Brahmspalooza ‘012!: Part 1

Five extraordinary masterworks. Four beefy programs. An unforgettable third symphony. Two world-class soloists. One ecstatic music nerd.

Brahmspalooza ‘012 is upon us.

Unfortunately (fortunately?), Brahmspalooza ‘012 is not actually known as Brahmspalooza ‘012 anywhere other than in my mind. The Minnesota Orchestra has done the dignified thing and labeled their ten-day long midwinter festival devoted to everyone’s favorite bearded misogynistic Hamburgian “Bravo Brahms.” The four programs consist of the first and third symphonies, the two serenades, the two piano concertos, and (of course) the violin concerto, along with some extra treats like the Haydn Variations and Schicksalslied.

And it looks like next weekend I’m going to get to see two of those programs in three concerts!

The summer I turned seventeen, I went to music camp. Every few nights we went to concerts by guest artists of the highest caliber, and when we didn’t go to concerts, we listened to each other perform. In a weird way, the opportunity to do a whackload of intense condensed listening impressed me even more than the chances I had to actually play. Ever since that summer, I’ve dreamed of having an experience like that again: a spurt away from the obligations of real life, soaked through with live music of the highest quality, designed to sharpen my ears and expand my intellectual horizons.

This January, after quite a long time of waiting, I’ve finally got the chance I’ve yearned after.

***

As soon as I found out I could go to at least a portion of Brahmspalooza, I realized I had an opportunity that I literally might never have again in my life. World-class orchestra, world-class soloists, in some of the greatest repertoire ever written, all by a single composer (and what a composer!), performed within the course of a few days. This is going to be a classical music masterclass, and I’d be a crap music lover if I didn’t take full advantage of it. So I went to the library and picked out the thickest Brahms biography I could find, which turned out to be Jan Swafford’s. I’ve always enjoyed Swafford’s Slate columns on music. A year or two ago I actually checked out his Brahms biography, but for some reason never started it. But alas, that was before the enticing prospect of Brahmspalooza ‘012. Now I had both a deadline and a reason for reading, so I tore into that thing like a hungry dog gnawing a beef femur.

I was hooked from the very first page. This is the best music biography I’ve read for a long time, maybe ever. It has the psychological insight and emotional breadth of a fine novel. Swafford is not afraid to humanize the gods of music, and thank goodness, because few things are as unloveable as saints. Swafford shares anecdotes ranging from the heartbreaking (a widowed Clara Schumann concertizing and sobbing backstage in between pieces) to the bizarre (Bruckner fondling Beethoven’s skull during an exhumation), and manages to effortlessly weave these smaller sketches into a much larger canvas. I’m of a mind to deconstruct this book and graph an arc of the narrative, because I was so enthralled with the writing that I didn’t pay any heed to the underlying structure. Which, of course, is the hallmark of any great performance, whether literary or musical.

One point of the book that has been a consistent delight is Swafford’s explorations of Brahms’s rocky relations with women. As most musicians know, it seems likely that Brahms began his performing career as a child in the brothels of Hamburg, and he likely saw horrific things there that scarred him for life. (And yeah, I know this point is currently under contention, but for the moment I’m going to trust Swafford that it really did happen…) In any case, regardless of what occurred in the dives, like most other citizens of nineteenth-century Europe, he was a firm believer that women should be seen and not heard. At the same time, in a delicious paradox, he managed to fall in love with one of the greatest pianists of the age, Clara Schumann, who, maybe more than any other single individual, helped legitimize women instrumentalists. Swafford’s treatment of their relationship was my favorite part of the book: he never resorts to stereotypes, and he paints their love as more of an intellectual and emotional kinship rather than a (boring) traditional romance. Knowledge of their connection has made pieces like the slow movement of the first piano concerto (a portrait, Brahms once wrote, of Clara) echo with a unbearably sweet poignancy. Brahms himself wasn’t keen on the idea of posterity knowing how his life influenced his music. I have to disagree with the great man. Yes, the first piano concerto was gorgeous and beautifully affecting on first hearing, but knowing that as he worked its creator was thinking of an unattainable genius fourteen years his senior, whose husband helped make his career and genius possible? Well, there can’t be a much more intellectually and emotionally affecting experience in a listener’s life than that.

