Category Archives: Review

We Miss You Max

Reger, A Centenary Retrospective

Max Reger lived just half of a lifetime, but he produced at least three lifetimes worth of work in his 43 years.  On May 11, 2016 we celebrated the centenary of his death by sharing the magic of his life  with our cozy audience in  Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

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Jeremy Haladyna, our tenacious advocate for newer music and champion of the UCSB Ensemble for Contemporary Music pushed ahead the quarterly ECM performance so that we could celebrate Max’ life on his very special anniversary.

The program focused on Reger’s chamber works — ECM is a chamber group, after all.  We were fortunate to have two special guest artists play with our ensemble, Hiroko Sugawara did a fabulous job of bookending the concert on clarinet, and Christina Esser, mezzo-soprano, sang a selection of Reger’s charming Simple Songs. The lyrics are the sweet and simple part -these are stories about home and family, kittens and mice, laid against some devilishly enticing melodies.  As a life-long fan of the hedgehog, I particularly enjoyed Der Igel, a warning to all to beware the Prickly-Coated One.  But like the kitten, I stray ahead!

The concert opened with our professor, Jeremy Haladyna, accompanying  Hiroko Sugara on the clarinet.  Hiroko is not just a member of ECM, she’s a member of the UCSB faculty, teaching Japanese in the East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies department.  I played clarinet for a few years in middle school band, so I have a little bit of appreciation for how amazing her playing is. She hides a great deal of breath control behind that lovely smile! The two played Reger’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in B-flat, I Moderato, op 107.

Dana Anex followed with a lovely solo, Prelude for Solo Viola, from Three Suites, op 131d, an excellent example of Reger’s foray into neoclassicism.  She was followed by Kathryn Carlson, cellist, playing Peter Sculthorpe ‘s Requiem( for Cello Alone). The two solo pieces were tremendously moving.  Haladyna chose to follow these solos with the Simple Songs, a wise move when your ushers don’t have tissue boxes to pass around for the tear-gathering.

I followed Simple Songs with a personal tribute to another “Max”.   Sir Peter Maxwell Davies passed away just two months ago on March 14th.  Davies was a composer and conductor, in fact, Master of the Queen’s Music from 2004 – 2014.  I played Dances from his opera, The Two Fiddlers. Davies passed away on his beloved Orkney Islands, an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland; my tribute piece is in the style of the Orkney Islands fiddlers. I really shouldn’t say “my” piece — I shared it with Petra Peršolja on piano.  According to my mom, we were very well received, but she always says that. I know that we did a decent job because we played right before a brief intermission, and when I peeked through the curtains, nobody was running for the exits!

When the curtain rose after intermission ( Ok, I lie, we don’t really use the lovely and mysterious red velvet curtain. ), Petra Peršolja and Zachary Olea played Arvo Pärt’s  Fratres I. I am looking forward to hearing them play more pieces like this together in the future. Zachary is a patient violinist and shows that he has a considerable understanding of what Pärt is trying to convey.  Petra is one of our DMA students, and she is a very charismatic performer.  She has the grace and ability to make everyone she performs with look as good as she does, even if that means holding back sometimes.

Our ECM classmate, Nick Mazuk, found a piece that he wanted desperately to play, and if nothing else works, desperation gets you everywhere with Professor Haladyna. So along with Dana Anex on viola, and Kathryn Carlson on cello, Nick  treated us to selections from  Vincent Persichetti’s Serenade No. 6, op. 44, including II. Barcarole, V. Intermezzo, and VII. Dance.  It’s always a delicate balance when you put a trombone between two stringed instruments in a modestly-sized concert hall, but I was quite impressed that the strings were able to hold their own, and that Nick was able to exercise his instrument’s dynamic range without blowing the other instruments off the stage. Any of our composition students who happened to be in the audience hopefully were able to learn something last night about how to mix’n’match strings and horns without breaking anything.

At last, we circled back to Reger. Kathryn Carlson and Professor Haladyna played the Sonata in A Minor for Cello and Piano ,Op.116, IV. Allegretto con Grazia. It was truly lovely.

