Needless to say, I overslept. There was a lovely and generous bagel and lox breakfast scheduled at the Strand bookstore, an NYC institution, which is owned by the wife of Senator Ron Wyden, Nancy Bass. But, I missed it.
After the last massive chord of the RVW Fourth Symphony faded into the fabled expanse of the Carnegie Hall auditorium, and the cheering audience finally let us leave the stage after four curtain calls, we all made our way to the Hilton Mercury Ballroom for a wonderful reception with our many Portland friends that joined us here in NYC. The canapes and drinks were flowing, and there was a great time had by all. Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening was seeing the evening finery that many of the female musicians (and some of the men) donned for the after party. We’re a classy bunch, onstage and off.
There are still so many impressions and memories swirling around in my brain after our performance last night. I’ll share some of them here in no particular order.
While we do have an orchestra with incredible principal players and soloists, we also have a great orchestra – and that comes from what a sports team might call a “deep bench”. You don’t get a warm, luxurious, flexible string sound with a few stars and a bunch of deadwood. You have to have quality all the way through every section. This is a fact that is often omitted in reviews (even if it’s regarded as a given). That being said, our stars proved their worth last night.
Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki played wonderfully all evening, but his solos in John Adams’ Wound Dresser, which are like a high-wire act, were great playing. His sound was wonderfully plangent, by turns warm and relaxed, then tense is wiry as befitted the text he accompanied.
Principal trumpeter Jeffrey Work nailed his high work in the Adams, and sounded great in his offstage solos in the Ives. He continues to inspire and impress all of us in the orchestra.
The entire brass section was just awe-inspiring. They finally had a space in which to allow their power to be rounded and warmed, rather than brightened and made harsh, as in the Schnitz. And they played exquisitely softly and sensitively in the RVW Fourth Symphony, when they accompanied the plaintive final flute solo of the slow movement.
The percussion section was precise and powerful and accurate – always a good combination with percussion. It must have been nice to finally hear the rest of the orchestra on stage and be able to actively play chamber music with the rest of us. Their work is so difficult to do well back home at the Schnitz. Susan Dewitt Smith did a great job on the piano and keyboard parts in the Adams and Britten.
Our woodwinds: just as world-class as they always have been. Gorgeous playing all along from everyone from top to bottom. But I’ve got to single out one player for special praise: Acting principal flutist Alicia DiDonato Paulsen. She has been brilliant in her acting role all season, and she more than rose to the occasion last night. She owned the stage with her wonderfully emotive playing.
Principal bass Frank Diliberto and his bass section must have been in seventh heaven last night – their sound was warm and full, and clear to everyone. We never get to hear them well at the Schnitz, and they constantly have to practically beat their instruments to be heard in that acoustic. Last night, they sounded unified, blended, and warm. What more could one ask for in a bass section?
The cellos also benefitted from the bass-friendly acoustic, producing a sound that belied their still too-few numbers, even with one extra player. The opening to the Britten was chilling, the Jaws-like semi-tones insinuating themselves through the hall. Wonderful playing from our cellos!
The violins finally had a space that didn’t turn their sound more shrill than warm, and their sound took on a golden sheen at Carnegie, no one player sticking out, all playing in unanimity of purpose and expression. Principal second violin Chien Tan led ably, and with confidence.
The violas! I think it’s safe to say that we all enjoyed ourselves a lot. Principal violist Joël Belgique led with his clear and pure sound, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard our section play so perfectly together before. It may have something to do with the fact that we could finally all hear each other as a section, rather than just one seat next to us or in front of/behind us. I’m so proud of our section – we always try to have a good time as well as play our best, and I think we managed to do both last night – DIE BRATSCHEN SIEGEN!
Finally – Carlos. It must have been a night of extraordinary pressure for him, the eyes of lots of critics and managers were upon him last night, but he handled it all with easygoing grace and fierce conviction in his conducting. During the soundcheck, he adopted the perfect approach to inspire confidence, carefully checking balances and giving us several chances to get through the tricky corners in a new and unfamiliar acoustic. It all worked brilliantly, we were thoroughly ready to just play when the concert came, and he led with confidence and joy all night. Thanks for the great leadership, Carlos!