***

So, stage one of Brahmspalooza preparation – reading a good Brahms biography – was a go. What now?

I looked at the programs. The concerts I’m going to consist of the Haydn Variations, the violin concerto, the first piano concerto, and the first serenade. For some reason, a few years ago I got addicted to the first movement of the serenade, so I’m very familiar with that. And of course every violinist has worn out a tape or CD of the Brahms concerto, me included. But the rest of the rep was, embarrassingly, new territory. So I started to listen to some Brahms recordings.

And nothing but Brahms recordings.

Yes, the last few weeks I’ve been up to my earlobes in beautiful but unidiomatic string writing, lush harmonies, and a brainy, almost desperate, sincerity. I feel a little bit like I’ve been ingesting the aural equivalent of the meat-and-potatoes meals my grandmother used to cook for threshers.

To help it all sink in, I went to IMSLP and looked up the scores and followed along. I bowed and fingered difficult passages in my mind. I went through following first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, bass. And not just the strings, but the first horn, second horn, oboe, clarinet…everybody. I even practiced whacking things while following the percussion part (FYI, you do not want me to be the rhythmic backbone of an orchestra). I may not know the pieces inside and out, but I do know them a heck of a lot better than I did even a few weeks ago, and I even got some mental sight-reading practice into the bargain. I know where the big gestures are, where phrases are going, what tiny, unexpectedly moving moments to watch out for (I’m especially fond of a descending half-step in the first movement of the piano concerto; I actually dreamt about it recently, which may be a sign I have a serious problem). It has been a slog on occasion (oh, for a silvery Fauré barcarolle!), but the hours of careful listening have been worth it, and I have a feeling they’re going to pay off this weekend.

***

So it is that I’m doing everything I can to enjoy this hopefully-not-but-very-possibly-once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Now I’m going to turn this ramble over to readers. How do you prepare for important concerts? Do you do a lot of listening? How do you do that listening? Is the music in the background, in the foreground? Do you follow along in the score? Do you faux-conduct? Do you read biographies? Do you Google? Do you search out radio programs or podcasts? Or do you just chill out and come to the hall content in the unfamiliarity of pieces that are new to you? I want to enjoy every single measure of Brahmspalooza ‘012, and I’d love to hear any tips or suggestions of how best to take in highly anticipated concerts.

I’m going to sign off with a terrifying cliffhanger that has nothing to do with Brahmspalooza ‘012, and will probably be the subject of my next blog: this week, I’m picking up a viola for the very first time. Stay tuned…

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Brahmspalooza ‘012!: Part 1

  1. Ken

    It’s certainly not desperately dorky to be excited about Brahms! If it is, then you are in good company with lots of fellow dorks.

    I personally don’t do anything to prepare for concerts that I’m looking forward to. Years ago I used to like to listen to the pieces before hand so I can get in the mood for what I’m going to hear. I’ll get classical music pieces stuck in my head just like pop songs and want to hear them over and over again within a short period of time.

    But now I no longer listen to the pieces before hand. Something like the Brahms serenade #1 and Symphony No. 3 – I’ve heard these hundreds of times now, so I already know them. Now I try to keep the experience as fresh as possible, and that means not listening to them in the days, weeks, or months leading up to the concert. Something like Brahms 3 – I’ll pull it out once every so often – but once I’ve given myself to it – I won’t usually return to it for at least a year or two afterwards. So If I listen to it ahead of time, I’ve already exhausted my emotional output on it and I don’t feel as into it come concert time. Does that make any sense?

    I also won’t prepare myself for pieces I don’t know. I go to the concert with an open mind and to expect the unexpected – just as I did at the Future Classics concert last Friday. It makes for an interesting experience I think.

