Monday, October 14, 2013

NMTA Guest Artist and Clinicians: Spend your life with music

Libby Larsen, Dmitri Vorobiev, and Polina Khatsko are the guest artists/presenters for the 2013 NMTA State Conference. Larsen, the commissioned composer, will share “The Art of Composing Music” and will be present for the premiere of her new piece which you can read more about in her interview here. Vorobiev will perform ($15/adult, $10/student) on Thursday, 7:30pm, in O’Donnell Auditorium on the Wesleyan campus. He and Khatsko took the time to share a little about themselves and what they will be bringing to the conference.
 
Polina Khatsko - guest clinician at the
NMTA 2013 State Conference
Khatsko, guest clinician this week, has a special place in her heart for Nebraska already, having studied at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

“Kearney, NE, was my first American home... It’s hard for me to think of another place as ideal as Nebraska to start my journey in the U.S. The sincerity, simplicity, and generosity of Midwestern people is extraordinary, and it’s what stole my heart from the very beginning—what made me feel incredibly welcomed, encouraged me, and helped to overcome any hurdles on the way to assimilating into a new culture.”

Indeed, Khatsko shared, “Kearney, Nebraska, is also the place where I truly learned to smile – a quality that in the 1990’s, wasn’t too common among people of Belarus, where I came from.”

Khatsko will bring her smile back to Nebraska as she and her husband, Vorobiev, will present a Master Class on Friday afternoon for the winners of the MTNA Piano Competition. Khatsko will also be giving two presentations on the Russian School of Piano Playing; she wants her audience to be aware of the importance attached to “the culture of sound, or more precisely, sound production as related to piano playing.

Vorobiev, who will be performing Thursday evening, at 7:30pm, in O’Donnell Auditorium, says that for him, the “culture of sound production” that is so vital to the Russian school of piano playing, is the way that he was taught from an early age.

“I am thankful for that particular way of upbringing that I had. It really gave me so much in depth and dedication to help me get where I am now. Focusing on: how you listen, what you listen for, and how you respond to certain things when you play.”

In addition to the focus on listening, Vorobiev said that he received a “vigorous training in music history and music theory.” Music was certainly in his blood, Vorobiev’s grandpa and mom were both musicians, and he was enrolled in music school, “not just lessons, actual music school—theory, history, and two lessons per week,” from the age of 6. His love for the piano was especially strengthened by going to concerts, and he remembers fondly hearing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto when he was six.

Dmitri Vorobiev - performing
Liszt and Beethoven on
Thursday at 7:30pm in
Wesleyan's O'Donnell Auditorium
Vorobiev went on to explain that he was not only involved in classical music. Around the age of 13 or 14, he got into heavy metal. “It was all part of me. But, something about classical music was always sacred for me, I guess.”

Like any kid, he studied and practiced, but at times, “I was lazy, too.”

Ultimately, about the age of 14, Vorobiev made the decision to become a professional musician—because he really loved piano. Although he had not heard the phrase yet, “One of the best ways to spend your life is to spend it doing something that will outlast it,” Vorobiev says that it sums up what was at the back of his mind with that decision.

Khatsko says that, for her, pursuing music as a career has to do with “the privilege of making an impact on and enriching people's lives, and the privilege of connecting to people on any level, at any time, in any place.”

On Vorobiev’s program for Thursday night, he will be sharing a little bit of himself by playing works of Liszt and Beethoven. A year ago, he recorded a CD of Liszt, and right now, Vorobiev has set himself the goal of performing the complete solo piano works of Beethoven. Therefore, this performance of two composers very close to him will represent “who I am, and what I am doing.”

Both Khatsko and Vorobiev have advice for young musicians.

Khatsko reminds them:

“Aside from all the known benefits of having music in your life, you should realize that music has unique power... power that lets you open up, express the inexpressible, find comfort, unleash worries and tame anger, and most importantly - discover yourself, find sides of yourself that you didn't even know were there.”

And Vorobiev, while relating a story of a young student who couldn’t remember where Middle C was from week to week, reminds parents:

“Inspiration also comes from parents—how much do they do. Take the kids to concerts. Teachers can tell you all these great things, but if the parents do not participate, it just stays on the side and doesn’t become a part of life. I wish that kids would have a little more eagerness to learn classical music.

‘Live your life...’ might not mean much to an 8-year-old, but learn how to practice, learn in piano, or violin, or whatever. It will ensure that you will have a very successful life. A recent Nobel prize winner, a chemist, in his acceptance speech said he owes everything to his music teacher—because that’s where he learned to practice.”

