October 30, 2015

From the Stage: RPO Principal Bass Colin Corner

Colin Corner
credit Roger Mastroianni
RPO Principal Bassist Colin Corner shares an interesting story about the historical bass on which he will play Koussevitzky's Bass Concerto on Sunday, November 8, which is also Ward Stare’s conducting debut on the Sunday Matinee series. Corner returns to Rochester for this special performance; he was recently named principal bass of the Atlanta Symphony and has been playing with the ASO since September 2015.

Colin Corner, bass
The Anne Hayden McQuay Chair

"I am thrilled to be coming back to Rochester to play Serge Koussevitzky's Bass Concerto. This is a piece I have had a long history with. I've been playing it off and on for auditions and such since high school, so I know it very well. But the bass I will be playing it on has an even longer history with the piece: it once belonged to Koussevitzky, from 1901 until his death in 1951. [Koussevitzky is probably best known as the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949.] According to his wife, he used to practice on it every day. She then gave the bass to Gary Karr, legendary bass soloist and founder of the International Society of Bassists. Mr. Karr, in an act of amazing generosity, then gave the bass to the ISB after playing on it for over 40 years. The instrument was once thought to be an Amati made in 1611, but further research found it to be a bass of French origin, c. 1800. Nevertheless it is an incredible bass, and now bassists and audiences for generations to come can hear the splendor of tone that is in it. Recordings of Koussevitzky and Karr playing the Concerto on that bass will reveal that the bass has the same sound that can be heard on those recordings- rich, warm and singing. It is a small bass, and is incredibly easy to play. As for the concerto, the piece was written in late romantic bel canto Russian style, with soaring, lyrical melodies reminiscent of Tchaikovsky. I look forward to joining the RPO and Maestro Ward Stare on November 8th, and cannot wait to share the stage again with my colleagues. Hope to see you there!"

If you go

Stare conducts Sunday Matinee 2
Sunday, November 8 at 2 PM
Hochstein Performance Hall
Tickets are $25, full time students $10 with valid ID
Visit rpo.org for more details

Hear composer Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951) perform the second movement of his Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra in F-sharp Minor, Op. 3.

October 26, 2015

RPO musicians invest in Orchestra's future

Contract extension enables solid financial planning 

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) and the Local 66 of the American Federation of Musicians announce that its musicians and board have ratified a two-year extension to the current four-year agreement, now in its final year. By providing an exact knowledge of musicians’ costs over the next three years, the agreement allows the RPO to create a workable financial plan in order to achieve a balanced budget and financial stability.

“Once again, the musicians have shown a willingness to invest in the future of this world-class orchestra by agreeing to extend the previous year’s concessions,” says Interim President and CEO Ralph P. Craviso, who began his appointment on October 1 and was not involved in the negotiations. “We have a responsibility to repay that good faith by creating a stable and financially sustainable future, and this agreement enables us to do that.”

The agreement includes a salary freeze for musicians in the 2015/16 season, marking the fifth season in a row with weekly salary levels at the same rate. It provides for a 2.6% increase in the weekly rate next season and remains flat in 2017/18. Contracted weeks, which have been at 37 since the 2013/14 season, will remain unchanged in 2015/16 and increase to 38 in 2016/17 and 38.5 (or possibly 39) in 2017/18. RPO administrative and staff salaries have also remained constant during the same period of time.

Federal Mediator Scott Montani of Syracuse participated in the last three negotiating sessions and facilitated the settlement after union and management agreed to his participation.

“By agreeing to a continuation of concessions, the musicians are investing in the long-term future of this organization and hope that this new agreement can mark the first steps toward financial stability for the RPO," states William Amsel, RPO clarinetist and chair of the Musicians’ Committee.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 160 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving up to 170,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Recently appointed 12th Music Director, Ward Stare joins the ranks of former notable RPO music directors, including Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 21-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) – the first endowed position of its kind in the country – the RPO reaches more than 12,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children.

October 23, 2015

RPO and The Strong collaborate for "Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy"

Following the success of "Video Games Live" last season, the RPO will present a symphonic concert on Thursday, October 29 that pays tribute to one of the bestselling video games series' of all time, Final Fantasy. A talk back panel of industry experts will immediately follow the concert, moderated by Shannon Symonds, associate curator of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at The Strong. The talk back is free to all ticket holders and will explore the music and history of the Final Fantasy series.

