Classical Music Buzz > Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
KSO blogger Andy
305 Entries
Although he composed a wealth of operettas, songs, ballet and chamber music, Jacques Offenbach’s current fame as a “2-hit wonder” is based on the “Can-can” from the opera Orpheus in the Underworld, and the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman, the Knoxville Opera Company’s current offering (Friday, Oct. 25 at 8:00; Sunday, Oct. 27, 2:30; both at the Tennessee Theatre). Mid-19th-century Paris was crawling with opera and ballet composers; Bizet, Delibes, Massenet, Halévy, Auber, Saint-Saëns, Gounod, etc, so to keep up with all of these composers’ accomplishments is a challenge. I will say, as a cellist, that Offenbach’s output in the area of cello duet repertoire is a vastly underrated and sadly neglected body of work. Hoffman stands out as a mature, robust anomaly; a serious opera from an era when comic opera was the order of the day. Sadly, Offenbach didn’t live to see its premier, which was completed by Ernest Guiraud and Offenbach’s 18-year-old son Auguste.

Soprano Talise Trevigne is featured in multiple roles, returning after her fine portrayal of the title role in Massenet’s Manon in 2011. Her hilarious Doll Song is a harkening back to Offenbach’s opera comique roots, and Ms Trevigne does not disappoint. Tenor Evan Bowers performs the title role, and Boris van Druff (Pirelli from last season’s Sweeney Todd; man, I still can't believe that was only last season) continues his merry pranks with a humorous falsetto aria.

My experience with the several different productions of Hoffman with which I have been involved has been enjoyable, but one particular performance can only be described as “scary as hell.” In the summer of 2005 the Des Moines Metro Opera produced Hoffman at the Simpson College home of that company. KSO violinists Edward and Mary Pulgar were also in the pit for this production.

The Blank Performing Arts Center has a proscenium stage which brings the action out in front of the orchestra, and is connected by two bridges to the main stage, similar to the Clarence Brown Theatre set-up. In this arrangement, some of the action occurs just behind the conductor.In the epilogue, a completely plastered Hoffman careens on stage and lands on a chair that is waiting for him. In this particular performance however, the chair was too close to the conductor, the floor was too slippery, the tenor was too rambunctious in his portrayal of a drunk, whatever. Hoffman slid in the chair, crashing into the wooden wall (bulkhead?) separating the orchestra pit from the proscenium stage, and the wall, weighing about 125 pounds, caved in- right on to conductor Dr. Robert Larson’s head! So while the principal cellist to my left scrambled to push the plywood wall away from the conductor, the show went on without missing a beat, although our hearts certainly did.

We at the KSO and KOC are not hoping for this kind of excitement at our Friday and Sunday productions. The talented cast is providing sufficient thrills, thankyouverymuch.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Our maestro has hit a home run with his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, In Truth, at the Tennessee Theatre Thursday and last night. Pianist (and the work’s dedicatee) Jeffrey Beigel, in his fifth appearance with the KSO, gave a splendid performance of the work. A year and a half in the works, In Truth’s three movements represent expressions of truth as pertains to being true to one’s self, true to the world, and true to one’s spirit. The first movement is declamatory yet melodic, bringing to mind the pacing of Rachmaninov’s concerti. The middle movement uses asymmetric ostinati (repeated rhythmic figures) and some high-octane ragtime to bring its points across. The finale is patiently lyrical and in the end recalls the first movement’s themes to complete a circle of truth.

In Truth is approachable from both the musicians’ and the audience’s standpoints. Appearing on our stands just seven days ago, the music was challenging but intriguing. Only minor dynamic adjustments were necessary in rehearsals to create balanced voicings of Maestro Richman’s sonic dreams. The audience reactions both nights were enthusiastic and genuine. As the work is performed by more and more orchestras beyond the member groups in the consortium of orchestras that commissioned the work, it seems clear that In Truth will “get some legs,” (to quote the maestro), and easily find its way into the music folders of musicians and the ears of listeners.

