Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two reviews of our Masterworks opening night

Here are links to two reviews of our Masterworks Series opening night concert on October 23. The night featured Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein playing Tchaikovsky's beloved Piano Concerto No. 1 under the baton of Jaime Laredo. The first review is by Times Argus staff reporter Jim Lowe. The second is a less conventional review by two audience members (written directly on the program insert!).

Jim Lowe's review.

Audience reaction.

Keep reading!

Memories (and recordings!) Made in Vermont

I know it seems that foliage is a thing of the recent past. We had a week of gale-force winds and storms in early October and -- poof! -- the trees stood naked, prepared to be peppered with early-season snowfall. Our Made in Vermont tour (planned to occur during projected peak foliage time in Vermont), fell on either side of this weather event, two weekends marking the beginning and abrupt end to the 2010 leaf-peeper season. The belligerent weather system wasn't the only memorable part of the tour. Here we recount some memories shared by the musicians, staff, and the tour's featured composer, Don Jamison. Want a memory that lasts? You can download the complete Made in Vermont concert recording on our page at Instant Encore. Seek something more ephemeral? You can stream it, too. Keep reading for our memories!

"My favorite part was arriving at the hall on my birthday and seeing a mylar balloon with "Happy Birthday" on it tied to a bottle of Champ Ale on my bass stool." -- Luke, bass

"I was so glad for Albert and his conductorial debut and amazing playing and Heidi for her pre-Handel backstage dance routine. Better than TV." -- Shelagh, French horn

"My favorite part was coming to Randolph Champagne Camping after playing a wedding with Hilary, and having Mary welcome us in the freezing cold with hot macaroni and cheese and tomato sauce in the camper, which she had driven from our camping place the night before!" -- Dieuwke, cello

"My hosts, the Bowmans in Newport, offered to take me to the Eastside Restaurant for the Green Room Program in their BOAT." -- Elizabeth, violin

"One of the things that marked the fall tour for me was when Russell and I went jogging on Island Line Trail in the Colchester Causeway Park. It was to me the most exquisite experience in many years. It's one of the most beautiful places I've been to, it's breathtaking!" -- Lino, violin

"One of my favorite things was the drive to Lyndonville. The foliage between Montpelier and Danville was at its peak. The weather was beautiful and the views were really spectacular." -- Alan, French horn

"I loved playing Mozart #29 eight times." -- Marilyn, viola

"Unlike the rest of you, I was out in the audience for all eight concerts, catching many interesting differences (mostly having to do with acoustics of the halls and quirks of the performances, but also with my mood and those ineffable audience vibes), but also developing a list of favorite moments (Heidi's wonderful hands pinging out those harmonics, Shelagh's lovely vibrato, Albert gulping for enough air to keep the flurries of notes going). I loved getting little glimpses into the musicians' lives, and bits of insight into what they were noticing as they played. My favorite musical moment was an upward-resolving appoggiatura in the flute in the second movement of the C.P.E. Bach -- so beautiful. I enjoyed meeting members of the audience and being thanked (!) for writing my piece. And I loved it when some of the musicians took the time to seek me out and tell me they were enjoying my music and specific spots they liked. All very heart-warming and fun and exhausting." -- Don, composer

"Really enjoyed the Jamison [piece by conductor quoted above]." -- David, violin

"Rum-laced whipped cream at the dinner in Bellows Falls made for a giddy postprandial soundcheck!" -- Rebecca, Technical Director

Download the concert recording (or stream it) at our Instant Encore page. Keep reading!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Results of Principal Viola Audition Announced

Congratulations, Russell Wilson, on securing the principal viola seat today! We went from nine auditionees to five to three to one before Russell was awarded the position. We look forward to your leadership (and your bowings!). Keep reading!

Alon Goldstein interview on VPR Classical today at 3 p.m.

VPR Classical will air an interview with Alon Goldstein this afternoon at 3 p.m. Joe Goetz interviews the Israeli pianist who will play with the VSO under Jaime Laredo tomorrow night at the Flynn Center. This performance marks the start of the 2010/2011 Masterworks Series. Keep reading!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cheap ticket deal for our concert this weekend!