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Libby Larsen brings the 'Ghosts of Old Pianos' to Nebraska


Thanks to the Nebraska Music Teachers’ Association and a grant from the Nebraska Arts Council, composer Libby Larsen has written a piece to be premiered in Lincoln on October 18. The world premier of Ghosts of Old Pianos will be given during the Nebraska Music Teachers’ Association Conference. The performance will be free and open to the public at 9:00am on October 18, the second day of the conference, at Wesleyan’s O’Donnell Auditorium.
Composer Libby Larsen
Photo credit: Ann Marsden

In an interview with LincolnCMN this week, Larsen explained a little about the creation of the piece, Ghosts of Old Pianos. “Valerie Cisler and Nathan Buckner,” the pianists who will perform the commissioned work, “were very trusting,” Larsen smiled. The pianists told her: “Just let your imagination take you where you need to go.” That, Larsen explained, “is a wonderful thing for a creative artist to hear.”

The idea was already in her mind from her many travels through cities and towns throughout the United States. While waiting to go on stage, Larsen has found herself spending a lot of time in “church basements and backstages of concert halls.” Over time, Larsen said, “I collected in my mind, and took photos, of abandoned pianos. Once those pianos had been put to really good use, now in a dark corner, a basement—they are still beautiful, sometimes with decayed keys, and often deeply dust-covered.”

Larsen found herself “very moved” by the old pianos:
“They’re like old servants. I spend time with a piano like this and get a very special feeling—as if tiny little fragments of music from the piano are still there, echoing in the walls or in the wood of the piano.”
Larsen has coined a new term to explain the musical motives in this work, and that is “ghosting.” In the first movement:
“You may know the tune, the piece will suggest it to you, and as you listen, you will finally piece it together. The pianists just play fragments of the melody, until you finally get a hazy image of the whole aria—as it would have been played on the Steinway Grand in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.”
A ghostly, dust covered piano
Photo credit: Steve A Johnson
She chose the 1897 Steinway Grand from the Bethlehem Hotel in Bethlehem, PA because it is claimed to be haunted. It will be heard playing by itself and sometimes the figure of the beautiful but scandalous May Yohe will be seen at it. 

Another movement is entitled “Whole World,” and it presents a “ghosting” of the traditional tune, “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands;” that movement is inspired by a 1907 upright in a church basement in Chicago, Illinois. “Whole World” is reworked from one of Larsen’s earlier four hand pieces, and has become the center point for Ghosts of Old Pianos.

Another piano that will be represented in the piece is the square piano from the Jinny Lind Theater, which burned down. Larsen loved this project so much that she hopes to make a series of “ghost piano” works that will include a Hammond B organ from Maine, an upright found in a dumpster in Tennessee, and a spinet discarded in the north woods of Minnesota.
“The poetry of what is in the air around a decaying instrument is quite beautiful.”
One parting word, Larsen shared her advice for young musicians, and indeed, all musicians:
“I would encourage them to think of music as their life-long journey. Encourage them to trust their own ideas when they’re studying music. Learn the technical tools they need, but then use those tools as they to trust their musical instincts when preparing, performing, or talking about a piece of music. 
Music is a life-long companion. You can bring out your emotions on it, or it may bring them out for you. Music challenges you to become better. 
Young musicians: this is not something you conquer and then put in a drawer, it’s a journey. The reward comes from staying with it and staying focused.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cirque de la Symphonie and another stunning performance in Lincoln

The Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra season opener with Cirque de la Symphonie played to a nearly full house last night. Couples dressed up for a formal date, college students in jeans, and families with small children all came together for the evening. 

LSO opened immediately with a rousing performance of the Star Spangled Banner--perhaps a new tradition for each concert? It was certainly well met as the audience leapt to their feet to salute the flag. 

But the highlight? The amazing feats of the cirque artists. Having the children in the audience aided the sense of wonder and awe for all--the children would sing along to the music and scream as the aerialists swung and twirled high above us on the ropes or silks. 

The aerial performances by Shana Lord, Alexander Fedortchev, and Vitalii Buza seemed to be the crowd favorite. The grand finale, a duo aerial act performed by Lord and Fedortchev, elicited many gasps of awe and bursts of applause. 

The other acts were equally impressive from the contortionist to the juggler, perhaps the most well choreographed, the performances that most matched the mood and rhythm of the music were the hula hoop act to Manuel de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance and the Cyr wheel performance to Bernstein's Overture to Candide--another breathtaking performance!

