June 25, 2006 at 4:27 PM
Now that the Grant Park Symphony 2006 season is underway, it really feels like summer to me. This is a free summer concert series that performs in downtown Chicago in the famed Millennium Park in a Frank Gehry-designed open-air concert setting. With Lake Michigan nearby and skyscrapers’ lights twinkling as the sun sets, it is a magical setting, one that is perfect for an alfresco dinner, seeing friends and peoplewatching. Oh yeah, there’s the terrific music, with an orchestra staffed largely by off-season Lyric Opera of Chicago players and the city’s top freelancers.
Last night, we were treated to a startling combination: Tibetan monks and Mozart. Tibetan monks performed various of their daily chants as an introduction and intermezzo to the Mozart Requiem. The audience was asked to focus on attaining world peace during the performance. For those who have not had the pleasure of hearing this unique Tibetan art form, my six year-old’s unfortunate description is actually quite apt: burp-singing. Quite a memorable performance!
I learned something today: that famed mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is also a professional-level violist and in fact is a former member of the San Jose Symphony. Unfortunately, Ms. Hunt Lieberson’s management company has announced without explanation that she has canceled all performances for the remainder of the year.
Violinist Gil Shaham can be heard in the near future on National Public Radio’s Performance Today and Symphony Cast programs. He will be playing the Barber Violin Concerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. For broadcast specifics and local stations, visit http://www.npr.org
PlaybillArts.com gave favorable reviews to some recently released violin discs: “Violinist James Ehnes’ first disc of Bach sonatas offered brilliant playing. The Canadian virtuoso is equally spectacular in this follow-up, which completes the set and also includes a pair of handsome sonatas attributed to Bach that are more likely the work of his second wife, Anna Magdalena.” (Analekta AN 2 9830) And, regarding a new recording of the Henze Violin Concertos 1 and 3 by Peter Sheppard Skaerved: “Hans Werner Henze’s three violin concertos span his entire career and cover a sweeping range of emotions. Last year, MDG issued a well-received disc containing all three concertos. If you want a low-priced introduction to these works, a new Naxos disc is worth checking out. The release contains Concerto No. 1 (1946) and No. 3 (1997) performed by Skaerved and the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony under Christopher Lyndon-Gee. The substantial fill-up is Henze’s Five Night-Pieces for violin and piano, written for Skaerved and Aaron Shorr, the performers on this disc.” (Naxos 8.557738)
6/25/06 – Violinist Vincent Skowronski writes with the news that WFIU-FM in Bloomington has played a selection from one of his recordings: Satie’s Choses Vues a Droit et a Gauche.
6/20/06 - Peter Oundjian, music director of the Toronto Symphony, has been hired as principal guest conductor and artistic adviser of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for two years beginning in September, reports the Detroit Free Press. “Oundjian will focus on artistic planning, helping select repertoire, shaping upcoming seasons and devising special initiatives such as festivals or other ventures. Oundjian, who was previously engaged to conduct two weeks in Detroit next season, will lead three weeks in 2007-08." Oundjian comments: "I'm going to be an artistic anchor ... I'll be happy to provide some stability and creative directions that will allow the orchestra to forge ahead." The paper adds, "Depending on the pace of the music director search, Oundjian's advisory role could easily extend beyond two years.”
6/17/06 - Julie Ayer, assistant principal second violinist in the Minnesota Orchestra, received a favorable review in the Boston Globe of her book More Than Meets The Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History. The review notes that former Boston Symphony assistant concertmaster George Zazofsky "played a central role in ... the establishment of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians in 1962. Up until that time, the interests of orchestral musicians were not invariably well-served by the American Federation of Musicians, which represented many other musicians in popular and commercial fields and therefore had other irons in the fire." Dyer writes that "with the help of some very tough negotiators and lawyers ... players now have a voice, and a responsibility, in artistic and administrative decisions that would have been unthinkable 50 years ago; they even evaluate conductors as carefully as conductors evaluate them." Ayer’s book was also reviewed in the March/April 2006 issue of Symphony Magazine.
6/17/06 - Violinist Tom Hall is retiring from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Coincidentally, his years of service span the entire Daniel Barenboim era, from 1970 (when Barenboim was named a CSO guest conductor) to now, when the maestro is also leaving the orchestra. Hall told the Chicago Tribune: “It has been an honor, privilege and pleasure to belong to this wonderful orchestra for 36 years and, ruing that time, to work with this most remarkable musician. I am in awe of his keyboard virtuosity, extensive knowledge of music history and theory, probing intellect, courageous humanitarianism and sharp and ready wit.”
6/10/06 – Itzhak Perlman received a mention in a Boston Herald article examining the new trend of classical music performers promoting themselves on the social networking site MySpace.com. “Savvy classical music marketers are discovering that if you want to attract young people, you’ve got to go where they are. Thus MySpace is becoming a valuable marketing tool for some of today’s biggest classical stars - and is poised to be even more important as young musicians promote their own careers.”
6/21/06 - The Arizona Youth Symphony is folding after six seasons in the face of competition from the newly announced Mesa Youth Symphony Orchestra, reports the Arizona Republic. "Wal-Mart moved in next door to TrueValue; that's basically what happened," he said. "We've had such good seasons, the idea of not being able to be as good as I was, I thought I'd better not. That's why I didn't," said Steven Bardin, the AYS’s leader. The leader of the new Mesa group, Cal Stewart Kellogg, takes exception to this: "Any other youth symphony has just as much right to exist as anybody else," he said. "We were just going to be another one in there, but we were not muscling in on anybody else's territory nor do we wish to."
6/17/06 – The members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented Daniel Barenboim with the unofficial title of Honorary Conductor for Life. Not carrying the weight of the orchestra’s administration, the gesture is a heartfelt farewell to a musician many players revere deeply.
6/14/06 - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, "which disappeared without a trace after canceling a May 19, 2005 concert." The paper notes that the orchestra's board has named as its music director Richard Hynson. “Hynson is the first to hold that post since the MCO parted ways with founding conductor Stephen Colburn in 2002.The board did not cancel the 2005-06 season; it simply never announced a season and left the musical community wondering whatever happened to the MCO ... The blackout had to do with money and with employment rules and policy."
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