Sound of Charlotte Blog
Oboist Gordon Hunt joins us Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25 for the riveting Strauss Oboe Concerto. We asked Mr. Hunt a few questions about his friendship with Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, his relationship to the Strauss piece, and his instrument.
CS: Could you share a bit about your friendship with Christopher Warren-Green, both on and off stage?
GH: Chris and I have been friends for a very long time, going back to when he joined the Philharmonia Orchestra as concertmaster. We hit it off straight away, both musically, within the orchestra, and also out of work time, when we spent a great deal of time together.
CS: What is it like to perform with someone you know so well? Does it change the performance at all?
GH: It feels good to work with a close friend - and especially as I am a conductor too, I really appreciate having someone I trust beside me. However, I don't think it fundamentally changes the performance, as in a way the music itself is even greater than the friendship. We are both there to serve the composer and his intentions.
CS: What can listeners expect from the Strauss Oboe Concerto?
GH: The typical mastery of orchestration and understanding of instrumental balance one expects from Richard Strauss, but in this very late work, also a more classical approach than one would expect in his great tone poems.
CS: What should they listen for specifically, if anything?
GH: The effortless way in which Strauss uses and develops the first simple four note motif, played by the cellos. In effect, he bases the whole concerto on this. Also listen for the very extended lines he weaves for the solo oboe, and the interplay between the soloist and the wind players.
CS: Do you recall the first time you performed this work? How did you feel?
GH: Yes, even though I have performed this piece well over 80 times now, I do remember the first time. I was 21 years old, in Oxford, England. I was excited to be facing this challenge (perhaps the greatest for my instrument), hoped there would be many more chances, and I felt immensely privileged to be playing such wonderful music.
CS: What do you do just before you go on stage? Do you think any thoughts or have any rituals?
GH: I try to have a few minutes to myself, just being quiet, but I have no rituals!
CS: How would you describe this work?
GH: It is in a way nostalgic, looking to the past, and musically simpler than so much of what Strauss had written before (I have already mentioned the quite "classical" approach). In some way, Strauss is nodding towards his lifelong hero Mozart, but with the unmistakable fingerprint he himself leaves on all his works.
CS: Can you share a few fun facts about your instrument?
GH: As oboists, our lives can seem to revolve around reeds, and sometimes it seems impossible to have one that you really like. Ultimately, it is down to the player to make the instrument sing and to communicate, so I always say that 50% of success in playing the oboe is learning to make good reeds, and the other 50% is leaning to play on bad ones!
Dvorak Symphony No. 7
Friday, March 24 & Saturday, March 25
8 p.m., Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
Tickets are available online or by phone at 704-972-2000. Read more
Music Director Christopher Warren-Green talked with WDAV's Frank Dominguez about our upcoming 2016-2017 Classics series at a reception following our Classics performance on Friday, February 5.
Seven local high school choral students will experience the thrill of performing live with the Charlotte Symphony November 19-21, 2015 at Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
The concerts, which feature the Fauré Requiem, will mark the debut of the 2015-2016 Young Artists in Residence program, a new immersive choral initiative of the Charlotte Symphony Chorus.
Students who won auditions come from Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Gaston County schools and have spent the last two months rehearsing the Requiem weekly with the Charlotte Symphony Chorus. "It has been a pleasure to work with these fine young musicians," says Kenney Potter, director of choruses for the Charlotte Symphony. "This is a great opportunity for them to perform Fauré's choral masterwork in a professional-caliber setting with the Charlotte Symphony and Charlotte Symphony Chorus."
Watch this video to hear what some of the Young Artists have to say about this unique experience.
The 2015-2016 Charlotte Symphony Chorus Young Artists in Residence are:
Claire Houlihan, alto, Northwest School of the Arts
Hannah Keel, soprano, South Point High School
Matthew Noneman, bass, Providence High School
Trinity Sanford, soprano, Northwest School of the Arts
Stephenie Santilli, alto, Northwest School of the Arts
Nathalie Schlesinger, alto, Providence High School
On March 10, 2015 Charlotte Symphony Director of Choruses and Assistant Conductor Scott Allen Jarrett and Temple Israel's Cantor Elias Roochvarg led a discussion on Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. The Oratorio Singers of Charlotte were on hand to sing excerpts from the score. The talk was a preview to the Charlotte Symphony performance on March 27 and 28.