A few pieces were orchestra only--they were wonderful pieces! The Tchaikovsky Finale from Symphony from no. 4 and Strauss' Thunder and Lightning Polka were particularly delightful and wonderful!  

Bravo, LSO!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cirque de la Symphonie returns to Lincoln

This Friday, Sept. 20, at 7:30pm, LSO and Cirque de la Symphonie reunite on stage for what's sure to be another stunning performance. It was in October, 2011, that Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra opened it's season with the spectacular performance of the Cirque de la Symphonie. The audience was awed by the production.
Shana Lord - who will
be performing in Lincoln
on Friday night.

The LCM News review described the audience's reaction:
"As the aerial artists spun and twisted with graceful, athletic skill, and spun or flipped almost to the ground, the audience would gasp... and then sigh with relief."
What is the Cirque de la Symphonie? Shana Lord, one of the aerialists on this Friday's performance, described what the Cirque does as "a marriage" of "physical artistry and musical artistry." In Lord's exclusive interview with LincolnCMN, she said that the audience should be prepared for: 
"A big surprise! Be along for the ride. 
We would love to inspire people to listen to Classical music and become a part of it in their community as people who play and listen to it--enjoy it!"
 Having started as a gymnast and a dancer, Lord describes herself as first an athlete who, with her experience in dance, learned to combine the two into an art form. Canadian based Cirque du Soleil was an important part in the development of her career in this style.

Photos courtesy of Cirque de la Symphonie
Besides performances with Cirque du Soleil, Lord has enjoyed performances with Gwen Stefani, Will Smith, and most recently, Anastacia. Lord shared with LincolnCMN a touching memory from her tour with Anastacia. Just as Lord had finished her act, Anastacia called her back on stage and completely surprised her by singing "Happy Birthday" to her in front of 10,000 people in a stadium. "Traveling together," Lord said, "you become a family."

Cirque de la Symphonie has three troupes of performers, and Lord was not among the troupe that came to perform in Lincoln in 2011. But she is looking forward to performing this Friday in Lincoln:
"Performing with the symphony is really a special treat—we don’t always get to work with live music. My favorite part is really just that--getting to work with the live music. With the different tempos and working as a team, it becomes a more organic, seamless performance."
Lord does all of her own choreography for the show. In Lincoln, she will be performing with Khachaturian's Valse from Masquerade in the first half and, in the second half, an aerial duo with Alexander Fedortchev to music by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Besides the aerial artists like Lord, the Lincoln audience will experience performances with juggling batons, contortion, spinning frame and cubes, hula hoops, acrobatic dance, juggling hats, and more.

If you haven't purchased tickets already, do so right now! All ticket information can be found at the LSO website. On Friday--be there and be amazed!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

An afternoon at the park in Van Cliburn's memory

Svetlana Yashirin welcomed everyone to Antelope Park for the Van Cliburn Celebration and spoke about Cliburn's legacy--that for him, music was more than a career, more than a passion, for Cliburn, music was a mission. 60 years after his triumph in Russia during the Cold War, Cliburn is remembered for not only his own performances, but for his support of young musicians.

Lincoln Music Teachers' Association hosted the celebration this month at Antelope Park on Cliburn's birthday. Pianists of all levels performed, from young and adult students to professional teachers and performers. The concert closed with an arrangement by Van Cliburn performed by Denis Plutalov.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Van Cliburn Celebration: Lincoln pianists honor a legend


File:Van Cliburn - George Singer Tel Aviv 1962.jpg
Svetlana Yashirin said that "a decade ago I dreamt about Van Cliburn coming to Lincoln to an opening ceremony of the Community Music School and cutting a blue ribbon…" with Van Cliburn's passing earlier this year, that dream will never come true, but, Yashirin says, "[Cliburn's] legacy is going to remain with us, legacy of a man with a big heart. I felt that I needed to tell my students about this man, about an incredible transformative power of music. Van Cliburn was very serious and articulate about his attitude to music. He detested the word entertainment; instead, he understood music as a mission."

