Welcome to my blog. Read some of the stories and if you want, add your thoughts. Your comments will be entered in a drawing for a free CD, to be awarded at the end of the year. If you have any opinions about one of my recent concerts or one of my recordings, please post them. Do you have a favorite book or recording that you can recommend to others?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Italy 2008-09

WCU Orchestra in Sicily - Link to lodging:
Check it out also on Linguaglossa

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WCU Orchestra repertory 2008-09

OK, so for the fall:
Joseph Suk - Asrael Symphony: an incredible piece about love, death, redemption. This is about 1 hour long, five movements, I think it will be a challenge, but hopefully worth doing it. Suk was Dvorak's student and son in law, and a violinist. Beautiful Romantic music.
Bartok - Dance Suite: Finally some Bartok at WCU, fun piece, based on Eastern-European folk music, only about 15 minutes.
Smetana - Moldau: Everyone loves this one.
Ives/Schumann - Variations on America

Mussorgsky/Ravel - Pictures at an Exhibition
senior/graduate soloists

Beethoven - Symphony no. 9
senior/graduate soloists

Friday, July 25, 2008

My teacher Orlando Cole

During the 90's I had the wonderful pleasure of studying with Orlando Cole at Temple University. The highly intense doctoral program there allowed me to have lessons with Mr. Cole for 3 years. I recall my unconfessed concern about his older age - 84 yo at that point, hoping that he would stay healthy so I could take advantage of every lesson together. Who would have known that even today, in 2008, he'd still be teaching. The lessons were very different from my previous teacher, who was much more hands on about my private life (including interfering in one my relationships by lecturing my then fiance that she should not be making a commitment to a cellist who is one of "a-dime-a-dozen"). Mr. Cole was all about the music, no declarations about what I should be doing after graduation, or philosophical lectures about music and practicing. I the lesson I'd play the cello, he'd make a comment, and then play some more. Maybe 50 minutes of the lesson I was playing; that was a great example for me of a true teacher. Let the student play, don't lecture him/her because you like hearing yourself talking.

So the relationship with Mr. Cole was different then with other previous teachers. Getting little feedback about how I stacked myself against other cellists felt unsettling, I thought maybe Mr. Cole did not like my playing. Eventually I understood that he respected my playing and ideas and it was really about getting things done in the lesson, not talk. In time, more feedback came, and some of my most inspirational moments were his comments about music and how I should look at a cello career in a contemporary context.

Mr. Cole was not able to demonstrate much. He'd already developed a tremor in his hands, and I am sure he was a bit self-conscious. On occasion, he'd demonstrate how to move the bow on the string, how to use more of the right arm, and how to better match the bow speed with the placement. We searched for a certain tone, more velvety, and I think this concept came from his teacher Felix Salmond. He played the piano, accompanying me in all the pieces I did, and he played quite well. I remember him playing through the whole Dvorak Concerto in a spectacular way. So, we covered a lot of repertory, some of which I had done before: Elgar, Dvorak, and Shostakovich 1 concerti, Schelomo by Bloch, Brahms Double, then sonatas: Barber (which he wanted to make sure it was the first sonata I did with him), Beethoven A Major and D Major, Brahms F Major, Britten, Kodaly Solo Sonata, Bach 6th, 4th and 2nd, and other shorter works. In addition, many studies, including a review of some of the Popper, then Grutzmacher vol. 2, and Paganini Capricces. If I think about it, that's a lot of material for 3 years. That's what happens if you talk less and play more.

In any case, I came across this interview on His personality comes alive, it's like hearing him talk. If you can, go read it, but you need probably at least 10 minutes:
Mr. Cole's life bridges several generations, and he brings history together with wonderful prospective and spectacular memory.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A new path

Starting this August I am officially the new Music Director for the Immaculata Symphony. It is an exciting new relationship with a wonderful group musicians and who dedicate a lot of time to their love for ensemble playing. Most players hold a second job in a different field, or as music teachers, while several are students at Immaculata University, a wonderful Catholic school that nurtures young person's hopes and dreams and unites spiritual values with a practical approach to life, in a contemporary context. I have high hopes and goals, first of all artistic, and I will try to be that catalyst that will motivate all to go forward. I know I can do it, but I wonder if I will be successful. Not musically, I know that together we'll make great music, but beyond it. I think the organization needs to make some changes, mostly in the image department. The fund-raising can be strengthen also. The board of directors consists of mostly orchestra members, who give a lot of extra time. In any case, for the first concert we'll tackle Bruckner's 6th, a great work. The idea came this spring; Sylvia and I went to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert with Vadim Repin as soloist in the Sibelius concerto. We selected seats in the second row, right in front of the soloist, and what experience that was. You could see every smile, frown, fingering, bow turn, articulation, bow edge at the bridge and more. After the intermission we contemplated moving further away for the Bruckner Symphony, the 6th, but we decided to stay put. We were right behind Eschenbach, and right by concertmaster David Kim (whom I know from previous masterclasses we did together in Wilmington, Delaware). By the way, David Kim is a wonderful artist and a very warm person, modest, giving and inspiring. In any case, hearing the Bruckner from so close up, seeing the first violin section rip into the initial Brucknerian motive, seeing even Eschenbach get excited, was an experience that made me want to be part of this great work. So, here you have it, it came sooner than I thought, and I look forward to building those great, deep brass sonorities, and the large landscapes that make me see the Alpine ridges, snows and valleys, the noble Germanic spirit that seems full of myth and tradition. November 1st is the date of the concert, and even the season seems right for the composition.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Difference

