Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Conductor Nicholas Milton was a guest of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for their Town Hall series. Guest conductor Nicholas Milton and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra closed out their 2015 Town Hall series with a Gallic-themed evening. Opening the program was American in Paris, George Gershwin’s colourful evocation of everyday bustle in the French capitol. Milton’s approach seemed overly polite at first, eventually finding its feet via some excellent individual riffs by trumpet, trombone and a trio of guest saxophones.

Former ABC Young Performer of the Year David Fung was soloist in Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. A technically capable performance, it however lacked in nuance, particularly the solo line of the slow movement which failed to trace its expected emotional arc and seemed disconnected from the excellent solo woodwinds.

Fung’s charged pianism was best in the concerto’s breakneck finale and his fluid encore of Earl Wild’s virtuosic Etude arrangement of the Gershwin classic Embraceable You.

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Unsurprising perhaps given his work in opera, Milton appeared comfortable with the expansive unfolding of the broad canvas that is Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No 3 in C minor, Op 78. The so called Organ Symphony ticked all the boxes for this enthusiastic audience,

Orchestra

Orchestra, orchestra [Credit: Pedro Sánchez]instrumental ensemble of varying size and composition. Although applied to various ensembles found in Western and non-Western music, orchestra in an unqualified sense usually refers to the typical Western music ensemble of bowed stringed instruments complemented by wind and percussion instruments that, in the string section at least, has more than one player per part. The word stems from the Greek orchēstra, the circular part of the ancient Greek theatre in front of the proscenium in which the dancers and instrumentalists performed.

Antecedents of the modern symphony orchestra appeared about 1600, the most notable early example being the ensemble required in the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo. In the late 17th century, the French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully directed for the royal court an orchestra dominated by stringed instruments but including woodwinds, such as oboes and bassoons, and sometimes also flutes and horns. In the 18th century in Germany, Johann Stamitz and other composers in what is known as the Mannheim school established the basic composition of the modern symphony orchestra: four sections, consisting of woodwinds (flutes, oboes, and bassoons), brass (horns and trumpets), percussion

Creating Orchestral Music With Sampled Instruments

When it comes to emulating acoustic instruments, the modern orchestra probably represents the ultimate challenge.Philip Meehan shows you how to take it on and win.

Now I don’t know about you, but for as long as I can remember there has always been a musical instrument that has been out of my humble reach. Back in the early ’80s, it was (of course) a Fairlight CMI or NED Synclavier. Then, later on, it was something more esoteric and ‘retro’, such as an ARP Quadra, or an original Theremin. Nowadays, the one instrument I would dearly love to own more than any others is a full symphony orchestra — even though it would require constant feeding, make a lot of mess and take up so much space…

Without wanting to start (another!) long-running SOS debate, I would claim that the modern orchestra is still hard to beat for power, style and versatility. Portishead, Björk, The Divine Comedy, Pulp and Puff Daddy all featured fairly heavy-duty orchestration on their last albums, and even those goaty metal stalwarts Metallica are currently writing and recording a ‘symphony’ for orchestra with film composer Michael Kamen. With the advent of

How to orchestrate songs for music recording

Being a music composer isn’t an easy task. You need to write tons of musical data, and to put a huge amount of your time editing and refining it. Yet I think I found my best niche in the music business, being an Epic Orchestral Music Composer. Epic orchestral music, is the type of music you hear in movies, the really big music, with all the strings, and huge drums, and singing in a strange dialect and such. The music in general is supposed to make you feel epic, and awesome, as if

The orchestra is one of the greatest arrangements of musical instruments in the modern world. No other arrangement can create gravitas in music. No other combination of instruments can bring majesty to the table the way that an orchestra can.

An orchestra is made out of four sections – brass, woodwinds, percussion, and strings. Most marching bands leave out the string section out, but for the most part utilizes the same instruments as a full orchestra.

