I invited Glen Kwok, the executive director of the International Violin Competition in Indianapolis, to be a guest blogger today to talk about what Clara-Jumi Kang (our soloist in this weekend's performances) has been up to since winning the IVCI's Gold Medal in 2010.
Ever wonder what life as a concert artist is like? If we take a quick glimpse at just one three-week period in the life of 2010 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis Gold Medalist Clara-Jumi Kang, it will give you a good idea.
In this current three-week period (which culminates with this weekend's concert with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra), she will have traveled from Munich to Hiroshima to Newark to Indianapolis and then finally back home to Munich (that's 20,637 miles to be exact). Her travel schedule alone is enough to tire out even the most seasoned traveler. Can you imagine on top of dealing with all the flights and multiple time zones, actually having to prepare and perform three different concertos at the same time? In Clara's case, this trip involved performing three major warhorses of the violin repertoire: Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn concertos as well as Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole -- no easy feat even if she stayed put in one city!
The life of a concert artist is exhilarating and rewarding in so many ways but as you can see, it is definitely not an easy one. On top of the concerts, Clara must juggle several projects including the release of her new CD. For those attending this weekend's concert, you will get a chance to see Clara's CD, hot off the press from Decca. Stop by the lobby of Hilbert Circle Theatre at intermission to say hi to Clara as she will be signing CDs. Entitled "Modern Solo," it features some of the solo violin repertoire's most fiendishly difficult virtuoso pieces such as Ernst's Last Rose of Summer and Der Erlkönig, Milstein's Paganiniana and Ysaÿe Sonatas No. 3, 5 and 6.
As if all that I described above was not enough to think about, add a Carnegie Hall debut on May 4 and I think you get just enough of a taste of what life is like in the life of Clara-Jumi Kang!
I'm handing over my blog today to my colleague and good friend, Laura Leverton. Laura manages the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's annual Side-by-Side concert, which pairs enormously talented high school musicians with their counterparts in the Orchestra. Many of these high school students go on to successful careers in music, just like she did.
What's your favorite musical memory?
Mine is a 16-year-old version of me, playing the flute solo of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn to a standing ovation in the Hilbert Circle Theatre.
No, seriously! I was part of the ISO's Side-by-Side program in 2000 and 2001, and had the time of my life playing alongside members of the ISO with about 50 other high school students from around the state. It. Was. Awesome.
Today, I manage the Side-by-Side program, (now in its 21st season) and each year I remember how thrilling it is to be part of this long-standing Indiana tradition. The students who participate are knock-your-socks off talented--I mean, holy cow good--but with the Midwestern charm and respect that makes them an absolute delight to see each week for rehearsals.
One of the things I love to see every year is how the students become instant friends. They support each other, joke around backstage, occasionally find a love interest... ("If music be the food of love, play on," right?) But you can see, hear, and feel this connectedness onstage, and it makes the concert absolutely electric.
What you can't see onstage are the many paths these students take after the curtain falls. Each year, Side-by-Side alumni graduate to attend the nation's most prestigious conservatories. That's part of the magic--you never know if you're watching the next Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, or Josh Bell. This year, the concerto soloists include a 16-year-old violist, and a 14-year-old cellist. What were YOU doing when you were 14?! Probably not performing as a soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
If you've never been to a Side-by-Side concert or if you're just ready for this year's dose of inspiration, come to this year's concert on March 7 at 7:30 p.m. It's open to the public, and all tickets and goose bumps are free. Seriously, don't be surprised if you get choked up: the intensity of the student musicians, the rapport with the ISO pros, and the innocent sparkle of 16-year-old virtuosity--it may become one of YOUR favorite musical memories.
I became a mother for the first time on Dec. 28, 2001 at 3:38 p.m., and the experts were right. Everything changed.
But that really wasn't a shock to me. What did surprise me? How I reacted to family members or friends inviting me to go places with my children. For example, you would typically hear me say something like:
No, I can't go at that time. Baby needs to eat.
No, I can't go to that restaurant. She won't eat anything but bologna.
No, I can't go there with a stroller. No elevators? No way.
Nay. What if she breaks something or throws a fit?
No, I couldn't get her to sit through that. She's got the attention span of a gnat.
This Sunday at 3 p.m., the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and our kid-at-heart violinist Nick Kendall host a special one-hour concert designed perfectly for *that* kid: the kid who wiggles and giggles in her seat (aka my daughters, now 10 and 5 years old). It's our family-friendly symFUNy Sundays series, and I'm here to reassure parents who are nervous about bringing children to the Hilbert Circle Theatre. We WANT your kid.