Zachary Olea returned for a second Arvo Pärt piece, Für Alinathis time with Danica Neuhause.  I’ve included a link to the Wikipedia entry for the piece — I spent a little more time there trying to understand how the piece is put together. It’s my first recommended reading to you, my little audience, so go for it!  What really sent me hunting for explanations was the dynamic tension the two violinists were able to maintain. I’d heard the piece played before with a completely different interpretation. I should mention that Danica very patiently turned pages for our pianists, and it was nice to finally hear her play!

At last, Hiroko retook the stage with her clarinet to close our show with three movements from Reger’s Clarinet Quintet, Op. 146,  II. Vivace, III. Largo, IV. Poco Allegretto. Joining her were David Fickes, a talented junior transfer student we welcomed this year into our violin studio, and Zachary Olea (violin), Dana Anex (viola), Kathryn Carlson (cello), and Jeremy Haladyna, to conduct.

Have you ever watched your parking permit expire while you are trapped in a concert hall?  It’s usually a gut-wrenching experience waiting for the final three movements of a piece to finish, hoping that the campus ticketeers have not come for your car.  But honestly, I would have paid the price of a parking ticket happily just to keep listening to the quintet all night — it was that warm and comforting.

As things turned out, there was no ticket, my parents took me out to dinner, and I got a great night’s sleep, knowing that I had done my small part to make the Regar Year, 2016, a success.  To find out about other Reger Centenial Festival events go here and here.

Views: 1321

Weaving the Backstory with Sunny Yang

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Sunny Yang:   Color is Everything

Last Friday, in UCSB’s Geiringer Hall, fans of music, new and old alike, were treated to a master class featuring Sunny Yang, cellist of the Kronos Quartet,  On the hotseat, our own music department’s Young Artist Piano Quartet playing Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor.

The Young Artist Piano Quartet is the graduate scholarship quartet in residence at UCSB, and the members are some of our best and brightest.  They include:

Leslie Cain – piano

Youjin Jung – violin

Jordan Warmath – viola

Larissa Fedoryka – cello

A master class is a wonderfully terrible experience. The performers strive to impress a luminary, all the while knowing that any peccadillo is going to be fair game for criticism and correction.  There’s almost a temptation to leave a breadcrumb trail of errors as a defense mechanism. At the same time, the audience is listening ever so carefully, waiting for problems and trying to pick out which aspect of the performance, which little failure the expert will select to discuss. No matter how hard you try, there is no perfection in a master class. Ever.

Sunny Yang is currently the cellist with the Kronos Quartet. She holds a Master of Music degree, earned at USC as a student of Ralph Kirshbaum.  Her first order of business was to put the quartet at ease with her embracing smile. Then she chose to focus on the variety of emotions the piece presents.  She asked pianist Leslie Cain to recall one of her sweetest emotions of childhood. Then she asked Larissa Fedoryka about what she was thinking and feeling.  Larissa took a moment and replied that she was trying to convey deep sadness. It was then that I realized how difficult it can be to name the emotions we bring to music.

I thought back to elementary school, and our fourth grade lesson on vivid verbs. Each student would try to outdo the next with a more specific word.  If Jack went to the store, Alissa walked, Danny trotted, Jace tumbled. When Miguel had juice, Jimmie drank, Natalie swigged, and Cody guzzled. I realized it’s like that with music.  What I had been thinking of as merely sad is really drizzled with poignancy or haunted with elusiveness, and happy becomes crystallized with joy, twinkling with tenderness, or cloying with sweetness.

Next, Ms. Yang talked talked about timing, and how each individual player must give time and take time from the others. Again and again she spoke about how to put “color” in the music at the cost of technical perfection. She asked Youjin Jung to play a pair of notes on alternating strings repeatedly.  A first tendency is to repeat the notes with equal pressure, equal bow angle, equal time. In reality, we can alternate those same notes in hundreds of different ways.

Ms. Yang complimented Jordan Warmath on her ability to communicate with the cellist and violinist, and discussed the difficulty of including the piano in the the circle.  She suggested that while dynamics must be appropriate to the emotion, they are also  one of an ensemble’s best ways to signal changes in mood, and that the piano, with its greater dynamic range, can share its dynamics to widen the circle.

