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FANTASIA: THE JOURNEY
Posted by Emil de Cou

Emil de Cou is the NSO@Wolf Trap Festival Conductor

Back in ye olden days, before video devices made us controllers of our content ― when "content" meant "happy" and "controller" had nothing to do with gaming ― we were not nearly as hapless and helpless as today's young'uns think we were. We may not have been able to micro-manage our daily entertainment by the micro-moment, but we had wise men and women of exceptional taste who created and curated entertainment on our behalf.

Walt Disney was such a creator/curator. He created, with the assistance of brilliant artists, completely original works that synthesized image and sound, establishing a canon of animated and live-action films that are as much a part of the psychic bookshelf of young minds as the works of the Brothers Grimm or Rudyard Kipling (each of whom he borrowed from unabashedly). And he curated his wares with a keen business sense, knowing which cities would be best for premieres, how often to re-release his films to whet the public appetite, and how and when to ignite the power of theme parks and new technologies to extend the Disney brand.

It's impossible to say objectively which is Disney's "best" animated film, because there are so many to cherish, from his first major feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1938) to Frozen (2013). But without question, the most influential Disney film for those of us in the classical music field ― the one that helped set me on my professional path ― is Fantasia. No, I didn't see it when it first premiered in 1940 in my home town of Los Angeles, but I did see it as a lad in short pants in the 1970s during one of its regular re-releases. With its mixture of avant-garde and slapstick, the film charmed common folk and critics at its debut and entranced this gawky kid thirty-something years later. In an era before MTV or VH1 or YouTube, the idea that you could be immersed in a wonderful world of color and characters and symphonic music was transporting.

Fantasia has been edited and enhanced for various editions, but I clearly remember my first viewing. Deems Taylor, the esteemed classical music critic and commentator, came up on the screen to introduce the program. (I thought he was Walt Disney; I was wrong.) Then the great conductor Leopold Stokowsky ascended an immense podium. (I thought he was God; wrong again, but closer.) Then the giant shadows and blast of instruments brought Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor to life. The shock of that opening sequence never wears off, especially when I realize now how bold such aesthetics were at the time: in 1940 the public had barely accepted cubism and abstract expressionism in the fine arts, and here Hollywood, with its obsessive focus on the populist bottom line, embraced it fully. (And this was 15 years before The 5,000 Fingers of Doctor T, my second favorite psychedelic film!)

Tonight we hear a mash-up of selections from the original Fantasia, as well as the sequel produced sixty years later, Fantasia 2000. Deems Taylor and Leopold Stokowski have been replaced with a cavalcade of contemporary comics, and we begin not with my beloved Bach Toccata but with the mighty Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, envisioned in a series of thunderous shapes and colors, in homage to the original Bach overture. From there our parade of masterpieces unfolds: a mythic tableau of centaurs, cupids, and fauns gamboling to Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral") followed by delicate figurines moving in colorful formation to the lush melodies of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite." Debussy's Clair de lune, with its lone egret soaring in the moonlight, was cut from the original Fantasia but has since been restored.

Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, with hippos in tutus, is pure cotton candy, but the dark cartoon that follows, Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, reminds us that not all fables have a happy ending: our beloved Mickey Mouse reaches too far in his pursuit of magic powers and ends up awash (quite literally) in a nightmarish comeuppance. We end the evening in grand style, with majestic selections from Sir Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, starring Donald Duck as an unlikely ship's mate to Noah, of Ark fame.

A conductor often becomes immersed in the score to the point of distraction, especially when leading an ensemble as great as the National Symphony Orchestra, and even more so when the breeze of a summer evening swirls around the Filene Center. But for me few musical experiences are as distracting ― perhaps transporting is the better word ― as Fantasia. With its twists and turns from merry to scary, from high art to buffoonery, from magic to majestic, it is not just a synthesis of music and film. It is a journey.

Won't you join me?

