Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The blog to end all blogs

Whoa! Scary title! I'm just anticipating this being a little on the longish side. I've been waiting to blog on so many things because I hadn't yet finished up my IDRS story, and now there's a back-log...a back-blog, if you will. Here's my attempt to synopsize the last two weeks in a witty, entertaining way…as if there was any other way!

I want to try and capture the enthusiasm I’d felt while I was at the convention (as may have been apparent from my last blogs), but it doesn’t quite feel the same now that I’m home. Just know that I was very enthusiastic at the time, all the way through Saturday. Just picture me with a geeky smile on my face...too easy, right? Anyway, settle down with a nice glass of wine (that’s what I’m doing!), and let me tell you a tale.

FRIDAY—Conference Day 4

10am Recital…10am feeling early at this point in the week. It was impressive we (note: “we”) got up for it. Michele Fiala played, who was a former student of Martin Schuring. Every piece on her program was one I’d like to (or have already) play (-ed). James MacMillan’s “Intercession for Three Oboes” was rhythmically intricate…and we all know the challenge of blending more than one oboe. It was pretty much flawless. Fiala had made the program multi-media—to the first two pieces she added slides which she felt reflected the music. Like she said to the audience, the pieces could stand alone without the photographs, but her interpretations were clarified with visual aids. That being said, I think the slides were pretty forgettable. The second piece, Paul Reade’s “Aspects of a Landscape: Seven Miniatures” (all bird-based character miniatures), was accompanied by some nice pictures, and I think this piece definitely benefited with the addition. Fiala’s playing, however, didn’t quite match some of her selected slides. The fifth miniature in particular (“Conflict (birds fighting)”) really called for more personality, which I felt was lacking in this performance. The third piece was Phillip Bimstein’s “Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa,” which I’ve played before and absolutely adore. It’s a great piece as both a performer and a listener. Steve Caplan has it on his CD. Check it out. Love, love, love it. However, I did not like the arrangement for flute, oboe and CD. It lost its quirkiness, and the addition of harmonies (mostly thirds) just gave it an air of cheesiness which was not at all Bimstein. It wasn’t Fiala’s arrangement (or Bimstein’s), but it was her transcription for oboe instead of clarinet. Didn’t do it for me. However, it did not diminish my love of this piece, and I will continue to play it for years to come!

The last piece on the recital was a premiere of “Essenz for Oboe and Sounds” by Marc Apfelstadt, played by Charles Veazey. Dave loved the piece so much, he approached the composer (two rows behind us) after the performance and asked if it would work for saxophone. We may just fight over who gets to play it first.

After this recital, Dave went back to our hole, er, dorm room, and I went over to the exhibit hall for the hundredth time. I found Peter, and it looked as though he could not, unfortunately, get away from the Marigaux booth for a lesson. That was disappointing, but maybe I’ll be able to fly to Denver this year. It would really help in my lecture-document preparation. Anyway, I spent so long in the exhibit hall that morning that I had to miss a recital I’d wished to see at 1pm so that I could eat lunch. I hadn’t had breakfast that morning, thinking I’d wait to eat my granola bar until after I’d played some instruments. I played some instruments, got my knives sharpened by Jende Knives (what a gold mine that table must have been!!), sorted through tube cane (a courtesy that company must have regretted after it took me half an hour to find a quarter pound of decent cane), bought some CDs, had Christian Schmitt sign my new CDs, chatted with Schmitt and the Buffet people, in French, thank you very much, and…well, I’m sure I did more and bought more, but I can’t remember anymore!

