I am ecstatic with how well the concert went last night. We had a good crowd, relieving the fear that, with a very busy weekend various other entertainment in Columbus, very few would come. But filling my house is fairly easy, and about 35 showed up, a full house! I am looking forward to the second concert of Dances and Dreams, which will take place June 18th at 8PM at the First Congregational Church on East Broad, Columbus, Ohio.
The piano had been tuned by our local master, Benjamin Wiant, who brought out the best in my sweet McPhail 1919 living room baby grand.
The planned flower arrangement by my dear friend Carole Dale, inspired by my 1920′s Hawaiian quilt and by the expressionism of the music, was absolutely fabulous! (You can check out Carole’s book,“This Life and the Fireworks”, short, colorful vignettes (“cupcakes”) from her life at Amazon Books)
The weather was like a Turkish Sauna, Huuuuumid. I blasted the AC all afternoon, brrrrrr, so when the body heat got cooking, we would all be able to breathe. It got a little warm, but not uncomfortable. So far, so good.
A dimmer on the main light set went bad in the great room, where the performance took place. So I had to set up several floor lamps to “light the music”, so to speak. Everyone seemed pretty happy. Check!
Merlin (my Siamese) came in just before we started, so I didn’t have to stop in the middle of a piece while he scratched at the back door. Check.
Our Board Chair, Martin Ingles, and his lovely wife, Susan, supplied the reception materials. Sweet!! I felt honored to have such great support from them for this event, and for their tireless support of the Columbus Symphony.
I had planned a short rehearsal to touch up all the music before the audience began arriving. All went well, though I got the sense that all musicians involved would love to have had (or ever have) the luxury of as many rehearsals as needed for any such performance event, but rarely, if ever, actually get. (I have in mind the Marlboro festival in Vermont, where groups often rehearse for a month before performing intricate works. In that mental and chronological space, the musicians can evolve their performance into an organic whole.) We pulled together the pieces and opened the house at around 7:30.
I decided to start the concert a bit late, fashionably so, around 8:10.
I chatted up the theme, Dances and Dreams, which is somewhat self explanatory. Debussy = Dreamy and Stravinsky L’Histoire = Dances. But I also found out that Stravinsky had had a dream before composing L’Histoire. In his dream, an old gypsy woman was playing the violin “with full bow strokes” (which he notates in the music). The melody she played became the theme for the “Petite Concert” movement.
Then I spoke of the Debussy. I found a great book about classical music at the library. (How wonderful libraries are!!) It’s the Essential Canon of Classical Music by David Dubal. It’s quite a comprehensive yet compact book. Though he only give a few pages to each composer, he supplies some wonderful quotes, either by the composer or colleagues or performers relating to the composer’s music.
To describe Debussy’s music, the pianist E. Robert Schmitz speaks of “clouds, moonlight, passing breezes- either carrying the upper partials of bells of nearby or faraway churches, or that fading notes of military bugles, the wind at sea or in the plains, sunrays on a golden roof, or the shimmering lacquer of a Japanese panel”. Lovely.
The Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie went well. Ahlin Min and I are still learning to trust each other with the various rubatos (musical tempo variations to shape phrases). The problem is, she has impeccable rhythm! Oh darn. I am so used to pianists who flail at the difficult piano part of the Rhapsodie, that it took me awhile to trust her abilities. I look forward to our second performance in a few weeks, June 18th at First Congregational Church!
Tatiana Hanna wrought exquisitely seductive and disarming gusto from Stravinsky’s score in the Trio version of L’Histoire du Soldat. I can imagine Igor smiling from where ever he is! The piece is a violin concerto for all that is demanded of the player, and Tatiana ignited the spirit of the music with panache. I think I saw some smoke coming from her violin! That combined with Ahlin’s rhythm, and I just enjoyed the ride through the story of the devil, the soldier and the violin. (The chairs we used were kind of springy in the seat, and at one point I realized I was bouncing up and down as I played. I wonder if others noticed and thought it as fun as it felt!)
We took a 5 minute break to set up the quintet for the Poulenc Sextet for Woodwind Quintet and Piano. In my “great” room, the quintet plus the piano took up at least half the space. But everyone in the audience had a decent view, and they could certainly hear the music from anywhere in the house. (I had also removed the large rug in the great room, so the wood floor and high ceiling gave plenty of reverb.
Though I didn’t plan it, the Poulenc is a good piece to follow both the Debussy and Stravinsky. Poulenc’s vivid and playful Sextet has elements of Debussy’s sensual sense of line, and hints of Stravinsky’s complex rhythmic structures. It is a new favorite of mine. My colleagues from the Columbus Symphony, Randy Hester, flute, Steve Secan, oboe, Betsy Sturdevant, bassoon and David Urschel, horn, performed excellently as usual!
The wine reception supplied by Sue and Martin Ingles was a fitting extension of a rich supply of good music: rich cheeses and wine. And the wine was REALLY good! Some Chilean Pinto Noir, a Rhone white and an Italian Cabernet. Yum.
All in all, I couldn’t be happier.
After the concert last night, and today, I reassembled my house, put the folding chairs and all the wine glasses back in the basement, brought back up all the other furniture, moved everything back where it was. Whew!
Luckily my garden is wonderfully clean and neat, thanks to the help of Jan Ryan and also my pro gardener friend Paul Soehnlen. And toady the weather is gorgeous, so I can relax a bit in the garden with a nice glass of wine. Ahhhh.