In our current season, we are celebrating the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss by performing his works throughout the Classics series. In this weekend's KnightSounds concert, A Waltz to Remember, we fill the program with works from Johann Strauss II, "The Waltz King." Learn more about these composers which shared the same occupation, the same last name, and absolutely no relation!
|Full name||Johann Strauss II||Richard Georg Strauss|
|Father||Johann, composer of more than 250 works||Franz , principal horn player of the Bavarian Court Opera|
|Known for||Waltzes||Symphonic poems and operas|
|Age of first composition||6||6|
|Famous piece||On the Beautiful Blue Danube||Don Quixote|
|Works in CSO 2014-2015 season||Overture to Die Fledermaus, Annen Polka, The Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus, Emperor Waltz, The Audition Song from Die Fledermaus, On the Beautiful Blue Danube||Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life), Don Quixote, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme|
Joining the Symphony straight from college, John Parker had a lot of adjusting and learning to do. As the youngest member of the orchestra approaches the end of his first year with the CSO, we catch up with him about what he's learned, what's surprised him, and his love of Carolina basketball.
How were you introduced to the trumpet?
Being the son of two instrumental music educators, I grew up immersed in instruments of all kinds. Because of this, I became seriously invested in music long before I picked up the trumpet. I started playing piano at age 7, but since both of my parents were band directors, I felt inclined to pick up a musical instrument in middle school band. My older brother, who's also a musician, started playing trombone. I liked the sound of brass instruments, but I didn't want to be the same as my brother, so I started playing the trumpet. I didn't even like trumpet that much until I heard Wynton Marsalis live for the first time. That experience changed me, and I still consider it one of the reasons, in addition to my family, that I pursued music, especially the trumpet, so heavily.
What has surprised you most about your first year at the Symphony?
I have been most surprised by the level of support that the entire orchestra has given me. There has never been a time when I've felt uncomfortable, and I attribute that to my colleagues on stage. They genuinely care about seeing me do well, and I think that has boosted my confidence.
What have you learned in your first year with the CSO?
The thought of moving into a leadership role in a premier professional orchestra was one that left me worried, like I was in over my head. After being on the job for a few weeks, I figured out how to put all of those emotions aside and just take things one week at a time, one performance at a time, and not let myself become overwhelmed. Sometimes I even tell myself how ridiculous it is that the one thing I have wanted to do my whole life is blow into a brass tube for a living. Taking the situation with humor, humility, and with the understanding that this is what I have been in school for so many years to do, has helped me tremendously.
What would you do if you weren't a professional musician?
I was always good at math in school and even considered going to school for engineering or architecture. I think if I hadn't pursued music, I would have gone that route.
Any hidden talents or interesting fun facts?
I'm from North Carolina. I grew up in High Point, N.C. and attended school at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of the best parts about the job with the CSO is that I am a short drive from my family and can make it back to my alma mater frequently. Outside of the Symphony, I like golfing and pretty much any sport, am a huge college football and basketball fan (Go Heels!), and enjoy good food, especially sushi.
Photo credit Chad Batka
Born in Hangzhou, on the east coast of China, Wu Man studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she became the first person to earn a master's degree in pipa.
The Grammy Award-nominated artist is a respected expert on the history and preservation of Chinese musical traditions. In 1999, Yo-Yo Ma selected her as the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize in music and communication, and she is the first artist from China to have performed at the White House, along with a cellist with whom she now performs as part of the Silk Road Project.
She has been referred to as "the artist most responsible for bringing the pipa to the Western world."
Hear Wu Man's impressive virtuosity on the ancient Chinese instrument, as she performs Jiping's "Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra," a piece that was written especially for her.
For more information on this Classics Series performance, click here.
About the Pipa
The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese lute-like instrument with a history dating more than 2,000 years. During the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC 220 AD), instruments with long, straight necks and round resonators, with snake skin or wooden sound boards, were played with a forward and backward plucking motion that sounded like "pi" and "pa." Throughout history, the instrument has evolved, and today's pipa consists of 26 frets and six ledges, arranged as stops, and its strings are tuned to A, D, E, A.
What does it sound like? Click here to listen.
Post written by Virginia Brown
Charlotte Symphony Music Director Christopher Warren-Green has been busy since the Classics series season finale of Verdi's Requiem in May. He kicked off the summer by conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in performances of the final three symphonies by Mozart Nos. 39, 40, and 41. Next up: Turkey, where he led the Istanbul State Symphony for the city's Summer Music Festival. Later in June, he returned to the UK to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky gala at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Back in the States, he conducted the Detroit Symphony in performances featuring the DSO principal trumpet performing the Telemann Trumpet Concerto and other works by Schubert, Rossini, and Mozart. After a busy summer, he spent a much-deserved rest with family in the beautiful Surrey Hills countryside outside of London. We look forward to his return to Charlotte next month, as he gears up to lead the Charlotte Symphony for Beethoven's "Eroica" Sept. 19-20 to open the season. We hope to see you opening weekend!
Stephen Hough will perform Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor with Charlotte Symphony on March 14 & 15, 2014. We're delighted for this artist's seventh appearance with us. (& we're certain he's been practicing!) View More information.
By Stephen Hough
and in the November/December issue of International Piano magazine.
