TRIO Series: the Violinist

As I reflect on this time of celebration, I am reminded of the long road it took to get here and I now view each day in this city, and each concert with this group as a cause for celebration! Here’s to 75 more years! — Karen Wyatt

3830_Utah_Symphony_c0528Karen Wyatt started the violin at the age of five in a public school program. At 13 her family moved to Belgium when her father was stationed there for the U.S. Navy. For three years, Ms. Wyatt studied with one of the violinists from the Belgian National Symphony. She continued her studies and went to Indiana University, earning a degree in violin performance. After
graduation she won a fellowship with the New World Symphony in Miami.

Now in her third season with the Utah Symphony, Ms. Wyatt says celebrating music comes after all the hard work. “It is widely understood that winning a job in an orchestra is incredibly difficult. Not only do you need to be at your best on the right day at the right time, a complete group of strangers all need to be in agreement that you are the right person for the job. I feel so lucky to have been chosen to play with this fantastic group of people in this amazing city.”

Not only did Ms. Wyatt connect with her fellow orchestra members, she also found a husband in percussionist Mike Pape. They wed earlier this spring. “We have reached a huge milestone in our organization’s history,” she added. “As I reflect on this time of celebration, I am reminded of the long road it took to get here and I now view each day in this city, and each concert with this group as a cause for celebration! Here’s to 75 more years!”

 

By Connie Lewis


TRIO Series: The Flutist

As a Frenchman, sensitive to what is happening in Europe, getting together, listening and playing music together, helps us be better human beings. After a concert we are all lighter in our hearts. — Emmanuel Pahud Pahud in Sanssouci 2 (c) Thomas Ernst

When Emmanuel Pahud was five years old growing up in France,
he heard a tune playing at his neighbor’s house. He hummed that tune over and over, and one day he found out that it was  Mozart’s Flute Concerto. The boy was so drawn to it, he started flute lessons that eventually led him to the Paris Conservatory, international competitions, and performing all over the world.

Mozart’s concertos and sonatas for flute are still among the acclaimed flautist’s favorite pieces. “I was born on January 17 and so was Mozart. It was a good start for my life as a musician. I really love to rediscover the same excitement every time I perform it on-stage.”

Music is a celebration for Mr. Pahud, “I see music as moments when people spend two hours together in a concert hall, not just the 200 people on stage, but also the people listening and taking time from hectic lives to make their lives better.”
He views live performance as providing an escape from hardship and unifying us through an experience intrinsic to humanity. “We need this particularly in hard times like we are currently having. As a Frenchman, sensitive to what is happening in Europe, getting together, listening and playing music together, helps us be better human beings. After a concert we are all lighter in our hearts.”

By Connie Lewis 


Stay tuned for our last TRIO series article on Utah Symphony violinist, Karen Wyatt.

TRIO Series: The Conductor

Music celebrates specific moments or seasons in life. Music is about creating unforgettable moments. Music is hard work, but always a celebration. The beauty of the performance communicates with the audience. The orchestra plays for the audience and creates something special they won’t forget. — Jun Markl 

Portrait Jun MŠrkl 2011

For Jun Märkl guest conducting means becoming part of a new team and seeing what he might contribute to building an orchestra. He likes exploring the different approaches each orchestra takes, accepting sugesstions and trying new repertoires. He enjoys working with the Utah Symphony and only wishes he had more time to explore the beauty of the state.

For Maestro Märkl, making music is always a celebration.“Music celebrates specific moments or seasons in life. Music is about creating unforgettable moments. Music is hard workbut always a celebration. The beauty of the performance communicates with the audience. The orchestra plays for the audience and creates something special they won’t forget,” he described in a phone interview. “Music touches your heart in a profound, deep way that doesn’t happen anywhere else in life. Music is a reason to live. It builds a sense of beauty, a sense of value, a sense of life. It is being alive and being able to experience different levels of pure beauty.”

Maestro Märkl notes that his role as a conductor is to use music to communicate on an emotional level with the audience. “Celebration is the excitement of seeing something created live on stage and is a close reflection of what a composer experiences in his life. As conductors we uncover the intent and message of the composers and convey that to the audience. We speak with music and tell a story.”

By Connie Lewis


Stay tuned for our next TRIO series article on the world renowned flutist, Emmanuel Pahud.

2016/17 Season Crossword Contest Update

Hello clever crossword players! A few of you pointed out some typos in our crossword clues. We have uploaded a new PDF, if you’ve been working on this contest, please download the new document!

