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Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
KSO blogger Andy
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Can you believe it’s time for the next Q Series concert? The first in the series, about a month ago at the Square Room was a big success musically and dietarily. This Wednesday the KSO Principal Woodwind Quintet will be joined by pianist Emi Kagawa in a colorful and eclectic program (a balance diet, if you will) at noon. A box lunch from Café 4 (in front of the Square Room at 4 Market Place) will be included in the admission price, which is $15, $20 day of show.

Lucas Richman’s Variations will start the program, a duet between bassoonist Aaron Apaza and clarinetist Gary Sperl. The work has a variety of textures and is infused with the Jewish klezmer style of clarinet playing. Originally for cello and piano, the work was recorded by the great klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman in 2006. What Django Reinhardt did for the guitar and Bela Fleck for the banjo, Feidman is doing for the clarinet, hyperextending technique across traditional boundaries and into a new artform.

Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano is next, Emi Kagawa will join Aaron and oboist Claire Chenette. Francis Poulenc (pronounced “fron-see pool-onk”) is quite an underrated composer, his masterful choral work Gloria notwithstanding. He is much more well-known to singers and church musicians. It’s been many years now, but the KSO Chamber Orchestra performed his Sinfonietta. Poulenc also wrote a chamber cantata called Le bal masqué (The Masked Ball) which is quite bizarre. This Trio is the perfect blend of naivete and sophistication, and has a clever and somewhat Halloween-ish ending.

Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds will close the program. After the work’s premier in 1784, Mozart wrote to his father, saying that the Quintet was the best thing he had ever written in his life. This after composing 451 other works! I don’t think I can add much to Mozart’s words, take it from him...
1 month ago | |
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The music of Hector Berlioz, Modest Mussorgsky and Paul Dukas will provide us with the perfect Halloween wake-up call this Thursday and Friday nights at 7:30 at the Tennessee Theatre. Guest maestro Sameer Patel has been a gracious and concise presence on the podium, very much attuned to the overall impact that this dynamic music is designed to create.

I love the music of Modest Mussorgsky. His use of unusual combinations of instrument timbres (such as gong with bass clarinet, or trombone with high tympani) produce truly exotic orchestral colors. His music also has its own unique, harmonic language that is half-Gothic and half-peasant. The program for A Night on Bald Mountain is truly diabolical in nature, but ends with a glimmer of peace.

Paul Dukas’ The Sorceror’s Apprentice is GOING to leave a smile on your face, I guarantee. Not to take anything away from the Fantasia connection, but this work has the ultimate contrabassoon solo. It’s fall-down-on-your-face funny and MUST be heard in person. You’ll also notice, near the end, the source of a John Williams theme from a galactic warfare movie from about 40 years ago. And if that isn’t enough, Dukas has a Knoxville connection– he was a composition teacher of the KSO’s third music director, David Van Vactor.

If Mussorgsky set the tone for the evening with diabolical subject matter, Hector Berlioz ups the ante in Symphonie Fantastique. Berlioz wasn’t being vain in entitling his work with a superlative (the French usage of the word fantastique suggests “fanciful” or “outrageous”), but he had every right to “toot his own horn” if he wished; it really happens to be a fantastic piece of music. Symbolic of his own experience with a love beyond reach, the symphony is a marvel of orchestration– and an emotional smorgasbord. If you remember, last month’s Bright Blue Music by Michael Torke showed how music could evoke colors when heard. Berlioz has written a piece which seeks to evoke the object of his affection. A recurring theme, called an idée fixe (rhymes with “Ebay freaks”) represents the woman (Irish actress Harriet Smithson). There are instruments offstage; the 1st oboe and orchestra bells will both spend some time in the wings, typical of the Romantic Era aesthetic wherein the artform is bursting at the seams of its physical confinement to the stage.

