Bass Blog

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

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Week 48 Ravinia 06

the end…of Ravinia 2008

Program A
MOZART The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384
Hanan Alattar, Constanze
Anna Christy, Blonchen
Topi Lehtipuu, Belmonte
Nicholas Phan, Pedrillo
Morris Robinson, Osmin
Michael York, Pasha
Apollo Chorus of Chicago
James Conlon, Conductor
Kevin Murphy, Continuo/Coach

Program B
MOZART Don Giovanni, K. 527
Ellie Dehn, Donna Anna
Soile Isokoski, Donna Elvira
Heidi Grant Murphy, Zerlina
Toby Spence, Don Ottavio
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Don Giovanni
Samuel Ramey, Leporello
James Creswell, Masetto
Morris Robinson, Commendatore
Apollo Chorus of Chicago
James Conlon, conductor
Kevin Murphy, Continuo/Coach

11-1:30 rehearsal (orchestra A)
2:30-5 rehearsal (orchestra B)

11-1:30 rehearsal (orchestra A)
2:30-5 rehearsal (orchestra B)

11-2:30 (orchestra A)
3:30-7 (orchestra B)

7 program A

7 program B

2 program A

2 program B

This week the orchestra is split in two. Needless to say with my luck I ended relegated to orchestra B. Conlon, undertaking a quasi Barenboimian task, conducts both operas, showing up the instrumentalists who seem to require a day off now and then. Performances take place indoors in the small Martin Theater rather than whatever the place we normally play (outdoors) at Ravinia is called.

Usually with Mozart on the program I feel a mixture of anticipation and dread. I love classical (as opposed to romantic) music – but getting our orchestra to play it, bulked up as we are on a steady diet of Bruckner and Mahler, sometimes resembles coaxing a rhinoceros to play hopscotch. As expected, Conlon continued repeating requests for the orchestra to play more softly, to the point of instigating a minor mutiny. However, the singers seem to be singing quite loudly even in the confined space of the small indoor theater. The Commendatore actually obliterated the trombone section…not by dragging them down to the underworld as some of us had hoped but, improbably, by singing more loudly than they were playing. In the face of all that it became difficult to hear requests to play softly over and over again without getting a little miffed considering what the singers were doing at the edge of the stage.

Rehearsal time was at a premium, particularly for orchestra B, tasked with the longer of the two Operas. There wash barely enough time to play through all of the music in two rehearsals before the run-through, let alone time to make any corrections or discuss esoterica like phrasing, balance, or anything beyond the most basic strategies to keep all of the musicians in the same measure at the same time. In such an atmosphere it is generally agreed that paying attention, avoiding frivolous, non-essential questions and focusing on the most pressing issues at hand is of paramount importance. I can only guess what orchestra A was up to, but here is a little example of our rehearsal technique in orchestra B.

Conlon: I would like the downbeat of measure 102 to be short – for everyone. The entire orchestra, make the downbeat of measure 102 an eighth note. If you have a quarter note, please change it to an eighth. The downbeat of measure 102? Short please – an eighth rather than a quarter – for all instruments.

(less than a minute later, a question barked from the back of the orchestra – no raising hands or ‘excuse me Maestro’ in orchestra B!)

Musician X: Question! That note there, let’s see…. measure one-oh-two, that’s measure…one!…zero!…two! The downbeat – that’s the very first note in the measure – what do you want there? Do you want me to play a short note? I have a quarter note in my part – written in the part! – but I’m hearing eighth notes…

(and so on…)

All in all playing a Mozart Opera has been an interesting and enjoyable experience – something different at very least. Unquestionably it is glorious music and the cast is (in short) entertaining. In spite of some less than optimal conditions in the orchestra (the usual ones) I’m drawing a great deal of solace contemplating the plot of Don Giovanni, specifically the notion that excess, lurid flamboyance, insensitivity and the like, will eventually meet its day of reckoning.

1 comment:

Kyle Werner said...

I miss reading your posts! Where are you?