December 12, 2011

Usher in the Holiday Season with the RPO!

It’s Rochester’s favorite family holiday tradition, and it's happening this week: Gala Holiday Pops with Jeff Tyzik and the RPO!

This year, the program will feature a wealth of festive selections, ranging from traditional favorites (O Holy Night, Ave Maria, and Angels We Have Heard on High) to popular contemporary works such as John Williams' "Merry Christmas" from the holiday movie classic Home Alone, as well as Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride. Click below for a video preview of this perennial favorite, performed by John Williams and the Boston Pops:

The concert also will include one of the RPO's favorite couples, violinist Juliana Athayde (The Caroline W. Gannett & Clayla Ward Chair) and oboist Erik Behr (The Dr. Jacques M. Lipson Chair). Together they'll perform Vivaldi's Adagio and Allegro from Concerto in B-flat major for Oboe, Violin, and Orchestra.

The Festival High School Chorale is a fixture of this popular celebration, and has performed with the RPO every year since 1994. Founding director Harold McAulliffe and co-director Amy Story organize and direct this group of approximately 200 outstanding high school vocal students. Feel free to join in with the singers during the sing-along portion of the program!

All concerts will take place at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Showtimes are as follows:
Wednesday, December 14 at 7:30 pm*
Thursday, December 15 at 7:30 pm**
Friday, December 16 at 8:00 pm

Saturday, December 17 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sunday, December 18 at 2:00 pm

Tickets start at $15, and kids’ matinee tickets start at $10. For tickets, call 454-2100 or click here!

* Proceeds of this special concert benefit the residents of Monroe Community Hospital.

** Proceeds of this special concert benefit the Rochester Rotary Charitable programs of the Rotary Sunshine Campus and the Rochester City Roberto Clemente School #8.

December 5, 2011

'Tis the Season for the RPO!

Come enjoy musical delights of the holiday season! This Thursday and Saturday at Kodak Hall, RPO virtuosos will gift-wrap exquisite classics, perfect for the holidays.

RPO principal flutist Rebecca Gilbert (The Charlotte Whitney Allen Chair) will perform Bach's sparkling Suite No. 2. Since joining the RPO in September 1996, Ms. Gilbert has illuminated the RPO’s classical and pops performances with her expressive and versatile playing.

In addition to the Bach, the RPO will perform several other wonderful works. Audiences will recognize Pachelbel’s adored Canon. Corelli’s tender "Christmas Concerto" will serve as a tender interlude. And although Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Dreams” Symphony has a cold-natured name, the music will surely warm your spirits.

The concert will be led by Maestro Kazem Abdullah, who is quickly becoming one of the most watched young American conductors on the scene today. Abdullah served as an Assistant and Cover Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera from 2006 to 2009, where he worked with prominent conductors such as Lorin Maazel and James Levine. Abdullah has appeared as guest conductor for numerous ensembles, including the Mexico City Philharmonic, Oregon Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Berliner Kammerphilharmonie, and New World Symphony. Abdullah graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 2000. He originally trained as a clarinetist, and has appeared as a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony, National Symphony, and the New World Symphony.

Experience these classical masterpieces on Thursday, December 8 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, December 10 at 8:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre! Tickets start at $15. Order your tickets online today or call 454-2100 to order by phone.

November 21, 2011

The Nutcracker - Magic and Memories

It just wouldn't be the holidays without The Nutcracker. Beloved by generations, the ballet's timeless tale of fantasy, imagination, and enchantment resonates with audiences young and old and perfectly captures the spirit of the holiday season. Whether you have childhood memories of attending with your parents, or more recent memories with your own children, The Nutcracker is a seasonal tradition that inspires remembrance and nostalgia.

As a child, I listened to my father’s old record of The Nutcracker Suite on a daily basis, and still remember the first time my parents took me to see the full ballet. No matter how many times I see the ballet or listen to the music, The Nutcracker still retains the original magic that captivated me when I was young.

For musicians, the memories created by The Nutcracker can be of a slightly different nature. Professional musicians often perform Tchaikovsky’s score multiple times each year, and once in a while, something is bound to go wrong. This week, RPO Principal Clarinetist Kenneth Grant (The Robert J. Strasenburgh Chair) joins us to share some of his own Nutcracker experiences:

My funniest Nutcracker memory was in Columbus, OH, when we did 22 every year. We would lift the pit up to stage level for the overture for each performance. One time, a cellist was leaning back in her chair and when the pit got near the stage lip it caught the scroll of her cello, driving the end pin into the floor. This snapped the neck of the cello, sending pieces of wood into the wind section. As this was occurring we began the overture.
Another time, I forgot to switch clarinets for Le Chocolat. Realizing this, I tried to transpose, failing terribly while the rest of the wind section went into laughter.
A few years after I left Columbus, someone decided to have water fowl on stage during the raising of the Christmas Tree scene. Of course one of the ducks jumped into the pit and started to run around the orchestra until a violist picked it up and threw it back on stage!

Come to Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre this weekend to make Nutcracker memories of your own. Featuring the talented dancers of the Rochester City Ballet, the Bach Children’s Chorus, 150 community children, and Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score performed live by your RPO, The Nutcracker is a holiday classic not to be missed.

The Nutcracker runs for six performances, November 25-27 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Kids' tickets start at $10. For tickets, click here or call the Box Office at 454-2100.

November 14, 2011

The RPO's Got Rhythm: Boléro & Other Latin Works!

Few pieces in the classical repertoire are as thrilling as Boléro. Based on the Spanish dance of the same name, Ravel's composition builds from a solo snare drum, slowly adding orchestral sections until its dramatic finish, complete with bold slides from the trombone section!

Check out this video of Boléro made by the Copenhagen Philharmonic. They take "adding orchestral sections" quite literally — each section mysteriously appears at Copenhagen Central Station as intrigued pedestrians watch!

On Thursday and Saturday at Kodak Hall, the RPO (led by Arild Remmereit) will conclude the concert with Boléro, preceded by several other great orchestral works. In keeping with the women composers theme, the program will begin with Gabriela Lena Frank’s Three Latin American Dances. The program also highlights Roberto Sierra’s Sinfonia No. 4, a piece commissioned by the RPO, along with 11 other orchestras, as part of the Sphinx Commissioning Consortium. The consortium is an initiative to highlight Black and Latino composers and encourage diversity in classical music. The works by Frank and Sierra are both RPO premiere performances.

The program will also include Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 (in lieu of the previously scheduled Barber Concerto), featuring internationally acclaimed pianist Jon Kimura Parker. A versatile musician, Parker is equally at home performing pop and rock. Although he's not performing a Latin dance piece, Mr. Parker is sure to keep you on your toes — he has even been known to work in the theme from X-Files into his Mozart cadenzas!

See the RPO perform in Kodak Hall this coming Thursday, November 17 at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, November 19 at 8 pm! Tickets start at $15. Order your tickets online today or call 454-2100 to order by phone.

Also, in keeping with the Latin theme of this week's RPO concert, Arild Remmereit continues the Symphony 101 season on November 18 and 20 with The Latin Sizzle in the Performance Hall at Hochstein. Remmereit surveys the Latin American music of our time by Arturo Marquez, Roberto Sierra, and others, including the music that precedes them, and how these Spanish rhythms have captivated composers for centuries. To learn more and purchase tickets for Symphony 101, click here.
Dancer painting by Tom Deacon

November 7, 2011

Günther Herbig Conducts Dvořák’s "New World" Symphony

This is music that captures the energy, the exuberance, the promise of a great nation. This Thursday and Saturday at Kodak Hall, Günther Herbig conducts the RPO in one of the most beloved symphonies in the entire repertoire: Dvořák’s love letter to America, the "New World" Symphony.