Emil de Cou


 

The National Symphony Orchestra will perform music of Fantasia with the movie footage shown on large screens on July 11- 12, 2014 at Wolf Trap

Please visit the Wolf Trap website to buy tickets

Meet Our Musicians: Adriana Horne
Posted by Amy Drew

Adriana Horne is Principal Harpist of the National Symphony Orchestra

 

We'd like to Welcome Adriana Horne to the National Symphony! Adriana won the position of Principal Harp in December 2013 and has been performing with the NSO ever since. Now that Adriana has had some time to settle into life in D.C., she was happy to share more about herself. Be sure to look for her on stage at upcoming NSO performances!

 

 

 

 

What university or conservatory did you attend?

I studied at the University of Southern California for my undergraduate degree, followed by graduate work at Texas Tech University. I then went on to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana for my Doctorate

 

Was it for music?

Yes

 

What are the biggest challenges of being a professional concert harpist?

It's always a challenge to keep the harp in tune! The harp strings are made of gut, and they stretch, contract, and break at the slightest change of temperature and humidity. In addition to (trying) to keep it in tune, I think playing the harp as an instrument is uniquely challenging—while the hands are plucking the strings, your feet are also changing seven pedals which control pitch of the strings. If you look closely when a harpist plays, you'll see that both hands and feet are working at once, and it can get confusing if you're not careful.

 

Do you have a pre-concert ritual or routine?

I always try to get to the hall early so I have ample time to tune and check for any broken strings. I have a few warm-up pieces that I like to play, and then I'll usually play slowly through the repertoire for that night's concert.

 

What is your favorite piece (or pieces) to play in the orchestra?

I really enjoy playing Ravel and Debussy, and the way the harp is used to add so much color to their compositions. I also think Benjamin Britten writes in a really unique way for the harp, and I enjoy playing his orchestral, solo and chamber pieces.

 

What are three songs or pieces you love to listen to?

Mahler 2—especially the final movement

Ravel Piano Concerto in G major—2nd movement

Berlioz Symphonie fantastique

 

Describe your most memorable concert experience:

It was definitely the Strauss concert we did recently, which included Don Juan and the "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Salome. These are two very challenging parts for the harp and they are often included on a lot of auditions. It felt really gratifying to play it in an orchestra, instead of all alone at an audition.

 

Have you ever had to play in a challenging venue? Describe the challenges and how you overcame or dealt with them:

I once was hired to play some background music at a star gazing party late at night. As it got later into the evening it became freezing cold and very windy. The wind blowing through the harp strings made an extremely eerie howling that drowned out any music I was trying to play, so I finally gave up and let the wind play the harp instead of my fingers (which were frozen blocks of ice at that point). I learned several valuable lessons from this experience: First, never again agree to play outdoors in the dark, and second, the wind is a better harpist than I am.

 

Did you grow up in a musical household?

My sister plays the harp as well.

 

What did you want to be growing up?

I thought about becoming a teacher. I love to teach harp lessons now, so it looks like younger me was on the right track.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a professional classical musician?

When I started playing in orchestras in college, I started to think seriously about it. I love playing as a group, and it's really gratifying to hear how all our separate parts come together to make the whole piece.

 

You just moved to the DC area, correct? From where?

I was living in St. George, Utah. Before that I was in Miami, Florida for three years playing with the New World Symphony.

 

What were the biggest challenges of your move?

Remembering what it feels like to deal with snow! Living in Florida and Southern Utah, I hadn't had to worry about temperatures lower than 50 degrees. I really enjoy living in a place with four distinct seasons, but shoveling snow is no fun, and I am an absolutely wretched snow driver.

 

What do you like best about living in/near DC?

I love that at practically every turn there is some historical marker, museum, or monument waiting to be discovered. I also love all the green spaces, parks, and walkways throughout the city. There's so much to do and I'm having a great time exploring!

 

Do you have any pets?

Not yet, but I love dogs and plan to get one soon.

 

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?

