bachelor behind-the-scenes

When I was told that the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was going to be featured on an episode of the Bachelor I knew I had to find a way to be there. As a young teen I had watched my fair share of the Bachelor, and the Bachelorette. I had oohed and aahed with all my friends about who was going to win, who should be kicked out, and of course, how we would act if we were on the show. Having LACO be part of the show was my chance to finally get the backstage scoop of the inner workings of this crazy-yet addicting-show.

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When I first arrived at the Park Plaza hotel I was astounded by the sheer number of people who were working. Dozens of crew members were quickly putting the set together. Handful of flower arrangements, candles and linens-so many different linens-were strategically placed, draped and hung. By the looks of it, the crew had redecorated the hotel! But no, it was just a small, tiny section. The table where the couple ate was as big as a card table. The floor danced on? The length of a bed. However, with all the camera angles and decorations, the table looked comfortable and not itsy-bitsy. The dance floor seemed as spacious and open as when Cinderella dances with her Prince. The magic of angles, lighting and many retakes were finally revealed to me.

I can never look at TV, especially reality TV the same. But it’s because I now appreciate all the hard work that goes into making it happen. The crew team was incredible, fixing any stray hair, dress malfunction and sweaty forehead quickly and professionally. The detailing of each shot of footage was painstakingly examined and tweaked. The patience each member possessed and the comradery they had for one another was truly wonderful to watch.

But of course, we can’t forget about the LACO musicians. For me, they were the chocolate icing on the cake. The call time for the musicians was 6:00 pm and not a single person was late. In fact many of them were 20-30 minutes early. As I greeted the musicians and asked how their days were going, many answered, “I just came from a recording session.” Or “I just finished teaching at school”. It was 6:00 pm, they had already put in a full day of playing, teaching, or practicing and they still had a 5 hour gig that night. The life of a musician really never stops!

At 6:30 pm sharp they began to rehearse. It was the first rehearsal. It was the first time playing with the guest conductor. It was the first time for many of them to look at the music. And yet, not a single note was wrongly played. The harpist strummed away as if it was her favorite piece in the whole world. The basses-my favorite to watch-plucked away like they had been playing this their entire life. And the soloists? Not a faulty breath or shaky note. No, it was magical listening and watching them play. It was clear they truly loved performing and had a deep understanding of their instruments. They could not have looked more professional yet at ease if the director had told them to. When LACO began to play the whole Bachelor crew stopped working. How could they not? It was beautiful. Some people even started dancing, faking a waltz and stepping on toes (clearly they didn’t watch Dancing with the Stars enough). The atmosphere in the whole hotel changed from frantic work to calm and serene enjoyment. That was what the LACO musicians could do.

In 30 minutes, they both rehearsed and recorded the sound for the episode. The director was shocked that they were now ahead of schedule. As I later learned, this rarely happens! The musicians quickly and quietly left the ball room to get a quick dinner before the taping started.

When the taping finally started (at this point it was around 9:45) it was my first time seeing the Bachelor and his lovely date. She looked incredible. Her gown was a beautiful shade of blue and fit her like a glove. Her hair was perfectly done and her makeup artist was close at hand to retouch any lipstick or eyeliner issues that arose. As the couple walked up the stairs to the dance stage, I caught a glimpse of her shoes. Holy mackerel. They were at least 5 inches tall! And stilettos! If you’ve ever worn heels-any heels, then you can really appreciate the skill it took for her to gracefully make her way around.

The next hour and a half was spent taping the dance. It was interesting to see how each time they did the scene, the couple seemed to become more comfortable with each other and began to have more fun. By the last taping, they were laughing and goofing off as if they were childhood sweethearts. It was surprisingly touching to watch. When the final dance had finished and the taping was over, all of the crew cheered, clapped and finally began talking again. The scene was over. It was now back to real reality. The one without the orchestra, the gowns, and the ballroom. I noticed though, as everybody began cleaning and packing up, the songs LACO played were being hummed and whistled by many. The music continued to play.

Getting to observe the taping of The Bachelor has definitely been added to my list of “Awesome things I’ve done in LA”. I’m so lucky that LACO gave me the opportunity of a lifetime!