Born and raised a Bohemian peasant, Antonín Dvořák never strayed far from his simple roots. During his three years as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, he developed a particular interest in the music of African-Americans and Native Americans, reflecting his love for his homeland’s native culture.

“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what we call Negro melodies,” Dvořák told the New York Herald. “This can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, merry, gracious, or what you will. There is nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot find a thematic source here.”

Wildly popular, the “New World” Symphony helped legitimize American music to the rest of a skeptical world and paved the way to acceptance of twentieth century American cultural exports. Read more of Don Anderson's program notes here. And for an audio preview, click here.

American immigrant Günther Herbig, a nationally and globally prominent conductor, is particularly suited to lead the New World Symphony. Originally from East Germany, Günther Herbig left behind a challenging political environment and moved to the United States in 1984, where he has since conducted all of the top-tier orchestras, including New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.

Thursday and Saturday's concerts will also feature the beguiling Fifth Symphony of the 19-year-old Schubert, and Mozart's delightful Fourth Horn Concerto, with the RPO's Principal Horn Peter Kurau (The Cricket & Frank Luellen Chair).

Kurau also performs Mozart’s Rondo, which was reconstructed in its original form by Professor Marie Rolf of the Eastman School of Music, who added back in 66 measures that had been missing. Peter Kurau first played the complete work in 1991 at a concert at the Eastman School. Use this link to read a story about it in the New York Times.

Experience these classical masterpieces on Thursday, November 10 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, November 12 at 8:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre! Tickets start at $15. Order your tickets online today or call 454-2100 to order by phone.

November 4, 2011

Youth Orchestra Prepares for Sunday’s Concert

Every September, the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra holds its weekend retreat at the Rotary Sunshine Campus in Rush, N.Y. RPYO parent Dr. Thomas Ball from LeRoy agreed to serve as camp doctor this year.

Staying at the camp for two nights, he observed the retreat’s rehearsals in preparation for the RPYO’s November 6th concert at Performance Hall at Hochstein, with several shared meals, relaxing activities, and an army of dedicated parent volunteers. A few days later, Dr. Ball shared with us these reflections for our RPYO student musicians and families.

To read more about this Sunday's concert, click here.

--Susan Basu, RPYO Manager

by Dr. Thomas Ball

We live in a time of uncommon privilege.  Yet privilege can seem so common.

"How much trouble can they be?" my wife prodded. The coordinator for the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's annual retreat was looking for weekend medical coverage. As the parent meeting proceeded, we shifted uncomfortably on the cafeteria's fold-out benches. My wife nudged me gently and offered to be the nurse.

A few weeks later I pulled up the curved entrance to Rotary Sunshine Campus in Rush, NY. We registered and set up my violinist younger daughter in her cabin after dropping off her violin at the lodge before the evening rehearsal. The next morning I awoke bright and early to the clanging of cymbals and some discordant brassy squeals, courtesy of the percussion section. The RPO mentors were introduced after breakfast and took the students for sectional rehearsals.

I retired to my room, which was pretty posh by camp standards, complete with private shower, my choice of three sturdy wooden bunks and even a framed still life of flowers. After organizing the medical supplies I had brought, I discovered that classical music campers are a careful lot. Only one “patient” came to my door. Here was a chance to prove my worth. He leaned forward on his chair and pointed out a ribbon of congealed blood, which had trickled down his shin from a scratched mosquito bite. I rummaged through my bag and found the Epi-Pen, the splint, and even the defibrillator. But no Band-Aid! Like a good sport, my patient took the offered paper towel, wiped off the blood, and thanked me just the same.  It's all too easy to take the common things for granted.

That evening I set down my folding chair outside the barn door to listen to rehearsal with Dr. Harman. I will never forget hearing the trumpets opening Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition when my older oboist daughter was in the RPYO six years ago. Hearing such amazing music in the open air made it even more special. The music this night was no less captivating. I imagined the deer and other forest creatures pressing in to listen at the edge of the field as they might for Snow White serenading The Seven Dwarfs.

Mussorgsky again gave me chills with Night on Bald Mountain, and the finale of the Saint-Saëns Bacchanale made me want to lead a thundering charge into battle. The Latin-flavored piece—Danzón No. 2 by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez— was difficult to sit through without dancing. "You are a big orchestra. You have a lot of power. Use that power only for good." Dr. Harman cautioned them.

The RPYO is clearly using its power for good. The great individual effort from the 105 student musicians of the orchestra, the ongoing teamwork on the part of the parents, and Dr. Harman's exceptional leadership and musicality are all focused on one shared goal: making wonderful music together.

I suppose we might all define privilege differently, but on this evening it was the opportunity to listen to the music of great composers being rehearsed by an extraordinary group of young musicians beneath a canopy of stars. Consider the opportunity you have to be part of such an outstanding orchestra. Having the faculties and the freedom to appreciate such beautiful sights and sounds as we shared on this weekend, and possessing the talent to perform at such a high level is not something to be taken for granted.

Prepare well, enjoy the performances, and above all, be grateful for this privilege.

Oh—and don't forget the Band-Aids.

October 24, 2011

The Mahler experience (from the back)


That was pretty much my reaction as I was leaving the stage after performing the Mahler 2 concert last Saturday night to a sold out house in Kodak Hall. It's hard in my 25+ years playing in the trumpet section of the RPO to remember very many houses that were quite that full or quite that enthusiastic! The ovation lasted over ten minutes, and as Maestro Remmereit asked each section of the orchestra to stand, the audience roared with a cheer usually only reserved for the famous soloist of the evening. It was a very exciting moment for the musicians in the orchestra that we will not soon forget.

As I was leaving for the night, I thought about how different my experience of Mahler 2 was from those out in the audience. This is something that most people don't think about when they come to hear the RPO, but I've heard mentioned often when we get visitors in rehearsals who sit in the back with the trumpets:

"Wow, this doesn't sound like the RPO at all!"

No, it doesn't. Not from my chair!

And if you were in my chair last week for the Mahler, and turned around, do you know what you would have seen? Trombones. Lots of trombones, up on a riser, pointed straight at you. Usually we sit next to the trombones in one line, so this was a different setup than normal, made necessary by the sheer numbers of musicians that had to fit on the stage.

Let me make one thing exceedingly clear at this point- I love the trombone, it is an awesome piece of acoustical engineering, and is (I believe that has been proven with a decibel meter) the loudest brass instrument in the orchestra. It can also be breathtakingly beautiful at a soft dynamic, especially in a chorale, like in Brahms 1, or yes, Mahler 2. I love the sound, it's a great instrument, and our trombone section is populated with really nice people- not an axe murderer in the bunch. Mahler 2 uses 4 trombones and tuba (that's one more trombone than usual) and in our case we used another bass trombone as our extra, bringing our total to 2 tenor trombones (the regular ones) and 2 bass trombones (bigger, and they would argue, better.)

My chair was more or less centered between these two bass trombones (let's call them Andy and Jeff), sort of an acoustical sweet spot of armageddon. The sound was at once completely awe inspiring, and completely debilitating! When I went to play my own part during the loudest passages of the Mahler in the first rehearsal all I could hear (and feel) was the bass trombone parts. I could have written their parts down from memory after a few passes, and I knew which was Jeff and which was Andy, but couldn't really tell which one was me- how loud was I playing? What was the quality of my sound? To be honest, I sometimes couldn't tell what notes I was playing, I was completely baffled! I could sort of hear the other trumpets, and maybe a hint of percussion off in the distance, but no strings, no winds, no horns, etc. You get the picture! It was a challenge. My world pretty much consisted of me, Mahler, Jeff, and Andy. My wife was jealous, she wanted in, but she was over in the violin section. I had no idea that she existed or was playing at all.

