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David Itkin's Blog

March 5, 2012

Mahler 2 and "resurrection"

The text that inspired Mahler's "resurrection" symphony is both religious, strictly speaking, and more broadly spiritual in its outlook. While the text speaks directly to basic Christian beliefs about the relationship between this life and the next, it also addresses the state of the soul on a personal level, and even brings with it hints of apocalyptic visions.

In truth, I'm no one's theologian. So, although this text is extremely meaningful to me personally I will not attempt to dissect its meaning here. I'll leave that to those that are the real deal (theologically speaking!).

Nonetheless, this text and this music have taken on a very important meaning for me, as this great work has followed me through my career. The first time I conducted this work was in Little Rock in 2005. On that occasion my father, mother, and brother all came from the west coast to hear the performances. During that same week, my grandmother (my mother's mother) passed away in Portland, at the age of 100. And I remember that my mother made what I thought at the time to be a strange decision. She decided not to go back to the west coast for her own mother's funeral, saying, "Grandma would want us to be together."

Since that time, both my parents are gone, we've experience 9/11, and so much other loss as a nation and as individuals. The first word sung by the chorus is "aufersteh'n", rise up, be resurrected. When I hear these words I cannot help but think of all these people and their great hearts and spirits. So, on such a great occasion as the first concert of the LVP at the Smith Center, it is particularly appropriate that we remember all these that we've loved, saying "aufersteh'n"...rise up! Rise up in spirit, rise up in love, rise up in joy.
November 9, 2011

Robert Schumann's Rhine Journey

In the late 19th century, in his monumental four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelungen, Richard Wagner composed eloquently about the Rhine journey of his hero, Siegfried. Siegfried cut a swath through the wilderness, sublimating flora, fauna, and humans alike.

But nearly a half century earlier another inspiring Rhine journey took place, when Robert Schumann and his wife Clara took a enjoyable vacation to see a part of their own county with which they were not familiar. On this Rhine journey there was no swordplay, no 100-piece orchestra or bellowed high notes (as far as I know), but instead a pleasant sojourn, beautiful scenery and matrimonial bliss (again, as far as I know).

The result of this journey was Schumann’s 3rd symphony, the “Rhenish”. In this lush, tuneful, creative, and diverse work, the composer elaborates musically on the people, the geography, and the way of life there, as he perceived it. So moved was Schumann that instead of a traditional four-movement work, he gave us five-movements, which was quite unusual in his day. While the other movements speak of his journey and impressions more generally, his “extra” movement, the fourth, tells us specifically and rapturously of his visit to the cathedral in Cologne. This very special symphonic movement is a great departure from Schumann’s usual style, as he plays with counterpoint in a far more intricate manner than we find elsewhere in his work, to give us the feel of J.S. Bach and other German church composers. The long arching lines of this brief movement draw for us the spacious interior of the cathedral, and the music fills us with the solemnity the place.

Every time I conduct this work, in all its diversity, from Rhineland meadows to the cathedral’s dark and quiet majesty, I am again struck by Schumann’s stunning grasp of what is truly meaningful and human.
September 4, 2011

Briefly pondering the mysteries of Beethoven

Beethoven’s music gives us an entire universe of emotion and intellectual complexity to ponder. He takes us to worlds entirely new to western music, but somehow, in doing so, never takes us far from our own hearts. I’ve spent a lot of time lately re-thinking some of these issues, not only as I prepare for several performances of his music (beginning September 10 with the LVP, the 5th symphony), but also as I lectured for several days recently on his nine symphonies as a whole. As we look at his nine magnificent symphonies, we see that, to a degree unlike the work of any other composer, each is a unique world unto itself a unique step on the road to somewhere new and magnificent. Where that symphonic journey takes us is, of course, to his 9th symphony, the work the sheds new light on what the symphony could be, and inspired generations after him in this same path. But just as so many love to quote the cliché “life is a journey”, so in this case we should take it to heart. Beethoven’s symphonies are, unto themselves, a journey, and with each step we find a new and inspiring miracle. The 5th symphony that the LVP will perform on opening night this season (Sept. 10) contains, of course, the most famous four notes in all of western music (something we’ll discuss in considerably more depth at my pre-concert talk that evening). But far more than that, it contains new heights of emotion and personal expression, and allows us to peek over the horizon to the 9th symphony, and beyond.
July 25, 2011

The Zen of summer (and running 13.1 miles)

People often ask me what I do during the summer. They imagine that, like many other conductors, I spend my summer running from one music festival to another, conducting here, conducting there, and running all over the place while the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Abilene Philharmonic, and the UNT College of Music are not producing concerts at regular intervals. This is, however, not at all correct.

