Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian plays bass in an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Week 36

Bicket’s charge

VIVALDI Piccolo Concerto in C Major
RAMEAU Suite from Les Boréades
INTERMISSION
VIVALDI The Four Seasons
Harry Bicket, conductor
Jennifer Gunn, piccolo
Yuan-Qing Yu, violin

Monday
off

Tuesday
10-12:30 rehearsal

Wednesday

10-12 1-3:30 rehearsal

Thursday
10-12:30 rehearsal
8 concert

Friday
8 concert

Saturday
8 concert

Sunday
3 concert (Beyond the Score)

The Vivaldi/Rameau program is repeated on Tuesday the 27th so, yes, we play the Four Seasons five times in a one-week span. It really feels more like seven since by the end of a Beyond the Score concert I feel as if I’ve run through the piece three times in a row.

Any so-called baroque music specialist taking the podium at our concert hall is working behind enemy lines. The best ones drop in, stir up as little hostility as possible while accomplishing a limited mission and try to get the heck out unscathed. To that end, Bicket did an admirable job of coaxing an old dog to do a few new tricks. He came across as a fine musician with a lot of interesting ideas about the music, particularly something prone to war-horse-ishness as the Vivaldi. It was nice to see a conductor able to communicate his thoughts in a pleasant manner, non-dogmatic manner. He even got us to go along with a few of them.

The last BTS concert featured The Planets, this time The Four Seasons. There seems to be predilection for popular pieces that already have some sort of program – I wonder if we are going to end up with Carnival of the Animals and the Grand Canyon Suite someday. I’m working on L’Éléphant just in case…

This time around there were fewer examples (78, down from 90 for The Planets) but the first half of the concert still clocked in at about 70 minutes. I find these BTS shows exhausting, playing all of those tiny, out of context snippets, waiting for cues, starting and stopping add odd places in the music. A few of the examples cut off very awkwardly right before a cadence and it is very tempting to resolve a hanging dominant chord in embarrassing fashion. This performance was notable for an odd bit of stagecraft when one of the cameramen was given a curtain call along with the actors, conductor and soloist; the first time I’ve ever seen that happen.

4 comments:

max said...

The Seasons may be a warhorse, but not in these parts. I don't believe I've ever played it in a certain unspecified midwest orchestra. We need to redefine what Mr. Hovnanian felicitously calls "war-horse-ishness." In Mr. Hovnanian's band, Mahler 6 is a warhorse, as is Boulez' "Notations", and Bruckner's 4th. But Mendelssohn's "Italian", the Franck d Minor and "Les Preludes" are not.

Michael Hovnanian said...

I've never even heard of those last three.

Marc said...

Wasn't Mendelssohn German?

George said...

We just had a performance of "The Four Seasons" here last night, 300 or so miles south-by-southwest of the first unnamed city. A little rough and ready, but the idea was to give a more "popular" themed concert to try to appeal to newbies to the symphony hall. The orchestra's new prez said in his intro that about 30% of the ticketgoers last night had never been to a symphony concert there before. Plus, each concerto had a member of the orchestra as soloist, rather than one violinist soloing in all 4.