Monday, 2 February 2009

Near the Capitol Hill

Here I am, sitting in Washington Airport on my way back to Europe. As usual, America gave a lot of moments to think about…
First of all, when I’ve arrived to Milwaukee last week, it’s been truly amazing, how great are American story makers – what they did from obvious inauguration of new president, was remarkable! Few words of oath and couple of handshakes became a huge event for 1,5 millions people at the streets of Washington and many millions in States and worldwide! Even Yo-Yo Ma played his cello in sub-zero temperature ))) And in Milwaukee, which is quite far from capital, at the morning people cued into bars, restaurants and concert hall to watch TV-translation. Perhaps, it’s been a good reason to have a day-off ;)
It’s been a great week there, with a very good and strong collaboration with orchestra, and a lot of people from audience decided to listen Sheherazade second time at the second night. Instead of some tensions with soloist (you can find the story in internet), there’ve been a lot of magical moments in Chopin concerto too! And, of course, I did enjoyed proper winter with a lot of snow (down to -15!) and famous Milwaukee’s beers.
This week I’ve been in Baltimore, doing Shostakovich 8, Liadov and Tchaikovsky concerto with Stephen Hough. And it’s been highly successful too! Very strong chemistry with orchestra, great response from audience and a lot of excitement overall. Looking forward to play with Stephen again at the Prom this summer and with a pleasure will come back to Baltimore and Milwaukee. And, of course, looking forward to do this Symphony in Liverpool in a couple of months!
To not be too sweet in a blog, I need to say, that especially during this trip noticed very clear – recession is strong in States, as well as in Europe (and even worse in Russia!), and it’ll take a long time for the World to recovery from current economic situation. What about a culture? Difficult to predict… but the history knows examples, when during global catastrophes, like WWII for instance, people had even more intensive cultural life, trying to find an escape from horrors and disasters.
P.S. Forgot to write about week in Valladolid before US – did Mahler 7 and Strauss Songs with Barbara Bonney there – were stunning performances of this very complicate symphony, especially first-time-ever (!) for this orchestra after just two days of rehearsals. And I’ve disagreed with critics, who said, that Barbara was voiceless in a first half, I did enjoyed every note and every change of color and mood! Probably reviewer listen this concert too far from stage and couldn’t get all details… And again, looking forward to perform this great symphony in Liverpool in 2011!


Robin said...

Welcome back Vasily! Looking forward to the concert on Thursday - good to see good houses for Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.


Robin said...

I meant Sunday, not Saturday!


Flo said...

You have a much stronger constitution than anyone in this country...stopped still after a couple of centimetres of snow!

I get your point completely about periods of depression creating moments of culture that is all about escapism - what are the beautiful films of Fred and Ginger if they are not about a fantasy land of dreams to escape the 30s depression. But the responsibility of being an institution like the RLPO that has to balance that hand in hand with the inevitable reduction of funding and people's budgets? How do you change your programming, or do you to meet with that shift in perception and change in expectation when you move from a celebratory mood to a more sombre one?Sorry, that was longer than I was expecting it to be



jill said...

Hi Vasily, Hope you did not fly into Heathrow, but arrived promptly in Merseyside. You must be laughing at us Brits and our weather (as the Queen said once "we don't have a climate, we have weather") It's pathetic. When I went to school they never closed for snow, we had to walk and were sent out to play in the snow too. Mind you, it was a while ago.

I was lucky to see Yo-Yo Ma at the Phil when he played in the Katherine Stott birthday concert.

The reviewer of your Milwaukee Sheherazade went back the second night. He was in the cinema and left his friends watching the film to return to the concert for this piece. He heaped praise on everyone. It must have been extra special!

You mention a prom, that will be great, two years running. Assuming it is a BBC prom.

You are right, the recession is serious and seems to be here for the foreseeable future. We saw some of the Russian riots on tv news here, the ordinary people seem to be suffering the most (as everywhere!) This is the first major financial crisis since the world became a global village and although people want to take care of their own, it is difficult without creating repercussions everywhere else. Liverpool Council announced recently that it has enough money to go ahead with the second Mersey crossing (bridge). I'm not sure whether that is good or bad for culture - depends where they get the money from!

There have been some excellent concerts at the Phil while you have been away, but I am looking forward to Rhapsody, Love from Vasily and Rossiniana and more in the coming months.

