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. 

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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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