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john adams the minimalist

Back when I was a young music student and I first heard of John Adams, I thought, the second president of the United States was a composer!? But of course, I hadn’t yet heard of John Adams (b. 1946), nor had I the pleasure of hearing the music of this artist, who is one of the most influential and well-known living composers. John Adams was born and raised in New England. He played music from a young age, and started writing original music when he was just 10 years old. He attended Harvard, and while in Boston, soaked up the musical offerings of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After his time at Harvard ended (two degrees conferred), Adams moved to San Francisco to teach at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1982, he was named composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony, and founded and curated their “New and Unusual Music” series. He is currently the Creative Chair of the LA Phil, and curates its Minimalist Jukebox festival.

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John Adams is often classified as a minimalist composer, and perhaps it’s important to define precisely what this term “minimalism” means. In the realm of 20th century music, “minimalism” refers to music that often features short phrases repeated a large number of times or that may gradually go through a process of change or transformation. There is routinely a steady pulse in pieces like these, and there is not necessarily a harmonic goal, so the music becomes more about the process rather than traditional harmonic language, or narrative or representative stories. There are five American composers generally associated with the early days of minimalism: John Adams, LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass.

Some early minimalist pieces were produced on tape loops, and explored the resulting sounds when two loops of the same phrase were slowly drawn out of phase with each other. Later, this idea of phasing was explored with live instruments, to great effect. One of the pieces on LACO’s upcoming concert is John Adams’ Shaker Loops from 1978. The “loop” of the title was inspired by these tape loop compositions, although there are no tape loops used in the piece. Shaker Loops started out as a string quartet called “Wavemaker,” which was an exploration of two ideas: 1) minimalist procedures and 2) the ripples made when the surface of water is broken or disturbed. The “Shaker” of the title might suggest the religious sect (so named because their worship included shaking and dancing), but it actually grew out of the idea of string tremolo, a technique that requires the player to quickly repeat a note by moving the bow back and forth in a continuous motion. According to the composer, when he was writing this piece, he was thinking of “long sequences of oscillating melodic cells that created a rippling, shimmering complex of patterns like the surface of a slightly agitated pond or lake.”

The first iteration of this piece in “Wavemaker” didn’t work in the way Adams had hoped, so he expanded the work for seven string instruments. The version LACO is playing is actually a third version, which was arranged for string orchestra. The added instruments allow for more possibilities in terms of texture. There four movements of the piece, “Shaking and Trembling,” “Hymning Slews” “Loops and Verses,” and “A Final Shaking.” Like other minimalist pieces in which the short ideas transform gradually, over time, the musical ideas in each movement display gradual changes in focus. Sometimes, the waves seem to crash into each other, while in other parts the sounds mesh into one. It’s a fascinating piece to both watch and hear, and the synchronization of the ensemble’s collaboration is absolutely key to the success of the piece. I’ve not yet heard this piece in live performance, so I’m very excited to experience the energy of this piece on stage.

My first experience with the music of John Adams was Nixon in China, a ground-breaking opera he composed in 1985-1987. It premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in October of 1987. It was a joint commission by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Houston Grand Opera, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Alice Goodman penned the libretto, which covers the arrival of Pat and Richard Nixon in China and continues through the subsequent meetings and events of this historic visit. I was struck by the power of minimalist music when used by a large orchestra, and it’s still one of my favorite operas. It wasn’t universally praised when it premiered, but in the nearly 30 years since it was composed, it has been recognized as a very important work in twentieth century opera, and it has endured in a way its early detractors never thought possible.

John Adams won the Pulitzer in 2003 for a work called On the Transmigration of Souls, a work commemorating the lives lost on 9/11. As a native New Yorker, I felt that the choice of Adams as the voice of such a work seemed a natural. It’s a moving and touching piece meshing orchestra, adult choir, children’s choir, and tape. Adams still composes and curates and conducts. In 2008 he published a memoir called Hallelujah Junction. He came to the Los Angeles Public Library to give a talk, which I attended. When he took questions, I asked him this: “Do you compose every day?” To which he answered, “Yes, I try to, even if it’s just a little bit.” This is a good lesson I think about a lot, especially at the beginning of a year. How can I make this year more productive than the last? I think of John Adams and his answer: whatever you do, try to do a little bit each day.

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welcome, karina!