For all the years that I’ve been fortunate to spend my life conducting great music with great musicians I have scrupulously kept my summers as free as possible. While I do occasionally accept a concert here and there, and sometimes there are summer concerts that are part of my regular responsibilities, I have managed to keep to this goal with considerable success.

So, why do I insist on this? Don’t conductors want to conduct every minute of every day, fearing that a week without a gig is the beginning of the end of their career? For some of my colleagues I’m sure this is true, but not for me. I remember vividly the one summer that I varied from this plan of conducting little or not at all during this time. I arrived at the first week of the season the following fall exhausted, unmotivated, and feeling and though I’d been, as they say, rode hard and put away wet. I not only felt exhausted, I also felt depressed at the knowledge that, having spent a lot of my summer away from my family I was then looking forward to another 9 months of the same. Having learned the hard way that I was right in the first place, I have kept to my original plan ever since.

During the regular season of 2011-2012, from late August to mid May, I will prepare and perform upwards of 24 different programs with 5 different orchestras, working with more individual soloists, orchestral musicians, interviewers, PR events, and administrators than I can possibly count. That one sentence should begin to explain why it’s important to keep my summers as quiet times of rest, reflection, and study. Equally important, though, is my insistence on summer being family time. During the regular season I’m away from home (either out of town or just out of the house during nights and weekends) a great deal of the time, so summer is also the time I dedicate to reconnecting with Teri and our children, and making sure there is time and calm for that important part of my life.

This summer, thus far, has contained all of these things, plus something extra. We’ve been to Boston following Chris’ graduation from Baylor to see the Red Sox play at Fenway (sorry, any Yankees fans) and soak up the seafood, we’ve read and played at the pool, Stasia’s been to summer camp, and Teri and I have actually gone out to lunch and dinner, quiet and alone. But this summer brought an exciting first for me, and a great time for Teri and I to share. While we always love our excursions to the California wine country, this one was special, as we started the week by running the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon together. Teri has run several full marathons, including New York, San Diego, and Portland, and although I run regularly, this 13.1-mile trek would be the longest run of my life. During the preceding weeks I trained diligently in spite of the triple digit heat in Texas. [Teri trained almost not at all, but she doesn’t really need to, which irks me to no end.] The race itself was exciting and great fun. We did it in 2 hours and 25 minutes; not exactly a blistering pace, but not too bad for the first time. As you can probably guess, considering our location, the following 4 days were occupied with recovery and considerable “self medication” in the wine country manner. Right now I’m in Portland (OR), visiting family and then flying back to Texas when Stasia finishes summer camp.

Sadly, things are about to speed up, as we are about to move from one house to another in order to facilitate easier access to Stasia’s school. So, three weeks from now we’ll be settled in our new place, about one-third of the way across the Metroplex from where we are now, and shortly after that we’ll begin our season at the Philharmonic. But even though I’m always a bit sad to see this restful time come to an end, I’m also excited and energized for returning to making music. And, to me, that’s an important part of what summer is for.

I hope you’ve all found rest, calm, and family time so far this summer. And, “tanned, rested, and ready,” I’ll look forward to seeing all of you on September 10.
April 5, 2011

Sibelius: music of the spirit

Every time I conduct one of the symphonies of Jean Sibelius I inevitably end up contemplating the same several things: how could one human being create something that is so unique? does he speak to us through music in this way that is so universal and yet so personal?...what is it about his approach to the narrative of music that is unlike the music of any of the other masters? These are the questions that intrigue and inspire us when we work with Sibelius’ music, and they are questions that must be wrestled with by both the performer and the listener.

I am fond of telling members of an audience that the symphonies of Sibelius are not to be listened to as we might the works of Beethoven, Brahms, or Tchaikovsky. (I often say this about Bruckner’s music, too, but for mostly different reasons.) In the music of the three composers I just mentioned, as well as most of the rest of the great symphonic composers, a narrative that is reasonably consistent and reliable sweeps us along. That is, as in a great novel, we move with reasonable logic from A, to B, to C, etc., and the “story” of the music moves forward with some kind of predictability.

