Posts Tagged ‘VSO’

vso summer festival finale

July 10, 2011

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s successful (no rain!) Summer Festival Tour came to a triumphantly smoky conclusion tonight at the Trapp Family Lodge concert meadow. The fireworks finale punctuated another perfect evening for outdoor music, with sunset-washed rolling green hills in the background and several hundred fellow picnicking concertgoers all around.

A refreshingly crisp riesling topped off the experience – summer never tasted so good.

vso summer festival tour

July 2, 2011

vso during intermission

For the last month or so a regular topic of conversation with friends has been the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Festival Tour: Where to meet? What time? And, maybe most important of all – who’s got the wine for the picnic?

Each summer the VSO packs up to take the show on the road – “the only orchestra that tours the state every year”, according to executive director Alan Jordan.

My reference points for the outdoor symphonic experience before moving to Vermont include the Hollywood Bowl concerts I cherished so much when I live in Los Angeles. Warm summer nights, world class music played outdoors – all tucked into a compact bandshell, lit up like a bright, glowing gift waiting to be unwrapped. The Bowl is the off-season summer home for members of the LA Philharmonic – though the high “regular season” quality of the music certainly made a good case to question the “off” in off-season.

And, years before I moved to LA, I frequently got together with highschool friends for regular summertime outings in my hometown to see the Denver Symphony Orchestra (predecessor to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra) in their series of summer concerts at City Park. Same formula: starry skies, potluck picnics, and punchy classical hits like the Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture and basically anything by Gershwin to round out the musical part of the experience.

It’s very much the same story for the VSO, but instead of migrating to a single summer locale the group’s seasonal home is actually the entire state. And nothing musically is lost in the translation from indoor (regular season) to outdoor (off-season).

This year’s tour kicked off with a big BOOM! last night at Sugarbush Resort in Warren – you know, the new lodge/spa that looks like an enormous barn (complete with silo) right at the base of Lincoln Peak:

sugarbush resort

I got off work later than planned and arrived at the concert a few minutes into the program, with the final bars of Antonin Dvořák’s lively Carnival Overture already resounding into the parking lot and surrounding hills. Boo-ya! In arriving at that moment, with the performance of that piece in progress, I felt as if I was the very person Dvořák envisioned in his description of the Overture: “The wanderer reaches the city at nightfall, where a carnival of pleasure reigns supreme. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in the songs and dance tunes.” 

vso's glowing bandshell

The theme of this year’s tour is “Symphony Royale”, with music all somehow relating to the theme of royalty: a medley by Edward “Duke” Ellington, another one from The King and I, Meyerbeer’s Coronation March, and many other favorites along those lines. I can’t tell you exactly how the Dvořák Carnival Overture ties in – maybe there’s a musical reference in there somewhere to a “Carnival King”? (If you know, let me know with a comment here and I’ll share it with everyone.)  Nonetheless, musically if not entirely thematically(?), the work’s raucous celebration fit right in to set the stage for the festive occasion.

One highlight of the very pleasing evening of music was the Kalendar Prince, a sensuously exotic moment (2nd movement) of orchestral lushness from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful suite, Scheherezade. The bassoon solo was sumptuous and beckoning while the muted horns and trumpets painted a deep backdrop of portent, and majesty. And you just can’t go wrong at a summer concert with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and a little splash of firework-punctuated Sousa to round out the program.

The VSO’s Summer Festival tour is just getting underway. Here’s where you can catch up with them next:

  • Friday, 7/1 – Sugarbush Resort, Warren (last night)
  • Saturday, 7/2 – Hildene Meadowlands, Manchester
  • Sunday, 7/3 – Grafton Ponds, Grafton
  • Monday, 7/4 – Shelburne Farms, Shelburne
  • Thursday, 7/7 – Mountain Top Inn, Chittenden
  • Friday, 7/8 – Quechee Polo Grounds, Quechee
  • Saturday, 7/9 – Three Stallion Inn, Randolph
  • Sunday, 7/10 – Trapp Concert Meadow, Stowe

the grand finale

what yo-yo said

May 25, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma and me (photo by Ty Robertson)

On the eve of his Burlington appearance in late April, Yo-Yo Ma was the guest of honor at the reception we had at the radio station. Around 60 folks came, invited by both us and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra to enjoy some personal time in his company.

