I’m back at Vftp International Headquarters, tirde but happy, after a wonderful final concert as MD of the Oregon East Symphony. After a scary beginning to the year in the midst of an economic meltdown, we had our second consecutive huge audience turnout, and after some painful budget adjustments early in the year our financial position is looking pretty good. It’s sad to recognize that this era is now over and next time I see the band I’ll be a guest, but I’m delighted to leave with the organization in good health. If I have a few minutes in the coming days, I’ll try to share some final thoughts on my experiences with the orchestra, and there will be more to say when I return in October for my final, final concert.
The pairing of the Beethoven and Mozart seemed to work really well. It was nice to wrap up our Beethoven cycle with one of the freshest and most invigorating of the symphonies, and I think the work we’ve put in over the years really showed in the band’s ability to fearlessly cope with Beethoven’s metronome markings in the first and last movements. I was delighted afterwards to hear that two of our principal string players had written the word “SHRED!” in the coda of the Finale. Shred they did.
I have to confess I was a bit nervous about the Mozart earlier in the week- the choir struggled with style and accuracy in our piano rehearsal on Monday and our first orchestra rehearsal on the piece really hammered home the need for a vast stylistic range across all the movements and the huge amount of detail we had to cover. However, by the Friday evening rehearsal, things were beginning to gel, and the concert was quite magical. The Dies Irae was insanely exciting- I could just about physically feel the sound of the chorus, and the opening of the Lacrymosa was heartbreaking, without a hint of a downbeat from the choir. Our soloists- Esther Mae Moses, Emily Muller Callendar, Nicholas Fichter and Steve Muller- were all very good, and blended well. Putting together a quartet without a chance to test drive them can be a bit nerve-wracking, but I thought they’d balance well and they did. Emily gets a special shout out. In a true “only at the Best Damn Redneck Orchestra in the World” move, she played principal viola on the Beethoven before quick-changing into her diva frock to solo on the Mozart. Few have the talent to do both those jobs, and fewer still the generosity to be willing to do so.
Readers are invited to have a look at classicaltv.com, which just came to my attention yesterday. The quality of the material they have available so far is encouraging, we’ll see if their economic model holds up. They’ll need to build their library rapidly to keep viewers coming back. The main criticism I’ve heard so far is that you need Microsoft Silverlight to watch. Funny choice, but a common one right now.
Also around the web- a must read blog post from Jessica Duchen on the subject of her article in today’s Independent on corruption in music competitions. She was stymied in her efforts to bring some sunlight to bear on the dirtiest and darkest corner of the music business by the paper’s legal team. However corrupt you think the competition world is, multiply by a thousand. A friend of mine got his big break when his group won one of the major chamber music prizes. A week after the deadline he had a call from the office telling him they “had” to apply- he said the group was too busy to prepare the required repertoire. “But you’re going to win,” said the director of the competition. And they did.
There’s a Facebook group dedicated to reform of the competition racket- do sign up!