31. October 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Richard Scheinin has what I think is a pretty correct review of last weekend’s concerts. Of course, what the heck do I know? I was only playing around. I had fun at the concert. That I know.

Meanwhile … I’m spending a bunch of time in Santa Cruz this week. But not at the beach. I am assisting (yes, playing) in the UCSC orchestra concerts, and our faculty recital is on Sunday @ 7:00 PM. Lots of music, lots of playing around!

At least one person absolutely hated the concert last night. (Email me if you want to read more.) I can say here that it’s certainly good we are all hardened musicians who never take anything personally!* ;-)

I’m guessing reviews might say much of what this blogger said. And seriously, I actually expected the majority of the audience to be very unhappy with the concert. We seem to get primarily the over 50 crowd (of which I am soon to become a member … yikes!), and I’m guessing most come to hear the three Bs with a bit of M thrown in. (And I’m not talking Mahler.) Some might say jazz is inappropriate for a symphony. Some, like the blogger mentioned above, don’t care for jazz. My dad wouldn’t want anything with saxophone, and he’s not alone; many think that saxophone doesn’t belong on a symphony stage.

I still say trying something new is a good thing, even if some new things don’t manage to satisfy the entire audience. I just hope we don’t get trashed too harshly. I wonder if we need thicker skin than critics, who seem to have very thick skins indeed.

*There is only one sentence from one review that refers to me that I have by memory, and I’ve been doing this stuff since 1975. It is, of course, a BAD sentence: “The overture was marred only by the bland English horn solo.” Naw … I don’t take anything to heart. Not I!

30. October 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

So someone (a Julliard grad, Nico Muhly), wrote a song cycle using the ever-so-exquisite book The Elements of Style. Read about it here.

Gee, that’s a book I’ve not really read. I know exactly what it looks (or looked, anyway, since this was a while ago) like; we had it at our house (maybe Dan used it?) and I sold plenty of copies when I worked in a bookstore way-back-when.

It’s gotta be a good work; it includes banjo.

I enjoyed playing last night, and was actually fairly happy with all but one thing I did. Being satisfied is a good and bad thing; I like being content with my playing, but I do have another performance so I want to have it be even better. The “good patty” says “You’ll make it even better!” and the “bad patty” says “Well, now you’ll most surely blow it.”

Aren’t voices inside our heads a wonderful thing?

The audience seemed receptive, but not enough to stand at the end. I wonder if the jazz night is too much for many. I wonder if they feel that the music of the “old dead white guys” are the only works who deserve a standing O because, after all, they are dead but still being played and, well, the work must be good then, right? I don’t know if that’s really the case … I’m just wondering aloud.

But standing Os are often a puzzlement. Sometimes when an audience stands I want to scold them and explain that they were cheated—that we didn’t play well. Or that the work isn’t as good as they think (But who am I to make that judgment/judgement*?). Sometimes I want to yell “Stand up, for heaven’s sake!” because I know the performance deserved it. Sometimes it’s the work that demands an O, I think.

But of course that’s just my opinion. And I have silly opinions sometimes.

I’m not saying they should have stood last night, by the way. I’ve wandered away from last night’s concert.

Don’t worry … I’ll wander back at 2:30 today! :-)

*Have you noticed that the word judgment – or judgement (you choose!) – is a very odd looking word, no matter how you decide to spell it?

The Mercury News has an article on the Symphony Silicon Valley and our not having a permanent conductor. It doesn’t really say we should have one, but points out reasons for both having and not having one.

I had been asked if I would go on the record with my thoughts, but had declined. Why? For one thing I think it’s best to be careful with my opinions no matter what; what I say, and especially what gets put in print, can come back to haunt me. (Shoot, I read some my old posts here and realize those could come back to haunt me!), but I also wasn’t certain what the Players’ Committee would recommend regarding this. Too bad … I probably would have gotten this site in the news! Ah well. As I’ve said before, I’m not doing this to become popular. That would be an exercise in futility, don’t you think?!