Most musicians I know would be content playing in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Berlin Philharmonic on a regular basis. Some might even have the privilege of being asked to solo with professional orchestras across the country. Apparently for Karina Canellakis, that was not enough. Following in her father’s footsteps, she decided to pursue conducting at The Julliard School. She received her Master’s in orchestral conducting and she won 2013 Schiff Conducting Award for outstanding achievement in orchestral conducting, the American Conductors Award, Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and the Isidore Komanoff Award. With her academic success, she has now moved to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as the new Assistant Conductor this season where she continues to impress the musical community. Even at the last minute.

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Karina Canellakis was called into action in the middle of the night on October 3, 2014. Jaap van Zweden, the Music Director of the DSO, was experiencing strong shoulder pains while preparing the orchestra for a weekend of concerts. Jaap van Zweden conducted both concerts both Thursday and Friday night, but the pain was too much and after seeing a doctor, he needed to recover. It was in this moment in which the spotlight moved to Canellakis. With Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14, Canellakis had her work cut out for her. As the Dallas Morning News stated, “she rose spectacularly to the challenge Saturday night, leading with great clarity and expressivity” and listed this performance as one of the Top 10 classical music performances of 2014. Her thorough preparation and excellent execution earned her a standing ovation and thunderous feet shuffles from the orchestra.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra would like to congratulate Karina on her triumph upon the podium in Dallas and cannot wait to begin preparing for a weekend of music for LACO’s 4th concert of the orchestral series on January 24th and 25th. She will display both her talent on solo violin and conducting. The program will include Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in E-flat major and Peteris Vasks’ Lonely Angel and following that, she will lead the orchestra through John Adams’ Shaker Loops and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major in LACO’s 4th concert of the orchestral series. Best of luck and welcome Ms. Canellakis!

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yours, mine and ours

Several years ago, a colleague from a fellow arts organization and I were meeting to discuss a collaborative project. She had attended a LA Chamber Orchestra concert a few nights earlier, and her sharp observation of the listeners around her has stuck with me ever since: “I’ve never seen such a possessive audience,” she said. In just a few words, she defined the essence of the LACO community and pointed out what makes it so remarkable. When it later became my job to make the pre-concert, “turn off your cell phone” announcements, I took those words to heart and, Vin Scully-style, incorporated the phrase, “your Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.”

read more →Multiple media platforms have made music more accessible now than ever. You can enjoy LACO performances online, on radio and on disc, but it’s remote access. To be in the room with the Orchestra’s fierce collection of talent is a visceral experience, where a musical energy field connects you to the players – and to your fellow concert-goers. It’s that bond that creates a real sense of ownership, and I don’t just mean figuratively. Almost three-quarters of the funding needed to produce LACO’s world-class performances and engaging community programs is contributed – and 70% of that comes from individuals like you, who donate over and above the price of a concert ticket.

By definition, that makes LACO your Orchestra, and because of your generosity, it belongs to all of Los Angeles and the world.

You can help sustain this indispensable cultural and community resource – and boost your tally of charitable deductions for 2014 – by making a gift before December 31. Donate online or call the LACO office up until 5 pm on New Year’s Eve.

Thanks for making LACO not only your Orchestra, but ours.

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musician spotlight: Patricia Mabee

The 2014-2015 season is in full swing, and we wanted to start highlighting some of the many amazing and talented musicians seen on the LACO stage. First up, Patricia Mabee, who has been LACO’s principal keyboardist for 38 years! You can catch Tisha performing during in LACO’s upcoming Baroque Conversations concert on Thursday, December 11. Tisha took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer some fun questions for us, so keep reading to learn more about Tisha’s history with snake bites and the soundtrack to her forbidden adolescent tryst!

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Do you have any pre-concert rituals?  I like to curl up into a ball, or at least close my eyes and listen to my breath for a minute.

What’s your earliest musical memory?  Sitting under the upright piano while my Mom played Bach. I was probably only one or two years old.

What’s a piece of music that triggers a memory that always makes you smile?  It’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together” by the Rolling Stones. Ahhh, forbidden adolescent tryst!

If you could play another instrument other than the one(s) you already play, what would it be and why?  It’d have to be a lute or theorbo, because then I could just jump from harpsichord to play it whenever I felt the music called for it.

If you could play a duet with any living musician, living or dead, who would it be and what would you play?  Herbie Hancock, and we’d play “Chameleon.”

What’s your favorite music-based movie or TV show and why?   “West Side Story.” Pure genius, innovative for its time and it never seems dated.