Since moving to DC, I've decided that I will visit at least one museum a month. It's been fun to do this but there are so many things to see, it's a little overwhelming. I also am attempting to grow some tomatoes this year, and I spend my free time thinking about how I've forgotten to water them. I love to watch movies—The E Street Cinema and the movie theatre at Courthouse with the leather reclining seats are so much fun to go to!

 

Favorite movie:

I can't pick one, but I love Hitchcock films, anything with Cary Grant, and Battleship.

 

Favorite book:

Catch-22 and The Count of Monte Cristo are two of my all time favorites.

 

Favorite sports team:

I am not a sports person, but I hear that going to a baseball game here is fun so I plan to check that out!

 

Name one thing people might be surprised to know about you:

I'm fascinated by small spaces and dream of living in a tiny teardrop trailer. Unfortunately, a harp will not fit in a teardrop trailer. Believe me I've measured!

 

Off to the Capitol!
Posted by Krysta Cihi

Krysta Cihi is the Assistant Manager of Production & Operations for the National Symphony Orchestra.

The month of May is upon us, which means it's almost time for the National Symphony to make their first trip out to the West Lawn of the US Capitol. The tent is up and everyone is getting ready to take part in the 25th National Memorial Day Concert , this Sunday, May 25 at 8:00 PM. Please join us in honoring all the American men and women who have served our country. This year's concert is co-hosted by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise, and features actress Dianne Wiest and musical artists, Danielle Bradbery, Jackie Evancho, Megan Hilty, Anthony Kearns, and more. Bring your friends, bring your picnics, and bring some nice weather. The forecast is looking good, but you never know when Mother Nature may make an appearance at the Capitol Concerts... so bring an umbrella!

Happy Memorial Day!

 

A New Floor for NEW MOVES: by Madeline Waters
Posted by Krysta Cihi

Madeline Waters is the NSO Operations Intern.

Before the orchestra arrives, tunes, and rehearses each morning, the NSO crew is hard at work preparing for their arrival. This involves setting up all the required percussion equipment, chairs, stands, and lights that the orchestra will need for that day. This week, the crew had an extra task: preparing for the three dance companies that will be performing with the National Symphony Orchestra as part of our two-week long NEW MOVES: symphony + dance festival.

The repertoire for the three programs is fully orchestrated and includes works from Bernstein, Neikrug, Gershwin, Barber, Ellington, Oliverio, Copland, and Adams. Since the orchestra needs all available stage space to accommodate their full setup, the question became: 'Where on stage will the dancers go?' That's where the crew comes in.

A 16 foot deep stage extension was installed on Monday morning, consisting of 24 interlocking components, reaching out from the edge of the Concert Hall stage, over the first five rows of the audience.

Thin panels of plywood are placed on top of the black extension to create a more uniform look.

The guest performers are accustomed to dancing on a floor covered with marley, a performance surface made of large thin sheets of vinyl. This must also be rolled out and taped down before the dance companies arrive.

The marley comes to the Concert Hall on large rollers. Each sheet is 6 feet wide and 40 feet long.

Voilà! Thanks to the NSO crew, we now have a 16 foot stage extension covered in grey marley ready for rehearsals, concerts, and most importantly: dancing! The festival will feature three dance companies performing in three different programs, with two performances each. We are excited to welcome KEIGWIN + COMPANY, New Ballet Ensemble, and Jessica Lang Dance to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to dance in this collaborative festival. We are also looking forward to hearing our talented soloists, Sue Heineman, NSO Principal Bassoon; Jauvon Gilliam, NSO Principal Timpani; and Leila Josefowicz, guest violin; each performing on a different program during the two-week long festival.

Come join us for NEW MOVES: symphony + dance, May 7-17, 2014!

 

The Olympian Concerto
Posted by Jauvon Gilliam

Jauvon Gilliam is the Principal Timpanist for the National Symphony Orchestra.

