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Callum’s preview of the CSO‘s November 24, 2013  MasterWorks program:

My dad and I went to the Canton Symphony rehearsal on Thursday night, which was the first one for this Sunday’s concert. The only piece they rehearsed that night was Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and it was awesome. We were a little bit late because I had a piano lesson that night, so when we got there, they were just starting to play Nimrod, one of the movements. This movement is so beautiful; I really love it. It is very powerful, and I don’t mean it’s loud, although it does get loud near the end. I mean it’s also powerful emotionally. When I heard them play it, there was a part where I kept expecting them to play a different note that was higher, instead of dropping down lower, because the melody sounded really familiar, but then was different than I remembered. It’s really hard to explain without being able to play it for you on the piano, but the melody sounded a little like one on a CD of Beethoven piano sonatas (just the slow movements) I used to listen to a lot when I was falling asleep. But then Elgar did something different with the melody. So when I read the program notes later, it made sense, because they said Elgar sort of based the beginning on the slow movement from Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata, and when my dad played it for me, that was the one it sounded like. I think it’s amazing how Elgar did that.

The very beginning of the next movement they played (that I found out later is called the “Dorabella Intermezzo”) sounded sort of Christmassy to me, but I don’t know why. It just did. Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations so that every movement kind of describes the personality of a different friend of his. Later in the rehearsal, Mr. Zimmermann told the orchestra that this movement was about a friend who stuttered. Then it really stood out to me in the music, and the movement had more meaning.

The next movement they played is about one of Elgar’s friends who had a bulldog. There were great trombone and low brass parts, and I think those described the bulldog. Later in the rehearsal, Mr. Zimmermann said to the orchestra that there is a funny video of Leonard Bernstein conducting one of the BBC orchestras playing this movement, where Mr. Bernstein wanted the strings to use a bowing that was basically impossible. He said they should find the video and watch it, that it’s really funny. So my dad found it, and we watched it while I was writing this, and it is really funny. Here’s the link to it: Bernstein in rehearsal with the BBC Symphony  And while we were talking about Bernstein, we also watched another video of him basically conducting an entire Haydn symphony movement with just his face. And I’m serious. Here it is: Bernstein conducts Haydn with his face

In the beginning of the next movement the orchestra rehearsed, there’s a short cello solo, and then all the cellos play the main melody, and it’s really beautiful. And then later the violins were playing, but I was writing in my notebook and wasn’t watching the orchestra, and they were playing so low that I didn’t even realize it was violins until my dad mentioned it. I never thought of them playing that low.

My dad told me that the next movement describes a big ship, and that part of it represents the huge engines. When I heard the timpani part after he said that, I pictured huge propellers on a ship, and I thought of the ones in a part of the third Indiana Jones movie. A different, slower timpani part reminded me of the part in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where they were all on a boat and the main Oompa Loompa played a beat on the timpani that I think sounded just like it.

Then they played the finale, which was very powerful, and to me it sounded like Elgar was summarizing the whole piece. The reason I say that is because parts of the end sounded like little fragments of all the different movements, like the “stuttering” part of the Dorabella movement. Part of the finale also kind of reminds me of some music by John Williams. It reminded me of a really triumphant part of a movie, maybe like the finale of Star Wars. Another part sort of reminded me of a part in the Nutcracker. There were really, really strong brass parts at the end, especially the trombones.

Then the orchestra took a break, and we were told that there were cookies and drinks out in the hall, and that we could have some. My dad said I could go get a couple cookies by myself. So I went out, and I saw the contrabassoonist, Renee Anthony Dee, (the one who showed me what it felt like to play one), and then I got to meet the principal flutist, Katherine DeJongh, who was really nice, and she even told me that she reads all of my blog posts. I couldn’t believe it, and that made me feel really good. And then I got to meet Mr. and Mrs. Hoover, and when I found out that he is the Chair of the orchestra’s Board of Trustees, I sort of jumped because I was so surprised. Then they introduced me to their son, Drew, who goes to Lake High School, and I go to Lake Middle School. He also plays cello in the Canton Youth Symphony. They were all really, really nice. Then I went back to sit with my dad and told him all about it, and asked if he thought we could sit on the stage for the second half. So we asked Mrs. Mullaly and she said sure, and that was awesome because I love sitting up there.

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Our onstage view at rehearsal

We sat on the side of the stage, right behind the violins, and it was great. At first it sounded really different to have the horns so close, but then I got used to it. I noticed right away how much all the musicians were writing things in their music that Mr. Zimmermann had said. I think it’s cool that even at their age and level of playing that they still write things in their music. Mr. Kibler, our band director, tells us to write things in our music all the time, and he tells us that it’s a useful thing because it reminds us how to play the music the right way.

