the orchestra world

contract some mahleria

Last night was the first performance of our classical series for this week. As I’m on work hardening and only playing the opening Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 (with fabulous soloist Alexi Kenney), it was my treat to get to sit out in the audience (in the rarified Dress Circle, no less!) for the Mahler Sixth Symphony portion of the program.

What a performance it was! Astonishingly good. It’s hard to grasp, when you’re in the trenches, so to speak, just how the orchestra sounds as a whole. Let me tell you, it sounds amazing. This Mahler symphony has been one that I’ve warmed to slowly (not as slowly as the Seventh, though), but it has many rewards for the attentive listener. If you’re at all on the fence about coming for the remaining performances (Sunday at 2pm, Monday at 7:30pm), I’d whole-heartedly reccomend you do so. It will be a concert you’ll remember for a long time! Oregon Symphony website.


the orchestra world

mozart & mahler

Today was my first day at work for this week’s classical series concerts. Rehearsals for the rest of the orchestra (those playing the Mahler 6th) began on Wednesday. I’m still transitioning to full-time work by playing partial concerts, so I get to play the Mozart G major Violin Concerto this week, with our new-to-me soloist Alexi Kenney.

Violinist Alexi Kenney

I’m at the back of the section again – to avoid disrupting the seating of everyone in the section – and find myself sharing a stand (or rather two stands) with Martha Warrington, who I haven’t regularly sat with since I first joined the orchestra in 1995. We had a laugh over that!

The OSO rehearsing Mahler 6 with Carlos Kalmar, and not me.

It was great to arrive early for my part of the rehearsal and hear this magnificent band play the finale of the Mahler. Terrifying music, played to the hilt, it’s going to be exceptional. Every section of the orchestra sounds fantastic. I’m trying not to feel too bad about missing out by not playing it, but it’s the right thing to do, recovery-wise.

I can’t get over what a different universe it is playing in the back of a string section than playing at the front. In our hall I can see the first desks just fine, but have no inkling of how they’re playing passages, unless I spend all of my time looking at them to figure out bow strokes, etc. I can’t really even hear the stand right in front of me. I can really hear the double basses, though. I can sort of hear my stand partner, but only if we’re out of sync.

What I can hear – besides the basses – is the soloist, the winds, and occasionally the first violins. The second violin section may as well be on another planet, which is especially vexing as they and the violas share a lot of inner voice figuration. I think I can sometimes hear the cello section, but I’m not entirely sure about that.

Anyway, it was so nice to be back, and not tagged onto the end by myself this time. I have been worrying a lot about coming back from a long absence and being in the back – it’s a double case of unfamiliarity. Last week I played the Chick Corea special, on the front stand, but the violas were sitting inside for the first time in eons, and that didn’t really count as ‘normal’ due to the novelty of the situation.

Next week I’ll be back in my normal location for the entire concert, and it’s going to be pretty special. We’re doing a full production of The Tempest by Jean Sibelius. It’s completely unknown to me – I never even read the play in my English literature courses – but the cast is stellar and the production values should be high. It’ll be a concert evening that you won’t want to miss! Check out the deets here.

the orchestra world

post-season thoughts

Oregon Symphony | Photo: © Charles Noble
Oregon Symphony

I was musing over this past weekend’s performances of Mahler’s Third, and there were quite a few remarkable things/moments that came up – so I thought I’d share them here. In no particular order:

  • James Shields (principal clarinet) has the most amazing clarinet sound I’ve ever heard.
  • Martha Long’s (principal flute) subito pianissimo in the final adagio: breathtaking!
  • Mark Dubac (E-flat clarinet) playing as klezmer an un-klezmer solo as you can without going over the line. Well done, my friend!
  • Sarah Kwak’s (concertmaster) solos – the perfect sound for Mahler.
  • The entire double bass section for their frenzied passage in the first movement – it was like a seismic event!
  • Robert Taylor (acting principal trombone) played his huge solos with such grace and power.
  • The entire low brass section played with such power and precision. What an amazing group you are!
  • Chris Whyte for his huge final cymbal crash – you’ve got cahones!
  • Timpanists Sergio Careno and Jon Greeney – epic synchronized swimming at the close of the last Adagio.
  • Michael Roberts on the bass drum – such a beautiful touch!
  • The entire string section for that hushed beginning to the final adagio – what an honor it is to play with you all!