Fresh Coat of Copland

We are ready for our third Casual Classics concert this afternoon at University of Alabama Huntsville’s Roberts Hall.
Local artist, Pamela Willis is joining the musicians of the Huntsville Symphony to create a painting live, in front of the eyes of the audience in three stages “choreographed” to the music of Aaron Copland. The painting will be auctioned out to benefit the Huntsville Symphony.
On the all Copland program we’ll be presenting
Quiet City for English Horn, Trumpet and strings
Nonet for strings
Appalachian Spring (original version)

I am especially proud of us playing the rarely performed Nonet for strings, a late composition by Copland known mostly for his Americana music. Along with two late, and well-known orchestral pieces, Connotations and Inscape, the style of ‘Nonet’ is not at all like that of Appalachian Spring or Rodeo. This music is more ‘avant-garde’, more contemplative and at points more sinister than the all sunny Copland we all know and admire. Nonet for strings was commissioned by the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library (same as in ‘Dumbarton Oaks Concerto’ by Stravinsky) and is dedicated to Nadia Boulanger “after forty years of friendship.”

Come and join us in an hour at Roberts Hall, and come back to the VBC next weekend to hear our Classical 5 concert with music by Ligeti, Bartok and Beethoven!

https://www.hso.org

Brahms and The Chairs

Three Brahms compositions in two concerts mark the Finale of the Huntsville Symphony’s 15-16 season. Yesterday evening, celebrated by a large audience at the Von Braun Performing Arts Center HSO was playing Brahms Symphony #3 and Violin Concerto in D. After a long standing ovation the mesmerizing sounds of the first movement of Bach’s Violin Sonata No.2 in A-minor ended the last classical concert, played beautifully by Nikki Chooi. What an amazing way to end the season!

Now wait a second! There is more. It is a little “encore” to our 61st season if you wish. This afternoon, members of the audience are invited to sit on the stage of the VBC next to and around the principal players of the HSO as we perform Serenade #1 by Brahms. This time it is the wind-quintet+string-quintet version on the program and I will be talking about the music, about the composer, and about the process we musicians rehearse and perform. To start the show I am planning to make our audience just stand in the lime light on stage and stare out into the empty auditorium to get a sense of what it feels like being up there in the presence of hundreds of people. In between movements of Serenade #1 I will ask the audience to switch to a different chair (hence the concert title we used for a similar show last year: Musical Chairs) to experience the acoustics of the stage of the VBC and to be able to watch and listen to different musicians playing different instruments. If you like unusual concert formats, join us at 3:30pm today or sign up for our Casual Classics series next season. The program will be out soon!

http://www.hso.org

Thanks Everybody for making 15-16 a successful season in every regard! We are looking forward to welcome you back in September. Have a great summer and keep up listening to good music!

My Father’s Son

It’s not so much that “the show must go on”, rather, that I am my father’s son.
My Dad, József Vajda, former principal bassoonist of the Hungarian Radio Symphony and retired professor of the Liszt Academy in Budapest passed away 10 days ago. Since then I have done a Casual Classic show with the Huntsville Symphony and I am getting ready to start rehearsals for our Classical 5 program with the Canadian Brass. My Dad worked all his life and was a master of his craft, and a great teacher. I am finding that work helps me cope with my loss and staying active means staying true to my father’s spirit.

Here are the two programs for Huntsville:
Casual Classics 2 at the Historic Train Depot Roundhouse
Telemann: Tafelmusik Suite #3 “Il delirio fantastico”
Telemann: Alster Echo Suite

Classical 5 “The Americas” at the Von Braun Center
Marquez: Danzon #2
All American music played by Canadian Brass
Bramwell Tovey: Manhattan Music for brass quintet and orchestra
Bernstein: Divertimento

http://www.hso.org

Next week I am going to start a project with the Pannon Philharmonic in southern Hungary. We’ll be playing a show at the Kodaly Center in Pecs and will repeat it at the Liszt Academy as well.

“Dance on the Moon”
Griffes: Poem
Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire (with special projections and lights)
Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale
Ibert: Flute Concerto

http://www.pannonfilharmonikusok.hu

I will be spending a lot of time with my family members while in Hungary, attending the funeral and doing a Celebration of Life in memory of my Father.

Healing with Bruckner and Conversations with Beethoven

Today at the Huntsville airport a young TSA agent, seeing my big musical scores, asked me about my profession. Upon finding out I was the conductor of the Friday Beethoven-Bruckner concert he said he was really sorry for missing the concert because he was so looking forward to it. I asked him why he did not come. “Because of what happened in Paris. I didn’t want to be in a public place with lots of people around.”, he said. Luckily most of HSO’s loyal audience was there to experience Kirill Gerstein’s amazing piano playing, and the true bonding of musicians and audience with the help of Bruckner’s powerful Symphony #4. Both the Bruckner and Bach’s Sinfonia in E-minor, the encore played by Kirill were dedicated to the dead and the wounded in the Paris attacks.
This afternoon Kirill Gerstein, three principal players of the HSO and myself (with my clarinet in hand) kicked off the Causal Classics series with a show called “Beethoven Conversations”. Kirill and I had a lively conversation about musicians’ every day challenge of interpretation and authenticity. We all got to listen to two Liszt Transcendent Etudes then, after a short demo of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds we performed Beethoven’s composition of the same title. Everybody who came to Roberts Hall at University of Alabama, Huntsville had a grand time, and I had fun playing some great chamber music as well. Once a great player like Kirill Gerstein comes to town we better take advantage of it and hear him play more than just, an otherwise glorious, piano concerto.
I am on my way to Budapest, Hungary to start rehearsals for the fully staged production of Verdi’s Don Carlo and also to perform new music with Ensemble UMZE at the Budapest Music Center.
Onward to make more beautiful and exciting music.