I will never forget the look on Maestro Richman’s face at the end of the first movement on Thursday night. Words like joy, marvel and fulfillment all fall short of describing the glow on his face from having heard his efforts come to fruition. In the future I will think fondly back at these two nights, and that look of contented achievement will stay with me forever.


1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
We hear train whistles all the time. There’s a level crossing about 4 blocks away from our house, and each train’s unique blast sounds a chord that could be plotted on a piece of music paper. The Concertmaster Series shows have been known to be graced by a train whistle once in a while. As often as I can, I notice the “spelling” of the chords, as if to plot the “Norfolk Southern progression.”

Samuel Barber’s overture to The School for Scandal starts with a funky D Major chord with an added sharp 5. I don’t know how to explain this other than to say play these notes simultaneously on a piano: D, F#, A and B?. There’s a train that comes through every couple months that blows this exact chord, it’s uncanny. I’ve been waiting for years to play the Barber just because it’s a gorgeous, clever, uplifting piece, and I will get my wish this Thursday and Friday at 7:30.

There’s a Beatles song entitled I Want to Tell You, it features some of the most out-of-tune harmonies you could ever hope to hear, so laughable that they are charming. At the end of every chorus, they sing “I’ve got tiiiiiiime...” It’s a first-inversion A Major chord, except the C# and the E sort of gravitate towards each other. This is a common whistle-tone chord that I have heard in other cities. When I hear it, I’m thinking “I’ve got time,” unless, of course, it’s the whistle of my train leaving. (This has actually happened to me, in Greenville, SC, where I was catching a train to attend an audition in DC). We won’t actually be performing that song this week, but...

Gershwin’s An American in Paris starts out in the streets of Paris with car horns0p------=0 (I swear, my cat just typed that...) There are three of them that the percussion section wields, loud klaxon horns that have a substantial technical requirement. Squeezing those bulbs is tricky; thank goodness they don’t have to be driving taxis around while they do it. But seriously folks, the Gershwin is a goldmine of rich orchestration and jazzy, feel-good content that will leave you humming its tunes for days.

Lucas Richman’s brand new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra: In Truth awaits us at rehearsal today like that big huge gift under the Christmas tree that everyone, especially piano soloist Jeffrey Beigel, wants to unwrap. I’ll try to add a few lines about that anon, but this is a pretty busy week and I have a train to catch...
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
We are preparing for Thursday night’s concert of music by Rheinberger and Haydn at Church Street United Methodist Church. The two works are completely new to me, and I am enjoying the discovery process. The only other work I have played by Rheinberger is his Nonet, which my wife and I performed years ago in a nonet bash at the Pollard Auditorium in Oak Ridge. (There were also nonets by Ludwig Spohr and Bohuslav Martinu). Rheinberger’s music is best described as “almost Brahms, with a dash of Elgar.” I have of course played a lot of Haydn, but never his Theresienmesse. The style of this mass is like that of his Seven Last Words for string quartet, resembling Beethoven (his student!) more than Mozart. The choirs are the Church St. Church’s own choir and the Knoxville Chorale. The soloist in Rheinberger’s Organ Concerto is the church’s own organist, Edie Johnson. Soprano Jami Anderson, mezzo-soprano Lauren Lyles, tenor Alex Ward and bass Daniel Webb are the soloists for the Haydn mass.

Jami Anderson grew up in Knoxville and her father was the choirmaster at Church Street from 1979 to 2008. When she sang her first notes at rehearsal Tuesday night, I realized that her voice had its upbringing here; I could almost hear the walls saying, “so nice to hear you again, Jami!” All of the voices are familiar, or will be soon. Ms Lyles will be appearing in Knoxville Opera’s Tales of Hoffman, coming up later this month. Daniel Webb was featured in this past May’s Chamber Classics concert performing Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, and Alex Ward portrayed Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd last season.

The church itself is a work of art; tons and tons of Crab Orchard stone, Gothic grandeur and a fine, 1967 Aeolian-Skinner organ. When FDR was en route to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for its dedication in1940, his route took him past Church St. Church, and he is said to have remarked, “That is the most beautiful church I have ever seen.” It was also, almost 80 years ago now, the site of the first concert of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as we know it today, under the direction of Bertha Walburn Clark.

