May 14, 2006 at 6:18 PMOn Saturday night, I had the honor of attending the annual performance of the Allegro!!! String Performance Ensemble of the Western Springs School of Talent Education in Western Springs, Illinois. The 15 violinists and a single cellist, nearly all of middle school age, presented an exciting show in which they danced—as well as played—their way through an hour’s worth of tunes. Complete with a professional-quality multimedia show that included images of the children playing and a variety of props (think boas and fedoras to accompany a tango), the time seemed to fly by.
The amount of work and dedication needed to create such a spectacle boggles the mind—rehearsals start in October each year—but what really struck me was what the Suzuki method is most known for: Creating vibrant performers who play joyously and without a shred of self-consciousness. It was quite a show!
Be sure to read the profile of Cecylia Arzewski, concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, that ran in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on 5/7/06.
The profile was timed to coincide with Arzewski’s performance of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto with the orchestra and, as such, noted that Arzewski had learned the work with Louis Krasner, who gave the work’s debut in 1936. Here’s what she had to say about the Berg:
"There's an obsessive quality to the Berg. Once you start playing it, you feel like it's burning into you. I remember a moment when I was practicing, preparing for a lesson with [Louis] Krasner. ... For the first time I felt I was really getting it; everything started to click. It started getting dark so I turned the lamp toward my music stand and kept going, the music was now completely carrying me. I looked at my hand and noticed I'd accidentally cut myself on the lamp, and there was blood everywhere, but I couldn't stop playing. I knew it was over the top, but I was obsessed."
Here are a few more tidbits from the article: "Hired in 1990 by the ASO's then-music director Yoel Levi, Arzewski at the time was one of just three female concertmasters in major American orchestras," the reporter writes, quoting ASO Principal Cellist Christopher Rex: "Cecylia never leaves anything to chance; she's always in perfect tune and complete control. She's very intense, but she puts a lot of thought into the emotional content of what she's playing." The Arzewskis fled Poland in the 1950s to escape anti-Semitism. Later, they moved to New York so Cecylia could study with Ivan Galamian at New York's Juilliard School. "Over the years, Arzewski's notable classmates would include Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Kyung-Wha Chung ... She later studied with Jascha Heifetz." The profile describes an unusually focused person: "Even as a student, [Arzewski] says, 'I knew what I wanted: to be a concertmaster. I love being part of something great, something big, having the feeling of belonging.' "
Joshua Roman has been named principal cello of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, effective next season. The 22 year old is a recent graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Cleveland Orchestra Principal Cello Desmond Hoebig and received degrees in cello performance. Roman will succeed Raymond Davis, who retires at the end of this season after 44 years with the orchestra.
5/14/06 – Violinist Jennifer Koh has had her most recent recording selected as WFMT-FM Chicago’s Featured New Release. The disc, Profiles, contains Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35 (1916); Martinu’s Violin Concerto No. 2, H. 293 (1943); and Bartok’s Two Portraits, Op. 5. Koh is accompanied by the Grant Park Orchestra, Carlos Kalmar conducting.
5/9/06 – When the UK's Royal Philharmonic Society has handed out its annual classical music awards, Marin Alsop, conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, took home the prize as BBC Radio listeners' favorite person in the classical music business. The Leopold String Trio was named favorite chamber music group.
5/9/06 – Timothy Pitts, principal bass of the Houston Symphony, performed the American premiere of John Harbison's Concerto for Bass Viol with the orchestra. The work had received its world premiere in Toronto in April.
5/706 - The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Hugh Partridge, principal violist for the North Carolina Symphony for 31 years, will retire at the end of the current season. Partridge says he is leaving only because he wants to devote his full attention to running youth orchestras. Grant Llewellyn, music director of the N.C. Symphony, tells the paper: "Sonorous, warm and telling, an orchestra with a fine viola section is an orchestra with a soul ... Therefore, to lead such a section is the job for a specialist violist who not only plays the instrument superbly but is also a natural leader and maybe part-time philosopher." The paper notes that Partridge, who turns 67 at the end of the season, is "the symphony's oldest member." Partridge comments: "When I went into the Indianapolis Symphony, I was the youngest member ... The reverse happens now. It's sort of interesting to have started out the youngest and end up being the oldest member."
The Tupelo (Miss.) Symphony Orchestra has announced the appointment of Steven Byess as music director. Byess has been Tupelo's principal guest conductor for the past three years. He also serves as cover conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, associate music director for Ohio Light Opera, and conductor of opera at both the Cleveland Institute of Music and California State University-Los Angeles. Byess succeeds Louis Lane, who assumes the title of music director laureate.
5/8/06 - The New York Times has noted a "generational shift" underway at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: "Nearly half the 122 members are under 40, including 13 20-somethings ...The average age is 45. That is about five years younger than during the [Herbert von] Karajan period, orchestra officials said." The paper adds: "The mandatory retirement age of 65 also keeps the orchestra young. There is generally no such rule in American orchestras," noting: "Under Karajan, it was assumed that only members with many years of experience would dare to speak up at orchestra meetings, [cellist and orchestra co-chairman Jan] Diesselhorst said. Now, he added, 'all the young colleagues are pleased to express an opinion.' Martin von der Nahmer, a 28-year-old violist with the orchestra, tells Wakin: "I feel a sense of youth ... but I feel also a sense of tradition, which is perhaps the most important thing."
5/8/06 - A controversial proposal to merge four orchestras in Osaka, Japan, has the country's musicians buzzing, reports the Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo). The merger idea was suggested by the head of the region's economic authority as a way to overcome dwindling government subsidies and rising musician costs. But some say that the proposal is misguided, and even suggest that Osaka could actually support more orchestras than it already has, given proper management and artistic leadership. The affected orchestras are the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, Century Orchestra Osaka, Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestra Osaka Symphoniker.
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