You will be happy to know that South Central St., down the hill behind the Tennessee Theatre, has reopened (with a slightly modified traffic pattern), allowing access to on-street parking if you are wishing to avoid the congestion of the State Street Parking Garage.
2 months ago | |
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Just to the right of today on the calendar is the first entry in the Gabriel Lefkowitz and Friends Concertmaster recital series at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday at 7:00, Gabe and pianist Kevin Class will perform Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dancesand finish with Cesar Franck's landmark Violin Sonata.Principal French Horn Jefferey Whaley will join Gabe and Kevin in Brahms' Horn Trio, op. 40, to close out the first half.
Bela Bartok's Romanian Folk Dancesare based on some of the many folk tunes that Bartok encountered in Transylvania in his quest to catalog them all. Different musical modes give each dance its own compositional palette. Starting with the Poarga Romanesca, the work accelerates to a delirious conclusion. The titles of the movements have always eluded me, as they were in Hungarian. Here they are translated, with each movement's mode indicated.
Joc Cu Bâta= Stick Dance = Dorian and Aeolian modes Brâul = Sash Dance = D Dorian Pe Loc = In One Spot = Aeolian and Arabic Buciumeana = Dance from Bucsum = Mixolydian and Arabic Poarga Romanesca = Romanian Polka = D Lydian Maruntel = Fast Dance= Mixolydian and Dorian
One of the most remarkable things to me about the Brahms Horn Trio is that I DON'T HAVE TO PLAY IT. My closest involvement with this work is to have turned pages for a pianist years and years ago. And no, there won't be three French Horns on the stage (Gabe and Kevin did not take up the horn while we weren't looking). It is just an identifying title, to differentiate the work from the typical piano trio comprised of violin, cello and piano. The presence of the horn makes for some soaring lyrical lines contrasting with some boisterous marziale passages. The trio was written in 1865 as a memorial to Brahms'mother, who had passed earlier that year.
A work that best embodies the Romantic ideal, Franck's Violin Sonata was written in 1886 as a wedding gift to the great Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe et ux. The work is quite metamorphic in nature in that much of the material grows from the small lyrical fragments that open the work, and tunes from earlier movements reappear in later movements. This sonata stands alone as an uncategorizable masterpiece of the solo violin repertoire.
Tickets for this concert will be available at the KMAdoor for $20.
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Ok, so everyone's just dying to know the Obscure Lyrics Quest answers, I can tell by all of the comments, lol...
1) “They say in the darkest night, there's a light beyond.”A: I didn't mean to start with a trick question, it was just randomly chosen (and we hadn't rehearsed this yet when I posted the blog), but this line comes from Art Garfunkel's 1973 single, All I Know.You REALLY would have needed to know this song well, because we played it as an instrumental....
2) “I was so hard to please.”A: Hazy Shade of Winter”
3) “Dogs in the moonlight”A: Paul Simon's “Call Me Al.”
4) “I only kiss your shadow, I cannot feel your hand.”A: The Dangling Conversation.
5) “The old men lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset.”A:Old Friends.
6) “You better get your bags and flee.”A: Keep the Customer Satisfied.
7) “Why don't you show your face and bend my mind?”A: Cloudy. This is also a trick question, WE DIDN'T PLAY THIS TUNE...
8) “Gazing from my window to the streets below”A: I Am a Rock
9) “I can snatch a little purity.”A: Paul Simon's Loves me Like a Rock
10) “And the moon rose over an open field.”A: America
11) "I'll play the game and pretend."
A: Homeward Bound
2 months ago | |
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Welcome to a rainy Friday afternoon!
In honor of tonight's Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel Pops concert, I would like to invite you to play a game I call “Obscure Lyrics Quest.” Since we've already received the music for this concert, we have an inside track on which songs are going to be played. Rather than just tell you the songs, (where's the sport in that?) I will write down lines from some of these songs, and you will, after attending the concert, match the line with the song that was performed. I may change it up a bit and write down a line from a song that is NOT being performed. (I'm tricky that way). Also keep in mind that songs of both Simon and Garfunkel as solo acts are being performed. And NO FAIR GOOGLING!!! Pretend it's 1970. So! Here goes...
1) “They say in the darkest night, there's a light beyond.”
2) “I was so hard to please.”
3) “Dogs in the moonlight”
4) “I only kiss your shadow, I cannot feel your hand.”
5) “The old men lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset.”
6) “You better get your bags and flee.”
7) “Why don't you show your face and bend my mind?”
8) “Gazing from my window to the streets below”
9) “I can snatch a little purity.”

10) “And the moon rose over an open field.”
11) "I'll play the game and pretend."
Here is a pertinent clip of a favorite memory of (2nd cast) Saturday Night Live. I'm SOOO glad I could find it! It's a classic-- and I find it amazing that they could do it with straight faces.
2 months ago | |
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This season’s first concert of the Chamber Classics series is just around the corner! This Sunday at 2:30 at the Bijou Theatre, we will be presenting Luigi Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in B?, sandwiched by two works of Beethoven: his Overture to Coriolanus and the 4th Symphony, under the direction of Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum. Our guest soloist for the Boccherini will be UT’s esteemed professor of cello, Dr. Wesley Baldwin.