To honor Cliburn's legacy, LMTA is hosting a "Van Cliburn Celebration" from 5:00 to 7:15 p.m. this Friday, July 12, at the Antelope Park Band Shell (27th & A Streets). The event will be free and open to the public.  Intermediate and advanced solo and duo pianists of all ages will be performing. The LMTA website states the objective of the event: "to provide information on the power of music to overcome barriers of prejudice and hostility on the example of 'Van' Cliburn. Piano music from all eras will be represented." 
The website goes on to explain why Cliburn's legacy is so important: 
"Harvey Lavan 'Van' Cliburn, Jr., was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 at the age of 23, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.
Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time the honor has been accorded a classical musician. His cover story in Time magazine proclaimed him 'The Texan Who Conquered Russia.'"
Yashirin explains what Cliburn means to her: "He is a great inspiration to all, especially to musicians. When musicians start to forget about their responsibility of taking their craft seriously, God sends a messenger. Van Cliburn was one of His messengers. People around the world were shaken by a profound message of love communicated through a medium of piano music."
In Cliburn's words, “I appreciate more than you will ever know that you are honoring me, but the thing that thrills me the most is that you are honoring classical music. Because I'm only one of many, I'm only a witness and a messenger. Because I believe so much in the beauty, the construction, the architecture invisible, the importance for all generations, for young people to come that it will help their minds, develop their attitudes, and give them values. That is why I'm so grateful that you have honored me in that spirit.”
Cliburn founded the Van Cliburn Piano Competition which is a celebration of piano music and pianists, both professional and amateur. That is why, Yashirin says, that LMTA has "invited piano players of all ages and levels of skill to participate in this tribute."
Join these pianists in honoring the legendary Van Cliburn this Friday and celebrating "the beauty, the construction, the architecture invisible" of music.





Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cirque de la Symphonie and the LSO: Breathtaking


First published over a year ago, this review is of the Cirque de la Symphonie and their performance with Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra.

Cirque de la Symphonie will be performing with LSO again in the 2013-2014 season! Visit the Lincoln Symphony website today for more info and ticket purchases!
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To a near capacity crowd, conductor Edward Polochick warmly expressed his appreciation for what he considers “the best audience in the world.” Friday night, the Lincoln audience gasped, sighed, laughed, and cheered—responding as one to the thrilling performance on stage.
Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra (LSO) opened its season last night, Sept. 16th. Having just made the move from the smaller venue of Kimball Recital Hall, some may have wondered if LSO could fill the 2,210 capacity of the Lied Center. With the help of Cirque de la Symphonie, LSO played to a packed house.

Performing such favorites as Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz and Swan Lake, John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snow Maiden: Suite and Danse des bouffons, LSO could have brought down the house with the music alone, but paired with the artistry and acrobatics of Cirque de la Symphonie, the audience was blown away.
As the aerial artists spun and twisted with graceful, athletic skill, and spun or flipped almost to the ground, the audience would gasp... and then sigh with relief. Christine Van Loo and Elena Tsarkova were graceful artists with silk aerials, and Aloysia Gavre astounded everyone as she hung by one hand or just her feet while spinning with the rhythm of the music.

Vladimir Tsarkov was a favorite with the children in the audience, a bright glittery costume, and a face painted like a mime. Feats of juggling prowess and moments of clownish silliness kept the audience full of applause and laughter. The strength of Jarek and Darek’s “Duo Design” was yet another show stopping performance.
Alexander Streltsov first came on stage with his spinning cube act, but he stole the show completely during his aerial performance. Perhaps it was the masculine quality of his dance and performance, soaring out over the audience and back over the orchestra with the silks like a cloak, or the exceptional, exquisite, and perfect choreography. The music and acrobat were one in this performance—drawing in the audience and taking their breath away.

Bravo, LSO on your season opener! The spontaneous standing ovation at the end was absolutely deserved.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hear Lincoln’s Composition Contest winners perform this weekend


