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Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
KSO blogger Andy
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It's here! The founding fathers had exactly such a day as today in mind when they were picturing a 4th of July celebration. It's 82 degrees and sunny, and memories of rainy 4ths in 2009(?) and 2013 shall be banished. In fact, record low temperatures are possible tonight, so hold on to your glow sticks, people..YOU ARE GONNA NEED A JACKET LATER. I never thought I would say that in July. In Knoxville.

Parking is very much available right now. There are typically more people on Market Square at the Saturday farmer's market than there were when I just came through downtown a few minutes ago. (3:00 pm). While you may find a dandy space, consider what it will be like when leaving. The 11th St. garage is very close to the venue, but traffic can be pretty gnar afterwards. It's a good place to park if you are going to stay downtown or on the strip after the fireworks; by midnight- but maybe not much before- it should be cleared out. Sometimes parking downtown is a good option, if you don't mind walking. It's a long schlep with a cello, but I've done it.

Please come join us in  Lucas Richman's final 4th of July concert, tonight at 8:00 at the South Lawn of the World's Fair Park!! God Bless America!
2 months ago | |
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Time has gotten away from me somehow; Mid-June flew by, and now it's the Mid-Teens! We took a trip to Vermont to deliver our son Richard to Middlebury College, where he is attending the summer language program. (speaking of “Midd”-teens, har har har). Big brother Thomas lives in Middlebury, so it was a family reunion for sure. And YES, we watched the World Cup. Hopefully the USMNT will still be in contention on the 4th, GO USA!
I just don't know how I have gotten this far into the summer without rapping about the KSO's 2014-2015 season! It's inconceivable... I know I've told people about it, but not through this grapevine, I guess, so here it is...
The Masterworks Series starts on September 18th and 19th with a diverse concert featuring Hindemith's colorful Symphonic Metamorphosis, and finishing with the Brahms 1stPiano Concerto. Jon Kimura Parker will be the piano soloist in a show that also offers Michael Torke's Bright Blue Music, speaking of colorful. (Please note that he is not related to the ex-Monkee Peter Tork; the names are spelled differently).
I don't know if you saw the Metro Pulse on May 8th, but there was a letter from a reader, a classical music fan, who longed to hear the KSO perform some scary, Halloween-ish music in a darkened theatre. He listed some pieces, and I had to chuckle, because I knew already that there was quite some overlap between his list and the repertoire for the October 16thand 17thMasterworks performances. Guest conductor Sameer Patel, Music Director of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, will lead the KSO in Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain,Dukas' Sorceror's Apprentice (with concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz as soloist),and Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique.. Three wild rides, and our house lights are always down at performances...
November brings a touch of the Alps as Maestro Richman will continue his journey through the rich catalog of the works Richard Strauss, bringing his Alpine Symphony to life for the first time in Knoxville. Opening the show will be Verdi's Overture to La forza del destino, and arias by Verdi and Mozart will complete the first half.
The January Masterworks concert pair is one of the most action-packed shows imaginable. Three iconic works will be led by guest conductor Lawrence Loh, resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. We shall go back to Berlioz, this time for his Roman Carnival Overture. Guest cello soloist Julie Albers will perform Shostakovich's manic 1stCello Concerto, and we will finish with Tchaikowsky's ridiculously beautiful 4thSymphony. Taking in the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony we just performed in may, his 8th String Quartet that the Principal Quartet will perform in early November and this Cello Concerto, an opportunity for a very significant overview of Shostakovich's musical vocabulary is in the offing.

Stay tuned for the rest of the season...
2 months ago | |
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It's right around the corner, the 2014 Pilot/Flying J Independence Day Concert! Come on down to the South Lawn of World's Fair Park at 8:00 on the 4th of July for a FREE musical (and ballistic!) celebration of our nation's inception. This is to be the 30th Annual 4th of July concert, and the 238th birthday of Uncle Sam. We can't predict the weather, but trust me, it's going to be a beautiful night. Last year we learned that we can make even a rainy night outdoors festive.
Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz will perform the Rondo from Mozart's HaffnerSerenade. This effervescent work has shades of Appalachian fiddlin' in it, but check it out: this Mozart work IS ALSO CELEBRATING ITS 238TH BIRTHDAY. Yep. Premiered the 4thof July, 1776, on the eve of the wedding of the SISTER of Sigmund Haffner the Younger, a pal and benefactor of Mozart. 
We heard that some of you missed Christopher Sanders (aka Santa Claus) at the Clayton Holiday Concerts this past December, so we've brought him back for the 4th. He will perform four numbers with the orchestra: the Pledge of Allegiance, Copland's The Boatman's Dance, America the Beautiful, and The Wheels of a Dream from the Broadway musical Ragtime.