Boccherini’s B? Concerto is arguably the most approachable of the “Big 9" concerti for the cello (others were written by Haydn [2], Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Tchaikovsky [Rococo Variations], Dvorak, and Elgar), but still nowhere near “easy.” Boccherini was Italian-born, but spent the last 44 of his 62 years in Spain, qualifying him as an honorary Spanish composer. The work, written some time between 1765 and 1774 (honestly, that’s the closest anyone has come to pinpointing a date), underwent a transformation at the hands of the German cellist Friedrich Grützmacher in 1895. This transformation borrowed parts of Boccherini’s other cello concerti in the outer movements and the entire slow movement of another. Grützmacher also composed cadenzas for all three movements, Boccherini having left none. Would Boccherini be pleased with what Grützmacher did? P’raps, p’raps not, but most cellists find that the Grützmacher “renovations” make the concerto much more palatable; “normalized,” if you will, given that Boccherini had a penchant for odd-length phrases and for repeating figures one or maybe two times too many.

Beethoven’s 4th has long been in the shadow of the odd-numbered symphonies that surround it. The Eroica (3rd) is the first “monster symphony” (dwarfing even the longest Mozart symphony, the Jupiter), and as for the 5th, well, welcome to the Romantic Era. The 4th has more in common with Beethoven’s first two symphonies than with the 3rd or 5th, and for good reason: the dedicatee, Count Franz von Oppersdorff of Silesia, had heard a performance of Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony (which is nothing like the 3rd ), and commissioned a similarly “Classical” work. The premier happened in March of 1807; also on the program were the 4th Piano Concerto, which was heard on this past May’s Masterworks concert, and the Overture to Coriolanus which opens Sunday’s concert.

Speaking of Coriolanus, this is Beethoven’s darkest overture because it is the only one that stays in a minor key for its entirety. (The Egmont Overture starts in f minor but ends in F Major). It has some notoriety for having some especially difficult passages for the cellos. Matters are not helped by the fact that the Orchestra Excerpt Book for cello has some of the lines in the wrong order. At the risk of being called nerdy, I have included a couple photos of the affected passage. I guess it was a sort of backhanded way of making students dig deeper into the work, a way to separate the men from the boys, if you will, but most people just think it was sloppy editing. A classic case of WHAT WERE THEY THINKING!?


                                (Excerpt book) The whole-notes should lead into the half-notes


                                                                 (Real Part) Like this!

2 months ago | |
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May is the month when “Commencement” ceremonies are held, January is the month that starts the calendar year, but September is the month when the KSO opens up its season, and when all of its different classical series hit the ground running. Our Masterworks series started with a bang this past Thursday and Friday, the Q Series will begin afresh in its new venue this coming Wednesday at noon, and the Chamber Classics series comes to life at the Bijou Theatre this coming Sunday at 2:30.
Sharp eyes at the Tennessee Theatre Masterworks concerts last week may have missed a familiar face in the woodwinds. Principal oboist Phylis Secrist has chosen to take a year's leave for '14-'15. Good golly, I'd want to take a year off too, if I had been performing with the KSO for parts of FIVE decades. : ) Playing principal oboe with us last week (and for the rest of this season) is Claire Chenette, from Iowa via LA. Actually, it's a little more complicated than that, as she did her undergrad work at Oberlin. Claire is now a Master's candidate at California Institute of the Arts, which all the cool kids (as well as I myself, now) call CalArts. In LA, Claire somehow finds time to devote to a new music ensemble called Wild Up, and a folk band called Three Thirds.