Most of us on stage absolutely love our jobs.  I am no different.  Playing timpani here in our nation's capital never gets old.  Although the timpani are one of the larger, more visible instruments, I generally see my role as an ensemble player, often times creating rhythmic and harmonic support for some of my more soloistic counterparts.  But come mid-May, all of that changes.

"Titan." "Reformation." "Eroica." "Tragic."  Through the years, pieces in the symphonic repertoire have been given nicknames that generally characterize the overall feeling of the work.  The concerto I'm performing is nicknamed "The Olympian." After spending the last six months learning and preparing this monster of a piece, I can understand why.

A normal timpani setup requires four drums, set up in a semicircle around the player. James Oliverio's Timpani Concerto No. 1 calls for eight – six in a complete circle around the player and two more at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock position.  Scales, melodies, glissandi, cross-rhythms, constant pedal tuning; this piece has it all, including the 25 hardest measures of timpani playing that I've ever come across.  At one point, I have to maneuver around all eight timpani at a break-neck tempo while simultaneously changing notes with my feet.  James nicknamed this section the "octopus."  These days, I'm getting more of a workout downstairs in the Kennedy Center (in the percussion studio) than I am at the gym! 

One last tidbit: The Olympian was written for my teacher, Paul Yancich (timpanist of The Cleveland Orchestra) and premiered by them on May 10, 1990.  24 years later to the day, I'll be playing it here.  Sweetness. 

Photo by James Oliverio

The Biking Bassoonist
Posted by Sue Heineman

Sue Heineman is the Principal Bassoonist for the National Symphony Orchestra.

I haven't owned a car since 2000. It was a red Toyota and the steering wheel was on the right side since I was living in New Zealand at the time. I used it mostly for exploring the country, preferring to walk to work. My commute was a beautiful 45 minute hike over a large wooded hill in Wellington where some of the forest scenes in Lord of the Rings were shot. Wellington can have some nasty weather but I found it invigorating to walk in blustery sideways rain.

I've used alternate forms of transportation my whole life. From the time I was 10, I commuted alone by subway to school in downtown Philadelphia, carrying not only the bassoon but a backpack full of books. I did learn to drive the summer before college, but the only time I had access to a car was when home on break. After graduating from Eastman, I spent a year studying in Salzburg (no car, lots of train trips) and then lived in Manhattan for six years (why anyone would want a car there is beyond me). I did drive myself to Albuquerque when I joined the New Mexico Symphony. Those three years were the only period I've been dependent on a car for daily life.

When I moved to DC, I knew that traffic was a Big Thing and didn't want to participate, so I got an apartment in Dupont Circle. For the first couple of years, I walked to the Kennedy Center and took Metro wherever else I needed to go. Then I discovered biking.

I was not physically active during my childhood, nor my teens or twenties. When living in New Mexico and New Zealand, I started doing a little hiking, but my main exercise was at indoor pools and aerobics classes. Shortly after moving to DC, I went on a ride on the completely flat C&O Canal with some friends and was so pitiful they complained they would freeze unless we rode faster. So I started taking spinning classes and enlisted a friend from the NSO (Ali Yazdanfar, now principal bass in Montreal) to help me with road riding. Traffic scared me, going downhill scared me, going uphill exhausted me.

I give all that background because I want people to know that if they're interested in adding biking to their transportation arsenal, they can totally do it. Sure, it's validating to hear how intrepid I am, but also a little disheartening. It is far more rewarding to inspire someone else to give it a go.

Here I am attempting to indoctrinate my NSO Summer Music Institute students!

In the time that I've been in DC, the city has made huge strides in bike infrastructure. We had the first large-scale bike share program in the US (those red bikes in the photo), new bike lanes are being added all the time, and with 37.9 percent of households without cars, we are second only to New York City.  Bicycling Magazine named DC America's fourth most bike-friendly city in 2012.

So in the name of advocacy I will address some of the most common questions I hear:

Q: What do you do when it rains?