    Hope you enjoy the Brahms programs. It will be especially nice to see and hear Peter Serkin again.

    Ken

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Ken! It’s so interesting to hear different people’s concert-going rituals. I also go through phases with pieces where I just can’t get enough of them, but eventually I gravitate away. Happily, they always stick in the brain, though!

      If you see me wandering Orchestra Hall sometime this week, don’t hesitate to say hi! I’m beyond thrilled to see Serkin, but I have to admit, being a violinist, I’m most excited for the violin concerto…

      • Ken

        I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to make it this week – I’m still struggling with a really bad cold/cough/flu that hit me early this week. I’m planning on going to the SPCO on Saturday if I’m up to it – another violinist on that program – Augustin Hadelich with the Ligeti concerto – interesting stuff. Even so, I really want to hear the Brahms serenade No. 1 on Friday – it’s a piece that really makes me smile, especially the 1st movement.

        Speaking of Ehnes – he has a new cd that just came out this week, and it’s the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Sydney symphony. I purchased a copy and sampled a couple of movements last night, and so far I think it’s a really wonderful performance and recording. (I’d be happy to loan you my copy – I have tons of discs – and not everyone runs out to buy them like I do).

        • Sorry to hear about the flu! As it happens I managed (unexpectedly) to slip over to St. Paul to see Hadelich (as luck would have it, with a mutual friend, so I got to meet him briefly)…he’s an astonishing player and a really nice guy. I hope to write about him in the coming days. I also got to see the Brahms first serenade, and like you, my favorite part is the first movement. As for Ehnes and the Tchaikovsky, very sweet offer, but I actually have a recorded broadcast of his Tchaikovsky concerto from August 2002 that aired over Wisconsin Public Radio. It was the thing that inspired me to take my violin studies seriously. Without it, I wouldn’t be in music anymore…I’m not sure what I’d be doing with myself. So that’s one of those recordings and performances that I’m utterly incapable of reviewing without bias. Glad to hear you’re enjoying his interpretation, though. Hope you were at the Saturday night performance with the two Paganini encores…it was unreal, and a musical memory I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life. Lots to write about, if I can get my thoughts straight about four concerts in three days…

  2. Ken

    Wow, you were able to hear some great things last week. I love being able to hear multiple concerts in a row – it’s thrilling. I imagine it’s something that people in New York City, for instance, are quite used to doing. We here in the Twin Cities also have lots of options on consecutive night, but a little less so.

    Normally, I’ll go hear the MN Orch on Thursday evening (when there is one) or Friday, but rarely on Saturdays. However, I almost exclusively go hear the SPCO on Saturdays, and sometimes on Sundays at Ted Mann, when they have those.

    It would be nice to hear your thoughts on the concerts last week – I didn’t get to hear any of them, but there is a SPCO show on Saturday which I am planning to check out. Here’s a link to my old blog where I used to post my own reviews. Sadly, I’m not nearly as good of a writer as you are, and my work commitments have zapped me of much energy to continue to do these reviews. http://spartacus-page.blogspot.com/

    It’s interesting how select performances can impact our lives. You mention the Ehnes Tchaikovsky concerto you recorded off-the-air in 2002. I’ve always wanted to be a Conductor (but never will be), and the reason I want to do this can be traced back to a performance of Dvorak’s 7th Symphony that I heard back in November, 1986 – the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Armin Jordan from Carnegie Hall – it was broadcast and I recorded it on the horrible tape recorder that I had back then (I was in High School and could afford nothing but the lowest-end equipment). I wore that tape out listening to it over and over. Fortunately, I located a good-quality recording of it many years later from another source, which I still have in my collection.