As the week went on, I think my brain adjusted to the new sound and started to filter out the trumpet sound from the trombone sound a bit, and I began to have a little more success. I felt like I could hear my colleagues in the trumpet section a bit more, which improved our blend and intonation. I didn't want to wear ear plugs, which does happen on occasion when things are just too loud to bear or one is concerned about hearing loss, as I didn't feel I was at that point. But if you think about it, there are several instruments in the orchestra besides trumpet and trombone that can be incredibly loud, especially at close range, like the piccolo, snare drum, timpani, cymbals, french horns (if you end up behind them), etc., all packed in a very close space on the stage. We all try to work together and be sensitive to each other, but sometimes the music demands something at a dramatically loud volume, and you've got to protect your ears. (My most intense experience in recent times besides the Mahler was last year's rehearsal for the opera Pagliacci. The Italian tenor stood up right behind me during the rehearsal because of a lack of space at the front of the room, and as soon as he began to sing I knew I was in trouble. His voice, which was huge and beautiful from a safe distance (around 100 yards), was so piercing at point blank range that I had to double over with my fingers in my ears (not the most elegant way to react to an opera singer) until a compassionate and prepared colleague (in the trombone section, actually) passed me some ear plugs before I passed out.)

Anyway, I felt like the sound situation in the Mahler got better as the week progressed, and the concerts continued to improve, so it worked out in the end. But, to get back to my earlier point about how things sound different from the back of the orchestra: In the final climax of the last movement of the Mahler, the 200 members of the chorus who were seated at the front of the hall dramatically stood up, turned around to face the audience and sang their hearts out while the entire orchestra joined in at full power.

The picture of this happening (photo: Kyle Schwab) is incredibly inspiring and exciting. From my seat, however, not only did I not see the choir as they stood up, I couldn't hear them *at all* with 8 trumpets, 4 trombones, 9 horns and a tuba in my immediate vicinity! I can imagine that the choir sounded great, but I *know* that the trombones sounded great, because I was the first one to hear them- they only got their sound to the audience by first getting it through me! And a great sound it was. . .

October 23, 2011

The Dichter Duo Performs Poulenc!

"One was struck not only by the synchronism of their musical impulses, but also by the vigor and elegance of the execution." -The New York Times

Pianists Misha and Cipa Dichter met at The Juilliard School as students of the legendary Rosina Lhevinne and made their first joint appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1972, four years after their marriage. Since then, the Dichters have performed in recital and with major orchestras throughout the world and have brought to the concert stage many previously neglected works of the two-piano and piano-four-hand repertoires. Now, hear these fantastic musicians in their first performance together with the RPO! Thursday, October 27 and Saturday, October 29 in Kodak Hall.

Born in Shanghai, where his Polish parents had fled at the outbreak of World War II, Misha Dichter came to Los Angeles with his family at the age of two and began his piano studies a few years later. While still a student at Juilliard, he launched his international career with a stunning triumph at the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Cipa Dichter was born in Brazil of Polish-Russian parents and had her first piano lessons at the age of six. She made her professional debut at 16 with the Symphony Orchestra of Brazil and came to the United States to study at The Juilliard School shortly thereafter.

The two will perform Poulenc's captivating Concerto for Two Pianos. This concerto is a transitional work, combining the impudent humor of Poulenc's early style with the blossoming vulnerability of the mature composer. Click here to read the program notes.

To hear the first movement of the piece, with Francis Poulenc as one of the soloists, check out this vintage performance video on YouTube:

And use this link to read the Democrat and Chronicle profile of the Dichters.

The concert also includes Saint-Saëns' awe-inspiring "Organ Symphony." More than a century after its premiere, it remains unrivaled in its scope and majesty. Plus, Mozart's symphonic postcard to Paris.

For his Philharmonics Series debut, Michael Butterman (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) leads the RPO on Thursday, October 27 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, October 29 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets start at $15. Order your tickets online today or call 454-2100 to order by phone.
Dichter two-piano photo: Robert Caplin for The New York Times

October 19, 2011

Meet the Mahler Soloists: Ashley Hill & Rebecca Farley Witty

We're so happy to have Ashley Hill and Rebecca Farley Witty with us for this week's blog! Ashley and Rebecca, both talented young professionals, will perform Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," with the RPO and the Eastman-Rochester Chorus this Thursday, October 20 at 7:30 pm and again on Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

Ashley Hill, mezzo-soprano, just completed her graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music, earning her Master of Music in Performance and Literature. A native of Florida, Hill has had the privilege of performing in both the United States and Europe.

Rebecca Farley Witty, soprano, also just earned a Master of Music in Performance and Literature from Eastman. Rebecca is a recipient of the Renée Fleming Award, and recently represented Eastman at the Kennedy Center for their "Conservatory Project."

RPO: Rebecca and Ashley, we’re so happy you can speak with us! You must be looking forward to your upcoming performance with the RPO.

Ashley: I am so excited and blessed for this opportunity with the RPO. I have gone to many of their concerts and know full well what a wonderful orchestra they are! And not only do I get the chance to share the stage with them, but share the stage for one of Mahler's most monumental works!

Rebecca: I'm absolutely thrilled to be performing with the RPO! I can't imagine a better masterwork to mark my debut with this fantastic orchestra. I feel so blessed to be chosen for this opportunity!

RPO: As a recent graduate, how does a soloist role help enhance your musical studies?

Rebecca: Being a soloist with a professional orchestra is pushing me to the next level of my studies and my career. It's what students and young professionals train for, and essentially what every student hopes for when they leave school.

Ashley: This opportunity definitely helps me in the professional world. As an emerging professional, opportunities like this are so crucial and definitely beneficial to get the "career ball" rolling just a little more!

RPO: Tell us a little bit more about your musical role in this symphony.

Rebecca: Well, in this epic five-movement symphony, the soprano solo doesn't begin until the middle of the fifth movement. Unlike other choral and orchestral works, like the Mozart or Verdi Requiem, the soprano soloist is more like an equal member of the orchestra and the choir. The first entrance is in unison with the choir, at a triple pianissimo. It is intense and beautiful in its simplicity. The ending is just as, if not more, powerful; but in a much louder, much fuller sonority. The climax of the choir and orchestra together is one of the most glorious and transcendent moments in all of Mahler's compositions (in this soprano's humble opinion!)

RPO: When you approach a musical performance, what do you want to achieve with the end result?

Rebecca: What an interesting question! I think one of the most important things is to communicate ideas to the audience; obviously the text is important to communicate, but also the composer's intent for the piece, the emotions behind the text, and sometimes just the gravity of the topic.

Ashley: Whenever I approach any concert, recital, or stagework, my goal is to be able to get the audience to feel as if they are not just watching a live performance, but are able to connect with the music, words, and emotional landscape the "character" is going through. I want them to be able to relate to what is happening in the performance, and learn more of who they are as a person. Hopefully, this will allow them to evaluate where they are personally — in relation to what they are watching and hearing — and where they desire to be.

RPO: What do you think young performers can bring to an orchestra, as opposed to someone who’s been performing for 20 years?