I wrote to the Phil to try and get your blog link in a more prominent place on the website. They said the home page is booked in advance, but perhaps it could go at the top of your own page - then you will hopefully get posts from many different people.

Welcome back indeed!


jill said...

Wow, I think that concert tonight (or last night) was one of the best I have heard at the Phil. The sound from the strings - magic. Adrenalin was racing by the end, so went over the road to Carriageworks for coffee and watched end of match on computer - further adrenalin rush as Everton scored at last minute. Still sitting here too excited to go to bed! I love Gershwin and I don't think I have heard the rhapsody played better than it was tonight. Congratulations all round. Deep breath, try to calm down.

Forgot last time to welcome Flo to the blog, hope to hear from you again.


jill said...

Hello Judith and welcome to the blog. I think the Liverpool audiences at the Phil are fab, plenty of young people/students, arty types and then a whole range up to the occasional evening dress. All ages too. I wonder, though, if there isn't another whole group of Liverpudlians who "think" the Phil is elitist and think classical music is not for them. If you remind people that tv adverts and film scores are also orchestral music, they often haven't thought of it in that way.

Some of the press too, especially advertising forthcoming events, concentrate on the pop/comedy programme at the Phil and never mention the orchestra.

But as you say, it is great to just pop in and enjoy what's on. I have a subscription with a friend, but I also attend a few concerts on my own and I am so happy sitting in the Phil, I really relax and always enjoy myself.

I just received a "what's on" e.mail from the Phil and notice that there is a link to Vasily's blog at the top. Hopefully even more people will read it and post a comment.

Keep in touch


Jane. said...

Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for the concert on Wednesday. It was my mother's birthday, so we got a couple of box seats. I never realised how moving the music was through the chairs, ha ha. Glad you enjoyed America.


Robin said...

Hi Vasily, Jill, Flo and Jane

That's a couple more of us at last, and very welcome - perhaps the habit's starting to catch on!!

Absolutely agree with everyone that last week's concert was great as ever - enjoyed every minute even though the Rachmaninov isn't one of my favourites ... isn't Kirill Gerstein great? The conducting, too, of course! And the band's sounding fantastic even though there still seem to be quite a lot of vacancies...

The Gershwin was really excellent. How about a concert performance of Porgy and Bess? That could really be an attraction - there was one at the Phil a long time ago (I think Simon Rattle conducted, but may be mistaken) and it was very popular. Even better for something American and much less well known - a concert performance of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha, which I really like. Both could involve the Gospel Choir. Other Americans - Ives, please (especially symphonies) and Bernstein (love Candide and West Side Story, but his little-performed Mass is amazing and some of the symphonic works like A Quiet Place are truly great); lots of other Americans that sometimes only appear in 10:10 concerts (Torke, Adams...) and what about Hovahness if you want good old-fashioned tunes?

That's just the short version of my American wish-list inspired by the Gershwin last week and is part of a massive list of things I want Vasily to conduct. I will send other parts of my list later, but don't want to clutter up the space just with things I want - does anyone else have things they specially want Vasily to interpret?

Looking forward to Saturday only wish it was the whole of Prokofiev's R&J - which I like even better than Tchaikovsky's - but you can't have everything!


jill said...

Hello everyone. I thought there was a concert Porgy & Bess a few years ago. I didn't see it, but bought tickets for my sister as she has always loved the music. Am I wrong, or was it somewhere else? It was definitely Liverpool.

The first time I saw Vasily was at a concert called Pantomime, he was guest conductor. The music included various ballets plus Prokofiev's Cinderella, which I had never heard before, despite R&J being so well known and popular. I loved it so much I bought the dvd of the Royal Ballet, but it isn't the same as seeing it played live.

Vasily, do you have time to rehearse repertoire with the RLPO or is it just forthcoming concerts? What is the new place in Everton like? Any chance you can tell us how the prize is going to be announced on Saturday - it just says "during the concert" on the website. Curious!

I have no suggestions for music, I like most things and this year am attending more 10:10 as my friend likes contemporary music and she insisted on including some. I try to feel the emotion, as Vasily suggests, but I generally find I am struggling to identify the time signature and wondering what the conductor is conveying to the players. I am completely in awe of musicians who can follow contemporary arrangements!


Naicisum (musician) said...

This is just to say thanks fro the fantastic concert last night at Preston Guild Hall all of the group from my college enjoyed it greatly, and we are going to try to persuade our tutor to take us to more of your concerts. Thank you for the fantastic music

Robin said...

