September 30, 2009

Your RPO on the Airwaves

With the RPO season getting underway this week - and the opening concerts in the newly renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre next week - the RPO has been on the radio airwaves to spread the word.

Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik was Steve Hausmann's guest on 92.5 WBEE this past Sunday, talking about the upcoming Motown and Opera in Love concerts, as well as his new timpani concerto. Click here to listen to the 15-minute interview.

And tomorrow, Thursday, October 1, the RPO's President & CEO Charlie Owens and Eastman School Dean Doug Lowry will be Bob Smith's guests on WXXI's 1370 Connection, talking about the theatre renovations. The program airs at 12 noon and then again at 10:00 pm. Click here to listen live on 1370 AM.

September 17, 2009

New Arrival at the RPO

They arrived at 1:40 pm on Wednesday, September 16, weighing in at 150 lbs. each.

The latest addition to the RPO family of instruments is a new set of timpani, made possible by a generous contribution from Patrick and Barbara Fulford. Patrick is on the RPO board and a percussion enthusiast.

Chris Dolson, the representative from Yamaha, flew in for the delivery and has been working with RPO Principal Timpanist Chip Ross to adjust the drums for their new home, since they had traveled many time zones to get here.

Former RPO Principal Timpanist John Beck also stopped by to check on the new arrivals (pictured here with Chris and Chip).

The new instruments will be a great addition, since not only are they beautiful instruments, but as Chip said, “the sound of a high quality timpani drum can truly enhance the color of an orchestra by leaps and bounds.”

And in other news, earlier this week another shipment of chairs arrived at the Eastman Theatre. These are the restored chairs for the Mezzanine.

September 9, 2009

Christopher Seaman Talks About the 2009-2010 Season

We recently caught up with RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman to learn more about the highlights of the upcoming concert season.

The Philharmonics Series opening will be one for the history books, with the first concerts in the renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Why did you choose to open with Beethoven's Ninth?

Because it's a piece for a big occasion, and this is certainly that. Its choral finale is also full of optimism, reflecting how we all feel about the newly renovated Theatre, and all it will do for Rochester and our Orchestra.

Pianist Misha Dichter is featured on both Philharmonics and Symphony 201 concerts this year. Have you worked with him before, and how did you come to choose Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for him to perform?

Misha is an old friend; I first worked with him in Holland more than 25 years ago. His power and mastery suit him admirably to the brilliant Rhapsody, and his knowledge and ready sense of humor will make him the ideal soloist for our historic first Symphony 201.

This season has several concerts for fans of the piano, including Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 and Bernstein's Symphony No. 2, "Age of Anxiety." Please tell us more about those works.

Both Mozart and Bernstein were wonderful pianists in their own right; in fact, Bernstein performed the solo part himself at the first complete performance of his symphony for piano and orchestra. In these two pieces we have a wide range of what the piano can express in terms of brilliance and also emotion. The slow movement in Mozart's concerto is one of his most poignant creations.

Several of the orchestra musicians (Doug Prosser, Melissa Matson, Juliana Athayde, Charles Ross) are featured on concerts this year, with two of them performing world premieres. Can you tell us more about what they will be playing?

The Tomasi Trumpet Concerto is really well-written for the instrument, allowing Doug Prosser to shine as he takes center stage. It has elegance, charm, and it also requires real virtuosity, all of which Doug can readily deliver.

Harold in Italy is a major work of Berlioz – not played by the RPO since 1984 – and was inspired by a Lord Byron poem, so it's programmatic in nature. It also explores the particular color of the viola – lyrical but also poignant. Melissa is well suited to this important work. Her viola is also special, made in 1650 by Mattheus Albani.

Allen Shawn has written a wonderfully imaginative Violin Concerto for Juliana, lyrical and whimsical for much of the time, but also offering plenty of fireworks.

We are also excited about our very own Jeff Tyzik's upcoming Timpani Concerto, which Charles Ross will deliver with his customary panache. He will be playing a new set of timpani, made possible by a generous contribution from Patrick and Barbara Fulford (Patrick is on the RPO board and a percussion enthusiast). These important world premieres also show our continued adventurousness, even in challenging times.