A: Raincoat. Sometimes rain pants, though my quick-dry pants will usually dry within about ten minutes of being inside. Wet jeans are a bummer, so don't wear those in the rain. A zip-lock bag is enough to keep my phone and wallet dry; if I need to carry other stuff I have larger waterproof bags. I keep a thin backpack cover from REI in my bassoon case at all times because unlike me, the instrument (and its case) could be damaged by water. Here we are on the way to a concert on a rainy night. 

Q: Don't you get cold/hot/sweaty? What do you do when it snows?

A: Again, you dress for the sport. People ski and that's a lot colder. All you need is a couple layers on top, sensible shoes, a decent pair of gloves and a thin under-helmet layer to keep ears and cheeks warm. My headgear of choice is a Buff which can be worn dozens of ways (and doubles as a washcloth/dishrag/emergency tourniquet on camping trips). Our roads are seldom snowy for very long. During the Snowpocalypse of 2010, the roads were clear long before the sidewalks, so biking was easier than walking. Basically the only times I won't ride are when it's EXTREMELY windy, meaning it's difficult to stay upright on a bike and debris is flying through the air, or when the roads are slippery.

Heat isn't really an issue. One thing people forget to factor in is that there's a wind chill when you're on a bike. On a hot day it can be much cooler to ride than to walk. You can always sponge off or change your clothes when you get to your destination, but I don't know why people fear sweat so much. It's over 80 degrees some nights on stage and the poor men in the orchestra are in wool tuxes. Look at this guy. He doesn't seem to mind a little sweat!

Q: You don't ride at night, do you?

A: Sure. The roads are well lit, and I have lights on my bike and helmet so that I am more visible to cars. 

Q: Wouldn't you rather I give you a ride? 

A: Thanks, but not really. Around DC it's often faster to ride than to drive. Plus it's so much fun! I am pushing fifty and I still often squeal "WEEEEEEE!" It's hard to be in a bad mood when you're on a bike! 

Q: Why don't bikers follow the rules of the road?

A: This is a fair question, and the topic for a different blog post. For those interested in the discussion, I recommend reading this and this

Q: This is all so fascinating! Do you also race? Won't you please tell me more about your love of biking?

A: With pleasure, and thanks for your interest. No, I don't race. I'm too afraid of crashing and I had enough competition in my life trying to get a job playing the bassoon. Also, that kind of riding requires keeping your head down and on the wheel (or butt) of the guy in front of you. I prefer to look around. Here's a blog post I wrote on an NSO residency. 

 

Music and Healing: NSO Sound Health
Posted by Krysta Cihi

Written by NSO Violist, Mahoko Eguchi

In September, the National Symphony Orchestra launched a new program called Sound Health, a year-round community engagement initiative that sends musicians into local hospitals, pediatric units, and military health centers in the Washington, D.C. area. Sound Health aims to enhance the environment and experiences of patients, their family members, hospital staff and visitors, through live music and personal interaction. Music has the extraordinary power to bring people together, enhance our common experiences, and create a healthier, more enriching environment. NSO Violist, Mahoko Eguchi, shared this meaningful story about the healing power of music:

For several months, I taught violin to a soldier at a local center for the treatment of traumatic injuries*.   She was a 26-year-old woman named Hilary* who suffered an acute brain injury during training before being deployed overseas. My lessons were a part of a volunteer organization created by a friend of mine which provides music lessons to the veterans.  Hilary was going to play the violin as a part of her treatment for the brain damage.  Playing the violin requires thinking about many different things simultaneously, which the doctors thought would help her healing process. 

Needless to say, I didn't know Hilary prior to her injury, so am not sure how much of her personality and demeanor were affected.  When I first saw her I was struck by her innocence and childlike excitement with starting her lessons.  She was bright-eyed, and utterly ecstatic to play the violin. The last time she played the violin was when she was in high school.   I started her with Suzuki Violin Book 1, which I usually use when I teach elementary students.  She seemed to have remembered certain pieces from her childhood, so I decided to give her couple more short pieces.  She struggled at first but was eager to keep trying. 

