February 21, 2012

RPYO to Perform Annual Side-by-Side Concert

The RPYO presents its Annual Side-by-Side Concert with the RPO on Sunday, March 4 at 3 PM in Kodak Hall
David Harman, Conductor

Sunday, March 4, RPO musicians will share music stands with the talented student musicians of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra for a performance of two renowned orchestral works by famous composers of Czech origin in a concert called “Moldau & Mahler.”

The program will feature Bedřich Smetana’s (left) symphonic poem The Moldau, which traces the journey of the Moldau River as it flows through the Bohemian countryside and into the city of Prague towards its confluence with the Elba River. A highly innovative work for the 1870s, it is rich with orchestral colors, evocations of rustic Bohemian life, and Slavic folklore, and portrays nature as both a benign and tumultuous force.

Forty years younger than Smetana, Gustav Mahler (right) lived much of his life in Vienna but never forgot his own Czech origins. His symphonies are rich with streets sounds, tunes, rhythms, and emotional experiences recalled from his childhood. Some of these are included in the big, intense final movement of his first symphony that the RPYO and RPO will also perform together, a movement that Mahler labeled “stormy” and “vehement,” referring perhaps to both natural forces and human emotions.

The first half of the concert will feature RPYO Concerto Competition winners Matthew DeCross, a 12th grade marimbist from Pittsford Sutherland High School; Erica Klafehn, a 12th grade violist from Penfield High School; and Hayley Miller, an 11th grade flutist from Canandaigua Academy. Matt will play a lively movement from the popular Marimba Concerto No. 1 by Brazilian composer Ney Rosauro. The mood will shift dramatically as Erica performs the deeply mournful Trauermusik written in 1936 by the German composer Hindemith, who wrote this work not only in grief for the death of the British King George V but also for the traumas he was witnessing in Germany under the Nazis. A movement from Mozart’s first Flute Concerto, to be performed by Hayley, will be a delightful restorative tonic, as only Mozart can be. To finish the concert’s first half, the entire RPYO will come together for Argentine composer Arturo Ginastera’s musical portrait of scenes from the Argentine countryside.

March 4th at 3:00 PM, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets are $12.00 for Adults and $8.00 for Students and Seniors and can be purchased from RPYO musicians, from the Eastman Theatre Box Office on 433 Main Street in the East Wing of the Eastman School of Music, by telephone at 454-2100, online, or by calling the RPYO at 454-7311 x224.

We invite you to go to rpyo.org to learn more about the RPYO, including information on our Spring Auditions for new members, which will take place at the end of March.

February 14, 2012

RPO Bassists Lead Master Class in Ithaca

Before the RPO's performance in Ithaca last weekend, RPO Bassists Gaelen McCormick and Colin Corner (The Anne Hayden McQuay Chair) made a special visit to Ithaca College. The pair was invited by Ithaca College Professor of Bass Nicholas Walker to teach a master class to Walker’s bass studio. They also performed a set of duets for the students.

Remarked Walker: “This was a particularly rewarding day for our double bass students who had the opportunity to spend over two hours with Gaelen McCormick and Colin Corner. How generous of these musicians to drive down early through a snow storm to perform duets for our students, and then give them terrific coaching about their own playing and learning approaches. My students and I were so engaged by their elegant chamber music, and the wealth of knowledge and experience they bring to their art.”
RPO bassist Gaelen McCormick (left) joined us to share her thoughts on the master class; read below for her first-hand account:
"I was so delighted to be contacted by the bass professor at Ithaca College, Dr. Nicholas Walker, asking if any of us in the bass section would like to work with his students on the day the RPO was in Ithaca. Colin Corner (pictured right) and I both said yes to this opportunity. We began the class by performing Dave Anderson's "Seven Duets." Colin used to play in New Orleans where Dave is principal, and had all kinds of (hilarious) background stories to share with the class about the music and the composer.

Then we listened to four of the students play music ranging from American fiddle tunes which a student had arranged for himself as a solo work, a contemporary work written only a few months ago where the student played with great extended techniques and even sang during the solo, to works of Bach. The students were such a great group! They all had a great positive approach to playing, and were very supportive of each other. I was also impressed by their willingness to try new ideas on the spot. I led the class in a Dalcroze Eurythmics exercise where we walked and sang around the classroom. Everyone jumped right in to try this without reservation. After class, the students stayed on to ask Colin about his gorgeous Hill bass, which he recently bought, and to take turns playing a bit on it.