Ashley: As a young singer who is only just getting started with my career, I do feel strongly that there are things I can bring to the orchestra now that I probably won't be able to in the future, as a seasoned professional. Since I haven't sung many of these orchestral masterworks in the proper context before, I am still open to many options and possibilities when it comes to performing them. I have not yet found "my way" of singing these pieces, like the Mahler for instance, and am up for new ways of singing them. This is not to say that I don't have my own ideas for the music, but I am still very interested to hear what others think and consider putting that into my performance.

Rebecca: It's always good to get a fresh perspective on things. It's true, I haven't been singing with orchestras for 20 years, but I have loved music for 20 years and I think I have something to contribute to the music world.

RPO: What advice can you give to young singers who are just beginning their musical journey?

Rebecca: Mostly, the things I can think of have to do with non-musical things. Every choice you make affects your future. Be kind to every single person you encounter on your journey, and be a great colleague. Your talent gets you hired, your character and your attitude determine whether or not you'll be hired back.

Ashley: I would tell them to relish every moment they have now as students. Those years fly by, and before you know it, you are out in the "real world" with nothing but your passion and previous experience to hang onto, so make the most of it! Take every opportunity you can and continually challenge yourself. Don't ever expect to FEEL "ready," but instead, give yourself the opportunity to BE ready, and you will be amazed at what you can do!

RPO: After Mahler, what’s next for you?

Rebecca: Well, seeing as how I'm still young in terms of the opera scene, I will be taking some auditions for Young Artist Programs and doing some competitions as well. I am in the stage of my career where I am just asking to be heard and receive feedback. It requires a lot of patience and determination, so hopefully I'm up for the task!

Ashley: In this career, we have no idea "what's next" and that's the scary, yet beautiful, reality that we as musicians live. I do plan to take auditions for competitions, emerging professional programs, and roles for various opera companies. I will also continue to give myself opportunities to perform in solo recitals, and collaborative recitals/concerts as well. And I plan to continue to grow my own private studio so that I can share my passion with another generation of musicians, and, in turn, be encouraged by their passion.

See Rebecca and Ashley's debut performance with the RPO this Thursday and Saturday! Tickets start at $15. Order your tickets online today or call 454-2100 to order by phone. Use this link for more information about the concert.

October 14, 2011

Make This Your Year to Discover Mahler!

Don’t miss the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s first performances of Gustav Mahler’s colossal “Resurrection” Symphony since 1985. The RPO’s new Music Director Arild Remmereit conducts this masterwork with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus on Thursday, October 20 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.
This marks the first in a series of Mahler works that Arild plans to bring to the RPO, including Mahler’s Fourth Symphony next January. The Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will also be playing Mahler this season, and with great anticipation, RPYO Manager Susan Basu has prepared the following introduction to the music of Gustav Mahler:

“We have an extraordinary opportunity this year—the 100th anniversary of his untimely death at the age of 51—to get to know the great orchestral music of Gustav Mahler. In addition to the two symphonies on the RPO season, you will have a chance to hear the Youth Orchestra perform movements from two other Mahler symphonies—the breathtaking Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 on its November concert and, together with the RPO, the dramatic finale from Symphony No. 1 on its March Side-by-Side concert. Perhaps never before in Rochester has there been such a conjunction of Mahler favorites in one season!

“Arild Remmereit lived in Vienna for 25 years before coming to Rochester this August. Vienna was Mahler’s city during the late 1800s, where he commanded much of the city’s musical life as director of the Vienna Opera and as an exciting orchestra conductor and strikingly innovative composer. Our new maestro breathed in Mahler’s music from his time in the conservatories, concert halls, and neighborhoods of the city. He knows Mahler’s musical language intimately and, even more important, knows how to share that knowledge with his orchestra musicians and audiences.

“Not so long ago, I had the misimpression that Mahler’s music was largely dense, loud, brassy, confusing, and long—and I avoided it. Big mistake! Yes, those elements are there. But more important are vast sections of great delicacy, soaring lyricism, heart-searing pathos, and expressions of the triumph of the human spirit. As we find with many artistic creations of the highest order, understanding and appreciation does not come all at once. It may require time, patience, and repeated exposure. When that is possible, we often discover new worlds of thought, feeling, and expression. That might happen for you with Mahler’s music.

“Composing at the time of Freud in Vienna, Mahler absorbed that period’s new awareness of human psychology and the whirlwind of emotions that lie under the surface in our sub-conscious minds. It was also a time of growing fractures in European politics and society. Some critics believe that this extraordinary artist, born in the mid-19th century, anticipated in his music the repeated turmoil—personal and cultural as well as political—that tore though the 20th century.

“It may require a few hearings to adjust to Mahler’s very personal way of juxtaposing contrasting musical statements and emotions. They may not always make logical sense. But that turns out to be one of the sources of its powerful and profound impact. He wrote music the way we actually experience our emotions and impressions—not always smoothly but often in sudden and intense transitions from one mood to another. 

“My route of entry into Mahler’s music was in part through his wonderful songs, a large collection of melodies and lyrics that he had both collected and adapted from German folk music and composed himself. Many of these songs he later incorporated into the symphonies that you will hear this season. His very accessible Symphony No. 2 that the RPO will perform on October 20 and 22 is an ideal way for you to begin your musical journey with Mahler.”

Use this link to view a video of the London Symphony Orchestra performing the first movement of Mahler's Second Symphony. Tickets for this weekend’s RPO concerts start at $15. Call 454-2100 or click here to purchase online.
Use this link for more information on the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra season.

October 10, 2011

Cirque Sends Both Acrobats and Sound Waves Flying Through the Air!

Have you ever watched two circus performers appearing to float in midair? Have you experienced the the thrill of Tchaikovsky's music to Swan Lake? Either act is exciting on its own, but imagine the combined effect of the two together, and you get Cirque de la Symphonie, an innovative, awe-inspiring way to experience symphonic music.

“We like to think we’re taking the Cirque artistry into the true realm of fine arts,” says co-founder Bill Allen.“This isn’t popcorn and peanuts — this is caviar and champagne.”

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Jeff Tyzik, will tackle old and new orchestral works by Sibelius, Rimsky-Korsakov, Smetana, Dvořák and even John Williams. Meanwhile, an array of world-class acrobats, contortionists, strongmen, and jugglers will display their own art in a program custom-designed for the orchestra. In a Cirque performance, it's not uncommon to see an acrobat dangling from silk ribbons and flying around the conductor and the first row of violins. Check out a YouTube video of the group in action!

When aerial artist Alexander Streltsov (whom you'll see perform this weekend!) co-founded Cirque, he wanted people to see circus acts as an art form. But in what has become a true fusion of two art forms, he has helped expand orchestral audiences as well.

Experience Cirque on Friday, October 14 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, October 15 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets start at $15. Order your tickets online today or call 454-2100 to order by phone.

October 3, 2011

Symphony 101: Explore the Music with Arild!

How did folk music enter the concert hall? Why did it inspire many of music's greatest masters? What controversies were ignited when folk tunes and spirituals found their way into symphonies of Dvořák and others?

New RPO Music Director Arild Remmereit will answer those questions for us this weekend to kick off the long-anticipated Symphony 101 Season! This special series comprises a unique blend of music and history. In addition to live music performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the audience will get to hear the inside story about how these wonderful works came into being, including in-depth looks at the lives of the composers, information about what was happening in the world when the pieces were written, and more.