Guest panelists:
  • Arnie Roth, conductor and music director of "Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy"
  • Susan Calloway, vocal soloist and familiar voice on the Final Fantasy franchise
  • Stephen Jacobs, assistant director of RIT’s MAGIC (Media Art Games Interaction Creativity) Center and associate professor of Interactive Games and Media

More info:
Shannon Symonds blogs about Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uetmasu, the "John Williams of the gaming world," and the significance of video game music on the ICHEG blog.

The Wall Street Journal's recent article on the phenomenon of video game music concerts and how they are "saving the symphony orchestra."

Tickets and more information for "Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy."

See the London Symphony perform "One-Winged Angel" from Distant World: music from Final Fantasy. The Strong's Shannon Symonds mentions this piece as a personal favorite in her blog!

October 1, 2015

Meet the artist: Christopher O’Riley

Acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Riley will perform Mozart’s 22nd Piano Concerto with the RPO on October 15 and 17 under the baton of Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. O’Riley is known not only as a classical musician, but also for his inventive arrangements of popular music. He is also known as the host of NPR’s From the Top (coming to the RPO in January!), the preeminent showcase for classically trained young musicians, now in its 15th year on air. We caught up with O’Riley to learn more about the Mozart Concerto, why he is looking forward to returning to play with the RPO, and why he is committed to bridging the gap between musical genres.

Tell us more about the piece you will play with the RPO, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, K. 482. What makes this particular work exciting to play?
It’s one of the most virtuosic of the Mozart concerti, but it’s also exciting because there are a lot of places where Mozart didn’t write out passages—it’s just one note per bar. There was a lot of improvisation in Mozart’s day and it’s up to the soloist to fill in those blanks. I don’t pretend to make up stuff on the spur of the moment; it deserves some thought. This is also a concerto where Mozart didn’t write his own cadenzas, so I have written my own for the first and last movement. There is a lot of opportunity for soloists to have our own input, so that makes it very exciting for me.

So it sounds like even if you have heard K.482 before, every performance will sound different because the soloist gets to add their own flair?
Yes, quite different!

You’re an accomplished solo artist in your own right, but what do you like about playing with an orchestra?
I like the chamber music aspect of playing with an orchestra, directly engaging with the players themselves. The RPO is a spectacular orchestra and they have been around forever. Last time I played with them was with Christopher Seaman. Christopher is an extraordinarily generous and gracious colleague as a conductor. I have fond memories of my work with him.

Speaking of that last RPO performance in 2000, I understand a Rochester blizzard led to both concerts being canceled.
We were supposed to perform the Schumann Concerto. We had a lovely rehearsal and then got 24 inches on the day of the concert. Then there was no snow on the day in between concerts, followed by 36 inches of snow on the second day we were scheduled to perform!

Well, we are making up for it by having you perform here twice this year! In January, you will return to the RPO for a recording of From The Top. What’s your advice to young musicians?
I think it’s important for kids to spend as much time as they can soaking up all the best music that they can. It’s important to be true to your passions. The more distinct and unique a musician’s personality, the more chance that they will resonate with a large audience.

You’ve certainly proven that with your own body of work. You’ve performed as a soloist with virtually all of the major American orchestras, but also have a keen interest in pop music. Your album of reimagined works by Radiohead earned a four-star review from Rolling Stone Magazine, and you are the only classical pianist to earn this accolade. Do you perform pop arrangements with hopes of bringing in new audiences to the classical world?
I’ve always been interested in all kinds of music. When I started out as a kid, I was playing classical piano exclusively. I don’t think girls were impressed with classical, so I started playing pop music. I had my own little rock band in junior high. When I started playing my new pop arrangements, it was because of my work with From the Top. It was a nice way of bridging the genre gap and playing music that I believed in. In my way of thinking, it’s just a matter of trust. A performer should be trusted to perform and prepare what they believe in, and an audience should allow their ears and hearts to tell them what is good, instead of some predisposition that you should only listen to classical music. It should be a matter of spontaneous interaction and reaction to what one is hearing. There is good music in lots of genres, and that’s why I continue to play pop music. It does help to bridge the gap between audiences with different tastes.

Will we get to hear Radiohead when you are here again in January?
I’m sure it will be whatever I am into at the time. Right now I am really into the composer Antón García Abril (a notable Spanish movie/TV composer) and the American rock group Sun Kil Moon!

If you go:
Seaman Conducts Brahms 4
Thu. Oct 15, 7:30 PM, and Sat. Oct 17, 8 PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22
Student tickets $10

See Christopher again in January
From the Top Live with Host Christopher O’Riley
Sun Jan 17, 7:30 PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $15

See Christopher O'Riley perform his arrangement of Radiohead's "Karma Police."