Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Mozart Quartets?

Hi all. I am in the midst of a project to record the Mozart Flute Quartets, scheduled for January 2011.

I will perform them in New York this fall to prepare for the recording: Tues, Nov 30, Christ and St Stephen's Church, 120 West 69th Street, 8pm.

Here is the backstory of the project:
2 years ago, I bought a wooden headjoint, designed to fit on my silver flute. I had had some previous interest in wooden flutes for their dark and mellow sounds, but had no idea when I attended the NY Flute Fair that I would buy one that day. The maker is David Chu, from Boston, and I really fell for this particular one, made of boxwood. It blends effortlessly with (wooden) oboes and clarinets, and brings me to a sound world of earlier period music, yet it has plenty of guts when I want that.

I have since used it with success in both the Opera pit and Symphony concerts. I have played it on Gluck and Mozart operas, and on symphonic works of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, all the way up in time to Robert Schumann.

So my wooden headjoint and I were ready to do more together, and I reached out to a favorite New York violinist, Krista Feeney, to discuss the quartets. She alerted me to the fact that Mozart scored his D and C Major Quartets for flute, violin, viola and DOUBLEBASS, not cello. I had no idea! Apparently the bass was held in high regard back then, and was often featured in material we now routinely perform on cello. To our knowledge, noone has recorded the quartets with bass instead of cello. Krista's husband John Feeney is a terrific bass player, so we brought in an excellent violist and cellist (for the 2 non-bass quartets), and we were good to go. Krista also chooses to play on gut strings, not metal, which deepens and darkens the violin sound, and fits so nicely with my headjoint.

Playing throught the quartets with bass last spring was a revelation. The lower octave and added bass energy brought out a rustic-ness in the pieces, took them entirely out of the "salon" , and brought them into the vernacular folk music of the day.

Rehearsals this fall have been so stimulating. We talk about every musical aspect: tempo choices, ornamentation, character, phrasing, all is open for discussion. It is thrilling to get rid of years of cobwebs and programmed thinking about such familiar works. I believe our equipment choices allow us to access some of the flavor of earlier period sounds, but the result seems to me to be absolutely fresh and energized.

Funding a recording is always a challenge. The expenses are so numerous: fees for the studio rental, the engineer, my colleagues, the pressing and copying of the disc, publicity, marketing. Fortunately, there is a foundation available to allow interested people to help pay for the recording, tax-deductible. The foundation is the Classical Recoring Foundation, at classicalrecording Please visit their website and see what they are about.

Then, join us on Nov 30 for a trip back in time, hearing familiar works in a new way. And consider making a gift to help fund the CD. I feel it will be a meaningful project and am very enthused by it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What I've been eating...

So I find this a great place for food!! Yesterday lunch was a traditional Korean meal, a sort of banquet, with many courses than just kept coming. There was a great simmered beef dish, with carrots and yams. There was a pumpkin soup to start. There were several diff noodles dishes, some with seafood, some with interesting vegetables. Plenty of small dishes, including the famous kimchee. (Every Korean restaurant makes their own, so it always tastes just a little bit different.) At the end a tofu hot pot, rather spicy, but delicious. Then fresh fruit!! The meals tend to have excellent balance-- the intense flavors of one dish balanced out by a much simpler broth, for example.

There is also very good italian-- albeit with a Korean feel. Thin crust pizzas, good pastas, but often the pasta while be spiced with more typical Asian spices. And their Tiramisu is light with strong coffee flavor, much fresher than many in New York.

Of course, because this is a fully globalized city, there are plenty of Tony Roma's, Burger King (serving a Bulgogi burger!), Pizza Hut(they like potato as a pizza topping), 7-11 and lots of other mini-marts, Coke and Pepsi, of course, and, yes, that's right, Starbucks!! Sometimes their take on "our" food is very strange: their is an "American" set breakfast menu offered at my hotel. It consists of a pretzel hot dog, a baked potato, some honey bread, a green salad, and a boiled egg.

They also like bakeries alot, and clearly use the French model for those. Lots of delicate breads and croissants, all exquisitely wrapped, and occasionally a green tea bread or cake, as well.

I had dinner the other night in a Korean barbeque restaurant, but did not want to bother with grilling my food, wanted something already prepared. The English writing on the menu was not particularly helpful, something like, "rice over mixed seasoned beef". The waitress spoke very little English, but was trying to send me a message of concern, pointing at various pictures on the menu. So my food arrives, and the beef is raw, alongside mushrooms, zucchini, with sticky rice that is to be added in. Not what I was expecting, and clearly what she was trying to tell me. It was rather delicious, actually, and loveliest of all is how she came over after about five minutes and asked, in fracturd English, "are you OK?"

