Sunday, April 13, 2008
Yesterday’s 3-hour rehearsal of the Verdi Requiem marked the final step in preparation for our two upcoming concerts, today in Ford Hall at Ithaca College and Tuesday at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. Both performances are sure to be inspirational and memorable, given the quality of the music and the performers.
The concert begins with Brahms’ Tragic Overture, played by the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jeffery Meyer. Under Dr. Meyer’s direction, we have been studying this work in great detail for the past month. As is the case with all of Brahms’ music, the Tragic Overture is truly an undertaking for any orchestra. The work was written by Brahms in 1880 during one of the composer’s summer vacation trips. I find it ironic that Brahms produced a work of “utmost solidarity and seriousness” during such a relaxing time in his life.
One of the greatest challenges of performing this piece is striking a balance between excited, emotional energy within the restrained context of soft dynamics and a conservative tempo. However, if this is achieved, the sections where the music does open up are simply glorious!
While rehearsing this piece, Dr. Meyer has expertly challenged us to approach the music with great respect, maturity, and seriousness. Although the work is not as long as many of the movements of the Verdi Requiem, we have literally spent hours refining intonation, articulations, and blend (within and between sections). Just this past week, Dr. Meyer scheduled times to hear each of the string players individually, in an attempt to further unify the orchestra. Thus, our performance today and Tuesday of the Brahms Tragic Overture is surely the culmination of an intense and rewarding learning process.
What can be said about the Verdi Requiem? Yesterday’s rehearsal was our first opportunity to rehearse with the soprano soloist, Sharon Sweet. Considered to be one of the greatest “Verdi Sopranos” in the world, Ms. Sweet sounded simply amazing and informed and elevated our performance to another level. I was surprised at how smoothly the work seemed to fit together. For this, credit no doubt belongs to Dr. Jeffery Meyer for his thorough rehearsing of the orchestra initially on this piece. Also, Professor Doebler was helpful in previewing the spots where the soloists would possibly take rubato.
Sitting Concertmaster for this performance, I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to lead the instrumentalists and sit so close to the four soloists, as they are such fine vocalists and musicians. Also, it is exhilarating to share the stage with such a large choral ensemble. Even though yesterday’s run-through was only a dress rehearsal, I was deeply moved by the artistic experience that had transpired.
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