April 29, 2010

A View from the Front of the Stage

For two weeks in a row, a pair of Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra musicians who are leaders of their instrumental sections will be featured out front in rare solo opportunities. Principal Trumpet Douglas Prosser and Principal Viola Melissa Matson stopped by to chat about what it's like to wear a solo "hat," and more...

"The first difference is how I approach the playing," said Melissa, who will be performing Berlioz's Harold in Italy on May 6 and 8. A soloist versus a section player "requires a different kind of energy." As a leader of the viola section (the job of a section principal), her voice is representative of the whole section and texture. "In a solo spot, I'm out in front of the orchestra and need to make the sound really project." Although Harold in Italy is a well-known work for viola solo and orchestra, this will be her first performance of the piece. She's looking forward to "enjoying the roller coaster ride" of the solo experience!

Douglas Prosser—featured in Tomasi's Trumpet Concerto on April 29 and May 1—talked about the differences in the level of intimacy with the audience and also the trumpet sonority standing out front. "When you're cueing the section, you're ‘inside' the ensemble," he said. "A soloist has the opportunity to step out and get into his own personal interpretation and sound of the piece." He described Tomasi's Concerto as being a "playful and spontaneous conversation" between the soloist and the various orchestral sections. And audiences can expect the first movement to sound quite improvisatory, as the sections "play off of each other."

Harold in Italy also has an interesting "interplay" concept: a "duet" between viola and harp. Guest conductor Andreas Delfs and Melissa already have been in contact about some possible "staging" ideas.

RPO patrons who know Melissa also are aware of her "other" talents in textiles. In fact, she's shared with us that she's making two dresses for the pair of concerts. If they both come out well, she's planning on wearing a different one each night. Stay tuned!

April 22, 2010

South Pacific Features Broadway Stars

This weekend's RPO performances of South Pacific feature lead actors from New York City who have starred in numerous Broadway and touring productions of South Pacific. In fact, the singer playing Emile de Becque is in the Broadway show right now, and will travel to Rochester from New York City just for these performances.

Jeff Tyzik and the RPO – along with a 24-voice chorus – will be recreating the full-length concert version of South Pacific that the New York Philharmonic performed at Carnegie Hall in 2006 and also was broadcast on PBS. According to Doug LaBrecque, the producer of our show, concert versions of Broadway musicals are a relatively new addition and have been very successful in New York and elsewhere. (Certainly true here – there are only a few seats left!)

And even though this Rodgers and Hammerstein hit musical is more than 60 years old, it explores issues that find a contemporary parallel even today. Click here for more.

For more information about the concert, use this link.

Pictured above: William Michals (Emile de Becque), Sara Jean Ford (Nellie Forbush), Aisha de Haas (Bloody Mary), Hugh Panaro (Lt. Cable).

April 16, 2010

Summer's Comin'!

Ahh, summer in Rochester. We wait so long, and when it comes, we cram so much into it! Well, no matter where you live, what your schedule looks like, or how your musical tastes run, the RPO covers the gamut this summer. And tickets are now on-sale!

Between the end of June and early August, we perform more than a dozen concerts in numerous venues indoors and out. We’re excited to share the news that we’ll be back at CMAC in Canandaigua for three of the most imaginative concerts you can think of. And lawn tickets are free for kids 12 and under for all our CMAC concerts. The Marcus Roberts Trio reprises its sold-out concert with the Berlin Philharmonic under Seiji Ozawa in a swinging jazz fusion version of Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra. Click here to see the incredible YouTube clip. Red, White, and Boom! conducted by Michael Butterman celebrates the holiday early with fireworks. Next, Jeff Tyzik takes the “swingin” up a couple of decades, in The Swingin’ Sixties and Seventies with the fabulous group, New York Voices. Finally, we “swing”- literally - from the rafters (okay, not the RPO musicians themselves), with a jaw-dropping group of some of the best Cirque acrobats returning by popular demand, in a custom-designed program of Cirque de la Symphonie specifically for the RPO and Jeff. So bring the family!

We’re also expanding last year’s new classical series at Hochstein to three concerts, now called Midsummer Classics, with world-class conductors and guest artists and pre-concert wine and music. Young Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit - who made quite the impression in his RPO debut - opens the series with violinist Joan Kwuon in Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto. Love is in the air the following week, with our newlywed couple, Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and Principal Oboe Erik Behr sharing the stage in Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin conducted by Christopher Seaman. Juliana also performs Bach’s First Violin Concerto. Midsummer Classics concludes with a return of Jahja Ling leading the orchestra in Dvořák, with dynamic pianist Jessie Chang making her RPO debut in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17.

In addition to these two series, there are plenty of concerts to fill up your musical summer. Lots of Rochesterians have been followers of the Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition. For the first time, the RPO will be accompanying these young pianists in the final round. What an opportunity to hear these teenagers before they make it onto the international music scene. We’ll also be the orchestra for the concert featuring the gifted young conductors participating in the Eastman School’s Conducting Institute.

And don’t forget the concerts at SUNY Geneseo, the annual fundraiser for Temple B’rith Kodesh, and the free concerts at Ontario Beach, Frontier Field, and our July 4th concert on the Main Street Bridge downtown with fireworks. (Photo here thanks to Walter Colley.) See you soon!

April 8, 2010

James Gaffigan Leads Beethoven's Seventh

Tonight and Saturday, the brilliant young American conductor James Gaffigan leads the RPO in Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. I had the chance to hear a bit of the rehearsal earlier this week, and I now see why the piece was named the most popular work in WXXI's "Classical 35 for 35" last December.

Although I am personally not as familiar with this Beethoven symphony as the Fifth or the Ninth, once it got to the second movement I recognized the familiar repeated notes and found myself humming that tune later on. The piece is engaging and exciting, and I'm looking forward to hearing it in full tonight.

The orchestra sounds in fine form after the break, and Gaffigan was fun to watch at the podium. He is clearly enjoying himself, and his dynamic energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

Plus, the concert includes my all-time favorite classical piece – Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Similar to an impressionist piece of art (and this was written around the same time), you can just lose yourself in the music and let your imagination transport you.

The Orchestra will also place a piece new to me – and it's also the first time the RPO has performed it – Bernstein's Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety." This is a very unusual symphony, since it features the piano as if in a concerto, and is in six movements instead of the typical four. Bernstein was inspired by W.H. Auden's poem of the same name, and each movement has a story behind it based on something in the poem. If you want to know more, click here to read the full program notes.

And to find out more about the concert, use this link.