Sound of Charlotte Blog
Approaching a newly commissioned piece, I start by listening. I want the know everything: What's the occasion, and what's the purpose behind it? What are the goals for the piece? What I'm doing by asking these questions is defining basic parameters: length and instrumentations the specific instruments you want to use.
But I'm also gathering background information that helps me to create a piece that works for the community. The more descriptive, the better. It helps me understand what's important, which helps sets up my mindset as I'm conceptualizing the piece.
With Charlotte Mecklenburg, my new piece for the Charlotte Symphony, a special request in this case was that all the music was to have been inspired by a residency, which meant that I wouldn't write a note or start thinking about concepts until I'd gotten acquainted with the city.
During my four-day residency, I did just that. Enjoying great cuisine, visiting different neighborhoods, guided tours of exhibits at the Levine Museum of the New South, catching a panoramic view of the city through from way up in the Bank of America building. Meanwhile, the Symphony had arranged for me to meet and interview 12 people, from Hugh McColl to Dae-Lee, all of whom impacted the city in differing ways, and all provided answers to five questions that I'd created with the new piece in mind. The visit ended, with a live outdoor performance of the Charlotte Symphony.
After getting back, it was time to engage in two of my favorite activities, for starting new compositions brainstorming ideas and organizing them into digital scrapbooks. I compiled answers to my questionnaire and conversation notes and made a general plan of the composition based on the parameters and visit. A piece like this involved some research. By exploring Charlotte's history, cultures, and current events, I was establishing an expansive knowledge bank of ideas.
Contributed by Nkeiru Okoye, composer.
If you've ever seen Joshua Bell perform live, you'll understand just how much stamina and sheer power goes into every performance. Here, we pick Joshua Bell's brain on the athleticism behind his performances.
CSO: First of all, we've heard that you lose weight every time you perform?
JB: Yes! I'm quite physical when I play, so it's quite good exercise. I probably lose at least a couple of pounds after a two-hour performance. It almost makes up for the fact that I tend to celebrate afterwards with a huge meal! Almost.
CSO: That sounds like a good workout plan. Do you exercise off-stage, too?
JB: Well, not as much as I used to, but I still love to play tennis and basketball, and I always seem to be running through airports to catch my plane!
CSO: You also have children you must run after quite a bit?
JB: Yes, three. Three young boys, 8-year-old twins, and an 11 year-old. I'm trying to teach them tennis, so hopefully they will help me stay in shape.
CSO: We also hear you're a foodie.
JB: Yes! I love food. It's one of the great joys of traveling. I love tasting foods from different regions of the world. Recent highlights were eating at Noma in Copenhagen, The French Laundry in Napa, Au Cheval in Chicago wow, what a burger! I also just got back from Asia, including Thailand, which has some of my favorite food in the world.
CSO: So what's the greatest parallel between an athlete in competition and a violinist on stage?
JB: There are so many similarities. To excel in either, it always helps to have started young, and both require excessive training. Whether it's playing basketball or playing the violin, one must have extreme focus, and must have confidence which comes from great preparation and also from learning how to conquer ones fears and doubts under pressure - always trying to get "in the zone."
CSO: Also, as a soloist with an orchestra, you're part of a "team" effort in the presenting of music.
JB: Absolutely. As with sports, making music is almost always a team effort. One must react to others, and know how and when to lead and when to follow. An orchestra is a lot like a football team, all with separate tasks but working toward a common goal, and the soloists job, I suppose, is to be part quarterback and part coach! (OK, maybe I've taken the analogy too far!)...It is no coincidence that I happen to love football season, and I always try my best to keep my Sundays free to watch as many games as possible! Go Panthers!
Join us on Opening Night to see Joshua Bell perform Brahms Violin Concerto. Read more
Get to know superstar violinist Joshua Bell, who joins us for Opening Night on September 21.
He was a child prodigy.
