Wednesday, March 28, 2012

last week in Miami, pt. 1

The orchestra spent last week in Miami performing concerts and giving master classes.  This was the last of 3 week-long residencies this winter.

We started our week with a concert in Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center.  This is the home of the Nashville Symphony.  The hall, built in 2003, is a gorgeous structure patterned after some of Europe's 19th century concert halls.

We played in the Laura Turner Concert Hall.  It is a visually stunning shoe box style shape reminiscent of Boston's Symphony Hall only with a higher ceiling.

There are similarities to our home, Severance Hall, as well.  John Long Severance wanted to memorialize his wife, Elisabeth who had died just prior to the building of the hall.  The lotus blossom pattern from his wife's wedding dress is the predominate ornament in the hall.

You can see the lotus blossoms on the ceiling in the photo above.

At Nashville's Schermerhorn the following images recur in the architecture:

The passionflower -- Tennessee's state wildflower

The iris -- the state flower of Tennessee

And -- the coffee bean!!  Now that's what I call class.  The family who started Maxwell House Coffee was a major supporter of the Nashville Symphony.

Before the concert Jonathan Sherwin and I went out to meet James Keyes at his shop in Alexandria, just under an hour away from Nashville.  Sara Garing, a former Sherwin student, who now works with Keyes picked us up and drove us out to meet him.  Sara gave us a tour of the shop.

Jonathan and I then tried a bassoon outfitted with the Weisberg System.  Keyes is the only repair technician who installs this system on bassoons. This is a new key system designed to eliminate the need to flick the speaker keys with the left thumb -- a cumbersome, vexing exercise for bassoonists.  Here is a page with some good pictures of the keywork.

For a detailed description and words in favor of the system, read Robert Jordan's Putting the Know in Innovation. (just Google the title and you'll come up with a pdf of the article)

I am convinced that this system is superior to what is standard on the bassoon now.  There is absolutely no cracking when the famous five notes (A2, Bb3, B3, C3 and D3) are articulated.  Slurring from these notes to the lower octave is facilitated as well.  The pitches have more resonance than that achieved by holding down the speaker keys, without the unpleasant change in timber, too. Nor is there a need to learn any new fingerings to operate the bassoon.

Looking at the photos above, you can imagine it costs a great deal to have this keywork installed. I was quoted a price of $4500.  At this point, with 1 daughter in college and one about to be, I'm not ready to make the change, but I certainly would consider it in the future -- especially if I buy another bassoon.

After touring the shop, we met Hunstville bassoonist, Hunter Thomas, his student, Sarah Strasinger and her mother for dinner.  Here are Hunter, me, Sarah, Jonathan and Sara Garing in front of Schermerhorn:

Then it was off to the concert.  We had a great crowd.  Our conductor, Giancarlo Guerrero is, coincidentally, the Music Director of the Nashville Symphony, so he was playing to a home-town audience.  Our program was
  • Beethoven Symphony #6
  • Grieg Piano Concert
  • Pines of Rome

Our soloist was Gabriela Montero.  She did a fine job with the Grieg, but what she did after the performance was very special.  When she came out for her last bow, she sat down at the piano with a microphone.  She spoke of her life-long habit of improvising and asked someone in the audience to name a tune or sing one to which she could improvise.  Nashville is a very musical city, so there was no hesitation.

Someone quickly requested "Lara's Theme" from Dr. Zhivago.  Montero played the theme a few times, toyed around with it for a few seconds and then launched into an improvisation fit to a tango beat.  She played for several minutes and the audience loved it.

The previous week at Severance Hall, she improvised on a theme in the style of Rachmaninov.

The next morning it was off to Miami. 

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