Bass Blog

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

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Boulez times Deux

Stravinsky - Symphony in Three Movements
Stravinsky - Four Studies for Orchestra
Carter - Réflexions
Varèse - Ionisation
Varèse - Amériques

Janácek - Sinfonietta
Szymanowski - Violin Concerto No. 1
Stravinsky - Pulcinella
Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin
Roxana Constantinescu, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone

Boulez came to town with a heap of ‘modern’ music. Maybe that should be amended to ‘scary’ modern music seeing how the concerts were so poorly attended, both here and in that somewhat larger city to the east. Too bad really, since I’m quite fond of Ameriques – the savagery of the piece is right in our wheelhouse!

The Stravinsky pieces were all recorded for our (Grammy winning!) in-house label [Redacted] Resound. (That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?) Sometimes Boulez’s nonchalance and understated approach has had a very positive, calming effect, the perfect antidote to Solti or that other guy who followed him. But now that we have two elderly uncles as caretaker music directors, both of whose podium personae tend towards the soporific, I’m not quite so sold on the effectiveness of the mere flip of the wrist and the shrug. We seem to require a bit more to play together nowadays. The Stravinsky pieces felt pretty loose, to the point of mushiness. I will be curious to see what sort of recording they got from those concerts, although I’m not sure I’ll ever have the heart to listen to them.

The highlight of the two weeks had to be the backstage announcement by our personnel manager that took an unintended turn towards the sci-fi when he requested “All musicians on stage for ionization!

About a week after my last blog post poking fun at our (hopefully) interim junior senator, I ended up finding myself in a strangely parallel situation – complete with all the backstabbing and other niceties of the political world that seem to find a welcome home in the concert hall. Talk about karma!