Songs from the darkened stage at Orchestra Hall…(or Mr. Heifetz and me…)…:-0

Long ago, when my flute lessons took place at Orchestra Hall, my teacher, the then-Principal Flute, Sid Zeitlin, would turn me loose to practice on the darkened stage afterward.  “Monostatos” did that as well, once or twice a month.  Needless to say, it was a heady experience.  Apparently whoever was playing on stage was piped throughout the building.  I didn’t let that bother me. The sound of the flute with the acoustics at OH was sufficiently fascinating to take the edge off of any discomfort.  However, as if by some sort of dark magic, players would crawl out from the woodwork to attempt to insinuate themselves into my life through flattery.  I learned later that they were slandering me behind my back.  Such is the life when one is born with a target on their back. :-0

For as long as I can remember I cherished every recording I could find made by Jascha Heifetz.  My parents went to hear him once, at the Stratford Theatre in Connecticut, and refused to take me with them.  It took me years to forgive them for that. That sound, that grace, those chops.  I was mesmerized.  When I began to play the flute seriously I realized that I wanted to play it as though it were a violin.  I began to dream of somehow becoming one of Heifetz’ students, but even I realized that he would probably balk at having to deal with a flute player (or, more likely, roll his eyes and fall on the floor laughing) :-0 I would have been deliriously happy as a gofer, just sitting on the floor and listening to him play and teach, actually. I even had family in the LA area. I had everything figured out, I thought.  I had the privilege of hearing one of Heifetz students perform the Haffner Serenade with the Minnesota Orchestra.  The exquisite quality of Adam Han-Gorski’s sound and technique brought me to tears.  Heifetz, the master, had done his job well.  I tried to convince Mr. Zeitlin to write a letter of introduction to Heifetz for me, but he declined.  So I wrote to him on my own.  But a few months later he was dead, and my dreams were crushed forever.

So now I own the Complete Heifetz, and can honestly say that I have listened to virtually everything he ever recorded.  The whole is far more patchy than the parts — in pieces where I would have expected him to be brilliant, he might sound annoyingly ordinary.  Some of the itsy bitsy’s he so loved just make me grit my teeth. Some of his playing seemed stilted, as though he had not quite found the soul of the piece but was playing it anyway.  Some of his playing (horrors!) sounded even ordinary.  But on the whole I found I had uncovered one of the mysteries of his mastery — that when he learned a piece, he owned it, as though he were the composer.  Not only did he know every nuance of style and phrasing, but he understood the architecture of the piece.  He structured his performances so that there was only one real climax per movement.  His playing was never flashy, it was always in proportion to the music.

I have heard it said (when he was alive many people said this) that Heifetz’ playing was ‘cold’.  That, I feel, is another of his mysteries.  Heifetz was from Vilnius, in Lithuania.  He had the heart of a gypsy, but his playing was cool and his style eminently classical.  Because the fire was controlled, it shone through the cool technique.  The result was, as we know, simply breathtaking.  During the years after that, when my chidren and I were locked out of Monostatos’ Orchestra, I found, as one of the clique I call “Monostatos” was a string player, that I could not longer tolerate the sound of stringed instruments.  Except for Heifetz.  During all the times of struggle and disappointment, his music was my lifeline.  It still is.  I do listen to other string players now, and recently enjoyed Hillary Hahn’s new recording of the Mozart V#5.  She is splendid, and the recording is wonderful.  Then I said, “Hmmm…how did Heifetz interpret this piece?”  Different — light and delicate, yet with considerable power and speed.  Flawless…

So, back to the darkened stage, where, at that time, I practiced not only the Mozart flute concerti, the Neilsen, the Khat, Bach, etc…but also parts of the Mendelssohn, the Brahms, even the Tchiakovsky. During the next few weeks I plan to record excerpts from some of those pieces.  Stay tuned…:-)

Minnegeddon…a veiled reference to the ongoing lockout? :-0

Interesting programming for the Minnesota Orchestra — starting off the year with a performance of the Overture from The Magic Flute: One might be tempted to ask why they feel comfortable performing Wolf’s music while refusing to hear me and, in effect, continuing to lock me out.  But then, very little about the MO surprises me these days.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they were even able to come up with a counterfeit Pamina and Tamino in order to thoroughly try to confuse their audiences…:-0

