Monday, February 28, 2011

Today in "I feel old..."

Daniel Harding is 35 and making his debut with the New York Philharmonic this weekend.  I tried to remember if I ever conducted a rehearsal of anything when I was 16.  I don't think so.  If I did, it certainly wasn't Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire.  It would have been something like an arrangement of songs from Les Miserables or The Phantom of the Opera, both staples of my youth orchestra's repertoire.  A videotape of those pieces wouldn't be worth much today.

If anyone does have footage of my brief appearance on stage at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall conducting the Georgetown U. Orchestra with a plastic chicken, I'd like to see it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

RIP Sidney Harth

My mother passed along the obituary for Sidney Harth, who passed away a few days ago.  I never got to hear him play the violin, but I saw him conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1987 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and then I had the privilege of working with him a few years later at the 1991 MENC All-Eastern Orchestra Festival in Pittsburgh.  OK, "worked with" is being generous, since I was in the far back of the viola section.  He was a firm and knowledgeable conductor for that weekend.  We only played one piece, Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, and he made sure we were fully prepared to play every note.  We were so well-prepared that one afternoon of the three-day festival he decided we would sight-read instead of rehearse.  So he split the orchestra in half (by having us take turns) and half of us read Schumann's Symphony No. 3 while the other half read a Brahms symphony.  I got to play the Schumann, which was a real treat for me as it quickly became one of my favorite symphonies.  I still have the recording of our rendition of the Tchaikovsky.  I only wish we'd been able to play at Heinz Hall instead of a massive concrete hall in the Lawrence Convention Center; the sound would have been so much better in a proper space.

It's hard for me to believe that was twenty years ago.  I remember it like it was last week.