String Section

The violin, the cello, the bass and the viola make up the string section. They’re all wooden and each instrument has four strings. They can be played by either plucking the strings or

Music therapy increases effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD patients

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other chronic respiratory disorders who received music therapy in conjunction with standard rehabilitation saw an improvement in symptoms, psychological well-being and quality of life compared to patients receiving rehabilitation alone, according to a new study by researchers at The Louis Armstrong Center of Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel (MSBI). Study findings were published this week in Respiratory Medicine and suggest that music therapy may be an effective addition to traditional treatment.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States with symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, an ongoing cough, frequent colds or flu, and chest tightness. Patients with COPD are often socially isolated, unable to get to medical services and underserved in rehabilitation programs, making effective treatment difficult.

The 68 study participants were diagnosed with chronic disabling respiratory diseases, including COPD. Over the course of six weeks, a randomized group of these patients attended weekly music therapy sessions. Each session included live music, visualizations, wind instrument playing and singing, which incorporated breath control techniques. Certified music therapists provided active music-psychotherapy. The music therapy sessions incorporated patients’ preferred music, which encouraged self-expression, increased engagement in

Chopin, Bach used human speech ‘cues’ to express emotion in music

Music has long been described, anecdotally, as a universal language.

This may not be entirely true, but we’re one step closer to understanding why humans are so deeply affected by certain melodies and modes.

A team of McMaster researchers has discovered that renowned European composers Frédéric Chopin and Johann Sebastian Bach used everyday speech “cues” to convey emotion in some of their most famous compositions. Their findings were recently published in Frontiers of Psychology: Cognition.

Their research stemmed from an interest in human speech perception — the notion that “happy speech” for humans tends to be higher in pitch and faster in timing, while “sad speech” is lower and slower.

These same patterns are reflected in the delicate nuances of Chopin and Bach’s music, the McMaster team found.

To borrow from Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, we “feel it all” because the music features a very familiar cadence or rhythmic flow. It’s speaking to us in a language we understand.

“If you ask people why they listen to music, more often than not, they’ll talk about a strong emotional connection,” says Michael Schutz, director of McMaster’s MAPLE (Music, Acoustics, Perception & LEarning) Lab, and an associate professor of music cognition and percussion.

“What we found was,

Music-making for the deaf

A Birmingham (UK) researcher is exploring new ways to enhance the experience of deaf musicians with new visual and touch techniques.

Richard Burn — currently studying a PhD in Music Technology at Birmingham City University’s Integra Lab — hopes his research will give deaf people a greater opportunity to express themselves and help enable them to create new works for both deaf and hearing audiences to enjoy.

Deaf musicians tend to favor acoustic instruments — quite often percussion — which produce a distinct physical feedback from vibration generated by the instrument, alongside more subtle visual clues. However, using electronic instruments, they often find it more difficult to resolve some of the characteristics of sound, such as pitch and harmonics.

Richard proposes the creation of a new musical interface that will combine haptic and visual forms of feedback to create a more inclusive experience for deaf people. Alongside vibrations, visual indictors will appear on a digital display that collectively form a ‘sonic fingerprint’ when an instrument is played, highlighting different components that make up the sound.

Richard Burn, PhD candidate, Birmingham City University said: “Traditional waveform representations are unable to truly describe what music actually sounds like. There are much more subtle

Music changes perception, research shows

Music is not only able to affect your mood — listening to particularly happy or sad music can even change the way we perceive the world, according to researchers from the University of Groningen.

Music and mood are closely interrelated — listening to a sad or happy song on the radio can make you feel more sad or happy. However, such mood changes not only affect how you feel, they also change your perception. For example, people will recognize happy faces if they are feeling happy themselves.

A new study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen shows that music has an even more dramatic effect on perception: even if there is nothing to see, people sometimes still see happy faces when they are listening to happy music and sad faces when they are listening to sad music.

Smileys

Jolij and Meurs had their test subjects perform a task in which they had to identify happy and sad smileys while listening to happy or sad music. Music turned out to have a great influence on what the subjects saw: smileys that matched the music were identified much more accurately. And even

One-of-a-kind oboe belonging to BSO musician stolen

A one-of-a-kind oboe belonging to a musician with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was reportedly stolen outside a Montreal hotel Tuesday morning. With the BSO season starting in less than a month, she’s anxious to get it back.

