The Legacy of Camille Saint-Saëns

Utah Symphony Artist Logistics Coordinator Erin Lunsford takes care of the many guest artists and guest conductors that perform with the orchestra. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon Performance from the University of North Carolina, and still enjoys playing bassoon and studying music history in her spare time.  

LEGACY OF A CARNIVAL

When one thinks of the music of 19th-century French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), what comes to mind? Perhaps the sultry Middle Eastern melodies of Samson et Delila, or the triumphant, brassy finale of the “Organ” Symphony. Perhaps even the glittery, whimsical tunes that permeate Carnival of the Animals. These are all fantastic examples of Saint-Saëns’ unmatched musical style, but there is so much more to this composer than his few most famous works.

Saint-Saëns left an immense musical legacy behind, having written five symphonies, five piano concertos, several operas (and operettas), incidental music, a wide breadth of chamber music, and numerous works for solo piano and solo organ. The Saint-Saëns Project focuses mainly on the composer’s five symphonies; only one of which is regularly performed by American orchestras (Symphony No. 3, his final attempt at the form). Additionally, the Utah Symphony will record some of his more well-known, shorter orchestral works, including Bacchanale from Samson et Delila, Danse macabre, and ‒ perhaps his most famous work of all ‒ Carnival of the Animals.

Saint-Saëns occupied a particularly unique stylistic space in his compositions; bringing the influences of the composers he most admired (Liszt, Wagner, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven, to name a few) as well as the musical idioms of far-flung destinations (including Egypt, Algeria, and Japan) into the sphere of French Romanticism. Similar to the Romantic Movement that took hold in Austria and Germany in the mid-1800s, French Romanticism was marked by a preoccupation with drama on a historical and an individual level, a heightened interest in national identity, and a general expansion or rejection of existing musical structures. As some of his late-19th-century contemporaries were forging new paths at the edges of tonal music, Saint-Saëns was firmly rooted in the classical conventions of French composers before him, making him an unusual figure within the framework of the Romantic period. Despite this, his signature use of colorful harmony influenced the French Impressionist composers that would rise to popularity toward the end of his life. The confluence of these seemingly disparate stylistic attributes is what makes Saint-Saëns’ music so intoxicating and irresistible. He is able to seamlessly weave unusual, exotic harmonies and melodic lines into ingrained musical forms, simultaneously surprising and delighting the listener’s ear.

SAINT-SAЁNS RECORDING CYCLE

Saint-Saëns’ music is clearly worth learning and exploring, but why record so much of it? As our Vice President of Operations and General Manager, Jeff Counts, wrote in a playbill feature last year, recording raises the level of artistic excellence and focus in an ensemble. Beyond that, recording also allows an orchestra to put its distinct interpretation of a work into the world, to stand and be judged among other orchestras’ interpretations. In the case of Saint-Saëns, however, some works have rarely been recorded at all. For example, his Trois tableaux symphoniques après La foi – another non-symphonic orchestral work that will be included in the recording project – has been commercially recorded less than ten times. This recording project on European label, Hyperion, will make the Utah Symphony the first American orchestra to record all of Saint-Saëns’ five symphonies, giving the orchestra the extraordinary opportunity to become a leading voice in the interpretation of Saint-Saëns’ works.

While many contemporaries and students of Saint-Saëns considered him to be a genius, his influence is certainly felt less in the orchestral world today.  For this reason, recording three discs worth of his music will be no easy feat, especially because this music is both technically and artistically difficult. Due to the logistical challenges of live recording, most of the repertoire that will be recorded is piled into consecutive weeks. Recording weeks are exhausting, as players are operating at the highest possible level of artistic awareness. Nevertheless, our musicians are certainly up to the task. Over the past five seasons, the Utah Symphony has taken on many symphonic cycles, covering some of the most revered symphonists in history (Beethoven and Brahms) as well as composers who challenged the very idea of what defined a symphony (Mahler and Ives). It is now time to shift the focus to a composer whose works, as Music Director Thierry Fischer has pointed out, truly embody the artistic identity of the Utah Symphony in their audacity, spunk, excellence, bravery, creativity, and – perhaps most importantly – their balance between tradition and diversity. How fitting a challenge to further Saint-Saëns’ legacy.

