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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

à travers la mer, pour 'La Mer'

It is with great anticipation that I am now preparing to depart for my first time to conduct in Asia. I have been selected as one of three conductors to participate in a masterclass with maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen in Singapore! I have always been a big fan of his style and programming, and you can find many videos of him on
The masterclass repertoire includes Brahms - Symphony #2 and Stravinsky's Firebird, but the main work is Debussy's La Mer. You may find some quotes by Debussy on my page of favorite quotations along with two excerpts from the La Mer autograph. The wave image which I have included here is a copy from wikipedia of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" which inspired Debussy when composing La Mer. There is also a beautiful video of a sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico (where I grew up) set to the opening of La Mer on youtube.

Educational concerts in Zlin, Spring & Fall of 2008

I have just finished conducting some exciting educational concerts for students aged 15 to 17 with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic in Zlin. In the Spring, we performed a program of Folksong in the Symphony, similar to the concerts I previously conducted in Hradec Kralove including Brahms, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky. But this time, we also added Leos Janacek's Lachian Dances. Each of the dances was performed first in its original version by the Moravian folk ensemble Cimbalova Muzika Struna (in the photo), and then the orchestra played the corresponding dance as arranged by Janacek!

The Spring concerts were such a success, that I was invited back now in the Fall, and this time I suggested a more challenging program: Britten - Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Bach - Toccata & Fugue in d minor as arranged by Leopold Stokowski (!), and Wagner - Prelude to Die Meistersinger. Some people were doubtful if the Wagner might not be too difficult for the 15 year-olds, but the students seemed very enthusiastic with their applause always coming right during the final chord! It was also a well prepared logical ending to the concert which first introduced the instruments of the orchestra and presented them in Britten's fugue, then the Bach offered a further opportunity to explain the concept of counterpoint and fugue to the students. Finally, I was able to take apart the Meistersinger climax to show them the brilliant counterpoint of all three main themes coming together at the same time.

I'm glad that this concert took place in a hall with such a nice organ. It was a thrill to be able to play the opening of the Bach Toccata on the organ and then immediately conduct it., and I was particularly impressed with how well the orchestra handled this extremely virtuosic program!