We were delighted to work with such creative and outgoing musicians!"

February 12, 2012

The Sounds of New Orleans

Few cities can claim a musical history as prodigious as that of New Orleans. Widely regarded as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is a musical hotbed that has produced some of the greatest musicians in history, from past legends such as Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet to current stars such as Wynton Marsalis and Trombone Shorty. This Friday and Saturday, trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling and organist Bobby Floyd join Jeff Tyzik and the RPO to bring you a slice of the New Orleans sound.

Trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling (left) is currently artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and leader of his own quartet. Stripling attended the Eastman School of Music and has performed with ensembles such as the Lionel Hampton Band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, as well as with over 50 different symphony and pops orchestras.

Pianist and organist Bobby Floyd (right) has performed with artists such as Ray Charles, and his soulful sound has backed artists such as Chuck Mangione, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Mavis Staples, Gerald Wilson, and Wycliffe Gordon.

Stripling and Floyd will join the RPO for a salute to the one and only Louis Armstrong, with selections including Bourbon Street Parade, What a Wonderful World, When the Saints Go Marchin' In, Saint James Infirmary, and Basin Street Blues. Click here or below to watch Armstrong perform Basin Street Blues:

The program also pays tribute to two other New Orleans-greats: rock and roll singer/pianist Fats Domino, and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Click below for video of Fats Domino performing I'm in Love Again, followed by Mahalia Jackson performing How I Got Over:

Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 at 8:00 PM, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets start at $15 ($10 student tickets) and are available online or by calling 454-2100.

February 6, 2012

Music for Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday, which means that couples around the world will be celebrating love and its many-splendors. Everyone loves a good love song and regardless of genre, music has always had a unique capacity to express the passions and emotions associated with love. This Thursday and Saturday, bring your Valentine to Kodak Hall as Arild Remmereit leads the RPO in an evening of romantic works.

The program begins with Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, a tone poem based upon the legendary womanizer who ‘loves them and leaves them’ before coming to a fiendish end (click here for a full summary). The Don Juan legend has inspired countless works of art, literature, and music over the years, including the great Mozart opera, Don Giovanni. Strauss’ version is magnificent and wonderfully original, using soaring melodies to encapsulate the swagger, debauchery, and bravado of the lusty seducer.

Strauss (pictured left) composed Don Juan as a young man of 24; its international success and original, groundbreaking style cemented his place as a rising star of the composition world. Notorious for its technical difficulty (it’s an orchestra-audition-list staple), Don Juan is a virtuoso piece that will showcase the abilities of the RPO's world-class musicians to full effect.

The program also includes music from Strauss’ comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose). Composed 20 years after Don Juan, Der Rosenkavalier shrewdly examines the full spectrum of love; the plot celebrates the excitement and passion of love-at-first-sight, but also shows the repercussions involved when love grows cold. The RPO will be joined by sopranos Noelle McMurtry (as Sophie) and Rebecca Farley Witty (as Marschallin), and mezzo-soprano Laura Vlasak Nolen (as Octavian) for these performances.

Violinist Stefan Jackiw (right) will join the RPO as well, performing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. Scottish Fantasy is both Romantic and romantic, evoking the rugged beauty and exuberant spirit of Scotland. The piece is a fantasy on traditional Scottish folk melodies including Auld Rob Morris, Hey the Dusty Miller, I’m a’ doun for lack o’ Johnnie, and Scots wha hae. Click here or below for a preview, performed by Jascha Heifetz.

Valentine's Day is associated closely with roses, and this weekend's program will feature a rose of the musical variety in the form of contemporary composer Karen Tanaka's Rose Absolute. Read below for Tanaka’s introduction to this piece:
Rose Absolute was inspired by a perfume of the same name, created by the French perfumery Annick Goutal, located near the Place Vendôme in Paris. Rose Absolute is the most beautiful and pure rose of roses. The image of this composition, sounds and colors came to my mind instantly when I visited the shop and was handed a beautiful bottle of the perfume with a lovely scent of roses. The piece was written as a floral bouquet for a lover, as my personal, romantic present.”

Share these works with your Valentine, Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 pm or Saturday, February 11 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased online or by calling 454-2100.

