Being a member of the Oregon Symphony, while being, essentially, a job, is often a joy as well. I get to play some of the greatest music ever written with my amazing colleagues. We have a wonderfully musical music director, and a hard working staff, without whom we would not be able to share our music with the public. But, every so often, I look at a program by our young colleagues at the Portland Youth Philharmonic (PYP), and I feel a trace of envy.
A youth orchestra has members that pay to be in the orchestra, instead of the other way around. They have auditions every year to essentially recreate the entire orchestra – if you need eight horns, you admit eight horn players, and there you have it. You don’t need to hire extras, like we at the OSO do. So, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. However, the program that PYP is doing this coming weekend is causing me some serious envy. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.
First of all, they’re doing an overture by Oregon composer Kevin Walczyk, whose music has been performed by the OSO in the past (in fact, this work was commissioned by the Oregon Symphony to celebrate the beginning of music director Carlos Kalmar’s first season as music director), and is always lovely to listen to, and exceedingly well-crafted. Plus, performing works by Oregonians is just plain cool.
Next, they have a freakin’ viola soloist! Yes! Viola power! PYP Concerto Competition winner Samuel Zacharia is playing the Bartók Viola Concerto, which was last played with PYP by a former student of mine, Caitlin Lynch, shortly after the cooling of the Earth’s crust. It’s a wonderful showpiece for the Cinderella of stringed instruments, and Samuel is sure to knock the performance out of the proverbial park.
Finally: Shosty Four. Shostakovich’s sprawling, seething, erupting, and exploding masterpiece is getting its first Portland performance in nearly 30 years. Ooh, I am so jealous of my PYP friends! I have performed this symphony once, when I was at the Peabody Conservatory, and it was an incredible experience. It calls for massive orchestral forces – which means that it costs a lot of money for a professional orchestra to program – and at just over an hour in length, it’s a huge piece in terms of time as well.
In short: this concert is not to be missed!
March 1, 2014 – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 7:30 p.m. WALCZYK: Celebration Fanfare BARTOK: Concerto for Viola Samuel Zacharia, Viola, PYP Concerto Competition Winner SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 4
This Monday marks the beginning of our first set of rehearsals after our spring break. From now until the end of May, it’s pretty much a non-stop run to the final frenzied chords of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The ‘big’ piece, both literally and figuratively, on this week’s program is the Fifth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich.
Did you know that Shostakovich has his own equivalent of ‘birthers’? Yes, he does! The birthers believe that Shostakovich – rather than being a closet anti-Communist, anti-Party activist, whose music is sown with clues to his political agenda – was actually a realist who went along with the Party line to further his own career and spare his own life.
The believers say that the opposite is true – they follow the historical frame set forth in Solomon Volkov’s Shostakovich memoir Testimony. That version of history says that Shostakovich was vehemently anti-Party, and he actively tried to subvert the Communist leadership through hidden meanings in much of his music. I would guess that the trust lies somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.
Much of the controversy around Testimony can be found in this wikipedia article.
More on Shostakovich and his Fifth Symphony in a few days…