Both the charm and the genius of Sibelius’ music is that this is, often, not so. While his music is dramatic, energetic, and wholly satisfying as musical “drama”, he often pauses for what I lovingly refer to as one of his “zen” moments. In these moments he stops to reflect, often at some length. These musical passages cause some listeners (and some musicians) to feel anxious, as they cannot understand where the music and its sense of narrative are going. And this is the beauty of these moments: we should not feel anxious, as the composer has provided us with a time to pause entirely…just as we stop the noise of modern life to meditate, so this great composer graces us with the same opportunity in his music. For a brief few moments we are blessed with a time to cease our anxieties and passions. Far from being a moment to wish we could “get on with it”, I often wish they would go on forever.
March 8, 2011

“Classic Broadway”, or “The Emperor doesn’t seem to be wearing any clothes”

Those that have frequented the Philharmonic’s pops series since its inception three years ago cannot have failed to notice that I am a genuine fan of great Broadway musical scores. Not only is this not a new passion, it takes me back to the very roots of my musical upbringing and family. My father was an actor and director, and I had my first professional musical experiences playing in pit orchestras for, and later conducting, some of these great theatre pieces. From that time, and then on and off throughout my career, it’s been my great pleasure to conduct productions of many of the great Broadway musicals, including “My Fair Lady”, “Sweeney Todd”, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, “Guys and Dolls”, “The Music Man”, “Evita”, “A Chorus Line”, “Carousel”, “Oklahoma”, “A Little Night Music”, “Mame”, “Hello Dolly”, and many others.

If you go to the theater in New York with any frequency, or watch the Tony awards on TV, you cannot have failed to notice with chagrin what currently passes for a Broadway score. Not only are many of these tuneless, repetitive items produced on Broadway, they frequently win the award for best score, usually because there’s nothing better out there. Year after year I watch the Tony’s and cringe as they perform excerpts from each nominated Best Original Score, as each bit of unmemorable drivel insults my ears. In recent years there have, of course, been some notable exceptions, like “Ragtime”, “A Light in the Piazza”, “Wicked”, and a very few others. But these are, unfortunately, the exceptions that prove the rule. [You might remember, ironically, that “Wicked” didn’t even win the Tony, as it was beaten by “Avenue Q”! Seriously?] Other recent winners have been such unmemorable musical offerings as “Urinetown”, “Spring Awakening”, and “Memphis”.

So why this tirade? I am truly not one of those who believes that there’s been no good music written for the Broadway stage since Richard Rodgers died. Far from it. I’ve already mentioned a number of great scores of the last thirty years, but they are quickly becoming fewer and further between. I write all this not to be vitriolic, but to appreciate what is great in this genre, and to encourage all of us who love this music never to believe that excellence can’t still be achieved, or that we should celebrate the tedious and mediocre just because nothing better came along this year.

In that spirit, I invite you to join us on March 26 for “An Evening with Rogers and Hammerstein”, featuring four magnificent vocalists and the Las Vegas Mastersingers joining the Philharmonic, when we will once again celebrate Broadway’s past, and future.

A post-script, added the same evening I originally posted this entry:
After reading what's above, Teri (my wife) mentioned that I failed to include "Les Mis" among those excellent scores of the last 30 years. To be honest, and though I like some of the songs, Les Mis is not actually one of my personal favorites. Nonetheless, in the interest of family harmony, I now publicly state that, in my opinion, Les Mis more than deserves to be included in that group. Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
February 7, 2011


We, the frozen of Texas, are finally thawed. As you may know, last week Texas had unseasonably wintery weather, with much snow and ice (by southern standards). The University of North Texas, where I teach, was closed since Tuesday, as was my daughter's school, so the three of us spent a cozy week at home, playing with the cat and dog, reading, watching "House", etc. Though an unexpected break, which also caused the cancellation of a concert for me here in Dallas, it was quite a delight to just stay home with family, and even to have some time to look at some wonderful music that ISN'T in an upcoming concert. Today we all went back to our real lives, and I have to admit it was bittersweet. I'm really not very good and sitting around not doing much, but I truly enjoyed the several days without the stress and frenetic activity that our lives usually are. On the other hand, I'm glad to get back to work and to real music-making...but, there's hope on the horizon: more sleet and snow in Wednesday's forecast!...
November 8, 2010

Young Artists and 20th century masterpieces

This week brings two tremendously satisfying things.

