Last Friday I conducted the concert version of Puccini’s La Boheme with the Huntsville Symphony, the Community and Children’s Chorus and a wonderful cast at the Von Braun Center. This was the first time ever in my life when I started a dress rehearsal with not all the principals present. Due to an unforeseen illness we needed to hire a replacement Mimi. She drove 4 hours from Atlanta and was just pulling into the parking lot as I started Act One (5 minutes late). She just walked on stage about 10 minutes into the act (Mimi’s first appearance) and did a wonderful job. See names and more read more details in FaceBook posts by Huntsville Symphony and myself. No matter in what format you are doing opera, the usual “operatic excitements” always do occur.
From the happy morning bells of Act 3 in La Boheme I have arrived to some very different bells in Budapest, Hungary. As part of the Hungarian Radio Symphony’s (MR Symphony) 70th Anniversary season concert series I am conducting a concert at the Palace of the Arts (MUPA) this Saturday. On the program:
Andras Szollosy (a great composer, often remembered as “The Great Third Master” with Gyorgy Ligeti and Gyorgy Kurtag): TRASFIGURAZIONI
Stravinsky: SYMPHONY OF PSALMS
Rachmaninov: THE BELLS
Fro the lyrics of the latter composition (a great symphony for orchestra, chorus and solo voices) see the following link
I designed the entire concert program around “The Bells” theme. Andras Szollosy (FYI the letter “SZ” next to Bartok’s compositions refers to his name, since he was the one -a composer AND a musicologist- who put together the chronological order of Bela Bartok’s works) was obsessed with the sound of the bells. In this energetic and very much “Rite of Spring”-like piece (16 minutes of music) has a lot of great bell-effects masterfully orchestrated for a group of triple woodwinds, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 3 (!) violin sections, violas, celli and basses (note that the lack of percussion instruments including any type of bells here!) Szollosy was a big fan of Igor Stravinsky and his music. Needless to say, that the unmistakable Russian bell sound plays a big part in this unique and captivating composition entitled Symphony of Psalms. Here is the unusual orchestration of this piece:
5 flutes (incl. piccolo), 5 oboes (incl. English Horn), 4 bassoons (incl. Contrabassoon) 4 horns, 5 trumpets (incl. Piccolo Trumpet), 3 trombones, tuba, timpani + percussion, two pianos, celli and basses. Yes, you read it right, while the Szollosy piece has three violin sections this piece has NO violins or violas whatsoever.
The Psalms used by Stravinsky for the three movements are:
Psalm 38, verses 13&14
Psalm 39, verses 2,3 & 4
Psalm 150 (complete)
Here are the words for Psalm 150
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.