Hello from Zlin!!
I am in the Czech Republic recording two pieces with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic for a CD of music by the modern composer Carson Cooman. The pieces are "Sinfonia Concertante" and "Folk Fantasies" - the latter of which is dedicated to me :)
It was quite an adventure getting to the Czech Republic. I drove from Houston to Dallas on Friday and caught my plane to Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon. I had a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam so I got to explore the airport a bit. Amsterdam is the Capitol of Holland which is the largest distributor of tulip bulbs in the world!! The giant tulip bulbs being sold in the airport were just incredible!! And there were tulip displays all over the airport that were simply gorgeous. My flight from Amsterdam to Vienna left at 11:40 and I met my dad in Vienna at 1:30. After a bite to eat we drove to his house in Bratislava where I had a chance to sleep and practice. One of the problems with these long international trips is there aren't many chances to practice! I keep my hand muscles in shape by carrying my Handmaster with me whenever I travel. Exercising my muscles frequently keeps them from getting too stiff and tight.
The next day we drove back to the Vienna airport to pick up Leah Crane, the soprano for this CD recording project. It took about 3 and a half hours to drive from Vienna to Zlin and we checked into the hotel around 5 pm. After some cakes, coffee and a wonderful dinner, I got to practice for a bit before turning in for the night.
On Tuesday, Leah worked for most of the recording sessions. She recorded with the orchestra from 9 am to 3 pm with about an hour and a half for lunch. There was still an hour and a half left so we recorded one of the movements from the Folk Fantasies since we had the percussionists there already. We chose to record the 3rd movement which is titled "Circle Dance" - the American movement :) It took a while to get the microphones set up and the balance between my violin and the orchestra just right, but by the end of the session we had the whole movement completed!
Today was my marathon recording day. We started at 9 am with the first movement of the Folk Fantasies, and after the break managed to finish the second movement as well. We even had some time left over so we recorded the third movement of the Sinfonia Concertante, and after the orchestra went to lunch I recorded the cadenza. After lunch we recorded the remaining 3 movements in about 2 hours and then we were done!! It's such an incredible feeling to be finished. It's one of those situations where you don't quite know how stressed out you were about something until it's over. I'm so relieved!
Recording with an orchestra is quite an interesting experience. Our sound engineer and producer sat in a studio room behind the hall with a tv and interacted with us through a speaker on the stage. We played though a movement (sometimes we didn't even play the whole thing) and then began recording once the producer felt like we had the balance right. Then we played until he noticed something was off and would stop the orchestra by talking through the speaker. Sometimes we played 30 bars, and sometimes we only got through 4. He noticed things in pitch, rhythm, when the orchestra wasn't together, if one section needed to be louder or softer, if there was a strange noise (like something dropping) onstage, and sometimes even that he could hear my bow change on a long soft sustained note! It was really neat to see how it was done and how everything would eventually be put together.
Now that I'm finished, I have two more days in Europe so I'm hoping to spend one of them in Vienna. It should be exciting! But for now - off to nap! :)
I was trying to get a couple of entries in about Durango before I went on to what's new, but I could never get around to writing them! Maybe I'll do a couple of memory entries later on :)
Right now I'm at the DFW airport waiting to board my flight to Amsterdam! I'm headed to Zlin in the Czech Republic to record two pieces by Carson Cooman with the Martinu Philharmonic. It's going to be so exciting! The two pieces I'm recording are titled Sinfonia Concertante (for solo violin and string orchestra), and Folk Fantasies (for solo violin, percussion, and string orchestra).
I've spent this past month since I got back from Durango tirelessly working on bowing, fingering and learning these pieces, so maybe that's why you haven't heard from me. It's been a really neat experience taking new music and giving it my own interpretation.
I'm really excited to finally experience what it's like to record with an orchestra. I will do my best to update every couple of days, depending on internet, so I can let you all know how it goes!
I'll see you all across the pond!!
What a month!! I've been in Vail, Colorado with the Dallas Symphony for the Bravo Festival this past week and it's been amazing!!