    • I do intend to write about all three programs. Just haven’t gotten there yet. Hopefully within the week. We’ll see if I can remember enough to warrant a post or two…

      Yeah, I definitely hear what you’re saying about pivotal performances. I really wanted to be a full-time professional violinist, especially after that Ehnes performance, and there was even a point where I wanted to go into conducting. I dreamed of playing in the Minnesota Orchestra or the SPCO. It’s never going to happen; I’m an okay violinist, but not the type of virtuoso you need to be to get a seat in either of those two groups. But it all worked out for the best in the end. Maybe you can’t really appreciate what all goes into getting onstage if you haven’t dreamed at some point of being there yourself.

      Thanks for the link to your blog, I’ll be checking it out!

  3. Ken

    All is not lost. At some point you may be able to play in an orchestra. Even if it end up not being the SPCO or something like that, it would still be an amazing achievement. The need to express oneself knows no bounds, and whether you’re performing at Carnegie Hall or a hall in hole-in-the wall Wisconsin – it’s just as important. And even if you end up doing something else, there still may be opportunities – there are always pick-up orchestras and things like that on the side (as long as you keep your chops up).

    I haven’t ruled out conducting an orchestra entirely (1% door cracked open) – the only way it would happen, however, is if it were a contract basis. For instance, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about concerts that I would like to produce and present (I think I would make a good Administrator). I could hire an orchestra and pay for their services and rehearsal time and present the concert that way. What about the expense? Well, that’s where I’d have to know the right people so I could get financial backing. Or I could win the lottery. Or I could spend a whole year’s worth of my salary. Well, I guess like I was saying earlier, it isn’t going to happen!…

    • Oh yes, I do anticipate on playing in orchestras for the rest of my life. Just not major ones. I’m hoping to maybe get into a couple in Minneapolis once I move; there seem to be an abundance of amateur and semi-pro groups there. And there are a couple in Eau Claire that I very well could audition for, but I just haven’t because I’m working on other technical issues at the moment.

      From what I’ve heard from you, I do think you’d be a very good administrator! For years I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a chamber music festival. I think it would be tremendously rewarding. Undoubtedly difficult, but awfully rewarding. Maybe we’ll both get to do what we want to someday. The music world has a crazy way of working…

  4. ken

    Yeah, that would be cool if you could get into one of the orchestras around here. There certainly are a lot more opportunities here in the Twin Cities than in most locations. The first orchestra I ever heard live was the Saint Cloud Symphony – they played at the College of St. Benedict, about 65-70 miles north of here back then. To many people, those are important concerts – and I think most of the players are students, or music Professors, and the like. St. Benedict is where I used to go to hear all the Minnesota Orchestra concerts (they played 3-4 concerts a season there, back in those years) before I was able to move to the city myself. So I’m sure wherever you end up, it will be an important situation for you and your listeners.

    The SPCO concert on Saturday night was good. I was quite blown away by Christine Brewer (literally – when you sit to close to a Soprano with that kind of volume, it can really knock you out of your seat!) – the Wagner and Beethoven items she sang are a couple of my favorite pieces. Anyway, as I was looking through the program notes, I remembered that the SPCO is playing the Brahms 1st serenade next week! So even though I missed it last week with the MN Orch – I will get another shot at it! And did you by chance hear the program on Friday featuring the Serenade #2? I listened on the radio – and boy was that a fun piece.

    Your idea about a chamber music festival is a very good one. I think it’s something this area could really use. There are a fair number of high-quality instrumental recitals via the Schubert Club, and the MN Orch has for the past few seasons had a chamber music series over at the new MacPhail. There are also a fair number of chamber concerts in local churches, etc by local musicians – but a festival would be really fun and could do well I think. If you were doing it here in Minneapolis/St. Paul – I think Ted Mann would be a good location. Here in the U.S., what is there to choose from for chamber festivals? I’m thinking of La Jolla Summer Fest and Music @ Menlo. It seems like the sort of thing that would do well in the Summer here, no? If you are ever curious, I can tell you about my visions for a Summer Music Festival – yes, there is Sommerfest – but I don’t think it’s cutting the mustard anymore! So I’d like to create a new one.