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Pre-concert Rituals: William Hagen

Professional musicians often spend much of their lives on the road performing in concert venues around the globe. Amid the hectic travel schedules, rehearsals, practice time and adjustments to a different time zone, culture and climate, regular routine is sacrificed. We ask our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded. Here is what violinist and Utah native William Hagen had to say about his.

William Hagen, violin

My first instinct, when asked about a pre-concert ritual or routine, is to say that I have none, or that I’m still working on figuring out what mine is. However, I realize that there are two things that I do very consistently on concert days; the first is to make sure that I have reasonably good blood sugar when I walk on stage. I have Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to be aware of what’s going on with my body before a concert. To lower the risk of high or low blood sugar, I try to stick to low-carb food and I try not to eat 3-4 hours before a concert—this simplifies things and makes my blood sugar more stable and predictable. The second part of my routine is to make sure that I have no wardrobe malfunctions – there are many components of a tux that can go awry. Actually, there are many components of any kind of concert garb that can go (and have gone) awry. I’ve heard stories about people walking on stage in a suave tux, everything in order, only to look down for a moment to find that they are wearing white sneakers. What a performer is wearing really doesn’t matter too much to me, because the main focus should be the music, but a wardrobe malfunction can turn into a major distraction. It’s hard to take someone completely seriously when their fly’s down.

See William Hagen in Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances November 3-4, 2017 here.

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Pre-concert Rituals: Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Patricia Kopatchinskaja Photo: Marco Borggreve

Professional musicians often spend much of their lives on the road performing in concert venues around the globe. Amid the hectic travel schedules, rehearsals, practice time and adjustments to a different time zone, culture and climate, regular routine is sacrificed. We ask our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded. Here is what Patricia Kopatchinskaja who will perform with us in Fischer conducts Beethoven’s Fifth had to say about her pre-concert ritual.

The performing artist has to present a work of art. Her duty is to give this work the maximum of impact. To achieve this, the performer has to channel all her energies, all her talents, power, and personality into this performance. One could say that the performer has somehow to ‘become’ the piece.

Of course, the performer has to know the piece: its score, its history. She has to have the technique ready, which is the task of a lifetime. But most important is to carry in her heart and mind — her very personal and unrepeatable vision of the piece.

On performance day I try to avoid any distraction: no telephones, no visits, no interviews, no photo sessions, no bad news. On a nice day after breakfast I might jog outside for half an hour and then I might practice perhaps for half an hour, but one never should expend too much energy because it will be needed in the evening. The most important is the nap in the afternoon. There will perhaps be a stage or a microphone rehearsal but normally I just stay in the artist room and concentrate. I cannot eat before concerts, but I need half a banana and something to drink. And then I am ready for battle…

See what else Patricia had to say about her work here.

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Mahler Memories: Claudia Norton

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

CLAUDIA NORTON: Utah Symphony bass, 1967-present (47 years)

claudiaNorton

The Great Man Abravanel

His greatness was so encompassing. I think because of his expectations and because of his greatness as a musician and his completeness. It was contagious. We really became great from just being around this incredibly unusual person. I remember that he was very involved in every single musician in the orchestra. He knew us personally, knew our personal lives, was very hands-on and insisted that we have the same vision that he did, and that was that music was the greatest gift to mankind; it was the overall greatest achievement of humanity and he insisted that everybody agree with that, and we all did. I think that was a lot of the reason we were able to have such success in so many of our recordings.

Music Isn’t English

And you know, watching Abravanel conduct was so inspiring. I can’t put it into words because he conducted music, and music isn’t English.

On Following Abravanel

You know, people who would watch him conduct said, “How did you follow that?” because you didn’t necessarily get a specific downbeat. But his idea was so contagious. And I was just saying that he made you great; it was contagious to be around him. He made you great by just his ability to communicate the idea of the music, and I think everybody understood what he wanted.

Intense Rehearsals

Yeah, it was intense. One year he re-auditioned the entire string section of the orchestra, and he had us all play for our instrument all of the excerpts from all of those symphonies, which was a huge list for basses—we have lots of difficult excerpts in the Mahler symphonies—and he listened to every string player—not with the idea of finding fault, just to make sure that everybody was giving their all 24/7 and living Mahler. That’s what he expected, and that’s what we did. And he made sure we were doing it.