Claire's Knoxville chamber music debut will come Wednesday, Sept. 24 at noon at the Square Room, in this season's first Q Series concert. In fact, it will be the Square Room's debut as well. Joining her will be the rest of the Principal Woodwind Quintet-- Jeffrey Whaley, horn; Ebonee Thomas, flute; Aaron Apaza, bassoon, and Gary Sperl, clarinet. They will perform Ravel's Mother Goose Suite and a suite pulled from Bizet's Carmen. Sounds pretty suite, if you ask me! The Principal String Quartet will then bring Tango Moderato and Tango Chromatique by Michael McLean, and the exciting final two movements of Beethoven's String Quartet op. 132. Concerts in this series include a scrumptious boxed lunch from Café4 and are $15 in advance, $20 on the day of the show. So it's pretty simple-- buy your ticket today (subject to availability) and it's $15, buy it tomorrow and it's $20. Hmmmm....
2 months ago | |
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Here comes the 2014-15 Masterworks season, opening up this Thursday and Friday at 7:30 with Music of Torke , Hindemith and Brahms! Bright Blue Musicby Michael Torke (pronounced TOR-key) leads off the show. Colorful and intricate, perky and amiable best describe this synesthetically conceived work. It lopes along like a quick-ish Mahler ländler with some tricky antiphonal passages. Torke's work was commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra, led by David Alan Miller. Some of you who have been here a while may recall that Mr. Miller was a candidate for Music Director of the KSO when Maestro Richman was hired. Interesting bit of circularity, that.
Finishing the first half of the concert will be a work akin to the Kodaly Hary Janos Suite that was performed on last season's opening concert: Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber(I know that title is a mouthful; let's just call it Symphonic Metamorphosis). In fact, back in the days of wine and vinyl, the Kodaly was often backed with the Hindemith on a single lp. So if you liked the Kodaly, you shall surely like the Hindemith. Whereas Kodaly took his inspiration from Hungarian folk tunes, Hindemith drew on his own unique musical language and some early Weber opera dances to create a very engaging and exciting work. Hindemith rearranged the traditional harmonic structure to make a new language which relied heavily on the interval of a fourth, as in jazz. The orchestra for this work requires all of the extra wind instruments and uses them well. The brass writing throughout (but especially just before the end) is simply thrilling. A musical theorist as well as a composer, Hindemith's textbook, Elementary Training for Musicians,gives countless music students fits in college Ear Training class. One blogger described this exhaustive compendium as “an all-purpose torture device for the masochistic musician.” In addition to sight-singing exercises from hell, there are protocols for every possible issue that could arise when printing music. I still refer to it to resolve logistical issues. The Metamorphosiscello part has Hindemith's trademark music font that takes me right back to that Ear Training class every time.

If Hindemith's re-imagining of the traditional harmonic system doesn't quite suit you, then move over, Rover, and let Brahms take over! Brahms' First Piano Concerto is the final work on the program, unusual for a concerto. This early work is symphonic in nature with the piano often contributing to an orchestral texture, rather than simply being “backed up” by the orchestra. It is full of Romantic passion and tenderness typical of what a 25-year-old is equipped with. Pianist Jon Kimura Parker will be our soloist. It's always nice to visit a concert soloist's blog, which you can do here.
3 months ago | |
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In this final weekend before the KSO's Masterworks series get revved up, there are a few events going on to capture your musical attention.
Tomorrow night (that's Sept. 12, if you have a calendar) at 8:00, there will be a collaboration between UT's Music Department, The Confucius Institutes of both UT and MTSU, and the Confucius Classroom at King's Academy, in a production called Where East Meets West: An Evening of Opera and Song. Chinese opera is an ancient art, with programmed works dating back as many as 15 centuries. This production will take place in the beautiful Powell Recital Hall at UT's Haslam Music Building, and it's FREE.
Post-show victuals will definitely be more enjoyable with the accompaniment of music produced by three cellos. Starting at 10:00, at the Jig and Reel in the Old City where there is NO COVER CHARGE, Beatles cover band Norwegian Wood's Cello Trio edition will perform until 1:00 a.m. Players are Alexia Pantanizopoulos, Georgia Sinko, and yours truly. We will be playing some mind-blowing arrangements of Beatles and related tunes, tangos, light classics-- and of course, some jigs and reels.
The very next day at 2, the Oak Ridge Community Orchestra's first concert under its new Music Director and Conductor will happen on Saturday, Sept. 13 at First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge. When I tell you WHO this new Maestro is, you may be surprised-- or, then again, if you're aware of his many talents, you may not be. It's none other than the KSO's own Concertmaster, Gabe Lefkowitz! Gabe will lead this respected group through music of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Khachaturian. A press release for this FREE event can be found here.
I am not finished performing this weekend in the wee hours of Saturday morning. After a short snooze, my OTHER band, Kukuly sand the Gypsy Fuego, will performing at Sweet P's Barbecue and Soul House, 3725 Maryville Pike. Our set for this“Smokin' Day Festival” starts at 5:00 and goes for an hour. This acoustic trio will delve into Western Swing, Samba, Tango, and Gypsy Jazz. The music is FREE, but a wristband that grants you all you care to eat can be had for $20.
That's it! Just one more week before opening night! Stay tuned for more about that...


