snapshots that I took during the afternoon after my role in the audition came to an abrupt end: Continue reading “on auditioning”