April 16, 2013

Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim: Friendship, Collaboration and Composition

Johannes Brahms, 1853
Joseph Joachim, 1853, by Menzel
Joseph Joachim, 1853, by Menzel

When I read a book it feels like I know the author just a little bit.  The more books I read by the same author, the more personal the perception of relationship becomes.  That same acquaintance is true when listening to music.  Beethoven, Mozart, Bach-their styles are well known and comfortably familiar.  I am barely an amateur musician, but when I play music and multiple pieces by the same composer it adds a depth and understanding to the experience.  So imagine the process and experience of collaborating with a composer on a concerto written for your instrument. A close friendship between composer and performer can be an intimate creative process. Such were the circumstances between Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim in creating Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77.

Joseph Joachim and Amalie Weiss
Joseph Joachim and Amalie Weiss
Joachim and Brahms were alike in many aspects.  They both held very high standards of music quality and artistic integrity.  Joachim is “widely regarded as one of the most accomplished violinist of his time.”  He and Brahms collaborated closely for many years. From 1881 to 1883 their friendship cooled after Joachim believed his wife was having an affair and Brahms disagreed with the suspicions in a letter written to Joachim’s wife.  She offered the letter as evidence in the divorce proceedings.

Had Brahms and Joachim not met in May 1853, Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 may have never been written.  At the ages of 20 and 21 the musicians, Brahms as accompanist and Joachim as violinist, become life-long friends. In 1853, Joachim introduced Brahms to Robert and Clara Schumann, another life-changing friendship for Brahms. Brahms fell in love with Hungarian music during his friendship with Hungarian Joachim and as a result composed his well-known Hungarian Dances from 1858-1868.

Brahms’ summer in Pörtschach Austria in 1878 inspired a sketch of their most significant collaboration, the Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77, in 1878. The first performance, in Leipzig, on New Year’s Day, 1879.

In modern culture, the third movement of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major has been used in film scores such as Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 film There Will Be Blood including the end and main credits. The third movement was also the inspiration for the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice song Don't Cry for Me Argentina from the musical Evita.

Brahms’ love of Hungarian themes inspired the third movement of his concerto.  Spring Program book contains program notes for the Concerto discussing the technical side of the piece are available here.

by Judy Cowling

Los Angles Philharmonic program notes written by Grant Hiroshima, executive director of a private foundation in Chicago and the former Director of Technology Development for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Arizona Theater http://www.arizonatheatre.org/atc-resources/dynamic/ed_docs/opnDrs_playguide-Brahms.pdf
Chicago Symphony
The Musical Quarterly
Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77: (1878)

April 9, 2013

Meet Neal Gittleman

Neal Gittleman
©2007 Andy Snow
Photo credit Andy Snow
During the current Muncie Symphony Orchestra season staff, musicians and the Board of Directors were presented with an opportunity to seek conductors for each concert who bring with them a set of unique skills and a personal interpretation of the music.  Each of the five conductors: Rick Sowers, Sameer Patel, David Glover, Neal Gittleman and Larry Rapchak were recommended by the MSO musicians who had played under the conductor’s baton.  What I am saying is that each conductor was highly praised and heartily recommended.  If you have attended the concerts this season, you know we choose well.  The feedback from those who experienced the MSO most recent concerts has been exceedingly complimentary. 

I have heard many praises of Neal Gittleman in the past 15 years from musician friends who played in the Marion Philharmonic Orchestra when Neal was Music Director there. When he moved from the Marion Phil to the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra there was much sadness in Grant County.  Indeed, he is still missed.  Maestro Gittleman has many wonderful and innovative accomplishments in his resume.  You may read about them here and here .

One of the delights of my time in orchestra administration has been to get to know those who make the music.  We often hear about how the life experiences of the composer influenced the music she/he wrote.  A tangible human connection with those making music also adds another dimension to my listening experience.   For this reason I was searching for an intimate conversation with Neal Gittleman and came across this interview published on Saturday, October 20, 2012 in the Dayton Daily News.   I hope getting to know a little of the personal side of Neal adds to your enjoyment of the concert he will conduct on April 20th.

You are  cordially invited to Prelude, MSO's pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. in Williams Lounge (lower floor of Emens Auditorium).  The speakers will be  Mr. Gittleman and guest violinist Svetlin Roussev. 