What occurred to me as Ms. Yang spoke is that there are a very limited number of traditional fancy foreign words that composers have at their disposal, and that timing, dynamics, and mood can quickly become unreadable if the composer is extremely specific.  And suddenly I had the great revelation that we aren’t supposed to be technically perfect — that we, as artists are responsible for supplying the gradations that would have only cluttered up our manuscript.  The music is just the outline, we must bring our own story.

When I was little, my coach, Yi Huan Zhou, would tell me micro stories to match the music I was playing. In one, a little girl runs away from home and becomes afraid.  In another, the little girl fails her spelling test after staying up all night, then realizes that it isn’t very important at all.

I think we, as members of an ensemble must also create stories, not just images of joy or sorrow, but entire stories.  More importantly, we must share our stories with each other.

When the violinist chooses to interpret a phrase with anticipation, and the cellist, with trepidation, they should be very specific about the emotions they intend to convey, and discuss them by telling a tale.  Then the pianist won’t be inspired to jump in with enthusiasm, when cajoling is what’s called for, and the cellist will tiptoe rather than stomp in.  Color balancing color.

What I learn in this master class is that color is everything, and that without sharing the emotions we bring to a piece, we have only colored our own thread, we haven’t really woven a collective back story.  The colors of our story must entwine with the colors of others if we want to present the audience with a cohesive emotional understanding of our music.

Views: 1530

They Came to Play.

On Sunday morning, November 8th,  UCSB dorm residents and members of the Isla Vista community were treated to a remarkable concert.  Carillon students from UC Berkeley visited Storke Tower and played a recital program that sent the peal of carillon bells for miles in every direction.

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There are two ways to listen to a carillon concert.  Up close, and not so close.  If you are, by some extreme of luck, able to go inside the tower, you will hear the machinations of the carillon as well as the music of the bells.  It reminds me of the ballet.  When you are on the stage, you hear the thunks, cluncks, and slides of 100 (or more) pounds of dancer hitting the floor again and again.  But if you are across the orchestra pit, a mere 50 or 100 feet away, you only hear the strings, the woodwinds, the brass, the percussion. In the tower, things can be noisy because the musician is banging  his or her fists on wood and although the chime of each individual bell spreads out as it leaves the tower, while inside the tower, the bells are loud and the echos are powerful.

UCSB’s Storke Tower sits in a lovely plaza with a reflecting pond.  There are wide stairs into the plaza, which is lower than the surrounding grounds, and on Sunday, there were several people lounging about on the stairs enjoying the concert and the day, which was perfect for bells. I listened from a cozy UCEN nook. Outside the plaza, and off campus, my roommates were also enjoying the concert.  The most wonderful thing about that heaviest of all musical instruments, is that you don’t go to the concert, the concert comes to you.

The four UC Berkeley musicians, Leslie Chan, Kunal Marwaha, Anders Lewis, and Felix Hu played a variety of selections, including my favorite, Londonderry Air, arranged by Sally Slade Warner.  I wasn’t able to record it, so the link is Stacey Yang playing similar version on the University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon. In fact, I found an unexpected number of carillon videos, and although I have midterms coming up I found time to watch more than a few.  My favorite was Jeff Le (class of 2008) playing the Harry Potter theme at the University of Rochester Hopeman Memorial Carillon.

I’m now more than a little interested in trying my hand at the carillon.  I haven’t had the good fortune of going up Storke Tower for a tour — every time my email tells me that a tour is offered, I’m too late to reserve a slot.  And of course, if you follow my posts here, you know I’m all about the post-concert reception cookies.  When you are at home and the carillon concert comes to you, you have to bake them yourself!

Views: 1495

Azeem Ward

Welcome to Azeem Ward’s Recital Preview!

My friend and orchestra-mate Azeem Ward woke up the other day as famous guy.  It turned out that just about everyone who’s anyone in Great Britain is interested in attending his senior flute recital. And with good reason — his recital promises to be one of the best of the SoCal recital season!  Also, there will be cookies.  I told my mom to bring some extras.

