Bass Blog

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

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Week 38 (The End...of the downtown season)

as ye sow…

HINDEMITH Overture to Neues vom Tage
HINDEMITH Trauermusik
FRIEDMAN Sacred Heart: Explosion
BERLIOZ Harold in Italy
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Pinchas Zukerman, viola

All-Access Chamber Series
Eugene Izotov, oboe
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
Albert Igolnikov, violin
Paul Phillips Jr., violin
Robert Swan, viola
John Sharp, cello
Michael Hovnanian, bass
Mozart Oboe Quartet
Prokofiev Quintet, Op. 39
Brahms Clarinet Quintet
Dvorak Slavonic Dance in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 2


10-12:30 rehearsal
1:30-3:30 Prokofiev quintet rehearsal

10-12:30 1:30-3:30 rehearsals

10-12:30 rehearsal
8 concert

1:30 concert
3:30-6 Prokofiev quintet rehearsal

2 All-Access Chamber Series concert
8 concert

3 concert
7:30 Ars Viva Benefit

(Week 38 was last week. I’m now on vacation.)

After Sunday the orchestra is on vacation until the Ravinia summer season begins in July. Usually we have our main vacation after Ravinia, in August and September, but this year we leave for a European tour on September 1st. Also, Ravinia doesn’t seem to want our orchestra on their property before the 4th of July, even with the dreaded cicadas back in the earth for another seventeen years.

Zuckerman takes nonchalant stage presence and casual concert dress to new levels – whether those are highs or lows is a matter of taste. His performance probably suffered as much as it benefited from its flawlessness. The fact he is able to play with such power lets the orchestra get a bit lazy with our soft dynamics, but that is nothing new. Slatkin safely lead us from the first to last measure of each piece on the program without incident, or much excitement for that matter.

A spirited group performed the Prokofiev Quintet on Saturday. Last week I played the Trout Quintet, so for a few days I maintained the fantasy of playing a real musical instrument with an actual repertoire, but all of that can go back on the shelf again now for another year or so.

Along with our impending vacation, Jefferson Friedman’s Sacred Heart: Explosion generated a fair amount interest among musicians this week. Enthusiastic audience reaction to the piece confounded much of the usual grumbling about new music. Once again, the audience seemed more open minded than the musicians.

Sacred Heart: Explosion, the piece, is based on a painting of the same name by ‘outsider’ artist Henry Darger. Quite coincidentally, Darger lived a couple of miles away from where I’m sitting right now. Darger’s life and work got me thinking of the fragile, sometimes deeply personal nature of the creative process. From time to time I wonder if the atmosphere where new or merely unfamiliar works are subjected to immediate (and more than occasionally mean-spirited) condemnation is really in the best interest of our art form. Certainly, there are those who really do wish to stamp out anything not yet completely fossilized. Others often complain, “How come nobody writes anything good for us to play?” Those remind me of the anal-retentive type gardener, the fellow who meticulously clears the ground, spreads his pesticides, plucks every sprig that pokes its head above ground, saying “Aha! Weed!” and then, one day, looks around and laments “How come there’s nothing growing here?”


nocynic said...

I thought Friedman's piece was wonderful--imaginative, evocative and accessable. It seemed to threaten profoundly the world view of more than a few colleagues, that a new work could be so well received by our audience. The conventional wisdom came to be, "Of course they clapped--it ends in C Major!" So after the second half of the concert ended with a nice ovation for "Harold in Italy", I made it a point to sniff contemptuously: "Of course they clapped--it ends in G Major!" Nobody seemed amused.

Unknown said...

Mike and Max, again thank you for a wonderful downtown season, and thank you Mike for keeping up with this great blog!
As a concert goer I too enjoyed the Friedman's piece, although if someone were to ask me which of new music presented this season will I want to hear again immediately for a second helping, I'd say Chicago Remains, followed by Neruda Songs, and then Sacred Heart/Explosion. I wonder what you guys think of the percussion parts of some of these new works, where half the stage are occupied by drums, bells, chimes and the like. Maestro Muti during his press conference seems to think some of them are not only overly complicated, but also pose a financial strain on some orchestras due to the cost of players and scores. I wonder if contemporary composers choose to score for large percussion because of an active imagination, financial benefits, or in some cases even a lack of imagination. Sorry about the long post. Enjoy your vacation, and I am looking forward to the Mahler week in Ravinia this summer!