Classical Music Buzz > Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
KSO blogger Andy
274 Entries

It’s that time again! The Knoxville Opera Company’s Rossini Festival has arrived and is scheduled for this Saturday, tucked between Friday night and Sunday matinee performances of Rossini’s own La Cenerentola (Cinderella). While the Festival has traditionally occupied several acres of downtown, an expansion this year will increase its reach to Church Street, Wall Ave. and Clinch Ave., as well as a new jazz stage in the Krutch Park extension. As we have come to expect, there will be scores of artisan vendors, food booths, wine tastings, Kidszone, and of course, championship people-watching. Here is a link to the schedule of performers.

KOC’s production of La Cenerentola will feature return engagements by mezzo Leah Wool and baritone Andrew Garland, who were seen in Rossini’s Barber of Seville production here of a few years ago. Rossini’s score competes with that of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (which was produced this past October) for the title of "bubbliest opera music."



The particulars of this year’s Festival are: 8:00 Friday and 2:30 Sunday downbeats for Cenerentola, and 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. for the street fair. There is no admission charge for the street fair.
11 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

A major mystery was solved yesterday, as a perennially exuberant fan from Tazewell, Virginia was identified at our Southwest Virginia Community College’s “No Limits” Festival of the Arts performance. His booming baritone “YEEAAAAAHHHHHH!” at the end of every piece– and sometimes before the end– was absent from last year’s show; we really missed being regaled so and were concerned for his well-being. But yesterday he was back, stronger than ever. I happened to see him clapping his hands, it was easy to spot him because his applause has the same larger-than-life gusto that his voice does. To give you some reference, his voice sounds (to me, anyway) like Phil Williams, of Knoxville talk radio fame.

So I arranged to meet him after the concert, Jennifer Barnett having neatly discovered that his name was Bob. I must admit, I was expecting some huge guy wearing overhauls and maybe a John Deere cap, but what he wore would have also been appropriate at the races at Saratoga, and he was in very good shape for what I would place at about 78 years old. His wife Nona was with him. His name is Bob Nassif, and he moved to Richlands, VA from Brooklyn as in child in 1939. He’s of Lebanese descent, and made his fortune in Richlands as a clothier back in the 50s and 60s, but what he told me next just absolutely made me do a face-palm. He talked of ancestors who had the last name Rizk who lived in the town of Southington, Conn. Ladies and gentlemen, that happens to be my hometown! Although I moved from there when I was two and didn’t get to meet all the neighbors. ) :

Mr. Nassif had a very compelling explanation for his robust ovations and vocalizing. He stated that “when something hits me [makes an impression on him], I hit back.” The concert featured student soloists from SWCC’s music department, and each one of them was lauded generously-- by name. It’s endearing to know that the effect our music has on some people spawns more than applause. Hardly a rehearsal goes by when we aren’t tempted to give a Bob-style cheer after running through a difficult passage.
11 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

I am so glad that winter has unclenched its fist and I could spend some time in the garden. I guess I’ve grown accustomed to local standards of cold weather, but even as a northerner, I thought it was a long winter. I was beginning to think that spring could not start until we played the Rite of Spring in May!

The focus this week is on Verdi’s Requiem, coming this Thursday and Friday nights to a theatre near you! (Tennessee Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Not merely one of the great Requiems (Mozart, Brahms, Fauré), but it is great Verdi also. To wit:

  • There will be trumpets literally all over the place; some of the most amazing brass writing  you are every likely to hear. 
  • A transcendent flute trio in a variation within the Agnus Dei movement,
  • A bassoon quartet (yes, it’s scored for pairs of flutes, oboes and clarinets, but FOUR bassoons) in the Libera me.
  •  Let’s don’t forget about that cello section solo (soli) that starts out the Offertorio: a THREE AND A HALF OCTAVE arpeggio up, and then another, and then one going down. Beautifully simple music that Verdi wished he could have written for a single voice to sing.
  •  If you like Beethoven’s 9th but you don’t want to wait three movements before you hear voices, then this is the concert for you. The Verdi Requiem is the Italian Beethoven 9. 

Verdi’s most cherished operas earn their affection through Verdi’s skill as a dramaturg. The Dies irae hits you like a ton of bricks and then keeps showing up again in the darnedest places later on in the work. This is music you have heard in Django Unchained, Harry Potter, and IMDb-only-knows how many other movies.

I can’t say enough about the Verdi. This is healing music that was written in memory of Verdi’s friend, poet and author Alessandro Manzoni. It was premiered on the first anniversary of Manzoni’s death and still is known in some circles as the “Manzoni Requiem.” I also can’t say enough about the power of triumphant music such as the Verdi to cleanse the spirit and transport the heart, when the heart needs transporting the most. It is a lengthy work (about 85 minutes or so) which ends peacefully, but then, marathons are long, too. And should end peacefully.