What’s something about you that no one would know just by attending a LACO concert?  In my late teens I wanted to become a doctor with the Peace Corps. I trained as a nurse and volunteered for 2 summers in rural areas in Guatemala and Colombia treating things like tarantula and snake bites and kwashiorkor, which is malnutrition.

Halloween just passed. What’s your all-time favorite Halloween costume?  Marie Antoinette, of course!

Turkey Day is a couple weeks away. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish, dessert, or entree?  Are mashed potatoes and gravy a side dish? You can have everything else!

In addition to her work with LACO, Tisha is also principal keyboard with the New West Symphony Orchestra. She made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 1982, and has since given recitals on four continents. She has made regular appearances at the Oregon Bach Festival, as well as at the Casals, Chamber Music Northwest, Ojai and Los Angeles Bach festivals. Tisha performs with the Bach’s Circle and is the music director of Ritornello, a period instrument ensemble. Tisha can be heard on many film soundtracks including “Marie Antoinette” and “Master and Commander.” Specializing in Early Music, Tisha received a Master’s degree in keyboard performance from California Institute of the Arts. She is currently on both the CalArts and Colburn School Conservatory of Music faculties.

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what is music?

I had the best time at LACO’s Meet the Music performance on Friday, November 21. Meet the Music is the Orchestra’s education program for 4th and 5th grade students, primarily from LAUSD. These programs are always so much fun to attend – watching the students respond to the music presented, listening to their questions, and hearing their reactions as they leave the auditorium.

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On Friday, the program, which included musicians from LACO, musicians from wild Up and conductor Christopher Rountree particularly spoke to me. At the concerts, Christopher asked students “What is music?” The concert explored the difference between music and sound – could sounds be music? Are they the same? In further exploration of this concept, Chris answered, “Music is all around you.”

For those of you who have attended recent LACO concerts, you know we have been asking concertgoers the same question – what is music to you? We also got lots of great answers, and put together this fantastic video:

Watch the video, and read what other music lovers had to say in response to this question.

Join in the conversation! Tell us what music is to you via Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #musicIs.

As 2014 is coming to a close – consider making a gift to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to help keep music thriving in Los Angeles.

Thank you for your support! I look forward to seeing you I the audience soon!

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the pulitzer prize in music

Choosing composition as your life’s work means a challenging career ahead. Hundreds of years ago, job security meant finding a patron who would feed and house you and expect you to produce a pretty constant stream of music for their court orchestra. If you were lucky and well-connected, you might also have a thriving career writing opera for the public or publishing piano music for students and music-lovers. But the percentage of composers who can make a living just from composition has always been relatively small, and it is still true today. One of the most successful composers out there right now is Aaron Jay Kernis, and LACO will be performing one of his works in their upcoming concert. Kernis’ Viola Concerto will make its Los Angeles debut with Paul Neubauer as soloist. It’s sure to be a wonderful experience.

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Aaron Jay Kernis has had a very productive career thus far; he’s been recognized by the professional organizations ASCAP and BMI, and he has won a number of very prestigious awards in his field. He’s also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He won the Rome Prize in 1984, which allows for a year of writing and study at the American Academy in Rome. Previous winners include Roger Sessions, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, and Lukas Foss. Kernis’ work Colored Field received the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2002. Kernis continues to collect accolades, and he’s sharing his particular ideas and talents with thriving university programs. He is composer in residence at Northwestern University (made possible by the Nemmers Prize) and he is also in residence at New York’s Mannes College.

One of the jewels in the crown of this already amazing career is Kernis’ 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Music, which he won for the String Quartet No. 2. At the age of 28 at the time, Kernis was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer in Music. I only learned there was such an award in the late 90s, when my former theory professor, Melinda Wagner, won for her Concerto for Flute, Strings, and Percussion. Since then, I’ve wondered about the origin of the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

The Pulitzer Prize was set up by Hungarian-born newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. His papers, New York World and St-Louis Post Dispatch favored high quality writing and investigative journalism. Pulitzer was incredibly supportive of the idea of a school of journalism, which would properly train writers at the university level to create content for newspapers and other publications.