The only difference between you and your dreams is "you."

After a few comments I decided to explain myself. If you want to be successful, you have to have big dreams. And small and medium dreams, too. They are all good. But the big ones are those that matter. How easy is to attain the big dreams? I think it is hard. It is so hard that most people stop before they achieve the dream. There are almost always obstacles; they will slow you down, they will try to stop you. But don't stop. You make the decision when to stop going after your dreams, so your actions and decisions make the difference between failing your dreams and achieving them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

To be a great artist you must be not right!

This is what Konstantin Krimets said while sipping a beer at the outdoor terrace of the Moscow Conservatory restaurant. It was a sunny day of early summer in 2000, after the second recording session of the Miaskovsky cello concerto, and both of us were tired from the session and an afternoon of sightseeing. It had gone well. This was my first recording with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra and the experience was very inspiring, stimulating, and rewarding at the same time.

I had met Krimets the Sunday before. As soon as I arrived in Moscow I requested a rehearsal with the conductor and a pianist so we cold go through the tempi. Krimets conveyed the message that I should go to his dacha – the weekend house that any respectable Muscovite owns and uses to recharge their batteries, and we would work there, and get to know each other and enjoy a little relaxing time (that meant a lot of Vodka). That would have been too complicated, so I asked him to meet me at a rehearsal room. He is a short man, with a round, protruding stomach, a red beard and a shiny head, looking a little like Lenin has a child with Friedrich Engels. After I played through the concerto, his first question was: “How did you dare turn down my invitation to visit my dacha and call me into the city on a Sunday.” Acting as translator, my friend Sam Teitel, a great diplomat, gave Krimets a very complimentary answer, praising his wisdom, generosity, and artistry, and explaining that we did not have transportation.

As main conductor of the Mosfilm studios for several decades, Krimets has great experience recording in the studio, and he knew well the Miaskovsky. His tempi were a little slow, but his command of the orchestra was indubitably strong. After the recording he continued his a-little-too-confident behavior, walking downtown Moscow with his shirt open, the hairy belly sticking out, hands behind his back, all while proclaiming that Stalin was a great man. Remember that Stalin killed millions of his people on his way to building a military empire encompassing many nations.

After a few days of working together, Krimets started using a few words in English. So now, we are relaxing with a beer, trying to make some conversation, some with a translator, and parts directly in English. I asked him about the recording and if he had any career advice. I recall him telling me that I would play the Elgar very beautifully, after which he said: “To be a great artist you must be not right.” My first thought was that he made a grammar mistake and meant something else, maybe that a performer has to be right in order to be an artist. When he repeated the same words, rather that disregard his comments, I started thinking. It went against all we are taught in school: to respect the tradition, the notation in the score, to carefully plan and build musical phrases, and when to breathe and how to change the bow, and to carefully analyze a work to discover the inherent truth, which we should dutifully attempt to bring out. And then, after a few seconds, it hit me. We have to make a composer’s work our own, and bend it and twisted and become it, and play it “real” and spontaneously as if we make it up on the spot, and do whatever it takes to a make it powerful so it moves people. If we play it pre-designed, pre-calculated, it is only canned and it will be one out of thousands of similar items. It doesn’t mean that we should not respect the score; it means that we must make the notes alive and take music beyond the score. Let go of inhibitions, and challenge the listener, be it a master, or a friend or somebody out there in the audience. And that was one moment in my life when I know I became a different musician.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Airport security in the USA

On a recent trip to Cleveland I had all my things in a carry-on luggage. On arrival, I realized that the security at BWI let me through will a number of items that are forbidden: a large tube of toothpaste, two bottles of cologne, laundry detergent in a metal tube, a Swiss army knife, and a few other things. Even more interesting, last week I took an international flight out of Philadelphia for St Maarten and after checking in, and right before I was to get in the security line, I discovered that I was given a boarding pass with the name Patricia Rohan. I went back to the same employee, who seemed rather shocked and who asked me: "How did that happen?"