This weekend's concerts will take place on Saturday, October 8 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 9 at 2:00 pm, both in the Performance Hall at Hochstein. Arild Remmereit will present American classics selections from Amy Beach's "Gaelic" Symphony and Dvořák's "New World" Symphonyeach drawing liberally on folk tunes imported here and spirituals shaped here.

Yom Kippur will be recognized with Principal Cellist Stefan Reuss (The Clara and Edwin Strasenburgh Chair) playing Bruch's Kol Nidrei, and RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde (The Caroline W. Gannett & Clayla Ward Chair) will explore the folk heritage of Norwegian composer Johan Svendsen’s Romance for Violin.

Check out a preview of this work by playing the video below.

General admission is $24; student tickets for Sunday's concert are $10. Tickets can be purchased by calling 454-2100, or by clicking here.

September 26, 2011

Arild's Inaugural Features Music of Amy Beach

One might expect to see one of the famous “Three Bs”— Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms— on the program for Arild Remmereit’s inaugural concert this coming Friday, September 30th, but instead the RPO will kick off the season with Amy Beach’s "Gaelic" Symphony. This marks the first of many exciting pieces to be performed by the RPO this year in an effort to uncover some of the many hidden treasures of women composers.

Upon first hearing Beach’s symphony, composer George Chadwick wrote, “I always feel a thrill of pride myself when I hear a fine work by any one of us, and as such you will have to be counted ... one of the boys.” Although intended to be a compliment, Chadwick’s words confirmed the imposing gender boundary in music composition at the time of Beach’s work.

Completing the symphony in 1896, Beach worked in a time when American women had not yet secured the right to vote. However, she did achieve success after the premiere, enjoying two performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and eventually across the country. Her work has resurfaced again in the last decade, and the RPO is proud to bring this exciting music to you.

Click on the image below to listen to the first movement of Beach's symphony.

Later this season, we’ll hear similarly exciting works. To name a few: Job, a poignant cantata by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (October 20/22); Three Latin American Dances by Gabriela Lena Frank (November 17/19); and Clara Schumann’s romantic Piano Concerto (May 10/12).

Tickets for Friday and Saturday's concerts (9/30 and 10/1) start at $15. To purchase, call 454-2100 or click here to buy online.

September 19, 2011

Red Carpet Spectacular Kicks Off RPO's 2011-12 Season with Arild Remmereit

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will usher in Arild Remmereit's tenure as Music Director with a bang! Ticket-holders for the Red Carpet Spectacular on Friday, September 30 will experience not just one, but THREE great events on the evening of his inaugural concert.

First, enjoy a catered dinner in the beautiful new rehearsal hall inside of the Eastman School of Music's East Wing. Then, right before the concert, see the star musicians of the RPO up close outside Eastman Theatre as they walk the red carpet to kick off the season.

Next, follow the orchestra inside the theatre for a spectacular concert filled with innovative programming and the wonderful talents of our very own Concertmaster, Juliana Athayde. The 7:30 pm concert features works from Maestro Remmereit's three musical homes: Norway, Vienna, and now the U.S.

After the concert, ticket holders to the Red Carpet Spectacular are invited to join Arild Remmereit and the musicians for a rooftop party in a translucent tent on the fourth floor of East End Garage (located adjacent to Kodak Hall). Guests will enjoy complimentary desserts, champagne, wine, and beer, as well as the extraordinary musical talents of Latin dance band Orquesta Antonetti.

For a preview of the after-party's Latin festivities, check out this YouTube video:

Single tickets (including the concert and after-party) are just $100 (or $50 if you already have your concert ticket). To view full pricing information, please visit this link. Tickets are available by calling Brian Piazza at 454-7311 x231.

September 12, 2011

Q&A with RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde

Juliana Athayde
Appointed concertmaster of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 24, Juliana Athayde became the youngest person to hold the position since the orchestra’s inception in 1922. Now in her seventh season with the RPO, Athayde has enchanted audiences with her technical brilliance, virtuosic artistry, and expressive tone. We had a chance to speak with Juliana about life as a concertmaster, the RPO’s upcoming season, and more.

How did you become involved with music?

I grew up in a musical family, the oldest of four children, in the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents, Bob and Julie, are both professional musicians – my dad is a jazz pianist/trumpeter and a middle school music teacher and my mom is a violinist/pianist and violin teacher. Being surrounded by music at home made us all want to join in the fun. Whether it was playing along with my dad's jam sessions at home or listening (as early as my playpen years!) to my mom's violin students, music was everywhere at our house. My siblings and I joke that we just assumed everyone was a musician because it seemed everyone who came to our house played an instrument.

People often ask when I decided to be a violinist but I can't actually remember choosing – I just never imagined wanting to do anything else! I started playing shy of my second birthday, taking lessons in the Suzuki method and can't remember life without my violin. After continuously reaching for my mom's full-sized violin while just a baby, my parents realized I wanted to play and got me my very own violin (a 1/16th size!). My other siblings are also musicians, each of whom started on the violin but moved on to their own passions. My sister Gabrielle (24) is a cellist who went to Oberlin; my brother Kyle (22) is a jazz musician and composer who just graduated from Juilliard and plays just about every instrument with a focus on trumpet and vibes; and the youngest of the bunch, Eliana (20) is still a junior at the University of Southern California where she studies classical and jazz bass. You can imagine the jam sessions we have at home!

What are some of the unique responsibilities associated with being a concertmaster, and what special preparation does it require?

Most audience members recognize the Concertmaster as the first chair violinist who walks out on stage before the concert starts, takes a bow and tunes the orchestra. This is just the beginning! The concertmaster (from the German word, Konzertmeister) was originally the leader of the orchestra as long ago orchestras did not have conductors. The concertmaster would lead the orchestra sometimes standing and using the bow as a baton while other times leading from the chair while playing. Walking out to bow at the start of the concert is actually left over from the days when the concertmaster served as the conductor and is a symbolic nod to the history and evolution of the position. Today the concertmaster bows and receives applause on behalf of all the members of the orchestra.

Now onto my other duties – have you ever noticed that all of the bows are traveling in the same direction? This is because the concertmaster chooses bowings for the entire first violin section and passes these onto the other string principals who then copy the same bowings for their sections. Not only does it look good when we bow together, we can also achieve different sounds depending on the bowings I choose. Often in a rehearsal, a conductor will ask the string section for a certain sound. It is then the job of the concertmaster to decide how to achieve that sound through bowings or other technical means. In this way, I see my job as part violinist, part translator or liaison. The conductor has to keep an eye on every part of the orchestra – since my job is more specific, I can concentrate on the details of string playing and, more specifically, violin playing, to help the orchestra achieve the conductor's musical goals.

Also, as concertmaster, I maintain a close musical relationship with not only the conductor but also the other principal players in the orchestra. By maintaining visual contact with the other principal players during rehearsals and concerts, we are all able to play with rhythmic precision and musical unity. An orchestra is really just a big chamber music group and by treating it as such, the concertmaster is able to keep a large string section together and playing as one.

This season, you will be performing Svendsen’s Romance for Violin and Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. Can you tell us more about these works?

The Svendsen Romance is a new piece for me and I was introduced to it by our new music director, Arild Remmereit. Svendsen is a Norwegian composer and as you know, Maestro Remmereit is Norwegian – but you may not know that I am also partly Norwegian! It excites me to have the chance to play the music of our shared heritage and I know the audience will love hearing this beautiful singing work. I have never been to Norway but it is easy to imagine the Norwegian countryside as the lyrical melodies unfold.

