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LarryC

MD-VA-DC Strathmore Tchaikovsky 4th Klipschfest, Saturday, April 25, 2009

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Have a great time guys!!!!

I would have been at Marty's by now if things didn't change at the last moment. [:(]

Even though it won't be the same, I will throw on some Tchaikovsky tomorrow night and pretend I there hearing it live.

Take care, be safe, and enjoy the Music!!!!

JJ

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Jon, we'll miss you! Hope we have another opportunity!

Larry

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What an awesome time we had yesterday, despite it being hotter than Hades here - there in Bethesda - it easily hit 90, in Fredericksburg, according to Weather.com, it hit 97 degrees! That is a new all-time record for April for the area. Yes, today, I pretty much spent the day at the river - to hot do anything else. In fact, one of the reasons why I am sitting down here listening to vinyl on the basement system - it is cooler down here! Not only that, but the traffic was really starting to suck big time - good thing I went up there fairly early in the morning, before it started to get to hot and the traffic to heavy (arriving at Larry's around 10-ish or so in the morning, only to see Gary was already there, spinning some of his very nice Blue Note jazz recordings).

Anyway, awesome to get to see Gary, both Mikes (Mike L and Mike C), as well as our most gracious host - Larry C. We pretty much spent the entire day spinning all manner of material. There was a huge stack of records that was pretty much for the taking, so we were going through some of them and listening to them. I know I came away with a nice big stack of nearly all classical recordings. I've had to try out my Xystus recording on the Larry's setup. Sounds incredible. For lunch, we went over to the Tastee dinner right there in downtown Bethesda. Good burger and pretty cheap as well. Alas, Jazz still does not really "do it" for me. Still find it to be boring for the most part.

For dinner, it was good ol' Momma Lucia. The fettucini alfredo was quite good. I got talked into trying the Calamari. Just was not my cup of tea.

And then over to the Strathmore Music Hall for the night's main event - to go see a performance of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony as performed by the National Philharmonic, conducted by Piotr Gajewski.

The evening started off with a performance of the Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia. I was not at all familier with this piece, but I'll have to admit that after hearing this last night, I was pretty impressed. I actually really liked it and thought it was just such a neat little piece of music. Started out a little slow, but got much more interesting as it went on, with all kinds of neat little things going on within the piece. One thing I noticed was quite a bit of French Horn was used in this.

That was followed by a performance of Prokofiev's 3-movement Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2. The violinist they had to perform this, Cho-Liang Lin, was really incredible with this. The first movement was a lot of fun to listen to, but the second movement kinda felt like it dragged on. However, the third movement was where things got interesting. For one, they really needed a second percussianist for this piece, as that poor guy back there was practically playing some of the instruments at the same time. It was almost comical watching him trying to hit the bass drum, the snare and the triangle all at the same time! At one point, he nearly dropped one of his drumsticks when attempting to play the snare, causing him to miss a beat [:o]. Mike C and I was wondering if us four sitting above him were probably the only ones in the place that saw that. At the end of the performance, I was up there yelling "Bravo" for the percussionist!

This was followed by an intermission, which in turn was followed by the real reason we were there.....