Thanks to all of our friends out there who brought up the typos! Enjoy the game and stay tuned for when we announce the winner!

The new PDF and the rules and regulations can be found at www.utahsymphony.org/contest.

Best of luck!

Pierre Boulez “Mémoriale”

Words from the principal librarian of the Utah Symphony, Clovis Lark, honoring the great Pierre Boulez.

I first met Pierre Boulez in 1976.  Although I had read of this man as being aloof, icy and difficult, I was immediately aware of someone quite different: warm, genuinely caring and always willing to lend his help when asked. In 1986, there was his offering of an IRCAM job to a computer programming friend of mine in need, who approached him after a concert of Répons in New York. Later, when I found myself without enough clout on my resume, he sent a handwritten letter of “to whom…” accompanied by another letter of apology for having allowed 3 weeks to pass before responding.  He loved hearing from old acquaintances, curious to know of their lives and quick to offer his hospitality should they be able to visit him, whether in Salzburg, Chicago or Cleveland. I have a note offering to show me around Lucerne and his Academy which, sadly, I was unable to accommodate. Similarly, he excitedly offered to show me all the antiquated stage machinery in Bayreuth, should I be there during his residency.  Whenever our paths crossed in Cleveland, New York or Chicago, he always carved out time to visit and share ideas.

While many aspects of Boulez’s life were quite private, his persona never appeared standoffish.  Rehearsals were always open, and he made himself readily available during breaks to both players and guests. The aura of austere detachment cultivated by critics and audiences in their observations of his concert demeanor, was contradicted by the good nature and respect for players exhibited in rehearsal where he was quick to break potential tension with a short quip.  At break he would stand at the podium until all players who might have questions had an opportunity to consult with him. Often, he was the last off the stage. Once in his dressing room, the topics could range as far as the appropriateness of “préservatif” commercials on French prime time news to discussions of minutiae in the next week’s program. And always his mind was alert and ready to discuss any piece of music, just as long as it wasn’t Shostakovich!

He took the ups and downs in life with good humor as well. Arrested in Basel as a terrorist to the outrage of his secretaries, he recounted the incident with humor and laughter. Similarly, when his tiny pen knife was confiscated in O’Hare, his annoyance was tinged with a twinkle in his eye as he imagined their shock when he returned and demanded it back (he never did get its return).  In Ojai, he and his valet, Hans, stood for several minutes watching a crow perched atop a portable toilet, talking animatedly. Hans said the discussion was a about a bird they had once seen at the seaside, taking clams in its beak and dropping them from on high to break the shells.

There was an aura, one he clearly cultivated for a time, of a lack of respect for the past.  But, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  For Boulez, history was incredibly important.  It was tradition that he couldn’t stand.  He called it a “bad game of ‘Telephone’” where a past reality is progressively distorted through various incarnations until it is so mangled as to be unrecognizable.  But history was another matter.  After the composer Arnold Schoenberg died, Boulez notoriously wrote “Schoenberg is Dead.” While the essay clearly does not skimp on Boulez’s impatience for some of Schoenberg’s compositional habits, it is clearly written out of a deep respect for Schoenberg’s achievements which Boulez followed with a lifetime of beautifully crafted performances.  When UCLA decided to rename Schoenberg Hall for Moe Austin (honoring a large donation), Boulez was one of the first people I contacted to help in the successful fight to retain Schoenberg’s name.  He even retracted his article’s title when he was asked in New York after a presentation of Schoenberg’s Op. 29 Suite whether he thought “Schoenberg was still dead?”  “No. But he needs strong medicine!”

Where Boulez was clearly and authentically dismissive was with regard to the future, especially when asked about his legacy and what future music would be like.  He was resolute in letting others learn and perform his music without his interference.  Regarding the future, he mentioned futuristic picture postcards that were for sale in Paris around 1900.  In them, all the buildings had hot air balloons tethered to the roofs, as that was what people imagined the future would bring.  Nobody had any concept of something like an airplane!  The vision of the future was entirely based upon the present and past experience.

This is the Pierre Boulez I knew. He was a formidable composer, with a formidable firmness of mind, and also a formidable conductor, “out of necessity,” as he told me (circumstances forcing him to learn the trade to get Le Marteau sans maître performed). But without the character I knew, all that achievement would have been hollow.

Those who thought him icy, detached, needed only to look at his hands as he conducted. They were those of a poet, full of emotion.

