Musical Musings

Festival Coaching

Coaching at the Festival

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.

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Frédéric François Chopin

Getting to know Frédéric François Chopin

Just how well do you know Chopin? A pianist of legendary skill, Chopin wrote pyrotechnic piano pieces that still astound music lovers today (and give budding pianists ongoing consternation!).

Born in Poland, he later settled in France. He had oodles of messy affairs. Here are a few, hopefully surprising, facts about Chopin.

  1. His father was a Frenchmen who married a Polish woman made a living by teaching French and French culture first to the children of rich Polish aristocrats and later at the Warsaw Lyceum. Nevertheless, Chopin's dad loved all things Polish and insisted that they speak Polish at home.
  2. Chopin was a child prodigy. You probably know this. But did you know he was performing publicly and composing by the age of 7?
  3. He had a Parisian posse. Members included. Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Ferdinand Hiller, Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix, Alfred de Vigny, Julian Fontana, and of course, his on-again, off-again lover George Sand. #SquadGoals
  4. Chopin rarely played publicly: The musicologist Arthur Hedley wrote: "As a pianist Chopin was unique in acquiring a reputation of the highest order on the basis of a minimum of public appearances - few more than thirty in the course of his lifetime."
  5. Chopin and Liszt were close pals, but at times, professional jealousy stood in the way. Chopin wrote to a friend, "I should like to rob him of the way he plays my studies."
  6. Chopin didn't only write for piano. In addition to his many piano pieces and two piano concerti, he also wrote several song sets and chamber music pieces. His most famous non-piano work is his G Minor Cello Sonata, which was also his last composition before his death in 1849.
  7. Over 230 works of Chopin survive; some compositions from early childhood have been lost. All his known works involve the piano, and only a few range beyond solo piano music, as either piano concertos, songs or chamber music.
Kalevala

The Wild Kalevala

We've all heard of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but have you heard of the Kalevala? In the tradition of rip-roaring national epics, the Kalevala is a collection of Finnish tales that are filled with drama, lust, romance, kidnappings, adventure, and more.

Jean Sibelius, a Finnish composer, fell deeply in love with the Kalevala. Indeed, we could say he was obsessed. He even spent his honeymoon in Karelia, which is considered the birthplace of the Kalevala. Further, he wrote not one but MANY pieces inspired by the epic tale.

In fact, the Kalevala and the Finnish countryside would become Sibelius's two greatest muses. A love of all things Finnish wasn't innately taught to Sibelius by his parents. He discovered it. Sibelius was born to Swedish-speaking parents, and it wasn't until his later school years that he was sent to a Finnish language school where he first read the Kalevala. And thus, the obsession began.

Sibelius' masterpiece, Legends, began as an opera based on the Kalevala but he changed his mind and turned it into a four-movement orchestral work instead. Like its inspiration, the piece is majestic. The plot of this epic tone poem centers around the hero Lemminkäinen, whose exploits come across as a sort of mash-up of Don Juan, Achilles, Siegfried, and Osiris.

Watch out for the übermensch, Finnish style!

Johannes Brahms

A Friend

Wouldn't it be nice to have a composer for a friend?

It's wildly common for composers to write music for friends and loved ones. Mozart, for example, wrote many of his concertos for people he knew. Johannes Brahms likewise wrote his Violin Concerto in D Major for his friend Joseph Joachim (1831-1907).

The year after the premiere of the Violin Concerto in 1880, their friendship was on the fritz. Joachim tried to divorce his wife of almost twenty years, mezzo-soprano Amalie Weiss, on the grounds that he was not the father of the youngest of their six children. Brahms ultimately made a testimony in Amalie's favor, severing their friendship.

Brahms's Violin Concerto illustrates the mutual respect and collaborative spirit that existed between these two musicians. Brahms started work on the piece in the summer of 1878 while vacationing at Pörtschach, an Austrian summer resort on Lake Wörth. He sent the manuscript of the concerto to Joachim on August 22, writing, "Naturally I wish to ask you to correct it. I thought you ought to have no excuse - neither respect for the music being too good nor the pretext that orchestrating it would not merit the effort. Now I shall be satisfied if you say a word and perhaps write in several: difficult, awkward, impossible, etc."

By the time of the concerto's premiere in Leipzig on January 1, 1879, it had been considerably altered. The correspondence between Brahms and Joachim shows an interesting paradox: while Brahms incorporated many of Joachim's proposed orchestral changes, he didn't adopt many of Joachim's alterations to the solo part. Brahms's resistance to Joachim's interventions sets his concerto apart from other Romantic examples of the genre. Instead of casting the violin in the starring role and leaving the orchestra to the wings, Brahms integrates soloist and orchestra much more than other virtuosic concertos.

Aaron Copland

Our Town

It's always fascinating when art imitates life. That is definitely the case in Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938. Our Town follows the fictional American small town of Grover's Corners through the everyday lives of its citizens.

The play's wild success and great acclaim on Broadway took Wilder to Hollywood to write a screen adaptation. Aaron Copland (1900-1990) had recently written music for the film version of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men -- and seemed to be the perfect fit to compose a score to Wilder's Our Town.

It's even more fitting that Copland is often called the "Dean of American Composers," and was instrumental in forging an American style of composition. His music is truly American, while Wilder's Our Town is a small town story that is also distinctly American.

After the premiere in 1940, Copland quickly arranged a ten-minute concert suite that was aired on the radio. A few years later, he created the definitive version, which he dedicated to Leonard Bernstein. The suite premiered in 1944 in Boston, Bernstein conducting.

