Bass Blog

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

Feel free to email your comments.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The passage of our most dread Sovereign

A good week to think about new and better leadership.

Riccardo Muti taking the podium the week after Dudamel gave audience and orchestra a good chance to compare and see if ours is greater than theirs, so to speak. They were both quite good, actually.

Muti stayed on focus through all the hoopla surrounding his brief 3-concert run here. As a result, the Verdi Requiem hasn’t sounded better, at least not in this zip code. In the wrong hands the piece all to easily turns into a lurid sort of Opera buffa for the dearly departed. Perhaps disappointing a few, Muti took some of the John Philip Sousa out of the Requiem and restored a much-needed degree of sobriety. He had our long-suffering chorus in fine form as well.

As before, the Maestro proved capable of making his mark in a gracious and even entertaining manner. In rehearsal, anecdotes, jokes, and various other remarks can easily bore or infuriate an orchestra when handled ineptly. In this case they mostly served to focus attention on the task at hand rather than distract. Throughout the week Muti seemed aware that in addition to putting together an excellent performance of the Verdi, it might be in his interest to develop a good working relationship with the orchestra. As obvious as that sounds, not all Maestros tend to proceed in such a way.

All in all, a good start for a new era.

13 comments:

Brad said...

I attended the Saturday concert, and it's still on my mind. The music, the intensity, the performance standards of everyone on stage, all created a stunning experience. It was a triumph, and as great as the orchestra typically plays, I'm not sure I've ever heard it sound better than that evening.

Catherine said...

"Long-suffering chorus" eh? Out of curiosity, why do you say that?

Michael Hovnanian said...

That's just a figure of speech.

max said...

I think the lack of Sousa did indeed "disappoint a few". This is second hand, but from a very reliable source. One of our prominent practitioners of a very high decibel instrument was heard lamenting the fact that he was not allowed to favor us with the full range of his volume artistry. He was heard complaining that he and his coinstrumentalists' contribution was, to his mind, inaudible. This roughly translates as meaning that the rest of the orchestra was, for once, audible.

Michael Hovnanian said...

God help us...

But one of those fellows pushed very hard for Muti to get the job, so maybe there's a ray of hope.

Chicago Symphony Chorus Blog said...

I think MUTI is a ray of hope, especially to the "long-suffering chorus."

Plush said...

I feel that the chorus IS long suffering; and it is suffering brought on by themselves. In demanding to be the highest paid chorus in the USA, they now find themselves less used in number of services per year.

In my 30 years in the business, one will seldom find a bigger malcontent than a member of a prominent orchestra's chorus. They just never get enough attention it seems. Insecurity is a bitch, ain't it?

Michael Hovnanian said...

If you want a cheaper chorus, I’m afraid that’s just what you will get. The policy to use ‘discount’ ensembles in the summer season is not a good one, IMO.

It is my understanding that in some years the chorus was not used enough to cover their minimum number of services, so I’m not sure money is the only issue.

Chicago Symphony Chorus Blog said...

Dar Plush:

The Chorus was offered more money years ago to entice good, experienced singers to stay or to join, since the group no longer has the caché it had under Hillis, with far less rehearsal and a much lower performance standard than the Chorus is accustomed to.

Although the reasons for that are varied, it is generally understood that this ploy did not work.

Kyle said...

Michael, this is off topic, but I really enjoyed your performance of the Beethoven Septet last Friday.

Michael Hovnanian said...

Thanks, I enjoyed it too.

eric said...

I've always thought those JP Sousa moments were far more obnoxious than the score notates. It's good to read the traffic cop was doing his job well!

How does Muti feel about opening some rehearsals; is he against that?

Michael Hovnanian said...

Too early to tell, for me anyway. The Verdi was a special case.