    • Yeah, when I went to SPCO I noticed in the program they’re also playing the serenade! Quite the coincidence. I did hear a portion of the second serenade on the MPR broadcast, but I have to confess that my favorite moment was at the end where the viola section got a cheer. The serenades are lovely, but for me they can go on and on a bit and I have to be in the right space to appreciate them…

      Actually if I ever start a festival, it will be in Hastings. I knew that since roughly the age of thirteen, when I first started saying “wouldn’t it be amazing if…” (Nerdy teenager.) I’ve got dear friends who are very involved with the arts and tourism scenes there, the city has got a variety of fantastic facilities for both indoor and outdoor concerts, it’s a relatively short drive from the metro, there will be rail service within eight to ten years…etc. I don’t know if they ever rent it out, but their high school auditorium is supposed to be one of the nicest in the state. I read in the Minnesota Orchestra’s hundredth anniversary book that at one time they were thinking about building a summer home somewhere in the bluff country of the southwestern metro, somewhere near Hastings or Red Wing or Winona…? I’d have to read the book again to remember the details. Too bad it never came to pass, because such a thing would have been seriously cool. There’s something really special about high-level music making in the summer in a more rural area. And that’s something I think the Twin Cities could use, that I don’t think it actually has.

      I really look up to the Minnesota Beethoven Festival in Winona…it’s a bit of a miracle what they all have going on, given the size of the town. If you don’t know about them, go look them up ASAP. Any presenter in the Twin Cities would be honored to have their guest artist list.

      I’d love to hear any thoughts that you might have about music festivals in general, since you’re more involved with the metro music scene than I am. If I actually prioritized it and sat down and wrote out some goals, I’m positive I could round up some very accomplished friends who would be happy to have a chance to perform… It’s just a matter of deciding that a certain time is the time to go ahead with it, you know? Right now the ideas are still ripening…

    • I meant southeast metro. Duh…

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  6. Ken

    Having a festival in Hastings actually is not a bad idea. The Minnesota Beethoven festival is really quite an event, but I wonder how some of the artists feel about having to make the trip? Personally, there would be a lot of positive and negatives that would still need to be laid out and analyzed before I would commit to something that far away from a metro area. Certainly, in the Summer there is a lot more flexibility in artists schedules, and the need for relaxation is great, so those getaways make more sense.

    At some point, I’ll formulate some more detailed ideas and send them your way. I’ve mulled things over in my mind for a number of years now, but would take me some time to lay it all out in writing…but I do indeed have some good ideas. I love Summer music festivals!

  7. Ken

    I’ve had time to formulate more ideas on a summer music festival, if you’d like to hear about it. It’s rather lengthy, so buckle in!

    The festival I envision would not be a massive festival – I’m thinking around 3-4 concerts – basically a long weekend worth of concerts. Each year the programs would focus on a different primary theme or composer. Here are some sample programs:

    Program 1: (Vaughan Williams Year)
    1. Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
    2. Concerto TBD
    3. Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2

    Program 2:
    1. Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1
    2. Concerto TBD
    3. Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5

    Program 3:
    1. Walton: Crown Imperial March
    2. TBD
    3. Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 1 ‘A Sea Symphony’

    Program 4:
    1. Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Tallis
    2. Concerto TBD
    3. Vaughan Williams: Toward the Unknown Region

    One could include ‘Toward the Unknown Region’ on the same program as the Symphony No. 1 in order to utilize the choir in the same program and keep expenses down, rather than having to pay them to work separate nights. But I’m inclined to end one of the concerts with ‘Toward’ just due to the impact the piece makes.

    A concerto by any composer could be included on any of these concerts, depending on the availability of soloists, or another orchestral entry included. I would tend to not include more British music so that the programs still have some contrast. A Mozart piano or violin concerto would probably sound nice.

