Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Week 28

That’s infotainment!

RAVEL Pavane for a Dead Princess
DEBUSSY Nocturnes
HOLST The Planets
Charles Dutoit, conductor

Music of the Baroque
Bach Passion According to St. Matthew
Jane Glover, conductor
Christine Brandes SOPRANO
Catherine Wyn-Rogers MEZZO-SOPRANO
Paul Agnew TENOR
Nicholas Phan TENOR
Christòpheren Nomura BASS-BARITONE
Sanford Sylvan BASS-BARITONE




10-1 MOB rehearsal
1:30-3:30 4:30-7 rehearsals


10-12:30 (open) rehearsal
8 concert

1:30 concert
7-10 MOB rearhsal

1-5 MOB rehearsal
8 concert


3:00 concert (Beyond the Score)
7:30 MOB concert

The hated Saturday rehearsal gave us Tuesday off in trade. Along with Sunday and Monday, that made three days off in a row and an extra day to forget everything we accomplished. Not that we had much of a chance. The second Wednesday rehearsal scheduled for the Holst was no more than a recording/filming session for the Beyond the Score Program, which may be made available online someday. If Saturday rehearsals are sore point with me, having to wear a suit and tie to a rehearsal and being filmed is another one.

Maybe it is faulty recollection, but those Beyond the Score things seem like they keep getting longer. This one has 90 separate musical examples. A very interesting feature of this presentation is that two different narrators pronounce Uranus two different ways within a few seconds of each other: one the funny way, the other the not so funny way.

Although it makes for some long days, the MOB performance of the St. Mathew Passion is a good opportunity for me to wipe out the memory of my other Easter season gig.


Lillian said...

Just today I read the comment (re: Dutoit, observed antics of) to your 3/21 post. Interesting! I attended last night's concert with a trombonist friend -- we both found Dutoit hard to follow. All CSO efforts to do so were thus considered indeed heroic.

Brad said...

The open rehearsal on Thursday was an interesting experience from the audience perspective. At times I had a hard time hearing and understanding what Mr. Dutoit was trying to say, but the musicians appeared to be having the same problem, with confused looks on faces and a lot of "ear-enhancement" gestures. Either way, he seems to be a nice, intelligent man with a true grasp of impressionistic music.

The Orchestra, of course, sounded great, but I was surprised that Mr. Dutoit stopped to address matters of style, balance, and dynamics, but not the lack of togetherness I occasionally noticed during The Planets.

Steve0617 said...

As a member of the Holst lucky sperm club (my great half uncle), I loved Saturday's performance from the Terrace. I have no idea if I should (I'm not in touch with the subtleties of a really great orchestral performance) or if the orchestra that cannot be named trampled it. Seemed amazing to my untrained ears.

To me, as a non classical guy (last time I was in the building that cannot be named was for the Count Basie Orchestra), I had a terrific time. Might even make it a habit to come out more often. But not the Pops or Christmas stuff - even that's too cheesy for me. [grin]

Michael Hovnanian said...

Thanks for coming! It was gratifying to play to four sold-out houses.

I think you heard a pretty good performance (if I may say so) as that repertoire is right in our wheelhouse.

I’m curious if you let our management know your bloodlines, and if they comped you…

Steve0617 said...

I did not and they did not. Would have felt smarmy to attempt a comp simply because grandfather (Thorley) was Gustav's youngest (half) brother.

Happily paid full face (thanks Craigslist!) just like everyone else. Musicians gotta get paid too!

nocynic said...

I think you are a little harsh on our "Beyond The Score" endeavors. The script for "The Planets" gets into rather arcane issues of key relationships and the Circle of Fifths--I wouldn't exactly call that "Infotainment". Full disclosure: I've spent some time with the mastermind of this project, Gerard McBurney, and I like and admire him a great deal. It is amazing how much the man knows about just about everything, and how adept he is at finding relationships between the music we play and the outside world it emerged from. I don't always agree with his syntheses, in fact sometimes I think they are quite a stretch, but he is never less than thought provoking. And I think that in our world today, with classical music being increasingly marginalized and perceived as irrelevant, a series that shows how it is tied to the rest of the world is a welcome tonic, especially since it seems to sell out every show now. You often chide your colleagues for instinctively rejecting any attempt to do anything differently. Could it be that you are guilty of the same in your dismissal of our groundbreaking "Beyond the Score" initiative?

Michael Hovnanian said...


Your comments are always appreciated.

Sorry if my meaning wasn’t clear. Calling BTS infotainment (or maybe more accurately edutainment) isn’t dismissing it at all, just calling it what it is: information (or education) wrapped in an entertaining package. It’s not my cup of tea, but that isn’t to say we shouldn’t be doing it.

A couple of things I find interesting:

The announcement by someone like Boulez or Barenboim of their belief that part of our mission is to educate the audience often elicits scorn and ridicule from musicians. In fact when it comes to ‘modern’ music I’ve heard the argument that if the listening experience is enhanced by an explication of the composition it is somehow a sign of inferior or deficient music. There seems to be a widely held belief that great music speaks for itself and is immediately graspable.

Another common musician complaint is that the orchestra is increasingly marginalized when we are forced to play backup to some pop or musical theater act. Even though the subject of most BTS presentations is ostensibly classical music, the orchestra is essentially providing the soundtrack to a multimedia presentation.

The second issue is part of the reason BTS isn’t my cup of tea. I wonder if the presentation would suffer greatly (or perhaps improve) if we simply recorded all the musical examples the day before and let the actors, narrators, dancers and whomever else do their thing without us blocking the audience’s view of the screen. Interaction between the orchestra and the ‘cast’ is nonexistent anyhow. As clever and informative as the BTS presentations are, they don’t seem to have much to do with a live (or mostly alive) group of musicians. When we are sitting in the dark watching a film clip, I can’t help but feel the orchestra is being underutilized.

nocynic said...

A fair point, Mike. We are a backup band for the first half of the "concert"; indeed arguably a just an interior decorating scheme (Live musicians in white tie and tails!). But I feel there is a payoff when we perform the work under examination in its entirety, with no visual aids, after intermission. I sense the audience is listening with enhanced appreciation and indeed I have heard patrons tell me that they fell a deeper understanding and appreciation of the work after the Beyond The Score presentation. And that to me is more than a fair tradeoff for your legitimate concerns.