Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cornelia Pokrzwya

Cornelia Pokrzywa -

For those of us who eagerly awaited the end of the strike and the return of the musicians to Orchestra Hall, the 2011-12 season brought many highlights tempered by bittersweet moments and some notes of longing.

The shortened Spring-Summer offerings in 2011 brought us one of the saddest days in recent memory – the final concert of much-beloved concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert. Since her departure was a direct result of the strike, there was no opportunity for a fond and formal farewell. Her last concert was simply her last concert. Other retirements and departures followed. As a result, the 2011-2012 season featured perhaps the largest number of substitute musicians that audiences had ever seen.

For those of us who hold a special fondness for our musicians, it was often difficult to come to concerts knowing that we may not see or hear a favorite. Some, of course, had moved on for good. Others, due to the strike, took on obligations that limited their performances in the 2011-12 season.

Audience favorite Kim Kennedy led the 2011-12 season as acting concertmaster, performing solos and a concerto to the delight of those who have admired her playing for years. The recent announcement of a new concertmaster has many audience members excited for what will come.

One benefit of the limited offerings this season: many of the musicians took to concertizing in the community and beyond. Local chamber music programs gave the audience the opportunity to listen to our esteemed musicians in more intimate settings. A brunch series at the Birmingham Community House, the ProMozart Society, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, and the neighborhood concerts all gave audiences the opportunity to hear music in new and different settings.

Still, for many of us, the best place to hear the orchestra is Orchestra Hall. Some of the most memorable concerts this season included the Festival of Flutes with Sir James Galway alongside the DSO’s own Sharon Sparrow and Jeff Zook, who performed Vivaldi’s Piccolo concerto to a full house. Favorite conductors featured this season included Neemi Jarvi, Jerzy Semkov, and Thomas Wilkins. It’s clear that Detroit audiences know, love and appreciate the conductors who know and respond to the heart of the DSO. The season finale will feature Robert DeMaine.

Looking ahead, the audience knows that DSO is a living, growing organization. We cannot stop change, nor should we strive to stop it. Audience input, however, remains an important goal as the DSO continues to develop new offerings. We must stay involved, whether as subscribers, donors, or new media users. As we know, cultural institutions in Detroit need community support. Let’s step up and hold our orchestra out to the world as a successful example

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David Faulkner –

Saturday, Oct 8, Michel Camilo piano concerto #2 and Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, Leonard Slatkin conductor:

The Camilo was certainly new to my ears. I recall it being well performed by Mr. Camilo. I did not sense any real soul to the piece or Camilo’s interpretation. The Berlioz seemed rather mundane, predictable, somewhat choppy and i recall being nearly asleep after a couple movements. I believe there were about 30 substitute players that evening. Charles Dutoit’s colourful and highly dramatic reading of Symphonie Fantastique had me on the edge of my seat right from start to finish in a concert a few year’s back at OH. It seemed that Slatkin et al needed a blood transfusion in comparison to Dutoit.

Friday Oct 21, Neilsen Helios Overture, Franz Liszt piano concerto #2, Tchaikovsky Symphony #6(Pathetique), Jerzy Semkow conductor, Kirill Gerstein soloist:

The Helioz overture was rich with atmosphere and buzzed with excitement. I am not a big Liszt fan and especially not of the 2nd concerto. However it was lovingly performed by Gerstein and kind of won me over a least for that evening. Maestro Semkow has long been a favorite conductor of mine in Detroit. He has consistently given HIGHLY musical and polished performances mostly of Mendelsson, Mahler, Bruckner, Mozart and so forth. It was clear that night that Mr. Semkow was not well as he sat down to conduct the entire program. The Tchaikovsky had some wonderfully profound moments but i felt semkow took the 3rd movement (Marche) at a nearly impossible slow tempo. However Mr. Semkow should be thanked formally by DSO management for giving over 32 years of wonderful concerts to Detroit audiences. Are you listening DSO?

Thursday, Nov 17, Festival of Flutes featuring James Galway, Lady Jeanne Galway, Maria Piccinini, Jeff Zook-piccolo, Hai-Xin Wu-violin:

The program featured Bach Brandenburg concerto #4, Paquito D’Rivera Gran Danzon, Mozart flute concerto #2. The Bach was well played and quite spirited. The Gran Danzon found Maria Piccinini in great form. This piece was most interesting, with many unusual rhythms and colourful effects throughout. Jeff Zook took an engaging and fun romp thru the Vivaldi piccolo concerto. I was amazed at how zook was able to negotiate rapid-fire trills and runs and not losing his breath. Mr. Galway’s playing in the Mozart was “pretty” and technically flawless. One would have liked a little more depth and variance of tonal quality. All in all a very enjoyable night.

