Bass Blog

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

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Week 29

It was the best of times…

BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Valery Gergiev, conductor
Isabel Leonard, soprano
Michael Schade, tenor
Laurent Naouri, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus

HERRMANN The Trouble With Harry
HERRMANN Citizen Kane
HERRMANN Fahrenheit 451
HERRMANN Taxi Driver
HERRMANN North by Northwest
Joel McNeely, conductor
David New, narrator
Rebecca Davis, vocalist
Greg Cohen Quintet
Robert Burger, piano
Erik Charlston, percussion
Greg Cohen, bass
Marty Ehrlich, saxophone
Bill Frisell, guitar
Danny Kapilian, producer

Ars Viva
Sibelius Swan of Tuonela
SibeliusViolin Concerto (original version)
Hanson Symphony No. 2 (“Romantic”)
Alan Heatherington, conductor
Yang Liu, violin

7:30 MOB concert (St Matthew Passion)

1:30-3:30 4:30-7 rehearsals

1:30-3:30 4:30-7 rehearsals

9-12 Ars Viva rehearsal
8 concert

12-3 rehearsal
8 concert (Film Night)

10:30-1:30 Ars Viva rehearsal
8 concert

2-5 Ars Viva rehearsal
7:30 Ars Viva concert

This week started in the heavens and ended in the sewer. I only wish I was being metaphoric.

The week began on a high note with the second performance of the St Matthew Passion by MOB at the Harris Theater.

At the other orchestra I work for Gergiev gave an impassioned rendition of the Berlioz, right on the edge of (and sometimes over into) chaos, but capturing the spirit of the piece quite well IMO. He did not conduct with a toothpick this time, only his ‘magic’ fingers flapping and wiggling like Montgomery Burns holding his hands up to a blow dryer. I really am quite fond of Gergiev and wish we would see more of him. Although in town for two weeks he is only conducting four concerts. Next week the Saturday concert is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of our chorus. This past Friday, Berlioz made way for Film Night. Both of those evenings Gergiev is back in New York conducting opera at the Met.

Film Night should probably be renamed Still Picture Night after this week’s performance. The Bernard Herrmann scores are some good (perhaps very good) movie music, the Greg Cohen Quintet made some intriguing things happen, but the visuals didn’t seem up to snuff. Perhaps an inability to obtain rights to use clips (or even stills) from the Hitchcock and Welles films made the presentation rely heavily on drawings of movie scenes and characters or photos of the composer shaking hands with directors. Admittedly, I was busy playing some of the time, but I recall glancing at the screen during one number and seeing a photo of Herrmann and Hitchcock standing together. A few minutes later, when I looked again, the same image was still there. North by Northwest, after what appeared to be stock images of Mt Rushmore, was represented by a series of scribbled pencil drawings. To top that off, the program seemed horribly out of balance. The first half dragged on for an interminable eighty minutes and did not end until twenty past nine. (I’m sure my opera-playing comrades are laughing, but I get very antsy when something goes on for more than an hour.) We took the stage again at 9:40 to begin the second half. Obviously fearing a sizeable overtime payment (per contract, an orchestral concert is considered overtime after two hours, fifteen minutes) the backstage bean counters made an artistic decision and cut some of the Jazz quintet material so the second half clocked in at thirty-six minutes.

Sorry to say, I don’t often read reviews, so I have no idea if critics attend these film night shows or if there is any oversight whatsoever for that matter. This program had a lot of musicians wondering what the heck we were doing. I’m curious to know if any audience members have opinions about these ‘concerts’.

Ars Viva had some problems booking rehearsal space this time around. Rehearsing the Hanson “Romantic” Symphony and Sibelius Swan of Tuonela at 9 AM (!) all but insures somnolence. On Saturday, let’s just say The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie has a serious plumbing issue in the vicinity of their basement rehearsal room. As if twisting the knife, fate had us spending three hours of the first warm sunny day in months down there.

1 comment:

Geo. said...

Extremely late reply, but you get cosmic blog points for using Monty Burns as a reference of description (eeeexcellent, Smithers), even if I am diametrically opposed to CMB's politics (which goes along with Rainier Wolfcastle and the rest of that gang).

I remember the first and only concert where I've seen Gergiev conduct, with the Kirov Orchestra, and the first words out of the mouth of the lady next to me were "rock star" when he walked on stage. He had no podium, and no baton, and at several points, his arm reached over the concertmaster's stand, which was impressive that collision did not occur.