* Scottish image: Eilean Donan Castle; scotland-flavour.co.uk

February 4, 2012

Q & A with RPO Tubist W. Craig Sutherland

This Sunday's family concert celebrates the tuba's unique and indispensable contribution to the world of music, and just as no orchestra would be complete without the tuba, the RPO wouldn't be complete without its Principal Tubist, W. Craig Sutherland. This week, Craig joins us to share his thoughts on Tubby the Tuba, the Superbowl, and more.

Hometown: Clarence, NY

What music school did you attend, and who were your most inspirational teachers? Abe Torchinsky at the University of Michigan and Warren Deck at The Juilliard School.

What kinds of music do you enjoy listening to? Anything with an interesting bass line...

What can you tell us about Tubby the Tuba? Tubby the Tuba is a timeless classic, teaching children about music and life, and the important message of self-confidence. As any performing artist, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. As Tubby's story demonstrates, the tuba can do a lot more than just play oom-pahs.

This is my second time playing Tubby the Tuba professionally. I played the piece when I was a member of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in SC (along with my RPO colleagues Lara Sipols and Heidi Brodwin, who at the time were also members of the CSO). In addition to Tubby, I will be playing, the Largo al factotum aria from Rossini's Barber of Seville.

Who would Tubby like to see win on Sunday? This Tubby is a lifelong Bills fan, who, unlike Tom Brady, loves Buffalo and its hotels! Given that Tubby's creators, composer George Kleinsinger and lyricist Paul Tripp, both spent their lives in New York City, Tubby would most likely be cheering for the Giants this Sunday though he's had good times in New England, too.

A current favorite children's CD in our house: My 8 ½ year old daughter Madison (pictured right) loves to listen to the RPO's newest recording, The Story Babar and A Family for Baby Grand narrated by John Lithgow. I really enjoyed participating in the creation of this CD and adding these musical stories to the repertoire along with Tubby the Tuba and Peter and the Wolf.

5 Fun Facts About the Tuba:

1. The tuba is youngest of all the brass instruments. 

2. If you were to stretch the metal tubing of a tuba, it would be 18 feet long, the same length as a French horn. 

3. Orchestras typically have one tuba, though some composers have written pieces that call for more, including Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique.

4. Tubas are made of brass, a metal made of copper and zinc. Both of these metals are found in vitamins. This means that during your life you may eat an entire tuba - and it would be good for you! 

5. Tubas are not made in Tuba City, AZ

The tuba family: The brass tubing for the tuba begins at the mouthpiece, and bends and folds until it finally flairs, forming a large bell. Tubas are found in various pitches, most commonly in F, E, CC, or BB­ in "brass band" pitching. The main tube of a B tuba is approximately 18 feet long, while that of a CC tuba is 16 feet, of an E­ tuba 13 feet, and of an F tuba 12 feet (not including any valve branches). Tubas are considered to be conical in shape as the bore of their tubing steadily increases in diameter along its length, from the mouthpiece to the bell. 

History of the Tuba: The serpent was invented in France by Edme Guillaume c.1590. As its name suggests, the Serpent was coiled back and forth like a snake and was played by means of six holes. Later on, keys were added so that this instrument could play with greater facility. 

This instrument saw wide use in the church as a bass accompaniment for religious music that had evolved from Gregorian Chant. In Britain, in addition to its sacred role, the serpent was soon adopted as the bass member of military wind bands.

Modern Tuba: The modern tuba was invented in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the 1800s it joined the military band. About 100 years later the tuba was included as a regular member of the symphony orchestra. 

The Tuba is the largest and lowest sounding member of the brass family. It's sound is very round and mellow. The tuba, along with the string basses and bassoons, provide the lowest sounds for the orchestra. One tuba is used to complete the brass section. Some composers wrote for more than one, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz was the first major work orchestrated for tuba.

Sousaphone: Contrary to popular belief, J. W. Pepper suggested the design to John Philip Sousa. The Sousaphone, alleged to have been first made by C. G. Conn in 1898, was actually first manufactured by J. W. Pepper in 1893. In fact, the original J. W. Pepper Sousaphone is still in existence.

Hear Craig perform this Sunday at 2:00 pm in Performance Hall at Hochstein! Tickets start at $10 and can be purchsed online or by calling 454-2100.