I spent most of last night trying to beat the system. The airline ticket pricing system, that is. Cheapest tickets at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning? I think not. If only every ticket deal was as easy as ticket deals with the VSO. We are offering up A+ tickets (regularly priced at $58) for $25 if you redeem this e-deal by Friday at 1 p.m. How do you redeem this killer offer? Simply call (800) 876-9293 x10 and speak with Sam. You may also e-mail her at Act now, quantities are limited. We have less than 50 tickets (total) remaining for this concert. Keep reading for the program.

The brilliant trumpet fanfare from Beethoven’s Leonore Overture is a fitting start to the VSO’s Masterworks season. The balance of the program includes one undeservedly obscure work by the “Spanish Mozart,” and one work which richly deserves its extreme popularity, Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, soloist Alon Goldstein’s debut at age eighteen with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta has been followed by non-stop concertizing in the U.S. and abroad.

Jaime Laredo, conductor
Alon Goldstein, piano

BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3
ARRIAGA Symphony in D
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1
Keep reading!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Program notes: October 23 Masterworks Opening Night

Our 2010/2011 Masterworks Series opens this weekend with Jaime Laredo leading the VSO and Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein. Read the program notes now and free yourself up to socialize before the concert! If you don't have a ticket yet, act now. We have less than 50 tickets left. Buy tickets here. Keep reading for more information about the program, which includes a symphony by Spanish composer Arriaga, one of Beethoven's Leonore Overtures, and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

Leonore Overture No. 3 in C Major, Op. 72
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

It was characteristic of Beethoven that he wrote four overtures for the opera he always wished to have called Leonore and which always has been called Fidelio. The first he rejected as too modest in scope; the second as too difficult technically. The third was such a powerful work that it tended to dwarf the opera, so he wrote a fourth, which is the one that generally precedes Fidelio today. (It is called the Fidelio Overture.) Leonore Overture No. 3 outlines the so-called “rescue opera” plot: when Leonore’s husband, Florestan, is imprisoned for political reasons, Leonore disguises herself as a boy and risks her life to save him. Trumpet calls announce Florestan’s liberation, and the music of his earlier lament expands into a final triumphant paean to freedom—which of course celebrates something greater than the deliverance of one individual victim of injustice.

Symphony in D
Juan Crisostomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola (1806-1826)

An interesting instance of someone whose name was almost longer than his life! Arriaga, who was born in Bilbao, Spain, died in Paris at the age of nineteen, of a lung ailment, or perhaps exhaustion. He has been nicknamed the “Spanish Mozart,” because, like Mozart, he was a child prodigy who died tragically young. Arriaga studied violin, counterpoint, and harmony at the Paris Conservatory, and was so precocious that he was asked to be a teaching assistant during his short tenure there.

Arriaga’s understandably small oeuvre includes an opera, Los esclavos felices (“The Happy Slaves”), of which unfortunately only the overture survives, three wonderful string quartets, an octet, a few pieces of church music, and some miscellaneous instrumental compositions--in addition to the work we will hear this evening.

The Symphony in D uses the keys of D Major and d minor so equally as not to be technically in either key. (Is this the only example of that in the literature?!) Grove’s Dictionary of Music calls Arriaga’s music “elegant, accomplished, and notable for its harmonic warmth.” There is little that is characteristically Spanish-sounding in his writing; rather, it is an example of the type of western European music that bridged the gap between the late classical music of Mozart’s time and the early Romanticism of Beethoven. A public theater in Bilbao is named in his honor.

Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor, Op. 23
Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

On February 2, 1878, Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Madam Von Meck: “In December, 1874, I had written a pianoforte concerto. As I am not a pianist, I thought it necessary to ask a virtuoso what was technically unplayable in the work. I needed the advice of a severe critic who at the same time was kindly disposed towards me…. Nicholas Rubinstein was the best pianist in Moscow, and also a most excellent musician, so I determined to ask him to hear it.

“I played through the first movement. Not a criticism, not a word. You know how foolish you feel, if you invite one to partake of a meal provided by your own hands, and the friend eats and is silent! At least say something, scold me good-naturedly, but for God’s sake speak! Rubinstein said nothing. I did not need any judgment on the artistic form of my work, there was a question only about mechanical details. This silence of Rubinstein said much. It said to me at once: ‘Dear friend, how can I talk about details when I dislike your composition as a whole?’ But I kept my temper and played the concerto through. Again silence.