In his will drawn up in 1904 (he died in 1911), he left money to Columbia University with the stipulation that they begin a school of journalism (it was founded in 1912) and award the Pulitzer Prize celebrating excellence in various fields. Pulitzer named a few awards: four in journalism, four in letters and drama, and one in education. There were also scholarships for travel. Among the letters awards were ones for an American novel and an American play (which had been performed in New York). The first set of prizes was awarded in 1917. There is both a certificate and a cash award for each prize. Pulitzer understood that times would change, so he was not overly rigid in his stipulations. In fact, he established a board that would oversee and advise the awards, so that they could replace subjects or add subjects, and respond to the changing times. Currently, the Pulitzer foundation gives out awards in twenty-one categories. In the 1990s, the Plan of Award committee responded to the proliferation of online content by expanding the definition of entries. This change was amended further in 2006.

The Pulitzer Prize for Music was added in 1943. At first, only art music entries were considered, but again, Pulitzer’s understanding that times would change allowed for a broadening of the category. In 1998, the definition of eligible music became more inclusive towards more mainstream musical styles. Things seemed to be moving in that direction already; in 1997, Wynton Marsalis’ “Blood on the Fields,” which displayed strong jazz influences, took the prize. So once the Plan of Award committee made the change officially, other composers who had been overlooked received some late recognition. In 1998, George Gershwin was honored on his hundredth birthday, as was Duke Ellington in 1999. In 2007, Ornette Coleman’s live jazz recording Sound Grammar won the award, the first to take such an honor, and it was validation of the progress towards an acceptance of the diversity of American styles.

Although the Pulitzer Prize is not without controversy or detractors, Aaron Jay Kernis’ inclusion in the pantheon of winners is ultimately a coveted honor. To receive such a prize so early in one’s career,  it must have felt to Kernis incredibly encouraging. And Kernis has made good on the promise he showed. Not content to sit idly after winning an award (or many awards!), Kernis has shown that each new honor just encourages him to write more, add nuance to the development of his style, and contribute to the rich diversity of the American music tradition.

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musician spotlight: Kristy Morrell

Horn player Kristy Morrell has been gracing the LACO stage since 1997 – 17 years! What a perfect candidate for our new Musician Spotlight feature! Come see Kristy in action this weekend, when she’ll be performing during “Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3,” LACO’s concert on November 15 & 16 (buy your tickets now!). Kristy kindly answered some fun questions for us, so check out which beverage inspired her favorite Halloween costume, as well as which classical music piece caught her ear at the tender age of four.

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Do you have any pre-concert rituals?I usually take a 20 minute “princess nap.”

What’s your earliest musical memory?My grandpa played Dvorak’s New World Symphony for me when I was 4. It fascinated me and I begged him to play the record endlessly. Finally, he let me take the record home and I literally wore it out.

If you could play another instrument other than the one(s) you already play, what would it be and why?  I sing a lot in church choir and I always wish I had a better voice.

What’s your favorite music-based movie or TV show and why? I LOVE Mr. Holland’s Opus. As an educator, it validates my passion for sharing music with everyone.

What’s your favorite topping on ice cream? Pizza? Salad?  I love anchovy on pizza. (A lot.)

What’s your favorite sandwich?  Reuben with extra sauerkraut.

What’s something about you that no one would know just by attending a LACO concert?  I raise chickens in my backyard. Penelope, Peony, and Violet are their names.

Halloween was a couple weeks ago… What’s your favorite or most memorable Halloween costume?  When my husband Steve and I were students at Eastman, we dressed up as a 6-pack of Genesee Beer. (Our favorite libation due to its economy, not flavor!)

In addition to her work with LACO, Kristy Morrell is a faculty member at USC’s Thornton School of Music and The Colburn School of Performing Arts. She performs frequently with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale, LA Opera, and Pasadena and Pacific symphonies. A respected recording artist, she has performed on numerous motion picture and television soundtracks and records. Kristy has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from USC, where she also received her Master of Music, and a Bachelor of Music and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music.