When I wrote about that event I mentioned one of the things that struck me was the short conversation we had (in fairness – he did all the talking) as we walked up the long hallway on his way out of the building. He talked about the importance of public broadcasting – radio, specifically – and of its undeniable worthiness for public funding. I still think about that conversation.

The next night, Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Jaime Laredo joined my colleague Walter Parker on the Flynn Center stage for Musically Speaking, the pre-concert talk. I wanted to share some of the highlights of that interaction – there were many, here are some of the most memorable ones:

Walter Parker: “At our reception last night you mentioned you met Jaime when you were 15.”

Yo-Yo Ma: “Jaime warned me you would embarass all of us here at some point. (laughs…)

WP: “We were all 15 at one time.”

Y-YM: “I was 15 for many years.”


Y-YM: (on his relationship with Jaime Laredo) “You ever have a dream where you’re taking a test and you haven’t been to any of the classes? That’s what Jaime inspires in me.”


Later in the conversation, Yo-Yo talked about having traveled all over the world with Jaime in their long relationship. He mentioned the one place they hadn’t been together yet was Jaime’s home town of Cochambamba, Bolivia. Jaime’s response: “Cochambamba, Bolivia might be the only place in the world we could walk down the street and people would say, ‘who’s that guy’ “(pointing at Yo-Yo).


Walter then mentioned Yo-Yo’s website solicitation for musical support of Japan, in the wake of the devastating March 11th earthquake and resulting tsunami – what does musical support mean?

Y-YM: “Music is something very porous. It travels lightly. You can hear it inside you. As an artist you always want to think of how you can offer a cultural response.”


Given Yo-Yo Ma’s well-known omnivorous approach to musical styles, Walter asked about the lessons learned from playing non-classical music.

Y-YM: “It was fortuitous as a classical musician that I played so many wrong notes…” (big audience laugh – of course.)


At the end of the more formal conversation, the floor was opened to audience question. The first was the best – because of the answer it received.

Audience member: “What prompted you to start playing the cello?” (at age four) –

Y-YM: “I wanted something BIG.”

ma in the house

April 30, 2011

(photo by VPR's Brendan Kinney)

We’ve been planning it for months and months. As soon as it was announced that Yo-Yo Ma would be playing with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra this season, preparations got underway to hold a reception for him at the station. It happened last night.

For the first half hour or so guests of both VPR and the VSO gathered in the station’s performance studio, enjoying catering from Cloud Nine and catching up with each other. Then after a little while a short burst of spontaneous applause heralded the guest of honor’s arrival, and, beaming (as usual), Yo-Yo Ma stood at the doorway surveying the packed room.

It didn’t take me long to become impressed with his natural graciousness. He took a few moments to speak personally and genuinely with everyone who approached him. (And everyone did.) Somehow he made his way around the entire congested room within around a half hour’s time before being ushered out to make a late dinner date elsewhere.

Nearly as soon as he arrived, it seemed, he needed to leave. And I hadn’t had the opportunity to introduce myself yet as I noticed him began making his way to the door. So I cleared a path through the room and escorted him out and up the long hallway to the exit. We talked the whole time we walked – actually he did, once he found out what I did at the station. His topic? Expressing avid support for public broadcasting in the face of continuing funding threats. I just listened.

We could have talked about music, we could have talked about his concert tonight with the VSO. THIS IS YO-YO MA (I kept thinking) – he didn’t have to talk about anything at all if he didn’t want to. But there he was, taking the little time he had to share with me a passionate expression of dismay at the ongoing federal budget struggles with funding for public broadcasting, and the arts.

If you’ve ever listened to his playing and wondered about the wellspring that could produce such beautiful and heartfelt music, I can tell you firsthand it’s only possible because it comes from deep within him, it originates from a spirit that is equally genuine and empathetic and human. You simply can’t make music like that if it doesn’t come from a place that’s real.  I’ll listen to him playing the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations and Saint-Saëns’ first Cello Concerto this evening with that in mind, and be glad I could have that small insight in meeting him last night.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have tickets yet you probably won’t be able to experience the concert this evening. It’s been sold out since it was announced last September, and apparently there is an unprecedented waiting list of more than a hundred people right now. Don’t let that stop you from exploring Yo-Yo Ma’s music, though – in particular I recommend his Sony recordings of the solo Bach cello suites; his ensemble work with fellow musicians Emanual Ax, Jaime Laredo (tonight’s conductor) and Isaac Stern; his recording of the Dvořák concerto; and his sizzling 1989 recording with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto #1.