The Lincoln Music Teachers’ Association (LMTA) sponsors a composition concert open to various ages and levels from early elementary up through adult student entries and teacher entries. This year, the adjudicator for the contest was Kurt Knecht, and you can hear the winning pieces that he selected performed on a concert this weekend on Sunday, April 7 at 5pm. The performance will take place at Grace Lutheran Church (22nd and Washington Streets). This recital is free and open to the public.
Knecht, who has been featured on previous articles, spoke with Examiner.com again regarding this composition contest. As far as the works he saw entered in this contest, Knecht said that “they were mostly piano compositions” that featured a wide range of harmonic vocabularies. Everything from tonal to atonal, pentatonic, whole tone...really the whole range. And they were generally of high quality. It was fairly easy to pick the winner in each category, but picking 2nd, 3rd, and honorable mention was tricky.”
In selecting the winners, Knecht would look for a few things. He shared some of the questions that he had going through his mind during the process:
“1. Is there a clear formal structure?
2. Does the music have some sort of emotional direction and flow?
3. Is there enough variation to prevent monotony, and is there enough similarity to create unity?
4. Is the texture appropriate for the musical idea being conveyed?
5. Is the score clean and clearly marked?”
Of course, the performance on Sunday will give everyone a chance to hear the pieces that best exhibited these qualities, and the audience will also have a chance to hear Knecht perform one of his own compositions: “I'm going to be performing my Nocturne in memoriam Robert Helps.” Knecht has come a long way since his first attempts at composing: “my development was fairly typical. I wrote a few things that aren’t worth mentioning when I was young. Then, by middle school, I started improvising on my piano pieces.” By high school, Knecht had committed to writing fairly serious music and has spent the years since studying music and writing some wonderful pieces.
His advice for students who are trying their hand at composing is that “everyone should write because everyone has something to say.” But, “That doesn't mean that everyone is going to become a successful composer. It does mean that you will create something that is very unique, and putting that something into the world is a great and courageous act. It may be that lots of other people want to hear the way that you organize sound. Even if they don't, you will certainly gain insight into yourself and the compositions of the great masters. If you really enjoy it, you should get lessons with someone.”
Hear Knecht and some of Lincoln’s beginning composers on Sunday!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Beatrice Regional Orchestra: Providing a bridge between small communities and the arts

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Lincoln and Omaha are Nebraska’s largest cities and have numerous Classical music events. But what about the smaller cities and towns in the state?
Beatrice, Nebraska, is a relatively short 40-minute drive down Hwy 77 from Lincoln, and people are working hard to bring Classical music to the community there. Kevin Boesiger has been conducting and managing the Beatrice Regional Orchestra since 2010, and wants to invite you to come out and hear the concert put on entirely by local musicians of Beatrice and nearby communities.
“Around the World” will take place this coming Friday, March 22, at 7pm in the Hevelone Center at the Beatrice High School, 600 Orange Blvd. in Beatrice. Tickets are $5 at the door and students get in free! You can visit the Beatrice Regional Orchestra facebook page for more information. Enjoy a nice drive down Hwy 77 in the (hopefully) spring weather, and see what Beatrice has to offer.
Boesiger sat down to explain why and how he’s working so hard to put together events like this one:
“We have to work really hard to get all the players we need but we have been able to sustain this orchestra by stretching beyond just Beatrice. We have players that come from about a 40-mile range, but all the musicians come from smaller towns in our area. We work with what we have. This does create a challenge, but we have been able to make things work quite well and have continued to present quality concerts. We also range in age from 15 to 85 years of age. We have some of the really good high school players involved and it is a great mix of young and old playing along side each other. Our more experienced musicians do a great job of helping out the ones with less experience. It is really a cool thing to see!”
At this point, Boesiger explained, there is no audition to join the orchestra. “Our biggest hurdle has been having more winds than we need and not enough strings. We do ask people to contact me first because if we have a section already full and don't need another player we have to work around that. I have had to tell some players occasionally that we don't have an open spot. This does change some from year to year depending on who is able to play, so I encourage people to check back... We try to include as many people as possible since we are a community orchestra not a professional symphony.”
The orchestra rehearses every Tuesday evening from September to May and performs four concerts in their season. Boesiger includes area highschool choirs on one of the concerts. The goal in this, just as it is with the choir itself is to “do things to encourage our student musicians”—in this way, the Beatrice Regional Orchestra is giving many of the schools in the area a chance to sing with an orchestra. They also sponsor a Senior Soloist Competition in the spring and choose one vocalist and instrumentalist to perform on the final concert in May.
Boesiger feels that they are doing an important task for the community. “Many communities are feeling cuts in the school system when it comes to music and Beatrice is one of those communities. We are able to provide a great experience for some of those serious players in high school. We are also able to provide a great concert at a VERY reasonable rate to many people in our area who might not be able to afford getting to Lincoln or Omaha. People come knowing they are going to enjoy whatever is on the program for the evening."
Boesiger described it as being “a bridge to get people more interested in other programs in the arts.” At the concerts, he always highlights what is going on in other communities and encourages audiences that “if you enjoyed the performance to consider checking out the Lincoln Symphony.”
Oftentimes, the Beatrice Regional Orchestra is introducing people to the arts for the first time: “Since we are a small town you would be amazed at the number of people who have not experienced orchestral music and assume it would be a long night of boring music. We are working hard to break down that conception and give people something we know they will enjoy.” 