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genesis of the viola concerto

Viola Concerto (2013-2014)
I. Braid
II. Romance
III. A Song My Mother Taught Me

This new concerto for Viola is inspired essentially by its extraordinary soloist, Paul Neubauer, whose playing I’ve known over many years. Paul and I first worked together in 1993 when American Public Radio commissioned my Still Movement with Hymn for piano quartet which he premiered on air and toured. In some ways this new concerto follows up on the tone of that piece. I have always been drawn to the soulful character of the viola, and have been excited to write this work from the moment Paul asked for it.

read more →Knowing of Paul Neubauer’s interest in folk music, after our very first meeting I decided to base this movement on the well-known Yiddish song, Tumbalalaika, which I had known since my early childhood. I had always felt this song has very penetrating words and a sad melody, and was later surprised to hear it sung in many ways – as a romantic wedding song, wildly gyrating dance tune, and even in an ironic, comedic rendition. It can withstand so many interpretations! The words to the song (included below) are very soulful and deep. They are both light and dark in tone, playful yet very serious in intent. In the song a young man questions a girl who might become his bride, and she answer his simple questions with surprisingly deep answers. The relationship between them that these words hint at are at the center of the entire concerto. The melody of Tumbalalaika is used as the basis of the entire third movement (A Song My Mother Taught Me), and it is varied and presented in many different emotional contexts throughout its nearly 20 minute length. This movement is the longest and most substantial in the piece.

The use of the Yiddish tune is formed like a theme and series of variations, but the ten linked variations proceed backwards toward the tune, starting at their most fragmented and least melodic. The tune has been pulverized, made wildly improvisatory, and at times, very harsh and bitter. The melody is never heard in its original form, but there is late in the movement more of it is exposed against a background of strumming strings that suggest the sound of a balalaika orchestra. The shape of this movement could be construed to be variations in search of their melody.

Another important influence on the concerto was the music of Robert and Clara Schumann. I was drawn to this incredible music and unique relationship once again by Paul Neubauer’s splendid CD of transcriptions of Robert’s works for viola and piano. After hearing this disc I found further inspiration from Robert’s Opus 34 Fughetta and Clara’s Romance (both for piano), out of which grew my own Romance, this concerto’s second movement. My Romance is a lyrical, romantic intermezzo, which grows out of breathing, fluid gestures and harmonies that link to the Brahms/early Schoenberg tradition as well. This was the first movement I completed of the concerto, and hope with it was to fit Paul’s gorgeous singing sound like a glove.

So the entire work is steeped in personal relationships in one way or another, direct indirect and abstracted. Probably most abstract (but still lyrical in tone) is the opening movement, Braid, which I imagined as a constantly shifting and transforming relationship between the viola and orchestra. The fast moving line that opens in the vibraphone weaves around a singing melody that the viola introduces, building, redefining through a thickening gauze of colors that leads, at its peak, to a chaotic frenzy, winding down suddenly as the opening music returns.

I am so delighted that LACO is a partner in this commission. It has been many years since we’d worked together in person, when in 1998 my jazzy Double Concerto for Violin and Guitar was presented with Jeff Kahane conducting. (I was not able to attend last season’s performances of Musica Celestis). I so look forward to returning to Los Angeles and LACO after a long hiatus.

TUMBALALIAKA LYRICS

Transliteration of Yiddish Lyrics
Shteyt a bokher, un er trakht
Trakht un trakht a gantse nakht
Vemen tzu nemen un nisht farshemen
Vemen tzu nemen un nisht farshemen

((chorus))
Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika
Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika
Tumbalalaika, shpil balalaika
Tumbalalaika,freylekh zol zaynMeydl, meydl, kh’vil bay dir fregn,
Vos ken vaksn, vaksn on regn?
Vos ken brenen un nit oyfhern?
Vos ken benken, veynen on trern?

((chorus))

Narisher bokher, vos darfstu fregn?
A shteyn ken vaksn, vaksn on regn.
Libe ken brenen un nit oyfhern.
A harts ken benken, veynen on trern.

((chorus))

Vos iz hekher fun a hoyz?
Vos iz flinker fun a moyz?
Vos iz tifer fun a kval?
Vos iz biter, biterer vi gal?

((chorus))

A koymen iz hekher fun a hoyz.
A kats iz flinker fun a moyz.
Di toyre iz tifer fun a kval.
Der toyt iz biter, biterer vi gal.

((chorus))

Translation:
A young lad stands, and he thinks
Thinks and thinks the whole night through
Whom to take and not to shame
Whom to take and not to shame

((chorus))
Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika
Tumbala, Tumbala, Tumbalalaika
Tumbalalaika, strum balalaika
Tumbalalaika, may we be happyGirl, girl, I want to ask of you
What can grow, grow without rain?
What can burn and never end?
What can yearn, cry without tears?