Joshua Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on December 9, 1967 and began taking violin at age 4. His parents had noticed that he had stretched rubber bands across the handles of his dresser drawer to try to replay music he had heard her play on the piano.
A teenage symphonic debut.
By 14 Bell had appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti. He studied violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and went on to receive an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University in 1989. By 17 he had debuted at Carnegie Hall debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
A champion of new works.
Like the Charlotte Symphony, Bell is a fan of promoting new works. Having premiered Nicholas Maw's violin concerto, which is dedicated to Bell, in 1993, he won a Grammy Award for his recording. He will kick off our 2018-19 season at Opening Night, where he'll perform the Brahms Violin Concerto and we'll debut a commissioned work by Nkeiru Okoye in celebration of Charlotte at 250.
Fate and a 300-year old Stradivarius.
Bell's instrument is a storied 300-year old Stradivarius violin, the "Gibson ex Huberman," made in 1713. The instrument survived war, theft, and much more, and we'll hear it live on September 21. Read the story in Bell's own words, here.
Bell performed the violin solos for the Oscar-winning soundtrack for 'The Red Violin' and was also featured in film scores including 'Ladies in Lavender', 'Iris' and 'Defiance'.
A man of other talents.
On May 26, 2011, Bell was named Music Director of the British music ensemble, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Selected by the orchestra members, he is the only other person to hold this position following the great Sir Neville Marriner, who founded the orchestra in 1958.
The Huberman Violin
by Joshua Bell, on his historic instrument's 300th birthday.
My violin is over 300 years old.
Known as the Gibson ex Huberman, the revered instrument came into my life one fateful day during the summer of 2001. I was in London, getting ready to play a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall and decided to stop by the famous violin shop, J & A Beare to pick up some strings. As I entered the shop, Charles Beare was just coming out of the back room with a stunning violin in hand. He told me that it was the famous Huberman Strad, and of course I was instantly intrigued.
I soon learned all of the known details of the violin's remarkable history, which is complete with twists and turns to rival the film that I had only recently finished working on, The Red Violin. Believed to be one of only five or six instruments made in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari in Cremona, Italy, the violin has belonged to many, including the English violinist George Alfred Gibson. But it was its connection to Bronislaw Huberman that I found particularly fascinating and somewhat personal.
Huberman was a Jewish Polish violinist who lived from 1882-1947. He was a child prodigy who was revered for his remarkable virtuosity and daring interpretations. Huberman studied under Joseph Joachim in Berlin, and by the age of 11 he was already touring Europe as a virtuoso. It was during one of those early tours that he met the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was only six at the time, and had not yet achieved the legendary status that he came to hold. The two musicians remained lifelong friends.
At 13 Huberman had the honor of performing the violin concerto of Johannes Brahms in the presence of the composer himself, who was stunned by his interpretation. According to biographer Max Kalbeck, "As soon as Brahms heard the sound of the violin, he pricked up his ears, during the Andante he wiped his eyes, and after the Finale he went into the green room, embraced the young fellow, and stroked his cheeks. When Huberman complained that the public applauded after the cadenza, breaking into the lovely Cantilena, Brahms replied, 'You should not have played the cadenza so beautifully.' "
Huberman became one of the most celebrated musicians of his time, but it was in 1929 that his contribution to humanity took on an added dimension. During that year he visited Palestine and came up with the idea to establish a classical music presence there. During Hitler's rise to power, Huberman had the foresight to realize he could save many Jewish artists while fulfilling his desire to start a Palestinian Orchestra. Huberman auditioned musicians from all over Europe. Those selected for the orchestra would receive contracts and, most importantly, otherwise impossible-to-get exit visas from their homeland to Palestine. Huberman raised the money for the musicians and then their families, even partnering with Albert Einstein to set up an exhaustive U.S. fundraising trip in 1936. By the end of that tour, the money for the orchestra was secured and sixty top-rate players had been chosen from Germany and Central Europe.
