Shostakovich First Symphony 24 years later

The last time I had played Shostakovich’s first symphony was in 1988, as “Solo-Cellist” of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival orchestra with Leonard “just call me Lennie” Bernstein (or ‘Bear-rrn-shtine’ the way the Germans pronounce it — it’s actually the German name for amber, and he wore a big ole necklace made of huge chunks of the stone.)

In my current role of “Acting Assistant Principal Cello” (now there’s a long-winded moniker!) I’m leading the section this entire week, so I looked forward eagerly to playing it for the second time. I was bemused in the rehearsal that I suddenly got nervous on the last note — why then? It’s over by then! It’s a great piece, sardonic at first, then tragic. The cello solo in the last movement is, I think, the quiet apotheosis of the whole work, incredibly satisfying to play.

I wanted to go out and celebrate after, but got the news that my grandfather had passed away at 5:30 pm.


Saratoga week 2

Driving back to Saratoga (trying WordPress for iPad in the car) for the second week of concerts at the performing arts center among the pines and three concerts with Yannick Nézet-Séguin — his first appearances there, and the first time the actual music director has conducted there since Sawallisch in the nineties (not including Dutoit, who was MD of Saratoga before he became Chief Conductor of the orchestra).

I’ve been practicing the big stuff: Brahms 4, Higdon Concerto for Orchestra and The Wizard of Oz, which Yannick is not conducting! I am principal for that, so I have to get the bowings ready and figure out what I’m doing. The opera music will have to wait until I can pick up the pile of music tomorrow, but there wasn’t that much to look at compared to the rest of the week, just a question of knowing the arias and watching Yannick, who excels working with singers (well, not sure what he doesn’t excel at…)

Also, the Lang is playing Liszt 1 tomorrow night. Somehow I think he hasn’t played Saratoga before, although it seems improbable. The Dutoit years were more Stephen Hough, Martha Argerich, Bronfman, Horacio Gutierrez and of course de Larrocha.

I’m looking forward to the Brahms; it’ll be our second time playing it with Yannick since the opening night at Vail a month ago (also on one rehearsal).

Denève wows Saratoga

Stephane Denève, whose opening night (August 1) I missed, cemented his special connection with us and the Saratoga audience on Thursday and Friday, August 2 and 3. His American in Paris is the best I can remember with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and his Candide overture and Three Dance Episodes from On the Town were close behind. Jean-Yves Thibaudet wore amazing blue shoes for the rehearsal (sorry, no pictures) and played just as sparklingly but with great depth in both of Ravel’s piano concertos.

His last night he conducted a program of mostly John Williams while Cirque de la Symphonie performed with their usual artistry. Denève, who is only a couple of years older than I, talked about what it was like for him to conduct these pieces for the first time after they made such a huge impression on him as a teen — E.T., Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman as well as other numbers from Taras Bulba and North by Northwest.

But that American in Paris… it’s still with me. Oh, and the audience went nuts in a way I don’t remember happening in years up there.

Amazing conducting roster at Saratoga this August!

RSNO welcomes funding announcement for Glasgow...

RSNO welcomes funding announcement for Glasgow venues (Photo credit: Scottish Government)

7.IX - Gianandrea Noseda e l'Orchestra del Tea...

7.IX – Gianandrea Noseda e l’Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino (Photo credit: MITO SettembreMusica)

It’s going to be a great August at the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center, with an unparalleled roster of top-flight podium talent. Stephane Denève conducted the opening night and 2 more concerts as well. Last night, August 4, we had Gianandrea Noseda, another orchestra favorite, in his first Saratoga concert.

Next week, incoming music director Yannick Nezét-Séguin conducts three concerts before we play The Wizard of Oz along with the movie, and we wrap up the final week with the great Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, followed by David Robertson from St. Louis. The Robertson concert is especially notable to me for my first Shostakovich “First” since playing it with Bernstein in Moscow and the London Proms in 1988. Lastly, our own Cristi Macelaru conducts the all-Tchaikovsky night to round out the season.

Hello world!

This is going to replace my current website which was hosted by (Apple pulled the plug in June) and which I hadn’t updated in a few years anyway. My brother Gabriel, who is the guru, told me to put my site on wordpress, so here I am.