I was in Baltimore and Bowie last weekend visiting my family, of whom I see far too little. My brother had an extra ticket for Friday night's concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra so I left work early to meet him. The BSO performs at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, a modern orchestra hall with curved surfaces for exceptional acoustics. The concert consisted of Gustav Mahler's arrangements of Bach's orchestral suites and Mahler's Symphony No. 7. The orchestra was amazing in their own right, but the sound inside the hall was amazing. During the Bach piece, the harpsichord was crystal-clear from our seats in the balcony. Mahler's 7th was just as impressive. The fourth movement features a mandolin and guitar, and these players sat at the furthest point from us, behind the first violins. But their notes came out as clearly as if they were sitting next to me. And of course the other instrument groups like the horns and woodwinds sounded incredible. While I prefer the NY Philharmonic, I'm a little envious of the concert hall in Baltimore.
Before the concert I looked at the photos of the musicians in the lobby. I recognized the name of the assistant principal cellist but didn't place it until I saw it in the program. He used to moonlight with the Georgetown University Orchestra when I was there. Our music director studied at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and she would bring several students with her as "ringers" to fill out the string sections for our concerts. Dariusz Skoraczewski was one of the two "Dariuses" that she would bring in, the other being a violinist. The girls in the orchestra used to swoon over these two, but they didn't seem to notice or care. It's also possible that they didn't speak much English and therefore didn't understand what was going on. I hadn't thought about either of them since college but as soon as I saw the name Skoraczewski I remembered the swooning. It's good to see he's had such a successful career since those days.
I brought my viola with me on the trip so my brother (a violinist) could give me a few pointers about my playing. I haven't had a lesson in many years and I know my technique has suffered. He showed me a few things I was doing wrong with my bow and readjusted my viola's bridge, both of which resulted in some odd sounds coming from my instrument. We were going to play duets on Saturday evening but the hair on his bow broke before he could play a note, so we had to share my bow (he had a spare but we were at my father's house and his spare bow was in Baltimore). We did get to sight-read one of Mozart's violin and viola duets on Sunday afternoon, to great applause from my stepmother. I gave him the music so he could look it over for a future sight-reading session. It was much easier than I thought to haul my viola on the train, so I will do it again in the future.