Musical Musings

The Sarasota Orchestra Blog

New World Symphony

It's a perfect time to pay homage to the natural splendors of our country.

The Masterworks series continues in December with The New World. The concert will feature legendary pieces that pay homage musically to America. Composers Aaron Copland and Antonin Dvořák have captured the essence of American music both subtlety and uniquely in their pieces.

There are many aspects of America that is special. It's difficult to create music that reflects all of them, but somehow, Copland and Dvořák were able to.

Imagine a beautiful Parisian night at the theatre. Most are expecting to hear music with beautiful melodies and serene themes that reflected the Romantic period. but instead were abruptly surprised and assaulted with irregular rhythms, incredibly high instrument ranges and flat footed ballerinas dancing as though they lost all technique. 

It was no wonder Igor Stravinsky's ballet score, The Rite of Spring caused such an outcry as it did on its debut in 1913.

Stravinsky's notorious work inspired today's composers to create more groundbreaking works that continue to break the boundaries of classical music. Stravinsky's ballet score didn't have the expected melodies with impressionistic motifs that reflected the Romantic Period. Stravinsky introduced a new approach to creating music. It didn't have a traditional music form that reflected Mozart and Beethoven. It was shocking for the time and demanded instrumentalists to push their instruments to their limits. The tempo is very difficult in the sense that it is often syncopated or changes every other measure.

While Stravinsky's notorious masterpiece was an in initial shock, over time audience members found the beauty beyond what they originally derided as "noise".  A fascinating takeaway from Rite of Spring is that though the musical changes were shocking at the time, they sound pleasing to our ears, almost like chamber music.  It is dynamic and interesting, and the sort of music that modern lovers of music find quite accessible.

When you join us, try to imagine what the audiences of 1913 may have been thinking. Do you find it shocking or disturbing? Or do you see it as a wonderful, compelling piece of music? Either way, our perspectives of music have evolved because of this thrilling discovery of The Rite of Spring.

This is a masterpiece we should all experience.

Hear it live as Music Director Anu Tali opens the Masterworks season with The Rite Music at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, November 4-6. For ticket information, click here.

Quintessential Quintets

This Sunday, experience "the sweetest melodies" and "exhilarating" music at our third Chamber Soiree of the 2016-2017 season, Quintessential Quintets.

The program features three pieces: Gabrieli's Canzona per Sonare No. 2; Beethoven's Piano Quintet in E-flat Major featuring Jonathan Spivey, Principal Keyboard; and, Weber's Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, featuring Bharat Chandra, Principal Clarinet.

Jay Hunsberger, principal tuba

Jay Hunsberger, principal tuba, is no stranger to performing new works. In fact, a hallmark of his career has been the substantial number of new works that have been written for him and which he has premiered.

One of those, "The Grey Road" by Francis Schwartz, explores the terrible atmospheres that exist in war-torn countries and post-cataclysmic areas. Schwartz often utilizes unconventional instrumental techniques as well as histrionic elements to convey the tense, frightening atmospheres of the time.

"There are many musicians who don’t feel comfortable with the histrionics," Schwartz told The Observer in a 2010 interview, referring to the scripted noises and unusual facial expressions he writes into many of his pieces. "But there are many musicians who discover they have these hidden talents or incredible acting abilities by playing my music." 

The piece forms part of Schwartz's Literary Bagatelles series. "The Grey Road" was inspired by the post-apocalyptic novel, "The Road," by Cormac McCarthy and the works of artists Francis Bacon, Max Neumann and Anselm Kiefer.

Hear "The Grey Road" as part of the September Fest: Music of our Time Part II this Sunday, September 25 at 4pm in Holley Hall.

Other pieces featured in the Chamber Soiree include:

Cadernos, a piece featuring a vibraphone solo;

Death with Interruptions, a piano trio that invokes the chaos that could ensue when one day people mysteriously stop dying. Soon afterwards Death herself enters the narrative and falls madly in love with a cellist;

Teatro de Marionetas is the Portuguese expression for Puppet Theater. In this work, two puppets, represented by the two tubas, meet for a set of three dances;

and, Immutable Dreams, which recalls our last conversation, in which we imagine that our youthful dreams, because they were shared, would live on and persist even when we are gone.

Voice of the Whale

Whales are the stuff of legends. It's no doubt why: these magnificent mammals are the largest creatures to ever have lived on Earth. The longest whale (Blue Whale) ever recorded was measured at 110 feet long. Need perspective? That's about nine family-sized cars in a row! 

Whales have a very unique and intriguing method of communicating known as echolocation. Their sound can travel for miles (one mile each second!) and helps the whales navigate long distance. Humpback whales engage in a form of communication known as singing. When you listen, you will find repeated patterns almost like lyrics and a chorus. 