On Wednesday night I have a concert with the fabulous soprano Lynn Eustis, with the a chamber sized version of the UNT Symphony. The program takes a variety of looks at the 20th century, none of which fall into the negative stereotypes that make some people afraid of the last 100 years. Music of Prokoffiev, Stravinsky, Menotti, Moore, and Gershwin will make for an evening of charm and brilliance.

On Friday night I fly back to Las Vegas for the LVP Young Artists competition on Saturday. We'll be spending most of the day hearing some of the exciting young talent in our area, selecting the best and brightest for cash prizes (thanks to a gift from Cirque) and possible opportunities to perform with the LVP at youth concerts this January.
November 1, 2010

Cliburn gold medalist, Haochen Zhang

Terrific concert this past weekend with the 2009 Van Cliburn competition gold medalist, Haochen Zhang, playing the Prokoffiev 3rd concerto. This 20-yr old (19 when he won!) pianist was astonishing; brilliant technique and elegant music-making. Plans are already quietly underway to make sure we have a visit from him in Las Vegas.
October 26, 2010

Reality Check

Nearly every professional musician has a grueling schedule, and the musicians of the Las Vegas Philharmonic are certainly no exceptions. For nearly all of them it’s a delicate, daily balancing act of different responsibilities, including teaching, family, day job, playing on the Strip, other professional playing, practicing, and, of course, Philharmonic rehearsals and concerts.

In the mind of the public, however, (and even in the minds of some fellow musicians, I think,) conductors are somehow different. Since we spend an average of 12 hours per week in rehearsals and concerts, it is often assumed that the rest of our week is leisure. I’m fairly sure that people imagine us on the golf course, taking a nap, having a three-martini lunch, or just watching soap operas and eating bonbons.

Just for fun, here’s a reality check…

To begin, I don’t play golf (though I do go to the gym almost every day), I only take naps when I have the flu, I have a glass of wine at lunch only on holidays or when I’m in Europe, I don’t watch soap operas, and I don’t really know what bonbons are.

Here’s what my next five days are like. I hope yours are somewhat more restful.

Tuesday: after we get Stasia off to school (a major project for any family) the remainder of the morning and early afternoon will be spent in final preparation for concerts this weekend, 90 minutes at the gym, and travel preparations; 5:00pm to 11:30pm I’ll be overseeing and participating as a juror for the UNT concerto competition, arriving home around midnight.

Wednesday: Morning, packing for 5-day trip to Abilene and quick trip to the gym if I can fit it in; 11:30am, meeting with grad student; 1:15pm, at Stasia’s school to see the dress rehearsal of her school play (since I’ll be missing the performance when I’m out of town on Friday evening ☹); 2:15-4:05pm, orchestra rehearsal at UNT; 4:15-7:15pm, 3-hour drive to Abilene, 90 minutes of which I’ll be on the phone participating in an Abilene Philharmonic board meeting; 7:30-10:30pm, orchestra rehearsal in Abilene.

Thursday: 9:15 and 10:45am, children’s concerts; 1:15pm, record radio commercials; 2:30pm, shoot television commercials; 4:00-6:00pm meetings with staff; 6:15pm, attend rehearsal of dancers for Christmas pops; 7:00-10:00pm, orchestra rehearsal.

Friday: 6:15-7:00am, live TV appearance; 9:15 and 10:45am, children’s concerts; 12:00-1:00pm, lunch meeting; 1:30-5:30pm, auditions; 6:00pm, meeting with soloist; 7:00-10:00pm, orchestra rehearsal.

Saturday (my “easy” day): 10:00am-12:00noon, orchestra rehearsal; 1:00-3:00pm, orchestra rehearsal; 4:00pm, Teri and Stasia arrive in Abilene ☺; 7:15pm, pre-concert talk; 8:00pm, concert with Abilene Philharmonic; 10:00pm, post-concert reception; circa 10:45pm, there’s a serious glass of wine in my future.
October 14, 2010

"New" music vs. "old".

