Toward The Sea Into the New Year

The season of the Huntsville Symphony is always busier between January and May than it is in the fall. The reason? College football. In the fall we are doing our classical concerts on Fridays so we do not have to compete with the games on Saturdays. Also it seems it takes a while for everybody (definitely our core audience) to settle into the usual rhythm after the summer months. After presenting a no-orchestra New Years Eve show with the amazing Bela and Abigail Fleck the Huntsville Symphony is back on the stage of the Von Braun Center and we sure have a lot of notes to play for the second half of the season. Between February 1-4 we are doing 4 Youth Concerts, a Free Family Concert and a Pops concert with all John Williams movie hits. We are presenting our ever popular “dinner-concert” Casual Classics on February 12, then another classical concert with the music of Wagner and Offenbach on February 18.
https://www.hso.org

Yesterday, with a smaller than usual orchestra on stage, I conducted the HSO in a show called “Flute and Harp Impressions”. Principal flutist Evelyn Loehrlein and harpist Katherine Newman joined guest flutist Gergely Ittzes in a selection of pieces by Vivaldi, Debussy, Takemitsu and Respighi.
Gergely Ittzes https://www.ittzesgergely.hu has also performed two of his own solo flute compositions presenting unusual virtuosity on his instrument along with many special effects never heard before by our audience. Ittzes is capable of playing clear double stops (intervals) on the flute and special effects that sound like walking bass or an Indian, or Japanese traditional instrument. Our audience was very enthusiastic and thrilled about all the music that was presented. I believe we did justice to Vivaldi as well, since his music —due to the big size of our concert venue— has been definitely underrepresented in the classical series.
My favorite part of the concert was when Gergely Ittzes played Debussy’s famous solo flute composition, Syrinx then we went right into playing Takemitsu’s mesmerizing “Toward the Sea II” for alto flute, harp and strings. Great job HSO string section!
I admire Takemitsu for his beautiful sound colors and soothing rhythmical complexities (yes it does sound like a contradiction, but Takemitsu is just doing, in his own language, what Debussy has invented more than a 100ys ago now). I was very pleased with the audience’s positive response.
Our New Year has just started, and we are sailing on toward new adventures. Come and join us in 2017, too!

Grand Opera, 20th Century Classics and New Music

First performance of Verdi’s Don Carlo went well on Friday. I am ready for the second one tonight, and two more in the next two weeks (Nov 28, December 5). What a truly grand work full of unparalleled beauty and endless inventions!
In the meantime UMZE Chamber Ensemble and myself have been preparing for our Monday evening concert at the Budapest Music Center.
I programmed pieces by Hungarian composers living abroad along with 20th Century classics for ensemble.

Pierre Boulez: Dérive 1
Bálint Karosi: Ciaccona (Hungarian premiere)
Bálint Karosi: Sanguine (Hungarian premiere)
Claude Debussy: Brouillards – (Préludes II/1)
András Hamary: Brouillards – Three Movement to the Prelude of Claude Debussy (Hungarian premiere)

András Hamary: Hommage à Janáček for piano (for right hand) and winds (Hungarian premiere)
Leos Janáček: Capriccio for piano (for left hand) and winds

The two Hamary http://www.hamary.de compositions are clear homages to Debussy and Janáček, and are full of strong, simple and original musical ideas. Ciaccona by Karosi http://www.karosi.org is a inventive take on Boulez’s Dérive 1 while his Sanguine is a fun and virtuoso ensemble piece.

Peter Kiss will be the soloist for both the Janáček Capriccio and Hamary’s ‘Hommage à Janáček’ and he will be playing the original piano prelude by Debussy as well.
http://kisspeterpianist.hu

May, The Month Of Bells

Two concerts with Symphony Silicon Valley this weekend, one down one more to go. On the program:
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy
Debussy: Nocturnes
Rachmaninov: The Bells
http://symphonysiliconvalley.org
This is my second time conducting Rachmaninov’s “choral symphony”. Here is my blogpost from 2013 about my performance with the Hungarian Radio Symphony with an “all about bells” theme:
http://gregoryvajda.com
The sound of the famous “Russian Bells” of course can be found in Tchaikovsky’s Overture Fantasy as well, and also in the delicate sounds of Debussy’s mezmerising Nocturnes, with female voices added to the mix of the orchestra timbres.
More bells for me in the coming weeks. In between rehearsals and performances I spent most of my time in my hotel room while in San Jose, CA. Let me tell you, I was missing out on some beautiful weather. I spent several hours preparing my score and making additional cuts to Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust. Two semi-staged performances are coming up at the Budapest Opera. The entire opera starts with the sound of Easter Bells and ends with the sound of more bells accompanying the strange and actually pretty blasphemous apotheosis of Dr. Faust.
http://opera.hu
I am happy to have some of my Huntsville friends in Budapest for the second performance. They will be on a cruise ship on the Danube and will be stopping by in Budapest just in time to see me conduct Doktor Faust. I am looking forward to showing them around in my hometown and to spend some fun times together in my neck of the woods.

Musical Metabolism

Metabolism: the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available.
There is sure a lot of energy made available during the performance of Métaboles by Henri Dutilleux. What a great showpiece for orchestra! It comes second on our program this weekend with the Omaha Symphony. The concert opens with Debussy’s Danse (Tarantelle Styrienne) orchestrated by Maurice Ravel himself. Concluding the first half is the virtuoso Violin Concerto #3 by Saint-Saens. My soloist for this piece is the amazing David Kim, concert master of the Philadelphia Orchestra
http://davidkimviolin.com
After a varied and fairly long first half we are playing only one composition for the second half of the concert. Shostakovich Symphony #1 is a long time favorite of mine. Written by a 19yo composer this symphony has everything we love Shostakovich for without the long shadow of Comrade Stalin over it.
About 9 years ago I was invited to conduct the Omaha Symphony for its last concert in their old concert hall. I was also asked to do a rehearsal in the then not yet finished new hall to help the acoustic adjustments the venue needed. This time I am really fortunate to conduct two shows of a truly exciting program in the Holland Center’s beautiful concert hall.

YOUTH Concerts, Love & LUST

Yes, I am getting better at coming up with catchy headlines. 🙂 Just finished the fourth show of our Youth/ Family Concert series. On the program: Mozart Magic Flute Overture, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto 1st Movement/ Elgar Cello Concerto 1st Movement (alternating, solos played by two concerto competition winners), Britten Young Persons’ Guide To The Orchestra [in honor of the Britten Anniversary]. It is always a lot of fun to play for 4th graders and the families on Saturday (this is a FREE concert every year). We had a great crowd especially considering that it is SNOWING today in Huntsville, AL.
This Sunday at 3PM we are doing our third and final concert of the Casual Classics Series at Randolph School. On the program: Debussy Music for the Songs of Bilitis [narrated by Ginny Kennedy from WLRH]
http://www.wlrh.org
and Luciano Berio Folksongs
Karen Bentel sings the solo. She also plays 2nd flute with the Huntsville Symphony.
Ginny Kennedy and myself will do a casual chat about the theme and the pieces. As usual there is no intermission, and there is a meet and great with snack afterwords.
Check out the program notes here:
http://www.hso.org