After lunch, Dave and I went to Nancy Ambrose King’s recital at 2pm. OMG, she is amazing. Better than I’ve ever heard her. The visual was fantastic too, and I’m not talking about slides! The first piece was Ginastera’s Duo for Flute and Oboe (amazing piece), and the pair (Nancy Ambrose King and Amy Porter) knocked us out before playing a single note, wearing (coincidentally?) matching bright red gowns. Killer bodies these ladies have! Nancy must do crunches while making reeds or something. I don’t know how else she’d find the time to work out! Anyway, did I mention the performance was amazing? The second piece was Finn Hoffding’s Dialogues for Oboe and Clarinet, which I remember liking, but writing this over a week later, it doesn’t stand out as anything spectacular (can you tell I’m writing this with the program next to me?). The recital concluded with Paganini’s Due No. 2 for Oboe and Bassoon (originally violin and bassoon—bassoonist Jeff Lyman)…now that was impressive. Another must-play for Dave. Right after the performance, Dave went backstage (I don’t know how he managed to get to Nancy through her crowd of admirers—did I mention she’s the current president of IDRS?) and asked her where it was published, etc. He looked up the piece, couldn’t find it, and emailed her. In the next couple days, Dave and Nancy emailed about four times. I’m always impressed with Dave’s (nerve?) ambition in things like that.

The 3pm recital was a step down in quality...sorry, folks. Maybe I shouldn’t mention names. If this was a true review, however, it would not be shining.

I went to the exhibits one last time at 3:30...for the day anyway. Said goodbye to Peter, collected my very sharp knives (what do I do wrong??), spent some more money (thank you, mastercard…that means you don’t have to pay for it!), then went back to our room, where we got ready to go for our leisurely dinner (see post from July 28 to see what happened in the time frame of our leisurely dinner).

The concert on Friday night was excellent. Skip the first two bassoon performances (no, I didn’t skip them, but for purposes here, I’ll skip them…sorry, Karmen, but they weren’t great anyway…just wait until the Saturday concert!), and the third piece was Elizabeth Raum’s “The Phantom Drum”, played by Joesph Salvalaggio. I think I liked it… After intermission, Alex Klein played Marco Aurelio Yano’s “Seresta and Improviso” and Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza VII” (both solo oboe), BOTH BY MEMORY. Good God. I guess if you’ve retired from the Chicago Symphony and only have a zillion guest performances and clinics to do around the world, you too would have time to memorize those pieces. Amazing. I liked it when he asked the audience to “turn on cellphones and beepers…as long as they emit a B-natural as their pitch.” I’ve never been a fan of asking the audience to sing in that piece, but I do think it’s a clever way of distracting them from your performance. ;) Just kidding. Anyway, I didn’t sing, I just listened. He didn’t need the distraction.

Next on the program (hard act to follow) was Theodore Soluri playing some operatic arias on bassoon. The arrangements were great, and he had one of the most beautiful bassoon sounds I’ve ever heard. The concert wrapped up with Christian Schmitt playing the Mozart Oboe Quartet, which was also fabulous. Right after intermission (before Alex Klein played), they announced the winner of this year’s Gillet-Fox Bassoon Competition, Bence Boganyi.

The end is in sight…SATURDAY—Conference Day 5

Abbreviated version maybe?

9am—Tim Hurtz and Daryl Durran Recital. I was very tempted to sleep in, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’d never heard Hurtz before, and I really loved his playing. I would love to sound like him. Of the three pieces they played, I particularly liked Triebert’s Fantasie concertante on “L’Italiana in Algeri”. It was a great arrangement, and I’d love to play it sometime. The next group to perform was the Del’Arte Wind Quintet. I liked the first piece on the program, “Aria and Quodlibet” by Arne Running. It would be great for a children’s concert. The Aria is beautiful, and Quodlibet is essentially a “name that tune” of orchestral excerpts (on all the instruments) interspersed with circus music. Very fun! I almost bought the piece later in the day before I realized that 1) I’d spent too much money this conference, and 2) I don’t have a quintet. :(

I caught the end of another quintet performance, and then it was off to the exhibits one final time. My total spent at the conference, including tube cane, sharpening stone, English horn cane, English horn reed, reed book by Cheryl Wefler, a few CDs, reed thread, knife sharpenings, and some music was...$10. Seriously? Are you kidding? You think I’d write the total down? Ha! This was a once-every-couple-of-years event for me, and I will not feel guilty!