    Year 2: (Mostly Mahler)

    Program 1:
    1. Mahler: Symphony No. 3

    Program 2:
    1. TBD
    2. Mahler: Songs of a Wayfarer
    3. Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

    Program 4:
    1. Honegger: Pastorale d’ete
    2. Mozart: TBD
    3. Mahler: Symphony No. 4

    Year 3: (Czech Music)

    Program 1:
    1. Dvorak: Carnival Overture
    2. Dvorak: Violin Concerto
    2. Dvorak: Symphony No. 5

    Program 2:
    1. Martinu: Frescoes of Piero Della Francesca
    2. TBD
    3. Dvorak: Symphony No. 6

    Program 3:
    1. Janacek: ‘From the House of the Dead’ Suite
    2. Strauss: Oboe Concerto
    3. Dvorak: Symphony No. 7

    Program 4:
    1. Smetana: Ma Vlast (Complete) – Intermission after part 3.

    Other points of note:
    1. Indoor venue only
    2. Orchestra will be contracted for these performances only. I’ve yet to determine whether it would be more feasible to hire a specific orchestra (such as Minnesota) or whether it would be better to contract musicians from around the country to come together for these performances (many Summer festivals do this). I’d have to have someone crunch the numbers to see what is the most economically sensible way to go.
    3. Broadcast arrangements would be made – not just for local broadcast, but internet streaming as well as possible national broadcasting as well.
    4. There would be recordings available for purchase. Since these are one-time events, the rehearsals would be recorded as a cover to use in the event there are corrections in the live performance that need to be made.
    5. The expense is going to be considerably greater with the broadcast and recording included, but will also help add some prestige to the event. I believe if this event were held here in Minnesota, it could be a nice Summer getaway for folks and musicians would enjoy coming here to perform (much like they do in Grand Teton, Aspen, and many other places).

    I just noticed that James Ehnes is scheduled to perform on June 9th at the Mainly Mozart festival in Downtown San Diego. That’s a Summer festival that I used to attend when I lived nearby. I recall hearing them at Spreckels Theatre, which is a venue they are no longer using for this festival due to the renovation of the Balboa Theatre. I don’t recall all of the musicians that were playing in the orchestra the Summer I was listening, but I do remember seeing Janet Horvath there. At any rate, it seems like something my new festival could grow into – adding concerts as time passes – but my idea is for more varied musical selections.

    I’d be curious what you think of some of these ideas. I know there is no chamber music and little room for solo violinists (trying to keep expenses in line by not contracting high-paid soloists), but you may still be interested in it.

    • Interesting thoughts!! I’m on a totally different planet in regards to what I’d personally do, which isn’t a bad thing. I’d do all chamber music, probably the majority music featuring portable instruments, since that increases the flexibility of venues (don’t need to worry about a piano). I think I’d encourage the invited artists to choose their own repertoire (with me poking and prodding for a personal favorite or two!), then program those pieces after running ideas past various people in the business whose artistic judgment I trust. Maybe with a suggested broad theme to try to lend a certain amount of cohesion. I say “I think” because I don’t think you can judge the efficacy of such ideas until you’ve actually tried them, and it may just be easier to have more centralized planning. I don’t know; I’ve never actually talked to anyone who has programmed stuff about programming stuff, although I do know several people who have done it.

      All that being said, if I ever were to design a festival featuring orchestral music, I’d probably approach it from a similar angle as you. I totally absolutely love the idea of broadcasts or recordings being made available… I imagine there would be a variety of legal hurdles to jump through, but clearly nothing that can’t be overcome with the right resources. Indoor venue with an orchestra is a must. (Another reason I gravitate toward a largely chamber music festival… Outdoor concerts can be moved relatively quickly. Most musicians hate performing outdoors but there’s something about the idea of playing in nature that I love. An ideal venue for such a concert would have both an indoor and an outdoor performing space, so if there’s precipitation or heat it could be switched about easily with a minimum of inconvenience…)

      Actually, truth be told, what my dream is, is an excuse to get together with musician friends, see them perform, introduce friends/fellow citizens to some great people and great music, and maybe possibly not lose a tremendous amount of money on the venture. lol My goals are more modest than yours. Anyway, it’s fun to fantasize, isn’t it? :) Someday…

  8. Ken

    I admit, I don’t listen to nearly as much chamber music as I should (there is only so much time in the day). I like very much your idea of chamber festival – but portable instruments only? I suppose – there are tons of string quartets that I love – and you could program Schubert’s Octet in F – a lovely, lovely piece… But I’d like to be able to include a piano from time to time.

