… played, of course by the instruments that are Queens of the Woodwinds!

Brava, Bernice Lee!
Arrangement by Fergus Davidson

Les Dissonances chamber music series started performing on June 17. They were quite careful to only seat 150 in an auditorium that seats over 1,600. I believe I read that the audience was also required to be masked but now I can’t remember where I read that.

Only trouble?

The musicians weren’t masked as they shared the stage. They played Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye piano duo, sharing a piano. No gloves, of course. They played duos, trios, quartets … and Natalie Dessay sang at what turned out to be their final concert.

After four concerts they canceled future events because one musician tested positive for Covid-19.

And this is one reason I don’t believe performers will be back to work in the near future. Here in the United States I am certain we won’t be back to work for a very long time: we have been so much worse about being careful and our numbers are far too high and rising.

I find the news of the chamber concerts in France so troubling. When we began to cancel concerts some suggested orchestras play for empty halls but live stream the concerts — as if we are immune to this horrendous virus. (Or is it that we are expendable? Hm.) One orchestra in Germany DID do a live stream concert in that way (funny, though, that many of their regular players didn’t join in and there were a number of subs or second players sitting principal). They were unmasked and seated normally, quite close together, with no screen protection. Early on we were urged to figure things out. Get back out there. Don’t let music die … don’t let the audiences down … don’t let them forget us!

Truth be told, we musicians (and I’m guessing performers in general) have always been so ready (and urged) to work while ill. I know I even played when I had a fever of 102° (many years ago). I know one player who sat in a pit while ill and, as a special little gift, gave a neighboring musician pneumonia. We have had “the show must go on” drilled in to us for far too long.

I’m grateful for the musicians who have the energy to put together the “virtual performances” we find online. No, they aren’t the same as being in a hall full of people, or being on stage with our colleagues, but they are safe. This time of confinement doesn’t mean the music stops. It means it is offered up differently. It does mean some will be retiring rather than returning (lists of openings are growing, from what a friend and colleague told me). But the music doesn’t have to die. It’s a new time of creativity and careful planning. Performers are creatives, after all … time to create in new, safe, experimental ways.

Here … enjoy this wonderful safe performance of the last movement of the Beethoven Oboe Trio, played by Seattle Symphony musicians Mary Lynch, Chengwen Winnie Lai, and Stefan Farkas.

This is an arrangement of La Mer by Emily Tsai. It’s quite astounding what she has done, and I am pretty sure this must have taken EONS to put together! Brava to Ms. Tsai!

From her YouTube page:
La Mer – De l’aube à midi sur la mer
The Sea – From Dawn Til Noon on the Sea
for Oboe Choir/Double Reed Choir
by Claude Debussy
arranged and performed by Emily Tsai

This was definitely a passion project of mine as La Mer is my all time favorite piece of music. I miss playing with my chamber groups, I miss playing in orchestra, and I miss all of my oboe friends, so I arranged this as something that could combine all of the above and pull out all the stops! However, the next arrangement I do, I will recruit said oboe friends as well as some bassoon friends because that bass oboe, while making me feel powerful to play so low, was a FRUSTRATING beast! I hope to someday be able to perform this live with other double reeders and replace those bass oboes with the far superior bassoon!

11. May 2020 · Comments Off on A Bach Goodnight · Categories: BachTrac™, English horn, Oboe d'amore · Tags: , , ,

Saying goodnight with Albrecht Mayer playing Bach … what could be better? Here is is on oboe d’amore and English horn.

Here are the notes from the YouTube page (incorrectly saying he is playing oboe):

Experience oboe superstar Albrecht Mayer playing Bach’s Air from the Orchestra Suite in D Major, arranged for oboe and piano. Albrecht Mayer created the arrangement exclusively for this very special concert at Palais Lichtenau in Potsdam, Germany. Because Albrecht Mayer has a special relationship to Bach’s music, the oboist has deliberately chosen compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. In addition to the Air, Albrecht Mayer and his chamber music partner, Japanese pianist Kimiko Imani, play tenor aria No.7 from the Easter Oratorio, and the bass aria “Mache dich mein Herze rein” from the St. Matthew Passion.

In addition to the instrumentation, this concert is unusual because it was performed without an audience. DW Classical Music is offering a digital stage for some of the many classical music artists who are currently unable to perform for live audiences. The recordings are made by the artists themselves or by a single camera operator. Usually Albrecht Mayer plays in front of thousands. But in these times of the coronavirus crisis, star oboist Albrecht Mayer was very happy to accept our invitation to perform this private concert.

Albrecht Mayer has appeared as a soloist with such eminent conductors as Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2007 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and is an enthusiastic chamber musician, playing with partners including Hélène Grimaud, Leif Ove Andsnes and Lars Vogt. He started playing with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1992, and has remained with them since, despite his growing renown as a concert soloist.

Albrecht Mayer plays an oboe d’amore and an English horn by German maker Gebrüder Mönnig.

Subscribe to DW Classical Music.

08. May 2020 · Comments Off on Charming · Categories: Can't Stop the Music!, CovidTimes · Tags: , , ,

This beautiful beck and call from married duo, Diana Doherty and Alexandre Oguey, is the perfect reminder to take a break from your day and get some sunshine! Enjoy their rendition of Berlioz’s Scène aux champs from Symphonie Fantastique.

06. May 2020 · Comments Off on James Button Plays Albinoni · Categories: Can't Stop the Music!, CovidTimes · Tags: , , , ,

This is beautiful!

From the San Francisco Symphony YouTube page:
Associate Principal Oboe James Button captures magic in this home performance of an Albinoni concerto, transcribed by James for oboes, English horn, & heckelphone.

This piece was a favorite on the 1st oboe CD he purchased when he was 12 years old. “I must have listened to that CD a thousand times that year and always wanted to perform it, so I decided why not now.”

02. May 2020 · Comments Off on Make it Six! · Categories: Can't Stop the Music!, CovidTimes · Tags: , ,

Six English horns, playing the Adagio from Mozart’s Gran Partita. All six are Luca de la Florin. This is so great!

Enjoy!

Beethoven, Trio for 2 Oboes and English horn, Op. 87, Adagio
Eugene Izotov, oboe
James Button, oboe
Russ deLuna, English horn

08. April 2020 · Comments Off on Say WHAT?! Piano AND English horn?! · Categories: Can't Stop the Music!, CovidTimes · Tags: , ,

Yes, indeed, the English hornist of the New York Philharmonic is playing the Ravel Piano Concerto … on piano AND English horn.

I have no words!

From the YouTube page:

Double threat! Watch as New York Philharmonic English Horn Ryan Roberts performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major as both soloists: piano and English Horn.

In Ryan’s words:

“Finally!! The English Hornist gets to choose the tempo. When Ravel was praised for the beauty of this melody, he responded, ‘That flowing phrase! How I worked over it bar by bar! It nearly killed me!’ I think oboists can relate to this sentiment.”

(I actually enjoy it a wee bit slower, but that’s just me and I am certainly not qualified to play in the NYPhil!)