Saturday, May 06, 2006

Saturday Night is Alright...

for concerts! And what a concert with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Their program of Bach, Tower and Beethoven was a real delight.
[My first Carnegie experience was back in the early 90s - Gil Shaham played the Four Seasons with Orpheus - it had just been released! And they played Elliot Carter's early Symphony (think ala Copland), all four of Vivaldi's Seasons, and Faure's Masques and Bergamasques.]
This concert was a friend's first Carnegie experience as I found out. And we had an extra ticket that another friend was able to meet up with us as well - turns out she is a big Leon Fleisher fan, besides really digging Joan Tower, so we were all happy. I had touched base with Joan that afternoon while enjoying a Papa Beard's cream puff and a cigar with my old violin teacher (mentor? friend?) and said I'd pop backstage afterwards (more on that in a moment!)
Tangent 1: David, my aforemetioned mentor and teacher, met up after Orpheus' rehearsal at a cigar shop (it's easy to locate and around the corner from Carnegie) and went for lunch at a little Italian place I enjoy, also close to Carnegie. As the lunch crowd diminished, he brought out his "new" violin, a special instrument from 1712 by Franciscus Gobetti and I played around on it. Just amazing. Evidently it has had 3 owners from 3 quartets, each playing it for 50 years - here's to it's next 49 years with David and the Pro Arte Quartet!
After lunch we did some shopping and smoked cigars in Riverside Park. Next Stu, a former coworker now at WSHU met us. David went to practice (he's playing Chausson Piano Quartet on WFMT this week live!) and Stu and I headed for a pub - turns out the Kentucky Derby was about to start. We were early enough to get seats and beers - walked a bit and grabbed dinner at a diner near Carnegie Hall. [Tangent #2: As I answered friends later, what do I do in NYC visiting? Eat and go to concerts. Dance, eat, and go to concerts.]
My friend Kirsten met us promptly at 7:45, just as we were coming outside with the tickets David scored for us. We walked up (I made sure we were on the inside stairs so Stu could see the autographed pictures and decor of Carnegie) to the Dress Circle (top balcony) and found our seats.
Bach's First Orchestral Suite opened the program. I so enjoy watching the Orpheus musicians. It is music making on the highest level. That said, the oboes seemed less stellar than their colleagues, but that's just my ear (and humble opinion.)
Next a complete complement of musicians (there were only strings, harpsichord, 2 oboes and bassoon for the Bach) performed Joan Tower's Chamber Dances. As she explained in her notes (the entire Orpheus program was made just right - enough info on everything, really and truly - it's the way all programs should be!) she has stepped away from the orchestra world in writing (despite zooming success with Made in America, and now Chamber Dances) music - but if you get a chance to hear her new work do so! (Orpheus is taking it on tour on the west coast - go hear them - and tell 'em John sent ya!) Chamber Dances is full of energy and brilliance, both in motives and in orchestration. Solos and duos abound in creative combinations - subtle changes take place in a recap - a violin and clarinet duo become a violin duo with the concertmaster and principal second. A stunning solo by one of my favorite cellists Melissa Meel is another highlight and reason to see them in California! Clearly and beautifully Joan has crafted a work for Orpheus - no doubt benefited by Joan's experience as a pianist in her own group years ago.
On the second half was Leon Fleisher playing Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto. I'm so glad to have seen him in Las Vegas (at a piano teacher's convention) - and am still stunned that he recorded with George Szell, and here he was in 2006 playing with Orpheus. It was musical and warm, friendly and charming with enough power of music from Beethoven and interpretation from Fleisher. So there were a few dropped notes - it was one of those performances you don't forget - and of a time long ago, brought into the 21st Century.
Afterwards Joan had told us to meet backstage, we made our way back...after several turns and explanations of knowing Joan, we found ourselves by a line to greet Fleisher (it was tempting to see him but it was surprisingly crowded - who were all these people?!) - and we wanted to see Joan, so we kept asking Orpheus players (like Todd Phillips, Don Palma, and Eric Wyrick all waiting for friends) if they had seen Joan, and ended up at the reception (which David hadn't signed up for and in fact he was waiting with more friends at the backstage door on 56th for us!) and eventually found Joan - meanwhile bumping into the glorious Lucy Shelton and Susan Palma-Nidel. Actually Joan was dancing a bit in a doorway, which led me to ask her if she'd go "Chamber dancing" with us afterwards. She was really pleased with the performance and work (although someone told us she's already emailed a few changes after hearing the premiere?) - and happy to see us - it was very hectic, so we made our way out.
Meanwhile, Kirsten had other friends to catch up with and we did too, actually just across the street! We met up at Redeye for drinks and dessert. A good time was had by all and all were had by the good time.
I think I finally made it to bed around 3am.

I later woke up listening to Sunday Baroque and had some tea. Then Stu and I went to the equivalent to "Luke's" in Milford for brunch (what stunning jumbalya they make, not to mention a Norwegian take on "french" toast. We also went the beach - where families were enjoying the day, it was swell seeing sailboats in the water and kites in the sky! It was then an easy ride back to NYC.

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