Hi to Naicisum

Great to hear you enjoyed the concert - the same music others of us heard in Liverpool - and sure Vasily will be pleased.

Marvellous to have a comment from someone new, too, and hope you get to more concerts and can let everyone know what you think. The Phil's in Preston quite a lot, so persuade your tutor!

Jill: there must be some things you really want to hear! I like all kinds of music, but still have long lists of things that don't get played enough. 10:10 is great, but I wish contemporary music didn't have to be separated for a smallish band of the faithful. Why are audiences so frightened of anything contemporary and stay away from things they 'don't like because they don't know them'? Hope Vasily and the Phil continue to programme more new stuff in main programmes as it did for 08.


jill said...

Hello again everyone and welcome Musician. By the way, Judith posted a comment on the Merry Christmas blog, in case you thought I was replying to nothing!

Robin, I will have to tell you my life story, but will keep it brief! When I was young (pre-school) I played the piano and composed tunes, using both hands. Couple of years later I started piano lessons. I learned a piece with the teacher and the following week was playing it note perfect when there was a great "whack" on my hands from a ruler and "where are you on the music?" I was playing away by ear and had not turned over the page. After several months of this I complained that I did not like piano lessons because the teacher hit me. These days such a "gift" would be nurtured, but not way back ??? years. Towards the end of my education I got involved in amateur theatre and spent a lifetime in plays and musicals. I love all music, but have never studied classical music to any extent. I attended the Phil on and off during those years and have been attending regularly for at least ten years now. So, if you asked me if I like Mozart's Clarinet Concerto I would have no idea, but if I heard the first couple of notes, I would recognise the tune. I am sure there are many things I would like to hear, but I don't know what they are! That's my problem in a nutshell.

I agree about contemporary concerts at the Phil, even now when Vasily is such a success, there are always empty seats when the music is contemporary, I think its snobbery on the part of people who read the Daily Mail and think we still have an empire.

I think it's great not knowing who who are, because you get my honest view!

Does anyone else have a wish list? What about you folk at college in Preston?


Naicisum (musician) said...

Hello to everyone,

I am quite a fan of contempary music i have to say one of my favourite peices is Coplands Appalachian Spring Suite.... As a flautist i particullarly enjoy the flute solo (an altered "lord of the dance") it has to be my most listened to peice of music as it fills the time it takes me to walk form the bus to band practise!!! much to others amusment as i wander along Preston's backstreets humming classical music!! I fear i may scare the locals!!

I apolgise in advance for any spelling errors as I am borderline dyslexic! taking individual sounds out of words got me out of the dyslexic box! as music has trained me to listen


jill said...

hi naicisum, you won't frighten the locals in Preston because they are all fans of the Phil and Vasily, its their second home. I know someone who studies theatre/dance in Preston, would that be the same college as you or are there more? What are you planning to do with your flute in the future (I mean career wise)? I travel to Alston Hall (Longridge) fairly regularly for various courses. So glad to hear that music helped with your dyslexia. Don't worry about your spelling, you are probably better than the average school leaver these days, so well done! Keep in touch!


Naicisum (musician) said...

Im not sure about the locals they do give me wierd looks!!! but I get them normally so I'm not that bothered!!!

I study at Runshaw College there are quiet a lot of colleges in this area Runshaw CNC and Preston! Music wise I hope to keep music as a hobby so i can enjoy it and it not become a chore!!

What courses run at Alston Hall as it is not that far from where i live??

School leavers are getting worse though i hope never to decend to their leval, as many girls do not study physics and maths i don't think i run that risk!!


Robin said...

Dear Vasily and all

Another great concert on Saturday - isn't Jane Irwin's voice great? And Vasily and the band of course fantastic, especially in the best performance I've ever heard of Prokofiev's R&J suite (electric in places). Carmen great fun and brilliantly played. This Thursday should be pleasant, though rather a lot of bits and pieces ... Vasily: not conducting in Liverpool for 3 weeks after Sunday. Are you going somewhere else or having a holiday?

Went to the ballet at the Empire last Thursday - lots of Vasily's compatriots - and wondered how differently you have to conduct for ballet from an orchestral concert. Maybe more like opera? Or is it the same Vasily?

