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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Helena Symphony

Thursday was a free day. I did some practicing in the morning, then met with Allan (R. Scott, the Music Director of Helena Symphony and conductor for the concert) for lunch. Since we were going to an elegant restaurant, a beautiful 19th century building that long time ago used to be a gentlemen’s club, I wore a nice shirt and tie. We had a great time talking about pieces and conductors and eccentric musicians. After visiting the Civic Center, where the concert was going to take place, I changed into casual clothes and snickers and went on a hike up Mont Helena. It was a perfect day, great temperature and perfect visibility, which was rather lucky, since Helena has been plagued by forest fires which blacked the sky for days and made breathing challenging. It took me about 1h and 10 minutes to get to the top, and the view was incredible, you could see the whole city at the foot of the mountain, the beautiful cathedral with two spires, and the huge plateau stretching for miles in all directions, until the mountains sliced it on all sides. The height at the top was about 5400 feet, an elevation of 1500 feet above the town. As I started climbing, I could feel the altitude and my breathing got heavy quickly. I had to slow down a bit and pace myself. Since, I was supposed to return to the Symphony office by 4:45, so I rushed down, making it in about an hour.

That night I had dinner with Mary Williams, the orchestra’s Executive Director, and we talked about everything, from the business of a non-profit, to singing, to traveling and family. I was keen to ask her about her experience in Romania, as she was a diplomat at the Embassy in Bucharest during Ceausescu’s time, right around the big earthquake (7.2 on the Richter scale, March 4, 1977, Friday night, 9:21 PM, during the showing of a Bulgarian movie). Any “top secret” information discussed is not available.

The rehearsals and the concert went well. I had a great time, it is really awesome to play the Elgar, a very moving work, perfect for the cello, and the musicians did a fabulous job. Allan was very sensitive in his conducting, the phrasing seemed fluid, and I had really nice interaction with the orchestra. Playing the piece felt like living Elgar’s life and mine combined in a 30 minute span, it was a powerful experience and I could not speak at the end. After the second movement - Allegro - the fast virtuosic perpetum-mobile like, the audience gasped audibly, and at the end, they sprung up in a standing ovation.

The last few days I had a chance to meet several of the musicians, Stephan, the concertmaster, and his girlfriend Carrie, nice people and good musicians, commuters from Bozeman. Many musicians play 2-3 orchestra within driving distance. Stephan discovered that Wednesday’s crossword puzzle had a clue, 45 down, that was highly unusual: “Internationally famous cellist soloist with the Helena Symphony this weekend.” I could not believe it, this was me. Except it had space for only 5 letters and my shortest name (first name) has six. So I had to solve the puzzle to find out my new name - the solution was: Ovidu (the i missing).

At the dress rehearsal the first cellist, Linda Kuhn, listen from the auditorium, a large space with over 2000 seats, and she said the balance was perfect and that the cello projected beyond expectations. I was so pleased for having this instrument that I could afford, made by Georg Gemunder, in New York, in the mid 1800’s, one that gives out a rich, dark sound, and also projects well. It helped that I had just changed the strings to Larsen soloist for the A and D, and Spirocore Tungsten for the G and C, and especially the adjustment done by Whitney Osterud in Wilmington, who is a genius of a repair person, and sound adjuster.

Linda is a great cellist, having studied with Janigro in Germany and with Zara Nelsova in Cincinnati, and what are the odds of that: she is also very nice. Have you noticed that most good musicians are also great people (especially cellists)? Her daughter Kelly also plays with the orchestra, and she is only a sophomore in high school. It was nice to hang out with the cellists.

So now I am in the plane, having made my connecting flight in Salt Lake City.
Next cello objective: learn the clarinet/cello/piano trio by Vincent D’Indy for a performance in 2 weeks and prepare the Schumann Concerto for a performance in Cleveland in November.


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