And now, for some very serious ‘long hair’ (long feather?) music, Sesame Street’s own Honker and Dinger Quartet:

vso’s 2011/2012 season schedule announced

April 28, 2011

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s new season has been released. For ticket/subscription information, visit their website.

2011/2012 Masterworks series
at the Flynn Center in Burlington

October 29, 2011
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Vassily Primakov, piano

SAINT-SAENS Danse Macabre
RACHMANINOFF Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique

December 3, 2011
Anthony Princiotti, conductor
Katherine Winterstein, violin

BEETHOVEN Coriolan Overture
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2

January 28, 2012
Robert De Cormier, conductor
Soloists TBA
VSO Chorus

FAURE Requiem
MOZART Requiem

March 10, 2012
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Jennifer Montone, horn

PROKOFIEV Classical Symphony
STRAUSS Horn Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

April 28, 2012
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Alon Goldstein, piano

FALLA Nights in the Gardens of Spain

2011/2012 Sunday Matinee Series
at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland

December 11, 2011
Holiday Pops
Anthony Princiotti, conductor

January 29, 2012
Robert De Cormier, conductor
Soloists TBA
VSO Chorus

FAURE Requiem
MOZART Requiem

March 11, 2012
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Jennifer Montone, horn

PROKOFIEV Classical Symphony
STRAUSS Horn Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

haiti – how to help

January 30, 2010

Another weekend, and a few more opportunities to help in the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti:

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is joining efforts to raise funds for Partners in Health. The VSO is joining with other groups around the country in Symphonic Relief for Haiti, a worldwide effort to support the health community in Haiti through musical performances. Audiences are being encouraged to contribute at the concerts this weekend: last night at the Bellows Falls Opera House; this evening at the Flynn Theater in Burlington; and tomorrow afternoon at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland. There’s more info here on the contribution site.

Also, coming up tonight, Big Heavy World and The Radiator are hosting a showcase of local groups like the Dirtminers, Blowtorch, and Lowell Thompson at Higher Ground in Burlington. The fun gets underway at 8 and runs until around 1am, and all of the proceeds from the $15 admission door donations will go to benefit Doctors Without Borders.

Tomorrow the Students at Dartmouth for Haiti Relief (SDHR) continue their efforts (over $100K raised so far!) with a concert honoring the national music of Haiti. Compàs: The Haiti Relief Benefit is a  concert of Haitian music and student performances starting at 1:30 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for students and $20 for community members with all proceeds benefiting Partners in Health.

And, for the music you can take with you, Vermont’s Cumbancha recording label and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars announced this week that they’re donating 100% of the proceeds of an early release of the song “Global Threat” from the forthcoming album Rise & Shine to the International Rescue Committee for their Haitian earthquake relief efforts. The IRC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict. “Global Threat” will be available for a minimum donation of $1.00, although people are encouraged to contribute as much as they can. People who donate $100 or more will receive a physical and digital copy of the full Rise & Shine album as soon as they are available, weeks before the album’s official release date on March 23rd, 2010.

Filmmaker and band co-manager Zach Niles is in Haiti now to support Haitian journalists in their efforts to tell the story of the earthquake from a local perspective. Niles’ award-winning 2006 documentary Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars captured the group’s journey from Guinean refugee camps to the recording of their first album.

Good stuff, all the way around.

masterworks 2

December 5, 2009

(photo by Kathleen Landwehrle)

Busy season for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (is there a non-busy one?) with Anthony Princiotti leading the latest Masterworks concert tonight, and the Holiday Pops series getting underway soon.

I like that the VSO blog posts concert program notes in advance. Makes the concert-going experience nicer. I can spend the pre-concert and intermission time talking with friends and enjoying the evening, instead of having to fiddle quietly with the paper program booklet and try to read the notes in the Flynn’s half-light.

