Salt Lake City & Southern California
It was nice being home and getting use to our environment in Salt Lake City. December and January would be devoted to our students and continued practice. Lisa is busy focusing on the Baroque period as well as the solo repertoire from the past 20 years. It’s a convenience we have less time for during the busy symphony season. I’m making my way through dozens of etude books and reading a variety of books like Vester’s “W.A. Mozart” and Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s “Baroque Music Today: Music As Speech, Ways to a New Understanding of Music”. They have changed my musical interpretation of music up to the Romantic period.
Our flute and oboe students at the University of Utah were busy with recitals and concerts. Lucas Florin, Sarah White, Cynthia Chen and Dallan Gordon all presented recitals with special moments. There was time to hear the “Running Flutes”, the U. of U Wind Ensemble and the Utah Philharmonic. We also enjoyed playing a flute, oboe and guitar recital with Tully Cathey. Tully and I go way back. He taught guitar and composition to my two daughters and this occasion was the impetus for him to compose a new piece for flute, oboe and guitar. We programmed it on the recital and the audience reaction was very positive. We’ll look to record it later next summer.
Not having to play with the Utah Symphony made it possible to hear the Utah Symphony. We heard the orchestra play with Pink Martini, perform Shostakovich Symphony #15, the “Pearl Fishers” opera by Bizet and a concert of Wagner, Berg and Strauss. A true sense of pride happens when we hear our colleagues play. There’s a lot of talent on the stage at Abravanel Hall.
Lucas Florin arranged for us to speak at convocation at the U. of U. He wanted to hear what it’s like to play in a symphony orchestra and what we’re doing with our sabbatical. The hour was probably not enough to include the lively discussion about the importance and influence of classical music.
On the last day of January, we drove to California where we planned to spend the month of February. Lisa had arranged for us to rent out a quaint place alongside the San Gabriel Mountains in Sierra Madre. This would prove to be a smart decision as I look at my weather app and see that the temperature in northern Michigan, where we thought to return, will be -11F tomorrow! Sierra Madre is quiet and beautiful. The properties are varied, as are the style, size and age of the many homes. Stone walls, winding narrow roads and signs saying, “Not a through street” are the norm. The air is clean and temperatures are in the 80s. The freeways destroy any calm we experience living in the foothills by the imposing mountains. It’s rare to go anywhere where the flow is constant and the congestion is not extreme. People on motorcycles don’t use lanes, but the lines. Sudden lane changers and stop-and-go are typical. It’s all a little scary.
Our first concert was the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Herbert Blomstedt performing at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. The program included the Mozart Piano Concert #27 with Richard Goode and the Bruckner Symphony #9. The orchestra and soloist were excellent. We then drove down to San Diego to hear the San Diego Symphony play Mozart and Strauss. The pre-concert lecture by Nuvi Mehta was most memorable. The oboe section and the principal horn were some of the stand-outs. It was fun to meet the oboe section afterwards. We came back to hear musicians from the L.A Phil play a chamber music recital at Disney Hall. The program included Debussy, Schumann, Woods and Bloch. We were especially taken by the Bloch Piano Quintet No. 1 (unknown to us), led by concertmaster, Martin Chalifour and cellist, Barry Gold.
We drove to Costa Mesa to hear the touring Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Yannick Nezet- Seguin. The program featured the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with Helene Grimaud and the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5. We took seats in the 4th tier and then the second tier for the second half. Many of the seats had almost no view of the stage! The architect chose a snake-like design over decent sight-lines. With all the concerts and professional orchestras we’ve heard, this was one of our favorites. There was a strong sense that Nezet-Seguin made a difference. Like in Philadelphia, the players really seem to enjoy music-making when he’s on the podium. He conducted without a baton and the Tchaikovsky Waltz that was played as an encore was especially exciting!
Tonight it’s the Russian National Ballet, followed by the Pasadena Symphony on Saturday and then another Sunday afternoon with the L.A. Philharmonic.
We’ll try to soak in the sun before heading back to Salt Lake City. Maybe we can take some with us!
– Robert Stephenson and Lisa Byrnes