These days it’s not uncommon to find that many people in the audience at an orchestra concert would sincerely, even passionately, prefer that nothing composed after 1900 appear on the program. This sentiment isn’t voiced only by those who may be new to the experience, but also by many people who are quite knowledgeable about great music, and who love and support their orchestra. Odd, isn’t it, that so many of us don’t want to hear a new piece of music when most of us wouldn’t think of preferring an old, outdated cell phone to the newest model, or choosing to see a film we’ve seen many times instead of the newest thing in the theater. In nearly every other sphere of our modern existence we gravitate to whatever is new, shunning what’s old, so why does this seem to seldom apply to our love of great music?

When we talk about old music vs. new, it is important to keep this in mind: the phenomenon that concerts of great music are generally made up almost entirely of music from the past is a relatively modern one. Throughout the history of music, all the way through the beginning of the 20th century and perhaps a bit beyond, what drew music-lovers into the concert hall or salon was something new. Nearly every time Mozart performed he was expected to have a new concerto or symphony, and during the 19th century the great opera houses of the world stayed afloat and relevant by continually premiering the newest opera by one of the great composers of the day. But that was then, and this is now.

There are a number of reasons for this current trend in sentiment. And it is only fair to say that, from the perspective of any individual, many of these reasons are well thought-out and rational. Topping the list of reasons that many people shy away from “new” music is the impression that what they are likely to hear will be dissonant and cacophonous. [The word “dissonant” is used here with some caution, as not only is “dissonant” not a synonym for “ugly”, it is the very quality that makes most music moving and emotional. But that is an entirely different discussion.] Second on the list, though it’s closely tied to the first item, is that some people fear that such music will not move them and speak to them spiritually and emotionally; that is, that they will not get from the music the very thing for which one comes into the concert hall.

Are these concerns ridiculous, unreasonable, or provincial? Absolutely not. To suggest that a great deal of what has been written in the 20th and 21st centuries is not extremely dissonant and, to some degree, more mathematical and intellectual than it is emotional and spiritual, is ridiculous.

The goal, for me, is to avoid “throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” dismissing all music written after the death of Mahler and never looking back, just because we have heard some pieces that were not to our liking. Let’s not forget the some music written when Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms were alive is not very good, either. Because that is so, it doesn’t mean that we refuse to listen to music of those centuries, and the same should apply to the more recent era. Some would suggest that the jewels from the last century or so might be fewer and further between than in earlier periods. However, whether that is true or not does not matter. In fact, if it is true, that only makes the exploration, the search for a rose among the thorns, that much more exciting.

On November 20, the Philharmonic will premiere a new work, commissioned by the LVP, by esteemed American composer Samuel Adler. Sam is a composer of extraordinary skill, passion, and heart, and we will be privileged to have him with us for the premiere. On the same program are the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. I hope you’ll join us for what will surely be an evening of emotion and passion, and help us celebrate great music that is both new and old.
September 23, 2010

Is there really any difference between Berlioz and Sinatra?

Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique", played two weeks ago by the Philharmonic in its opening concert, is about a man who takes an opium overdose. The piece goes on to musically describe his subsequent hallucinations. Based on the title of this blog entry, you may think that I'M hallucinating, but I'm not.

Some music is cerebral, some is spiritual, some is complex, some is simple, some is mathematical, some is intellectual, some is pure pleasure, and most great music is a combination of several of these things, and much more. At the time of its premiere, "Symphonie Fantastique" stretched the technical ability of the performers, and the ears and patience of many listeners, nearly to their breaking points. But, in compensation, it provided, and still continues to provide, a rapturous experience and guilty pleasure like almost none other in music.

To me, the great songs and arrangements that were made even greater by Sinatra provide a not so dissimilar experience. Although the music itself could not be any more different than that of Berlioz, they are masterful examples of American song-writing, arranging, and orchestrating that transcend their brilliance and complexity in order to provide us with that same, not very cerebral, slightly guilty, "I may have had a bit too much wine" feeling.

