Saturday, August 6, 2011

ClarinetFest: Day 2

As always, it is so easy to get behind in these reports when so much is going on!  On Thursday, I actually spent a lot of time away from campus, as I did a tour of the Rico factory and attended the Hollywood Bowl concert. But I started out the day at Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr's master class in Cypress Hall, which was very well-attended, and for good reason: the way she runs a master class is superb.
Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr master class
 Verdehr manages to give very specific suggestions to the player as well as discussing the big-picture concept of the piece, and at the same time the pedagogues in the audience can learn from her efficient, practical approach to teaching. I had a few favorite quotations:  "I want to turn out a thinking clarinet player when they leave my studio," and (on the second movement of Brahms' 2), "Viola players always do it in one, so I think we should do it in three."

Afterwards, I took some time to visit the exhibit hall and purchase some sheet music.  As usual, the hall was filled with clarinetists of all ages and nationalities trying out equipment, catching up with old friends, and making new ones.  Next, it was time for the Rico tour.  The Rico company offered several tours throughout the week, conveniently busing people to the nearby Rico factory and back.  There were about fifteen people on the tour with me, and as we arrived we saw some very cool reed artwork decorating the walls at the entrance to the factory.

Reed artwork at the Rico factory
The tour leader took us through a hallway lined with pictures of the company's history and reed-making process, starting with Joseph Rico himself.

Joseph Rico

Harvesting Arundo donax
From there, we toured the facility where the reeds are cut, sorted, and packaged.  I was surprised to find that Rico has musicians on the factory floor all day, measuring and playing reeds to check for quality.  For an inside look at the reed-making process, check out the video below.

After the tour, we were treated to refreshments and handed a goody bag, which included a free box of reeds, swab, mouthpiece cap, and some samples of the reed cane at various stages in the manufacturing process.  I don't mean to sound like a commercial for Rico as there are many other great reed companies out there, but in recent years I have been impressed with Rico's commitment to working with artists to continually improve their product, and this tour certainly reinforced that for me.

The buses for the Hollywood Bowl concert left at 5:30, which gave everyone plenty of time to eat once we got there.  Many people were picnicking with bottles of wine, and the location is simply beautiful.

Hollywood Bowl

 After a Nielsen overture, Kari Krikku came on stage to perform the Lindberg Concerto, which was written for him in 2002.  It was a truly remarkable performance of the piece, which is so technically demanding that "it makes the Nielsen sound easy," as a friend remarked to me that evening.  In the Concerto, Lindberg seamlessly integrates diverse elements such as jazz/blues, extended techniques, and "Oriental"-sounding scales, creating a work that is at once extremely referential but also abstract.  Next was Paul Meyer performing the Copland Concerto.  The opening was beautiful, but there were some ensemble problems here and there, perhaps caused by amplification issues (the soloists and orchestra were all amplified throughout the concert).  It was certainly remarkable to see thousands of people listening with rapt attention to these two clarinet concertos!  The Los Angeles Philharmonic then played Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, and we got on the buses to return to CSUN.  Congratulations to Julia Heinen and William Powell on coordinating such an extraordinary event for ClarinetFest participants!

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