A Sunday Chat with Neal Gittleman
The first in a series of up-close and personal visits with the folks who make an impact on the arts in our region
Staff Writer

In 1994, when the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra was seeking a new music director, several candidates were brought to town for auditions. Audiences were then asked to fill out written evaluations on each of them.
“I remember what I wrote after Neal Gittleman was here,” says Rochelle Goldstein, a long-time DPO subscriber.  “I wrote: ‘HIRE THIS MAN!’”
The Clayton resident says she’s never been disappointed.
“Neal has re-energized the arts community and the orchestra,” Goldstein says. “He’s brought out the best in every section of the orchestra, and he’s been brilliant at outreach and in conceiving new program ideas. His Classical Connections series is great for people who would like to understand more about what they’re hearing.”
Gittleman, at ease in both his tuxedo and his Spiderman costume, is one of those local arts personalities who’s earned a special place in the heart of the community through the years. Whether he’s emerging from a coffin in a ghoul costume, visiting schools to share his love of music with youngsters, or performing his own zany lyrics in a stripped-down version of The Mikado at a Fraze Pavilion summer concert.
There is no one better to kick-off our new series of informal conversations about life as a working artist than the music director of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.

Q: So, what kind of child were you?
A: Well, I thought I was pretty normal until my mom moved into assisted living and in going through her files I found all the early school evaluations they saved. 

Q. What triggered your interest in music?
A: My mother was a public school music teacher, so there was always music in the house. I have vivid (and thrilling) memories of seeing rehearsals and performances of her chorus at Bushwick High School in Brooklyn. (The Hallelujah Chorus and “Buffalo Gals” were my two biggest favorites.). So I guess I was more or less always interested in music.

Q: Do you play instruments?
A: The instruments that I’ve been known to play are (in chronological order) piano, violin, and viola. I certainly use the piano as a tool — for score study, to accompany soloists in pre-rehearsal rehearsals, and so on. 

Q: Who were influences in your life and in what ways did these people influence you?
A: It has to be five teachers: Helen Goodwin, the music teacher in Norwich, Vermont who first got me interested in the violin; Channing Kempf, a Boston-area freelance violinist who figured out how to get me from scratchy to having a real sound in a single lesson; John Mauceri, conductor of the Yale Symphony, whose joy on the podium made me think about conducting; Nadia Boulanger, who made me (and helped me make myself) into the musician (and person) that I am; and Charles Bruck, who taught me countless lessons (positive and negative) about the technique and the psychology of conducting.
One other important formative influence: watching Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on TV when I was kid. Probably more than anything else, that gave me the idea that classical music (and orchestral music in particular) was interesting, fun, and exciting.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to conduct and what about it appealed to you?
A: Playing in the Yale Symphony made me fall in love with the orchestra as an “instrument” and as a way of collectively making music. It also convinced me that I liked the sound of the orchestra much better than the sound of my own violin in my left ear! That got me thinking of conducting as a way to stay in orchestral music without hearing myself play.


Q: What is the role of the conductor, has it changed over the years?
A: In the “bad old days” it was rather dictatorial… “My way or the highway!” Now it’s more collaborative, more democratic — at least here, in the U.S.

Q: How would you describe the relationship between the conductor and the members of the orchestra?
A: That’s the most complicated — and most interesting part — of the job. You have to lead, you have to tell people what to do and often you have to tell them to change what they’re doing. But you have to realize that the players have their own (often quite valid) ideas about how the music should go. So how you navigate the orchestra’s need for unity with the musicians’ need for individual expression is where it really gets interesting. Bruck used to tell me, “The conductor’s job is to get them to do what you want but have them feel they’re doing what THEY want.”
As far as the “relationship,” you have one relationship with the orchestra as a whole and also 83 individual relationships with the players. And that’s a delicate balancing act — the one relationship is more important than the 83. Some musicians want you to be their friend, others just want you to be the boss who lets them do their job and otherwise leaves them alone, some want no relationship at all. So it’s exactly like conducting…managing both the micro and the macro simultaneously, always listening for changes in the equilibrium, and adjusting as appropriate. 

Q: What qualities do you think make a good conductor?
A: As a conductor on the podium I think the most important thing is knowing how to lead while understanding what’s it’s like to be led. Then there’s all the behind-the-scenes stuff…studying the music, thinking about and making decisions about interpretation. And THEN there’s the other stuff…planning, programming, PR, fundraising, etc.

Q: What do you look for when hiring someone new for the orchestra? Is it solely your decision?
A: Everyone who gets into the DPO (or any other U.S. professional orchestra) does so by winning an audition. Our auditions are “blind” — an Audition Committee (several musicians and me) sit behind a screen. We don’t know who the auditioner is, we don’t see them, we can only hear how they play. We have them play a selection of representative (and difficult) excerpts from standard-repertoire pieces, and we pick the person we think who plays them the best.
Once someone wins the audition, then we find out how they work in the context of the orchestra, and usually they do very well. So it’s not solely my decision. According to the audition rules of our collective bargaining agreement, the conductor gets one vote, just like everyone else. Except if there’s a tie, and then I have an extra, tie-breaking vote. And I can veto a selection. But in practice, I’ve never used my tie-breaker or my veto. At auditions, I see my job as akin to that of the foreman of a jury, and I try to help the committee reach a consensus decision.