We had a lot of rehearsals and a couple of concerts in Dallas the week before we left. Playing in the Meyerson is an absolutely amazing experience. The acoustics and the atmosphere are heavenly. If you are in the Dallas area or are making a trip anytime soon, please make sure to go to a symphony concert! The symphony hall alone is incredible and when combined with the fabulous Dallas Symphony Orchestra it's absolutely mind-blowing!
I drove up to Colorado on the 27th of June and rehearsals and concerts immediately began the next day. Our first two concerts were pops. On Friday we played a jazz concert with the amazing trumpet player, Byron Stripling, and on Saturday we played a movie themed concert with lots of music by John Williams. I was so excited that we played the Imperial March from Star Wars and the March from Superman!!
On Sunday Jaap van Zweden arrived and we performed Boridin's Prince Igor Overture, Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 with Garrick Ohlsson, and Dvorak's "New World" Symphony No. 9. It was a fabulous performance and we had a great turn out for the crowd. Monday night was probably my favorite concert of the tour. We played Mozart's Idomeneo Overture, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 10 with Anne-Marie McDermott and Alessio Bax, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. I'm always amazed how rehearsing and performing Mozart always puts me in such a great mood. It's probably the best thing to wake up to in the morning! Performing Beethoven with Jaap is an experience like no other. It's extremely intense but there's also so much nuance and sensitivity. His tempi are exhilarating and everything flows so smoothly. He has a really wonderful feel for Beethoven.
Tuesday was our one free day, so after I practiced a bit in the morning we drove to Boulder to spend the day there. We had some really wonderful food at Salt and Med and I found some great buys at a consignment shop! A new dress for my tango performance and some amazing never worn Enzo Angiolini shoes. I have to figure out what performance to wear these for!!
The sunset on the way back from Boulder was incredible.
On Wednesday I only played in the Pines of Rome which was the last piece on the program. The rest of the program was Songs by Schubert and Strauss and Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. It rained a little that evening so there wasn't the best turn out unfortunately, but playing Pines outdoors was a really thrilling experience. The offstage brass stood on top of the roof!!
Our last concert was on July 4th so we had our annual Independence Day Concert. It's not always the most fun music to rehearse, but with a completely packed audience all waving their flags to the music, it gets pretty epic-ly patriotic :)
There wasn't a whole lot of time to do much sightseeing while we were in Vail, and I spent most of my free time practicing, but I did get to enjoy a lot of AMAZING food with friends in the orchestra for pretty much every meal. If you are ever in Vail, definitely check out Sweet Basil, Vendetta's, Matsuhisa and La Tour. You won't be disappointed ;)
It was really hard to leave Columbia, MO yesterday. I have a lot of family and friends there, and even though I was there for almost 2 weeks, it still didn't feel like quite enough time. I was very happy to get to spend some time with my friend, Rachel, and my mentors and supporters of the Missouri Symphony, Edward and Judith Chmielewski. I get so see all of them so rarely, it was a special treat to get to spend more time in town with them.
I spent most of yesterday morning picking out a new camcorder at Creve Coeur Camera. I bought my current camcorder in 2007 and it has given me problems ever since! I'm sure most of you have noticed the quality of my videos and the fact that a lot of them "re-focus" continually. No longer! I bought the Sony HDR-CX430v so now I should have crystal clear video and amazing surround sound audio. FINALLY! :)
The trip home was pretty relaxing - I spotted an amazing sunset again and managed to get some pictures!
Today, my student in Dallas, Ellen Kim, had her senior recital! She began violin with my mom when she was around 5 and I've been teaching her for the last 3-4 years. The recital was a combined recital with her friend and violist, Tiffany. Ellen played Praeludium and Allegro by Kreisler, Kabalevsky's Violin Concerto in C and Prokofiev's Court Dance from his 5 Cinderella Pieces. They played the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia to finish :) She was awesome!!! I'm so proud of her!! She has really come a long ways in terms of technique and musicality, and especially in breaking out of her box and reaching out to the audience more in her performances.
