Bass Blog

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

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Week 18

Winter chamber Festival
Friday, January 18, 7:30 PM

Johannes Brahms, Clarinet Trio in A Minor, Op. 114
Sergei Prokofiev, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in D Major, Op. 94a
Louis Spohr, Nonet in F Major, Op.31
Alan Chow, piano
Mathieu Dufour, flute
Scott Hostetler, oboe
Steven Cohen, clarinet
Lewis Kirk, bassoon
Gail Williams, horn
Gerardo Ribeiro, violin
Catherine Brubaker, viola
Stephen Balderston, cello
Kenneth Olsen, cello
Michael Hovnanian, bass

Music of the Baroque

Symphony No. 34 in C Major
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major
Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major
Jane Glover, conductor
Imogen Cooper, piano

The other orchestra I play for

LIADOV The Enchanted Lake
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 2
RACHMANINOV Symphony No. 2
Antonio Pappano, conductor
Han-Na Chang, cello

9:30 In-school education concert

10-12:30 orchestra rehearsal
4-6 Spohr Nonet
7:30 concert (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky)

12-2:30 3:30-5:30 orchestra rehearsals
7-10 MOB rehearsal

10-12:30 orchestra rehearsal
1:30-3:30 Spohr Nonet
8 orchestra concert

1:30 orchestra concert
4-7 MOB rehearsal
7:30 Winter Chamber Festival concert

2-5 MOB rehearsal
8 orchestra concert

2 In-house chamber concert
7:30 MOB concert

Last week Polianichko, this week Pappano. The answer to the question how replacement conductors are chosen seems to be that someone had their big conductor directory open to the ‘P’ section. In truth, I have no idea how last minute substitutes are engaged. Depending on the lead-time, there is probably a fair amount of panic involved.

This ended up as a very busy week. Why is it when you sign on for extra work it all falls in the same few days? I almost feel as if, for a brief moment, I’m part of the musical life in this city. But don’t worry; things will all go back to normal next week when I can go back to practicing scales again.

The In-house chamber concert is a benefit for Bach Week in Evanston with flutist Anita Miller-Reider.


Unknown said...

Not just 'P,' but 'AP.' If you could've had Chicago Opera Theater's Alexander Platt and Astor Piazzolla, it would have been four in a row.

nocynic said...

I should let Mike have his own damn blog, I suppose, but I cannot resist addressing some of the issues he raised in response to my comments. Mike is quite right that our orchestra is rather hostile to new music—up to a point. Almost all the new pieces we play as an orchestra are heartily despised. But if you look at the chamber programs that our colleagues play, you see a respectable number of works by living composers. I would guess that new music takes up a larger proportion of the chamber and solo music our colleagues play than shows up on the orchestra’s programs. But it is rarely by the same composers as show up on subscription programs. As a full disclosure, I should mention that I compose a fair amount of music and have found that my colleagues in the orchestra are more than willing to play my stuff, Mr. Hovnanian included.
So I think that to some extent the problem is that the musicians don’t hate new music in principal but rather they hate the new music that we have programmed in the orchestra in particular. (Of course we have a number of troglodytes that wish our repertoire stopped with Shostokovich, but I think this a distinct minority.) And I would argue that this problem might be addressed with some orchestra input into the new music we play. Our past music director of blessed memory loved Carter, Boulez, and their acolytes. I would be hard put to find five musicians in the orchestra who share this enthusiasm. Unquestionably, it cleared out our hall like a stink bomb, and this did not further endear it to us on the stage. We much prefer playing music that fosters large enthusiastic audiences.
I suspect that more musician input might actually help our problems with new music. For one thing, if some actual musicians had a say in the new music we play, we would be guaranteed that at least a few of us on stage were invested in the music we are playing; this would constitute a significant improvement over the status quo. Also composers would be given to understand that they need to write music that gives the performers pleasure if they wished to have a work played by our orchestra (which herein must remain nameless).
One of the real problems in classical music is that there is a huge schism between performer and composer, a really weird state of affairs if you think about it. Composers mostly don’t play an instrument at anything resembling a professional level, and very few performers compose. It was not always so. In the days gone by, the great composers—Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bartok, Rachmaninoff—tended to be great performers, and the great virtuosos—Paganini, Bottesini, etc--composed. This schism has resulted in a lot of music coming our way written by composers with very little hands-on experience, who use our instruments ineptly. This stuff would never get by a committee of musicians, and that is all to the good if you ask me.