Since Azeem has a handy-dandy Facebook invitation page, I already know what he’s likely to play even without an early-release program.  So without further ado, here’s the line-up:

François Devienne Concerto No. 7

François Devienne was born in 1859 to a saddlemaker in Joinville, Haute-Marne, in the north-east of France. As the last of fourteen children, Devienne was likely free to choose a career path. A stint in the church choir led this tireless man into a path that led ultimately to the founding of the Conservatoire de Paris.  He died at the age of 44, perhaps as some say, from overwork.   In his short life, he wrote instructional materials as well as hundreds of works for flute and other instruments.

If you haven’t heard François Devienne’s Concerto No. 7 in E Minor, you are missing out on a wonderful piece. It’s a frolicking tune that will leave you feeling more cheerful than you’ve felt for a while. You will whistle it in the car after hearing it once, the themes of the first movement are that catchy. But don’t let first impressions sway.

The sweet and melodic Allegro leads into  a gentle and almost tender Adaggio that gradually increases complexity, rounding into a sea of romantic lyricism that takes your breath away. But Azeem will still have breath left, and you will be left wondering what the rest of the concert holds!

Maybe there will be a cadenza, I hope so. We’ll have to wait and see!

The closing movement is Rondo Allegretto Poco Moderato.  As Poco Moderato as you can get with flurry after flurry after flurry of 32nd notes. Were you invited to Azeem Ward’s Senior Flute Recital?  Poco Moderato at the speed of light may be why.

Philippe Gaubert’s Sonata No.3 in G Major

Philippe Gaubert was born 20 years after François Devienne, and lived well into the middle of the 20th century.  This celebrated artiste was Principal Conductor at the Paris Opéra, a composer, and Professor of Flute at the Paris Conservatory.  While individually not the most inventive of composers, his work draws from and reflects the rich and fully developed musical tapestry originating toward the end of the late romantic period. Gaubert’s Sonata No. 3 was composed in 1933.

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The Allegretto opens the sonata with a peaceful and relaxed exposition. There is only the slightest hint of the complexity we will soon enough encounter.  This soothing movement ends on an optimistic high note.

The sonata’s second movement begins nicely enough, as well. It is an Intermède  Pastoral, sweet dinner music Très modéré , however it soon takes a turn into a slightly more haunting style. It’s a winding piece layered with infinite patience. It asks us to believe that there are answers out there, answers to the big questions about creation, meaning, purpose.

Although we follow each nuanced ribbon, each tangential thematic idea, we are eventually left with even more questions about the nature of being than we started off with. In this sense, the sonata has a much more introspective appeal than most you will hear, because what you bring to the piece is a large part of what you will receive from it.

In this spirit, the final movement,  styled as  Joyeux Allegretto, reaches out to us. Why must there be answers?  Why not just celebrate the day, the sunshine, the grasses, the rain, the night?  And celebrate it does. But for those of us paying close attention, there is the slightest element of doubt, because, hey, complexity is fashionable.

 David Roitstein’s Flautas

David Roitstein, unlike most composers, is alive and kicking, and actually working. He is currently the Jazz Program Director at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) in Valencia, California. A pet project of his is The CalArts Jazz CD Project, a professionally produced collection of student works created at Capitol Studios. Yes. In Hollywood.

So wow! Roitstein’s Flautas are spicy, fresh, and warm. A perfect complement to the beautiful Santa Barbara sunshine.  In fact the piece should really be about sunshine. Those flutes just push and peek through the clouds, then they slither in dancing on their tango toes. When 100,000+ people want to attend your recital, there is temptation to move the party to a larger venue. But that would be a crime against Flautas! However big the sound, the piece feels genuinely intimate to me for some reason.  I can hardly wait to hear what sort of interpretation Team Felber comes up with. For those of you not in-the-know, Jill Felber is the Professor of Flute at UCSB, and she’s currently coaching the mega-star known as Azeem Ward.

Greg Pattillo’s Three Beats for Beatbox Flute

There are very few reasons to live in New York City.  Just about every bi-coastal I know is going mono-by-the-beach because they’ve finally figured out that it doesn’t snow in coastal SoCal.  But if there were just one tiny reason to stay in NYC, that might just be Greg Pattillo.