Q: How do you select pieces for concerts?
A: I work in close collaboration with Dayton Performing Arts Alliance President Paul Helfrich and also with a program committee. The latter makes me a bit of an anomaly among conductors. Most conductors don’t want anyone meddling in their programming decisions. But I actually find the committee to be very useful, serving both as a source for good ideas that I haven’t thought of myself, and also as a sounding board for my own good and wacky ideas.


Q: What do you do in your off-time?
A: Movies, books, squash, golf, tai chi, yoga. Sometimes I get to nap, too.

Q: What books are you reading and would you recommend?
A: I’m currently reading “Game of Thrones” and “Before the Dawn,” a book that explores human history in light of recent advances in research into the human genome. 

Q: What are a few of your favorite pieces of music?
A: That’s so hard to answer, but here are few that come to mind immediately: Bach: St. Matthew Passion; Brahms: German Requiem; Debussy: La mer; Steve Reich: The Cave; Shostakovich: Symphony #13 (“Babi Yar”); The Beatles: A Day in the Life; The Who: Baba O’Reilly; The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter.

Q: What would you recommend to parents or grandparents who want their children to be interested in music?
A: Expose them to music — all kinds of music — from the moment they’re born. And not just music that comes from an electrical appliance. Sing to them. Sing with them. When to start lessons is a tricky question. If you want your child to have a chance to get really good at music, the earlier the start the better — often you find that world-class musicians started as early as age 3 or 4. But the best time to start lessons on an instrument is when the child expresses interest.

Q: Where do you spend vacations?
A: (My wife,) Lisa and I usually spend a couple of weeks each summer in Door County, Wisconsin. It’s a wonderful, peaceful, quiet place for R&R, perfect for “recharging the batteries.”

Q: Where have you traveled that you’ve liked the most?
A: One of my favorite places to visit has been Japan. I’ve been there three times — all for work. I found Japan (particularly urban Japan) an amazing and infinitely fascinating place, both very familiar and foreign-feeling at the same time.

Q: What’s on your bucket list?
A: A round of golf at the Old Course at St. Andrews, hearing Wagner’s operas at Bayreuth, and throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game. 


Q: What dreams do you have for the orchestra?
A: My dream for the orchestra — and for all the arts in Dayton — is to be a central part of the civic life of our community. To an extent, that dream is already a reality. But there are still many people who don’t think our music is “for them.” I’d love to have the chance to win them over.

Q: What are the greatest challenges Dayton faces at the moment? The arts?
A: I think Dayton’s biggest challenge is how to successfully move from the Dayton-of-the-past (built on manufacturing and big national and international companies) to a Dayton-of-the-present/future (built on something else). For the arts, thinking big-picture, it’s how to keep the arts important to people’s lives when so many children have little or no experience or exposure to the arts. Fortunately, art is very compelling and powerful. Usually you just have to get someone to get up the courage to try it and you’ve got a good chance to get hooked.

Written by Judy Cowling

April 8, 2013

April 20, 2013 MSO Concert: Who ARE these people?!

This is the first in a short series about the music and people you will meet at the MSO Season Finale concert on April 20th.
Most of the people you will see are old friends and seasoned MSO musicians.  No matter who else is on stage, conductor, choir, dancers, it is the talent and incredible dedication to music who make the music you hear.

Muncie Symphony Orchestra at Sursa Hall February 23, 2013
Muncie Symphony Orchestra at Sursa Hall
February 23, 2013
All my life I have heard the term “sacrifice for missionary work”, and it is applicable in the world of the musical arts at MSO.  Sacrifice is not necessarily all monetary.  Just one example: One particular MSO employee has a Master of Music from Indiana University.  Full time employment earning a living as a musician is very rare and difficult to achieve.  This musician has one full time job, one part time job, and is a regular section musician for the three regional orchestras, Muncie Symphony, Anderson Symphony, and Marion Philharmonic.  Musicians are sent music several weeks before rehearsals begin. They are expected to know the music when they sit for the first rehearsal.
Keep practicing