Friday Nov 25, Schubert “Unfinished” Symphony, Rachmaninov Symphony #3, Mason Bates “B-Sides.” Leonard Slatkin conductor, Mason Bates-Electronica:

The Schubert sounded like Mr Slatkin was in a big hurry to get it over with. Over the top dynamics and no sense of mystery. Things improved with the Rachmaninov. This was a well played but somewhat restrained effort. There were some wonderfully lush moments in the string melodies. The B-Sides exploded with all kinds of subtle color and dynamic shifts. Mason Bates is clearly an interesting composer. Although a bit repetitive the last movement was downright infectious.

Friday Jan 20, Franck Symphony in D Minor, Saint Saens Piano Concerto #2. Helen Bouchez Conductor, Conrad Tao soloist.

Mr. Tao’s playing in the concerto was full of high drama but also wonderfully tender when called for. Tao’s technical skills were enormous but he still managed to play quite musically for the most part. I enjoyed hearing the Franck which i had not heard for many years. Mrs. Bouchez’s conducting was fairly straight-forward but had moments of extra sparkle.

Friday Feb 24, John Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls, Brahms German Requiem. Leonard Slatkin Conductor, UMS Choral Union:

The Adams was plagued from the start with the “recorded” parts being too prominent against the hushed strings of the orchestra. Tho the piece was clearly moving it struck me as rather disjointed in parts. I enjoyed the Brahms. The Choral Union sang with strong conviction and produced mostly a unified fairly rich sound. There was however a very wobbly out of control vibrato from one of the sopranos which overwhelmed parts of the score. Slatkin’s conducting was fairly predictable but did have some beautiful moments.

Fri March 23, Mozart Don Giovanni Overture, Beehtoven Piano Concerto #5, Mozart Symphony # 38. Nicholas McGegan Conductor:

The Don Giovanni was rather pedestrian. The Beehtoven played by Robert Levin was rather earthbound. Levin’s brutally aggressive attack and bleached out tonal quality were not pleasing to these ears. I was lost by the end of the first movement. Nicholas McGegan led a fine performance of the Mozart symphony. Although McGegan is very much in the “original instrument” style of playing, he doesn’t go over the top with the lack of vibrato and somewhat dried-out tonal quality. The piece was quite engaging and refreshing to hear a new-”old” twist on things.

Sat March 31, Brahms Piano Concerto #2, Wagner-DEVLIEGER Die Meistersinger-Orchestral Tribute. Neeme Jarvi Conductor, Helene Grimaud soloist:

The LONG LONG overdue return of Neeme Jarvi. Mrs Grimaud’s playing in the Brahms was very competent and quite engaging overall. Once again though i thought her playing became rather strident and aggressive, almost out of control at times. Especially in the prayer-like second movement more poetry in her playing would have helped. Well the second half was all Neeme Jarvi. It took all of about five minutes to realize how much the DSO misses the charisma and innate musicality of Jarvi. It seemed like years since the sound of the cellos and strings had that much warmth and bloom to the sound. Jarvi ever the bubbly type had the audience very engaged right from the start. The two American encores were wonderful!

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David Assemany

David Assemany –

I attended almost every classical week of the 2011-12 Season. I did miss the Classical Roots concert, and I will miss the Saint-Saëns concert next week.

From the outset it was clear that this was not the DSO from season’s past; so many faces gone, so many unknown musicians on the stage.   The strings sounded distinctly different, who were all those percussionists, and what is with those cameras?!  This was going to take some getting used to.

As the season progressed I got used to seeing the new faces.  There seemed to be consistency in who was subbing which was good of course.  The string sound filled out, the percussion section sounded good from the outset, the flutes found excellent players to fill out the section.  I have always been a fan of Kim Kennedy, and seeing her step up as Acting Concertmaster was nice, as was hearing her in the starring role quite a few times, most notable the recent Wagner/Waxman Tristan and Isolde Fantasy.  Acting Principal Flute Sharon Sparrow was her usual spectacular self.  Other people who shone when asked to move up in the section included Úna O’Riordan, Cello and Geoffrey Johnson, English Horn.