Jill: that's a truly terrible tale of your early life at the piano and glad it didn't put you off music. And you must be able to read music, which sometimes helps, and after ten years of going to the Phil I'm sure you can recognise some music! I don't have much musical education, but can read a simple score and play a descant recorder ... until I started going to the Phil I only knew 2 or 3 pieces of classical music, but after nearly 40 years I do know quite a lot and I do buy music I don't know just to find out if I like it!

I do wish people were more adventurous (and hope not too many of the Phil audience read the Daily Mail or believe we still have an Empire!) and am glad that Naicisum likes contemporay music - there a lot of great Copland apart from the best-known pieces, so please keep discovering. Some great music, new and older, for flutes too. Also keep scaring the natives by humming classical music because they may get to like it!

Like Jill says, Naicisum, your English is better than a lot of people's, so don't be self-conscious about the dyslexia. And it's wonderful that music has helped you with it.


jill said...

Hello everyone. Saturday was fab, I enjoyed every minute. Vasily, you really do something wonderful to the orchestra, they are truly inspired. I am always entranced by your left hand, it is so elegant and expressive, I noticed it immediately when I first saw you years ago.

Robin, I heard Vasily say in an interview that ballet dancers don't listen to the music, they just count. In that case, I imagine the conductor leads the performance. With opera, though, I suppose it's the singer who is in charge with the orchestra following. I could be wrong, but I think Vasily also said he has conducted opera in Russia when unrehearsed pauses have suddenly appeared in the performance!

I regret my early piano experience simply because it put me off learning theory for years. I do read music now, but I still learn better by ear and although I have a piano, I don't play it for pleasure often enough. You are right that there is music which I enjoy. I like Gershwin (not only since the recent concert) and I also like a lot of baroque music, Vivaldi in particular. I am growing fond of Stravinsky (I think, if he is the one who writes jazzy stuff) and I like all music you can dance to, has a tune and rhythm - hence my slight mental block re. contemporary music. I don't understand modern art either, even though I am going to the Tate on Wednesday with an art teacher friend. Classical music has been in my life since school, music itself is not new to me. I can hum most tunes, but remembering the title is the trick.

Back to Jane Irwin, she has a wonderful voice, contralto range, but a lovely lyrical timbre I thought. She comes alive as soon as she sings. Amazingly, her mother sat in front of my friend and me. She told us that when Jane arrived in Liverpool and opened her suitcase - no dress! So they spent the day shopping. By chance my friend heard Jane in Lancaster a few days before and made a note to look out for her, having forgotten that we would see her on Saturday.

Did you notice the obligatory negative comment in the Echo review?

Jane, have you been to any more concerts?

Judith, did you read my reply to your post?

Naicisum, Alston Hall does art, literature, music and many crafts.

Vasily, I can't imagine you are having 3 weeks without work, can you tell us what you are up to?
You mentioned doing Mahler in 2011 - how far ahead is your life and work planned in advance? Do you ever get the chance to do something spontaneously?

There are lots of questions on this blog now, hope you get a chance to reply soon.


Jane. said...

Hi Jill and all. I am going to a concert on Sunday and it was quite funny to read about Jane Iriving's mystery dress experience! So glad you had a nice time on Saturday while I was stock taking at work.

All the best

jill said...

Hi Jane, I am going to that concert on Sunday and I think Robin is going on Thursday, so we will be able to compare notes. I don't think much of your employer having you stock taking on a Saturday evening, especially Valentine's Day. How mean!

keep in touch


Robin said...

Hello All

I agree with Jill that making Jane do a stock take on a Saturday evening is very mean! Will be interesting to compare notes with Jill and Jane on Sunday's concert compared with tomorrow's - not exactly the same programmes, but enough overlap to compare.

Thanks, Jill, for the interesting insight into Jane Irwin's wardrobe!

And thanks Jill for further info on what music you like - I knew you be able to give us a few things. Stravinsky is great (still a bit 'advanced' for some people!) and if you like jazz-y, lots of Shostakovich as well as twentieth-century French composers (and Americans, and modern British).

Incidentally, I've read the proofs of the new forthcoming book on the Phil (see front page of the Phil website) and that's really interesting with lots of new pics including Vasily as well as historic ones.

Mentioning the Phil's website, I know that they always say it's award-winning and it's pretty good, but Vasily's page and a number of other areas are in desperate need of updating...

There really are so many questions for Vasily on here now that he'll never have time to answer them all!


jill said...