Esprit de Corps

I think even if they’re not the best Mahler recordings available, there is a certain esprit de corps, there is a certain phenomenon that I don’t think you can help but be affected by when you hear it. And if you’re hearing Mahler, especially in the earlier days, if you were hearing Mahler, it probably was the Utah Symphony you were hearing.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories

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Mahler Memories: Ardean Watts

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

ARDEAN WATTS

ardeanWatts

The Religion of Mahler

I think of Maurice as a kind of high priest. And Mahler’s the Bible. You know he knew how Mahler’s genius was the genius of transforming the angst, the misery of national, international and personal into a kind of redemptive sound. The sounds can growl and suggest horror and cataclysm and everything, which is all there, but when it comes out, it doesn’t come out that way. It comes out. You want to be there. You want to experience it because there is some redemption in it, and maybe that’s what the musical experience is about.

Music and the Geist

The players were really expected to do their homework (which they sometimes did and sometimes didn’t), but the experience of the symphony was a holistic experience; it wasn’t about your part. It was about a kind of mysterious, mystical Geist that the piece embodied, and Abravanel knew the Geist. He was the one who saw that clearly and nobody questioned that.

On Being Abravanel’s Second

Maurice is the greatest man I ever met personally. And a person is lucky to meet one like that in life, where you can almost whole-heartedly just follow. I was very happy to do that. I never wanted to be number one. Being a number two to Maurice was such an extraordinary privilege that that was a career by itself.

The Dark Side of Music

There is a syndrome that exists amongst professionals, that it has a dark side. The beautiful side is what we hear when we go to the concerts. The dark side is when you’re twenty seconds from the end of the symphony and the clock reaches the end of the rehearsal and…And that’s it. They put their instruments away. You know, that’s black to me. And it’s like an infectious disease. Not everybody is affected that way, thank heaven, but it also isn’t cool to talk about how moved you might be by something like that.

Abravanel’s Sense of Timing

He (Abravanel) came back after the fourth movement—after the conclusion of the symphony—and he said “Forty minutes. Forty-two minutes, sixty or something seconds.” And of course I hadn’t looked, but it did indicate that he really cared about timing, and I don’t think it was ever timing for timing’s sake. I think that it helps to understand Maurice if you think of him as an autodidact. That is because he considered himself self-taught. He assumed that everybody who was successful in the business world was self-taught. They had it or they didn’t have it, and his sense of timing was part of that.

Listen

RadioWest’s Doug Fabrizio talks to Ardean Watts and Paul Banks about Mahler 5 and Maurice Abravanel’s relationship with the composer.

http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/mahler-and-his-5th-symphony

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories.

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Baiba Talks Berg: An Interview with Baiba Skride

Baiba Skride

Baiba Skride

Baiba Skride is a violinist from Latvia (a small country in Eastern Europe between Lithuania, Estonia, and Belarus). Baiba is coming to Abravanel Hall this weekend to play Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Alban Berg composed the Violin Concerto after the death of 18-year-old Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler (once Gustav Mahler’s wife) and Walter Gropius. This concerto was dedicated by the composer “To the memory of an angel.”

Alban Berg

Alban Berg

Baiba offered the following thoughts on this composition:

It is a very touching, very deep, extremely intelligent and emotionally charged piece. Alban Berg wrote this piece to the memory of Manon Gropius, who was the daughter of Alma Mahler and died at an early age. There is a lot of sadness in the music, but there are many very important and interesting levels to this music. The most amazing part of this concerto for me is the end of the piece where Berg uses Bach’s Choral “Es ist Genug“ and slowly brings every instrument in an indescribable culmination. It’s just one of the most emotional moments in the whole violin repertoire.

For Berg’s Violin Concerto I think it is important to come with an open mind to hear this somewhat different music. It is relatively contemporary, but really, it is the most beautiful and most important concerto of the 20th century.