Back in the old days…

It was an odd coincidence that when I became a single mother of three small children I had taken a modeling course in Minneapolis in order to improve my confidence as I faced tumult in my personal life. Quite by chance I ended up actually modeling.  I found out quickly that it is very hard work and you have no guarantees about when you are paid.  At about the same time I had begun studying the flute seriously with the Principal Flute of the Minnesota Orchestra.  I traded in my closed-hole Hanes for one of his gorgeous Louis Lot flutes, so I was not about to leave it in my taxicab yellow VW when I went to fittings on the same day I had a flute lesson.  So one afternoon, while the fashion director was sticking pins in me, trying to get an outfit ready for a live show I remember standing in the fitting room and looking down at my flute case.  I had a troubling thought — if I am really serious about playing the flute, just how many photos of me would I want to have taken without it?

I did not realize it at the time, but a sea change had begun in my life.  I have kept very few photos of those days.  Here is one, taken at the Forum Cafeteria in Minneapolis.  The Forum Cafe was and is (interior now a new restaurant called Il Foro… one of the most exciting examples of Art Deco interior in the Twin Cities.  The view from this balcony for me (one who loves F. Scott Fitzgerald and have tracked almost all of his Minnesota living quarters down) was just breathtaking.  The dress I am wearing was actually lime green with lime and white feathers.  I earned it by doing three days of demos with a few other models (similarly attired but in different colors) for a convention of salad dressing manufacturers.  Yes, this was the perfect outfit in which to serve up mayonnaise! :-)

pamela forum cafe

Minnegeddon, Mr. Vanska, Mr Schrickel and The Bridge…

Pamela Brown:

Curious coincidences…

Originally posted on The Other Mozart -- Locked-Out in Minnesota:

On August 1, 2007 my grown children and I left the Twin Cities to perform for and participate in a birthday celebration the following day for my Mother in Washington, D.C.  As we practiced at a neighbor of my sister’s where we were staying (they had a piano) we were interrupted by very puzzling and horrifying news reports of a bridge collapse in the Twin Cities.  We rushed to a computer but the internet connection was extremely slow, and it was difficult to even get photos or information about the event.  We were stunned — this is the bridge we used regularly to go from my house to my childrens’ homes.  I had been on the bridge a day or so earlier.  I recalled that there was a lot of equipment in the middle of the bridge.  It seemed very strange at the time, but obviously, some repairs were needed…

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Die Zauberflote — the prophetic opera…What happens when characters morph? :-0

Pamela Brown:

As if there weren’t enough mystery…:-0

Originally posted on The Other Mozart -- Locked-Out in Minnesota:

Some time ago, after it had been pointed out to me by a member of Monostatos’ Orchestra that the opera Die Zauberflote had a connection to my family and me, my first reaction was one of relief, as so much about our lives had seemed confusing, especially to my (at that time small) children.  I thought, “Here are the answers.  Wolf has encoded it all in the opera.  I know the ending.  Everything is ok.”  I could not have been more mistaken.

The characters in the opera are clearly drawn, as they frequently are in opera.  They are either very good, or very wicked.  But is this so?  At the time the opera was first performed, critics were horrified at some aspects of the libretto.  The Queen of the Night, for example, did not seem to be clearly drawn.  There almost seemed to be two of them — a good…

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Why was Wolfgang Mozart despised?

Pamela Brown:

Let’s get this straight…

Originally posted on The Other Mozart -- Locked-Out in Minnesota:

In just about any book you pick up about Wolfgang Mozart you will find a few or a number of references to how conceited he was.  In fact, to many, it seemed that his arrogance had no end.  He was constantly correcting his colleagues in musical matters.  He enjoyed humiliating them, in fact, when they were especially pompous.  He was overbearing and, unfortunately for his victims, always right.  Did any of his colleagues during his life actually acknowledge the superiority of Mozart’s gifts to theirs?  Hardly.  They didn’t seem to have the time to do that — they were too busy cutting him down behind his back to rework him into something they were more comfortable with.  The result was the curious and infuriating ‘slander factory’ that accompanied Wolf wherever he went.  His colleagues, in short, could do no wrong, while he could do no right.  We even have a…

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