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Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Brahms meets Beethoven’ concert: A triumph


Despite another wintry evening, the cold was not enough to deter a sizeable audience from coming out to hear Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra last night. Anton Miller and Maestro Polochick were both stars of the evening.

Anton Miller had shared some of the emotions he felt about the music on the concert in his interview last week. Miller, concertmaster and soloist during last night’s performance, loves music especially because it continues to communicate when words and language fail.

Last night, his music went far beyond words.

Miller’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D made the audience almost forget about the technical virtuosity that it took to perform as listeners were swept up and carried up and down with the emotions of the great Beethoven work.

Polochick led the orchestra in an equally emotionally charged performance—you could hear the excitement and joy at times and, at other times, the almost palpable sorrow, or the joviality heard in the third movement.

The only complaint about the evening would be the order of the pieces. Despite the fact that both pieces were beautifully performed, the Brahms Symphony in F wasn’t really able to follow the incredible performance of the Beethoven concerto in the first half of the concert.

Bravo, once again, Anton Miller and Maestro Polochick!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anton Miller to communicate things 'only expressible through music'

On Saturday, March 16, at 7:30pm, Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra will perform a program entitled “Brahms Meets Beethoven” at the Lied Center. This concert is the first of two remaining concerts in the 2012-2013 season. Tickets are still available by visiting the LSO website.
Anton Miller, longtime concertmaster in the LSO, sat down with this Examiner to talk about Brahms and Beethoven. First off, Miller explained what the title “concertmaster” entails. The concertmaster is “basically the leader of the orchestra—in the history of orchestras, the concertmaster acted as the conductor or could step in to direct the orchestra for the conductor. In short, the concertmaster is a leader, certainly the leader of the strings, making sure all the bowing goes the same way for instance.” Other ways that the concertmaster leads the orchestra today include “translating” and “serving as a conduit” between orchestra and conductor; “in performance,” Miller shared, “my job is to do everything I can to help the conductor get everyone playing together.”
How does Miller accomplish all of this the LSO when he lives in New York and has a busy performing schedule?
“I’ve been doing this for about 25 years now. I come out for rehearsals the week before the performance, and I spend the entire week out in Lincoln. I travel to all kinds of different places, but I’m always there in Lincoln for a week of rehearsals. I always love coming out, and it’s a wonderful place.”
Miller is not only concertmaster but also soloist at this week’s performance. He will be performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. He has played this concerto about three times before: “The first time was about 20 years ago with the Westfield Symphony in New Jersey, and I’ve played it again a couple times with various smaller orchestras in New York.”
When asked if he had a favorite between Brahms and Beethoven, Miller laughed, and then groaned. “If you held my feet to the fire and MADE me choose, my two favorite composers would be Brahms and Beethoven. If I had kids, it’d be like trying to make me say which of my two kids I liked better.” In the end, he admitted, he would choose Beethoven, who “came first and is probably the greatest composer... If I had to live without one of them (which I would hate to have to do!), it would be Brahms; I just couldn’t do without Beethoven.”
Miller also shared what his goal is when performing. He wants the audience to be “inspired, and that the concert communicates emotions and feelings to the audience. Music is it’s own language. Certain things are only expressible through music.” Miller admitted that he loves performances where he can talk to the audience and tell them what the music is about. In a way, of course, that opens up the doors for the audience to understand what the music is communicating.
To that end, Miller explained a little of what to listen for in the Beethoven work on Saturday:
“This concerto is incredibly beautiful. The first movement is incredibly lyrical and filled with an immense amount of emotion. What I want to do is show that...and get the audience to feel those different types of emotions. Many emotions, a lot of joy and sorrow, come to a head at the end of the first movement.
The slow movement is like a recitation, so soft, and it almost dies away—you feel like the music could last forever in a beautiful way. The last movement is like a dance that’s fun and joyous and a little tongue in cheek. This music lends itself to knowing the feelings.”
Miller has one experience of communicating with music that stands out especially. “I played a concert many years ago in Switzerland for an audience of mentally handicapped people. It was very noisy as I came out on stage, not applause, just chaos. I started playing—and I played for an hour and a half—and there was dead silence the entire time. I knew I was communicating at a high emotional level.”
That memory helped to inspire Miller to always “find something that touches people” as he performs.
“Something that’s beyond what would normally be talked about or communicated.”
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