January 21, 2007 at 7:18 PMI’m sorry about the monster entry, but the concert I was at last night was jaw dropping and awe-inspiring and this is the best way I can think of to do it justice. Luckily, fellow v.commer Maura Gerety also got to enjoy the show. But it all began Friday.
Friday December 19 (Open rehearsal) -
Michael Stern, the Kansas City Symphony's conductor, walks on stage and greets the audience. He's a very personable man and speaks well. The rehearsal begins with Charles Ives' Three Places in New England. It's a tone poem and not my favorite classical piece, although, I'll admit it was very interesting (especially after hearing the commentary on Saturday). My favorite movement was the second with a jubilant circus theme. About 20 minutes into the rehearsal of the Ives, a violinist walks onto the stage. 'Gosh! He's late!' I think, but as he faces the audience, I realize that it's Barnabás Kelemen. He leaves the stage and I lean over and whisper to my mom what just happened. The Ives rehearsal ends and Barnabás leaves the audience and walks onto the stage. The eerie, beautiful Sibelius Violin Concerto begins. Barnabás plays it excellently, but it was only a taste of what was coming on Saturday.
Stern and Kelemen answer questions from the audience during "intermission." The audience is composed of middle/high school students and some of the questions were funny. For example:
Kid 1: "Why did you get him?" ("him" being Barnabás)
Stern: "Because he's GOOD!"
Kid 2: "Do you get paid?"
Stern: "Um, yes. This is work. It takes a lot of work to become a musician and it's very hard to get into this orchestra."
Kid 2: "How much do you make?"
Stern: (in a joking way) "That's none of your business!"
I asked a question too.
Me: "I've heard that the Sibelius is one of the hardest violin concertos. Would you say that's true?"
Stern: "Yes, because the violin has to do things that it doesn't normally do...are you a violinist?"
Stern: "Have you played the Sibelius?"
Stern: "I think you should study it."
Me: "Haha, I hope to someday."
Somebody asked Barnabás how long it took him to learn the Sibelius.
Kelemen: "Honestly, to learn the notes, I would say seven days."
Saturday January 20 (concert) -
My family and I arrive at Lyric Theater shortly before 7:00 pm to attend the pre-concert talk. My mom is buying a CD and I walk up to her just as some other girl and her mom are buying a CD. As I talk to my mom, the girl glances at me. Could it be...? "Sydney?" She asks. "Yes?" I respond. "Hi! I'm Maura Gerety." We had arranged to meet at this concert a couple of weeks before, we just hadn't decided on a time and place. She's really nice and a lot closer to my age than I had expected her to be. Her writing on here made me think she was at least college age, but she is only a year older than me. Maura and her mom are really nice and I'm very glad I knew ahead of time that she was attending this concert.
We all sit in the hall about 5 rows from the stage and the symphony director, Michael Stern, and Barnabás Kelemen enter the stage. They talk about the Sibelius and Barnabás first because he had to go warm up. The State of Hungary gave his Guarneri to him for a few years until they “examine” him to decide if he can continue to play it. They talk some more about the Sibelius and then it’s time to answer questions. The first lady asks for audition tips. Maura and I find this an incredibly helpful question as we both had auditions earlier that day. Kelemen says “If you want a short answer: practice. If you want a long answer: Practice, practice, practice.” The audience laughs. Stern says it’s important to remember why you love the music. Then someone asks Barnabás “How old are you?!” I can see why this question is asked because Barnabás looks quite boyish. Michael suddenly responds, “I’m in my early thirties.” smiling and stroking his hair. “Not YOU, Michael!” The audience member replies. “I’m 28.” Barnabás says, grinning. Then Barnabás leaves with his lovely Guarneri. Stern and the symphony commence with speaking about the Ives. It’s basically about the Civil War and marching soldiers. After they discuss the Ives more in-depth, they ask for questions again. Nobody raises his hand. “Going once…” the symphony director says. My hand shoots up. “Yes?” I remember what Stern had said earlier about picturing soldiers marching and statues turning real and ask, “I had a clinician once who said that it was very important to have a picture in your head while you are playing music or else it won’t sound like anything. Is that true?” Stern answers my question very well and to sum it up you should not CREATE an image to fit with the music, but rather listen to the music and have your image reflect what you’re hearing. We left for our real seats and the orchestra members began to drift onto the stage.
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Kansas City Symphony, so there was a brief recognition before the concert began. Stern then talked about his selection of the Ives and Three Places in New England began. It’s a very somber piece except for the middle movement, which is, like I said before, like a circus. It ends and applause echoes throughout the hall. The first chair and her stand partner move their stand back to get ready for Barnabás.
