I am studying like a fiend, preparing for the first concert of our 10th Anniversary Season.
When I thought about repertoire to celebrate 10 years, I had to include Beethoven Symphony #5. I know it is familiar to everyone and most musicians have played it many times, including me as clarinetist in the SPCO. But, every single time I play or conduct this piece, I just cannot believe the brilliance of Beethoven. I always discover exciting new things. When I was a kid I wondered what all the Beethoven hoopla was about – I preferred Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff and Mozart – but as soon as I played my first Beethoven symphony I was hooked. In all fields, there are iconic figures who catapult us forward into brave new worlds. Beethoven was one of those figures.
His 5th symphony is a remarkable display of ingenious, ground-breaking creativity. I can’t wait to show some examples of that at our concert on Oct. 14.
One of my favorite soloists from the past 9 years is Manny Laureano, Principal Trumpet of MN Orchestra. Manny is a spirit-above-ego guy. It’s all about the music with Manny and how it connects to community. When I asked him to perform on our opening concert he immediately agreed and even suggested a piece – one he had premiered a couple years ago. Michael Gilbertson’s Trumpet Concerto opens with a 3-part trumpet fanfare – showcasing the skills of WSO trumpeters, Ben Alle and Miriam Dennis. The piece is full of beautiful melodies, driving rhythms, intriguing harmonies and lots of challenging technique for the entire ensemble.
Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is the quintessential American piece – open, welcoming, powerful. It will be a great way to start the season.
And the Grand Finale? I hope you’ll be there as we include 100 string students from Wayzata High School and singers of the Edina Chorale to join us in performing the Ode To Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Happy Birthday to us!
April 3, 2018
Shostakovich was recognized from an early age as one of Russia’s great composers. He completed his first symphony at 19 and by 26, his film scores, Cello Sonata and first string quartet were admired. His opera, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, played for nearly two years to rave reviews … until one day in 1936 when Joseph Stalin was in the audience.
The next morning, the headline in Pravda read, Muddle instead of Music. The article claimed his music was too formalistic, not nationalistic enough. This was during “The Great Purge,” a period between 1934-37 when millions of Russian citizens were imprisoned, executed or sent to the Gulag never to be heard from again. This kind of public criticism could have had the same result for Shostakovich.
Thus began a lifetime of living in fear.
Shostakovich had already completed his 4th Symphony but with such frightening criticism preceding the premiere, he felt it best to cancel. Instead he began work on another symphony in the hope of regaining the favor of the authorities. Symphony No. 5 premiered in 1937 and was an enormous success. For a time, Shostakovich could continue his work. In 1948, he would suffer another round of criticism – much more severe.
When we perform the symphony on April 29 and May 6, we will try to portray the vast spectrum of emotion present in this work – extreme sadness, painful loneliness, fevered aggression, exuberant triumph – with the goal of bringing our audience with us to those powerful places where only music can take us.
I adore our audience!
Late last year, Simon Sperl (our fabulous new executive director) and I met a few members of our loyal audience at Caribou Coffee on Lake Street in Wayzata. What a treat! As conductor, I see the audience as an entity but rarely get a chance to get to know them individually. After the meeting, I really look forward to the third Monday of each month to get to know more of them.
Here’s a few stories about who we met:
Wendy goes to 80 artistic events a year! She ushers for various groups and attends events of many other groups, including Jungle Theater, SPCO, MN Orch, etc. I am deeply honored to have the WSO included on her list of the concerts she chooses.
Minnetonka Mike came by too. He walked in playing the harmonica! I recognized him right away because he makes it a point to find me at our after-concert receptions. His memory for our concerts and my verbiage is uncanny. I wish I had that kind of recall.
“I sell stuff,” he said. “But I sell it eyeball to eyeball.” Amazon, NOT!
As I write this, I am smiling because of the wonderful dialogue we shared for two hours.
Simon and I feel so fortunate to be part of this organization that celebrates collaboration with community and audience.
Hoping to see you at Caribou on Monday, January 21 from 12:00 noon until 2:00 pm – coffee is on us, no matter how fru-fru it is!