Like many of Berg’s pieces, this work is written in a twelve tone technique, which means that instead of using a chord (in a more classical sense of composition), Berg uses the twelve tones of the chromatic scale (or every key, including the black ones, on the piano between C major up to the B major) . The technique is frequently called serialism and often called “atonal” because of the different way it sounds (though composers who use the twelve tone technique don’t like calling it that).

Twelve tone technique is where our interview starts.

USUO: I have been studying twelve tone music for the last couple of weeks, and I’m writing an informative post about that. How do you feel about twelve tone music?
Baiba: Twelve tone music can sometimes be a bit complicated to hear for the first time, but Berg’s Violin Concerto is so well written that it is accessible to the audience right away. I think this violin concerto is extremely emotional, deep on so many levels and very fascinating in its musical language.

USUO: Have you played Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto before? What do you like about it?
Baiba: I have played it many times and while you play it, it doesn’t seem to be specifically twelve tone music, rather it gives you a very natural, very flowing feeling and it tells you a story.

I think writing in twelve tones for Berg was much more diverse and free than for example – Schönberg, he uses the method to get to the emotional level, and the music doesn’t focus on the means of how it’s achieved.

USUO: Are there other twelve tone compositions that you have played or like or want to play?
Baiba: I have played some Weber and some Schönberg music, but I do feel the most connected to Berg.

USUO: Does your heritage influence your music? In what ways?
Baiba: I think everyone’s roots somehow influence you and your work. And it should. I am very proud to come from the small, beautiful and very musical country Latvia, where people enjoy singing so much and have a very strong feeling of where they come from. As a small people, we are very aware of our heritage. Also because for most of our country’s history we were oppressed by one or another country. But by now almost half of my life I have lived in Germany and I have very much profited also from German culture and musical possibilities.

USUO: In all your travels, what is your favorite food? What is your favorite place to eat?
Baiba: Very often on my travels I end up eating in the hotel I am staying, just because it’s more convenient. But I love to find a good sushi place or especially in America, a great steak. I try, if possible, to find some local specialties if they are not too crazy.

USUO: What music do you listen to?
Baiba: A lot of time when I am traveling I am listening to pieces I need to learn or discover. At home, it varies very much from classical music to current hits which come on the radio.

USUO: What else do you enjoy doing besides violin? Do you play other instruments?
Baiba: I used to learn piano as a second instrument, but haven’t played one in maybe 13 years. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for any other instrument or a hobby. I have 2 boys at home so when I am at home I spend my time with and for them. Occasionally, if on holiday, I love to do scuba diving, but that doesn’t happen more than once a year.

For more information about the concert, including the program, program notes, and artist biographies, please visit this page.

Fortunately for us, this is not the only time we will have the opportunity to hear Baiba play. She will also be playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Feb. 20 and 21 here at Abravanel Hall.

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The Nutcracker Origins

This weekend, the Utah Symphony is doing things just a little differently: they’re playing a ballet suite, but without the dancers on stage. Guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth returns to conduct the Utah Symphony through the Act 2 of The Nutcracker.

We know Tchaikovsky’s work in Utah as the family-friendly ballet, performed annually by the Ballet West, with its brightly lit stage, ferocious mouse costumes, and the enormous skirt of Mother Ginger.

Ballet West perform the Nutcracker.

Ballet West perform the Nutcracker. Photo by Luke Isley

But this happy comedic ballet has a slightly darker origin story.

Written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffman, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” follows the story of Marie on Christmas Eve. She is nominated as the nutcracker’s special caretaker. As she and her siblings are passing the nutcracker around and cracking nuts, its jaw breaks. Marie is upset and begs to be allowed to care for the nutcracker. Adults, as they are wont to do, humor the child and she stays. As the clock starts to strike midnight, mice pour from the clock and the dolls in the cabinet come alive. Led by the Nutcracker, they fight off the mice. During the battle, Marie falls into the cabinet and the glass breaks and cuts her arm.

In the morning, no one believes her tale and she stays in bed, waiting for her arm to heal.

Marie’s godfather, Drosselmeyer, returns with the Nutcracker repaired, and tells Marie the story of how the Nutcracker came to be. It all started when The Mouse Queen and her children ate part of the king’s supper. Angry, the King had the court inventor create traps for the mice, and all of the Mouse Queen’s children were killed in the traps. The Mouse Queen swore revenge, and turned the Princess Pirlipat into an ugly creature with a huge head, a wide mouth, and a beard. Just like the Nutcracker.