If you missed the Philharmonic's performance of "Symphonie Fantastique" two weeks ago, I'm sorry that you did, because the LVP's musicians really brought their "A" game that night. But even if you did, I hope you won't miss our evening saluting Sinatra on October 2, with the Chairman's own conductor and pianist Vincent Falcone leading the orchestra and Las Vegas favorite Clint Holmes singing all the hits.
March 22, 2010

Chopin: Fad vs Fabulous

Some music is temporary and some music is permanent. Although everyone may not agree about which is which, we all sense it. And we know when we are hearing or seeing something that is timeless. Truly great music, like all great art, is timeless because it speaks to us in a language that transcends a particular decade or century, and because it engages us with matters that are uniquely human.

Such is the music of Chopin.

Chopin’s rich emotional fabric, brilliant melodies, and unique pianistic and orchestral textures are icons within our musical literature. Within his music Chopin creates entire universes of sound, expression, and emotion in ways that most composers of his generation could only dream. And he does all this, not surprisingly, with the simplest of musical tools.

Some composers, often those that qualify more as “fad” than “fabulous”, acquire, and try to keep, our attention with a series of tricks: louder, faster, bigger orchestra, more controversial, street talk, pop culture, etc., etc. But a composer like Chopin strips music down to its essence, showing that a great mind and great talent can create unique beauty and meaning without bringing every bell and whistle into play. Why are we still playing Chopin’s music so many years after it was written, when so much other music has come, gone, and been forgotten in the meantime? This is why: because Chopin offers us with every luscious sonority, with every elegant melody, and with every virtuosic flourish a peek into the wonder and fragility of being human. And, unlike so much of what bombards us every day, that is a thing that does not change with the decades or centuries.

I'll look forward to sharing all of this with all of you next week.
December 3, 2009

What's new in Christmas Celebration III?

As many of you know, each year I like to keep the specifics about our Christmas Celebration performances somewhat "hush hush" until the concert begins. But since, as usual, I've been asked often lately what you can expect, here are some exclusive hints.

You'll hear:
--One of the beautiful, dramatic arias from "Messiah" (a first in the Christmas Celebration).
--A brilliant arrangement of holiday favorites by the late, great Robert Shaw sung by the Las Vegas Mastersingers.
--Music by Leonard Bernstein.
--Music of Mannheim Steamroller.
--Soloists from Phantom & UNLV.
--Las Vegas favorite, tenor Matt Newman returns to sing the song that brought down the house last year.
--Favorite contemporary Christian hits of the season.
November 9, 2009

Bartok's Magical Mystery Tour

There are many ways to think about the wondrous creation that is Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra". Principally, we tend to think of it as we were taught to in undergraduate music history, as one of the pinnacle creations of the 20th Century in which the composer brings the possibilities of the modern orchestra to an entirely new plateau. All of that, and more, is certainly true. But there is so much more to this great work, and so much more that is so much more important.

When Bartok was commissioned to write a new work for the Boston Symphony he was, we are told, so ill that he was hardly able to drag himself from one room to another. And yet, in the space of only a few months, he was able to rally himself to bring to life this stunning new creation. We might imagine that the work would be somber, funereal, being written by a man that knew is own death was quite near. And although the tone of the work is often serious, and occasionally dark, it is, overall, a work of stunning vitality and hopefulness. With the exceptions already mentioned (and brilliant, awe-inspiring exceptions they are), the Concerto for Orchestra is an exceptionally positive and spiritually uplifting work that is laced with athletic good spirits and even considerable humor.

As though Bartok's incredible orchestral, spiritual, and emotional canvas was not amazing enough on its own, we must always keep in mind that this astonishing creation was the dying gift of an artist who loved life too much to have his final musical thoughts dwell in darkness.
October 20, 2009

Some thoughts on the 20th Century

Even though we're now nearly a decade into the 21st century, there are still quite a few among us who are 20th-century-music-phobic.

This is, by the way, not entirely unreasonable. For those who grew up on Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, some music of the last 100 years can be difficult to listen to.

This is one of many reasons that the Philharmonic will play the stunning repertoire from the 20th century that comes up in November. Pairing two highly accessible composers who take very different approaches to harmony, orchestral sound, and nearly everything else, you will get a fantastic set of contrasts in our next concert.

Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, his final and greatest orchestral work, brings orchestral brilliance and spiritual mystery to the broadest possible canvas of sound.