“We all are very wedded to these instruments,” said Katherine Needleman, principal oboist for the BSO. “It’s very special to me. It’s the only one like it.”

Needleman said the oboe was a prototype, made by Yamaha while she was working with the company in developing a new model. It is most likely the only one of its kind, she said, and does not contain a serial number.

Needleman says she’s had the oboe for about seven years. “I’m pretty much married to this one,” she said.

She and her family were checking out of their Montreal hotel Tuesday morning when the oboe was stolen, she said. Whoever took it left behind the outer protective case but took the inner case as well as the instrument, she said.

Whoever took it “knew what they were looking for,” Needleman said.

Needleman said she always keeps the oboe with her when she’s traveling. Even when they were checking out of

New dean aims to strike proper tone at Peabody

The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University opens its school year this week with about 600 students, 150 faculty members and a new dean.

Fred Bronstein, who started on the job in June after six years as president of the St. Louis Symphony, is the 16th person to take the helm since the music conservatory was founded in 1857.

His title is different, though. The designation was changed to “dean” from “director,” established before the conservatory became affiliated with JHU in 1977, to make Peabody consistent with the university’s other academic divisions.

Although Bronstein is still getting to know faculty, staff and students, he is already attracting attention beyond Peabody. Earlier this summer, for example, he participated in a discussion about the future of classical music on NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show.” And he already has plans for a seminar this fall that will involve people from around the music world.

Boston-born Bronstein, who has an undergraduate degree from Boston University, a master’s from the Manhattan School of Music and a doctorate from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, brings to the Peabody post a wealth of experience from a

Orchestra purrs along under Gatti

The 35-year-old conductor and his orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, land at the Kennedy Center this afternoon for the final concert in one of the most whirlwind tours in symphonic history. In 22 days, they will have given 19 concerts, featuring six major works on three different programs, as they crisscrossed ,, the United States — from New York to California and back again.

“Yessss — verrry big tour,” says the Milan-born musician, in whose fluent (if somewhat fractured) English, words tend to receive an Italianate emphasis. “It’s a good idea to have more pieces than less — otherwise it becomes quite boring for the orchestra.”

Gatti doesn’t seem to be boring anyone — audiences and critics, least of all.

Almost unknown outside of Italy until only a few years ago, he’s become the most-talked-about poster boy on international podiums. In the eight years since he made his conducting debut at La Scala, he’s guest-conducted almost every important orchestra in the world, earning reviews in papers from Berlin to London to New York that suggest he’s the most recent in the royal lineage of Italian conductors from Arturo Toscanini to Riccardo Chailly.

He’s got two

Chorus soars, orchestra takes shortcuts

The Concert Artists of Baltimore under conductor Edward Polochick have achieved a winning formula in combining choral and orchestral repertoire. Saturday’s program, at LeClerc Hall at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, was a little different in that the chorus and orchestra offered separate sets of music.

In this solid, professional series of concerts, one work usually crowns the evening. Saturday, the piece was a heavenly realization of Benjamin Britten’s “Hymn to Saint Cecilia.” Mr. Polochick and his singers presented this short choral symphony with taste and elan.

The middle mercurial scherzo was spellbinding, and the chorus responded to the wonderful text of W. H. Auden with a strong understanding of the words and a broad range of coloristic variety and vibrant instrumental imitation. Theresa Sweet was radiant in her beautiful solos, and the final mystical section was simply magical. The four soloists — Susan Schreiner, Anne Lopez, Raymond Aparentado and Jason Ryan — were marvelous in their short “instrumental” solos.

The chorus concluded the first half with two songs of Charles V. Stanford. The first song, “The Blue Bird,” is the great granddaddy of English choral style, with lush

BSO suffers three high-profile cancellations

You might suspect some strange jinx, or wonder if the third time’s the harm. But the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is taking a rash of high-profile artist cancellations in stride.

On July 29 came the news that actor/singer and star of Showtime’s “Homeland” Mandy Patinkin had withdrawn from his BSO SuperPops program scheduled for January “due to a schedule conflict.” He would be replaced by “Seinfeld” veteran Jason Alexander.