The Barber Violin Concerto is an amazing work by one of the finest American composers. Samuel Barber's music has wide appeal not only for the soaring melodies but also for the range of emotion. The violin concerto has it all – memorable lyricism, deep emotion, and fast and furious technical pizzazz. The first movement is full of grand gestures, starting with a warm and rich melody, inviting the listener into the piece and at times this movement has mournful and even foreboding melodies. The second movement has a spiritual quality to it, in the opening with the gorgeous oboe solo (which I will enjoy hearing my husband, RPO principal oboist Erik Behr, play!) and when the violin enters with a contemplative melody. This movement has its fair share of despair as well but ends with a consoling and comforting sonority. The last movement is a fast-paced perpetual motion full of virtuosic flair for the soloist and orchestra. This movement will definitely get your heart rate up!

I should mention that this piece has special meaning to me as it is one of my first musical memories. I was only a few years old when one of my mom's violin students was working on the piece. The melodies have always felt familiar to me and I believe this piece and my memory of it is a testament to the fact that music can communicate with everyone. Playing this piece feels like coming home.

As a concertmaster, you must amass an extensive repertoire of violin concertos. What are some of your favorites?

As a concertmaster, I am lucky enough to perform concertos every year with the RPO and other orchestras throughout the country. It's always hard to pick a favorite concerto as almost every one becomes a favorite while I'm working on it. At the top of my list is always the Brahms concerto, for its grand musical gestures and rich melodic material. I always love music from the Romantic period because it calls for a rich and luscious sound but I also love newer music. The Prokofiev Concerto No.2 which I played years ago under Christopher Seaman is the first piece Christopher ever heard me play, as I was a soloist at the Aspen Music Festival before I got the concertmaster job with the RPO. That piece has a special place in my heart as does Allen Shawn's Violin Concerto which I premiered with the RPO in 2010. It is so important to pioneer new works – we wouldn't have a Brahms concerto if the great violinist Joseph Joachim hadn't premiered the piece when it was "new music" in 1879! Two pieces I haven't yet played with the RPO that are at the top of my list are the Sibelius and Beethoven violin concertos. 

As the first graduate of William Preucil’s Concertmaster Academy, please explain how the program worked and what it was like to be the program’s first participant.

My experience in the Concertmaster Academy was quite exhilarating, as I was the first and only participant! William Preucil is the concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world, and used to teach at Eastman while he was the first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet. He designed the Concertmaster Academy (at the Cleveland Institute of Music) to train one highly gifted violinist per year to become a concertmaster of a major orchestra. The two violinists who came after me in the program have gone on to be concertmasters with the Nashville Symphony and co-concertmaster with the Dallas Symphony. Clearly, the program works! In addition to weekly lessons where I studied both solo and orchestral literature with Mr. Preucil, I also attended Cleveland Orchestra rehearsals on a weekly basis, observing how he led the orchestra. We would talk about bowings and how to be physically clear while leading from a chair. One lesson was made up of me sitting in a chair while he asked me to lead a phantom section. This was designed to make sure I could be clear with gestures and not just my sound; obviously people sitting in the back can't hear the concertmaster but they can visually connect to the physical gestures the concertmaster uses to lead the string section. He taught me the importance of essentially playing chamber music in the orchestra and connecting with the other principals, whether strings, winds, brass, or percussion.

In addition to your duties as concertmaster, you’re also involved in the field of music education. What do you most enjoy about teaching, and which teachers were most instrumental in your own development as a violinist?

I am a passionate educator, teaching at Eastman, Cornell, Roberts Wesleyan, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, most likely due to my parents both being music educators and thanks to the great teachers I had along the way. I still watch my mom teach violin lessons and observe my dad in his middle school music classes whenever I visit them in California. Their energy and passion for education inspires me constantly. My first violin teacher, Dorothy Lee, was a family friend (I still call her "Aunt Dorothy") and I worked with her in the Suzuki tradition from age 2-11. She nurtured my musical voice and always made playing enjoyable which I am thankful for to this day. My Latvian teacher came next – Zoya Leybin.  She had trained at the Moscow Conservatory alongside renowned violinist, Gidon Kremer, and had been brought up in a strict tradition of high-level violin playing. She was incredibly demanding and tough – lessons weren't easy – but I thank her for pushing me. I wouldn't be the violinist I am today without the amazing foundation and sound she gave to me. Off to college to work with Paul Kantor at the University of Michigan and then the Cleveland Institute of Music. Paul taught me how to teach myself – knowing I wouldn't always have a teacher to give me the answers, he pushed me to figure things out on my own and led me to greater musical expression.  Finally, William Preucil gave me the finishing touches. From him, I learned musical confidence and leadership – characteristics I possessed but needed his help to unlock.  His playing is filled with so much style and he inspired me to continue discovering my own violinistic voice. They have all transformed from mentors and teachers to friends and colleagues.

What kinds of music are you listening to at the moment?

I enjoy many kinds of music, not just classical. In fact, I can't listen to classical music as background music because I always end up concentrating on it! If I put on a Bach Orchestral Suite, a Beethoven Piano Concerto, a Mahler Symphony, or any other classical music, I want to focus on it. I listen to a lot of jazz, thanks to my dad and brother being jazz musicians. A few of my favorites (in no particular order) are Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Brad Mehldau, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, and Stephane Grappelli. Other types of music I love to listen to include anything Latin, Radiohead, Yellowjackets, Louis Prima, U2, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles ... the list goes on. Thanks to my parents, I have a well-rounded appreciation for everything from jazz to Motown to pop and beyond. I'm not a big rap or country fan but in the words of Jeff Tyzik, there are only two kinds of music, "Good music ... and the other kind."

Where have your travels taken you during the summer break?

My husband, Erik Behr, and I travel to various music festivals during the summer so this year we played in San Diego at the Mainly Mozart Festival and with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in Sun Valley, Idaho. The highlight of the summer was performing chamber music with famed French pianist, Jean-Yves Thibaudet. After we finished in Idaho, we took a road trip with my parents from Sun Valley down through Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Bryce Canyon National Parks – such a beautiful trip! We finished our summer with a week in California, visiting my family, and are excited to be back for the new season with our dynamic new music director, Arild Remmereit!

September 6, 2011

Opening Night for Arild's Inaugural Season with RPO is Coming Soon!

Be there to welcome the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's new Music Director Arild Remmereit for the launch of his inaugural season on September 30 and October 1 in Kodak Hall.

Plus, you can help celebrate Arild’s opening concert by attending the signature Red Carpet Spectacular on Friday, September 30. This once-in-a-lifetime event features a pre-concert dinner, the annual Red Carpet Walk, and a Rooftop Party on the East End Garage with dancing to the Latin sounds of Orquesta Antonetti. Click here for more information.

To begin his tenure, Arild Remmereit has selected joyous works from his three musical homes. From his native Norway, the Violin Romance of Johan Svendsen, featuring concertmaster Juliana Athayde (The Caroline W. Gannett & Clayla Ward Chair). From his musical home, Vienna, exhilarating selections by Johann Strauss, Jr.

And now, as he moves to America, Arild presents the "Gaelic" Symphony of Amy Beach. Contemporary with Dvořák’s "New World" Symphony, this masterwork of the late 19th century is too rarely performed, and ushers in a season-long celebration of the contributions of women composers.

Arild will energize the masterworks in ways that are fresh and thrilling, and will bring us great music we will be eager to get to know. Use this link to watch a YouTube video of Arild talking about the coming season.

Tickets start at $15. For tickets, call 454-2100 or click here to purchase online.

August 29, 2011

Tickets Now on Sale for RPO's 2011-12 Season!