All in all, it was a fantastically successful tour, barring one particular performance at Carnegie Hall on February 28th. That night Huberman chose to play the second half of his concert on his 'other violin', a Guarneri del Gesu. During the applause following his performance of the Franck Sonata, Huberman's valet walked on stage to inform him that his Stradivarius had been stolen from his dressing room. The police were called while Huberman tried not to panic, continuing optimistically with his encores. The instrument had previously been stolen in 1919 from a hotel room in Vienna but was recovered days later when the thief tried to sell it. This time, Huberman was not so lucky.
There are several versions as to exactly how and why the violin was stolen, but what we know for sure is that the instrument ended up in the hands of a young freelance violinist by the name of Julian Altman. Some say Altman's mother convinced him to steal it; others report that Altman bought if off the actual thief for $100. Regardless, Altman took great pains to conceal the violin's true identity, covering its lovely varnish with shoe polish and performing on it throughout the rest of his career, which included a stint as first chair with the National Symphony Orchestra during World War II.
Heartbroken, Huberman never saw his Stradivarius again. However, his great dream was fulfilled when the new Palestine Orchestra made its debut in December of 1936 with the great Toscanini on the podium. I like to imagine that my own relatives might have been in the audience on that opening night, as my grandfather was born there and my great grandfather was part of the first "Aliyah" of Russian Jewish immigrants to Palestine in 1882. As for his violin, it was played by its suspected thief for over fifty years, and in 1985, Julian Altman made a deathbed confession to his wife, Marcelle Hall, about the true identity of the instrument. She eventually returned the violin to Lloyd's of London and received a finder's fee; and the instrument underwent a nine month restoration by J & A Beare Ltd which noted it was like "taking dirt off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel."
The instrument was then sold to the late British violinist Norbert Brainin of the Amadeus String Quartet. Previous to my fortuitous encounter with the violin at J & A Beare, Brainin had once let me play it after a rehearsal of the Mozart g minor string quintet which I had the pleasure of playing with him one evening in the 1990s. "One day you might be lucky enough to have such a violin," he had said prophetically.
And so here I was in 2001, buying some strings at the violin shop and I was introduced to the 1713 Stradivarius again. As it was handed to me, I was told it was being sold to a wealthy German industrialist for his private collection. However, after playing only a few notes on it I vowed that this would not happen. This was an instrument meant to be played, not just admired. I fell in love with the instrument right away, and even performed that very night on it at the Royal Albert Hall. I simply did not want it to leave my hands.
This violin is special in so many ways. It is overwhelming to think of how many amazing people have held it and heard it. When I perform in Israel with the Israel Philharmonic, I am always touched to think how many of the orchestra and audience members are direct descendants of the musicians Huberman saved from the Holocaust with funds raised by concerts performed on the very same instrument I play every day. Who knows what other adventures will come to my precious violin in the years to come? While it certainly will be enjoyed and admired long after I am not around anymore, for the time being I count myself incredibly lucky to be its caretaker on its 300th birthday.
Hear Joshua Bell play Brahms Violin Concerto on this storied instrument at our Opening Night on September 21. Read more
By Lauren Levine, guest blogger
Since moving to Charlotte nearly five years ago, I've discovered plenty of summer activities worth checking out. But though my list of "must attend" events is long, the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops performances remain at the top. If you're new to the experience, here are a few of my tips for making the most of it.
Schedule out-of-town visits accordingly
When my best friend from high school came to check out Charlotte for the first time, a Summer Pops show was definitely on the itinerary for her trip. It was the perfect way to break up a weekend that included plenty of eating, brewery hopping, and pool time. If you've got friends and family members who are eyeing a trip to the Queen City, plan accordingly.
Bring the whole family
The Summer Pops experience is perfect for everyone in your family, because it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about the symphony. You're hearing familiar music (selections this year will be from E.T., Star Wars, Wicked, and The Sound of Music, just to name a few) in a relaxed, comfortable setting. Kids will love running around outside at the park before the show starts, and the experience feels approachable for attendees of all experience levels.