((chorus))

Foolish lad, why do you have to ask?
A stone can grow, grow without rain
Love can burn and never end
A heart can yearn, cry without tears

((chorus))

What is higher than a house?
What is swifter than a mouse?
What is deeper than a well?
What is bitter, more bitter than gall?

((chorus))

A chimney is higher than a house
A cat is swifter than a mouse
The Torah is deeper than a well
Death is bitter, more bitter than gall

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celebrate…with music, of course!

I haven’t seen a wedding band play in years. I’ve attended my share of weddings, but in the last couple of decades, I’ve noticed that the popularity of wedding bands has waned in favor of the lone DJ, who plays the hits just as you remember them. I’ve also been to weddings where the couple compiled an epic playlist beforehand and left an iPod to play their choices while the rest of us danced and ate. But think back to a time when recordings were not an option. Think back to Europe in the eighteenth century, a time when music had to be played live by skilled musicians. If you liked to listen to music back then, your choices were somewhat limited. I came across an interesting tidbit the other day when looking up some information about Antonio Salieri. In the 1700s, Salieri went to Vienna and found work in a chamber orchestra run by Emperor Joseph II. Joseph was such an enthusiastic music lover that he employed a group of musicians to play for him while he ate dinner. And not just once in a while either; these musicians played for him every evening. Such a thing would only be possible if money were no object.

read more →For most people, then, daily music-making fell to individuals. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, piano lessons were very popular. The piano was a focal point of many homes. There were also public concerts to attend, if one had the time, inclination, and resources. (Location was also important.) Although not strictly for entertainment value, churches provided music, and indeed, some of the most talented composers and musicians worked at the churches in Europe. Opera was the most popular musical entertainment of the day, of course, and a composer’s career could be made or broken in the opera house. Another place to hear music was at special events like weddings.

One of the pieces on LACO’s upcoming concert is a Serenade by Mozart that was composed for a wedding celebration. A Serenade is a piece for orchestra, usually in many movements (more than the typical four movements of a symphony), reserved for some light entertainment. The instrumentation for a serenade is chosen with two practical concerns in mind: the music had to be heard wherever the musicians were placed, which was sometimes outside; the musicians were sometimes called upon to stand and play their instruments. (Cellists were always exempt from this for obvious reasons.) The “Haffner” Serenade by Mozart—so named because it was composed for the occasion of the wedding between Elisabeth Haffner and Franz Xavier Spaeth—is scored for instruments that would do well both in the outdoors and with standing instrumentalists. There are strings, pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, and trumpets.

The music for a wedding celebration, or any serenade or divertimento from the Classical period is light and airy, but not without substance. Mozart had a knack for making such carefree music interesting. For those who were socializing and eating while the music was going on, they would have enjoyed pleasing background music, but for those who cared to listen more closely, they would have been treated to some charming and clever pieces. Mozart used dance forms, which was a common practice when writing such light entertainments. Often lively and catchy, dance forms have the advantage of seeming familiar, even if they are quite new. Hearing the “Haffner” Serenade and its accompanying march—which would likely have played while the bride and groom made their entrance, or while guests were arriving—in a concert setting allows one to really appreciate the nuances of Mozart’s composition. And best of all, the orchestra will likely be seated as well. (I’m sure they appreciate that!) The couple for whom this piece was composed married in 1776. That makes this year their 238th anniversary!

If celebrating a two-century-old wedding wasn’t cause enough for jollity, LACO’s upcoming concert also features a piece that was thought lost to history. Haydn’s Cello Concerto was for years misattributed to Anton Kraft, the cellist for whom the piece was written. The work was there, in plain sight, just with the wrong composer’s name on it. Some suspected that Kraft’s Cello Concerto might have been the missing concerto that Haydn included on a list of all of his works. The proof didn’t come until the mid-twentieth century when an autograph score of this piece was finally found, confirming Haydn’s authorship of the Cello Concerto. Better late than never, I suppose.

LACO’s upcoming concert will have the upbeat mood of a celebration, which is a wonderful and fitting thing. Every time we get to support this music and orchestras like LACO, it is a celebration. We have the privilege of experiencing live music played by skilled musicians, which means we have something in common with those music-lovers from the eighteenth century. Sure, we have streaming music, YouTube, radio, television, and recordings, but there is simply no substitute for being there, in the theater, watching and listening to the magic of live music. ↑ less ↑