“ceux qui aiment. ceux qui aiment la vie. à la fin, c’est toujours eux qui gagnent.”
“Those who love. This who love life. In the end, they’re the ones who are rewarded.”
[Quote from a drawing of a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist after Friday’s Paris terror attacks.]

Pulcinella and The Super Bowl

Apparently more than half of the population of the United States will be watching The Super Bowl today. I won’t. Well I guess this makes me the member of the biggest minority in this country. 🙂 I could actually watch it, since our afternoon show ends just on time for everyone to get home and get comfortable on the couch (I do care about our audience!). Doing a concert on Super Bowl Sunday might sound like a social and financial suicide at first. The good news is that our Casual Classics 2 called “Musical Chairs” is practically sold out.
http://hso.org

Yes, there are people who are not into football. And yes, our core audience would come out to see and hear HSO players perform Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite
http://wikipedia.org
on the day of the biggest televised event in the country.

In case you don’t know what Super Bowl is click here 😉
http://superbowl.com

During our performance “Musical Chairs” members of the audience will get to sit in and around the players while Stravinsky’s masterwork is being played and rehearsed live. There is no better way to learn about how an orchestra works and what classical musicians are capable of doing. Playing an instrument alone is complex in itself, now imagine doing it in a group and watching the conductor while listening to your fellow musicians.
I just remembered that a year ago we were doing a Casual Classics show called “Brass Attack” exactly on the day of the Super Bowl. I guess the NFL does not really care about our concert schedule. 🙂

More Pulcinella will be played and danced next week for our Young People’s Concert and for our annual free Family Concert. Works by Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Copland and Shostakovich will be performed as well.

Percussion, Piano, Clarinet, Food And Drinks

This is going to be a long but fun weekend! HSO’s special guest for Classical 2 is the Amadinda Percussion Group.
http://www.en.wikipedia.org
This world famous ensemble has agreed to stop by on their way to the Percussive Arts Society Annual meeting in Indianapolis
http://www.pas.org/
and play a concert at the VBC. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity to hear the group that is now, after 30 years in the business, is part of music history. They play with amazing musicianship and their repertoire stretches from Haiti folk music through jazz to contemporary classical pieces. They are great entertainers and masters of their countless instruments. Huntsville Symphony and myself will be joining Amadinda for the second half of the program for J.S. Bach’s Concerto for two keyboards (played on 2 vibraphones and 2 marimbas) and for a piece written for four percussionists and orchestra. The latter composition is by Levente Gyongyosi
http://www.kontrapunktmusic.com/
Levente is pretty well known in choral circles in the US. His vocal pieces are popular all around the world. I am happy to be part of the US Premiere of this 35 minute long Sinfonia Concertante written just last year, hopefully contributing to the future success of the composition.
Since we do not have the full orchestra on stage for the beginning of the concert Zoltan Racz and I will be playing the National Anthem on the piano, four hands, for our usual opening sing along. I can’t remember when was the last time I played the piano in front of a life audience. Zoltan and I are practicing every day.

I will be spending my Saturday rehearsing for our first Casual Classics concert this season. It is time for Dinner DIvertimento again (we only have 5[!] tickets left). This year we are matching different courses with different pieces. On the program: Richard Strauss: Serenade op.7, Dvorak: Serenade for Winds in D-minor, Jean Francaix: Ten Character Pieces. I’ll be playing the clarinet for the first two numbers and will be conducting the third one.
Again; practice time for Gregory!
The musical dinner will be served on Sunday at the Early Works Museum.
For more information visit our website
http://www.hso.org/

mysterious; cat-like

The title of the post is from the score of Michael Torke’s Tahiti. This instruction can be found in the first clarinet part of the 7th movement. Needless to say that my cat-lover musicians immediately started loving the piece, not that it is any difficult to love it without the cat reference.
Here are the program notes for the piece from the composers website and a link to the site itself.

“Each of the movements reminisces a feeling of the individual islands that make up the Society Islands in the South Pacific, which we generally refer to as Tahiti.
A certain humidity, along with the lush landscape, water-life, white sand, and palm trees brings relief, a kind of peace to a hurried soul.
Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, sees it this way: “For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”
The movements grow from a melodic idea (rather than a rhythmic or harmonic idea, like much of my other music) and undergoes a development; the first and third movements have the most extended treatment.
A bias of orchestration is to limit the string writing to four parts, with a pair of woodwinds doubling the top part, much in the way Bach does in his Orchestral Suites.”

http://www.michaeltorke.com

The last sentence of the program notes above gave me the idea of the program for our third and final Casual Classics this season. I picked movements 1, 4, 6 and 7 from Torke’s composition and inserted them into Bach’s Orchestral Suite #1 in C. My goal with this year’s Casual Classics was to rediscover alternative concert formats and discover unusual concert venues around town. After a dinner-concert setting at the Early Works Museum and an acoustical action piece at the Depot Roundhouse (see earlier post “Pre-Super-bowl Brass Attack”) we are doing an “uninterrupted stream of music” at the Flying Monkey Theater at Lowe Mill.
http://www.lowemill.net

Billions of people now around the world listen to music on their iPods, smart phones, tablets and MP3 or MP4 devices. We all know the SHUFFLE button. Well, this concert is going to be exactly like when you push SHUFFLE and let your device stream you your favorite music. All right, I am cheating, since I did create a carefully thought out order for how the Bach and the Torke movements alternate… But still, I got the idea from my own iPod and also from search engines on net-radios where the “free-association” of human programmed algorithms provide endless entertainment.