What can patrons look forward to in the Symphony 101 Series this season?

In Symphony 101 this year we are exploring some labels easily put on music, such as "classical" and "romantic," and we shall discover that these labels can be misleading, since there is more to great music than meets the eye (or ear!). Symphony 201 is of course an important new step in this series, taking it into Kodak Hall and focusing on a single masterwork – Rachmaninoff's "Paganini Rhapsody" – in great depth.

What music is in your CD or MP3 player right now?

My iPod has a whole range of stuff, but probably my favorite listening is Beethoven's string quartets, especially the late ones. These have kept me sane when waiting at many airports.

What's your cell phone ring-tone?

The least offensive noise I could find. My house phone at home plays a Mozart piano sonata in the wrong key, but at least it's Mozart.

Where are your travels taking you during the summer break?

I am now in the middle of my Australian tour, which I do every year. I'm having a wonderful time with the orchestras and also with some young conductors I've been coaching. When it's over, I'm having a break in the UK, before coming back to Rochester for the Grand Opening!

September 8, 2009

2009-2010 Tickets Are Now On Sale!

RPO tickets went on sale at 10:00 this morning, and we had a line of people in the box office waiting to buy their tickets.

The Grand Opening of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on October 8, 10, & 11 includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and a world premiere by Eastman Dean Douglas Lowry (limited seating available for Thursday, October 8).

Concert highlights include:
  • Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 with Orli Shaham
  • 2009 Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Haochen Zhang playing Tchaikovsky
  • Misha Dichter performing Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • The Magic of Motown
  • ABBA: The Hits
  • South Pacific in concert
  • The Nutcracker (NEW! Children's tickets this year – starting at $10)
  • an orKIDStra concert featuring Babar the Elephant
Click here for all 2009-10 season concerts.

September 3, 2009

Q&A with Jeff Tyzik on the 2009-2010 Season

This week, we talked with RPO Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik about some highlights of the coming season and new projects he's working on.

The Pops Series opening weekend features the music of Motown. Have you worked with Spectrum and Radiance before, and what can people expect to hear at this concert?

I have worked with Spectrum both here in Rochester and also in other cities. In my opinion, they sing the classic Motown "hits" better than the original performers. It will be my first time with Radiance and I'm looking forward to the great music made famous by the "girl" groups.

The "Opera in Love" concert in November includes your daughter Jami, who sang selections from Bizet's Carmen and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess at last fall's Pops opener. Did this new concert grow out of that experience?

I was talking to Jami a year ago about wanting to do an "Opera" pops program and we decided to work together. She has put together some great new vocal talent and worked with a director to semi-stage the evening. We both want people to have a fun evening as they get to know this wonderful music in a casual setting. Also, I love being on stage with Jami.

And tell us more about Dave Bennett, who will be joining the RPO for the Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw tribute concert.

Peter Appleyard – the phenomenal 80-year-old vibes player who played with us last year – told me about Dave Bennett and since Peter worked with Benny Goodman, I figured he knew what he was talking about. I checked him out and found that he is a gifted jazz clarinetist with a strong musical resemblance to Benny Goodman.

You're writing a new Timpani Concerto for Charles Ross to perform on the Philharmonics Series. How did that come about?

Charles asked me if I would be interested in writing a concerto for him. I have started writing more creatively for the timpani since he joined the RPO and I was honored that he asked me. I'm putting the finishing touches on it as we speak.

What music is in your CD or MP3 player right now?

I'm writing so much music and concentrating on my timpani concerto that I'm not listening to anything right now.

What's your cell phone ring-tone?

Musical ring-tones drive me crazy ... I tend to keep the tunes in my head; so I'm afraid I have a standard old-fashioned ringer sound.

Where are your travels taking you during the summer break?

I'm having a short "Staycation" at home this year before my guest conducting schedule heats up in September. I'm enjoying being home with Jill and our dog "Puccini," a Coton de Tulear.