Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 1

My first introduction to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Classical Concert series began with an empty stage. This really was not an anomaly, but the opening of John Corigliano's Promenade Overture. In a reversal of Hadyn's Farewell Symphony, Corigliano begins the piece with a retrograde of the last few bars of Hadyn's work and then the musicians begin to trickle onto the stage. Flutes and horns march on, playing the theme while the cellos and violas lumber in, playing as they go. The final note is played by a sprinting tuba player, who missed the introduction and reached the stage just in time.


Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto, originally thought to be oafish and unplayable, was the only disappointment to an exciting program. The work should have been full of thunder, but it was played with boasting pomp and heavy handedness. It began to lag from the first few bars and compounded upon itself to add 9 extra minutes to the work.

Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique ended the opening weekend program. Berlioz's lush music was at home in the voices of the instruments of the Pittsburgh Symphony, with the only jarring sounds being from the baseball fireworks adding to the pastoral scene. The large bronze bells which hid stage right all week were finally struck, echoing the dies irea throughout the sold out hall. Such a splendid way to kick off a season.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back to work, finally!

For the last two weeks, I have been a shadow to the senior staff members in the various departments at the Pittsburgh Symphony. The objective was to both see how the senior members of the management team operates on a day to day basis and begin to draw a picture of how the organization functions. While most of the days were spent in meetings, I did get to have precious one-on-one time with each of them to discuss their career paths, career philosophy, my background and how to create my own path to learning during my time in Pittsburgh.

Last weekend was the Pittsburgh Symphony Gala. A star-studded evening, billed as Four Singular Sensations. As a rule of thumb, it is unwise to bill a number in a title, because almost always one or more of them will be unable to show up. First, the original tenor bailed because he wanted to rest. A poor excuse if you ask me, but it is his career that sidelining. Then, Kristin Chenoweth fell down some stairs in her home, resulting in a concussion and broken ribs. Since the Gala would not really function without any vocalists, the PSO replaced the tenor with an "up and coming" one and Kristin with the famous Bernadette Peters. It turned out to be an amazing show with these "substitute" sensations. And I got to meet Miss Peters. There are certain perks to my job that I can admit to enjoying.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Welcome Maestro Honeck! and that fellow guy

Since it was my first day as a Fellow with the Pittsburgh Symphony, one would think that I would be the focus of the staff's attention. Special meals, numerous introductions and tours of the building would be followed with bundles of brochures, magnets and CDs.

But, that was not the case. My first day happened to coincide with the arrival of the new music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Manfred Honeck. He was visiting from his home in Vienna to meet the staff and get a sense of the people behind the organization. I thought it was an extremely bold move for a European conductor to spend a week of his own time to learn about how an American orchestra develops audience and raises supplemental funds. At the end of the week, Honeck surprised the classical preview concert audience with performance of a waltz by Strauss. The audience went crazy at that moment, not even knowing that backstage there was a manager-in-training closely observing the operational aspects of a major symphony orchestra.

Well, maybe I'll be noticed tomorrow, when I being shadowing the senior staff. One cannot miss a 6 foot man in black suit sitting in the back of the room asking random questions.... can they?