September 9 was my first concert at CCM, and it was performing with the Philharmonia Orchestra. I played in the second half of the program in the Concerto for Orchestra by Witold Lutoslawski (pronounced Lu-to-swaf-ski). Why is pronunciation so important? Because this was the opening concert of CCM's Polish Music festival! It is a historic achievement for cultural diversity in the city of Cincinnati. As the opening ceremony, there were opening remarks made by Dr. Marek Dollar, former Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland and now resident of Cincinnati, and Philharmonia Director Mark Gibson. An outline was presented of the events and contributions to the Festival (including the mural replica in the back of the auditorium in the picture), as well as the vision for the Festival.
Director Gibson made an interesting proposal to the audience that Polish music has been underrated and underappreciated in the West due to some simple yet systemic factors. One was that Americans (and Westerners in general) are off-put by the strange names they see: Lutoslawski, Szymanowski, Skrowaczewski, etc. Not only do we not how how to pronounce them, but they aren't easy to remember. It's no surprise that it is hard for us to absorb a culture so vastly different from ours, and in fact we're hardly to blame. The entertainment industry is driven by the need for memorability and it always has. But it goes without saying that this has still led to a tragic gap in the Classical Music canon in the West, one that needs to be addressed not for simply the sake of diversity, but for the sake that it is good music! That point really resonated with me in Director Gibson's speech, and regardless of what he would know of me, if he ever gets to know me personally, this has been my calling for almost a third of my life now, and the majority of my music studies. Those who do know me know about my certain rare Russian musicological inclinations *wink wink.* I too love promoting music that is simply good, no matter its current level of appreciation by our Classical culture. I have a feeling that we're going to get along quite well in the months and semesters to come.
As for the concert, I thought it went very well! It felt like a true team effort, and although I could tell there were nerves affecting the performance, we stayed really well together, and I was also pleased with my personal contribution. Perhaps most importantly was the enthusiastic response of the audience which is always such a gratifying thing. They may be applauding us as musicians, but I sure hope they were applauding Lutoslawski too! The Concerto for Orchestra is a really great piece and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to perform it. This is what it's like to be a musician, and this is what it's like to be a music lover, both at the same time.
Can't wait to do it all over again in October for the last concert in the Festival!
This coming week is a day-time concert on Thursday (Sept. 15) with the Chamber Winds ensemble. I play in 2 works, Jeux d'été for Double Wind Quintet by Clark MAlister and Chamber Symphony No. 5 for 10 Winds by Darius Milhaud. I've never played in this kind of ensemble arrangement before so it is a nice quasi-chamber experience since it's still conducted.
Beauty will save the world. - Fyodor Dostoevsky