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.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.”
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.”
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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