After a few weekly lessons, her mother, who was taking care of her, told me that she practiced all the time.  It was what made her the happiest.  At lessons she often kept playing and ignored her mother's warning about the end of lesson, so that she wouldn't be late to her next doctor's appointment.  

I've had some wonderful students in the past, who in return were grateful to me.  However, this was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.  I had no doubt that I was changing her life and was making her happy by letting her play the violin and experience music every day.   I was also quite sure that playing the violin would help her brain heal.  Violinists have to think of hundreds of things at once.   For instance, we need to hold the bow correctly; each finger needs to be in the right position, with the right shape, with correct balance, without tension.   We need to hold the violin correctly; under the chin, over the shoulder, the right way, correct angle to the body.  We need to keep the bow on the string correctly; straight, in the parallel position between the bridge and finger board; and keep it there.  We need to have the left hand on the violin correctly, with nicely curved fingers, in the right position, and without tension.   Only then do we get to play the notes and think about the correct intonation, rhythm, and sound.  Hilary was trying to do them all.

Besides my experience with her, I've learned a lot just by visiting the trauma center regularly.  I was mostly in their center for rehabilitation, so I encountered many amputees.  They were training on treadmill, elliptical machines, weight machines or running and jumping with their prosthetic arms and/or legs (a lot better than I could ever dream of myself doing, I might add.)  There was no darkness, sadness or depressing air there.  They just went about their business.  Their life went on.  I felt humbled and honored every time I was there.  I was grateful that Hilary was letting me teach her the violin. 

 

*At the request of the medical center, it is not being identified, nor is Hilary the real name of the soldier.

 

 

It’s the Holiday Season!
Posted by Krysta Cihi

'Tis the season at the National Symphony as we get ready for this week's NSO Pops: Happy Holidays! concerts. Each December brings the annual festive traditions, from Christmas trees to wreaths to garlands and lights, and last but not least, the candy canes! After every show, the Concert Hall ushers hand out candy canes as a special holiday treat for our audience members to enjoy on the way home. But what needs to happen first? Take a look!

16 boxes of candy canes (8,000 in all) and 80 bags ready for stuffing!

With help from some NSO Elves, we're ready to go!

Come celebrate the season with the NSO! NSO Pops: Happy Holidays! with Brian Stokes Mitchell and conductor Steven Reineke runs this Thursday through Saturday, December 12 - 14. Click here for tickets!

What’s That On Stage? The Cimbalom!
Posted by Cynthia Steele

On stage at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, you've seen the violin, the trumpet, and the flute in a National Symphony Orchestra concert – just to name a few. But occasionally we have an instrument with the NSO that you may not have seen on our stage before. This week is an example of that – as part of our concerts this week, the instrumentation for Kodály's Suite from Háry János calls for an instrument called the cimbalom.

The cimbalom is a Hungarian instrument, similar to a hammered dulcimer. We've been fascinated with the cimbalom this week since the moment it arrived.

Our crew did indeed handle it with dignity, as they carefully unpacked it in the Green Room:

It needed some assembly upon arrival:

The Stage Crew carefully unpacked the legs:

And attached them to the instrument itself:

 

We think it's a beautiful instrument with a great sound! Look for it this weekend, on the left when you are looking at the stage (see the blue arrow on our stage plot below):

 

So who plays this amazing instrument? Meet Laurence Kaptain, one of the most distinguished performers of the cimbalom. We asked him a few questions to get to know him before his performances with the NSO:

How long have you been playing the cimbalom?  

A little more than 30 years.

How were you first introduced to the instrument?  

I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, an outer suburb of Chicago that had a small, closely knit Hungarian community. My father was born to Hungarian immigrants in the US, but they solely spoke Hungarian in the home. His two older brothers were both born in Hungary and had their early schooling there, so my dad went into kindergarten, in public schools, having to pick up English there.

I provide that context because they used to have gypsy bands play at summer picnics. At those picnics, they would have gypsy bands, including the cimbalom.