Why all this talk about whales? This week's Chamber Soiree, Music of our Time Part I, includes a very special piece of new music entitled Vox balanae (Voice of the Whale) by George Crumb. Composed in 1971 and scored for flute, cello, and piano, the work was inspired by the singing of the humpback whale. 

Each of the three performers are also required to wear a black half-mask throughout the performance. In Crumb's own words, "by effacing the sense of human projection, are intended to represent, symbolically, the powerful, impersonal forces of nature."

In experiencing this piece, you may ask yourself if you hear a pre-recorded version of a humpback whale singing... but, that couldn't be further from the truth. Crumb instead utilizes the three musicians to produce the sounds naturally, creating a dynamic seascape for the audience. 

Other pieces featured in the Chamber Soiree include: 

TraInspOrt, an exploration of the various stages of riding a train written for bassoon and two percussionists;

Six Bagatelles, an abandon of tonality in six short, yet emotional, pieces; 

and, Thirteen Ways, a set of 13 musical miniatures inspired by the Wallace Stevens poem, "Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird." It's not a song cycle; rather, the music is like underscoring for a textless film of the poem's images.

September Fest: Music of our Time Parts I & II
Chamber Soiree 1, September 22 at 5:30pm in Holley Hall
Chamber Soiree 2, September 25 at 4:00pm in Holley Hall

Jeffrey Kahane

The Sarasota Orchestra today announced the appointment of Jeffrey Kahane to the position of Music Director for the Sarasota Music Festival. Kahane has agreed to a three-year contract and will officially begin his position as Music Director on August 1, 2016.

"Our Board is honored to be announcing the appointment of Jeffrey. We believe his international reputation as a conductor, pianist and educator is a perfect fit for the Festival and will help advance our aspirations for the Festival’s growth and evolution, as well as Sarasota’s reputation as a cultural destination,” said Anne Folsom-Smith, Board Chair of the Sarasota Orchestra.

Ani Kavafian has been a Sarasota Music Festival faculty member for more than 20 years and served on the search committee.

"I am thrilled that this wonderful festival, where I was once a student, will be led by someone who is at the top of everyone’s list as a musician, educator and performer. Jeffrey Kahane is truly brilliant but also a kind and thoughtful person who, I believe, will take this festival to even greater heights,” Kavafian said.

Kavafian is an acclaimed recitalist, soloist and chamber musician, and a professor at Yale University.

"David Steves, chair of the Search Committee and a Board member said: “Our search committee was comprised of Festival faculty, Board and staff members, as well as Sarasota Orchestra and community representation. We are excited to have found a new Music Director with the qualifications and passion worthy of furthering the legacy of the Festival built by Paul Wolfe and Robert Levin.”

Kahane is a renowned conductor and pianist who has appeared with many of the world’s great orchestras. He completes his tenure as Music Director of The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at the end of the 16/17 season and is currently the Artistic Director of ChamberFest at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. His previous leadership posts include Music Director of the Colorado Symphony and the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Kahane has recorded extensively and is a recipient of ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming for his work with LACO and the Colorado Symphony. Beginning in the fall, he will be a Professor of Keyboard Studies at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Earlier in his career he was a Van Cliburn Competition finalist, first prize winner of the Arthur Rubinstein Competition, and the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

"My first experience with the Sarasota Music Festival was as a piano faculty member in 2015. I was quite touched by the exceptional educational opportunities, the impressive faculty and the truly heartwarming reception by Sarasota audiences. There is no question that Sarasota is a special place with a vibrant arts community,” said Kahane of his appointment.

The 53rd Festival dates are June 5 -24, 2017.

Anu Tali, Music Director

The Sarasota Orchestra today announced that Anu Tali has signed a three-year contract renewal as Music Director of the Sarasota Orchestra.

Tali began her position as the fifth Music Director in the history of the Sarasota Orchestra on August 1, 2013, with the signing of her first three-year contract. Her second three-year contract takes effect on August 1, 2016.

"The Orchestra recognizes the artistic growth of our organization under Anu Tali’s leadership. We believe that during the coming three years, Anu will continue to lead the Sarasota Orchestra to an even higher level of musicianship,” commented Joseph McKenna, President and CEO.

Tali, a dynamic musical leader, is critically acclaimed and in demand worldwide as a guest conductor. In addition to her role as Music Director of the Sarasota Orchestra, Tali serves as Chief Conductor of the Nordic Symphony Orchestra, which she founded with her sister Kadri Tali in 1997.

“From our first meeting, I felt a musical connection with the Sarasota Orchestra. It has been a wonderful musical journey for me to share the stage with these talented musicians,” remarked Anu Tali. “Sarasota has become a second home to me, and I look forward to sharing more great music with the community I have come to love.”

