Thursday, May 29, 2014

Esa-Pekka Salonen, new media icon

In October, I was in Los Angeles to hear Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct his Violin Concerto, written for Leila Josefewicz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and premiered by both in 2009. Imagine my pleasant surprise when a new Apple ad featuring Salonen hit the airwaves.

My favorite writer on music, Alex Ross, writes about it here.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Frank Ticheli

Tonight, the Hartt Orchestra will be performing works by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Hindemith, all of which are classics in the orchestral repertoire.  The overture to The Marriage of Figaro is one of the greatest curtain raisers of all time; the producers of the movie, "Trading Places," understood that, as they quote liberally from the overture throughout the first few minutes of the film. (Watching it recently, it certainly put me in a very good mood.)  Then there is the Scherzo to Mendelssohn's incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, which violinists, violists, cellists and bass players all over the world must learn if they are to gain successful entry into an orchestra. (Ask a string player, and he/she will tell you why.) Hindemith has fallen out of favor of late, which is too bad, because the Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes by von Weber is one of those pieces that orchestras love to play (though it isn't easy).

Then there is the final work on tonight's program:  Frank Ticheli's Radiant Voices.

You might be wondering why I would conclude a concert with the only unfamiliar work on the program?  The short answer is this:  We are celebrating Ticheli's music throughout this weekend at Hartt*, so it is appropriate to end the concert with his colorful masterwork, with the composer in attendance.  It's the polite thing to do, right?

But if you are at the concert, you will understand that being polite did not play into this decision, for nothing can come after Radiant Voices.  At a recent rehearsal, we worked on Hindemith after the Ticheli, and it felt strange, almost anticlimactic.  Point is, the Hindemith is certainly more well known, and may always be, but Radiant Voices is a much more exciting and thrilling work, and it has been deeply satisfying to see my students take to this piece so readily.

At the first play through a few weeks ago, the Hartt Orchestra played it unlike anything they've read for the first time -- like it was in their bones from the get-go.  If we'd had an audience at that first rehearsal, I'm quite certain they would have been as thrilled as I.

It's rare to encounter a new work (well, it's not that new -- it was premiered twenty years ago) that speaks so readily to musicians, but this piece does.  But Frank Ticheli takes enormous pride in writing music that is not just great to listen to, but is fun to play.

Thankfully, the composer has been very happy with what he's heard thus far, and all of us can hardly wait to bring it to life tonight.

* The Hartt Orchestra will perform Frank Ticheli's Radiant Voices Friday May 2, at 7:30, in Lincoln Theater.  The following evening, Saturday May 3, the Hartt Wind Ensemble and Symphony Band will perform works by Ticheli, concluding with the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Millard Auditorium.