Under Boulez’s direction:

Julie Edwards (Viola) played Prokofiev Scythian Suite with Chicago Civic Orchestra

Ron Beitel (French horn) played Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps with The Cleveland Orchestra

Jamie Allen (double bass) played Mahler Symphony No. 5 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic

TRIO series: the Composer

I find myself organizing celebrations around music rather than the other way around. —Nico Muhly

Nico Mulhy began his musical career as a child growing up in Providence, Rhode Island. A self-proclaimed “alright pupil,” he played piano and sang in a boys choir in a church. It was around the age of eleven that everything clicked. “I loved music, and wanted to not just play and sing, but also write,” says Nico. Since that defining moment in his youth, Nico has dedicated his life’s work to creating music. His are sounds that are heard around the world, that have inspired others to continue listening, to become an active participant in the music. He celebrates life through music.

Nico Muhler

Photo credit: Steven Psano

The Julliard-trained composer spends so much of his life writing music, that he admits to throwing parties based around the completion of a composition. He has written music for friends’ weddings on several occasions.

“It feels negligent of me to allow anybody I know to walk down the aisle to Pachelbel, because we are all adults,” says Nico. For this reason, he makes it a point to write music that suits the occasion, and allows him as a composer to engage with his community more responsibly. He recalls two weddings in particular:

“Last summer, two friends got married on a small island in Iceland, and I wrote music for the assembled company. [There were] two keyboards, viola da gamba, [and] voices.  We crammed ourselves into a tiny corner of the chapel and rehearsed in a sweaty half an hour, and miniature ponies looked quizzically at us. Later that same summer, I wrote music for a wedding where the bride’s childhood friends and neighbors were to be included in the composition: one plays Celtic harp, and the other, a sort of bedazzled steampunk cornet.”

Nico vehemently believes in the power of music. “I think music has the ability to transform space, which is its amazing invisible power,” he says.  For him, the moments just before a rehearsal of a large orchestra are the most moving. These are the moments when each player is focused on what’s in front of them, or what’s in their head, or perhaps their own work. That moment exemplifies life experienced through music.

By Autumn Thatcher


You can also learn more about Nico Muhly’s World Premiere composition, commissioned by the Utah Symphony.

Mahler Memories: Frances Darger

francesDargerFrances Darger (violin, 1942-2012)

Patient Determination

Abravanel gradually, slowly built the whole thing up like you can’t believe. He got into the community, he bought a house, he moved here, he was here all the time except for the summer. If we’d go play in Southern Utah, he went with us to southern Utah. He took us everywhere. And he just gradually, gradually added more weeks, gradually raised the money. He had patient determination. And he was an interesting, wonderful man. And he got to know the community beautifully, knowing who all the movers and shakers were.

Porcelain Reverberations

One of my favorite stories from when we were recording in the tabernacle was when they ran the electrical stuff through the bathroom because they figured it would reverberate better. Well one day they said, “Ooh, we’ve got a problem.” “What happened there?” “Somebody flushed the toilet and fouled up the recording.” It was just fascinating. They got the reverberation from the tile, but they had to stop recording for a minute because somebody flushed the toilet.

Abravanel Hall

Abravanel never got to conduct in the hall, which was sad. But how he got that hall built—that’s still my favorite story. He went to Cyril Harris, and I think he was at New York University or Columbia—he was an acoustician—and he said, “Build us a hall for the symphony, opera, and ballet.” And he came back and said, “There’s no such thing as a perfect hall for the symphony, opera, and the ballet.” He said, “If you’ll look around your town and find an old theater, we’ll remodel it for the opera and the ballet, and we’ll build you a hall for the symphony.” And that’s what happened.