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op 36! Un-friggan-believable! Next to the performances Holst's The Planets and Straviniky's Rite of Spring, this had to of been one of the most incredible things that I've got to experience! Piotr, the conducter really did an awesome job of keeping this all together and flowing very nicely. There was this one really cute lady playing the bassoon, and not only was she a real looker, but wow, she nailed that solo part for her instrument beautifully. One of the really interesting aspects of this symphony was all the pizzacoto during the third movement. There was not a single bowed note during the third movement. Heck, I was wonding if they were all going to end up with blisters on thier fingers from all that pizzacoto playing! Also, there was a really cool interplay within the woodwinds going on, as well as that famed piccalo solo. Seems the piccalo player's big moment come here. The 4 movement! Holy crap. I wonder if Tchaikovsky put that big cymbol crash right at the bigging of the 4th movement to make sure anybody that may have fell asleep during the 3rd movement is now going to be quite wide awake! This was definitly fits in the type of classical I love to hear - with all the brass, the percussion and lots of strings. The big crescendo at the end did not come off as dramatic as I'd hope, but from what Larry told me and Mike C when he raised that point, was that there did not seem to be as many strings as there should've been. Seemed they were missing around half the players that they really needed to make this a truly dramatic performance. Still, regardless of a few missing instruments, this was still one truly incredible performance. People where shouting "Bravo" all over the place, not to mention a full standing ovation. Pretty cool that the conductor looked up at me and smiled when I yelled "Bravo" down to him as he was walking out (he exited directly under where we were sitting). And speaking of where we were sitting, we were directly above the orchestra on the left side of the auditorium, as looking towards the stage (over Stage Right). Was really neat to see how these pieces are performed. Plus, there is something so cool in seeing all those bows moving in sync with the music.

Driving home was pretty uneventful - thankfully dodged the couple of thunderstorms that were starting to rumble through the area. Still cannot stand driving in this area - just to many jackasses around here on the highways. Overall, this was a very fun way to spend a hot, hazy, lazy Saturday (not even May and already hitting near 100 around here - sheesh!), plus coming away with a nice stack of vinyl, now that I got a turn-table rig that I can actually play these things on (although the condition of many of these records are pretty hit-n-miss - seems many of them where Library records, and several even have stickers on the covers admonishing proper care of the record, so there is no telling where these have been and what manner of equipment they've been played on. Seems many of these are pretty salvagable once hit with a good cleaning, though). Looking forward to a chance to get to do something like this again.

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Excellent write up -- too bad I only understood about half of it. So, they didn't do any cover stuff of Metallica or Korn? :)

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Steve summed it up pretty well. Amazing performance! As usual, other than the orchestra, we were the main attraction at Strathmore. Everyone stares at the loud group hanging over the stage. The orchestra looks up at us when they're done to see who's creating the rukas(sp?) only to see a group of people you never would imagine could be together. It was great fun!!

Thanks again Larry for all the hard work. It paid off in spades like it does every year. Anyone who missed it missed a really incredible time and should try harder to make it next year. It's really a BLAST!!!!

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How can you eat fettucini alfredo in 90+ degree heat? That is a recipe for disaster.

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Excellent write up Steve.

I must add that Larry's comprehensive knowledge of the classic produced yet another stunning selection.

While I was unable to make the afternoon's gathering at Larry's due to work stuff, I did show up in time for dinner. It was great to see all the folks who made it, especially our only out-of-towner/region, the illustrious Michael Colter.

In terms of the performances my only added comment is that the beginning of the second movement of the violin piece was stunningly beautiful.

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Excellent write up Steve! I'd have to agree with JB though, I'd be a little leary about fettucini alfredo in all that heat...

So LarryC, Colterphoto1, Skonopa, Thebes, GaryMD, and anyone I've missed. I'm not sure I've even seen a picture of GaryMD but yeah, I'm thinking there may have been a lot of pointing towards the Klipsch crew - "I hope that scary looking group doesn't hurt that nice gentleman (LarryC)...."

Just kidding guys. Sounds like a lot of fun. And watching the orchestra would be uber cool.

I think it was Chuck Mangione who once said something about he'd like to be able to put the audience in the orchestra. (guilty, I like Chuck Mangione)

Above the orchestra might be even better than in it for the performance as you could see and hear more of the orchestra.

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Excellent write up -- too bad I only understood about half of it. So, they didn't do any cover stuff of Metallica or Korn? :)

Nope, sorry - no Metallica or Korn. Personally, I am a Sonata Arctica and Nightwish kinda guy anyway (just never got into Korn and Metallica is getting way to much overplay anyways). [;)]

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Excellent write up Steve.