So we need to practise. But the key is how we make our time offstage best serve our briefer time onstage. A pianist who plays many concerts has little time to spare so it's important that those spare hours, even minutes, are used well.
My teacher, Gordon Green, used to say, "in practise a perfectionist, in performance a realist". In other words, prepare assiduously, tirelessly at home, but when onstage accept the situation at hand without wishing the piano were more in tune, the audience were more appreciative (or larger), you hadn't made a mess of that octave passage and so on.
But being a "realist" sounds rather prosaic when faced with bringing to poetic, passionate life the masterworks of master composers. I might put it differently from Gordon: in practice an engineer, in performance a pilot. Nuts and bolts in a plane are incomparably important, but when you sit at the cockpit of a Steinway concert grand your eyes need to look ahead not underneath.
The purpose of practising is so that we (offstage as engineers) make sure that we (onstage as pilots) are completely free to fly to the destination of our choice. That destination is one involving imagination and creativity and spirituality and danger and ecstasy of course, not merely the A to B of playing the notes, but without the nuts and bolts in place we will never be airborne. The greatest interpretative vision of the final pages of the final sonata of Beethoven will nosedive to oblivion if we can't play an even trill.
So, moving inside the hangar, spanner at the ready, how do we practise? There are as many answers to that question as pieces in our repertoire, but maybe some signposts can help:
Relish the task, whether beginning to learn a piece or whether revising one long familiar. Examine the score like a rabbi poring over a rare parchment. Decode the message behind the notation. Map out the journey. Look for the obstacles. Know the (good) tradition of historical evidence; distrust the (bad) tradition of 'its always done like this'. You may be Brahms's secretary in the practice room, but on stage you are his mouthpiece. And a composer's message is always more than words: it's a drama in which you and Brahms are as one character.
When starting to learn a piece I always write in fingerings. It aids memory, it emphasises the act of study, it discourages a sloppy "sight-read till ready" attitude, it forestalls nerves in a performance, it personalises the score. In the early years of a career we can be asked to step in at the last moment for a colleague who has cancelled. I remember an occasion when I was in my early 20s getting a call to play Bartok's 3rd concerto with the Chicago Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen. There was about a day's notice and I hadn't played the piece for a couple of years. I could accept the date because the nasty, twisting passage towards the end of the third movement was fingered and thus still in my motor memory. It saved me a couple of hours work when I only had 24 hours to pack my bags and fly across the Atlantic.
We need to know what might go wrong in a performance and why. There is no such thing as a difficult piece. There are merely moments in pieces which are problematic. The notorious coda of the 2nd movement of Schumann's Fantasie op. 17 is a good example:
Slow practice can be a complete waste of time if the mind is not working quickly. Simply to trawl through passages like a contented tortoise is a waste of the felt on your piano's hammers. Good slow practice is more like a hare pausing to survey the scene sharp in analysis, watching through the blades of grass, calculating the next sprint. My favourite kind of slow practice is the half and half variety. For example in a semiquaver passage I will play four notes at performance tempo then four notes exactly half the speed then reverse the groups. It can sometimes be useful to do this with eight-note groups. It stops any tortoisian ambling and it focuses the mind quickly from one reflex to another. It is a hare with alert eyes.
There are two dangers to avoid in practising, firstly not to play as if you're onstage, filling the hours crashing through pieces without improvement. This is a common occurrence in conservatories Rachmaninov concertos pounded with adolescent passion and coarse, crude effects. But the second, more subtle danger is not to get stuck in a practising mode. This is related to mindless slow practice. All the focus when in the practice studio should be how we will play when in the concert hall. If something comes apart, don't stop immediately. Guide the skidding wheels around the crashing corner for another meter or two, despite the sparks and screeches. A common student scenario: music flying along; train wreck; a second of silence; start at point of accident; continue. The point where things broke down is the fragile spot, the dodgy seam. It needs sufficient overlap of material to be strong. Go back before the mistake and practise beyond the mistake then the mistake itself will be more safely repaired. Otherwise the very stopping and starting becomes a reflex an ingrained repetition of breakdown.
As important as it is to have strong fingers muscles, tendons, joints loose and lithe we need a strong mind too. Strong in concentration, on and off stage; ever striving for improvement, but relaxed when none seems to take place; aiming the dart tirelessly at every bullseye, but gentle and kind when it clatters to the floor. Muscles are effective when they are able to tense and relax at will, not just when they bulge in a ripple of aggression. This is true for the physical side of playing as well as for the mental challenges. The mind's clear vision is not a stare: it needs to be able to focus near and far with flexibility and wisdom.
There is a well-worn saying: practice makes perfect. I don't believe this, at least in reference to playing the piano: abstract "perfection" is rarely what we seek; but good practising makes it more likely that we will give a good performance. Its attention, its concentration, its tightening of the screws enable the concert experience to take wing in freedom.
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