Every artist has a tagline on their website — a select snippet from a major publication which is lauding them, hailing them, celebrating them — you get the idea.  Greg Pattillo’s line is lauded by The New York Times as “the best person in the world at what he does.” I know, right? Has the New York Times not heard of Azeem Ward? Seriously though, if you ask Azeem, and I’m not speaking for him here, but he just might agree with the New York Times.  Pattillo is good.  He’s introduced a sub-genre where no sub-genre has gone before.

When I was little (ok, I know I’ll never be more than 4’9½”) I slept with my violin. It was part of me then, and part of me now.  I can only think that Pattillo has that same relationship with his flute. He slept with it, breathed with it, and the sounds of his life were etched into it. He explodes with that sound, not flute music, but with life.

Three Beats for a Beat Box Flute is amazing beyond belief.

Azeem hints that he will premiere original works!!

I’ve hear some of his original works, and I know there is no way to prepare. Azeem also mentions that he doesn’t play in a void. Here are some fellow musicians who we can hope to see in his senior recital:

REFRESHMENTS.

Click here to donate to the UCSB Music Affiliates by Mail

 
Views: 2142
 

 

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth’s Double Concerto for Horn and Violin

The First Feminist Composer, Ethel Smyth

Until earlier this year, my sole experience with turn of the century British feminist history was a footnote in my high school AP European History book. So when asked about Emmeline Pankhurst on the AP exam, I would have been out of luck were it not for the Sherman Brothers’ “Sister Suffragette” lyrics that I’d remembered from the movie-musical, Mary Poppins.

Sister Suffragette” is a high-energy, shower-worthy tune, with lines like, “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, well done, Sister Suffragette!” Down in the less catchy zone of the lyrics is the phrase, “Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again”, a reference to one of the leaders of the British Suffragette movement. So I aced that question on the AP exam. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked to name the real anthem of the suffragette movement, as Mary Poppins offers no help there.

That honor belongs to “The March of the Women”, written by composer, Ethel Smyth, with lyrics by Cicely Hamilton. Smyth dedicated her song to the Women’s Social and Political Union, and with help from Emmeline Pankhurst, it was adopted as the group’s official anthem. Ethel Smyth was a rarity – she was not just one of the earliest female composers, but one who’s work is inspired and infused with a feminist agenda.

I will be playing Smyth’s Double Concerto for  Violin and Horn in the not-to-distant future.  I haven’t been able to find much about it, so I have written some program notes just for myself.

About the Double Concerto:

Dame Ethel Smyth’s Double Concerto for Horn, Violin and Orchestra/Piano is a challenging piece by any measure.  It runs close to a half an hour, and is joyous, somber, and even frilly in some places.

I Allegro Moderato

The double concerto opens sweetly with a wistful, aspiring theme that says, “Here you have it!”  as if we are to undertake a challenging task that will involve many different approaches. We are fresh to do our work, we will rise to the challenge.  Small successes are greatly celebrated, while a brief failure or two are swiftly and softly mourned before the task is again undertaken.  In some ways, we feel as if we are solving a five thousand piece puzzle. Much examination of each piece, pairing by color, sorting by shape, and grouping smaller sets into larger, we begin to recognize a forest, then a granite-faced cliff, and a small town town emerges in the background. As the puzzle comes together, we creep into the landscape ourselves and try to peep around a corner.  But we realize that it is all an illusion.

II Elegy (In Memoriam)

Smyth’s elegy is quite restrained.  I wish I could have stepped inside her mind to understand what she was trying to describe. It’s not a dirge or a funeral march, its a gentle lament.  If it weren’t for the dynamics, I fear the piece would be a washout.  But with the right dynamics, it does feel like a rainy day with thunder in the distance. I can just hear pages of yesterday’s newspaper fluttering almost inaudibly, blown against a screen door that is no longer slamming now that the wind has died down. I wonder if Dame Ethel was too optimistic and happy to write a properly morose elegy, I’ve certainly heard much more depressing music than she seems able to muster.