I have to qualify a statement in the first paragraph. Yes, the fourth of July IS Uncle Sam's birthday, but I actually DO have an Uncle Sam, or should I say, my wife does. His name is Sam Ward. If you are up on your patriotic music, you'll know that the music for America the Beautifulwas penned by a Samuel A. Ward in 1880. Although not direct descendants of this composer (he died childless in 1903), my wife and her uncle are definitely related to him.
2 months ago | |
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It's time for the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras' Summer String Camp! This will be the 20th annual camp, and it has come a long way since its humble beginnings. The first camp was held in the basement of (KSYO conductor) Kathy Hart's home 20 years ago, but the camp has grown to encompass four different levels of participation and takes place at Bearden High School. As explained on the KSYO webpage, the Prelude, Overture, Intermezzo and Finale groups are each geared toward a specific age group and talent level. Participants will get to work with KSO members and KSYO conductors for the week of June 16-20. I must add that the urgency for acting on your interest in this camp is high, since the deadline for applying to the camp is TODAY.





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As part of First Tennessee Bank's 150th anniversary celebration, there will be a sort of grant lottery, called 150 Days of Giving, which will award $5,000 DAILY to a different non-profit organization. By visiting FTB's website, you can vote for the KSO and as many as nine other non-profits daily. (The Memphis Symphony and the Chattanooga Symphony have already been awarded grants). Rules and guidelines are also posted on their website.

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Rebroadcasts of last season's KSO Masterworks and Chamber Classics series are starting up again soon, occurring on Tuesday evenings in July, August and September AT 8:00 on WUOT-FM, 91.9. Here is a schedule of broadcasts and repertoire that was performed on each.

July 7- Masterworks, September 19 (Reznicek Overture to Donna Diana, Beethoven Triple Concerto, Kodaly Hary Janos Suite, Wagner overture to Rienzi).

July 14- Masterworks, October 17 (Barber Overture to The School for Scandal, Richman Piano Concerto In Truth, Grofe Mississippi Suite,  Gershwin An American in Paris)

July 21- Chamber Classics, November 3 (Rossini Overture to L'italiana in Algieri, Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1, Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances, Stravinsky Pulcinella Suite)

July 28- Masterworks, November 14 (All Mozart)

August 4- Masterworks, January 16 (Strauss Overture to Die Fledermaus, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23, Tchaikovsky Suite from The Sleeping Beauty, Strauss Emperor Waltzes)

August 11- Chamber Classics, January 26 (All-Mozart)

August 18-  Masterworks, February 20 (Yardumian, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Hovhaness Symphony No. 23, Bloch Sacred Service)

August 25- Chamber Classics, March 2 (All-Baroque)

September 1- Masterworks, March 20 & 21 (Bach Brandenburg Concerti)

September 8- Chamber Classics, April 4 (Principal Quartet: Haydn Quartet op. 64, No. 5, The Lark, Villa-Lobos String Quartet No. 1, Schubert Quartet Death and the Maiden)

September 15- Masterworks, April 24 (Nielsen, Overture and Dance of the Cocks from Maskarade; Grieg Piano Concerto, Sibelius Symphony No. 5)

September 22- Chamber Classics, May 4 (Beethoven Symphony No. 2, Overture to Prometheus
and Romance No. 2 in F; Sarasate Zigeunerweisen,Paganini La campanella)

September 29- Masterworks, May 15 (Beethoven Overture to Fidelio and Piano Concerto No. 4, Shostakovich Symphony No. 10)
3 months ago | |
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Something that is approaching with startling velocity is the Principal Quartet performance in early November, on which will be performed a late Beethoven quartet, his opus 132. (The concerts that feature the Principal Quartet have traditionally taken place in early April). Late Beethoven quartets are considered to be the ultimate in quartet playing; profound, beautiful and challenging. We have scheduled some rehearsals for this summer before quartet members go whizzing off in all directions. Some ingredients for a successful performance of any quartet are: hours of preparation, a bottle of wine (for the rehearsals), and... a score.

In college I took it upon myself to assemble a collection of scores to many of the works, quartets or otherwise, that I would be performing in my future. While the majority of the scores are miniature scores, the score that I own for the Beethoven op. 132 is actually in a textbook that I used in Music History class in undergrad. This collection of scores was published as the Music Scores Omnibus. I unearthed this Omnibus recently, and although in college I had little inkling of what my future would bring, it is now apparent that this textbook held clues to my future. Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that the Omnibus was collated and edited by two University of Tennessee professors, William Starr and George Devine. Those were just names on the cover, but upon moving to Knoxville, I soon learned of their musical importance to this town.



