November 25, 2009

This Thanksgiving - Enjoy Cranberry Corn Bread from the RPO Cookbook!

As you prepare for tomorrow's feast, we have a recipe for you to enjoy, straight from the "RPO Cooks!" cookbook. RPO President and CEO Charlie Owens shared his recipe for cranberry corn bread. He calls it “a delicious new spin on old-fashioned corn bread," and adds: "In my family, we love to reheat the leftover cornbread on Sunday mornings, sliced in half lengthwise and topped with maple syrup and maybe even two fried eggs!"

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. yellow cornmeal
2 c. all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. fresh cranberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat eggs, then beat them into butter and sugar. Add buttermilk. Mix well. Sift together cornmeal, flour, and baking powder; mix gradually into liquid mixture and fold in cranberries. Pour batter into a greased 9” square baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until the center springs back when pressed gently (or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

Click here to order your copy of "RPO Cooks" and other great merchandise from the RPO Gift Shop.

November 21, 2009

Exciting Shostakovich and Soaring Birds

One of the first RPO concerts I ever heard featured Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony. I was not familiar with the composer at the time, but left wanting to hear more. Since then I’ve heard several of his symphonies as well as chamber works, and each time I left feeling inspired. His music isn’t particularly hummable, but something about the orchestration, the color of the instruments, and the emotion behind the music grabs my attention.

Tonight’s RPO concert featured Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, written when he was just 19 years old. The piece regularly surprised me – one minute I thought I heard English horn, but looked to find it was the bassoon. At another point I thought the basses were playing the melody – but it turned out to be cellos. And then when I thought for sure it was violins – it was the viola section playing. It’s almost as if he was toying with your perception of which instruments were playing at any given time. The piece even had the classical equivalent of a drum solo – with an extended part for solo timpani.

The rest of the concert was wonderful too. It started with Finnish composer Rautavaara’s Cantus arcticus, Concerto for Birds and Orchestra. Centered around field recordings he made in the arctic circle, it’s a bird-watchers paradise (at least in my imagination). At times it sounded like a film score – Winged Migration, perhaps. The last movement reminded me of the time I saw hundreds of snow geese fill the sky during their annual fall migration through Vermont, and was equally thrilling.

Guest conductor Hannu Lintu used his long arms and expressive gestures to draw a rich, full sound from the Orchestra for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. And soloist Augustin Hadelich held the audience spellbound – you could hear a pin drop during his solo passages. He delighted the cheering crowd by playing an encore from a Bach Violin Sonata.

Hearing the Tchaikovsky concerto also got me thinking of the wonderful melodies in The Nutcracker – less than a week away!

November 17, 2009

Congratulations, Nancy!

Nancy Goldsmith Zawacki, the RPO’s VP of Marketing & Communications, was one of the honorees this afternoon at the Rochester Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” luncheon. Chosen by a panel of community leaders, the honorees are recognized for having reached impressive professional heights before the age of 40 while simultaneously giving freely of their time and talent in supporting our community. In addition to all she does for the RPO, Nancy is active with the Ad Council of Rochester, American Marketing Association, March of Dimes, Pittsford Little League, Pittsford PTSA, and the YWCA. Congratulations on all your accomplishments!

Photo by Walter Colley

November 11, 2009

Jami Tyzik on “Opera in Love”

Before TV soap operas and reality shows, there was opera. Take the classic story of guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, girl leaves him for another guy … and add in powerful music, and you have opera, with its passionate portrayals of love, honor, despair, and betrayal.

Inspired by her experiences as a singer, soprano Jami Tyzik (daughter of the RPO’s Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik) has put together a new program featuring some of the world’s greatest opera works. Before this week’s performances (November 13 & 14, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre), she took a few minutes to talk with us about this exciting new production.

How did this project come together?

The concept for Opera in Love is something that came to me a few years back. I spent four summers singing with the Aspen Opera Theatre out in Colorado. Every summer, we would do these fabulous house concerts at the homes of different donors and patrons of the festival. The evenings were always very exciting for the audience because they were getting to hear the greatest hits of opera up close and personal. I became very inspired to take this successful concept and translate it to a much larger audience. Opera in Love is a concert that takes the best and most famous moments from opera and combines that with witty introductions and truly seeks to break down the wall between the performers and the audience.

What’s it like working together on stage?

While the incredibly beautiful music of opera is enough to tantalize the listener, it was truly meant for the stage. In Opera in Love, we take each aria, duet and quartet, and create a mini scene from the opera where we are in character acting out the story for the audience. It takes the evening to a much higher level when the elements of music and drama are joined together on one stage. As well as diving into the characters of each scene we perform, all of the singers in Opera in Love feed off of each other’s intense energy and the result is a very entertaining and moving performance.

Tell us about some of the highlights of Opera in Love. What will people hear?

The evening includes highlights from La Boheme, Carmen, Rigoletto, La Traviata, as well as famous arias by Mozart and Donizetti, just to name a few things. All of this music has won the test of time and continues to influence our culture to this very day. Even the audience member who has never seen an opera, and who has no interest in seeing an opera, will find the music to be very familiar, entertaining, and memorable.

Have you worked with the other soloists before?

Our singers hail from all over the country. This project is actually my first time working with all of the singers. The opera world is pretty small and I've had the pleasure of hearing them perform over the years. We all came together last spring as we were preparing and developing this project, and the combination of our four voices together was truly astounding. Our soprano, Mela Dailey, is the wife of former Rochester Philharmonic Assistant Conductor, Peter Bay. Our tenor, Brandon Wood, is married to another wonderful soprano, Danielle Herman Wood, who grew up in Penfield. Our baritone, Marcus DeLoach, lived in New York City for years and has recently made the move down to Texas.

For more information about the concert, and to purchase tickets, click here.

November 6, 2009

The Insightful Intern: The Magnificence of Kodak Hall and Its Performers

I started my internship at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at the beginning of September. As a senior Communications/Journalism major at St. John Fisher College, I wanted to try something new and something different. Considering my limited, if not non-existent, classical music knowledge, interning for the RPO certainly fell under those two requirements.

In the ten or so weeks that I’ve been at the RPO, I’ve gotten a chance to be a part of so much. About two weeks ago, I walked into Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre for the very first time to see Vadim Gluzman rehearse. Aside from being blown away by the soloist, I remember standing in the aisle of the theatre and looking up for the first time at the breathtaking grand chandelier. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words; honestly, neither a picture nor a thousand words could describe the beauty and the magnificence of Kodak Hall.

This week, I had a chance to see Haochen Zhang, Gold Medalist of the prestigious Van Cliburn competition, rehearse in the great Kodak Hall and I was mesmerized. As soon as Zhang would stop playing in the rehearsal, I saw him look around the theatre in the same admiration that I had only a week or so before. I was reminded of the fact that he’s just 19 years old, juggling not just a touring schedule, but also homework and other things typical of a teenager.

When Zhang plays though, he’s not a typical 19-year-old guy. He’s an experienced, confident, mature musician. His fingers sweep across the keys in a melodic and captivating blur, and you’re lost not only in the gracefulness of his playing, but also in the rich and powerful tones of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, resonating through the hall.

As if being the youngest person to ever win the Van Cliburn Competition doesn’t distinguish him enough as a great musician, he is also the first Chinese recipient. Interestingly enough, the piece that Zhang will be performing tomorrow night—Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1—is the same piece that Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn Jr. himself played in 1958 to win the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.

Don’t worry though; you can still get your tickets for the performance tomorrow night. Just click here.