People pay a lot of money in Europe to tour grand, historic churches that look like this. For a mere $10, you can experience the church AND the music of Haydn and Rheinberger on Thursday night at 7:30.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
The Concertmaster Series has its first installment of the season this week. I am thrilled and blessed to be performing two works this Wednesday and Thursday evenings that are keystones in their respective chamber music genres. The concerts will be at Remedy Coffee in the Old City, 125 W. Jackson Ave., and start at 7:00. There will be a cookies-and-coffee reception following chamber music by Kodály, Richard Strauss and Schubert.

Kodály’s op. 7 Duo for violin and cello has long been on my list of favorite pieces, and Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz and I will be performing the 1st movement Allegro serioso, non troppo. What does this tempo marking mean? Seriously allegro? Fast and serious, but not too fast? Or not too serious? The music seems very serious to me, but I suppose that it can be played too fast, hence the non troppo. (Italian for “not too much).”

The work uses the Dorian mode and the pentatonic scale, both elements of the Eastern European folk music that Kodály and Bartok so meticulously catalogued. After the opening theme is stated, an ostinato (repeated rhythmic accompaniment figure) is traded between instruments. I can’t decide whether this figure comes out of nature (could be a birdcall, perhaps an edgy loon?) or technology (could be Morse Code), but it is highly entertaining and serves as a rhythmic basis for the pyrotechnics that follow.

My go-to recording of the piece is of cellist Janos Starker and violinist Josef Gingold, which I recorded off the radio in college, back when lps were used at classical radio stations. So despite static from bad reception, scratches from the record they were broadcasting, and tape hiss from my tape sitting for decades in a shoebox, Maxell tape once again proves immortal.

Gabe and pianist Kevin Class will combine on Richard Strauss’ op.18 Sonata for Violin and Piano in E?. This is early Strauss, think the first Horn Concerto and the Cello Sonata and you’re on the right track. E?is a heroic key shared by both of Strauss’ horn concerti and his tone poem, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life). Gabe will get to play the role of the Strauss hero this time, as the Heldenleben violin solos, which were programmed on Gabe’s audition concert, are actually a musical representation of the hero’s love interest. (Although I must say that Gabe’s performance of them was nothing less than heroic).

This work from 1887 and the Schubert Piano Trio in B? from 1828 stand at opposite ends of the Romantic Era. What a long strange trip it had been. There isn’t much to say about the Schubert that hasn’t already been said by much smarter people than me, except that if you liked his Trio in E? which was performed in the spring of 2012 at the Bijou, you will like this trio even more. Words about the Schubert B? can best be found on a sampler on our music room wall that my sister gave us:

                For heights and depths no words can reach,
                music is the soul’s own speech.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
More food for your orchestral music hunger will be served at the UT Symphony Orchestra’s “Introducing...” concert, this Sunday, Sept.29, at 4:00. Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8, which is chock-full of cello-y goodness, will be the main course of the program, with Verdi’s Triumphal March from Aïda and Wagner’s Prelude to der Meistersinger will also be on the menu. KSO Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum will be the chef, and the Cox Auditorium in UT’s Alumni Memorial Building will be the venue.

Speaking of UT, KSO violist Hillary Herndon will be giving a faculty viola recital at the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the new Music Building on campus. This recital is TONIGHT at 6:00. Don’t miss it, she is performing Luise Adolpha le Beau's Polonaise, Brahms' F-minor Sonata, a Sonata by Sergei Vasilenko (a contemporary of Rachmaninov), and Astor Piazzola’s Le Grande Tango. Hillary will collaborate with pianist Jennifer Muñiz.

Both the UT Symphony concert and viola recital are free of charge.