III Presto

There is pageantry of dervish proportion in this runaway march-flavored finale. What surprises me is that the movement has a sort of Disney feel to it for most of its approximately ten minutes of playing time. The horn and violin separate a little more in this movement, as if their individual stories have somewhat independent outcomes. The horn urges the violin to follow, and they do play together for a while before diverging. The violin returns to seek safety in the sand while the horn sets sail for the big wide world.  It’s an altogether a fitting finale for such a wonderfully virtuosic pairing of instruments.

 
Views: 2560

Salastina at St. Matthews: Clash of the Coaches

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April was a busy month.  I made several round trips to L.A. and back to attend family events that had been planned long ago. The highlight of my travels, though, was a visit to see a part of my musical family; two of my coaches playing together at St. Matthews in Pacific Palisades.  I studied with Yi Huan Zhao for several years, almost until the end of middle school, and I studied with Maia Jasper for more than two years in high school.  As teachers, they each had their unique styles.

Yi Huan did his best to slow me down as I raced through pieces without a thought to what the composer had sought to convey. He did this by infusing each piece with a wonderful story so that the action became real for me.  Yi Huan taught me how to read music.  I confess, I had been getting away with faking it for quite a while due to my great audio memory.  He taught me terminology and the positions, and when  I worked on student repertoire, and he made sure that I knew exactly why I was working on each piece.  I wanted to choose my own pieces,  and he explained that each piece taught a different thing.  Oh. It all seems so clear when you aren’t a little kid. My favorite thing about Yi Huan was that I got to play in a lot of recitals. And he had a baby.  That was exciting.

By the time Maia got me, I had a decent command of the fundamentals, but I was disorganized in my approach to practicing, and I was lazy about working on exercises. It was a difficult time for me because I was spending a lot of time at Colburn on the weekends playing in chamber groups and in orchestra, and my daily commute to my high school was more than an hour each way, so I was losing time on the road. I hardly had anytime to practice with all my AP classes and tests and visiting and applying to universities.  But during the little time that I had, Maia fit in two lessons a week to help me with my college audition pieces.  She wrote letters to the universities for me, which was really nice, and I know it was a  lot of extra work for her.

Yi Huan is the Concert Master of the Chamber Orchestra at St. Matthews in Pacific Palisades. The church has a thirty year tradition of supporting the arts. Maia and her musical partner Kevin Kumar have founded the Salastina Music Society much more recently. Their society focuses on education — no piece is left unexplained.  Their selections are often shorter than full concert length, which increases appeal to the younger, attention-challenged listener.  The Chamber Orchestra, on the other hand, is more traditional, and most of their subscribing audience has been listening to classical music a lot longer than I’ve been alive.  But there was no clash of cultures.  My graying parents attended the concert with me, and they were really happy to hear the more modern pieces that Salastina brings to the table. St. Matthews’ music director’s outreach to Salastina  was inspired — do not go gentle into that good night audience,  we have a wild ride on the Autobahn ahead!

Benedikt Brydern is a Los Angeles area composer with an amazing bio.  He has an extremely large body of work for someone so young, and one of its highlights is Autobahn, a crossover piece for two violins.  It’s a truly amazing work of art portraying the urban bustle and resulting angst that is so prevalent in our lives.  Much of Brydern’s portfolio comprises film scores, which often come bundled with their burden of constraints. But Autobahn screams I’m writing this for me!  Kevin and Maia played the piece to perfection.  It’s the second time that I’ve heard them play it. The first time (at the much larger Zipper Hall) it felt quite phrenetic.  They’ve let the piece ripen nicely — it was much less angular this time without losing any of it’s agitation.

All told, it was a wonderful night.  And yes. There were cookies.

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Views: 1780

The Price is Right

 

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For the first time in my short UCSB career, I played to a packed house at the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. That’s right, 400+ seats, all FULL! The music department powers-that-be decided to offer free admission to all UCSB students to our music department student performances and recitals this year. It’s really made a huge difference. Last year, the hall was no more than two-thirds full for our first chamber orchestra concert.