In order to break the curse, the princess had to eat a nut that no one could crack, but whoever managed to do so would be able to marry the princess. The inventor’s nephew was finally able to crack it, but he accidentally stepped on the Mouse Queen and the Curse was transferred to him! With the prince ugly and ungainly, the Princess refused to marry him.

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

The story is more than a story for Marie, who must give up all of her toys and sweets to the Mouse King to keep him from destroying her beloved Nutcracker. But the Mouse King is greedy and demands more from her. The Nutcracker promises that if Marie finds him a sword, he can kill the Mouse King. So she does and he is successful! Afterwards, the Nutcracker whisks Marie away to the Kingdom of the Dolls in celebration.

No one believes anything that Marie says when she wakes up at home, but she is determined. Marie swears that no matter what the Nutcracker looks like, she would marry him anyway, unlike the princess. Moments later, Drosselmeyer arrives with his nephew. He was the Nutcracker! By saying she would marry him no matter what, Marie broke the curse! They get married and go to the doll kingdom.

In 1844, Alexandre Dumas (of The Three Musketeers fame) edited and revised the story of the Nutcracker. It is this revision that Tchaikovsky used to write his ballet. While Tchaikovsky himself was not happy with the ballet and it was not immediately liked, it is now one of the most popular pieces that Tchaikovsky wrote.

Even if you’ve never seen the ballet, chances are you are familiar with the music. Take a peek at some of these excerpts to hear a preview of what the symphony will be performing this weekend.

For more information including artist profiles and program notes, please go here.

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音楽 and 食べ物 with Fumiaki Miura

Konnichiwa! Hello in Japanese. Beyond that, I know how to say “arigatou gozaimasu,” which is a polite form of “Thank you,” and “Nihongo de hanashimasen,” which means, “I don’t speak Japanese.” (In the title are the words ongaku (music) and tabemono (food) which I had to look up.)

konnichiwa

When I called guest violinst Fumiaki Miura, he was very impressed by the three Japanese phrases I know. Then again, it was really early in the morning in Japan, and maybe he was too tired to notice how badly I pronounced them.

Fumiaki is returning to Utah to play Camille Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3. He made his U.S. and Utah Symphony debut in 2012, playing Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy,” and we are very excited to have him back. I was lucky enough to see him play at his debut, but I never thought I would get to interview him. Fumiaki is only 21 years old, and he has been playing the violin since he was three. Even over the phone and over 5,506 miles, I could tell how much he adores playing the violin.

 

Fumiaki Miura

Fumiaki Miura

USUO: We are very excited that you are coming back to Utah. When are you arriving?
Fumiaki: I am arriving on the 19th. Quite late. I am flying from Tokyo, first to San Francisco and then I change planes. I will arrive at about 11 p.m. Last time I also arrived late. I came from Vienna last time.

USUO: What did you do last time you were here that you are excited to do again?
Fumiaki: My last time there I visited different shops and stores that I want to go to again. Also I visited a violin maker there, where the young people are studying to make violins. I would like to visit them again. It was quite wonderful. And I am interesting in buying an instrument, as well.

USUO: Is there something new you want to do here in Salt Lake?
Fumiaki: I have to think about it once I get there, but I want to visit many restaurants. Any recommendations?
USUO: Oh, um, on the spot. Of course, my brain goes blank.
Fumiaki: That is okay. I really love to eat, so I have to find a nice restaurant to go to while I am there.

USUO: What is your favorite American food?
Fumiaki: I love meat, so I love steaks and pork and burgers. And fries. I love fries. I like all these foods.

(I sent him a tweet with a few recommendations after I was able to think properly.)

USUO: If someone were to travel to Japan, what is the one food dish they must eat?
Fumiaki: People think in Japan, that sushi is the best; they are right, but there are other good things, different kinds of Japanese cuisine like tonkatsu. It is made of cooked meat. You fry the meat, basically, and usually it is pork, but sometimes it’s beef, also. It’s very tasty. Tonkatsu is very thin in Europe, but in Japan it is thicker. And also, I like to also recommend, curry on rice. It is Indian food, but it is popular in our culture. It’s spicy. In Japan, there are a lot of different curries, but I don’t think people know that.

Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu, recommended by Fumiaki Miura

USUO: What is your favorite drink?
Fumiaki: Before I could not drink in Utah, I was 19. Now I can drink everywhere. But my favorite drink in general is Coke. I love cola very much. And also an iced coffee.

USUO: I love Japanese rock music. Alice Nine, The GazettE, Dir en grey.
Fumiaki: Really? You know them? That is very cool.
USUO: Do you have time to listen to other music than classical?
Fumiaki: I listen to different music also, basically I love classical, of course, but I know the popular groups, and somehow I started listening to old songs from like the 1990s. Also, I love beautiful, traditional Japanese songs. We call them enka; it’s a beautiful Japanese traditional songs. If you google it,  you can find it. It is very special. I’d say sometimes they can be very heavy, also, but it’s a  beautiful melody.

USUO: I discovered that you were in the mock-umentary movie, “Noseland.” Can you talk about filming it?
Fumiaki: *laughs* I think now it will be on DVD . This is a movie actually about a  classical musician’s life. They made some funny interviews, but also some serious things. My teacher and mentor, Julian Rachlin, is a wonderful musician, violinist, violist, and conductor; he took this idea to do this different kinds of funny things when he was running a music festival at Croatia where you can see the beautiful sea. I was there twice. It was a fun time, but in the movie, they used the music from the festival, so it’s very nice.

Noseland

Movie poster from Noseland with Fumiaki Miura’s teacher, Julian Rachlin

USUO: Let’s talk about the piece that you will be playing this weekend. What do you like most about Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3?
Fumiaki: For me, it’s beautiful music. Simply beautiful. Quite violin-istic. Technically it is also, well, it’s quite hard sometimes, but I think it’s good. People sometimes think this concerto is a bit rough, but the harmonies are great and there is great orchestration. It’s written very well. This is one of the pieces I learned in my early age. For the first time, I played this when I was 11 or 12. I studied this concerto hard, and I learned a lot with my teacher and my mother. The second movement is unbelievable. I’ve played it so many times. I am excited to play it with the Utah Symphony. And I will play it again next year in Japan with Maestro Fischer, where he was principal conductor and he’s coming back next season to conduct. I am happy to play with him in Japan.

USUO: I have spent the last couple days watching YouTube videos of you playing. It always seems like you’re enjoying every piece you play. Is there a piece that is your favorite?
Fumiaki: There are some nice pieces for violinists. It is hard for me to decide. I love many. When I must pick a concerto, I always pick Shostakovich or Prokofiev. It’s difficult to pick. But then again, I love Beethoven and Brahams, and I also ask for Saint-Saëns, and sometimes Mendelssohn.

 

USUO: You obviously love playing the violin, but are there any other instruments that you play?
Fumiaki: I play the viola also. I really enjoy it. I’m completely influenced by my teacher because he’s always pushing me to study. I started about two years ago, and now I’m practicing more and learning concertos. I am playing Penderecki’s Concerto for Violin and Viola on the viola in January. It is a duet and I will be on viola. I am very excited. It is also very hard when I started to learn the keys. It’s a different key than the violin. Once you understand it is easier, but it takes time.

USUO: Thank you so much for talking with me today. I appreciate your time, and I am so excited to see you play next weekend.
Fumiaki: Yes, yes, thank you! I am really looking forward to next weekend, also.

As much as I wished I to talk to Fumiaki all day long, I had to let him go. He’s a delight to speak with and a delight to watch play the violin. In a recent Salt Lake Tribune article, Fumiaki said of his last visit to Utah, “I really loved the orchestra and the concert hall — I remember everything very clearly. The audience was so nice, it was amazing.” Let’s not disappoint him as an audience and give him even better memories this time around.

For more information about this weekend’s concert, go here.

