Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beers with bassoonists

Yet again, I'll start with this evening's highlight: Francois Leleux. Three words: Strauss by memory. He didn't even break a sweat. He knew that piece as though he'd grown up speaking it as a language. I first heard Leleux at the ’98 conference in Tempe, or in Madison ’99. I immediately went out and bought his CD after his performance. (And by “went out”, I mean that I went to the exhibit building.) He has since been one of my favourite oboists, with a glorious ringing French sound and impeccable technique. Earlier today I was acutely aware of him as I was trying a Baroque oboe for the first time. He was having a conversation with someone next to the window near the table, and I conveniently examined the craftsmanship of the instrument I was holding, rather than playing it (badly) in front of one of the world’s best oboists. The maker of the Baroque oboes was playing a scale to show me some fingerings, and as Leleux passed by, he said, “sounds great!” kind of sarcastically. Anyway, back to the concert. He was flawless. One single note didn’t speak (that’s a good average), and it was because of water. I can’t imagine a more sympathetic audience! The Strauss, for those of you who don’t know (and that had better not include any oboists!), is, as John Mack once said, “like swimming between two islands in shark-infested waters.” For it to seem completely effortless is a feat unto itself. Leleux went ahead and played in some of the orchestral tutties!! I’d never heard of such a thing in the Strauss!! Gorgeous tone too. Standing ovation for M. Leleux.

I wonder how many of these musicians are superstars in their everyday life. I’m sure Peter Cooper doesn’t walk into his grocery store to points, stares and whispers (…of the past…ok, that was a joke. Kudos to those who got it.) It must be a real trip for these world-class oboists to go to a convention and be treated like movie stars.

Linda Strommen played a Bach Sinfonia (Cantata 12, “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”) to open the concert. She dedicated it to John Mack, who passed away on Sunday. As his passing was so recent, nothing formal had been planned. There was a tribute recital/discussion of sorts on the first day for Wayne Rapier, James Caldwell and Earnest Harrison, but Mack wasn’t added to that. I believe Nancy Ambrose King mentioned there would be a tribute to him during one of the general meetings.

This afternoon I heard Gordon Hunt play York Bowen’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano. That recital was packed, as was Stéphane Lévesque and Emily Pailthorpe’s recital in the morning. I’d never heard of the Bowen piece; it sounded like an English version of the Koechlin Sonata to me. Gordon Hunt was, of course, amazing. The Lévesque-Pailthorpe recital was another impressive act. They played Henri Brod’s “Duo from Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’” for oboe, bassoon and piano. Again, I’d never heard the piece before. I’d love to play it. Lévesque then played a piece by John Hedges, then Pailthorpe played the Poulenc Sonata. She had quite a few problems during the performance. That being said, I much prefer performers squawk on notes when they’re really going for them, such as the many emotional squawks available to us in the Poulenc. Pailthorpe had some response issues, a few unfortunate wrong notes, and the aforementioned squawks, but it was still a great performance. It does make me want to listen to my past recital CDs and re-evaluate. I’m so harsh on myself, but here are some amazing players that have bad days too. And guess what? I still want to buy their CDs. I particularly recommend Emily Pailthorpe’s “Though Lovers Be Lost.” Stunning playing.

The recital concluded with Zelenka No. 5. Pailthorpe and Lévesque were joined by Martin Schuring on second oboe (what a difference in sound to Pailthorpe!) and Mark Romatz on contrabassoon. I thought it worked quite well on contra (instead of cello for the continuo part). I saw Jennifer Wohlenhaus at tonight’s concert (and Sue Odem—both Des Moines Symphony players) and suggested using contra instead of cello for her recital in September. We’re thinking of doing the Zelenka then. I should say, she’s thinking of doing the Zelenka then. I’m excited to play with her again.

I collected Sleeping Beauty (a.k.a. Dave) after that recital, and we went for lunch at a bar and grill near campus. I sat next to none other than Stéphane Lévesque at the bar (Emily Pailthorpe to his right), and we chatted (again: superstar for a week…must get used to lunches being interrupted) about visas (“huh?!” you say), Banff, Montreal Symphony and their performances. I may have also mentioned my blog, so, hello to Stéphane and Emily if you’re reading this. Thanks for the pitcher.

I went to the exhibits three times today. Bought some tube cane, said hi to Cheryl Wefler at Cascade Oboe Reeds, bought her new reed book (hot off the press, a must-have for oboe teachers and students) and ordered an English horn reed from her as well. I’m playing Pines of Rome with CRSO this September, and with studying, traveling and August guests (Laura—yeah! and Ian—yeah!), Cheryl’s wonder reed will put me at ease a bit. I also ran into Peter Cooper; I had not seen him since leaving Colorado four years ago! He’s playing in tomorrow night’s concert, and we’re trying to find time for a lesson sometime before he leaves on Friday night. He’s helping at the Marigaux booth all day on Friday. Speaking of Marigaux, did you know (“you” being any oboists reading this) that Marigaux has a new kind of oboe with alternate head joints?! Wooden/resin alternate head joints replace the upper joint of the instrument, so there is one long middle joint instead. Very interesting. I’m looking forward to talking to Peter about it.

Un-convention-al things:

We started watching “Lost” on DVD last night. OK, we are now hooked. What a scary show though! We’re very happy to have the laptop with us in this dorm room. They must take their studying seriously here at Ball State U.

We got interrupted in our “Lost” viewing last night. At about midnight, the fire alarm went off in our room, and in the rest of the building. We all poked our heads outside our doors, then shuffled down the hall and outside. It was an hour before we were allowed back inside. Grumble, grumble. This happened at the last conference I’d attended in Madison. Back then I saw the winner of the Fernand Gillet Competition in his pajamas. No famous oboists in their pj’s last night. Just me. ;)

We have ants in our room. Itsy bitsy ones in the corner of the room. Dave went to have us moved. The only place they could find was in another building (hassle), on a male floor (cooties), with no private bathroom (not happening). We’re living with the ants. Bubbles (honest! That’s HIS name…) came to spray them down, and now the room smells faintly of vomit. From the spray, not from Bubbles.

And for something of a less-than-tasteful nature:

Big cow article

And now, it’s time for “Lost” before bed. Goodnight! Wow—long post!

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