She will be attending Dartmouth in the fall - her top choice school! I'm really going to miss her, but I think we might try to continue lessons over Skype which we were already doing pretty regularly while I was in Houston.
I'm back in Houston now for a couple of days to play in church and give my studio their last lessons for the summer before I leave for Colorado. My car hit 100,000 miles today!! AHH!!!!
Keep in touch, everyone!
Performing Shostakovich with the Missouri Symphony was an absolutely unforgettable experience! But it was immediately on to the next thing as I got together with 3 of my colleagues to put together and perform Beethoven's Quartet Op. 18 No. 4! The Hot Summer Nights Festival's first Chamber Concert was Monday night so we got right to work rehearsing on Sunday afternoon. The really great thing about this performance was I got to work with one of my super good friends, Rachel! We've known each other since we were really little - her mom plays oboe in the Knoxville Symphony and my dad was music director there for many years when I was young - but since I'm in Texas and she's in Tennessee we don't get to see each other very often! I was so glad that I got to play together with her for this piece!!
Tyler, Sharon, Rachel and me! Awesome Beethoven Op. 18 No. 4, you guys!!!
The other two members of our quartet were actually Cleveland Institute of Music alumni! Sharon on cello and Tyler on viola - Tyler and I actually overlapped at CIM for a couple of years but I don't think we ever ran into each other :( We had fun with this quartet though!
We rehearsed for a couple of hours on Sunday, then did another short rehearsal on Monday before our run through at the church. We ended up performing last on the program, and it ended up being PRETTY warm on stage, but I think we were all really happy with our performance and I certainly had a great time!
Annika shows me which of the pieces she's working on is her favorite!
After my concert on Saturday I saw a lot of young audience goers who were members of the Missouri Symphony Conservatory. They were so thrilled to meet me and see me play that I offered to give a few of them lessons. I taught two of them today - Solveig and Annika. They're both 12 and are doing absolutely wonderfully in their violin studies!! They were such sweet and hard working girls, it was a real treat for me to work with them! Tomorrow I work with three more kids and I can't wait to see what they bring for me!
Our assistant conductor, Adam, hands out batons to the next kids in line!
Tonight was the Missouri Symphony's first Family Concert of the season. The concert was titled, "What Do You Like On Your Pizza?" The concept was to teach the audience about the Theme and Variation form of music by comparing pieces to building a pizza. Such as how Pachelbel's Cannon uses a ground base, which is like the base crust of a pizza on which you put all sorts of toppings. And how some pieces have variations based on nationalities (we used an arrangement of Pop Goes the Weasel that had Swedish, Jewish, Viennese and American variations) - much like how you can use different toppings to make many national-flavored pizzas. Near the end of the program was our March section where the kids in the audience were able to come up on stage to have a chance at conducting the orchestra. Rachel and I got to sit in the back and help the kids work on their conducting skills before they stepped up onto the podium ;)
Very fun concert, and I definitely went out for pizza after!
On Saturday night I performed the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor with the Missouri Symphony! I have dreamed of playing this piece with orchestra for years so this was truly a dream come true!
Working with the Missouri Symphony this week has been a blast! We had a sort of preview rehearsal with most of the orchestra members on Tuesday evening and then the real rehearsal was on Friday afternoon. Two and a half hours of Shostakovich-y bliss!
I felt so lucky to have basically a whole afternoon to work on the piece. It gave us plenty of time to figure out transitions and run the faster movements a couple of times.
The day of the concert I got up early to practice (but made sure I got a good night's sleep) and had the dress rehearsal at 11:00. We did a couple of spots and then did a whole run through of the piece. Isn't the Missouri Theatre beautiful?
The rest of the afternoon I practiced, rested and snacked on a few things. It can be hard to find the appetite to eat anything the day of a big concert! I grabbed the things I needed where I was staying like my dress, make up and curling iron and then went back to the hall to get ready.