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

It seems I have company (among KSO members) who write about music. There was a very fine interview done by our keyboardist, Carol Zinavage, of concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz in the September 9th issue of The Shopper News, a local free weekly newspaper. Although the next issue of Shopper News has probably already hit the newsstands, the article can still be viewed online. The special insert, “New York to Knoxville,” has not one but two contributions by Carol, the other being a look at some hidden New York treasures. Way to go, Carol! I would also like to add that the famous "Red Shoes" photos of Gabe were snapped by Jean-Philippe Cypres, who, in addition to being an innovative photographer, is a fine harmonica (aka harp) player with whom I have collaborated many times in the Johnson Swingtet.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
The classical music scene keeps on keepin' on this weekend with two events this evening that involve many KSO players.
First, at 3:00 the Oak Ridge Symphony will perform a free Family Concert at the Oak Ridge High School Performing Arts Center. The concert will be train-themed, and will feature violist Jenna Walters in J.C. Bach's Concerto for Viola. Jenna is a high school student of KSO violist Hillary Herndon. Also on the concert will be Eduard Strauss' Bahn frei polkaand music from Thomas the Tank Engine and Polar Express.
The first installment of a complete cycle of Beethoven's violin sonatas will happen tonight at 8:00 at UT's new Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the Haslam Music Center on campus. KSO violinists Sean Claire, Sara Matayoshi and Ruth Bacon will perform 4 of Beethoven's revered violin/piano works, with Kevin Class at the piano. I thought it would be ironic if Beethoven's Spring Sonata would be performed on this first day of autumn, but alas, that will happen on a subsequent date. This concert is free and promises dynamic performances by Sean (op. 12, no. 1 and op.30, no. 1), Sara (op. 30, no. 3) and Ruth (op. 23).

So your day will proceed as follows: Attend EITHER the HOLA Hora Latina Festival on Market Square (this was postponed yesterday due to rain, it'll be held from 12-5 today) OR stop in at the Greek Fest in Sequoyah Hills (12-6), (or both?! Hmmm...) head to Oak Ridge for the “All Aboard!” concert, then land on campus for the Beethovens.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Ahh, here we are on the eve of opening night with the KSO. On our stands is an eclectic program that really works. Sometimes a concert succeeds, not on the strength of one big blockbuster monsterwork, but with a nice mix of styles and colors, and for that, I am psyched about Thursday and Friday at 7:30 at the Tennessee Theatre.
There are two works on the concert that are new to me. Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek's 1894 Overture to Donna Diana and Richard Wagner's Overture to Rienzibookend the show. The Reznicek is a punchy, perky, quirky little gem that qualifies as a “one-hit wonder.” Reznicek was a smart-aleck friend of Richard Strauss, and his compositional response to Strauss' Ein Heldenleben was a tone poem entitled Schlemihl. Wagner was a forerunner of Strauss, and his overture to the 1842 opera Rienzi is a grand ending to a really grand show.
The Háry János-Suiteby Zoltán Kodály is a colorful, exotic, lyrical masterpiece by an extremely under-appreciated composer. Overall, Kodaly's musical lexicon is located somewhere between Manuel de Falla and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Simply put (from a musical language standpoint), if you like Carmina,you'll like Háry.Our performance will include the cimbalom, an Eastern European hammered dulcimer that is a striking addition (no pun intended) to the soundscape of the orchestra. There are a couple movements without strings; it's always nice when the “wire choir” gets a break, but woe betide the poor string player that doesn't see the word “tacet” at the top of the page.The third movement is entitled Song. Don't let that simple title fool you, this is as beautiful as orchestral music gets, and I'm pretty sure the Moody Blues were under the influence of Kodály when they wrote Knights in White Satin.The fifth movement Intermezzois famous for its introductory “orchestral sneeze.”
There's tons of folklore about sneezing, that it validates a truth that was just spoken. Depending on who you ask, the lore is of Flemish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Roman, Egyptian, Greek or Russian origin, but “sneezing on the truth” is a fact of life in many cultures. I sneeze every time I walk into a liquor store, but I digress. In orchestral music, the sneeze works better before the statement is made. Other composers used this device, Beethoven's EroicaSymphony starts with two such sternutations, as does the finale of his 7th. The one at the beginning of Stravinsky's Infernal Dance of King Katschei from the Firebird Suite is probably the most violent sneeze ever; it startles even those playing it.
Speaking of Beethoven, he's going to be there on Thursday and Friday night, too. The Eroica Trio will be playing with us, and this will be a treat. In particular, the solo cello part to the Beethoven “Triple Concerto” is some of the most demanding writing for both the player and the instrument; you will not be disappointed.
Concertgoers should know that Clinch Avenue, the street that runs past the north end of the Tennessee Theatre, is closed to vehicular traffic, but still open to pedestrians. Don't be daunted by the scaffolding next to the building, there is  safe passage on either side of the street, but don't expect to drive through it.