Tali’s first performances under her new contract are November 4 – 6, 2016 with the opening Masterworks concert titled, ‘The Rite Music.’ Under the baton of Anu Tali, the program includes Concertmaster Daniel Jordan’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

“The Board of the Orchestra is confident that Anu will build on past successes and continue to enhance the artistic excellence of this organization.  During the coming seasons we are looking forward to advancing the Orchestra’s facility planning and exploring an orchestra tour,” said Anne Folsom Smith, Board Chair.

About the Sarasota Orchestra

Come as you are. Leave different. For more than six decades, the Sarasota Orchestra has been engaging music lovers from around the region, and visitors from around the world. The Orchestra performs more than 125 classical, Pops, education and community engagement concerts each year, and thrives as the oldest continuing orchestra in the state of Florida. 

Charles Wetherbee

Upon entering room 204 in the Sarasota Orchestra building, this year's Festival students can be seen tuning their instruments, practicing their piece of choice, and organizing sheet music. Once faculty artist Charles Wetherbee enters the practice room the sound of violins and rustling paper peters out. Everyone takes a seat and is ready to begin.

Charles Wetherbee is a highly esteemed violinist whose playing has taken him around the world. Wetherbee has performed in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. He has taken part in a multitude of music festivals, including the Aspen Music festival, the Garth Newell Center, the Hidden Valley Festival, the Roycroft Chamber Festival, and the Sarasota Music Festival, to name a few.

Wetherbee brings with him a thoughtful and observant eye when it comes to teaching at the festival.

“Start with more color... expand on the context for a specific phrase.”

After a student performs their piece in class he deconstructs their playing, and points out places that worked, as well as moments for improvement. “We're not changing articulation, just dynamic and energy.”  In addition to verbal advice, Wetherbee takes his own violin and produces examples for the student to go by, giving them both auditory and visual feedback.

Diligently, the students absorb his critiques and try to translate his words into their playing. Keeping in mind his advice,

“there is room to find much more contrast and color”.

Timothy Eddy Coaching

Cellist Timothy Eddy is a highly acclaimed soloist and recoding artist who has won multiple awards, one being the Cassado International Cello Competition. In addition to pursuing a soloist career, Eddy is also part of three different group ensembles: the Orion String Quartet, Eddy-Kalish Duo, and Bach Aria Group.

Timothy Eddy, faculty celloEddy is also involved in the world of teaching. He is a Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and formerly was a faculty member at Mannes College of Music in New York, Julliard, the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall, New England Conservatory of Music and SUNY Stony Brook. Not to mention his role as a faculty artist at the Sarasota Music Festival, which he has been teaching at since 1980, and attended as a student in 1970.

When teaching music students at the festival, Eddy tries to push the students further, challenging them to find the emotions in a piece.

"We must find the door... to hear the pieces spilling out of us." 

It is important for the musician to evoke a deep emotional response from not just the audience, but from themselves as well. "Music must convey an emotional image" and by doing that, a fully immersive experience is achieved. The cello is one of two components in the process of creating music. The second component is the musician. However, the key is to achieve an emotional response by combining the two, merely making the cello an extension of the player. When they are one, the emotions of the musician may channel through the bow and out the cello.

"To discover and rediscover... To be in the state as the piece we are playing. Playing must be as natural as speaking or being." After all, "concerts are an opportunity to celebrate the living."

Festival Coaching

The sound of violins, cello, and viola intertwine and waft through the air. The conversation between these instruments can be heard during one of the Sarasota Music Festival’s coaching sessions. Instructed by faculty artist, David Coucheron, four students practice Brahms- String Quartet No.1 in C Minor. The session is designed to give students an opportunity to practice and receive constructive criticism on how they can improve their playing techniques.

As students practiced sections of the piece, Coucheron would often stop them, provide insight on how they could improve, and then ask them to try the same section again, but with his pointers in mind. Each instrument has its own voice, and when played together, a harmonious conversation is created.

As the class continued, the conversation between the instruments developed a flow, and one enchanting voice was heard. When approaching a new section of the piece, a stop and go routine developed. Students would practice and then stop when Coucheron waved his arms. They listened to him play his violin, posing as an example of how they could improve.

The coaching was well received and understood by the attentive students who were eager to translate Coucheron’s critiques into their own playing. It was a learning experience not just for the students, but for the audience as well.

Vocalist Maria Wirries gives us the inside scoop on this week's Outdoor Pops at Ed Smith Stadium! Follow her journey this week on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and by checking the #SarasotaOrchestra hashtag. Don't forget: there's still a chance to win a VIP Experience at the concert just by posting using our hashtag, too!

Outdoor Pops: Triple Play

The Sarasota Orchestra's third annual Outdoor Pops concert is coming to Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 7:30pm. But, it's sold out!