Get there early to snag the ideal spot
Needless to say, the Summer Pops shows are popular. If you want a great sightline, get to Symphony Park early - gates open at 5 p.m., prelude acts are at 7 p.m. - so you have time to set up shop and pick the perfect spot. Bring your favorite blanket or a low-backed chair so you stay comfortable throughout the evening without blocking others' views.
Unlike other concert experiences where you're spending money on food and drinks in addition to the price of a ticket, at Summer Pops you can bring your own treats to munch on as you enjoy the show. Personally, I'd recommend something light, such as cheese and fruit. Don't forget that you can bring wine and beer too (no liquor)! Another favorite option of mine is to pop over and enjoy the patio at Reid's Fine Foods before heading to the performance. Reid's is also on site at the park, so you can purchase charcuterie, etc. without walking too far, if you didn't pack your own.
Choose the Premium Seating Club for shade and ease
When you want the easiest Summer Pops experience from start to finish, the Premium Seating Club is your best bet. A little pricier, but that's because your ticket includes VIP parking, seating under a tent, and a boxed picnic from Reid's. It's probably the most relaxing way to experience the show, if you have it in your budget.
Beat the heat
In case you haven't noticed, Charlotte summers are hot, to say the least. But if you want to enjoy the music of the Charlotte Symphony without the added dose of humidity, the Summer Pops series has an indoor experience, too! On June 22, a DeLorean will be riding down Tryon Street for Back to the Future In Concert at Belk Theater. I repeat, a DeLorean. Soak up both the music and the sweet, sweet air conditioning.
Maximize your flexibility
If you love the option of buying tickets at the gate but also are trying to be kind to your wallet, the GoPass is your best bet. Select the shows that appeal most to you, and save 25 percent versus if you bought tickets for individual shows.
Use your social media skills to your advantage
If you're social media savvy, you can use your love of hashtags and filters to your advantage! When you snap a great shot during a Summer Pops show, post it to your favorite social media channel and you may win a pair of tickets to an upcoming performance. Hashtag is #SummerPops2018
Also, before you go, be sure to consult these handy Summer Pops FAQs to find answers to all your park questions.
Which Summer Pops shows are you planning to check out this year? If you see me at a performance, make sure to say hi!
Lauren Levine is a Charlotte-based freelance writer and co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @lifewithlauren1.
Tickets availabel here:
"Where we're going, we don't need roads."
thanking him for "keeping my dream alive."
On April 20, your Charlotte Symphony presents the altsounds series finale: Rockin' with Dylan. The centerpiece of the program is a work by contemporary composer John Corigliano, inspired by Dylan's poems, featuring new music soprano Lindsay Kesselman. Read more about Kesselman below.
Hailed by Fanfare Magazine as an "artist of growing reputation for her artistry and intelligence...with a voice of goddess-like splendor," Lindsay Kesselman is a soprano who passionately advocates for contemporary music.
This season Kesselman has the honor of being the featured singer at John Corigliano's 80th birthday concert celebration at National Sawdust in NYC. Other season highlights include her debuts with the North Carolina Symphony and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, as well as the 2017 release of Antique Violences on Blue Griffin, featuring Songs from the End of the World by John Mackey, written for Kesselman and chamber winds.
During the 2015-16 season, Kesselman made her debut with both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Dutch National Opera in a leading role of a new opera by composer Louis Andriessen entitled Theatre of the World. A live audio recording was released on Nonesuch Records in September 2017.
In 2012-2015 she sang with the Philip Glass Ensemble on an international tour of Philip Glass' opera Einstein on the Beach. Kesselman is also the resident soprano with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Other recent and upcoming performances include her debut at Carnegie Hall singing Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man, premieres of new works for soprano and wind symphony by D.J. Sparr and Robert Beaser, and on Bright Angel and Atonement, recordings of American contemporary music released on the Fleur de Son Classics.