“ ‘Well?’ I said, and stood up. There burst forth from Rubinstein’s mouth a mighty torrent of words. He spoke quietly at first; then he waxed hot, and at last he resembled Zeus hurling thunderbolts. It appeared that my concerto was utterly worthless, absolutely unplayable, passages were so commonplace and awkward that they could not be improved; the piece as a whole was bad, trivial, vulgar. I had stolen this from that one and that from this one; so only two or three pages were good for anything, while the others should be radically rewritten…. I cannot reproduce for you the main thing: the tone in which he said all this. An impartial bystander would necessarily have believed that I was a stupid, ignorant, conceited note-scratcher, who was so impudent as to show his scribble to a celebrated man.”

Obviously Tchaikovsky was of a temperament strong enough to fight off the viciousness of Rubinstein’s attack. He re-dedicated the work to Hans von Bülow, who accepted the honor in a letter which describes the work as “original, noble, and powerful.” Von Bülow premiered the concerto in Boston in 1875 to a tumultuous reception from audience and critics alike.

The introduction, possibly the most arresting in the concerto literature, leads into the Allegro con spirito. The main body of the movement begins with a rushing phrase that Tchaikovsky told his patrons he had heard a blind beggar sing at a fair. The second movement (Andante simplice) features a solo flute melody and a delicate scherzo-like middle section. It closes with a return to the same simple passage with which it began. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, has the brilliant characteristics of a wild Cossack dance. A magnificently lyrical contrasting theme, announced by violins in octaves, builds to a breathtaking climax.

Alon Goldstein, piano

“…an irresistible powerhouse performance”

The New York Times

Alon Goldstein is one of the most sensitive artists of his generation, admired for his musical intelligence and dynamic personality. Alon’s artistic vision and innovative programming have made him a favorite with audiences and critics alike throughout the United States, Europe, and Israel.

He made his orchestral debut at the age of 18 with the Israeli Philharmonic under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta, and in April of 2008 made a triumphant return with Maestro Herbert Blomstedt. In recent seasons, Alon has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco, St. Louis, Houston, Vancouver, Kansas City and North Carolina Symphonies, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and orchestras on tour in Paris, Russia, Romania and Bulgaria.

His 2010-2011 season includes his debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski playing Mendelssohn Concerto No. 1, a return to the IRIS Orchestra for a Saint Saëns Concerto No. 2 with Michael Stern and Tchaikovksy Concerto No. 1 with Jaime Laredo and the Vermont Symphony. Goldstein can be heard in recital and chamber music concerts in St Paul, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beijing, Guatamala City, Kent (UK) and Paris among others.

Keep reading!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dine with Jaime and Sharon--reserve by Wednesday morning

Fueled by reality food television shows, celebrity chefs have cropped up all over the nation. This Wednesday, October 20, enjoy a meal prepared by Chef David Smith of the Old Tavern at Grafton. You will be joined by VSO celebs Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson at the VSO's inaugural Celebrity Chef Dinner. The meal includes cocktails, pan-seared scallops, bacon roasted brussel sprouts, apple crisp, and much, much more. All proceeds go to support the VSO's SymphonyKids Educational Outreach Programs in the southeastern region of the state. Keep reading to learn more about the menu and how to attend. Space reservations must be received by Wednesday morning. Call today!

Inaugural Celebrity Chef Dinner
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Old Tavern at Grafton

Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson, hosts
David Smith, chef
John Cray and Kathleen Metelica, innkeepers

6:00 p.m. Cocktails in the Phelps Barn
7:00 p.m. Dinner

$125 per person ($60 is tax deductible)
Space is limited and reservations will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please reserve by calling The Old Tavern at Grafton at (800) 843-1801.

A special overnight rate at The Old Tavern will be available on a limited basis for that evening. Please inquire when making your dinner reservation.


Pan seared scallop with a gilfeather turnip puree and basil oil

Mixed baby greens with goat cheese, toasted almonds, grapefruit and a shallot-lemon vinaigrette

Grafton shooter

Elk steak with Grafton cheddar and roast garlic mashed potatoes, bacon roasted brussel sprouts and a peppercorn port reduction*

Apple crisp with maple whipped cream

*Vegetarian option: Asparagus and goat cheese ravioli with a sundried tomato cream sauce

Proceeds support the VSO's SymphonyKids Educational Outreach programs in Southeastern Vermont. The VSO believes in bringing music to all parts of the state; not just through concerts, but also through SymphonyKids outreach programs for school-aged children. Each year, VSO musicians travel to the smallest schools in every corner of the state to bring the message that classical music can be cool! Last year they reached over 24,000 schoolchildren at 162 schools in 133 communities. The Southeast Vermont Friends of the VSO has set an ambitious target -- over the next three years they aim to offer free of charge a SymphonyKids program to every one of the elementary schools in the region. Thanks to a grant from the Windham Foundation, this is underway, and ensembles from the VSO presented 15 subsidized concerts in southeastern Vermont schools last spring.

