Bass Blog

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

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Week 44 Ravinia 02

Mahler Symphony No. 6 in A Minor
Bernard Haitink conductor

Gala Benefit Evening
Schreker Intermezzo
R. Strauss Morgen, Op. 27, No. 4
R. Strauss Ständchen from Sechs Lieder Op. 17
R. Strauss Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 Canteloube
Three selections from Chants d’Auvergne
Canteloube Bailero
Canteloube La Delaissado
Canteloube Lo Fiolaire
Puccini Two selections from La bohème
Puccini Si, mi chiamano Mimì
Puccini Donde lieta usci
Cilea “Io son l’umile ancella” from Adriana Lecouvreur
Kiri Te Kanawa soprano
James Conlon conductor

Schreker Chamber Symphony
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Chopin Andante Spianato in G Major, Op. 22
Chopin Grand Polonaise in E-flat Major, Op. 22
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Lang Lang piano
James Conlon conductor


11-1:30 rehearsal

2:30-5 rehearsal
8 concert (A)

11-1:30 rehearsal


1:30-4 rehearsal
7 concert (B)

5 concert (C)

Beethoven 7 (last week) and Mahler 6 (this week) were both performed at Orchestra Hall during the 2007-2008 season - the Haitink/Mahler 6 is an exact repeat (same piece/same conductor). Come to think of it, we played Mahler 6 with Conlon at Ravinia last summer as well, so it is hard to say who is copying whom. Sometimes I wish the two organizations were a little (more) cooperative.

I do feel sorry for Haitink though. The forecast calls for 93 degrees on Wednesday. Amsterdam is expecting a high of 65.

Last year the Ravinia management exhibited a great deal of paranoid preoccupation with the 17-year cicadas. But if you take a look at their website, the background image looks suspiciously like a blue swarm of winged insects. Every time you navigate from one page to another, the swarm takes over for an instant, only to be overwritten by Ravinia content – but the bugs are still there underneath, silently waiting for another 16 years.

Fortunately, I have the Gala (Saturday) off this year. Although the program doesn’t look all that bad, galas still drive me nuts with all the speeches, curtain calls, flowers, encores and whatnot. The only thing I’ll miss will be the annual overtime bonanza.

The two hour interval between rehearsal and concert (rather than the usual three) on Sunday is certainly a step in the right direction.


Adriel said...

Re: Mahler 6 in 90+ degrees, is there a clause in your contract or some unwritten rule that dictates under what circumstances musicians can shed those off-white jackets and play in shirtsleeves?

Michael Hovnanian said...

The personnel manager makes the call. I think if it gets over 80 degrees the coats come off. Sometimes it is more the humidity than the heat that makes us suffer, but I don’t think anyone measures it.

As with anything in this business, there is a division between those who favor coats and those who don’t when the situation is borderline. The coat people say we look better (more professional) with the coats and should endure a little discomfort. The no coat folks prefer comfort or (as in my case) have such wretched looking jackets as to completely negate the pro coat argument.

nocynic said...

I'm one of the "we look better in coats" people. Classical music must be the only performance art form in which the performers refuse to believe that the visual component has any effect on the audience's experience. It gets comical sometimes. There are evenings when it is a bit warm, but definitely cooler than some nights at Orchestra Hall when the heat is cranking for some reason--and we are uncomplainingly playing in white tie and (wool) tails! I remember the Chairman of our august Committee just going at it hammer and tongs with a previous personnel mgr one such July night. "I refuse to compromise with the comfort of the musicians!" he fulminated. Like he was Winston Churchill taking a stand at the Battle of Britain or something.

Michael Hovnanian said...

Our MC and its rhetoric sometimes seems hopelessly stuck in the 1930’s, but to be fair, our dress code is clinging to 1830. Both could probably use an update.

I wonder if there is any correlation between players seemingly not caring about the visual component of the performance and our attire being so hopelessly elitist and out of date. White tie and tails belong on revivals of My Fair Lady or dinner at the white house. White jackets? Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, or an ice cream parlor.

Lillian said...

Seeing the midwest orchestra last night brought to mind your jacket comments… and a grin. I'd always been bemused by the mix of white, cream, ivory, eggshell, lab-coat white, antique white, and almost-beige. Different dye lots? Manufacturers? Eras? Exposure/age?

I enjoyed Mahler 6 (esp. the bass “tickles” in the first movement) and was surprised to see so many empty seats. Ravinia management should realize this correlates with their change in seat prices. Seems that prices have gone up, and/or the “zone” boundaries have changed, so that a non-top dollar ticket puts you even further back or off to the far sides and corners. Bad move in light of today's market (gas to get to Ravinia, and other summer entertainment competition).

And while pondering the space in the audience, I also wanted to know… is the orchestra more crowded on stage compared to its downtown home? Full Mahler complement notwithstanding, you all seem pretty crammed in there, but it's hard to get a sense of the depth of the stage without the risers.

Michael Hovnanian said...

As for the differences in jacket colors - all the reason you cite contribute to the non-uniformity.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Mahler. I don't know what the 'bass tickles' could be - I can only imagine...

Yes we are more packed on the Ravinia stage. Also, onstage sound levels are darn near excruciating.