Rehearsal time can be used to plan and rehearse the tempos and dynamics that make the music as breathtaking as Beethoven’s 7th Symphony  experienced at MSO’s February 23rd concert.  Commonly orchestras have concerts around the same time of the year.  The next several weeks this individual’s schedule is inhuman:  Job 1: 8a – 5p, Job 2 5:15p – 6:30p, Orchestra rehearsal (including travel time) 6:45p – 11:15p.
Rehearsals for MSO’s April 20th concert begin on April 17th.  This season, the orchestra, the conductors and the soloists face a unique and challenging situation to bring live music to the stage.  Each is new to their role in creating an ensemble.  Ensemble performance is extremely nuanced.  Small ensembles do not as a rule have a conductor.  The musicians know intuitively and from much rehearsal how and when to change a tempo and a dynamic, and how to play together as one instrument.  Orchestras need a conductor to achieve this level of musicianship.  Ideally, the conductor and orchestra work together for many seasons and learn how to communicate to achieve beautiful music.  This season, you will see the fourth conductor of the MSO.  (And there is yet a fifth at Festival on the Green.)  The search is continuing for a Music Director/Conductor.
 ©2007 Andy Snow
Neal Gittleman conducts the Season Finale Concert.  You will meet him in another post in this series.

February 14, 2013

POWER-ful Brass ~  not brass exactly. Think of brass as fearless, adventurous, brave, or courageous.   That is what I think of a concert in a warehouse – adventurous, brave, courageous, fearless!
How does one pull off very special experience in a warehouse?  Book a great band, partner with a long-time Muncie business, decorate with lots of fabric, balloons, and color.  Offer luscious snacks, classic music of the crooners of the 20th century and today, and of course dancing!  It’s a perfect end to Valentine’s week.
Start with the quintessential Sinatra song list, add the lyrical styling of Tony Bennett, sprinkle in the hot, contemporary horn charts of Harry Connick Jr., and then add the modern flavor of Michael Buble. The Harry Arnett Band will entice you and your friends to dance the night away!

Almost Like Being in Love                                Frederick Loewe / Alan Jay Lerner
Night and Day                                                      Cole Porter
More                                                                        Alex Alstone /Tom Glazer
I Left My Heart in San Francisco                   George Cory / Douglass Cross
The Way You Look Tonight                             Jerome Kern / Dorothy Fields,
Sway                                                                        Pablo Beltrán Ruiz / Norman Gimbel
A Foggy Day                                                          George and Ira Gershwin
Georgia on My Mind                                           Hoagy Carmichael / Stuart Gorrell
Wonderful Tonight                                             Eric Clapton
Save the Last Dance for Me                               Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman
An eclectic mix of light instrumental jazz standards as well as dance classics
Holiday dinner and dance

Guest Artists:
Harry Arnett – Vocals
Jim Rhinehart – Keyboard
Jon Block – Bass
Gene Markawitcz – Drums
Will Frazier – Trombone
Larry McWilliams – Trumpet

Muncie Power Products
Pershing Street Warehouse
Saturday, February 16, 2013
7:30 pm

342 N Pershing Drive
Muncie, IN 47305

Tickets at the door:
Adults $30
$15 BSU & IVY Tech Students with ID

January 10, 2013

Wine Paring at Tonne Winery Sunday 13th January


Wine and Food Parings

Riesling Wine pared with Jambalaya and rice
Pinot Grigio Wine pared with Chicken Kabob's
Chambourcin Wine pared with Spicy Meatballs
Blackberry Wine pared with Cheesecake
Traminette Wine pared with Cheeses

November 29, 2012

Start Your Holiday Celebrations with MSO's Holiday Show

There is no better experience to start the season than with the sightssounds,  scents, textures and flavors  of the Holidays!
The MSO Holiday Show will have it all this coming Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Emens Auditorium.
Enjoy  the Ball State University holiday decorations of  as you approach Emens Auditorium.  Once inside the warmth of the season will embrace you with the festive decorations of Emens Lobby.  Family and individual portraits are offered courtesy of Murray's Jewelers before the concert.  Give us your happy holiday smiles then download the free portrait from www.munciesymphony.org.
The concert offers an fun, eclectic mix of music and performers from high energy singing by the Ball State University Glee Club and dancing of the Nutcracker by the Ball State Dancers to an  intimate duet "Baby It's Cold Outside", to Anderson's "Suite of Carols" featuring the brass, strings and woodwinds of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra.
Baby It's Cold Outside
Holidays are rich with flavors, too!  So, come to the Williams Lounge during
intermission and taste yummy cookies and lemonade.
Santa will be in Emens Lobby at intermission with candy canes for the children.
March of the Toys
 Imagine yourself a in the "March of the Toys" at the MSO Instrument Petting Zoo.
You can play instruments in Emens Lobby before the concert and at intermission.
The Little Drummer Boy

And no holiday is complete without Carols!