Where did you learn to play it?

I was a little self-taught, and then I went to study in Hungary in the early 1980s.

Have you performed the Háry János suite many times before?

I've performed it hundreds of times, and recorded it twice with the Chicago Symphony (Sir Georg Solti, and Maestro Neeme Järvi) and with Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony.

What do you like about the piece?

Well, I only play on two movements and sit there for four. I must say that after all of these years, with the best orchestras I always hear something different and new. I'm sure that will be the case here with the National Symphony.

Where do you most often perform the cimbalom?

Over the years, I have played fairly regularly with the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. I've also played with three of the orchestras in Mexico City, the Montreal Symphony, and others. Sometimes college orchestras have me play, and I've done that at Eastman, Michigan, Illinois, Texas Tech, Baylor, St. Olaf, and others. I've also played with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Orpheus.

What other instruments do you play?

I'm trained as a percussionist and received the first Doctorate in Percussion Instruments from the University of Michigan.

 

Want to hear the cimbalom in action? The NSO will perform the Suite from Háry János November 14-16, 2013 at the Kennedy Center, along with Liszt's Piano Concerto No 2 with pianist Alice Sara Ott, and Prokofiev's Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet.

Last Stand Quartet: First Rate Musicians
Posted by

Written by Marissa Goodman, NSO Operations Intern.

Last Stand Quartet performance:

Friday, November 8th 6:00 PM

Millennium Stage

  • Beethoven's String Quartet in D major
  • Robert Schumann's String Quartet in A major

Click here to listen to the live webcast!

The October 2010 Millennium Stage performance featuring Maestro Christoph Eschenbach on the first half of the program, followed by a newly formed quartet (at the time) of NSO musicians, is a performance the quartet members look back on with fond memories. After the performance of the Beethoven String Quartet, Op. 59, No.3, Maestro Eschenbach made a point of expressing his desire that the musicians remain together as a quartet. Now called "The Last Stand Quartet," NSO musicians Joel Fuller, Alexandra Osborne, Mahoko Eguchi, and Rachel Young are happy to know Maestro shared the same desire as their own.

Last Stand Quartet members (left to right): Rachel Young, Mahoko Eguchi, Alexandra Osborne, Joel Fuller.

Photo by Steve Wilson

Many of us wondered how this quartet got its name. In the NSO publicity photo, all musicians are seated in order of seniority. While the Last Stand Quartet members have been with the NSO for up to 12 years, they each found themselves in this particular photo…at the last stand!

The quartet describes their sound as having "clarity with a core". "We're all romantics, so we play slow movements really well!" says LSQ violist, Mahoko Eguchi. While the quartet is still a young group, they often find themselves drawn to mid-Beethoven and have set the ambitious goal to play all the Beethoven quartets. "Mid-Beethoven is sort of our anchor," says LSQ cellist Rachel Young. There's no doubt the ensemble has fun with being a young group. "We are still young enough as a group, we haven't found what 'our music' is," says LSQ violinist Joel Fuller. Admitted by LSQ violinist Alexandra Osborne, sometimes the quartet gets together on rehearsal days to play and explore quartet repertoire just for fun!

The upcoming Millennium Stage performance by the Last Stand Quartet includes Schumann's String Quartet in A major. Interestingly, the musicians are performing Schumann's Symphony No. 1 this week with conductor John Storgårds. Many composers experimented with their own styles after hearing quartets perform some of their compositions, so it has been an interesting week for the quartet to rehearse the quartet alongside the symphony.

Playing as a member of a quartet requires a higher mix of vulnerability and teamwork than is usually found in orchestral playing. Each member must commit to every piece completely, combining personal musical opinions with the full quartet sound. The Last Stand Quartet has proven to possess these remarkable connections, as pointed out by Maestro Eschenbach himself.

Photo by Steve Wilson

Click here to watch the October 2010 Millennium Stage performance!

Click here to view the Last Stand Quartet's website!

 

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