3 months ago | |
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The world has lost a fine Maestro. On July 4th of this year, former KSO music director Árpád Jóo (pronounced “Yo”) passed away from a heart attack in Singapore. His hiring at age 25in 1973 made him the orchestra's fourth principal conductor, and its youngest ever-- in fact, at that time he was the youngest ever Music Director/Conductor of a metropolitan orcestra in US history.  Entering the Kodály School of Music at the tender age of 6, he was taken under the wing of Zoltán Kodály himself, and the two shared a long friendship up until the Kodály's death in 1967. A fine pianist before his conducting career, he was awarded first prize in the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in Boston at age 20.
His career after Knoxville saw him guest-conducting around the world, and led him to positions with the Calgary Philharmonic, the Spanish Radio and Television Orchestra in Madrid, and several orchestras in his native Budapest. Jóo's1980 recordings (LPs)of the complete orchestral works of Bartok on the Sefel label were lauded by major critical media: Time, Newsweek, The New York Times,even Sports Illustrated.His recordings of complete orchestral works of Liszt and Kodály also have withstood the test of time, although sadly these don't seem to have been transferred to digital media.
The KSO will be dedicating the September Masterworks pair to Maestro Jóo, in recognition of accomplishments during his tenure in Knoxville. His passion, vision, and interpretation set the bar high for future music directors and players alike, and his establishment of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra program has proven to be an amazing gift to the community that still bears fruit today.

Here is a link to Árpád Jóo's biography page on the KSO website.
Hereis a link to a memorial article from the city he went to after Knoxville, in the Calgary Herald.
Here is a link to a video of Maestro Jóo leading the Spanish Radio and Television Orchestra in a segment from Wagner's Die Walküre from 1989.
3 months ago | |
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It has started. The long-distance run that leads up to the KSO Principal Quartet's November 2 Concert at the Bijou. Our first rehearsal on three new (to us) works. Principal Violist Katie Gawne stated that it is amazing (and a relief!) that in spite of taking the summer, it was easy to slip back into the level and style of quartet playing that we have been tweaking and honing over the last two years. It's easy to play at a high level when there is give-and-take, respect, and care. It's great to be back!

The Beethoven Op. 132 and Shostakovich 8th Quartets are iconic, monumental works that challenge, and ultimately define, an ensemble's sound. Angelica is a classic-to-be written by Venezuelan native Efrain Amaya based on the Legends of Charlemagne. An added challenge is that soon after this repertoire was chosen and programmed, scheduling intricacies dictated that the concert would not be in its usual early April niche, but JUST AFTER HALLOWEEN. This adds up to a prep period that is five months shorter than usual.

The 8th Quartet of Shostakovich was borne on broken wings and broken dreams of freedom, written in three days almost a year to the day before I was born. He had just been diagnosed with ALS, and had recently reluctantly joined the Communist Party. This is a tragic work, there is no doubt, but really, what great Russian works aren't at least half-tragic? Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, Boris Godunov, and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Ballet are gut-wrenching all the way, but even the Nutcracker and everything Rachmaninov wrote can bring you tears before leaving you with a smile on your face. Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussourgsky, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich; the progressive overlap of their lifetimes and musical palettes is startlingly obvious.

Whereas Shostakovich wrote music that is distinctly "Russian," Beethoven did not intentionally write "German Music." We as players and listeners often have trouble separating Beethoven The Man from his country, but to him it was just "music." He ran for the great Germanic relay race team of composers, taking the baton from Mozart and Haydn and handing it off to Brahms while Weber, Mendelssohn, and Schumann cheered them on. Beethoven's early works, informed by his predecessors, respected the templates and forms of the day, but you can tell the music is just bursting at its formal seams, like a chrysalis breeding the Romantic Era. We were always told that Beethoven was half-Classical and half-Romantic; some teachers even had the nerve to call him "transitional." Beethoven was a compositional period unto himself. He was... The Man.
3 months ago | |
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