Our first concert of the year is usually the best attended due to freshman parents looking for any desperate excuse to see their children. Then the parents get lazy, and subsequent shows fill only half the hall. It was really exciting for us to hear so much applause, so I hope people keep coming. The classics aren’t really such an easy sell to kids raised on rap — which includes most of my friends. If you tell them they have to pay ten dollars, then they stay home and write that nasty paper they’ve been dreading. But once they come and hear a piece they like, they keep coming back.

The show started with Maurice Ravel’s Chansons Madé­casses, a study of the poetry of Evariste-Désiré de Parny commissioned by Eliz­a­beth Sprague Coolidge. It’s pretty startling in places, even for those who don’t speak French. A very passionate piece. Molly Clementz, one of our graduate students in voice definitely did it justice. She reminded the audience that the voice is truly an instrument in its own right, not just a pretty thing that floats a story on top of the “real” instruments. Karen Yeh played cello with patient grace, dancing in step with pianist Felix Eisenhauer and Adriane Hill on the flute. The flute seems to be a challenging part; it accents the passion of the other parts, tying everything together for the audience.

Next, my studio mates Camden Boyle and Thérèse Brown joined pianist Maansi Desai in the first movement of Moritz Moszkowski’s Suite in G Minor for Two Violins and Piano, Op. 71. Their appealing interpretation gently allowed the audience to relax and let the music flow. It’s the sort of chamber piece that can fail if there is any kind of competition between the artists for the audience ear. It’s got a very delicate balance between parts, and it reminds me to be thankful that I’m in a violin studio with no gigantic egos. It’s the nicest thing about our department, in fact, that we all want each other to succeed.

We were then treated to Quatuor for Flute, by Pierre-Max Dubois. The quartet was actually a quintet including Rachel Ricard, Azeem Ward, Sylvie Tran, Catherine Marshall, and Adriane Hill. It was a really tight piece with cleverly woven harmonies. The audience clapped after the first movement, but had that completely trained out of them, and remained silent after the second and third. I don’t know how that happened, or why, I guess it was magic.

Finally we heard the UCSB graduate Young Artist Piano Quartet play the first movement from Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 15. My friends all reported liking it. The YAPQ is taking the place of the YASQ this year as the school’s graduate scholarship ensemble. Hopefully they will represent us well, winning international prizes and bringing glory and acclaim to the department. (No pressure, guys). I will link to their website when they have one up. The group includes Youjin Jung on violin, Jordan Warmath on viola, Larissa Fedoryka on cello, and pianist Leslie Cain.

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After a brief intermission for restaging (meaning no cookies were served), the Chamber Orchestra took the stage. I was later told that there were people who were unable to find seats for the first part of the show that were seated for the second half. This leads me to believe that some people must have left at intermission. So how crazy is that?

We played Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor and finished with Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky. Both pieces are showy and traditional; they make the audience feel like they are at a party. Some of us in the orchestra had long drives returning from the holiday that morning or the night before, and others are just hitting the post-midterm-catch-up with-everything-before-finals phase of the quarter. So it was nice to see that everyone was able to pull up their energy levels for the show. In my experience the first show of the season is usually not the best of the year. But given how good the first show was, I’d say we are definitely setting the bar even higher this year than last, which makes me very happy.

Views: 1260

wildUp. wild. Up.

My Mom Went to wildUp, and all I got was a picture of brownies.

Just before you find yourself at the little crescent of Butterfly Beach in Montecito, you’ll see the lovely historic Music Academy of the West. The Academy sits on the former estate of John Percival Jefferson, and has an interesting history. At the heart of the estate is Hahn Hall, exquisitely remodeled in 2008 at a cost of 15.5 million dollars. Every seat is a perfect seat.

So one has to wonder what the hell a bunch of guys in jeans were doing in Hahn Hall making music and orange juice at the same time. When I write “guys”, I am using the gender-free Southern California definition, meaning some of the guys were gals. In fact, more gals than you can shake a stick at, as my dad would say. And my dad was there, so he should know. In fact, my mom was there too, and that’s why she’s actually writing this for me. Because I missed one of the best concerts of the year.