On Sept. 15, three days before the opening night of the season, the orchestra announced that Baltimore’s own Hilary Hahn would not be on hand to play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto as planned because the popular artist needed “to recover fully from a muscle strain.” Distinguished violinist Pinchas Zukerman would take her place.

Last week made three. Broadway star Patti LuPone, the BSO said Tuesday, had bowed out of the cast for the semi-staged production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” in June “due to a scheduling conflict.” A search for her replacement is underway.

“This probably is a higher number of cancellations than our average, but we have a very low average,” said BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham. “Talk to the Metropolitan Opera. Never mind

Peabody Symphony Orchestra opens season with Brahms, Tchaikovsky

The last weekend of September could not have been much more caloric, musically speaking, without actually clogging arteries.

While the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was reveling in the high romanticism of Rachmaninoff and Korngold (my review was posted earlier), the Peabody Symphony Orchestra gorged on hefty emotional outpouring by Brahms and Tchaikovsky. I rather enjoyed both lyrical feasts.

On Saturday night, Hajime Teri Murai, director of orchestral activities at Peabody for more than two decades, got the conservatory’s 2014-2015 concert series rocking with a crisp, jazzy little curtain raiser, Shafer Mahoney’s “Sparkle.” The student orchestra put the music’s jaunty spirits across nicely.

Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 found conductor and ensemble in less persuasive form — Murai’s spacious shaping of the first two movements needed more tension; assorted intonation and articulation smudges took a toll on the playing — but the soloist had no trouble making an impact.

Marianna Prjevalskaya, a student of Boris Slutsky working on her doctoral degree at Peabody, already has a serious career going, with recordings and international concert engagements. She gave every indication on this occasion that she will continue to succeed.

The pianist tore into the concerto with

Difficult symphony, fearless orchestra

Perhaps the second most wonderful thing about being young is being slow to recognize danger or difficultly. That’s surely one reason why the battle of the skies in World War II was won putting American teen-agers in fighter planes. It must also have been a factor in the convincing performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 that the Peabody Symphony Orchestra gave Saturday evening in Friedberg Concert Hall.

Under the baton of their music director, Hajime Teri Murai, the young musicians performed this fiercely difficult work, the most tragic in the Mahler canon, with energy, stamina and accuracy that would have made a professional orchestra proud.

The symphony’s outer movements stamped convincingly; the brass whooped sonorously in the second-movement scherzo; and the slow movement featured warm, flowing playing. Much of the praise for the performance must go to Murai. When this listener arrived in Baltimore 10 years ago, the Peabody Conservatory was incapable of putting together an orchestra that could perform music this difficult so well. In the five years since his appointment as director of the conservatory’s orchestral activites, Murai has raised the level of performance.

He has also raised the

The Future of Orchestral Music in Two Pieces

If you’d like a glimpse of the future of symphonic music — or if you just want to know what devilish majesty the New York Philharmonic will shortly unleash — this two-year-old YouTube video from the Proms in London is a good place to start. It shows the world premiere of Thomas Adès’s Totentanz (Dance of Death), which the Philharmonic will perform March 12 through 14. Or you could give Andrew Norman’s equally gob-smacking Play a whirl; that piece, too, is from 2013, but the killer world-premiere recording by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project has just come out, and although only a live performance can do this wild score justice, those are still extremely rare.

These two not-yet-senior composers — Adès is English and 44, Norman Californian and 35; both overflow with bravado — have double-handedly resurrected the grand symphonic manner that, like the novel and the painting, has died any number of times. Adès’s piece — which he’ll conduct, on a program along with Berlioz and Beethoven — is a morbid study of the inexorable, pitting a baritone Reaper against a soprano who sings all the human roles. Norman’s Play is a Ritalin rhapsody based on the title’s multiple meanings. Gamesmanship

How to Pursue a Career in Orchestral Music

Elsewhere in my web site, in my article The Puzzle of Our Lives I discuss my own personal journey to a life as an orchestral musician. However in this section, I will try to outline the broad requirements for those interested in pursuing such a career. For additional detailed information, please see my 13 chapter article Symphony Auditions: Preparation and Execution, in which I more fully discuss many of the principles outlined below (including getting an education, writing a resume, making an audition tape and taking the audition itself) and my FAQ on performance standards.