Musically Speaking, the pre-concert talk, starts at 7. Music at 8.

See you there.

vso – made in vermont

October 5, 2009
VSO, warming up

VSO, tuning up

Friday night was my first time visiting the Vergennes Opera House, a grand space built in 1897 and reopened in 1997 after more than two decades of dormancy. The ensemble that heralded the rebirth of the renovated theatre that year was the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

Fitting, then, that the Opera House is also one of nine venues around the state to host the annual Vermont Symphony Orchestra “Made in Vermont” fall foliage tour.

Maestro Anthony Princiotti led the concert’s opening with Mozart’s Quartet #4 in C, K157 – a childhood creation whose prescience and lyricality was only enhanced by Princiotti’s tastefully delicate arrangement for string orchestra. The piece’s energy made for a perfect show opener.

From there we moved on to the program’s newly commissioned work, Derrik Jordan’s Odzihozo and the Lake. It’s a programmatic piece, musically realizing Odzihozo’s part of the Abenaki creation story.

Odzihozo – “The man who made himself” – is the mythical being who conjures himself from the dusty remains left over from the Great Creator’s work in making the world. There’s enough material initially to create a full man’s body except for the legs. So Odzihozo drags himself through the land, piling up dirt into  mountains and leaving behind deep trails and trenches that become river beds.

Odzihozo’s real masterpiece is Lake Champlain, and when he’s done making it he loves this work so much that he becomes an island (Rock Dunder), so that he can live in it forever.

Jordan’s work, I believe, will likely be less enduring.

From the plaintive opening bassoon figure (Rite of Spring, anyone?) to the heavy-handed “native” percussion motif that ran the course of the piece, this is one version of the creation story that could withstand some evolution. I appreciated the interwoven subtelty of the two traditional Abenaki themes, and the oboe solo near beginning was utterly lovely. I also have to offer a special kudos to principal percussionist Jeremy Levine, who stole the show with his entertainingly wonderous one-man versatility. Overall Odzihozo offered a mixed experience, while I didn’t deeply dislike it I was left considering the many missed opportunities it had to be a grander effort.

George Bizet’s whimsical Jeux d’enfants (Children’s Games) brought the first half of the program to a marching, leap-frogging conclusion. Alyssa Weinberg’s respectful reduction recalled the joy and imaginative excitement of the original version, for two pianos.

Next stop for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra is the opening Masterworks concert, on October 24th.

Rumor has it we’ll actually get to hear Soovin Kim perform the Sibelius Concerto that eluded the audience the last time it was on the program – remember that? It was springtime a year and a half ago when a mean ice storm blew through on the night of the concert and knocked out power everywhere downtown, including the Flynn.

Always gracious, Soovin took the stage in the dark and offered instead a gorgeous selection of impromptu solo violin music for the disconsolate audience.

Music in Vermont. It’s always memorable.

made in vermont

October 1, 2009

2009-SEPT26-autumn leavesjpg

When the maples shift from green to red, the orchestra hits the leaf-paved road.

Time again for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra‘s annual Made in Vermont autumn tour of venues around the state, with conductor Anthony Princiotti.

This year’s tour got underway last week and continues tonight in Bellows Falls. As usual the program includes a newly commissioned work along with a few favorites. (I’ll be able to comment more on that after I see the VSO’s concert tomorrow night in Vergennes…check here for an update.)

Here’s the Made in Vermont program and the tour schedule, hope to see you at one of the shows!


W. A. Mozart:  Quartet in C Major, KV 157
Derrik Jordan:  Odzihozo and the Lake (world premiere commission)
George Bizet:   Jeux d’enfants
Joseph Haydn:  Symphony #82, “The Bear”

Remaining dates:

10/1 – The Opera House in Bellows Falls

10/2 – Vergennes Opera House

10/3 – Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph

10/4 – Town Hall Theatre in Woodstock


May 2, 2009

2009-may03-fiddles01May (early May, specifically) is fiddlehead season in Vermont. Even as the little green furled fists rise out of the ground in resolute defiance of winter, cooks all over the region rejoice with recipes like fiddlehead soup, sautéed fiddleheads, and fiddlehead fettucini (no kidding, I’ve made it and it’s great.)