---------------------------*********************----------------------------

“Bullies, oppressors and all men who do violence to the rights of others are guilty not only of their own crimes, but also of the corruption they bring into the hearts of their victims.”

Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

With the Doc Severinsen “Italian Style” Pops concert last night, we have passed into the Italian portion of our season, with Verdi’s Requiem and Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) taking up most of the rest of the month. There was and will be great voices. Joseph Wolverton starred in the Pops, singing Vesti lo giubba from Pagliaci, Nessun dorma from Turandot, La strada del Bosco, (Doc translated it as "Standing over my chocolate milk)" and many other favorites. The powerful Verdi and the hilarious Rossini (which will be done in English as the capstone of this year’s Rossini Festival) strike a nice yin-yang mood balance.



---------------------------**********************---------------------------

The parts from which we read can be a written history of performances of the piece. Rental music goes everywhere, and for some of the more obscure works, the path a piece of music takes might make an intriguing study. The covers of the books for big-name artists are signed by many, many players, despite cruel measures threatened by publishers for “defacing” the music.

In practice, though, sometimes the part is just no help. I don’t know which work the next picture came from, but this spot is obviously subject to various interpretations. Which interpretation is anyone’s guess at the first rehearsal.



And sometimes there’s just too much help...


1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

I don’t usually do it this way, but I am reporting about a concert that has already happened. A concert as momentous as Sunday’s requires a lot of preparation, and I am not always able to just whip off a blog post the way I sometimes am. The Knoxville Marathon was Sunday, and we were warned that parking might be a problem because runners would still be finishing up on Gay Street, where our patrons and we would be arriving for the Chamber Classics concert at 2:30. It was ironic then, that after the concert I would end up feeling like I had just run a marathon- a chamber music marathon. Chamber music playing, especially quartet playing, is more like performing opera than anything else I do, except for maybe solo recital and concerto playing. Individual parts for all of the works we played on Sunday more resemble an opera role. You study the role, put it together with the other “roles” that fellow quartet players are learning, then put the roles together to create a “mini-opera without words.” This was most especially true for the Beethoven and Debussy quartets, but Lucas’ pieces and the Borodin quartet also had no small amount of character realization that had to be done.

As postscript to the Bijou concert, the Principal Quartet played at the Lucas Richman Society’s annual dinner for donors at Fleming’s Steak House in Turkey Creek. Core violinist Sara Matayoshi was the strolling violinist during dinner, and the quartet played a small segment during dessert, that was interlaced with videos from Maestro Richman’s files. We all learned a lot last night; for one, that Lucas appeared in a Jerry Lewis film entitled Smorgasbord, in an “orchestra crowd scene” that featured Mr. Lewis as a conductor (in this case in front of the LA Youth Orchestra) and Lucas as a second violinist. Another clip showed Lucas as a contestant on (are you sitting down?) Wheel of Fortune. He allowed that although he didn’t win, he did come away with $250 worth of appliances from Service Merchandise! We performed the Scherzo from the Borodin quartet (which we had played earlier) and a work by Lucas entitled Gerhardt Variations, part of the score for a film entitled Four Faces which his dad, actor Peter Mark Richman, created but never released. We viewed a passage from the film and found it to be very powerful; if you know the elder Richman’s work on The Twilight Zone, The FBI, or one of a slew of shows he had roles in, then you know what I’m talking about. As a child, Lucas would go to see his dad at work at the studios. Since Peter Mark was often portraying a bad guy, Lucas stated that as a child he “saw his dad get killed a lot.”

--------------------------********************--------------------------

It came as somewhat of a surprise to me to learn that concerts are being rebroadcast on WUOT-FM about a month after their live dates. Here is schedule for the remainder of the season, but I want to insist that, indeed, live music is best.

April Chamber
This concert will air on WUOT on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. This concert will be rebroadcast on Monday, September 2, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.

April Masterworks
This concert will air on WUOT on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. This concert will be rebroadcast on Monday, September 9, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.

May Chamber
This concert will air on WUOT on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. This concert will be rebroadcast on Monday, September 16, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.

May Masterworks
This concert will air on WUOT on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. This concert will be rebroadcast on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

As well as the fiery Beethoven op. 95 quartet and the two Movements by Lucas Richman, two very essential quartets by Debussy and Borodin will be performed this coming Sunday. Although all of these quartets save for the Richman were written in the 19th century, they could not be more different in their individual styles.

The  Juilliard Quartet’s 1971 LP of the Debussy and Ravel string quartets was the only recording of the Debussy available at my local library when I was growing up. I literally wore out the Ravel side of the record. I was fascinated by the string quartet sound, the cool French harmonies, and the machine-like precision of the fast pizzicati. I have since found a copy of the disc in a Goodwill store somewhere, and now I am wearing out the Debussy side of it big time.