Most American Symphony orchestras conduct auditions for vacancies in accordance with general guidelines put forth by the American Federation of Musicians, the professional union of musicians in the United States and Canada. While orchestras are under no legal obligations to hold open auditions in order to fill vacancies, most find it in their best interest to do so, realizing that a player that successfully survives in the crucible of the audition process is one with proven abilities.

Efforts have been made in recent years to insure greater fairness in auditions through the use of a “screen” behind which the audition committee sits for most of the rounds

How Videogames Are Saving the Symphony Orchestra

Francesca Buchalski leaned heavily on plastic foam, floral wire and other craft-store staples to assemble evening wear for her first orchestra concert last month at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

The 15-year-old Allentown, N.J., sophomore is part of a new generation of symphony patron that is invigorating the bottom-line performance of concert halls across the U.S. She dressed as Link, the elfin warrior from “The Legend of Zelda,” a series of Nintendo Co. videogames that inspired the night’s program.

Francesca Buchalski as Link

Once considered a gimmick, performances featuring videogame music are now a regular part of pops orchestra programming. “You can no longer just sit there and play Beethoven,” said Andrew Litton, music director of the Colorado Symphony and the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Videogame performances offer a full orchestra—trumpets, harps and other classical instruments—plus choirs and jumbo video screens that synchronize gameplay footage to the music. Costumed attendees—dressed as dragons, wizards, princesses, fairies, knights and sorcerers—often engage in mock battles. Marriage proposals mid-show aren’t unusual; some end with fireworks.

In Philadelphia, the 80-year-old Mann Center has held videogame concerts since 2012. Representatives say the shows attract as many

A Prog-Jazz Suite About Architecture? Jacob Garchik Does It All

A few years ago, composer and trombonist Jacob Garchik started noticing that a lot of older apartment buildings near his house in Brooklyn have medieval architectural details. “This building is a really good example,” he says, pointing out a six-story brick box in the Flatbush neighborhood. Between the first and second floors, there’s a row of plaques with images in relief. They’re knights and shields and heralds.

The medieval theme was a real estate marketing gimmick in the 1920s used to lure Jewish immigrants who dreamed of upward mobility — like Garchik’s ancestors — from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “The developer and the architect were selling this fantasy of these grand palaces,” Garchik says.

That fantasy worked, drawing in crowds. To make room for more apartment buildings, developers tore down single-family Victorian homes. But a few run-down holdouts are still here, surrounded by faux-Tudor half-timbers, clad in vinyl siding.

The history of their former neighbors’ demise inspired the storyline that runs through Garchik’s new album, Ye Olde. It’s set up by a poem in the liner notes:

Our heroes met and formed a merry band
in order to defeat the evil plan
of architect Mortise Mansard the IVth
whose castles dotted the

Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Have you ever wondered whether music conductors actually influence their orchestras?

They seem important. After all, they’re standing in the middle of the stage and waving their hands. But the musicians all have scores before them that tell them what to play. If you took the conductor away, could the orchestra manage on its own?

A new study aims to answer this question. Yiannis Aloimonos, of the University of Maryland, and several colleagues recruited the help of orchestral players from Ferrara, Italy.

They installed a tiny infrared light at the tip of an (unnamed) conductor’s baton. They also placed similar lights on the bows of the violinists in the orchestra. The scientists then surrounded the orchestra with infrared cameras.

When the conductor waved the baton, and the violinists moved their bows, the moving lights created patterns in space, which the cameras captured. Computers analyzed the infrared patterns as signals: Using mathematical techniques originally designed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger, Aloimonos and his colleagues analyzed whether the movements of the conductor were linked to those of the violinists.

The scientists hypothesized that if the movement of the conductor could predict the movements of the violinists, then the conductor was clearly leading the players. But if