Gershwin, on the other hand, weds jazz, tin-pan alley, and Broadway with a traditional orchestral sound and the piano concerto form to create on of the most entertaining and unique hybrid works in our repertoire.
September 26, 2009

Exclusive hints for the movie trivia game

Movie music concerts come and go, but you've never experienced movie music like you will on Oct. 3, when you can choose to participate in our audience movie trivia quiz game on-stage with the Philharmonic. Come early and sign up so that you can be chosen to play the game, or you can elect stay in your seat and enjoy the game and the music from there.

If you decide to play (or even if you don't), here are a few hints only for our blog readers. I can't give you the answers here, but I can tell you where to look.

Someone other than Harrison Ford almost played the role of Indiana Jones, and while you're figuring that out, you might want to consider what killed the monkey.

"Schindler's List" is in black and white, but not entirely.

A particular brand of candy plays a pivotal role in "ET". Oddly enough, our family cat is named after it.

Have fun, and I'll see you all on Saturday.
September 16, 2009

To clap or not to clap...this is the question.

Last Saturday night, at the Philharmonic's opening concert of the season, a sizable portion of the audience was so excited after the first movement Giora Schmidt's performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto that not only did they applaud, but they gave Giora and the orchestra a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. Of course, it's considered "bad manners" to applaud between the movements of a multi-movement work, but, especially in cases like this one, I'm not sure that I agree. While I'm still a traditionalist who would probably prefer quiet between movements, what sometimes happens, and what happened this past Saturday, is a sincere expression of excitement and appreciation for the performance and the music, so it's very hard for me, personally, to think that's bad. Presented with a choice of an audience that is uninvolved in the music and scared to make a mistake of "manners" and an audience that has come to the concert hall to be inspired and thrilled, and cannot, at times, restrain their honest enthusiasm, I'll take the latter every time.
September 7, 2009


Hello, Friends. There are only 5 days to go until opening night of the Philharmonic's 11th season. Sibelius' patriotic masterpiece "Finlandia" awaits us, as well as the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Giora Schmidt on the first half of the program. After intermission it's Beethoven's 7th Symphony, a crossroads between the Classical tradition and a Romantic point of no return. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you there, and I'll see you at 7:15 for our pre-concert talk.
September 4, 2009

Making cuts in Tchaikovsky...You cannot be serious!!

We usually take the notes written by great composers very seriously. By that I mean that, although we are the living interpreters, we generally don't change things, or worse, make cuts. There is one notable exception, however, among the most important and often performed concerti. Contrary to the theory that we "never" make cuts in works by our greatest composers, the last movement of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, as you'll hear it on opening night, almost always has some very small cuts in it. There are approximately a half dozen small cuts that are nearly always taken in this movement, and they are so minor as to make almost no difference at all to the length of the movement. Nonetheless, most violinists do observe them because this is how they learned the concerto from their own teachers, those teachers from their teachers, and so on. Our soloist on Sept. 12, Giora Schmidt, takes a middle road. Speaking with Giora on the phone just a few days ago, he told me that he observes some of the cuts, but not all. Will you be able to tell the difference between this and other performances of this great concerto that you've heard in the past?...Join us on Sept. 12 and find out.
August 17, 2009


Hello, all. I spoke with Giora Schmidt earlier this week, and he is very excited about his visit to Las Vegas. Giora and I have performed together many times for Brahms Double Concerto, Ravel's Tzigane, Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy, the Beethoven Triple Concerto, and others. Ironically, we have never before been onstage together for this repertoire staple, the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. There are only 26 days to go, so I hope everyone has their tickets. Best, David.
August 5, 2009

Giora Schmidt's coming to Las Vegas!!

Hello everyone. It's hard to believe there are only 38 days left until opening night of the new Philharmonic season. On opening night we're going to be joined by the extraordinary violinist that wowed our Soiree audience last Spring. Giora Schmidt is a dear friend that I've worked with many times, and hearing him play will be a truly remarkable experience for everyone in Las Vegas. Major newspapers have called his playing "like the young Perlman", and this is more than deserved. If you don't have tickets to hear Giora with the Philharmonic, I hope you'll get them soon. See you all in 38 days.
July 6, 2009

The LVP's new website!

Dear Friends,
As you can see, the Philharmonic's new website is up and running. We are all very excited about this new way of getting information about the Philharmonic's concerts and education programs to all of you. Each week I'll be adding a new blog entry about events at the Philharmonic, artistic matters, upcoming performances, and much more. I'll see you all in September. Best,