1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
It's a scary situation in a string player's life when the instrument buzzes. Just the words “bass-bar crack” send violinists' and cellists' blood pressure soaring. I don't know how it happened, but my “good” cello, “Brigitte,” caught a bad buzz at the beginning of the summer. I tried to wait it out, thinking that the humidity might help squelch the buzz, but no. Every F# I play still sounds like a snare drum or kazoo. So, it's time to visit the “cello whisperer.” In its absence, what I am left with is this machine-made “beater” instrument that really doesn't belong on the Masterworks stage. An untenable situation.
Enter James Fellenbaum. Our resident conductor also happens to be a cellist. (You heard him if you attended the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Classics concert from January, 2012, when we last performed Bach's 6thBrandenburg Concerto). So, remembering this instrument, and with my fingers crossed that he wouldn't be needing it, I took a bold step and laid bare my soul before him, and he was generous enough to allow me to borrow it for the next month or so. It's a departure for me, to play on an instrument that is younger than I, “(Birgitte” was ALLEGEDLY built around 1800 in England), but I look forward to teaching his instrument some new tunes. (Jim allowed that he had played the Kodaly Duoin college, so the instrument already “knows” that work. Gabe Lefkowitz and I will be playing a movement from it on the Concertmaster Series early next month.).

I arranged to meet Jim at the UT music building to pick his cello up yesterday, and on the way there it dawned on me that this is not just “the UT Music Building,” but the BRAND SPANKING NEW, Natalie Haslam Music Building. It still has that “new Music Building smell,” and luckily a class was just letting out and I was able to get a glimpse inside the recital hall. Here are a few snapshots of the interior of the building.
Main Lobby

Here are front and rear of the Recital Hall


I though these translucent stairs were way cool.




1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
The 78th season of the Knoxville Symphony starts off tonight with the annual Ijams Nature Center benefit. The lawn of “Knoxville's most natural place” will be filled with Ijams' benefactors and the sounds of Mozart, Rossini, and Sousa, among others. Noted Nashville singer-songwriter LoganBrill will be gracing our stage with renditions of her songs and La vie en rose, the tune which put Edith Piaf on the map. A Knoxville native, Logan Brill belongs to a Nashville songwriting posse called Carnival Music. Her voice evokes Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow, and her album Walking Wires is due to be released October 15th. Interesting to me, alone, (perhaps) is that she is the niece of a classmate of mine from the Hartt School of Music. The weather for these concerts has been perfect every time, I see no reason why it shouldn't also be perfect today.

This production at Ijams has been, traditionally, the herald of the new season. Everyone has stories of their summer, there are new faces to get to know, and the string players have a fun time playing “moth tennis” with their bows. (The stand lights attract the bugs and divert them a way from our faces). The list of featured guests at the Ijams concert over the years reads like a “who's who” of movers and shakers in the Knoxville community, whose varying degree of talent has been a source of much amusement. Former Mayor Victor Ashe once did battle with the triangle in a Strauss waltz, Senator Lamar Alexander played some wonderful old-time country tunes on the piano, Vols sportscaster Bob Kesling beautifully performed a Vivaldi cello sonata, etc. The trend lately has been to feature talent from Knoxville's rich music scene, such as Christa DeCicco (from Christabel and the Jons), jazz singer Kelle Jolly last season, and Ms Brill this year. Tickets are available through the Ijams Nature Center.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
61 - 70  | prev 34567891011 next
InstantEncore