After the overture Ruslan and Lyudmila it was time to go on stage! I said a quick prayer to remind myself that everything is in God's hands and that this performance would be for Him and then walked out to the audience applause.
It was such an exhilarating experience playing this whole piece with orchestra in front of an audience! I've played many concertos with orchestras before, but this one was new for me and it was such a thrill! The first movement was dark and contemplative, the second movement was exciting and full of character contrasts, the third was heartfelt and passionate, and the increasingly intense cadenza blasted its way into the fourth movement which kept driving forward all the way to the end! By the time it was over I felt like I had run a marathon!
This was certainly one of the top performances I've been happiest with. I think it's mostly because the piece is just so spectacular, it's amazing to play it at all!
I want to sincerely thank the Missouri Symphony Orchestra for their amazing work on this piece. I felt so comfortable playing with them and the accompaniment is not easy! Not to mention putting it together with the soloist! I couldn't have asked for a better set of musicians playing behind me or a better conductor to work with! Thanks, Dad ^_^
I got a couple of pictures backstage during the intermission - here's one with my dad :)
Thankfully I had my sister around to carry my violin for me because I certainly couldn't walk up and down the stairs very easily in my dress! :P
After the intermission I went into the audience with my mom, sister and grandmother to watch the Tchaikovsky "Pathetique" Symphony on the 2nd half. It was an incredible and moving performance! I just LOVE the Presto 3rd movement of that symphony!
I got to talk to a lot of the audience members at intermission and after the concert. I'm always glad to get to do that and am sorry that I don't get to see everyone! I got a few pictures with some of the kids from the Missouri Symphony Conservatory, which was super fun! Here's a picture with Annika! She was so great and took some pictures for me during the Friday afternoon rehearsal! Thanks, Annika! <3
The next morning I was very surprised to find a giant color photo of me in the paper! I'm SO happy that they found my new pictures on my website!! Thanks again, Kate Lemmon for the amazing photography! It looks INCREDIBLE in the paper!
The Missouri Symphony's opening concert for their Hot Summer Nights Festival at Stephen's Lake Park Amphitheater was a huge success! We had a great turn out and, once the sun came out, some wonderful weather! This free concert was basically a preview of some of the future concert programs to try to entice more locals to come to the Missouri Theatre. I think there will be a lot of new concert goers this summer!
My performance of the Tango was somewhat near the beginning of the concert which I was gateful for because there wasn't anywhere to warm up and it started to get pretty chilly later on. I think the audience really enjoyed the Tango - some people even came up to me afterwards and said they wished they could have dance! I told them they should have! ^_^
After the Tango was over there wasn't really any place for me to go and I didn't want to sit on the grass in my dress, so I sat in the back of the violin section and played the rest of the concert! It was a lot of fun to play Looney Toons and Star Wars :) My stand partner, Mingu, and I had a blast!
The main rehearsal for the Shostakovich concerto is today so I'd better get going and practice. Keep an eye out for my YouTube video of last night's performance! :)
There has been a lot of hype in the media lately about audience members using their cell phones to film or take pictures of soloists in performance. The latest occurrence was in Essen, Germany, when Krystian Zimerman stopped in the middle of a performance to ask an audience member to cease recording him with their phone. He resumed playing but left the stage shortly after, reportedly because his concentration was broken. When Zimerman returned to the stage he told the audience that "the destruction of music through YouTube is enormous."
Now I'm not quite sure what I think about that last statement, as I obviously use YouTube to promote my own performances, but I believe that Zimerman's refusal to allow audience members free reign of technological use during live performances is important.
There has been much heated discussion about how concert halls need to change their approach to allowing the use of mobile phones during concerts. After all, others claim, EVERYONE uses their phone to take pictures of and film Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift concerts! We should be able to use our phones whenever we want!
Now to some people that may make sense, but Classical Music is a completely different art form. And it is just that! ART! You wouldn't expect to go into a museum and cause all sorts of chaos by using flash photography, being loud and disruptive to other museum goers, and posting your replications of the art online, would you? Maybe you would, but I hope not!
