From the Orchestra Library

Three Cheers for the Orchestra!

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 11, 2009

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s part of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival is now over, and Philly came in Thursday for their first concert last night.  In another week, the NYPhil will make their way west as well.  As the DSO checked out of hotels and condos, we saw our colleagues arriving.  It was fun to chat with each other as one group’s residency ends and the next begins.  I know they will each give great performances and I wish them much success.

The final performance of the DSO was the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto with Gary Hoffman and Mahler Symphony No. 5.  I really have to congratulate the orchestra – they just sounded incredible.  The Gerald R. Ford Ampitheater is a stunning venue but not easy for sound production because it’s basically a covered outdoor stage.  The audience sitting under the roof hears the acoustic sound, and the people further back on the open lawn hear a mix of acoustic and light amplification.  So, because the sound escapes all over the beautiful mountain outdoors, it’s difficult to project the same power as in our almost-acoustically perfect concert hall back home.  But the orchestra adjusted as the pros they are and amped it up so that the subtleties and contrasts came to life.  It was a truly moving performance.

I have had the privilege of playing many times with this orchestra, both at home and abroad.  They continue to amaze, inspire and surprise me with their craftsmanship, talent, experience…….and, endurance.  This slog of some 25 different programs in about 8 weeks, covering (yes, I’m saying it again) 150 different pieces of music, is mind-numbing.  As one player recently pointed out, a single conductor couldn’t possibly do all of these programs at this pace; it’s the orchestra and the behind-the-scenes staff that hang in there through all of it, while a parade of about 8 difference conductors come in and out for various concerts.  Even so, at the end of an already-challenging season topped with such an ambitious summer season and this festival, the orchestra produced a magnificent Mahler 5.

Up here –the stage is at about 8,150 above sea level— the work is harder for everyone than back at home.  Dallas is at 463 feet above sea level.  That should give you some idea of the breathing situation.  Even people in very good physical shape are affected.  When you first arrive, going up and down stairs to unpack your car, for example, you wonder how you will do this.  Some adjust more quickly than others and those that are able to get out and up even higher early on seem to acclimate the fastest.  But, there is no way around it.  Trying to play, move equipment, put out heavy folders, or do anything in a hurry especially the first couple of days is pretty weird.  Just about the time the orchestra starts to get used to the altitude, they head back home to the heat and pavement of lower North Texas.

In addition to the altitude, we had a number of people in and out of the emergency room with various maladies – troopers all of them, they came right back to work and pushed through whatever they were dealing with.  You wouldn’t know anybody had had problems by listening to them play.

So, I give three big cheers for the orchestra.  Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! HIP HIP HOORAY! I am so proud to work with you and I hope you all have a great vacation.


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