I must add that Larry's comprehensive knowledge of the classic produced yet another stunning selection.

While I was unable to make the afternoon's gathering at Larry's due to work stuff, I did show up in time for dinner. It was great to see all the folks who made it, especially our only out-of-towner/region, the illustrious Michael Colter.

In terms of the performances my only added comment is that the beginning of the second movement of the violin piece was stunningly beautiful.

Darn it! I did forget to mention you in the write up. [:$]. It was great getting to see you again. Yes, when it comes to classical, Larry is definitly a source of good bits there and he certainly picked quite a performance again. So if anybody on here as any classical questions, I am certain Larry would probably be able to answer it (unless it is something really obscure or "out there", but then again....). [8]

And thinking back to it, I'll do have to agree with you that the beginning of the second movement of the Violin Concerto was quite beautiful.

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Excellent write up Steve! I'd have to agree with JB though, I'd be a little leary about fettucini alfredo in all that heat...

So
LarryC, Colterphoto1, Skonopa, Thebes, GaryMD, and anyone I've missed.
I'm not sure I've even seen a picture of GaryMD but yeah, I'm thinking
there may have been a lot of pointing towards the Klipsch crew - "I
hope that scary looking group doesn't hurt that nice gentleman
(LarryC)...."

Just kidding guys. Sounds like a lot of fun. And watching the orchestra would be uber cool.

I
think it was Chuck Mangione who once said something about he'd like to
be able to put the audience in the orchestra. (guilty, I like Chuck
Mangione)

Above the orchestra might be even better than in it for the performance as you could see and hear more of the orchestra.


Yeah, maybe the fettucini alfredo and 90-degree heat don't mix, but still was quite good (although, on the way back home that night, it did start to haunt me...) [:$]

Anyway, not only did Larry pick a good performance, but I can certainly see why he suggested these seats, as you really do get a good view of the orchestra as they are playing, plus it still sounded wonderful from there. It is neat picking out where the instruments are and who is playing what and when.

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Fantastic write-up Steve! Thanks for getting the ball rolling on our Forum posts, I look forward to hearing from each attendee what they thought of the performance and weekend. I'll save my scribblings from the rest of my journey for another thread (6 days 5 nights), and concentrate on the time at Larry C's and the symphony here.

As is our tradition, our host the indefatiguable Larry C, had some educational materials ready for our arrival. In this case the San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) [8-|]on DVD was central. Snippets of this in Utube format appear earlier in this thread. This disc featured not only an entire performance of the 4th, but segments from MTT reading and rehearsing the score with members of the orchestra. The parts of the bass demonstrated the pizzicati (plucked, not bowed) playing that would be used during the entire 3rd movement. The oboist talked about trying to breathe new life into the 2nd movement's opening solo and showed how he prepares the natural reed material for playing. The piccolo player lamented over her 3 second 13 note burst of solo that must be played 'cold' in the 3rd movement after sitting stone silent for about 27 minutes!

I had the privilige of sitting quietly with Larry during parts of Saturday to learn how classical music works in the Sonata form. This was some very useful time and one-on-one with Larry is quite an experience as he is extraordinarly knowledgable and a patient teacher. From my limited understanding of the material, there is an Introduction, then the Expositition, in which musical themes are established. Following the close of the Exposition is the Development, in which myriad of other supporting parts are played, then the Recapitulation where the themes are repeated usually in different tempos or by different instruments. The Coda wraps the movement up. I likened it a bit to Pop music in which you have verses and choruses and while grossly simplified, this allowed me to wrap my brain around the Sonata form. Music

Back to our day. Early in the morning Gary stopped by with some gift LP's [G]for me (thanks for the Dead Gary!), and we spun some of his reissue classic rock vinyl. These are heavy weight (180-200 gram) virgin vinyl with original artwork, sometimes remastered or remixed. We talked about the difference in those for a bit with Larry. 'The Yes Album' was crisp and detailed though the system was lacking in the bass department for me. The sitar, maracas, and other instruments on the Rolling Stones' 'Through the Past Darkly' disc were clearly recognizeable in the mix and the drums were distinct instead of muddied by a plate or room reverb as in the original recording. It was obvious that someone had gone back to the master tapes and spent some time clarifying the wishes of Brian Jones in the mix.

