Last night I attended the second in the Classical Connections put on by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. I have had a subscription for I believe four seasons now, and what began as a group of five or so has ballooned to around 20 people. It's actually pretty fantastic as this series is geared to young professionals, so I enjoy being part of a large percentage of that audience at each performance.
The series differs from a regular symphony performance in that there's interaction with the audience (as well as a tad shorter program). In previous seasons there was a host, former art (?) director Evans Mirages, and a lot of interaction with him and MSO conductor, Andreas Delfs. Well Mirages moved on and Delfs is in the process of transitioning out to the amazing Edo de Waart, so this year's series is also in transition. It used to be six performances, now it's four. Hosting duties are split between Concertmaster Frank Almond and Principal Cellist Joseph Johnson. And there's a flurry of guest conductors swinging through this year.
There's a series of guest soloists as in year's past, but I don't think we're scheduled to be treated to any musical phenomena (and/or eye candy) such as Joshua Bell, as we've been in year's past.
Still, it's really worth the price (under $100 for front and center seats for ALL four concerts) to go. And you always come out learning something about classical music. For me, who only took a year of cello for her musical formation, it's education much needed.
Last night however, we all learned more than we ever needed to know about the [French] Horn. It was actually quite entertaining, although I think my word for it later was "trippy." William Barnewitz, principal horn for the Milwaukee Symphony, performed two of Mozart's horn concertos and then gave a step-by-step, note-by-note look at the evolution of the incident, and while interviewed by Johnson gave a full history of his bizarre route to professional musician. The most fascinating part was probably how he'd quit the horn and returned to it while scrubbing out a wine tank and listening to "bad" musicians perform Dvorak on NPR.
We also learned about the amount of spit that accumulates in the horn. It's one sexy instrument. Um, if you like spit.
After the hornfest, we were treated to an interview with guest conductor, Gilbert Varga, who was very very enthusiastic about Ravel's La Valse. It was cool because he broke down the individual sections, by instrument for the audience, but I think you have to be really into music to get the "joke" that Ravel sets the piece up to be. Although according to Wikipedia, that "joke" is the destruction of Europe. We didn't really cover that last night.
The piece was interesting enough, but moreso was Varga's conducting style. I've never quite seen anything like it. I described it today as watching him "gyrate in a fashion that was a cross between a Ukranian gymnast and one of those insect sex documentaries."
After the event, we went to the sponsored reception across the street at the ever-sophisticated InterContinental Hotel. It was great to catch up with friends, talk about the big trip, and have Larissa buy me a birthday cocktail!
If you'd like to catch a more-structured version of the program, the MSO will be performing the above selections and more all weekend.