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Friday, January 11, 2008

Sweden – 9/10/11 January 2008

I came into the Radio to have lunch with Eva Wedin, delightful as always, and then went to the first rehearsal of the Haydn and Mozart. Peter’s approach here was to work almost immediately on details of phrasing: lots of variety of phrase shapes, almost always working with word stress. This is at the forefront for me, too, and I believe strongly that you have to start with shaping music right away or you run the risk of the ensemble learning to sing/play unmusically (also, it's just more interesting!). Since Pro Coro has had a grant from the Wirth Institute for Central European Studies to do all the late-Haydn masses (and have done all but the Harmoniemesse), it was also fun to see how Peter was shaping the music and how it compared with my approach.

Again, Peter shows absolute ease before the choir, runs a tight, effective rehearsal with no tension or sense of rushing, and with a nice sense of humor, too.

While walking home after rehearsal, Peter caught up with me, since his hotel is on the way back to the apartment, and we had a nice chat.

More detail work from Peter today in rehearsal—continued refinement of phrasing and dynamics.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat I came back to the Berwaldhallen (the Radio’s concert hall) for a performance by the orchestra. Conductor was Lionel Bringuier, another part of the amazing youth movement going on in the orchestral world. You probably know about Gustavo Dudamel, the astounding Venezuelan conductor who at 26 has been tabbed to take over the LA Philharmonic in 2009. This is by no means an isolated case—Daniel Harding, Music Director for the Swedish Radio Orchestra (who I’ll watch in rehearsal and concert in the next couple weeks) is at the comparably advanced age of 32. Could be an interesting topic sometime.

Back to Bringuier, who’s just 21 and has been assistant conductor to Esa-Pekka Salonen at the LA Phil. The program opened with Kingdom of Silence by Russian composer Victoria Borissova-Ollas. I have to say, I didn’t find the piece compelling. Occasionally interesting sounds (lots of tuned percussion—gongs, etc.), but the whole failed to capture my attention.

Next on the program was Prokofiev’s 2nd piano concerto. Subbing for Yefim Bronfman was Yuja Wang, a Chinese pianist who’s been studying with Gary Graffman at Curtis. Just 20 years old, she’s already appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and San Francisco Symphony. She’s tiny (I don’t know anything about women’s clothing sizes, but know there’s a size zero—she can’t be more than that) and if you saw her on the street in regular clothes would probably take her for 16. Well, she played the heck out of the concerto—just a stunning performance. She’s certainly a musician to watch out for and hear.

After the intermission was Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, certainly one of my favorite pieces. The performance was a good one, but not spectacular. And following the Prokofiev, it would have to be a spectacular performance not to be a bit anti-climactic.

The final rehearsal before working with the orchestra next week, so Peter continued with detail work and running enough sections for a sense of continuity. He’s worked separately with the soloists (from the choir), so they sang today on the Haydn, but he skipped any long sections with them. After letting the choir go for the last half hour of rehearsal, he worked with the soloists in the Mozart (a different set of four singers). Again, his work on phrasing and dynamics was exacting and intensely musical. I look forward to hearing it next week, when I’ll hear the performance at Berwaldhallen and in Västerås.

This evening and tomorrow I’ll be doing some work for Pro Coro on a grant application. Then Sunday my wife, Kathryn, arrives (yay!), so no more Swedish posts until next week, but perhaps the next installment in the programming series.


mikebm said...

I find your writings very very informative. Looking forward to practice it here in Indonesia.

Thank you very much.
Wish you all the best

Richard said...

Thanks, Mike! Perhaps I'll get to Indonesia one day. Wishing you the best, too.