Kesselman holds degrees in voice performance from Rice University and Michigan State University. More information can be found at: www.lindsaykesselman.com
Fun Fact: Kesselman is also the wife of CSO's Assistant Conductor Christopher James Lees. Read more
On March 23 & 24, your Charlotte Symphony will perform Bernstein at 100: West Side Story and More.
Join us in celebrating the centennial of Bernstein's birth and expand your knowledge of this great American composer!
1. Leonard Bernstein was originally born Louis Bernstein at the pressing wishes of his grandmother, but his parents and friends preferred to call him Leonard ("Lenny" for short). When Bernstein was 16, his grandmother passed away, which allowed him to have his name legally changed to Leonard.
2. He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts to Russian/Jewish immigrants, and began playing piano at young age of five.
3. Bernstein's rise to fame was rapid. He was unexpectedly named Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic with less than 24 hours' notice, when he was called upon to stand in for flu-stricken Bruno Walter. The program included works by Schumann, Miklós Rózsa, Wagner and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote with soloist Joseph Schuster, solo cellist of the orchestra. After a brilliant performance, he made the front page of The New York Times the following morning.
4. In a concert of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1, where he famously argued with the pianist Glenn Gould in rehearsal (Gould wanted a slower tempo), Bernstein made an announcement to the audience before they began: "Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here....in a concerto, who is the boss....the soloist or the conductor? The answer is, of course, sometimes one and sometimes the other, depending on the people involved." Ever the entertainer, who waited for the applause between each line of his address, Bernstein was later criticized for either attacking Gould or simply abdicating responsibility for the performance that was to ensue.
5. Perhaps his best-known work is the Broadway musical, West Side Story. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the musical explored rivalries between two 1950's New York gangs (the Jets and the Sharks). What many don't know is that the musical was originally going to be about an Irish Catholic family and a Jewish family living on the lower east side of Manhattan. This idea was discarded, however, and replaced with the story we know and love today.
6. Bernstein was one of the first classical musicians to "master" TV. The Young People's Concerts existed in the US since 1924, but Leonard Bernstein brought them to a whole new audience in 1958 with the first televised concert of its type. Then, in 1962, The Young People's Concerts became a TV series, of which Bernstein conducted 53!
7. Bernstein was a close friend of Aaron Copland and recorded all of his orchestral works. He also played the Copland Piano Variations so regularly that they became his trademark piece.
8. He has been famously quoted saying, "I'm not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer."
9. Though considered a conductor and great pianist, Bernstein oddly never performed a solo piano recital. He did, though, conduct and play in performances of Mozart piano concertos (and memorably in the Ravel Concerto in G).
10. Leonard Bernstein died only five days after retiring. His death was a result of emphysema.
Justice Crawford is making a musical name for himself.
His mother, a psychologist and one-time flutist, has played in orchestras and knew she wanted her children to be exposed to music. "I've always had an appreciation for what music can do for the mind and for a person's spirit in general," says Endora Crawford. "It's always been my plan for my kids to dabble in music."
But Justice is doing more than just dabbling. This talented 8th grader is one of the first two students from the Charlotte Symphony's Winterfield Youth Orchestra program (now part of Project Harmony), covered in The Charlotte Observer in 2014 for his successful audition and admission into Northwest School of the Arts.
Maybe music helped ground Justice. His father served as a U.S. Naval Officer for 23 years, so he was born in Japan and spent many of his younger years in Hawaii. When his parents divorced, his mother moved the boys from Hawaii to Charlotte, landing in the Winterfield neighborhood. The family then moved to south Charlotte, where he is now an 8th grader at Alexander Graham Middle School.
Justice recently took his musical next step: auditioning for the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra.
Of the new group, in which Justice plays viola, Ms. Crawford says, "It's good to push him." Following his little bit of fame, she adds, she noticed an increased seriousness from her son--that people were noticing him, so they would be counting on him. "For the seating auditions, we could tell he was physically nervous," she says. "But that just meant that he knows it was important, and I love that. It shows that he was really taking it to heart."