Keep reading!

Friday, October 8, 2010

In their opinion: A conversation on the state of new music

The following is a short conversation between composer and Middlebury College professor Peter Hamlin and the VSO's Executive Director, Alan Jordan. They consider new music and help you understand barriers involved in bringing it to the stage, the politics behind it, and how the classical realm functions in regards to the new stuff. What do you think? Are you open to new works or just a fan of the classics?

I was thinking about new music and how audiences react to it. And also thinking what that says about the health of classical music today.

It seems to me that there are two opposite things happening in the national classical music scene that are both not good. One is a hunger by audiences for certain kinds of accessible music but no real mechanism for getting that music more widely created, supported and heard. I really do feel that there are “gatekeepers” (funding agencies, critics, etc.) who are not helpful to the creation of “populist” new music, and I think a big part of the “crisis” of modern music is that people aren’t writing popular new music in nearly enough numbers. Made in Vermont is a wonderful program that addresses this need, but nationwide there isn’t enough of it. It struck me how passionate and excited audiences have been about Don Jameson’s piece. This is a success story that we should replicate as much as possible.

The opposite concern is that audiences also don’t seem to understand the importance of avant-garde and experimental music. Like “pure research” in science, it may not make immediate connections with large audiences, but it is an important laboratory that continues to reinvigorate music. For orchestras to flourish and remain relevant, they need to be, at least in part, a crucible for new ideas.

These seem to be conflicting positions, but I actually think they can reinforce each other. I think part of the intolerance audiences have for more challenging music is that it is so rare for them to hear a new piece that they can genuinely and deeply fall in love with.
For what it’s worth, I’ll tell a favorite story about an orchestral premiere of mine in New Hampshire some years back. Before the concert, a guy in the audience overheard that I was the composer of the new work, and he turned around and gave me a long and impassioned speech about why he hated new music, how the new pieces were always the worst ones on the program, and on and on. After the piece, he turned to me and said, “Congratulations, I didn’t hate it!”

Peter S. Hamlin, Middlebury

* * * * *

What a great e-conversation starter. You're right--nobody wants to fund new pops music (although there have been some efforts by several larger orchestras to co-commission new pops programs, but I think that effort is as much about sight as it is sound). In many places, orchestras and other presenters have formed commissioning clubs: groups of individuals who contribute a set amount to be part of a commissioning process. The group occassionally meets with the composer and perhaps orchestra artistic personnel to get a "report" on progress. This sometimes includes some "give and take" feedback with the audience. Talk about getting folks "invested!"

We are looking into commissioning a violin concerto for our concertmaster, Katherine Winterstein, by Kenji Bunch, who is well-known in Vermont through the Craftsbury Chamber Players. It's a major project the VSO cannot undertake on its own. The price tag will probably be around $25,000. I wonder if we might be able to create a commissioning club in Vermont for such projects?

I don't see any problem with incorporating both thorny and beautiful/ethereal into the same work. Movie and TV composers do it all the time. David Ludwig's symphony certainly did that too. What turned a generation of audience off was 40 minutes of non-stop thorniness!

To be continued...

Alan Jordan, VSO Executive Director
Keep reading!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SymphonyKids Spotlight: Fanfare at the Tunbridge Fair

The Vermont Symphony has one of the most comprehensive educational programs in the country. It is called SymphonyKids and is made up of several components, including (but not limited to!) Musicians-in-the-Schools, the Musical Petting Zoo, Orchestral Youth Concerts, and the Green Room Program. On Thursday, September 16, one of our Musicians-in-the-Schools programs, the brass trio known as Fanfare, played at the Tunbridge World's Fair. Here is a short video chronicling this day.

Keep reading to find out how to bring any of our Musicians-in-the-Schools programs into your child's school.

The VSO's Musicians-in-the-Schools educational groups are available to come into your school and enrich your students' musical experience. E-mail or call (800) VSO-9293 x 14. Visit our website to explore all the options available to you. We have subsidy money available to help defray the cost, all you have to do is ask!!

Keep reading!