Bass Blog

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

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Blog of the tour, part 03

Mind the Steps of Central Asia!

One of the problems with touring is that eventually the hilarity stops and you have start rehearsing and playing concerts. The Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory is a wonderful auditorium, provided you can make it to the stage uninjured. The place has some infrastructure shortcomings, not the least of which were the slippery, unevenly spaced stone stairs backstage - I saw two players trip and fall there. But all was forgiven once I took my seat on stage and glanced up at the striking composer portraits. From on high, an illustrious collection of composers kept the on-stage proceedings under stern surveillance. Directly in my field of vision when I looked towards the podium (which is to say, several times) an inscrutable Tchaikovsky appeared to have his gaze fixed on something in the back row of the orchestra. 

As these concerts were some kind of important cultural-political event with the future of Russian-American relations hinging on how well we played, it was only natural the first thing the audience heard were a number of speeches, nearly half an hour of them, truth be told. It may not be well known that, as a rule, musicians (at least this one) detest sitting through pre-concert introductions, welcomes, remarks, presentations, award ceremonies, lectures, explications, words of thanks, praise, sympathy, excuses (so-and-so is not feeling well but has decided to sing anyhow), the unfurling of flags or banners of any type, the viewing of portraits, photographs or sculpture, the bestowal of medals, plaques or trophies, announcements concerning future or past concerts, mention of recordings and other merchandise, reminders about receptions, parties, or vehicles with headlights left on, the wheeling on stage of a giant cake and the singing of 'happy birthday' (I'm looking at you, Costa Mesa!) religious incantations, prayers or evangelizing of any sort, to name but a few of the things I've endured over the years.

Once the music started, the programs (Wednesday: Smirnov, Space Odyssey; Rota, Music from Il Gattopardo; Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5; encore - Verdi, La forza del destino. Thursday, repeated Saturday in St. Petersburg: Smirnov; Strauss, Death and Transfiguration; Frank, Symphony in D minor; Verdi) generally went smoothly, and seemed well received. 

Inclusion of the Smirnov was, according to rumor, something of a political move which made his absence at these concerts all the more puzzling since he had managed to make the trip over to the USA for our concerts. I hope he is feeling OK. At 7 minutes, the evocatively titled Space Odyssey might might be the shortest work to cash in on an association with the ancient Greek wanderer. The program notes back home (sorry, I didn't read the ones in Russian) made no reference to Kubrick, Also sprach Zarathustra or the year 2001.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great article I like your Destino