Gary had to leave for lawn duty [ip]and Larry set about cleaning a good stack of Count Basie recordings (I think that came from a Forum member's stacks in a MD grab) on his Nitty Gritty machine. Hearing protection was a must and he wore not only EAR plugs but the headphone type as well. The vacuum is quite loud if you're close to it. With both of us it didn't take long to polish up about 10 LP's from the mid 70's to mid 80's. The machine does a remarkable job on even clean looking vinyl. I organized them by date and perused the labels while the cleaning was going on. We gave a listen to these as well as a beautiful Ella Fitzgerald reel to reel tape (Diana who?) and were really grooving on the jazz when Steve showed up. Larry kept a couple of the Basie LP's and gave me a couple. I did enjoy these much more than the Duke Ellington that I brought.

Then Steve Konopa (the other of the Hair Bear Brothers [H][H]) then dropped by for some listening and sorting of the LP's. I'd been sifting through some discs so had something to bring to Larry's dining table, and Larry provided a couple of largish stacks of classical LP's so we spent at least a couple of hours making Larry play DJ while we picked through the offerings.I think I came away with more discs than I arrived with but after Mike Lindsay and Marty stopped by there were scant treasures remaining on the table. I had a fun disc by Steve Lawrence marked 'for the twins' that featured hep cats telling some old nursery fables over be-bop jazz with Spanglish translations interspersed. They should enjoy that one. I think Marty also picked up a nice clean ELP Pictures at an Exhibition and Zappa Overnite Sensation, which both seem to fit his eccentricity nicely. Mike was good for some classical and nabbed my Duke LP's. Larry explained that the Nonesuch label was very good pressings and gifted several Haydn symphonies to me. The ones in C major, the 'easiest' ones to play LOL. We also played a couple of Steve's orchestral rock pieces, and they humored me by allowing me to play a couple of the jazz discs I'd purchased on the first leg of my trip.

As more of Larry's friends drifted in, we set about for Mama Lucia's for a splendid dinner, then off the the Strathmore where we met up with Dhar and gfriend and others. I think there were 14 in total. Larry suffered over the seating arrangements at dinner, keeping couples together, and maintaining the 'headbanging' section. From left to right the Forumites were Thebes, Thebes's friend, Larry, Michael C, Steve K, Mike L, Gary. Dhar and gfriend sat in row B keeping a watchful eye on us. Looked kinda like this [:P][:)][8-|][H][H][8-|][H]

More on the show next...

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Ok gang, the short of it is that Larry's patient tutelage is paying off handsomely. For instance, after erroneously appluading after the first movement of the first musical offering of the night (drat), we did KNOW better and kept our hands firmly glued to our knees for the remainder of the symphony, applauding only at the END of each musical piece, per tradition. I whispered down the line to the guys 'just watch Larry and don't clap until HE does'. LOL

We're starting to understand this classical form of music. What's more is that we can appreciate it. We do have some fun with it in our own way, I mean there's like a collective century of screaming our lungs out at packed rock festivals so that can't be trained out of us very easily. But we 'get' it. I recall several times elbowing Steve or looking down the row at Gary and we're picking out the same things. We realize where the turning points are, the solos, the repetition of themes, and we were acknowledging them to each other with nods, hand gestures and BIG SMILES!

Having some knowledge of the piece really helps. I think we could all enjoy a peaceful night at the symphony but we here on the forum are active listeners, we like being involved and knowing what's coming next and why.