Do you still want the chance to see this exciting live music event? We've got the bases covered. From Thursday, May 5, 2016 to Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 12pm EST, you can enter for a chance to win a VIP Experience which includes two VIP seats ($100 value), free VIP parking at Ed Smith Stadium, and a $50 gift card to the stadium for food and beverages.


Use the #SarasotaOrchestra hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you'll be entered to win. Increase your chances by posting on all three social platforms! For full contest rules, see below.


The Sarasota Orchestra brings exciting live music to the Orioles' Ed Smith Stadium for our third-annual outdoor Pops. This year's concert, called Triple Play, covers the bases in three genres—jazz, rock 'n' roll and Broadway. A tribute to American Divas, the vocalists performing with the Sarasota Orchestra include Carol McCartney, Amy Whitcomb and Maria Wirries.

Get yourself a hot dog, some popcorn and sit back in the comfort of Ed Smith Stadium for a wonderful outdoor musical experience. The evening promises to be full of hits, concluding with a spectacular fireworks display.


WHO MAY ENTER: Open to all individuals who legally reside in Florida age 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  Employees of Sarasota Orchestra, its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, and the trustees, officers, directors, interns, advertising and promotion agencies of each, are not eligible to win. Any person in the immediate family of an employee (including the spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters of any employee) living in the same household of any such employee is not eligible to win.

HOW TO ENTER: Entrants must enter by posting to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram a photo, video or text entry which includes the hashtag “#SarasotaOrchestra.” By entering the Sweepstakes, contestants grant Sarasota Orchestra the right to use entrant’s name and entry content in any future promotion without further compensation.

ENTRY DEADLINE: All entries must be submitted via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram publically-accessible post no later than noon on May 12, 2016. Private, protected, or friends-only posts are not eligible.

WINNER SELECTION: Winners will be selected at random from all eligible entries. Winners will be selected and notified on or about the evening of May 12, 2016. If the winner does not acknowledge the notification within 24 hours, Sarasota Orchestra may select an alternate winner.

PRIZES: The grand prize winner will receive two seats to the Outdoor Pops Concert on May 14, 2016 ($100 value for 2), plus a $50 gift card to the stadium for concessions and free VIP parking. Should any winner be physically unable to redeem their prize, Sarasota Orchestra may choose another winner from eligible entries remaining. Notifications and redemption deadlines may be extended at Sarasota Orchestra’s discretion should a winner’s ineligibility to redeem the prize be determined at a later date than the notification date.

MISCELLANEOUS: Each participant agrees that any and all disputes and causes of action arising out of this Sweepstakes shall be resolved individually and any judicial proceeding shall take place in a federal or state court within the State of Florida. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of participants and Sarasota Orchestra in connection with the Sweepstakes, shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Florida, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules or provisions (whether of the State of Florida or any other jurisdiction) that would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the State of Florida .

All federal, state and local taxes, fees and other expenses are winner’s responsibility. Each winner shall grant permission to Sarasota Orchestra, its subsidiary and affiliated businesses to use his or her name, age, city, state, or likeness for advertising and promotional purposes without additional compensation, except where otherwise provided by law. By entering this Sweepstakes each participant agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of Sarasota Orchestra and its agents, whose decisions regarding all aspects of the Sweepstakes shall be final.


This Sweepstakes is sponsored by Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota, Florida

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Musical Musings

Read our blog about the Sarasota Orchestra and Sarasota Music Festival.

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Written byHerald Tribune

 There's no doubt, audiences are thrilled by the Sarasota Orchestra's new music director, Anu Tali. She's brought an intense energy from the orchestra in previous performances and we found this yet again in a downright thrill ride of an encounter...  

Written byHerald Tribune

 Literally gripping the arms of my seat, I was not the only one propelled on this rollercoaster of delightful music.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 Every section and soloist within the orchestra played their role with strength and beauty; every tree proud and tall. Tali served as an excellent guide leading the forces with assured confidence. The overall sound was lush and, yes, intense just where it needed to be.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 The Sarasota Orchestra was brimming with bubbling energy...  

Written byHerald Tribune

 A lifetime of musical moments, cinematic in scope, gave every section of the orchestra a leading role at one time or another. Chief among them was the virtuosic solo of concertmaster Daniel Jordan.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 It was a thrill ride resulting in an explosion of audience enthusiasm.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 Tali conveyed a clear vision for the dramatic outline of this symphony, carefully pacing the darker, searching character of the music with pastoral conversations among voices in the orchestra.  

Written byThe Observer

 If you haven’t seen Tali yet, this will be a great introduction to the skyrocketing conductor who’s quickly becoming a household name around the world. You’ll see why we feel we’re lucky to have her here.  

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Our mission is to engage, educate, and enrich our community through high-quality, live musical experiences.

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