My usual habit is to look forward, always excited to move on to the next wonderful musical opportunity. But at this time of year, with the closing of another winter concert season, I cannot help but reflect on the past with its plethora of successes.
The 2013-2014 season afforded me 36 performances of 22 different programs. Here are a few of the highlights:
- The season began in September with a trip through Mozart’s amazing Gran Partita Serenade. Made famous by the opening scene of Amadeus (where Salieri delivers that riveting monologue exposing his deep jealousy of Mozart’s genius masquerading as simplicity). The wind players of the Westerville Symphony outdid themselves with this extraordinary piece.
- Alicia Hui, Principal Second Violin for the Columbus Symphony joined the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra for a soulful reading of the Bruch Scottish Fantasy. This music comes from my ancestral heritage, and I never traverse this score without a rush of emotion, and Alicia more than did justice to the music.
- Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony and the 3rd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninoff opened the season for the Springfield Symphony with some of the most focused, pristine playing by that ensemble in recent memory. The Mendelssohn positively sizzled, and Rachmaninoff (my first trip through that score) was amazing. Spencer Meyer was the soloist, and did a tremendous job with this complex score.
- The Springfield Symphony took on a project in November that truly embraced its mission of being relevant to its community. We created an experience that commemorated the Civil War with particular emphasis on the African American involvement not only as that catalyst of slavery but the direct involvement of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment. A house prominent in the Underground Railroad network still stands in Springfield, and several residents of our community at the time enlisted in the Mass 54th. Not only did we create a musical celebration, but commissioned our partners at The Now Device to create a multi-media visual presentation. The result was a performance that still has the Community buzzing.
- The Holidays saw an opportunity to conduct two different versions of The Nutcracker. The Tulsa Ballet uses Marcello Angelini’s version, and BalletMet Columbus ( for whom I conducted on their annual tour to Detroit) uses Gerard Charles’ choreography. They are just different enough to resemble two different pieces. Gerhard’s is traditional, Marcello’s is more adventurous, adding music from other sources. Both are wonderful, but shifting gears between the two is a bit stressful.
- While on the subject of ballet, I had a chance to conduct Ben Stevenson’s setting of Prokofiev’s Cinderella in Tulsa this season. This must be one of the greatest scores of the 20th century. The production was beautiful and the experience exhilarating, despite a few “discussions” with the Artistic Director over tempi.
- The season saw two memorable experiences with the Westerville Symphony as well. In March we collaborated with New York composer John Deak on a program highlighting humor in music. The concept was part of a festival at Otterbein University, and it proved to be a huge success! But perhaps the highlight of the season for me was a performance of Ralph Vaughan-Williams Sea Symphony. This piece doesn’t come around often, so needless to say, it was my first performance of the work. Its complexity is enormous, but the time in learning and rehearsing the piece was well worth the effort. The combined choruses of Otterbein, the soloists, and the Orchestra tackled the project with amazing focus and dedication. What a wonderful way to close a tremendous season!
Now, I must study for next year!