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.