Bass Blog

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

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Monday, December 21, 2009

From Russia With Love

TCHAIKOVSKY The Storm [L'Orage], Op. 76
TCHAIKOVSKY Selections from The Snow Maiden, Op. 12
Alex Balestrieri, Narrator
TCHAIKOVSKY Selections from Swan Lake, Op. 20
Alexander Polianichko, Conductor
Redmoon Theater
Frank Maugeri, Artistic Director
Alex Balestrieri, Narrator

All of the concerts I've played since the week of Thanksgiving have been in the dark (sometimes both literally and figuratively) with stand lights and visual aids. I had the week conducted by Nicholas Kramer off, so I have no idea if they had pole dancers and a laser light show for those performances. It certainly seems as if we are resorting to a lot of smoke and mirrors of late. Also, since my night vision really sucks, I find playing in the dark kind of a drag. The stand lights never seem bright enough.

One place I could have done with less light was on the podium. Polianichko pitched a couple of no-hitters in the four performances. I think it was the Selmer Musical Instrument Company that used to provide folders for school bands and orchestras. On the inside of those folders were diagrams of the conductor's beat patterns – reminiscent of the Arthur Murray dance step charts, with the footprints and the dotted lines. I wish somebody would copy those beat patterns and fix them to the mirror in the conductor's dressing room as a kind of refresher, one last thing to look at before going on stage, after fixing hair and making certain trousers are zipped up.

The Redmoon Theater collaboration was interesting, as much of it as I could see, and the Tchaikovsky music certainly appropriate for the season. For a number of years Boulez used to conduct the weeks leading up to Christmas, when we would treat the audience to such holiday favorites as The Miraculous Mandarin, Sacre du Printemps, Notations, Le visage nuptial, Livre pour cordes.

The email sent by a colleague and the Russian music this week had me thinking about the tour to the Soviet Union back in 1990 – the open bottles of vodka at every table for each meal, the emaciated dietician from Jewel, the rat running through Thanksgiving dinner, the black marketeers installed in the Moscow hotel room, the unique and peculiar headache brought on by the Russian champagne, 'Chuck' running through the train with his gun. All sorts of happy memories for the holiday season!

The Gunnelpumpers show at Miskas on Friday night managed to salvage the week.


Gerontius said...

It could be a good deal worse - you could have Gergiev as a guest conductor........meaningless arm waving and finger twirling. I have no idea how any orchestra follows him.

Michael Hovnanian said...

I'll take Gergiev and his toothpick any day of the week.