Joining JYO also has given Justice a heightened level of discipline, Ms. Crawford says. "He's learning the expectation that you're going to play your best ... and practice harder, because others are now relying on you." Like any sport, an orchestra makes you part of a team. And Justice is playing his part.
So what's next for this budding violist? Ms. Crawford says she and her son have talked about career choices and this lover of math says his top choices are to become an Intellectual Property attorney or go into cyber security. As for music, Ms. Crawford says, "The plan is to play music as long as he'd like to continue to play."
Come support Justice and the dozens of other talented young musicians in JYO at an upcoming concerts. Read more
Did you know that the music of Vivaldi's Four Seasons is based on four poems written by Antonio Vivaldi? In the music, each "Season" consists of a three-movement concerto. Two quick-tempo outer movements frame a central slow-tempo movement. The sonnets included in the score provide a specific description of each movement. A prose translation of the original Italian is provided below.
La Primavera (Spring)
Opus 8, No. 1, in E Major
Festive Spring has arrived,
The birds salute it with their happy song.
And the brooks, caressed by little Zephyrs,
Flow with a sweet murmur.
The sky is covered with a black mantle,
And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm.
When they are silent, the birds
Return to sing their lovely song.
II. Largo e pianissimo sempre--
And in the meadow, rich with flowers,
To the sweet murmur of leaves and plants,
The goatherd sleeps, with his faithful dog at his side.
III. Danza pastorale. Allegro--
To the festive sound of pastoral bagpipes,
Dance nymphs and shepherds,
At Spring's brilliant appearance.
Opus 8, No. 2, in G minor
I. Allegro non molto--
Under the heat of the burning summer sun,
Languish man and flock; the pine is parched.
The cuckoo finds its voice, and suddenly,
The turtledove and goldfinch sing.
A gentle breeze blows,
But suddenly, the north wind appears.
The shepherd weeps because, overhead,
Lies the fierce storm, and his destiny.
II. Adagio; Presto--
His tired limbs are deprived of rest
By his fear of lightning and fierce thunder,
And by furious swarms of flies and hornets.
Alas, how just are his fears,
Thunder and lightening fill the Heavens, and the hail
Slices the tops of the corn and other grain.
Opus 8, No. 3, in F Major
The peasants celebrate with dance and song,
The joy of a rich harvest.
And, full of Bacchus's liquor,
They finish their celebration with sleep.
II. Adagio molto--
Each peasant ceases his dance and song.
The mild air gives pleasure,
And the season invites many
To enjoy a sweet slumber.
The hunters, at the break of dawn, go to the hunt.
With horns, guns, and dogs they are off,
The beast flees, and they follow its trail.
Already fearful and exhausted by the great noise,
Of guns and dogs, and wounded,
The exhausted beast tries to flee, but dies.
Opus 8, No. 4, in F minor
I. Allegro non molto--
Frozen and trembling in the icy snow,
In the severe blast of the horrible wind,
As we run, we constantly stamp our feet,
And our teeth chatter in the cold.
To spend happy and quiet days near the fire,
While, outside, the rain soaks hundreds.
We walk on the ice with slow steps,
And tread carefully, for fear of falling.
Symphony, If we go quickly, we slip and fall to the ground.
Again we run on the ice,
Until it cracks and opens.
We hear, from closed doors,
Sirocco, Boreas, and all the winds in battle.
This is winter, but it brings joy.
|Older Posts »|
- Nkeiru Okoye on Composing Charlotte Mecklenburg
- How a Violinist is like a Pro Athlete
- 6 Things about Joshua Bell
- "An Instrument Meant to Be Played": Joshua Bell on His Stradivarius Violin
- Summer Pops ... Like a Pro
- Fun Facts about Back to the Future
- Spotlight On: Soprano Lindsay Kesselman
- Learn about Lenny: 10 Interesting Facts about Leonard Bernstein
- Justice's Journey
- Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" Poems