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2011-12 Season is fast approaching, and now is the time to get in on the excitement! Tickets for the upcoming season are on sale now — don’t miss your chance to experience Arild Remmereit’s inaugural season as RPO Music Director, the return of Cirque de la Symphonie, Mahler’s “Resurrection,” Itzhak Perlman, Carousel in Concert, and much more! Use this link to watch a YouTube video of Arild talking about the coming season.

The 2011-12 Season will launch in grand fashion with Arild’s Inaugural concerts, Friday, September 30 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, October 1 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. For this historic event, Arild has selected a special lineup of pieces from his three musical homes. Concertmaster Juliana Athayde will perform the Violin Romance of Johan Svendson, a composer from Arild’s native Norway. The program also will feature two works by Johann Strauss, Jr., representing his musical home of Vienna. And Arild’s season-long celebration of women composers kicks off with the “Gaelic” Symphony of American composer Amy Beach.

Prior to the concert on September 30, join us as we celebrate Arild Remmereit’s opening night with a Red Carpet Spectacular. This special celebration includes a pre-concert dinner in the beautiful Eastman East Wing Rehearsal Hall (5:00 pm) and the Annual Red Carpet Walk (7:00 pm), featuring the RPO musicians. After the concert, there will be a Rooftop Party on the East End Garage (beginning at 9:30 pm), complete with a translucent tent, Latin dance band Orquesta Antonetti, and complimentary desserts, champagne, wine, and beer. Tickets for the Red Carpet Spectacular are available by calling Brian Piazza at 454-7311 x231 or click here for more information.

The 2011-12 Pops Season begins October 14 and 15 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall with the amazing acrobats of Cirque de la Symphonie. The Pops Series also will feature Maureen McGovern performing hits of the 60s and 70s, Gala Holiday Pops, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical Carousel in concert, and much more.

Plus, Sunday, January 22 at 3:00 pm, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman will take the stage at Kodak Hall for a special performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with Arild conducting. Up-close pit seats have been added for both Itzhak Perlman and the Opening Weekend: Cirque Returns Pops concerts.

There are more extraordinary musical works and spectacular guest artists to be discovered in the RPO’s 2011-12 Season. Click here for the full lineup.

Use this link to purchase your tickets online, call 454-2100, or visit the Eastman Theatre Box Office at 433 East Main Street in the Eastman East Wing.

August 22, 2011

Michael Butterman Previews the 2011-2012 Season of Education Concerts

This coming season, the RPO’s Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach Michael Butterman (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) leads engaging family concerts that feature unforgettable characters, classic stories, musical hijinks, and more. We spoke with Michael to find out more about the upcoming season.

Next year’s orKIDStra Family Series features several iconic stories. Please tell us more about these concerts.

We begin in October with two tales of wayward bunnies ... The Runaway Bunny is a book by Margaret Wise Brown (author of Goodnight Moon) that has been set to music by composer Glen Roven. It's a work for violin soloist, narrator, and orchestra. The violinist for whom the piece was written, Ittai Shapiro, will be performing with us. He is an internationally renowned soloist who happens to also be a Rochester native. We will also be performing a musical setting of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This is a charming adaptation that requires the narrator to use various character voices as well as to sing. We're pleased that Jennifer Carsillo, who recorded the narration for A Family for Baby Grand, will be joining us for this concert as well.

In February we'll hear about one of the unsung heroes of the orchestra—the tuba—in the well-loved classic, Tubby the Tuba. April's concert happens to fall directly on April 1—so we thought that we'd put together a fun concert that doesn't take itself too seriously. This will be an April's Fools' concert with plenty of surprises in store.

The RPO’s performance of Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches will be extra-special, because it will be the New York State premiere of the work. Can you tell us about the origins of this piece?

Sure ... we close our season in May with the premiere of a new musical setting of The Sneetches. We had a lot of success presenting Green Eggs and Ham last season and we were approached by Rochester physician and RPO supporter Sid Sobel, who happens to love this story as much as I do. He feels that its disarming way of getting to the heart of human nature is a wonder, and asked his friend, and eminent composer, Lorenzo Palomo, if he would write a work for narrator and orchestra that would bring this story to life in the concert hall. We're very excited to present what we expect will be a major new addition to the repertoire for children and families.

The RPO regularly performs concerts for schoolchildren at Kodak Hall and around Monroe County. What do you have planned for next year?

Our Intermediate Concerts for 4th and 5th graders will center on a work called The Composer is Dead. That ominous-sounding title is taken from a book by Lemony Snicket, author of the popular children's books A Series of Unfortunate Events. It takes the form of a mystery in which an inspector interrogates the various instruments in the orchestra and learns about their particular roles in music. For our Primary Concerts, for third graders, we will present Peter vs. the Wolf, which is a new take on Prokofiev's classic work. In this version, the piece is turned into a courtroom drama/comedy in which the wolf attempts to prove his innocence. Our orKIDStra audience enjoyed our presentation of the work this past season and we thought that it would be well received by our Primary Concert audiences as well. And our Tiny Tots concerts, for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, will explore basic musical elements in a concert called "High, Low, Fast and Slow: Musical Opposites."

And you’ll be making your Philharmonics Series debut this season. Can you tell us about the pieces that you will be conducting?

I'm very excited about this program because all of the pieces share an important common thread while exhibiting a tremendous variety of styles. Paris has been one of the most important centers in the history of music and each of these pieces is inexorably linked with this great city. We begin with Mozart's "Paris" Symphony—a work that he wrote especially for the accomplished (and large) orchestras of the city and one that he wrote with the Parisian audiences in mind. The Parisian setting opened up new possibilities to Mozart—ones that he fully explored, and exploited, in this exuberant work.

Then, we welcome Misha and Cipa Dichter, with whom I've had the pleasure to work on two previous occasions. They will play for us Francis Poulenc's wonderful Concerto for Two Pianos. Poulenc embraced a wonderful blend of sacred and profane. He was a deeply religious person, but also had a playful streak and could be quite irreverent. Parts of this concerto seem to come right out of Paris' cafés and saloons of the 1920s, while the gorgeous second movement channels Mozart's approach to beauty through simplicity.

Finally, we have Saint-Saёns' massive Organ Symphony—one of the most popular works in the repertoire, but also one of the least performed, due to its large size and need for an organ. We will be bringing one into Kodak Hall. If you saw the film Babe, then you already know one of the great melodies from this piece. It's a work that is beautifully organic in its construction (common themes and motives unite all of the movements) while containing a great deal of surface appeal as well.  It has great tunes and builds to a tremendous climax. What more could one want?

What do you enjoy most about conducting Education concerts?

Young people make for the most enthusiastic audiences of all. They hold nothing back. If they like something, they really like it, while the converse is also true. So I know that we have an opportunity to make a significant impact, and we get immediate feedback on how successful we've been. For me, those moments when I can sense that we've played something that has really connected with the kids are the ones that I treasure.

The RPO released a new children’s CD this spring featuring The Story of Babar and A Family for Baby Grand. What was your favorite part of making the CD?

Although I had been involved in recording projects before, they had been "live" events, so the process of planning the recording sessions and working on editing and mastering was absolutely new to me—and quite fascinating. It was very interesting to learn, for example, just how much "magic" can be accomplished with recording technology and by a skilled engineer, and yet how many details, in the end, simply depend on flawless execution on the part of the musicians being recorded. Throughout it all, Jeff Tyzik and our engineer, John Truebger, provided incredible support and I'm very grateful to them both.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

At this very moment it's all-Christmas, all the time. I happen to be conducting three different holiday programs in December (though none in Rochester), and now is the time when those programs are being finalized. So I'm familiarizing myself with the incredible amount of new music that composers and arrangers come out with each year that is geared toward the holiday season. Trying to keep those programs comfortable and familiar without becoming stale and predictable is a pretty big challenge. But it's fun. And as I've been sweating through the summer heat, listening to sleigh bells seems to help ... at least a little bit!