Debussy heard Indonesian Gamelan music for the first time at the World Exposition of Paris in 1889. (You are perhaps hearing Gamelan music for the first time here). The Gamelan’s percussive, layered and improvisatory nature is captured in the second movement, Assez vif et bien rhythmé. You can see from the video that a Gamelan is comprised of upwards of 25 members, so reformatting the sound down for four string quartet members is a neat trick. Debussy opened some new doors and set some new land speed records by calling for string players to pluck (pizzicato) extremely fast. Ravel also seemed inspired by the Gamelan in the second movement of his String Quartet ten years later. Indeed, the entire Ravel quartet seems to mirror Debussy’s in layout, pacing and mood. Other influences on Debussy’s music are Franck and Borodin. And wine.

Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2, from 1881, is a beloved work, and one melody from its sublime, third-movement Nocturne was commandeered by Robert Wright and George Forrest, re-emerging as And This Is My Beloved from the 1953 musical Kismet. (The second theme of the second movement is used in that show as the basis for the song Baubles, Bangles and Beads). What influenced Debussy in his quartet was undoubtedly the wavy accompanimental figures that pervade the faster movements of the Borodin.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

The first week in April will take us to Farragut High School and Tellico Village, and for me, ending with a bang at the Chamber Classics Principal Quartet concert Sunday April 7 at the Bijou at 2:30. Quartets by Borodin, Debussy, two movements for quartet entitled Blinded and Traces by Lucas Richman, and Beethoven’s quartet in f, op. 95 (Serioso) will be performed.

In the classical world, when you say “op. 95," you can only be talking about this very Beethoven quartet. You don’t even really have to say “opus,” people will understand you if you just say the number. The piece has become a euphemism for moodiness, for brevity, for intensity, for just general Beethoven bad-asserie. What followed from Beethoven’s pen were his final violin sonata and the magnificent Archduke Trio, and two of the three preceding works were his 7th and 8th symphonies, so the Serioso Quartet is, as they say in real estate, “in a neighborhood of fine homes.” There are other “op. 95's,” of course. Dvorak’s  New World Symphony has that number, but if we billed it as “Dvorak’s Symphony op. 95,” people would wonder what the big deal was.

Since Beethoven probably composed this at the piano, we quartet members like to think of ourselves as Beethoven’s fingers. “Hi, I’m Andy and I’ll be your left 3rd, 4th and 5th finger, and occasionally a thumb this afternoon...” Perhaps Beethoven wished, pianistically speaking, that his fingers could be in pairs further apart, mimicking the range of a string quartet. He broke (and therefore rewrote) so many rules with this work, and we are so grateful. The infomercial-like Wikipedia entry on the quartet details a few of the “offenses;” a real source such as Thayer’s Life of Beethoven or The Classical Style– along with repeated listenings– will surely take you further into the rap sheet. Movements 1, 3 and 4 are quintessential sturm und drang, but the 2nd movement is absolutely transcendent in its warmth. And the ending.... shazam!
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

It’s Masterworks time, or at least it will be this Thursday and Friday, and a Spanish accent will be in evidence. The works chosen offer an interesting contrast in composers’ viewpoints; two 19th-century works by “outlanders,”  and three early 20th-century works by native Spaniards. Although all of the works have Spanish rhythms and themes, the 20th-century works benefit from having much more liberal and liberated harmonic and coloristic palettes. Which is saying something, considering that Rimsky-Korsakov literally wrote the book on orchestration, and every orchestral composer since then knows it well.



I love playing the Three Cornered Hat Suite by Manuel de Falla. There are two such suites, and either one of them is just fine with me. I like the way this particular dance suite just floats in breezily in the violins, introducing The Neighbors, then The Miller, and finally a wildly capricious Jota. (A Jota is an Aragonaise, as was the opening movement of the Sarasate Carmen Fantasy from last month’s concerts. The "J" in "Jota" is pronounced like the Ch in Channukah).

We are lucky to have guitar soloist Ana Vidovic with us. She is a bright star in the guitar sky, and a guitar soloist is a rare thing in our orchestra, maybe 3 in the last 27 years, as far as I can recall. The Concierto de Aranjuez (pronounced “are on ways,” but the “s” in “ways” is pronounced with a lisp) she is performing is by Joaquin Rodrigo, a composer who should have showed up on my composer longevity post from January 30th. He lived 97 years, all the more remarkable considering he was blind from age 3.

Chabrier’s España is a light-hearted favorite to close out the first half or start the second half, I’m not sure which. Then we will hear from another guy named Joaquin, Turina, that is, in his Danzas Fantasticas. I found out the other night that there is a cello solo near the end. Surprise! This video of an orchestra of guitars and lutes will probably help me find the right atmosphere.