As a pianist, I always look forward to the big piano concertos. This season had several highlights, one of them completely unexpected; the Conrad Tao concert in January featuring the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G-minor. I loved it so much I went back the next night, and then watched the webcast! Conrad is a mesmerizing pianist, with technique to burn and more importantly a soul. He is a young man with quite a career already, and one to watch in the future.

Another unexpected delight was Final Alice by David Del Tredici. I had never heard of the piece, and quite honestly did not expect to love it. I did however love it, once again watching the webcast after attending the concert live the night before. It was a tour de force for the soprano Hila Plitmann, and the musicians got quite a workout as well. There are probably not many conductors who could pull this piece off as well as Maestro Slatkin did.

The webcasts evolved over the course of the season. They were a little rough at first, which is not surprising as they were navigating uncharted territory at every turn. However the Digital Media team led by Scott Harrison and Eric Woodhams quickly became expert at producing an excellent webcast. Kudos guys, looking forward to next season!

The Mix at the Max event in April was a fun departure from the norm. Featuring the Brooklyn-based chamber orchestra The Knights, it included a pre-concert mixer with food and drink from several local restaurants. The crowd was young and enthusiastic. Hopefully this sort of event will bring people to the hall who would not normally attend a classical concert.

A disappointment for me was the reduced season of classical concerts actually performed in Orchestra Hall. Most of the venues that the community concerts were performed in are acoustically poor and even the good ones don’t hold a candle to Orchestra Hall. I hope the ensuing seasons reduce the commitment to the community concerts and focus on getting those people to come to the DSO’s wonderful home stage. How about a free ticket to a concert in the hall with every purchase of a community concert ticket? Busses from the burbs?

On a different topic, I must tell about my experiences as an SOS officer with the DSO administration and staff at the MAX: Going into the season, I saw potential for friction with the administration while we from SOS tried to become more involved in the behind the scenes work of producing ‘world class music on the stage of Orchestra Hall.’ Happily this was not the case. The staff was always polite, professional, friendly and efficient. Upper management, starting right at the top with Anne Parsons, went out of their way to make the SOS Governing Members feel welcome and listened to. Our concerns were not always addressed, but they were always respectfully heard. We were not shy about pushing our way into the daily goings on. Our presence at the hall was always (seemingly) welcomed.

And finally, I would like to extend a big welcome to: Sheryl Hwangbo, violin – Monica Fosnaugh, English horn – Johanna Yarbrough, French horn – Peter McCaffrey, cello – David LeDoux, cello – Yoonshin Song, Concertmaster!

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Fundraising for Avanti Music Fest.

Dear SOS members:

Avanti Summer Music Fest is well on its way.  We have over 150 students confirmed; we have our Ensemble Directors in place & an enthusiastic Steering Committee that is working hard to make this all happen.

However, we still need YOU!  We are in the midst of fundraising, having our first event on May 20th at Our Lady Star of the Sea.  Please read about it at . You can help!  We are having a reception after the silent auction & concert and are in need of decorations for tables and goodies to serve.

All you bakers, now is your chance to show off your skill. We are looking for cookies or brownies, any kind of hand held sweet for the reception.

Not at home in the kitchen?  How about purchasing some 2 liter bottles of soda or lemonade?  Or donating money for us to purchase them and/or the decorations (plastic table cloths, napkins, name tags for Avanti families, etc)?

Want to attend? Great!  Not only will we take your donation at the door, there will be a silent auction on which to bid and opportunities to volunteer for various tasks (helping with parking, manning the name tag table, keeping the goodies stocked, etc as well as that most important task: clean up!).

Please contact me with how YOU can help!

Bev Williams

Avanti Steering Committee




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May is DSO Community Support Month!

An Annual Fund gift to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is your vote of confidence in the DSO’s critical role in the community and to making great music for all to hear.

The DSO is a community-supported orchestra and your commitment is essential to our success. We invite you to play your part through frequent ticket purchases and tax-deductible annual donations. Your gift supports activities including Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts, Civic Youth Ensembles and our Neighborhood Series and community performances throughout Metro Detroit.

To give a gift amount of your choice, please visit

Let’s build a community…

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