Where are your travels taking you and your family during the summer break?

We were privileged to spend about nine days in New York City in June taking in concerts, several ballets, a little Broadway, and plenty of museum time. It was the top item on our daughter's "wish list" for the summer. But we also managed to squeeze in some beach time and a visit to California to see family and do a little hiking.

August 15, 2011

Q&A with Jeff Tyzik on the 2011-2012 Pops Season

This coming season, RPO Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik will lead the orchestra in a diverse array of music, including classic Broadway, swing, Holiday Pops, favorites of the 60s and 70s, and much more. We spoke with Jeff to find out more about the upcoming season.

The Pops Series opens with the return of Cirque de la Symphonie. Tell us what audiences can expect from this collaboration of music and acrobatics.

We are developing a new show with different music from their past performances. The show will have a different feel, but we can all count on Cirque's amazing artistry.

After a run at Geva last fall, Maureen McGovern will return to Rochester this year to perform as a guest artist with the RPO. How do you go about translating music from the 60s and 70s into a symphonic setting?

I've always loved Maureen's vocal artistry. Mel Tormé was a mentor to her. She has a crystal clear tone and a wide range of styles so it will be an interesting concert. She was phenomenal in her one-woman show at Geva and this concert including the RPO will be even more exciting.

Two years ago, the RPO performed a concert version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific—this year, it’s Carousel in concert. What can people look forward to in this production?

The South Pacific in Concert experience was so gratifying for both the audience and the performers that I decided to go for it again, this time with Carousel. My good friend Doug LaBrecque will be directing again and we are also engaging a number of New York Broadway artists for our lead roles.

This season will feature a “photochoreography” concert in which James Westwater’s photography is choreographed to live music. What can you tell us about this concert?

James Westwater is a visual artist combining his evocative photographic images set to music like Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and Billy the Kid. Huge screens above the orchestra will show his images that he has choreographed to the music played by the RPO.

The RPO recently held a Birthday Benefit concert in celebration of your 60th birthday. What else did you do to celebrate your birthday this year?

I traveled to a beautiful east coast area near the ocean for some down time with my family. I always wanted to play electric bass and I couldn't believe it, but Jami and her husband Matthew gave me a Fender Electric Bass for my big day. Now I have to learn how to play it.

What music have you been listening to lately?

I'm composing right now, so I'm not listening to anything.

Where are your travels taking you during the summer break?

I'm spending some of the summer near the ocean and some of it in Rochester getting ready for the coming season.

Click here for a full list of the 2011-12 CNB Pops Series.

August 8, 2011

Acclaimed Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Perform with RPO in January 2012!

Itzhak Perlman
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to announce that the reigning virtuoso of the violin - Itzhak Perlman - will perform with the Orchestra on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre! The RPO's incoming Music Director, Arild Remmereit, will conduct this special afternoon concert featuring Perlman performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and up-close pit seats will be available.

Beloved for his charm and humanity as well as his talent, Perlman is treasured by audiences throughout the world who respond not only to his remarkable artistry, but also to the way he communicates the irrepressible joy of making music. Use this link to find out more about Itzhak Perlman and watch a video of him performing at the Presidential Inauguration. This concert promises to be an extraordinary experience - one you won't want to miss!

Tickets go on sale to RPO subscribers and donors (who contribute $75 or more annually) during Subscriber/Donor Appreciation Weeks, starting Monday, August 15. Then, any remaining tickets will be available for sale to the general public beginning on Monday, August 29. Ticket prices will start at $35.*

If you are not already an RPO subscriber or donor, there is still time to purchase a season ticket package or donate so you can have the chance to purchase the best seats before Perlman tickets go on sale to the public. Click here for more information about subscribing to the RPO's 2011-2012 Season, and use this link to find out about donating.

* Due to the high demand for this concert, no discounts will be accepted for Itzhak Perlman tickets.

August 1, 2011

Q & A with Arild Remmereit on the 2011-2012 Season

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2011-12 season promises to be a historic event and an exhilarating journey as Arild Remmereit takes to the stage for his inaugural season as RPO Music Director. For his first season with the RPO, Arild has selected an exciting mix of classic masterworks and new musical discoveries. We had a chance to speak with Arild about the upcoming concerts, his musical background, and more.

RPO: Congratulations on becoming our new Maestro! Throughout your programming you highlight the works of women composers, and we also will be joined by guest artists from the Eastman School of Music. Bravo! What inspired you?

ARILD: Thank you! I have a passion for discovering great works that move me and have, for different reasons, not yet become part of the standard repertoire; I believe the works spread throughout the 2011-12 season can do just that. I am eager to share this passion with audiences and musicians who I am confident will enjoy the experience as well. This is what I mean by “creating classics.” I also wanted to honor the significant role Rochester played in the women’s rights movement. And what better way to do that than through music! As for Eastman, it is simply one of the world’s great music schools with an incredibly rich tradition. The chance to forge new links with such an amazing institution—and to collaborate closely with its world-class students and faculty—was irresistible.

RPO: You’re also bringing us Mahler’s “Resurrection” for the first time in more than 25 years. How excited are you to re-introduce us?

ARILD: Yes! I am thrilled. I love Mahler’s music because it expresses such a wide range of emotions and ideas so powerfully. I have always felt a strong connection to his music. When I learned the RPO did not perform Mahler regularly, it seemed like an exciting opportunity for Rochester, and I hope audiences will become as enraptured by this magical music as I am.

RPO: How did conducting become your passion?

ARILD: I started piano lessons at age six and performed professionally as a boy soprano around Norway. My passion for music and my absolute commitment to being a musician really took off when I was allowed to buy myself a pair of those 1970s platform shoes and an electric guitar! I was 12 years old. After a few years I joined a band with some older kids, playing keyboards. What I had learned in piano lessons as a child then became very useful. My musical taste developed. I was playing more "jazzy" music, and as I was studying voice and piano at the Music Conservatory in Oslo, I was earning my living playing in bands. At some point in my early twenties, I started to feel like focusing my energies in one thing. So I asked myself: If I used all the experience I have gained in different musical settings so far in my life and invested all my energies and hard work into one enterprise, what would it be and what would I do well? Around that time I had a conversation with one of my uncles, Per Brevig. He is the only professional musician in the family and has a very successful career in the U.S. He was principal trombone at the Metropolitan Opera for 30 years and is a teacher at Juilliard and Aspen. He suggested that I check out the conducting program at the Aspen Music Festival and School. At the end of that summer, I concluded that if they (the conducting students) can do it, I can too! And from that point on, I focused on becoming a conductor.

RPO: Speaking of music and childhood, which pieces this season will resonate with younger audiences?

ARILD: That’s very easy to answer. Every single piece in this season is good for younger people and older people and everyone in between.

RPO: Tell us about your batons…your father makes them, right?

ARILD: My father makes all of my batons—hundreds of them—and it’s a wonderful thing. He’s now 82, and I’ve told him, when I’m 82 and still conducting, I don’t want to be in a situation where I run out of batons. He’s still making them!

To see and hear more from Arild Remmereit, the RPO's new Music Director, please visit us online at