Rubinstein’s Symphony No. 5

Listen to the entire Symphony No. 5 at:

Thanks to GoldieG89 for posting it. (You can also buy the entire CD at Amazon.)


Get Rid Of Those Old Musicians!

Recently, a colleague was asking advice of the proper way of “firing” the older musicians of his regional orchestra. His complaint was that these seniors were just not up to the high standards he was trying to achieve with his orchestra. Nothing wrong with raising the bar, but at what cost?

When I first arrived 25 years ago, my Orchestra was an amateur group with members of various degrees of achievement. Now, my Orchestra consists of excellent area professionals as well a select group of fabulous music students. So how did I get rid of those old guys who were dead weights and contributed absolutely nothing to the Orchestra? A horrible statement to make and one that is so wrong.

If it wasn’t for those older musicians, there wouldn’t be an Orchestra in the first place. My Orchestra was for the community to enjoy and if anyone felt they wanted to be a member, far be it from me to say you can’t come in.

What happened over the span of two decades was a complete transformation of the Orchestra through a natural process. I’ve had so many beautiful, sweet people in my orchestra through the years. Some of them have passed on and some have switched roles and became audience members. I have never fired a community player. On the contrary, community players have religiously, before each season, come to me and quite apologetically ask me if “you still want me to play?” I respond always by saying, “See that chair? That’s yours forever. You play when you want.”

Seniors are not stupid people. They are to be revered and respected. They truly understand when it is time to leave the orchestra. No fanfare. They enjoyed the time with the group and it’s time to move to the audience. As the standards rise and the size of our audience increases along with an expectation that the concert they are about to hear will be of a certain high quality, members know when it is time for their final bow.

Recently, I learned of a former cellist who passed away. He was a friend and a great supporter of the Orchestra. Awhile ago, a violist died and last year a bass clarinetist had a fatal accident. These people were my friends. Get rid of them? How cruel! A violinist, who has been on the Orchestra longer than I and plays when she can, always gives me a hug and thanks me for bringing such quality music to the community. I am humbled by that simple act.

These seniors are gold; they will be your biggest supporters. They are all a buzz at Sunday Church about Saturday’s concert. You can’t buy PR like that.

There is so much emphasis on youth these days; we forget that those sitting in the back have so much to offer. Do not ignore them. You can’t buy such experience and dedication. You might learn a few things from them; treat them with respect and be honored that they wish to become part of something they hold so dear. They have enriched your life.


Reflections on “Music from the Americas”

The University Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra and I will present the “Music from the Americas” concert this Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 8 PM in Wilson Hall, Lexington Virginia. Tickets are required. Go to the University’s website for information and to purchase tickets >click here.

The program includes the beautiful music from the Americas featuring Villa-Lobos (Brazil), Ginastera (Argentina) and Randall Thompson (United States). MaryAnne Vardaman will perform Bruch‘s Kol Nidre.

As I study the two pieces from South America, I can’t help but recall and reflect on my visits to both countries.

Hector Villa-Lobos 1887-1959

Hector Villa-Lobos 1887-1959 (photo credit:

Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2, with its sensual and suave tenor sax solos juxtaposed to the rustling sounds of the desert and the chugging sounds of the little countryside train of Caipira, capture the swaying rhythms of a country I proudly call my second home. Villa Lobos’ homage to Bach, captures the unique spirit of Brazilians; kind-hearted, full of humor, and proud of their beautiful country.

In contrast, the stylized more aggressive percussive style of Estancia by Ginastera portrays a country which gave birth to Tango; not only the dance but the song. Tango dancing contains sharp, definitive moves that often bring the two dances close in proximity but far in a personal sense; almost a battle of two wills. The songs of Tango are sad melodramas perhaps influenced by the difficult history of a country still defining itself.  “Maambo,” the final dance is a wild, out of control dance that ends the Suite in an explosive fashion–so different from the train from Caipira.

I met many Argentinians in my travels; often sharing stories with me of sadness and profound loss. It is a humbling experience hearing about a friend who passed away, leaving a loving family to grieve or a talented singer going it alone even after so many disappointments. The long melodic lines of the second movement of the Ballet gives us time to pause and pray for a better life.

Thompson’s home-spun Second Symphony is from an era of innocence and patriotism. Though parts of each movement often reflect the new machine age with its repeated highly rhythmic motifs, there are countless singable, folk-like melodies that dot the entire work. Though the composition doesn’t incorporate the jazz rhythms that were showing up in concert pieces during the same time, the “American sound” sung by the strings at the end of the last movement leaves us with feeling of pride and hope. Whatever country you call home, we all cling to hope…all of us.

Vienna Philharmonic Reveals Nazi Past

Many of the Vienna Philharmonic musicians were members of the Nazi party during Hitler’s regime, according to a report the orchestra issued March 10, 2013. Further, the orchestra delivered one of its most prestigious awards to a Nazi war criminal two decades after the end of World War II.

The Philharmonic has long been under fire for hiding the details of its Nazi past; the report includes biographies of Jewish members who were driven out and sent to death camps.


Maestro Franz Welser-Moest conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra during the traditional New Year’s Concert in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein in Vienna
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Among the most startling revelations was the origin of its famed New Year’s concert, which today is broadcast to an audience of more than 50 million in 80 countries. It was designed as a propaganda vehicle for the Nazi party. The orchestra held the release of its report until its return to Austria from its U.S. tour earlier this month.

The Ever Slow Death of Another Great Orchestra

SPCO lockout: Labor Board complaint filed February 19, 2013:

According to Minnesota Public Radio, the American Federation of Musicians has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the management of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The national union negotiates agreements over online use for orchestras it represents. AFM President Ray Hair said the union-made the complaint because it alleges the SPCO management has not supplied information about performances it intends to make available online.

More Bad News:

kyKim1511_lib_fit200x333Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Second Principal Violin Kyu-Young Kim revealed today he is leaving to join the New York Philharmonic.

Locked out musicians at both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra have been predicting for months that players would leave. Clarinetist Tim Paradise quit the SPCO in September. However this appears to be the first departure from the SPCO as a result of the lock out.


A Fateful Day in 1963; and in 2011

“One Red Rose” recalls a national tragedy, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, through specific impressions, filtered through 50 years of subsequent insightImage and experience. The three-movement work is for string quartet; its title derived from a detail reported by a Secret Service agent who examined the presidential limousine.

Recently, the Brentano String Quartetperformed this deeply emotional and thoughtful work by composer, Steven Mackey. The finale, “Anthem and Aria,” similarly juxtaposes collective anguish and acutely felt private grief.

I was on my way home from a chorus rehearsal, just 12 years old, and I heard the news on the radio not really knowing the true meaning of this horrifying news. I came home finding my Mother working on her stenography with the many LP’s of voices dictating letters at all speeds. When I told the news that Kennedy was shot and killed, she stopped and froze; it was the first time I ever saw my Mother weep.

I knew only then what really happened and that my message to her, blurted out by an innocent and naive child, wasn’t a news bulletin at all but more like daggers to the heart. It was only some five decades later that I saw that same profound sadness in my Mother’s eyes but amplified to deafening decibels; at my Father’s funeral.