American movies are here, like crazy. Indiana Jones, Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, Kung Fu Panda, Sex and the City starts soon. These will be in English, with Korean titles. Western looking models are used all over the advertisements-- it seems like whenever there is something to be sold, it's non-Koreans being shown.

And the driving!! Makes New York seem like a city with no traffic. Traffic jams at 9:30pm on weeknight are a regular occurrence. The streets are clogged with traffic and cars, many much smaller than ours. But everyone drives with very little thought to anyone else. In the smallest little city alley, there are no one-way streets, so cars wil just proceed along merrily, until an oncoming car forces them to react or change their path. It is quite something to see. Everyone seems cheefully persistent.

I'm off to the Naedaemun shopping district, and then a long afternoon of flute lessons. Dinner tonight with the flutist who has arranged my trip, SoYoung Lee, and maybe some headjoints to try, because her favorite maker is here from Europe. Whenever she's around, it's a party.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The recital

was last night. I played at a lovely gem of a small recital hall called Mozart Hall. It seats about 170 people. New York should have more recital halls of this intimate size. The acoustic was lovely. Unlike American ones, Korean addresses do not give you all the information you need to find places, and street signs are not always easy to find, so trying to tell some colleagues how to get to the hall was quite a challenge!!

I played at 7:30, and did a playthru with the pianist earlier at 5pm. A friend from Philly Orch was able to attend the playthru and listen for balance and whether the piano lid should be full or half stick. Very, very helpful. Playthru felt super comfortable and relaxed. Recital, as you imagine, was more stressful, although everyone tells me how calm I looked. The place was actually sold out, full of Korean flute-playing youngsters. They were very quiet and attentive. In the contemporary piece I played, when the first very high, very loud note came, everyone kind of jumped. I spoke about one of the pieces, and had my former student join me onstage for translation. She might have been more nervous for translating than for playing with me on the last piece!!

After the concert, there was lots of milling around in the lobby area. People gave me flowers, many wanted their picture taken with me, I signed lots of posters. I felt just a tiny bit like a rock star. It was pretty fun.

Then about 8-10 of us headed for a chic restaurant and had red wine, gourment pizzas, and talked. I got home at 11:45, and was more tired than I thought possible.

Today I teach starting in an hour, pretty much all day, and then see friends from Orpheus Chamer Orch, who also happen to be here right now, for Korean barbeque.

I will write again soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I am here...

And what a first day here it was. I tried taking a flight with a bit of a quirky schedule, I left JFK at 1am Wed night, arrived here at 4am a day and a half later, with the time change. Pretty good plan to have a full day here, but it only works if you can sleep on the airplane, which is very hard for me.

I was met at the airport by my former student who will join me on my recital, and her mother. We breakfasted on some great beef noodle soup at an open-24-hour place, along with kimchee and the usual sides. Then it was only 6:30am so I went back to their home, and crashed for a while. Then, I practiced, and hooked up with friends from Philadelphia Orchestra, who happen to be touring in Asia and performing here this week. So we visited a Korean palace in downtown, and then had terrific Taiwanese lunch with amazing soup dumplings, and noodles. Then I was whisked away by Bohee and her Mom, through dreadful Seoul traffic, to meet up with SoYoung Lee, the flutist who has brought me over here for the trip.

We reviewed my schedule, and then I rehearsed briefly with the pianist for the recital. Next were two students, both lovely and fun to teach. One studying the CPE Bach solo sonata, the other the Burton Sonatina, which I will play on my concert. Then, I was taked to dinner at the home of a Korean flute student who is studying in Philadelphia, and I was joined by two of the flutists from the Philadelphia Orchestra!! So it was a great day of connecting with friends, the musical world being full of such friendships. And there we were, only 6800 miles from home!!

I will write more soon,

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Hello friends. I am off to Korea on May 27, for a week of playing and teaching. I thought it would be fun to blog about my trip from over there, trying to give a "real-time" feel to my adventures.

This would be the first post, just to set the scene. I first visited and worked in Korea one year ago, teaching for a week in a "flute store". Flute is so big in Korea, entire stores are devoted just to selling flutes, flute music, CDs, and bringing in guests. I had a wonderful time, hearing so many talented players, and eating great food!!

On this trip, I will perform a solo recital at Mozart Hall, teach a masterclass at Seoul National University, and give four days' worth of public masterclasses as well. On my recital, I will play works of Bach, Reinecke, Martin, Elliott Carter, and others, as well as have a former student join me for a "big finish" with the Doppler Andante and Rondo.

Over the years, I have taught many Korean flutists. I am struck by how serious and dedicated they are to music and the flute, and what hard workers they are. They seem eager and curious for feedback and information to improve their playing.

After the 14-hour flight (!!), I will jump right into piano rehearsals for the recital and the first batch of teaching. I will write again as sooon as I can after I arrive.

Thanks for reading!! Feel free to post comments.