Handel’s Messiah Factoids

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

George Frideric Handel

  1. George Frideric Handel was a superstar among composers of his time and composers of the future. Bach unsuccessfully tried to meet with Handel, but as fate would have it the two never met. What could have come from their meeting leads to speculation and desire to see two greats work together.
  2. The women attending the first production of Handel’s Messiah on April 13, 1742 pleaded to wear dresses with no hoops in order to accommodate more patrons.
  3. The first performance of Handel’s Messiah on April 13, 1742, brought with it an attraction other than Handel’s esteemed name and familiar importance. It also premiered Susannah Cibber, a contralto who was involved with a scandalous divorce.
  4. Mozart would be quoted as saying the following about Handel: “Handel understands effect better than any of us…when he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”  – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  5. In popular culture Handel’s Messiah is unmatched in its use. Nickelodeon’s popular satirical cartoon Ren & Stimpy heavily used Handel’s Messiah. The use of Handel’s Messiah is typically seen during a euphoric moment right before a devastating and unsettling moment of destruction.
  6. Genius is often closely associated with absolutely uncontrollable emotional tirades.  Colleagues and close friends all described his anger and insane outbursts, often assumed to be associated with his obsession with perfection and form.
  7. Handel once had a duel over seating. A rather simple argument over a seating arrangement in the orchestra pit led to a near fatal duel with fellow composer Johann Mattheson. Mattheson’s sword was thwarted by a metal button on Handel’s coat. Afterwards the two settled their differences and remained friends for years.

By Seeth McGavien


It’s time to kick off your holiday season with the Messiah Sing-In! The Utah Symphony Orchestra will be performing at Abravanel Hall on November 28. For more information and tickets, visit this page.

Mahler Memories: Craig Fineshriber

CraigFineshriberCraig Fineshriber (Principal Percussion and Librarian, 1971-1994; Principal Percussion, 1971-2011)

First Experiences

When you’re only sixteen, and Abravanel was conducting the orchestra, there are several things that happen. One of them is you are just scared to death. And secondly, you really do view him as a gigantic personage. Almost godlike. I had never had an encounter with a musician anywhere near his experience. I mean he was a protégé of Bruno Walter and Kurt Weill. He knew Otto Klemperer, and he knew Stravinsky. And that was amazing to a sixteen-year-old kid. I graduated from high school in ’64, and that fall I played my first concert with the Utah Symphony. And that’s when we recorded the Mahler Seventh—that fall. That was also my first experience with Mahler.

Peculiar Sounds of Mahler in the Percussion Section

Alma Mahler—his wife—said, “You’ve written a percussion concerto, not a symphony” because Mahler had all these weird instruments. He had cowbells, and he had big bells. As a matter of fact, Mahler uses huge bells in the finale of the Second Symphony, and he used to take them with him. He would have them shipped where he would go to guest conduct the Second Symphony because they were so important to him. Later on, when he started writing for cowbells, he would carry those around with him, too, because he was very specific about what he wanted in terms of that sound. And then there was the rute, which is a bundle of sticks you smack against the rim of the bass drum—that was a new effect. It’s a great sound. So, he came up with that. And then there are the huge hammer blows in the Sixth Symphony—three of them. And that, of course, was a scandal when he first premiered that sound effect. I’m currently reading a biography of Mahler in four volumes by French musicologist Henry-Louis de la Grange, and enjoy imagining those times.

Contrasts in Mahler’s Life and Music

Mahler was incredibly well read in philosophy, in science, and music history. That’s what he would do in his spare time, although he would set aside a little time each day to spend with his children. That’s one of the essentials about Mahler: there are stretches of folk song or what seem like children’s songs, and then he alternates that with incredible depth and profundity. In the early days, when reviewers started hearing Mahler symphonies, that’s one of the things they criticized him for. But by the Twentieth Century, that’s one of the things that made everybody say, “The man was a genius!” because that is more what living life is like. Every day you have experiences like that. You spend the morning playing with the kids, you know, playing “Life” or something like that with the kids, and then that afternoon you are immersing yourself in some heavy reading or you’re going to rehearsal, or something like that. It’s just back and forth like that.

Mahler Conducts

Mahler did reach the point in his career where he insisted on conducting the premieres of his works because he had a couple of occasions where someone else had conducted one of his symphonies and it fell flat on its face. So at that point he decided, “Okay, anytime there is a premiere, I have to go conduct it or you can’t can’t play it.”

Bruno Walter

Abravanel knew Bruno Walter. As a matter of fact, when Abravanel got the job here in 1947, he called Bruno Walter to tell him, “Hey, I got an orchestra. I got my own orchestra.” And Bruno Walter said, “Yeah, where is that?” And he said, “Well, it’s in Utah.” And Bruno Walter said, “What are you doing out there? You don’t want to be out there. You’re never going to make a name for yourself out there.”