Others claim that Classical Orchestras and Musicians are too rigid and are not accepting of technology. This to me is a very bold and quite uneducated statement. That statement I publicly replied:
Most people seem to agree with me, but I know there are many who don't. People claim that we need to adapt and accept that the world is changing and technology is just going to take over every area of our lives. I feel sorry for those people. They have so little faith in humanity that they will just let this happen to our world. As a classical artist I take pride in the fact that my music can provide people with a little relief from this hectic, fast paced, technologically run life that we all now seem to live. I think it's very important that we work hard to make sure that we don't lose all of the parts of this world that are calm, peaceful and pure. For if we have no refuge, what will happen to us?
And with that I will leave you with a picture of my puppy sitting on my lap while I practice because he is cute ^^
After a bow rehair in Dallas and a 10 hour drive, I'm finally in Columbia, Missouri! I got in around 11:30 pm and then had a very relaxing sleep.
The Missouri Symphony's Hot Summer Nights Festival officially starts today! Check out the programs for this season!
After some Shostakovich score study this morning at Panera Bread, I went to the hall to practice and then attended the musician s luncheon for some Shakespeare's pizza! :)
In the afternoon rehearsal we worked on the John Williams/Gardel Tango. It's so nice to hear it with a full orchestra!
In between the rehearsals I decided to test out a new shoulder rest.
-Disclaimer- I am in no way advertising or promoting either one of these shoulder rest, I just wanted to record and share my observations :) -/Disclaimer -
When I got my bow rehaired yesterday I took a look at the Pedi "Elegante" carbon fiber shoulder rest. I seemed to remember that someone had told me to try it and my luthier told me I could borrow it and try it for a while.
In the shop I noticed that the Pedi seemed to make my violin sound much different and even more focused. This was an exciting thought but I couldn't tell if it was affecting the projection of my instrument - either positively or negatively.
The shoulder rest I've been using for the past 12 or so years is the Kun Bravo and I've never had an issue with it except that its heavy and I wonder if that's why it falls off sometimes (I've had the feet replaced). Now I have noticed that this shoulder rest does make my violin project better but what I couldn't tell was if the Pedi was doing the same thing or maybe even better.
I tried them in the hall for my dad and he didn't even have to think twice. He said the Kun Bravo clearly sounds better. It projects more, sounds fuller and more focused and makes my violin sound better. He said the Pedi wasn't as focused and made the violin sound student-ish.
So interesting!! It sounded much different under my ear! But I'm taking his word as a musician because I sort of had a feeling that's what was going on and it's very common for things to sound much different out in the hall.
So, I'm sorry, Pedi "Elegante", I will be returning you. It's really intriguing to find out how much of a difference your shoulder rest can make for the sound of your instrument!
After dinner, and the first half of the evening rehearsal, we rehearsed the Shostakovich violin concerto!! I have been DYING for this moment!! It was incredible! It was a really amazing experience putting together the work I've done on the solo part with all of the colorful sonorities in the orchestra behind me. I was thrilled the entire time. I can't wait for our second rehearsal and the concert on Saturday! :D
Time for some sleep and more Tango rehearsal tomorrow!
Yesterday I had my bi-annual student recital at the New Heart Christian School of music! There were a couple of students who weren't able to participate, and a few who dropped out the week before, but I did have 12 students who played and performed superbly!
All ages and levels took place in this recital, from my 5 year old performing pieces in Suzuki Book 1 to my juniors and seniors performing Wieniawski Concerto No. 2 and Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy". It was a really exciting concert!
My friend and amazing pianist, Kyle Orth, drove all the way down to Houston from Dallas to rehearse with my students on Friday and Saturday and then accompany them in the recital. It certainly made things a lot less hectic having a great pianist who can play pretty much anything on the fly! Thank you so much, Kyle!
I am so proud of all of my students and all of the hard work they've done. They really did splendidly yesterday, especially considering the fact that I've been gone so much the past month, and for many of them this is their last week of school!
Great job, everyone! I can't wait for the next recital! :)