Stern and Kelemen return to the stage. Kelemen is attired in a long, black Paganini coat and red tie and a red cumberbund. The opening snowflakes of the Sibelius whisper through the hall and Kelemen’s violin enters, singing above it, resonating throughout the hall. His virtuosity is something to be coveted by all. I like his style more than the other two recordings I have (Perlman and Bell). The runs and string crossings appear easy with a relaxed hand and flicking wrist (something I constantly struggle with). The cadenza begins and I can tell the entire audience is captivated. Even my brother, who is not a classical fan, was leaning forward in his seat, entranced. Kelemen draws the audience in rather than playing out. The first movement ends in a whirlwind of double stops and Kelemen closes perfectly with the orchestra on the final note, glancing up at Stern to make sure everyone ends together. The second movement really showcased Kelemen’s violin and its ability to produce “spun gold.” I loved the way he slid into some of the shifts. It wasn’t really schmaltzy, but there isn’t a good way to describe it, other than in Maura’s words, “tasteful schmaltz.” The third movement begins with the “run pony” rhythm. It’s faster than I have ever heard, but very clean. I am in awe at how Kelemen fits all the arpeggios and scales into the small amount of time allotted to him. He seems to enjoy playing very much and it looks as though the Sibelius is child’s play for him. Again, Kelemen ends perfectly with the orchestra and is almost immediately given a standing ovation. He comes out 3 times and finally grants us an encore. It is Bach’s Serabande from the D-minor partita. Once again, the audience is drawn in and he easily projects throughout the hall. The audience responds with wild applause again and then it’s time for intermission.
I run into Maura and her mom coming down the stairs. We are both in shock. “That was amazing!” we say to each other, beaming. We can’t wait to meet him. Maura and I stand by the signing table jabbering about how good it was as we wait for Kelemen to emerge. Suddenly Maura goes “Oh!” And I turn around to see Barnabás standing right behind me at the table. Maura greets him first, talking to him in Hungarian. He seems happy to find a Hungarian speaker in the audience. They get a picture and then it’s my turn. “Your Sibelius was amazing!” I blurt out. “Thank you!” He grins, signing my CD. “I was sitting in the back of the hall and I could hear you perfectly.”
Barnabás left the building and Maura and I bid each other farewell as the next half of the concert began. Kansas City Symphony played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with coherency and poise. It was very majestic and was played very cleanly. Michael Stern was completely without music for this symphony. My brother kept laughing during the first movement when they would play the four most famous notes in classical music: dun dun dun DAAAH! My favorite, however, was the fourth movement with the whole strings section playing a couple of measures in unison completely together. It was so neat to see all the bows going in the same direction! It ended with Stern coming out for three curtain calls, but, alas, no encore.
I wish I could go and see the concert again today, but snow prevents my parents from allowing it (along with the fact that the theater is half an hour away). It was a wonderful evening and part of me wishes that it did never end!
Was my face really that red the whole time?! Yuck! I guess walking all day through freezing cold wind in Chicago the day before will do that...
No, your face wasn't red. For some reason, our camera has a really bright flash that has a nasty habit of messing up complexions. These pictures don't do you, me, or Barnabás justice.
Great descrip of everything, Sydney. Wish I could have been there - I so love the Sibelius. (Better than JOSHUA'S recording? Oh, my. I'd have to hear it before believing it.)
Maura - wow, you can SPEAK Hungarian. I am officially impressed. And yes, Sydney, she does have a very mature writing voice, doesn't she?
Thanks for posting the pics and the notes.
Sydney, have you listened to his CD yet? His Zigeunerweisen will blow your mind. :)
I swear my blog version of yesterday's events is forthcoming--I've had the edit window open since noon, added bits and pieces in my spare time. :)
Yes! I listened to the CD and Zigeunerweisen was AWESOME! Good gravy...
Yup. The Plaza is great - it's actually the only part of Kansas City that doesn't make me feel vaguely depressed. Well, actually I like Crown Center, too. (I worked for two years at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center - a gorgeous hotel/place to work.) Midtown is okay, too, or at least it was fourteen years ago.
Is Karin around? Karin? What part of Kansas City do you like? Okay, Syd, what part do YOU like? Not to hijack a thread, but it's just fun to talk about Kansas City online. At my writers' discussion forum, NO ONE is from Kansas. Not even close.
I already forgot about that "i can see your whole face!" part...that belongs on a quotes list somewhere. LOL
Anyway, fantastic report, Sydney! I loved all the detailed descriptions, especially the account of the Q&A sessions. Michael Stern is a real cutie. :) And I can't believe that Kelemen needed only seven days to learn the notes for the Sibelius! You and Maura look great in the pictures. So glad you had a great time...you certainly deserved it!
And you met Maura! She doesn't look any thing like I imagined her and I had believed she was at least 22. ;) Heehee.
You should have told Stern that you studied the Sibelius in the womb, and then offered to play it on that gorgeous Guarneri of Keleman's. Except if he really let you, that might have been a problem. But a little one. You can always run. ;)
But seriously, I imagined you with darker hair and a mysterious gleam in your eye. But then again, the gleam goes for everyone. :) (P.S. Wish I could have a closer look at that necklace... it looks pur-dy!)
Syd, you thought I was in my FIFTIES?! Ack!
Wait, your mom's 50?! She doesn't look it!
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