We’ll finish with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, a masterpiece of orchestration and a wonderful musical journey. Every instrument on stage has at least one fine moment in the sun, and the lines between orchestral and chamber music are blurred thanks to “R-K’s” mastery of “downshifting” musical textures.

1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

The lucky ones who will attend the Concertmaster Series this Wednesday and Thursday at Remedy Coffee, (7 pm) will be treated to a performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings by the “inner circle” of string players of the Knoxville Symphony. The work is a euphemism for childhood genius, written when he was just 16 (SIXTEEN). High-octane fortissimo passages seamlessly melt into tender, lyrical sections and games of musical "bloody knuckles." It is full of impish levity that only a 16-year-old could concoct, yet as mature as anything Strauss or Beethoven wrote as old men. Contrast this with Beethoven’s opus 3 String Trio (also in Eb), written when Beethoven was 23; an awkward, stodgy work bound by classical-period conventions, which Beethoven had not yet learned to sidestep.

The first movement introduces the “main characters.” Rather than splitting the duties cleanly between a pair of string quartets, there is far-flung free association and antiphony among the players according to the size and register of the gesture Mendelssohn is trying to create. The andante second movement is the “slow movement,” but the triplet accompanying figures that span most of the movement keep a breathless excitement in the air despite of the slow-ish tempo. After playing this movement I feel like saying, “He was 16 when he wrote this. SIXTEEN. When I was 16, (to quote David Letterman), I was out getting stuck under the garage.” The scherzo 3rd movement is a test for fine bows; flying spiccato, ricochet and a bevy of trills, in a texture whose dynamic never rises above piano. Here, the forest gnomes and sprites that inhabit Mendelssohn’s very next composition, the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are field-tested and put through their paces and found to be quite sound, thank you. The presto final movement literally ties everything together, using themes from the scherzo and from Handel’s Hallelujiah Chorus as well as an original, rapid-fire fugue subject to complete a rich musical palette never heard before or since.

The Concertmaster Series is by no means the only thing going on with the KSO this week. A quartet is going to the Karns library for a Story Time concert Wednesday at 10 am, we just this morning played our “Scientific Symphony” Young People’s Concerts at Greeneville’s Niswonger Performing Arts Center, and a Barbra Streisand Tribute Pops concert will occur Saturday night at the Civic Auditorium with Ann Hampton Callaway. Take in some live music this week; you won’t be sorry.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

For the final Concertmaster Recital Series performances, Gabe Lefkowitz will be playing old favorites, but except for Rachmaninov, the likelihood of your having heard of the other composers is pretty slim. Ponce, Bazzini and FRANÇOIS Schubert are quintessential one-hit wonders. Not that their output aside from these works sucked or anything, but, these “one-hits” were such big hits that they became calling cards for their composers’ reputations.

I have to chuckle when I see The Bee (L’abeille) attributed to merely "Schubert." Only by staring at the cello sheet music offerings on the back of International Edition cello music while practicing am I aware that this work is not by the Viennese wunderkind Franz Schubert. It is rather by a later composer from Dresden with EXACTLY the same name, whose studies in Paris inspired him to go by the name François. He must have been quite a violinist if he could perform his own works. I love these old-school recordings of violinists, here’s Maud Powell (American premier of the Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak Concerti) in a recording that has to be from a wax cylinder or something.

Say what you want about Jascha Heifetz’ playing, but the 1939 MGM film They Shall Have Music put classical music on the map for a lot of folks, and Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita “(Little Star)” is featured in one of five appearances by Heifetz in the film.

In the 1850's, while François Schubert was portraying bees in his music, Brescian composer Antonio Bazzini was seeing goblins. More widely known in his day as a performer than a composer, his contribution to the Messa per Rossini is nonetheless quite a story. His share, among a total of 13 contributing composers, is the Dies Irae chorus. It is interesting to note that the catalyst for this mass, Giuseppe Verdi, contributed the final chorus, Libera me, and his fully-grown Requiem that we will perform on the April Masterworks concerts is a result of compositional seeds that were planted in this Rossini Mass. The work was basically unknown to the world until 1988. ANYways, as a child Bazzini was a violin student of Faustino Camisani; hey, you’d write a piece called Dance of the Goblins too if you’d studied with a guy named Faustino.

The second half of the concert will consist of the Mendelssohn Octet. It seems like every octet is excellent; Schubert’s (we’re not talking François here), and Stravinsky’s are legendary workhorses in their respective genres, and Milhaud wrote two string quartets that can be played as an octet! Mendelssohn’s is scary good; I don’t even have time right now to write about it, so you’ll have to take my word that it’s one of the most perfect pieces of music ever written. Or you can wait for me to tell you why in the next post.

1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
61 - 70  | prev 34567891011 next
InstantEncore