We were seated the the audience darkened when Mike L leans over to Steve and says 'hottie alert in the bassoon section'. There were two, one with long flowing curly locks and another with shorter hair girl-next-door type. Steve says 'Colter is way ahead of you on that one mang'. Yeah I saw her first.

The bill for the Strathmore night had three musical performances as mentioned by Steve. We didn't spend much time on the first two of them and they were kind of passed off as 'snoozers'. Not so. To a man we all got some enjoyment out of both the Eastern piece and the Violin Concerto. I found Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia very moving, to the point of tears at one point. I was having a bit of a moment where although the economy is going to hell, I have no job, etc, that I felt genuinly blessed to be able to travel freely across country for some distance to visit friends and share our common bond of music. I well up a lot during shows these days, maybe just getting emotional in my old age. I hope the guys just thought I was sweating from the humidity outside. It was a truly beautiful piece of music and Steve was right, the French Horns were captivating. There were 5 of them so they had substantial power and emotion.

Prokofiev's 3-movement Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 was beautiful also but our prime seating had one crucial flaw- the solo violin was projected out to the house but not at us. The gifted soloist could really only be appreciated during the quieter moments during the performance. But this portion of the evening illustrated how we were listening AND WATCHING the orchestra in Unison! As Steve mentioned above, the percussionist had his hands full. When we were first seated I mentioned to Larry that it looked like they had positions for 4 percussionists. There was a 3 tympani setup, upright bass drum, snare, and a set of cymbals, triangle, wood block etc. Larry commented that at this level that any percussionist worth his salt should be able to play any one of those instruments so there would probably be less players. There was ONE. Luckily the tympani was only for the Tchaicovsky piece later in the evening.

Some understanding of the percussionist's housekeeping duties is needed. When a particular instrument is not being utilized, it is carefully silenced so it does not ring, rattle, or make other noise. For instance, there are small bean bags that are placed on the head of the tympani when not in use to keep the heads from picking up spurious vibration. Same deal with the snare drum, when you're not playing, you have to flip the lever that takes the snare wires out of contact with the bottom head (I got to tutor Larry on this one thanks to knowledge of rock instruments).

So our single drummer has the big beater for the bass drum in his right hand, using the left to still the head after a big whallop, occasionally holding a drumstick and the triangle 'tinger' in his left hand. The idea being that he'll BOOM the bass drum, put down that beater, pick up second drumstick, do a RAT-A-TAT-TAT on the snare, finish off with a few 'tings' on the triangle. Get the picture? Except that he's got BOTH HANDS FULL and he's got to flick the durned lever on the snare on and off each time he uses it.

We're all watching him like a hawk (just cause we love the percussion and have a great vantage point) and he nearly BLOWS IT! He's moving to the snare, nearly raps it without snares engaged, DROPS A BEAT, flips the lever, and hits it. WHEW we all look around at each other and DID YOU SEE THAT!!!! Gary is grinning like a 14 year old, Mike L is amazed, Steve's jaw is about in his lap. WOW, this guy stayed calm and collected and didn't even sweat or make any gesture although it was just about an amazing F-up that would have been clearly heard by everyone in attendance. Now that is professional!

I mentioned to Larry that during the Concerto I saw the bassoons and French Horns playing together quite a bit and we discussed this later. Despite them being a reed instrument in the woodwind family and a brass instrument they have a lot in common and work well together. I think they must play in a similar range and the bassoon being quite 'woody' has a very mellow tone for a woodwind while the French horn played with the hand in the bell is also very mellow. The orchestration frequently called for a single 1st bassoon, strengthened by 2nd bassoon, then adding French horns to 'thicken' the sound and give more volume.

It's kind of like rock guitarist playing a Stratocaster and Gibson dueling solos for that heavy thick tone. Works the same in symphony, yup! Do I sound like I'm 'getting this'? Heck yeah, when you need a certain part of the group louder you do what Ronnie Van Zant of Lynryd Skynyrd says - 'bring out all my mules and KICK it one time'! (translation- 'all guitars play louder than he!!) You want it louder, you got to have more stuff. In classical it's fff, triple forte, which according to Larry means 'play loud as he!!', see they're the same thing, just different language!