The nicest part of the entire adventure was that if you bought your tickets on line last week (before everyone who had been at Colburn’s Zipper Hall for the last wildUp adventure started talking), you didn’t have to wait in line at will call. If you just heard about wildUp this week, sadly you waited in a long-ass line for tickets. Hahn Hall was pretty full, and I don’t think they turned anybody away, and everyone who bought a ticket in advance showed up, so there were none of those unfortunate empty seats staring at the conductor. (er, JuiceMeister as he likes to be called now). Hahn Hall seats 350, and almost every seat was full. Let me tell you how it got that way.

The arriving audience was treated to wine and orange juice as we performed our usual pre-entry milling around. The grounds are lovely, even the restroom is lovely; but wandering guests were drawn back to the patio in front of the Hall as a lonely guitars called into the night. JuiceMeister Christopher Rountree would later comment that he was surprised that everyone stopped to listen. He’d expected the audience to treat it like background music. And we would have, had there been an open guitar case seeded with a handful of change and a fine green fiver. But we were at a concert, so we did what we dutiful audience members do. We watched, we listened.

Oboe

Eventually, some of us were poked into entering the hall and found musicians interspersed with the audience. So it was a dichotomous experience. Those who remained outside heard a differing introductory piece. The people around me were confused. Some of them were in hush mode, and others were like, “Hey! There’s a horn guy in my seat! Look Mildred, a horn guy!” Of course, there probably were no Mildreds because Mildred is an old people’s name, and the usual 100% antique audience typically found at classical music concerts had been about one-third body-snatched and replaced with twenty and thirty-somethings, including members of the Los Angeles music community, and the UCSB family. I sat next to a lovely woman who had come from Ventura with her daughter. My impression was that they had come to be in the beautiful Hahn Hall for the same reason I had: To pretend for just a few hours that they actually live there. (I might add here that I didn’t attend with my mother, and am terribly ashamed.)

At this point the concert really began, and due to the lack of program notes and a very poor memory, I have no idea what was played, or who played it. And that’s fine, when you realize I know absolutely nothing about music. (Remember that’s my mom)

But here is what I noticed:  WildUp is expert at exploiting dynamic tension.  And they trust the audience to bring interpretative skill and personal life story to their pieces. The concert was called Pulp, and as the concert drew to a close, Christopher Rountree explained Pulp in terms of a high fiber diet with a little Pulp Fiction thrown in. What you get out of the concert is a direct result of what you put in. And it’s ethereal because our base life story changes. You can’t listen to Pulp for the second time and bring first time experience to the table. It’s already been digested.

That’s the audience point of view, at any rate. At times, I thought I knew where the music was headed because I have experience-based expectations. Sometimes I was very surprised, yet often I was dead-on when I predicted to myself where the music would go.  But Wild-Up wants to break even that. To shake us, wake us, hurt us. That’s the Pulp Fiction part — the part where we are reminded again and again that we really need to pour ourselves a pretty orange pair of earplugs from the liter carafe that is being passed around because something very bad is going to happen to our ears before we leave. And we watch, and we wait for blood. Cinéma vérité and splattered OJ. This is the thing we call wildUp.

What wildUp learns from their experience is that an audience may not behave in exactly the way they expect. We’ve been trained. I was horrified when people laughed. I waited for the conductor to put his arms down before I dared clap. I wouldn’t accept that there was an intermission until the words were spoken. Those responses have and will evolve as I hear more and more avant-garde music of this caliber.

In closing, I absolutely have to mention a couple of issues:

  • I love harps, and I couldn’t hear the harp much of the time. The audience demanded more harps. At the end of the show, the entire audience stood up, stomped their feet and clapped their hands for a long, long time, obviously protesting that there was just the one harp. The JuiceMeister was force to bow again and again acceding to our wishes. In the future, there will be two harps,  his bows avow.

 

  • I think that the program would have benefited from a few more violinists. I say that because I (and by that, my mom means me) am a violinist, and I will work for brownies.

 

  • Finally, I really wish I had program notes because I heard the most amazing cello composition, and I have nothing to Google™.

Knock-Knock.
Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say apple?

I guess you had to be there. I was not.

WildUp

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