Nick and ISO assistant conductor David Glover use humor, expression, interactivity and high energy to engage our young listeners. I happened to peek into this same concert when we performed it for school children last week (as part of our Discovery Concerts), and I was thrilled to see the students' reactions to the orchestra. The kids were laughing. The kids were listening. The kids were participating. Two teachers emailed us after the program:
"The concert was WONDERFUL!! My favorite of the last 5 years I've been bringing students!"
"It was superb!! I really appreciated the soloist that was also the speaker. I think it gave students a personal connection to the violinist. It let them see that he was just a normal person like them."
symFUNy Sundays: it's an hour (perfect for that short attention span). It's accessible (bring that stroller -- we have elevators). It's welcoming (if you need to get up and take her to the potty, go for it!). It's affordable (tickets here). And best of all, it's fun (hence the title. Let those kids wiggle and giggle all they like!).
Join us this Sunday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. (and arrive early - there are lots of activities to do with your kids, including the popular Instrument Petting Zoo!).
This week on the Symphonic Hits series, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is visiting one of my favorite works, Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. This work consists of three independent movements all of which center on dance rhythms. In fact, Rachmaninoff even envisioned it being transformed into a ballet. The central movement, and to me the most haunting and beautiful, is a Waltz, and this got me thinking about the lengthy history of Waltzes in orchestral music.
The Waltz itself can be traced back to well before the turn of the 19th century, but its rise in popularity began after 1800, hitting its peak in the mid to late 19th century (the time Johann Strauss Jr. was writing the Blue Danube Waltz). As the Waltz gained popularity, it began to be incorporated into the concert hall. Possibly the first Symphonic Waltz is the second movement of Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique.
Listening to this music I am transported into a ball room and can see dancers twirling about the floor. Throughout the century many composers used waltzes in this manner, evoking balls and parties as does Tchaikovsky in his 5th symphony.
By the turn of the 20th century, things were changing both in the nature of classical music, as Romanticism waned, and in the world, where the old order crumbled away into the new. If you happen to be one of the millions addicted to PBS's Downton Abbey, you have been watching this very thing as the British aristocracy faces the new world. It was a traumatic time, and many people were slow to let go of conventions, but the march of progress couldn't be stopped. Therefore composers often used waltzes in their symphonies, but they have a different effect. They no longer are joyful, but instead evoke memories of the past like Mahler's use of the Waltz in his fifth or ninth symphonies, or Ravel's La Valse where a traditional sounding waltz slowly goes out of control.
Finally we get to possibly the last major Symphonic Waltz, the 2nd movement of this weekend's Symphonic Dances. It is haunting and full of longing for the past. It is no more the vital dance of Berlioz, but nostalgia for a better or at least different time. The Waltz proper starts around 1:55 in this video.
These are just a few of the many examples. Let us know your favorite Symphonic Waltz, and head down to the Hilbert Circle Theater for Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances this weekend.
As I was looking over Prokofiev's Lt. Kijé Suite for this weekend's performances, I began to wonder about the place of movie music in our concert halls. I was struck by the fact that after a century of great cinematic achievements, very little of the often equally as great music has made its way onto our classical concerts. Outside of some of the earliest scores by the Russian greats, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, it is rare to see any film music on our so-called "serious" concerts. What is the reason for this?Maybe it's the nature of film scores, that they are often descriptive rather than developmental, or that they can be a series of brief, unrelated excerpts, but so are many ballet suites as well as other short works that we frequently see on concerts. Perhaps it's the stigma of popular culture being included on concerts with our hollowed Beethoven and Brahms. I asked this week's conductor, Leo Hussain, what he thought about the subject. He feels that this distinction between "classical" and "movie" music is a bit false, and that composers like Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Britten, all of who wrote for motion pictures, would not have made any distinction. He added that there is lots of great music being written for films, and it should have a chance to be heard in our concert halls. I certainly agree with him, but let us know what you think. I'm curious how our audiences feel about the subject. On the rest of the concert, we'll return to music for music's sake with one rarity, Shostakovich's Second Violin Concerto, and one beloved chestnut, Mozart's 40th Symphony. The soloist for this concert is Vadim Gluzman who two seasons ago gave one of the most exciting performances of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concert I've ever heard, so I'm really looking forward to his return. This weekend's performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30.
Title: Piano Concerto No. 2Artist: Chopin
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