There were a great many other moments when I knew the guys were on the same listening plane. There is a time when a melody bounces around the woodwind section and we all caught that. Either we were just watching very intently or we could now clearly hear the difference in the various winds. The little 'tweedle deedle dee' bit would be played by oboes, then flute, then clarinets, then oboes. They cycle would repeat in various configurations and it was fun to watch this little tune whirl about. Same deal later when a descending string part would cascade through the violin section, then be caught by the violacellos, cellos, and finally the big basses. Maybe it was our vantage point, but there was a three dimensionality to the sound chasing around the stage that I found fascinating. Again the very animated Gary would point this way and that, like some insane traffic cop, showing that he understood how the sound was bouncing from group to group. I dare say that last year we would be hard pressed to tell the oboes from the clarinets or the bassoons from the oboes. This year we all KNEW exactly which instrument was producing which sound and where they could be found in the orchestra.

More later, I'll give everyone else a chance to catch up and post...

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Steve summed it up pretty well. Amazing performance! As usual, other than the orchestra, we were the main attraction at Strathmore. Everyone stares at the loud group hanging over the stage. The orchestra looks up at us when they're done to see who's creating the rukas(sp?) only to see a group of people you never would imagine could be together. It was great fun!!

Thanks again Larry for all the hard work. It paid off in spades like it does every year. Anyone who missed it missed a really incredible time and should try harder to make it next year. It's really a BLAST!!!!

It was cool seeing the conductor looking right at us after the second applause encore. I noticed several of the orchestra taking a peek at our section also. The Oriental girls further up in the balcony did their share of pointing and giggling also. I waved to them before the show which really got them going. I hope we're not a distraction to the other audience members but we are definitely some of the most active listeners. I think it's our vantage point- you can FEEL the music and the interaction between the various groups in the orchestra. I often wondered if people are thinking 'what are THOSE guys doing at the symphony'?

I love these seats! That's it, next year I'm wearing my tuxedo for sure!

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There is something just so awe inspiring about seeing a full 80+ piece orchestra producing all that music,

This is a truly AWESOME example of mixing an orchestra with a metal band! I am listening to it now, and it has to be heard to be believed! That Metallica effort does not even come CLOSE to this! This has a full 60 piece orchestra, complete with a 30-voice choir! This thing friggan sounds killer on my B&K/RF-7 setup. I have a feeling that this may end up being a true classic! Indeed, if <name classical composer> was still alive, THIS is what he could very well have produced! I sometimes make the joke of what happens when you mix a symphony orchestra and prog metal band. Well, in this case they literally mixed a symphony orchestra and a prog metal band.

XYSTUS, Featuring the USConcert Orchestra, presents: Equilibrio : A Rock Opera:

61tXI70eZjL._SL500_AA240_.jpg

I really enjoyed this piece Steve, thanks for bringing it along. The orchestra and band fit together nicely and the singing was powerful but not so 'over the top faux-operatic' as I've heard in other bands of this type.

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Anxiously awaiting more thoughts and feedback from Mark, Marty, Mike L, and Dhar. Please check in guys!

M

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My second attendance to the Strathmore was just as entertaining, but much more educational. Watching the variety of instruments and how they were integrated into the entire compilation(s).

Loved that Bassoon/Clarinet/Flute/Oboe arrangements, and the strings were just phenomenal! That was a QUICK 2 hour show, and time went by so quickly. Nice to see everyone again.

Great job Larry! You sure know how to pick 'em[:D]

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That's a great write up Michael. You have come a long way, indeed, and we also learn through your own explanations things to look out for and enjoy too.

Who said a classic rock guy can't appreciate classical music as well? LOL

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