Hi again
I hope I don't meet Jane Irwin's mother again, I will be in deep trouble!
Agree about the website. All the info about Vasily is too far away from the home page and most of it dates back to 2006. I asked to put a link to the blog somewhere more prominent, so hopefully they are looking at it, otherwise they are ignoring me!
I ordered the book about the Phil.
I think we should speculate about the missing three weeks. I suggest paternity leave, although that would involve some pretty precise planning! Just a thought.

Robin said...


Next time Jane Irwin sings in Liverpool, you'll have to miss the concert!!

I'll write to the Phil about the website, especially Vasily's page where even the photo's not up to date apart from the 2006 content. Maybe they'll take notice of two people...

Hope I'll get a free book for reading the proofs (!), but will definitely buy some for presents.

Paternity leave is a romantic idea, but maybe Vasily's diary's just not up to date and he's conducting somewhere else (he's got a second orchestra since January as well as lots of other stuff) - and it would take some planning! Oh dear, am I not joining in the proper spirit of speculation??


Robin said...

Rather 'bitty' programme last night I thought and I'm not too fond of Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony, but Jane and Jill, you don't get that anyway tomorrow! Not a very good house unusually, but excellent music-making of course. Semiramide overture was fun too, but that's not in Sunday's programme either ... wait, though, for the incredible depth and range of Julia Lezhneva's singing in the Rossini arias. Fantastic voice from someone who looks like a very pretty tiny china doll. And Sunday's concert goers can also look forward to a lovely crisp and neat performance of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony. Hope the Respighi and the Mozart are good on Sunday.

Vasily: are you always conducting in a frock-coat now?


Vasily said...

Hallo everyone!
Few answers:
- perform Porgy and Bess is quite difficult to organise, there are a lot of royalties to pay and also not so easy to find a singer. But we're thinking about.
- Friary Church in Everton is great place to rehearse and now with InHarmony programme will be very much in charge!
- orchestra very rare rehears anything for more than week ahead.
- Naicisum, do not affraid to be different! I've been very different in my childhood from my mates, but settled very well!

Vasily said...

Answers part II:
- ballet is very different thing from opera, conductor must follow ballerins in a performance and know all their tempos before.
- I'm in London at the moment, concert at Barbican at Wednesday (25th). Few days off afterwards (first time since Christmas and next will be in June), than Spain (work).
- my life is very prescripted untill middle of 2012, but there are always possibilities for spontaneous things... if someone else cancel a week with very big and well-known orchestra )))
- story with Jane Irwin and a dress is true!
- new RLPO website will be done this Spring
- I did a few concerts in a frock-coat due to my inspiration... and a broken washing machine at home )))

jill said...

Hi Everyone, just came on here to talk about today's concert and found Vasily's answers! Thank you very much for answering so many of our questions. Glad to hear you are having some time off and hope you get to spend time with your family. Do they ever travel with you when you work?

To the concert, I didn't recognise the name of the first item (Prokofiev) but found that I knew the music rather well. I only discovered Respighi very recently so I don't know his style, but I found this piece very entertaining and packed with different things - some of it was very dainty, other parts quite ponderous (not unpleasantly), then we had tambourine and castanet and (if my memory is correct) some interesting/discordant harmonies. I love odd harmonies.

As for Julia Lezhneva - what can I say. Wonderful, wonderful voice and brilliant performance - those runs!!! I was watching the bodice of her dress expecting to see her diaphram working very hard! And what a dress, I wanted her to return to the platform again and again, so I could see the back of her dress, it was beautiful, like floating clouds.

Then Mozart - another piece that I knew well without realising it. I think all the strings deserve extra applause today for some outstanding fingering, their fingers worked very hard throughout the concert. The whole afternoon was very satisfying, exciting to watch and left a lovely warm glow afterwards. Many thanks to Vasily and the orchestra.

Looking forward now to 18 March, 26March and 2 April.

Good news about the website, look forward to the update.

Enjoy your time off, Vasily!


Colin said...

Hello Vasily
Good to share the train journey last week. Sweet revenge for your interviewing me on stage at the Phil!
If inclined, drop me an email (via work) as it would be good to continue those discussions.


Roy said...

I attended one of your Baltimore performances and it was really one of the very best Baltimore orchestra concerts I've attended in a couple of years. You lead Shostakovich wonderfully and the BSO really knows how to play him. I'm looking forward to your CDs of Shostakovich. I only wish they were with the Baltimore orchestra! And I can hardly wait to have you conducting here again.