Today Randolph hosted the annually-anticipated Fiddlehead Festival: an entire day reserved to revel in the short-lived delicacy, learn more about it and other wild edibles, sample fiddlehead foods, and, yes, of course – swap recipes.

This evening Burlington’s Flynn Theatre resounded with the other kind of fiddleheads: the cellos, violas, violins and basses of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra in concert with the rest of the group.

It was the final Masterworks concert of the 2008/9 season, with music by Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, Joan Tower and Paul Hindemith to conclude a whole adventurous season spent in “Music of Our Time”.

The evening got underway with Britten’s lively, dancing Soirées Musicales, one of two suites written on original melodies by Rossini. I love both of them, and apparently George Balanchine did too. In the early 1940s he choreographed them into the single ballet, his Divertimento. Soirées is not a deep work; neither is its companion, the Matinées Musicales. (It’s Rossini, remember.) But they’re satisfying in their own right for an evening at the symphony when they’re played well, and Soirées sure was, from the jaunty wood blocks to the plucky strings and the cheerful muted solo trumpet. 2009-may03-vsologo

Next came Paul Hindemith’s shimmering Trauermusic, the fortunate result of an unfortunate circumstance in 1936, as Hindemith (a gifted violist) was getting ready for a guest appearance with the BBC Philharmonic. When the news was announced that King George V had died, Hindemith changed up his prepared program and rose to the occasion by writing a brand new memorial piece for viola and strings, his Trauermusic. The work was written in a single afternoon and premiered the next day on the BBC. – Talented, much?

Less an overt dirge or lament than an offering of consolation, 2009-may03-fiddles02the work is not nearly as dreary as the title suggests (Trauer = funeral, or mourning). Cyntha Phelps, visiting Vermont from her day job as principal violist of the New York Philharmonic, gave it a heartfelt and warm performance. For some reason the passages in the upper register sounded thinner, somewhat constricted, and less resonant than those moving in the lower register of the instrument. However since that impression was not shared by a colleague in another area of the auditorium I’m willing to believe it was not the soloist nor the instrument itself at the heart of issue, but rather some other unknown variable.

Joan Tower was onhand for tonight’s performance of her concerto Purple Rhapsody, again featuring Ms. Phelps, who was commanding and statuesque in a seemingly made-for-the-occasion long royal purple gown. Tower’s introduction of the piece gives you a great idea of her deadpan humor, which had also enlivened the crowd in the “Musically Speaking” pre-concert talk at 7pm: “Good evening, I wrote the piece you’re about to hear next. And I’m still alive.”

The Rhapsody is “around 17 and a half minutes long. Depending on how fast it’s played.” (Again, Tower’s dry humor.) A continuous, colorful and texturally rich work, it’s a demanding viola showcase and it was a pleasure to hear Phelps working so fluidly and expressively at both ends of the instrument’s range.

Fresh fiddleheads from the woods behind my house...mmmm.

Fresh fiddleheads from the woods behind my house...mmmm.

Intermission, then Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet, written 1909 and significantly revised in this 1945 edition. During the pre-concert discussion with VPR’s Walter Parker (full disclosure-Walter and I are coworkers), composer-in-residence David Ludwig was asked to talk a little about the work from a composer’s perspective and explain what’s great about it. He pointed out the rhythm, color, and originality of the work. And those very attributes turned out to be the elements the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s exciting, technically brilliant performance highlighted.

Tonight’s seat on the left side of the Theatre gave me perfect line-of-sight to the percussion section. Special mention here to Jeremy Levine, the orchestra’s principal timpanist, for his ultimate artistry and precision. Never an easy job, but one that’s not made any easier by the intense pacing and rhythm changes in the Firebird!

The final word here goes to to Joan Tower, who continues to teach and is also currently working on a commissioned flute quartet for Carol Wincenc and the Juilliard String Quartet: “I don’t teach composition. I’m a traffic cop”.


Curious to give fiddleheads a try in your kitchen? You can buy a violin if you’re really feeling creative, or, try my Cream of Fiddlehead Soup recipe – I think you’ll like it!

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