George Devine was a longtime (1947-1985) member of the UT music department faculty, teaching music history, orchestration, and instrumentation. The start of his tenure corresponds with David van Vactor’s arrival as the KSO’s music director, and founding of UT’s music school as we know it. The music library at UT bears Devine’s name in dedication. Upon his death in 1999, a memorial statement was read at the KSO Masterworks concerts that September. For many years, Devine was the provider of program notes for the KSO concerts.



William Starr’s name is universally known in the Suzuki education realm, and his tenure at UT was Knoxville’s “Golden Age of Suzuki violin.” UT was a world-renowned teacher training facility for years, until he accepted a position at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1986. Current KSO members Julie Swenson and Mary Anne Fee Fennell were products of this fine program. My wife Helen also studied with Dr. Starr at the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin (aka Suzuki Mecca). Along with starting this fine training program, Dr. Starr was concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony orchestra during the David van Vactor years. Dr. Starr spoke at Schiniki Suzuki’s memorial service in 1998. (Photo courtesy Nancy Daby, former violinist with the KSO in the late 80's and early 90's).



3 months ago | |
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I have been thinking quite a bit about a recently deceased former member of the KSO, bassist Dale Watermulder. His death on May 8 cast a shadow on those who knew him, and the May performances that followed were tinged by that shadow.

Dale came to Knoxville from Michigan in 1977 and started his library career at the Fountain City branch, moving to the Lawson McGhee (downtown branch) in the early 80's. He was the force behind the establishment of that branch’s awesome Sights and Sounds (A/V) collection, which has been a valuable reference over the years for many musical endeavors of my colleagues and  I. He was always curious about my summer opera festival playing, and had a lot to say about even the most obscure works that I performed at Lake George and Des Moines Metro Opera.

We were both principal string players in the Oak Ridge Symphony for a time, roughly 1994-2000. As a fellow diabetic, we had many stories to swap. I always felt I had learned something after a conversation with Dale, but subtly so; the wisdom of his words took a little while to sink in. He cared deeply about the things he did and believed in doing them well.

Thank you, Dale, for making Knoxville a more cultured place– one dvd, one cd, one bassline at a time.


3 months ago | |
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The votes are in (after a nowhere-near-scientific poll) and the winner in the category of “favorite concert of the year” is the Shostakovich 10/Beethoven 4th Piano Concerto production from last week. Having mentioned in the last post that it was MY favorite concert had no influence on the “poll’s” results. The works just grew and grew on the players, and by the dress rehearsal the enthusiasm was tangible. These two familiar (but not overworked) classics showed off the orchestra’s strengths well and proved to be a great bonding experience for the players.

There are two events left in the KSO’s 78th season. The Principal String Quartet will be featured in a special event Wednesday at the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery, in Western Plaza at 4429 Kingston Pike. Already an awesome after-work venue, the Blackhorse’s ambiance will be further enhanced by the quartet starting at 5:30. The topic: beer and heavy hors-d’oeuvres. The special guest: Beethoven. Or is it the other way around? Anyway, nobody wrote string quartets like Beethoven, and we will throw in some tangos and such to mix it up. The success of “Scotch and Strings” at Boyd’s Jig and Reel (in spite of the yicky January weather) has spurred the KSO on to add another social event, “Beer and Beethoven.” Assuming that this, too is successful, I wonder what next season’s offerings will be in the “This and That” series: “Merlot and Mozart?” “Chardonnay and Chabrier??” “Sake and Satie???”

The next day, Thursday the 22nd, the Chamber Orchestra will travel to Maryville’s Theatre in the Park, across from the Blount County Courthouse for a FREE 7:30 concert that is a repeat of our May 1 Concert in the Square (which wasn’t really in The Square) and will reprise for the final time concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz’s performance of Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. An easy way to distinguish these last two concerts is to think hefeweizen on Wednesday, and Zigeunerweisen on Thursday. A rain date of Sunday evening is in force.
3 months ago | |
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We have been visiting the mind and heart of Beethoven and Shostakovich these days, and they have been gracious hosts. Our accommodations feature transcendent sonic luxury in the form of a gem from Beethoven’s succulent Middle Period (Piano Concerto No.4), and Shostakovich’s luscious 10th Symphony. I dare say that these are works that I haven’t performed frequently but I’m sort of glad I haven’t, because it makes their re-acquaintance all the finer. Despite the fact that both of these works are identified only by their numbers (pretty much the most famous “4th concerto” & “10th symphony” in the standard rep.), they are must-hear works that help earn both composers the of title of tunesmith.