One thing I will say: It has been very interesting to read reviews of our concerts. So often the conductors that the reviewers like are ones that I can’t follow. Much of the time they seem underwhelmed by those I love. So I wonder … are the reviewers wrong? Am I wrong? Are we all wrong? Is it more subjective than I think? I can say, with certainty, that sometimes a reviewer will say “Conductor X brought out the best in the players” with a conductor we can’t follow. Sometimes they even imply that it’s the best we’ve ever played … or that we played beyond what they believed we were capable. I would suggest that we sounded so good because we had to work so darn hard to keep things together when the conductor was a mess. Some time ago (so don’t go guessing who I’m talking about—besides, I’ll never tell!) a conductor actually ended the work before the final measure. Talk about a challenge for us! The audience and reviewers when absolutely nuts over that conductor. Go figure.

28. October 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

A Brand New Name Orchestra:

Red Bull has an orchestra. Or an orchestra is named after Red Bull. Or something. This is a special orchestra, full of special people. It is, after all, a “nonconformist orchestra”.

I just ran across this and, for now, having nothing more to say about it. I have to go exercise, thus no time. But I knew it was news you would want to hear.

Maybe it’s old news, making it no news, but I hadn’t seen the site before.

And now I see that they already had a performance (Oct. 2). Not sure why I didn’t read all about it in the papers.

I was talking to a colleague in the orchestra tonight and she was saying she wished we’d just hire Paul Polivnick as our permanent conductor. I know what she means. He’s clear. He knows what he wants and seems to know how to go about getting it (I hope he feels as if he’s getting it, anyway!). He is good with time (both rehearsal time and “time-time” if you know what I mean). I think we perform well under his leadership. I don’t know, though, what a lot of others think. I haven’t spoken to many about him, although the ones I am near all like him on the podium.

I’m often amazed to hear different musicians talk about the same conductor. You’d think we were on different planets. It seems as if we were certainly at different rehearsals and performances. It often has something to do with our instrument, but not always. I doubt very much an entire orchestra would ever agree on one candidate.

In our case, though, there doesn’t seem to be any candidates. We hire guest conductors for everything. It does keep things “interesting”, that’s for sure. (And no, I won’t tell you which conductors I thought were horrible, although I feel quite free to rave about the ones I like!)

I think a permanent conductor would give us an identity that would be beneficial. It would add consistency as well. It would also, of course, be costly. So that is a problem. Maybe that is the problem.

Anyway, the Amram is great fun to play and I thought tonight’s run through of it went well, aside from one very stupid English horn player who bungled up two measures. (She promises to do better tomorrow!)

27. October 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Those bad voices … the doubtland voices … have left. My moment of self indulgence and whining and doubt is over.

This is the way I work. And I know some of you were concerned. Please don’t be! I only dwell in negativity for about 24 hours. Then I’m back to my “normal” (hah!) cheery self.

Or is that “abnormally twisted self”.

You choose.

27. October 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Quotes

The wrong note note played with the right intention is much to be preferred to the right note played with no soul.

-Janine Jansen

(I just saw this quote on an iTunes email I received.)

26. October 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

It’s great to be back on stage! Symphony Silicon Valley is back for what looks to be a fun set. We are doing Amram, Ellington and Gershwin and I’m playing English horn on all the works. It’s pretty unusual to have English horn on every work of a concert; not all works include the “pregnant oboe” (my term due to the bell … yes, I’m that silly) so this is a treat! (Not only that … my colleagues won’t roll their eyes and say I earn far too much for doing far too little. What can I say? Some string players think they should be paid per note. Some folks think they should be paid because they play a difficult instrument or have a lot of solos. I think I should be paid, when on EH, for the stress—sometimes I wait 30 minutes to come in on one very difficult solo and that’s all I play! That’s it: I blow that, I blow everything. AND since it’s a solo I might be butchered in a review. But I’m rambling … and, besides, this particular concert I don’t have that sort of part. Whew!)

Okay … back to whatever I was writing about … Paul Polivnick is back as conductor, and it’s always good to have him here. I think he’s especially good with tricky rhythms and the Amram is difficult for some folks, so it’s good to have him on the podium.

Of course everyone knows the Gershwin. Fun piece. Especially if you’ve seen the movie, I think. I don’t know the Ellington, so I can’t say anything about that (yet). The Amram is the toughie for the orchestra. It features three quintets: woodwind (flute, oboe (go Pam!), clarinet, French horn, bassoon), brass (two trumpets, horn, trombone, tuba) and jazz (alto sax, bari sax, electric bass, piano, drum set), and of course a full orchestra with a barrel full of percussion. I have a feeling it’ll not only be fun to hear, but fun to watch!

So have you purchased your tickets yet?