Bass Blog

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

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pray for Rain


Since no summer of Bass Bloggery can go by without commentary on the season at Ravinia, it is time to take on the festival.
“What are you doing home on a Saturday night?” one of my neighbors who knows what I do for a living asked during a recent impromptu front porch gathering, calling attention to the fact that in years past the rigors of my profession often forced me to eschew the warm weather social scene on our block. Happily, I could inform my neighbor since the {redacted}SO would only have three Saturday performances all summer, my attendance at future gatherings would be more likely. Having been at something of a loss for words to describe this year's iteration of the festival, and also desiring to come across as a bit less judgey about our summer working conditions, I hit upon the notion that through numbers I might be able to describe the situation. Numbers, after all, being impartial arbiters of fact, don't lie. So here are a few numbers about the {redacted}SO summer season at Ravinia.
Number of weeks – 6
Total concerts – 16
Concerts conducted by Music Director – 5
Saturday concerts (see above) – 3
Sunday concerts – 4
Weekend concerts of classical music – 1.5 (One half point deduction for Gala all Tchaikovsky concert use of live canon)
Film nights – 4
Pops concerts – 2
Classical music concerts of orchestra without soloist(s) – 0
Rehearsals needed to put together film night Fantasia concert – 3
Rehearsals needed to record soundtrack with James Levine – 0 (I think we had 3 recording sessions...)
Performances of Star Spangled Banner – 2
Performances of works by Mozart – 3
Performances of works by Beethoven – 2 (not counting Fantasia)
Performances of works by Tchaikovsky – 2 (not counting Fantasia)
Performances of works by Elfman – 15
Performances of works by living composers (excluding pops or film nights) – 7 (OK, I'm joking: 0)
Total number of rehearsals – 34
Rehearsals per concert – 2.125
Concerts under conductors I have never heard of – 5
Perhaps I'm finally succumbing to Old Fart Syndrome (OFS), the main symptom of which is clinging to the belief that everything which occurred in the past is vastly superior to that which is happening now. Nevertheless, I seem to recall the {redacted}SO experience at Ravinia used to be something quite different from what it has become. We used to put on eight weeks of concerts, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from about the middle of June until the middle of August. A colleague pointed out that back in the day, the number of rehearsals per concert was more like 1.5. Three full rehearsals for Fantasia last week was cruel, but unfortunately not unusual punishment. I tried to find a schedule online from 1990, my first full summer at Ravinia but those pre-internet things aren't always so easy to find, so I gave up after a few clicks (another symptom of OFS is extreme impatience). A few tantalizing clues, along with a clouded memory leave me with the impression we opened with Mahler 2nd and later in the summer did Das Klagende Lied with guest conductor James Conlon. We also performed works by Milton Babbitt and Elliott Carter, of all people. A 'pops' concert back then was James Levine conducting Gershwin overtures as well as playing Rhapsody in Blue with the orchestra, which became a Deutsche Grammophon recording. The first three concerts of this season are Porgy and Bess, conducted by Bobby McFerrin, a film night mashup of the two Fantasia movies, and another film night of Danny Elfman's Tim Burton film scores. Sadly, even with the LoTR films behind us, it seems there is no escaping another summer dose of all things Efl-ish.
(Photo above taken from the Ravinia Festival Brochure – redaction by Bass Blog editorial staff.)


Jacque said...

Hmm, that photo . . . everyone does look a little glum.

nocynic said...

Yes indeed, Jacque. Amazingly, that photo is hanging in the musician's lounge at Ravinia. Every face is registering utter shame and self-loathing; it is like watching people leaving a seedy pornographic theater in the pre-internet days. But the Maestro is keeping up a brave front.