Friday, November 30, 2007

Cleveland Visit

With one of the great American orchestras right up the road, I decided to take advantage of the proximity and travel to Cleveland for a day.

The staff was extremely inviting and accommodating. After a tour of Severance Hall, I made rounds to all of the different departments. Everyone was very open about their policies and management styles, along with being very frank about the future of The Cleveland Orchestra.

In the evening, I attending my first concert of the orchestra in their home, and I was absolutely stunned. James Conlon steadily guided the musicians in a powerful rendition of Debussy's La Mer.
I have always loved the stirring theme in the horns, that lifts like waves crashing onto the sandy shore.

Jonathan Biss performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in his Cleveland debut. This piece is haunting me throughout my Fellowship year, with it being played in or around every one of my host orchestras. Yet this opportunity was great to get to compare the differences in the sounds of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I was able to definitely discern a difference in sound, so I know my listening skills have improved through my intensive listening exercises.

I went to Cleveland hoping to gain insight into how another orchestra functions, and I came away with a great deal of perspective to take with me through the rest of my Fellowship year.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I took the holiday off to travel down to Atlanta and visit friends from my time in Cincinnati. It was good to reconnect with my old friends. I was quite sad to miss the weekend's performance of the full ballet score of Stravinsky's The Firebird.

No concert update for this week, but I did listen to Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust. One day I want to program for a symphony performance.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Update on my research

It has been a long time since I have talked about my what I have been doing to acquire the data for my expanded paper.

This fall I was able to get access to all of the enrollment and graduation reports beginning at the 1981-82 school year. After inputting all of the data into an Excel spreadsheet, I graphed out 25 years of information.

Yesterday I was able to access the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh archives. They contain, among other things, a huge collection of "International Musician" mircrofilms. I spent 3 hours inputting the 1980-81 and 1981-82 information. They have the magazine on microfilm up to 1997, so it should take me another 12 hours to fill in the gaps of what I currently have recorded.

It is too soon to make any conclusions, but I hope to be able to start writing after the first of the year. If only I had a free weekend...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 5 & 6

These back-to-back concerts were linked together in order to finish a cycle of recordings of all four Brahms symphonies. The first two were recording at the end of last season and the final two were set to be finished in order to have the set relaxed next spring.

The first concert opened with one of my favorite symphonies of all time, Brahms 3rd. Every time I hear the piece, I imagine myself on a journey through the German country side. The first movement is the sights and sounds of the forest greeting me as I enter them and follow the path into the center. The second movement is a stream in the woods, moving amongst the roots of the forest's trees. The third is reminiscent of dusk settling, the sun dipping and the shadows crossing each other as the mood darkens. Night arrives in the fourth movement and the music portrays the sound of the stars and moon appearing in the sky to light the path home. I was very mindful to suppress any urge to mock conduct, which was hard since I know the piece very intimately.

The second concert was capped with Brahm's stunning 4th Symphony. From the beginning theme introduced in soaring strings, it was one passionate minute after another. The theme grew and fell, repeated, mutate and hung in the air in Heinz Hall. I really cannot tell you how good it was because I was so enraptured in the piece I was caught of guard at the conclusion. Stunned silence after 40 minutes of pleasure. I love those moments when I get caught in the music. It is why I am in this field.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What music do you listen to?

Every music major dreads this general get-to-know-you question. Our passion is music, our lives are saturated in the element. Asking to name your favorite piece is akin to asking a doctor what is their favorite muscle or bone.

I wanted to walk through how I obtained my own musical tastes. These were given to me through interactions with good friends and experiences with organizations I have worked with.

National Public Radio ( 90.7 WAUS - Andrews University )
Brahms - Symphony No. 3
Listening to the music in between the crackling on my old FM radio after dark, I began my love of classical music, and Brahms in particular.

My Mom ( Best of J. S. Bach tape )
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
I wore out the tape listening to the first movement of this piece and it is still one of my favorites to this day.

Brian Lane ( High School Choir Director )
Schubert - Ave Maria
My first voice teacher provided me with an introduction and appreciation for the art song genre.

Dr. Johnny Poon ( College Choir Director )
Orff - Carmina Burana
My first year at Evansville I was a part of this classical masterwork, and it was thrilling and just got me hooked on oratorios.

Dr. Robert Jordan ( Music History Professor )
Reich - City Life
This was just one in a set of required pieces to know for our listening exam, and I was hooked with the novelty of the work and the addictiveness of the sounds.

Miranda Meadows ( Friend and Cellist )
Beethoven - String Quartets
She gave me exposure to this form of chamber music, which has quickly become my favorite combination.

Jessica Powell ( Roommate and Double Bassist )
Any Atonal, Serialist or post-1960s music
My standard reply regarding my opinion on any 20th century music was "It's interesting." Jessica kept giving me more and more music to experience. Now one of my favorite genres is 20th century music, such as Berg and Adams.

Jason Mraz ( Roommate and Percussionist )
Mahler - Symphony No. 5
I had only know of Mahler through various sound bytes. Jason introduced me to the full power of his works and Mahler has become one of my most listened to composers.

Julia Starr ( Friend and Bassoonist )
Shostakovitch - Symphony No. 10
The piece was on my first listening exam for my graduate music history course. Julia helped me to study it in Russian context (aka with vodka).

Elizabeth Fleming ( Friend and Hornist )
Strauss - A Hero's Life ( Ein Heldenleben )
It could only be a horn to encourage me to embrace Strauss's music.

Cincinnati Ballet/Leigh Lijoi ( 1st Job )
Any Ballet Score
I can now understand the connection between dance and music, having worked for a ballet company. I now want to see the all ballet's I have only just heard.