Young Artist Competition Winner: Daniel Solowey

Daniel SoloweyDaniel Solowey is 15 years old and a freshman at Pine View School. He has been playing the clarinet for four and a half years. Daniel’s private teachers are Bharat Chandra, principal clarinet in the Sarasota Orchestra and Laura Stephenson, second clarinet in the Sarasota Orchestra. Daniel attended the Sarasota Orchestra Summer Music Camp for three years and also attended the Luzerne Music Center in up-state New York last summer. Daniel has been an All-State musician for three years and was first chair clarinet in All-State band and orchestra, respectively, for the last two years. He is also an ambassador for PeaceJam, an organization devoted to inspiring young people to become involved in world peace through meeting with Nobel Peace Laureates. Daniel would love to study music performance at a school like the Curtis Institute or Juilliard.

When did you first start playing an instrument? What drew you to music/your instrument?

I first started playing the piano around age five, but wanted to try something new. Both my parents play in the Sarasota Orchestra, and that is what first involved me in music. After the piano, I began to grow interested in the saxophone, but the music store clerk advised me to start on the clarinet.

What was it like when you learned you were going to be a soloist with "Thrill of a Lifetime"?

On stage that afternoon, I just felt like I needed to thank everyone who listened to me play, even though it was only the judges who had any say in the competition.

What's your favorite part about being a musician? How has music enhanced or impacted your life?

I like being able to play the music itself, and that I can express exactly what I'm feeling with absolutely no words at all, just through music.

Thrill of a Lifetime will take place Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:30pm in Neel PAC. For tickets and more information about this special concert, click here!

Young Artist Competition Winner: André DeGrenier

André DeGrenierAndré DeGrenier is currently a junior at Booker High School and studies with George Nickson, principal percussionist in the Sarasota Orchestra. Some of André’s career highlights as a percussionist include attending the Interlochen Arts Camp this past summer, receiving multiple superior ratings at Solo and Ensemble, as well as performing with the Tri-State Band Festival this past December as a principal player. At Booker, he takes part in a multitude of ensembles from jazz band, to playing in the pit for musicals, to being a featured soloist in the program as a part of the Shinning Stars Honors Ensemble.

In his free time he composes a wide variety of music. André plans to pursue a career in percussion performance, working towards winning a job to play in a professional orchestra or performing as a soloist around the world.

When did you first start playing an instrument? What drew you to music/your instrument?

When I was 12 years old, I was always inspired by the visual aspect of percussion.

What was it like when you learned you were going to be a soloist with "Thrill of a Lifetime"?

It was amazing. It had been a dream of mine ever since I started playing to perform with a full orchestra.

What are your longterm plans? Will music be a part of your life as you grow older?

I plan to major in percussion performance, on composition, playing and writing music for the rest of my life. Hopefully, I'll be able to play in an orchestra or as a soloist.

What will you be playing at the upcoming concert with the Sarasota Orchestra? How are you feeling about the opportunity?

I’ll be playing Sejourne’s Tempo souple from the Marimba Concerto. I'm thrilled for this opportunity!

Thrill of a Lifetime will take place Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:30pm in Neel PAC. For tickets and more information about this special concert, click here!

Young Artist Competition Winner: Jaclyn Evans

Jaclyn EvansJaclyn Evans is a 17-year-old homeschooled senior. Since the age of four, she has studied piano with Carmen Conway. She has been awarded ratings of Superior and Superior Plus for 12 consecutive years in the National Federation of Music Junior Festivals. Jaclyn is principle trombonist in GCHFA advanced band and is drum major for the Northern Lights Marching Band. She enjoys watercolor painting and writing stories and songs. As a dual-enrolled student, Jaclyn is on the Dean’s List at SCF.

When did you first start playing an instrument? What drew you to music/your instrument?

I first started playing the piano when I was two years old. Since I was that age, I didn't really have a say in it. But, I'm glad my mom had me do it. As for trombone, I chose it when I was 11 because I thought the slide was cool and the man who introduced it said, "Trombones are for weird people." So, I figured it was perfect for me!

What was it like when you learned you were going to be a soloist with "Thrill of a Lifetime"?

I had been dreaming about this opportunity for two years, so winning the compeition was seriously a dream come true. I have never worked harder for anything in my life, so it was incredible to see all of it pay off.

What's your favorite part about being a musician? How has music enhanced or impacted your life?

I love being able to sit down and play the piano. No matter what is going on in my life, I love having that outlet to all of my emotions. Music has helped me be more organized and has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to as long as I work hard enough.

What are your longterm plans? Will music be a part of your life as you grow older?

I am planning to double major in music education and piano performance at Olivet Nazarene University. I would like to be a private music teacher, as well as teach in school band/orchestra programs. I will also accompany soloists and ensembles.

What will you be playing at the upcoming concert with the Sarasota Orchestra? How are you feeling about the opportunity?

I will be playing the Second Movement of Chopin's Concerto No. 1 in E minor. Words cannot express how ecstatic I am for this opportunity to be playing with the Sarasota Orchestra.

Thrill of a Lifetime will take place Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:30pm in Neel PAC. For tickets and more information about this special concert, click here!

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Special Events

Deepen your connection and make great memories with Sarasota Orchestra at these delightful happenings.


Side-By-Side Brunch
November 13, 2022

Discoveries Dinner
December 19, 2022

Pops Dinner
January 19, 2023

Special Concert and Gala featuring Yo‌-‌Yo Ma
March 2, 2023

Masterworks Dinner
March 28, 2023

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