The Clarinetist Who Will Remain Nameless

I think it was in the Mahler Fifth Symphony (and this happens in several of the Mahler symphonies) where certain wind or brass instruments were asked to raise their bells so that the sound will go out more. The German phrase is “Schalltrichter in die Höhe.” It would be stronger, it would be louder, it would be more strident. And in one case during the 5th, it was the clarinets who were supposed to do it. One of the clarinetists—who will remain nameless—refused to do it. The musicians often refuse to do it because they say, “Oh, if we do that we can’t read the music.” So the clarinetist refused to do it. We went through it a couple times and Abravanel noticed that this clarinetist wasn’t doing it. And finally he slammed his hand down on the podium and he said, “It says in the score ‘Schalltrichter in die Höhe!’” It was so frightening that all of the sudden everybody was doing it. Mahler, in his scores, is very, very particular and very detailed about what he wants. So if he wants your bells up, you put your bells up, period. And Abravanel would insist on that.

Single-mindedness

There were people in Abravanel’s orchestra who didn’t like him because he was so single-minded. I remember when one of my children was born, I was there for the birth but then I had to go back to the rehearsal because there was no such thing as time off, even if your baby was born. That’s the way it was. And Gustav Mahler was that way too. So single-minded in purpose that nothing was more important than what you were doing at the moment. Nothing! And nothing was more important than the music.

Becoming a Better Human Being

We were rehearsing a Bruckner symphony and it wasn’t going well, so Abravanel stopped and he said, “Look, you know, we need to work harder on this part. Now when you go to do your practicing, work on this. Let’s make it beautiful.” And he said, “Not because you are musicians, but because you are human beings.” And that’s the way he looked at it. Being a great musician or being a great anything makes you a better human being, and that’s what it’s about. That’s what art is about. That’s what high art is about. It’s to make you a better human being.

Mahler Tells the Story of Life

We were on a trip this summer with Scott Kenney and his wife Susan. At one point, Susan said, “Craig, if you had one symphony that you could take with you to a desert island, what one would it be?” And I thought, and I thought, and I thought. And I said, “You know, I’ve narrowed it down to three, but I think I’d say I want a recording of the Mahler Ninth.” And Scott said, “That’s what I’d take.” I mean, I just think that’s amazing that out of all the things it could possibly have been, here are two people who had played with Abravanel, who were introduced to the tradition and so forth. So Susan said, “Well, why would you do that?” And I said because I think for me as I listen to Mahler symphonies from one through nine and Das Lied, that I’m watching life unfold from the time that you’re a young innocent in nature in the introduction of the First Symphony and the cuckoos and all that kind of stuff, all the way to the Ninth Symphony. It’s about death, especially the last movement. It’s in the last movement where Mahler tells you what it’s like to die. And so I said, “To me, that’s why I would like Mahler Ninth, because that tells the story of not just my life, but it tells the story of everybody’s life.” And that’s why I think he’s just such a great, great composer.

TRIO series: the Timpanist

It was during a dress rehearsal of Brahms Violin Concerto—something came over me in the middle of the third movement that consumed my entire being. It said yes, this is exactly what I want to do. —George Brown

Utah Symphony timpanist George Brown grew up experimenting with different instruments. The son of a professional woodwind player, George knew as a little boy that he wanted to play the drums, but it was not until ninth grade—after taking a break from music to practice his jump shot—that he began playing them. Once he started, he never looked back.

George Brown

It was while pursuing an education at University of Louisville that George decided to audition for the United States Armed Forces Bi-Centennial Band.

“The story of the Bicentennial Band was a story of a particular celebration that ended up having an impact on my life then and afterwards,” says George, who swore into the United States Coast Guard upon landing a spot in the band.

He recalls a time in US history where the nation was not celebrating much of anything. Tremendous political upheaval, riots, high gas prices, the Watergate scandal, and the beginning of terrorism between the 1960s and 1970s consumed the country. From 1975–1976, the Bicentennial Band provided a way for people to come together and celebrate the historical events that led to the creation of the United States. George’s participation in the band meant twenty months of constant touring—and self-exploration.

“I saw the beginning of a healing process in which Americans finally had something to feel good about ourselves as Americans. The entire country participated in this. That provided an opportunity for me to participate in a celebration that was some of the best memories of my early career,” George says.

The tour also gave George the chance to travel—and ultimately come to Utah for the first time. He immediately fell in love with the mountainous landscape, and vowed to return. A series of remarkable musical experiences have given George many reasons to bask in life’s moments. From the East to the West to Mexico City and around the world, George carries with him beautiful memories of celebrating life through music.

By Autumn Thatcher


Stay tuned for our last TRIO series’ article on the well-known composer, Nico Muhly.