Sitting on the stage really brings out the details in the music. By the time the music gets back to the audience, it still sounds amazing of course, but all the notes are mixed together, so it’s harder to pick out each instrument. But up on stage you can hear every instrument clearly, so I love sitting up there for a change. Another cool part about being on the stage is that in some parts of the music you can feel the floor vibrating, especially when the timpani and bass drum are playing.

They started rehearsing from the beginning of the piece again, so we got to hear what we had missed when we were late. During one of the movements, I whispered to my dad that it sounds like this friend of Elgar had anger issues, because parts of the music sounded happy, and then suddenly it gets loud and full, minor and fast, and then right back to all happy, and then it repeats the cycle. When I read the program notes later, they said it was about “one of Elgar’s more explosive friends” and “depicts his excitable, volatile nature.” So I thought that was funny.

I couldn’t believe how great all the violins sounded, even in the very back row. They were all really awesome. I really love sitting up on the stage at rehearsal, because then I can hear everything Mr. Zimmermann says, and I usually can’t when we’re down in the seats. After sitting up there and listening to this Elgar piece, I’m even more excited to hear it at the concert.

On Thursday night, they didn’t rehearse the other two pieces they’re going to play, by Ives and Grieg, but I also can’t wait to hear those. The piece by Charles Ives, called Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day, was originally two different organ pieces he wrote for a Thanksgiving church service. It mixes together hints of different Thanksgiving hymns. The program notes say that Ives was one of the first composers to use polytonality, and that reminded me of the video I made last season where I played a couple polytonal chords that Stravinsky wrote. [here’s that video; the chords start around 3:15] Speaking of Stravinsky, I think it’s amazing that Ives wrote this almost 10 years before The Rite of Spring, and it still sounds so modern. So Ives was way ahead of his time. Parts of this piece are sort of dissonant, but I love it. I wonder how the audience will react. I think some of it sounds like movie music. I love the harmonies. During some parts, a lot of things are going on at the same time. It sounds like different orchestras are playing different things all at once. There is a part where it sounds like distant church bells, and you can hear what sounds like different hymns in the background. Almost at the end, a chorus actually sings a hymn really loudly, and it surprised me when we were listening to a recording. So I wish they could hide the chorus behind a curtain at the concert, and then open it suddenly right before they sing so everyone would be surprised. I can’t wait to see what people think of this piece at the concert.

Then they are going to play Grieg’s piano concerto, and I can’t wait. They played this piece at the first Canton Symphony concert I ever went to, with my grandma and grandpa. When I read the program notes, I thought it was funny that after Franz Liszt played through this concerto, he told Grieg “You have the true talent, my friend. Carry on, and don’t ever let them frighten you.”

The soloist who is going to play this concerto with the Canton Symphony is Alexander Schimpf, and he is an amazing pianist. Here’s a video of him playing that my dad and I watched, and his hands and fingers were moving so fast that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t fast forwarded: Alexander Schimpf at the 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition  On Saturday, we went a master class that he taught at Malone University. He is not only a great pianist, but he’s also a great teacher. I thought his teaching was amazing. He was energetic, but got to the point and got it done. He had two students play for him, one from Malone University and the other from the University of Mount Union. The student from Malone, Seth Kenyon, went first, and played a piece by Rachmaninoff, and Paige Morris, from Mount Union, played a piece by Schubert. They were both really good.  They were really well prepared and ready to play, and did it well. But at the end of the master class, they played even better.

I thought it was amazing the difference between how they played the pieces in the beginning and the end after he worked with them. He would talk to them about how to play the pieces differently, and sometimes he would also sit down and demonstrate. He sort of reminded me of Beethoven, because he is from Germany, and he’s a great pianist, and his hair sort of reminded me of Beethoven, too. I could see that he really puts the students at ease. He really wanted the students at some parts to get the largest sound out of the piano. He said that he knows that large sound is in the piano, the student just needs to bring it out.

He used the whole hour, to the last minute, for both students. He used as much time as he could, and it seemed like he would have kept going and didn’t want to stop teaching. At the other master classes I’ve been to, there were about 5 students, so they only had about 25 minutes for each student. So I thought it was great that he spent a whole hour with each student at this one.

After the master class, we got to meet him, and he was really, really nice. I can’t wait to hear him play Grieg with the orchestra. I know it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait for the whole concert, and I really hope that anyone who reads this will come. I know you will definitely love it like I do.

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