Beethoven really broke some rules with the 4th concerto. Most, if not every concerto written up til then had a big ol’ orchestral introduction (tutti). The 4th starts with a quiet solo piano chord. And then a few more. It’s unassuming and seductive, but when the strings come in a few bars later, you realize that hey, this is not your father’s piano concerto. From this point on in the compositional timetable, orchestral tuttis became optional, or at least held to a few bars. Like the Shostakovich that follows on the second half, this first movement creates structural suspense that is just riveting. The second movement Andante con moto is beyond words beautiful and profound with just strings and piano, and the final Rondo: Vivace is a race to the finish. Just take a look at the chronology in the environs of this work in Beethoven’s output:

Op.55- Eroica Symphony
Op. 56 Triple Concerto for Violin, cello and piano; we played this with the Eroica Trio in September here. It seems like years ago now.
Op. 57 Piano Sonata, Appassionata
Op. 58 THIS PIECE
Op. 59 not one but Three Razumovsky Quartets, holy horseshoe, Batman!
Op. 60 Symphony. No. 4
Op. 61 Violin Concerto

Shostakovich’s tenth symphony is the best piece composed in 1951, and my favorite symphony of his to play. Biographical leitmotifs serve as bricks in a musical wall, which is finally busted  through in the last movement. The second movement is a renowned musical portrait of Stalin– a giant orchestral machine in overdrive. The famous “three knocks” rhythmic motif is used quite a bit in the third movement. Shostakovich’s writing for all the winds, but especially the bassoon family, is hauntingly beautiful and I promise you it will be in your dreams that night if you hear it (Thursday or Friday night– OR BOTH– 7:30 at the Tennessee Theatre).

Can you tell this is my favorite concert of the year?
4 months ago | |
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It is common knowledge that an orchestra will play together more successfully and consistently when the players all breathe together before an entrance. This is one of maestro Richman's pet peeves, and in rehearsals, asking us to breathe together results in a stunning improvement in ensemble. Breathing is not something that only wind players do; string players benefit from this practice as well, because the music itself has to breathe regardless of whether your instrument requires you to bow or blow. There are bound to be some extra breaths tonight, however, as the Cirque de la Symphonie performers will doubtless cause some involuntary gasps for breath on the part of those players who can see the action.

Do not be misled into thinking that the Cirque performers are the only ones participating in acts of derring-do. The orchestra repertoire for this concert is extensive, challenging and... breathtaking. Some of it is culled from recent concerts (Bach/Stokowski Toccata and Fugue, waltzes from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty), not-so-recent concerts, (Shostakovich's Festival Overture, Rachmaninov's Vocalise), and a whole host of less-easily-categorized tunes. There are still a few tickets left for this fun and exciting acrobatic show that is suitable for all ages. As yet, the stunts to be performed are unknown to us, we will find out in about 2 hours at the dress rehearsal. The show starts at 8:00 at the Civic Auditorium.


4 months ago | |
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It’s early May; time for festivals, graduations, garden planting, and... the KSO Youth Orchestras’ final concert. The KSYOA’s 40th season comes to a close Monday, May 5th at 7:00 at the Tennessee Theatre. The five orchestras are comprised of 275 young musicians, all of whom are just tickled pink to be performing in the KSO’s awesome home theatre. The Youth Symphony, under the direction of Maestro James Fellenbaum, will be playing the effervescent Overture to Russlan and Ludmila, and two movements of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with guest violinist Bella Hristova. I am not sure of the repertoire for the other orchestras, but you can count on it to be crowd-pleasing.

Here is a photo of the final “string rehearsal” for the Youth Symphony...



We (slightly) older folks in the KSO shall have an interesting week. In honor of the recently opened Richard Jolley glass installation Cycle of Life at the Knoxville Museum of Art, concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz and Friends will be performing in the Great Hall of the KMA. While the scope of this permanent installation has caused some down time for sections of the KMA, the museum itself has also undergone extensive renovation since October en route to its 25th anniversary next year. This Thursday at 7:00 pm, Gabe will be joined by pianist Kevin Class, violist Katy Gawne, violinist Gordon Tsai and myself to perform Rachmaninov’s Trio elegiaque No. 1 in g, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (if you missed it today or last Thursday at the Bijou, here is another chance) and Dvorak’s op. 96 American string quartet . (Sorry, no Phillip Glass).
4 months ago | |
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