At 1pm I went to hear Martin Schuring play the Bach Concerto in F. Very DeLancie-like. I heard Roger Roe play at 3pm, which was quite inspiring. I might have fallen asleep during his first piece, arrangements of Faure songs for English horn and strings, but that’s a compliment. I needed a few winks. I was wide awake for the Prokofiev Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Bass. I’ve played that piece a few times, and I adore it!

I’m hearing the “wrap it up” music in the back of my mind. Kudos to those of you who’ve made it this far. My apologies for the length of this blog.

At 4pm, the IDRS General Meeting was replaced by a Quaker-style memorial for John Mack. I may have been the only person in the room that had never been to a John Mack Oboe Camp or studied with him privately. I had one lesson with him last year, but I didn’t get as much out of it (or him) as I could have with more lessons. Still, I wanted to pay my respects and hear what others had to say about the man and artist. Not having studied with him or any of his students, I had only heard about him peripherally. Unfortunately, this was generally from a negative anti-Mack playing stance. Let me be clear in saying that none of my teachers were ever “anti-Mack”, so I don’t know where this attitude came from. After having talked with several of his students at the conference though, and non-Mack students, it seems as though this attitude was an exaggeration and mis-interpretation of his playing style. I’d always heard (again, peripherally) that his playing was too reserved, inward, narrow, and that he was technical rather than passionate as a teacher. At the memorial, Mack was remembered with love from all his students as a kind, generous, funny, spirited, and anything but passionless man. I only wish I could have had more contact with him. Everyone was richer for having known him.

The highlight of the conference (besides the 1am fire alarm of course) was the final concert on Saturday evening. On the roster: Gordon Hunt (oboe), Patrick McFarland (English horn), Stefano Canuti (bassoon), John Wetherill (bassoon), Bence Boganyi (bassoon-winner of Gillet-Fox Competitions), and my absolute highlight of the night, Frank Morelli (bassoon). Yes, that’s right, my favourite performance of the night, and next to Leleux, of the whole conference, was a bassoonist. Morelli is a fabulous performer and musician. He captivated the audience with the intensity of his stance and his eyes. You did not dare look away. He played Ezra Laderman’s Bassoon Concerto, which was an intense, aggressive, perfect composition. Those of you that know me know that I like melodies. It had those too, but overall it can only be described as awesome. I asked Dave how he would describe the piece, and he said it had all the best parts of twentieth-century music. Cooler the piece? Laderman was sitting a couple of rows ahead of us, so I approached him afterwards and added to the many compliments he was receiving that night. We ended up chatting for a couple of minutes, me and this 82-year-old genius, and he told me about a more recent piece of his for English horn, Bass clarinet and string quartet. I’ve ordered the CD, and I can’t wait to hear it! Dave took a picture of the two of us, and Laderman asked me to email it to him. Then Morelli came up, and I talked to him. He’d coached my reed trio a couple years ago, and he hugged me. I felt a little giddy at the sheer talent I’d been exposed to that night.

An amazing conference, through and through. Next year it’s in Ithaca, NY, and I asked my friend Robin if she wanted to go. Then I looked at the dates. Robin, I can’t go! Of all weeks, it’s happening when I will (hopefully!!!) be walking across the stage with my new doctorate in hand. IDRS 2008 in Provo, Utah, here I come!

1 comment:

Pattyoboe said...

Thanks so much for your detailed reports! It's been wonderful to read everything, and you make me envious, as well as curious to hear all these great players. (I haven't been as educated as most oboists; having stayed in the same place forever because I landed my job when I was 18 means I missed out on a whole lot. Sigh.)

I was sorry I couldn't go (darn money thing). Next year I have a son who will graduate high school and a daughter getting her bachelor's degree, so yet again I have to miss it. I'm not sure I want to go to Utah (will we have a dress code, like my son did at the BYU campus in Hawaii?!), but I've heard that the following year is in England.

Wow.

Now THAT would be fun to attend! :-)