    It really would be nice if there were a way to play concerts outside and yet still have a nice acoustic and to minimize distractions. In once attended a Summer pops concert at Navy Pier in San Diego harbor – HORRIBLE. Babies crying, other boats taking off, tons and tons of noise. Never again. But at the same time, it would be rather nice to hear trees rustling and to have sun (hopefully) shining down, etc. If I recall correctly, the Minnesota Orchestra was looking to build an outdoor venue a number of years ago. I believe they were running into problems finding a site – but I think it’s a bad idea anyway. The weather is too unpredictable here. And what about mosquitoes?!

    As you mention, it would be nice to not lose tons of money on one of these ventures, but probably unlikely. Personally, I think with the right people on board, it would be possible to break even – but all it would take is one bad concert and you’re sunk. It would be stressful worrying about it!

    You could do a real nice chamber music show at the Ordway. According to the Ordway website, the music theater is available for rent for between $4k-6k Monday through Thursday. Between the orchestra and mezzanine levels you’d be looking at 1,300 seats – I wouldn’t screw around with the balcony levels – they won’t sell. The ticketing, housekeeping, and usher services fees wouldn’t amount to too much.

    It’s too bad I never took the clarinet lessons I had planned on taking! (it’s still sitting in the case) Now that I am looking at all of this information and realizing it could be do-able, it would be nice to get on board, but I don’t play – and sadly, don’t conduct either. I didn’t mention, but those orchestral programs I laid out, ideally, I’d like to be the Conductor on those programs. Question is, how would I learn how to do that so I could at least hold my own? I am picturing an Orchestra laughing and scowling at me – it would be would be far worse than the Gilbert Kaplan incident at the NYPO a few years ago!

    • Well, not portable instruments *only*, just mainly, at least until things got off the ground a bit, so as to avoid the expense and effort of pianos. (I’m thinking of employing smaller lower-cost venues, like churches, that aren’t equipped with more than an upright… You can get a really lovely historic place with great acoustics for a few hundred dollars, easy.) And if one only has a few programs, as I would, that’s really not much time at all to fill with repertoire using portable instruments…

      That sounds like an awful venue for an outdoor concerts!! I never quite understand people who schedule important events outdoors (especially in Minnesota) without having an easy backup. I know of an outdoor venue I love. Incredibly easy access from a major highway. Cheap indoor/outdoor facilities. Abundant parking. View of the Mississippi with the prettiest sunsets imaginable. Huge manicured lawn. Breeze off the river, so no bugs. No street noise whatsoever. Sometime this spring/summer/fall I want to go try it out, just for fun. But acoustics will always be an issue. Maybe it’s just a good place to invite friends to play at and eat food at, and just play for whoever happens to show up… Like I said, modest goals. lol

      I want to say the Minnesota Orchestra was looking for an outdoor festival location near Winona…? It was southeast of the metro. I think it says something about this in the Minnesota Orchestra hundredth anniversary book. Maybe in Newhouse’s essay?

      Conducting is hard. I can’t do it. I tried once in a small rehearsal with my string orchestra with incredibly simple repertoire I knew well, and I just crashed and burned. Which isn’t to discourage you, just to say…it’s hard! I hear all sorts of bitter quips from violinists about various conductors who are well trained who the musicians feel are totally useless. So be prepared to be universally reviled by musicians, unless you come up with a verrrry big donation. ;)

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