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Mahler Memories: Tom Baron

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

TOM BARON: Utah Symphony violinist, 1968-present (47 years so far)

Tom Baron

Tom Baron
Utah Symphony violinist
1968-present (47 years so far)

Abravanel recordings & performances

Abravanel was not one to placate us in any way. He would not cut anyone any non-professional slack. We did beautiful work with him. He demanded it and he got it from us, and we didn’t know how. We’d listen to those CDs later and say “Is that us?” We never could figure it out. He was in touch with something that collectively we would feel. The performance was quite often different from what we had rehearsed. It would be a certain way, and when it started moving in a little different direction, he would let it go. And it would build. We would play better than we should have been able to, and then we’d see five thousand people standing up applauding us in the Tabernacle. We would look around, thinking, “What happened?”  Something was in this room, something was here with us. Something incredibly special would happen, and it happened a lot with him. It really bonded us in those days. It was incredible.

 

The orchestra blend

I’m one of the few people who just loves to play in an orchestra. I learned a lot from Maestro Abravanel. I learned there’s great beauty even if no one else hears you, because then you’re blending, you’re contributing to this overall sound, you’re making your contribution.

Abravanel, a mentor to young musicians

He left his mark on us, whether we liked it or not, he was a formative influence for all of us. We were better people for having known him, guaranteed, 100%.

 

Highlights from an oral history interview conducted on October 13, 2014 in the Abravanel Studio of the McKay Music Library.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories.

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Mahler Memories: Carolee Baron

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

CAROLEE BARON: Utah Symphony cellist, 1968-2012 (44 years)

Carolee Baron

Carolee Baron
Utah Symphony cellist
1968-2012 (44 years)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New to Mahler

[Abravanel] called to tell me that I was in the orchestra and then he said there was a tour that summer. There was no summer season, just an extra thing that they had added—a five day tour to the west coast. And we were going to be playing Mahler 2nd and Mahler 4th. I was 17, and I was about this close to saying, “Who’s Mahler?” because I did not know who Mahler was. But some little thing in the back of my head (thank you, thank you) said “Don’t ask that.”

 

Playing Mahler’s 2nd Symphony for the first time

It was the Mahler 2nd , the “Resurrection Symphony,” and I have always remembered this, because [Abravanel] could tell a story that brought everyone’s focus to the same place. We were playing in a rehearsal for the performance, and he was talking about the moment when the choir comes in (after 3 movements of just orchestra). It is a very soft moment. He said, “At this point is the entire crux of Christianity. It is not a huge angel chorus, it’s not a full orchestra and trumpets blaring and harps and everything else, it is only the chorus. It is sopranos to basses, it is the human voice, and it is the one German word which means  ‘rise up’ and it is God speaking to his son, one on one, nothing spectacular. Very quiet. Very simple. ‘Rise up.’”  [Abravanel] said, “Upon this moment is built all of Christianity.” There are moments like that, when someone brings you to a focal point. Abravanel did that quite often.


 

Abravanel lets go but keeps everything together

We were at an age in our late teens to mid-twenties where that kind of thing (having a mentor like Abravanel) impacts you. That kind of a person guiding you can just make all the difference in the world. Like I said, I didn’t know who Mahler was, and we did quite a bit of Mahler. It was like this gate opening into this gorgeous garden – or I think about it as somebody who lives their whole life in Kansas, and is suddenly plunked down in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. That’s kind of what Mahler was.  He (Abravanel) had a way, especially with Mahler; he knew just how much to let it go. It is kind of like the human spirit – you cannot confine it in a box. He knew just how to let it go, and yet keep it all together.

 

An earthquake in rehearsal

We were in a rehearsal with full orchestra and the full chorus. And we had an earthquake. I felt this odd feeling in my feet. And I looked up and all of a sudden the chandelier started to swing. A couple of the basses just went right out the door, and Abravanel wasn’t through yet. He was almost out of time; we were getting ready to go and he kept saying “Quiet, quiet!  I’m not through. I’m not through.” Ardean was sitting behind him and leaned forward and said, “Maestro, I believe we are having an earthquake.”  And [Abravanel] said, “I’m not through! I still have things to say!”

 

We’ve all said, those of us who played under him, it’s kind of like we have his blood in us. We have Abravanel blood.

 

Highlights from an oral history interview conducted on October 13, 2014 in the Abravanel Studio of the McKay Music Library.

 

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