Charlie Brown's Christmas

Join Andrew Crow, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, Ball State Dancers and Ball State
University Singers Glee Club on Saturday, December 1st at 4 p.m. in Emens Auditorium to
kick off the Holidays.
Andrew Crow, guest conductor
Tickets are available at Emens Box Office and Ticketmaster.  Children K-12 and younger are admitted free.
Muncie Symphony is on
To listen to the Holiday Concert Playlist (a collection of tunes on the Holiday program) on Spotify, type "spotify:user:munciesymphony" in the spotify app search box. You can download the spotify app here.

November 21, 2012

Friends of The Orchestra at Westminster Village

Westminster Village      5801 West Bethel Avenue     Muncie, IN 47304
The premier season of the Friends of MSO Westminster Concert Series was a big success!
Many enjoyed the weekday respite with a wonderful variety of performers and programs.
You don't want to miss the second season! 
Season ScheduleFriends of MSO at Westminster Village
Monday, November 26, 2012Mavis Hiesh, soprano
Tom Schwartz, tenor
Armida Avanesova, pianist
Wednesday, January 9, 2013Serenade String Quartet
David Blakley, violin
Adele Maxfield, violin
Beverly Scott, viola
Anna Thompson-Danilova, cello
February 2013     Date and Time to be announcedOutreach Brass Quintet
 Wednesday, March 20, 2013Piano students of Liz Seidel, Piano Forte
The opening concert is Monday, November 26, 2012.
~Movie, Musical and Classical Tunes Kaleidoscope~
It is a perfect opportunity to recover from the Thanksgiving festivities and early Holiday shopping.
Come as you are. No ticket or reservation required.
Concert Program 
Burton Lane                                Old Devil Moon from Musical “Finian’s Rainbow
                                                               Tom Schwartz, tenor 

James Horner                             Somewhere Out There from Movie “An American Tail
                                                             Mavis Hsieh, soprano   
                                                             Tom Schwartz, baritone 

Hugo  Peretti/Luigi Creatore    Can’t Help Falling Love from Movie “Blue Hawaii
George D. Weiss                                 Mavis Hsieh, soprano   
                                                                Tom Schwartz, tenor 

Anonymous                                 Shenandoah
                                                              Tom Schwartz, baritone 

Aaron Copland/Lowry             Shall We Gather at the River?
                                                               Tom Schwartz, tenor 

Milan Dvorak                               Etude No. 6
                                                               Armida Avanesova, piano

Fibich                                            Poem
                                                              Armida Avanesova, piano

Sasko                                            Blues
                                                             Armida Avanesova, piano

Warren                                         Chattanooga Choo Choo
                                                            Armida Avanesova, piano

Roger Quilter                               Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal
                                                              Mavis Hsieh, sporano 

F. P. Tosti                                     A Vucchella
F. P. Tosti                                     Malia
                                                             Mavis Hsieh, soprano 

Carl Nielson                                I Bear With A Smile My Burden (Danish Folk Song)

Alan J. Prater                            God of the Sparrow
                                                           Mavis Hsieh, soprano

                                                          Tom Schwartz, tenor 

Mavis Hsieh, soprano
        Mavis Hsieh, soprano    Winner of several vocal competitions, Miss Hsieh also has many performing experiences in Taiwan, U.S.A. and Italy. She was heard as Rosalinde in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Other roles include Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and the first witch in Dido and Aneas. Her vocal education includes bachelor degree from National Taiwan Normal University and master degree from Ball State University.

Tom Schwartz, tenor

 Tom Schwartz, tenor     Tom holds a Bachelor Degree from Indiana University and a Master of Arts from University of Pittsburgh. His professional career spanned 40 years teaching German in the Unites States and in Germany.  Tom's musical experience includes opera, musicals and choral work.  Currently he sings with the First Presbyterian Church choir.  Tom delights in spending time with his two married children, a son and daughter who are each married to Australians!  His other pursuits are gardening, photography, reading and of course, singing. Tom recently joined the Muncie Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors and has been actively involved with MSO events and programs.


        Armida Avanesova, pianist      Armida holds bachelor of Engineering degree from petrochemichal college and bachelor’s in Music Education from Music College in Baku, Azerbaijan. She started her career as an engineer and worked for a construction design company for 7 years but switched fields to follow her passion -music, which has become her career. Armida has been teaching music (piano) for 34 years in a public music school in Moscow region, Russia. Her favorite music style is classic jazz. She enjoys traveling and loves spending time with her two grandchildren.