Three very intense days.

The past three days have been an amazing and rewarding experience. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales played so musically and internalized all of this new music and the styles incredibly quickly. It was immediately apparent how well they listen to one another; when one section or Nick Whiting (the very fine Leader of the first violins) would play a certain way, the others would follow and match accordingly. It flew by quickly, and I wish we had more time together. The orchestra was friendly and receptive to these new works, and let me know what I needed to give them in order that they could play at their best. The pace and intensity of recording is quite different from preparing for a concert. Each minute of rehearsal is recorded, and we do some longer takes which are more performance-like, and then go back to redo trouble spots. Things can sound quite different in the sound booth than in the hall, so we must rely on the phenomenal ears and experience of producer Phil Rowlands, who directed us on which passages needed extra attention.

It is challenging to maintain the intensity throughout smaller chunks, to match the musical ideas of the previous takes, and to maintain the same tempos throughout. Furthermore, it is an additional challenge to know that on a recording with many microphones picking up each detail, technical precision may be much more apparent than in a live performance, so we must accommodate our playing to perfectly line up with each other while also playing musically and with flexibility.

Day 1 – Beethoven9, Symphonic Remix

This was brand-new for the orchestra (although it had been performed several times by other orchestras), and the first time I conducted it. In some ways, it was the most technically demanding work on the record, and we jumped right into the thick of it from the get-go. The rhythmic complexity of the first movement is exacting. But there is also incredibly powerful and fun music in this piece, and Gabriel’s imagination in transforming the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth into a much more modern interpretation resonated well with the musicians. Even with the virtuosic demands placed on the musicians, I think it was a very successful day and the result will be quite exciting.

Day 2 – Sonata for Orchestra, Op. 30 No.2b

Having conducted this work several times before (and co-authored the transcription), I knew where the pitfalls lay, and knew that this version stands up to inevitable scrutiny. I also was quite aware of some of the technical demands that a Beethoven Sonata presents (even though there are also famously difficult passages in his symphonies and Fidelio) especially as a result of taking some of the keyboard music and arranging them in the strings or winds. I believe we achieved a convincingly musical result, and the second movement was especially poignant with these fine musicians. In the orchestrated form, I was also very happy with how the third movement turned out, because I think you can get so many colors and articulations from an orchestral palette that is so much more varied than a violin and piano duo. The very end (the coda) of the last movement is very powerful in orchestral form. I hope that the haunting and immediately arresting misterioso opening of the work comes across on the record as it did in the hall.

Day 3 – Triumph of Love: Symphonic Suite from Fidelio

In some ways, this was the elephant in the room. I had led a reading/workshop with students from the University of Michigan when I completed the arrangement several months ago, but no one outside that room had heard the piece and knew if it worked. And I can confidently report that the takeaway was incredibly positive. This music absolutely stands on its own and should deserve a place in the repertoire. The score is most closely Beethovenian of the three on this album, and the selections that I used are among the most symphonic in the opera. The music is dramatic and beautiful, and highlight the symphonic sound of the opera. Some people have said that Fidelio as an opera is like “a symphony with words.” Well, soon, you will be able to hear just the opposite, and I think you will agree with me that this music is incredible.

 

Again, I am very grateful to all the supporters who helped to finance this project. I am also grateful to the experience and ears of Phil Rowlands, who knows exactly what is necessary to make a great recording, and who is a great friend and a perfect working partner. To the fine musicians and staff at BBC NOW, bravi tutti! Things came together extremely fast, and I appreciated the insight and help from the experienced musicians who were musical and supportive throughout, even with a young and unknown conductor on the podium.

The editing and mastering will take place over the summer, and I will write updates about label and release information!

Travel Day and Recording Day 1

On Sunday evening, I took a night flight from Detroit to London, arriving at Heathrow around 11 AM. After sitting on a cramped plane without much sleep, the train to Paddington station and a few hours walking around London on a beautifully sunny day felt great.

A few minutes before the train to Cardiff, Gabriel arrived at the platform and thus he and I could spend the 2.5 hour trip chatting about his music, about the upcoming recording, about the electronics, about other works of music and projects we are working on. He is an awesome and insightful guy to work with, and I am eager to play his music today and get it down on the recording! We met up with Phil, our excellent producer and engineer, in Cardiff Bay, for a quick bite last night, and then to bed.

I have a beautiful room in a hotel overlooking the downtown Bay area of Cardiff, which has apparently undergone some major revitalization. I can see the Millennium Centre across the water, which houses Hoddinott Hall, where we will begin recording in a few hours. It is beautifully sunny and warm again, and I am especially grateful for the sunshine knowing that it is often overcast in this part of the UK. Plus, waking up to sunshine always helps to beat the effects of jetlag.

Today we will record Gabriel's Beethoven9 Symphonic Remix. It is the first time that the musicians will likely have ever seen or heard this piece, so the challenges abound in having everyone learn it quickly and assimilate Gabriel's unique style. There are some tricky passages, and difficult ensemble places. But most important is for the players to feel comfortable in grooving to this "funky" Beethoven. Gabriel will also be performing the electronics (there is a sampled chorus) and thus will be standing right next to me as a soloist for his own piece, and this will be super helpful to have the composer present to be able to ask questions and change things on the fly. 

Triumph of Love in NYC October 2018

Great news!!

The Chelsea Symphony in New York City (the orchestra I co-founded over ten years ago) will perform the world premiere performances of “The Triumph of Love” during their 2018-19 season, on October 26th and 27th!

I will be conducting the work, and the Beethoven-centric program will also feature TCS co-artistic Director Matthew Aubin and the Eroica Symphony on the second half. I have not had the chance to work with the orchestra for several years, and am super excited to return in the fall, especially with this music. The last time I heard the orchestra live was in January 2015, when principal cello Erich Schoen-Rene played a cello concerto I wrote for him, conducted by Reuben Blundell. Since then, the orchestra has continued to thrive and do amazing things, such as start up an incredible performance series on Rikers Island, perform under the whale at the Natural History Museum on Earth Day, and be the featured ensemble on the hit Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. Check out their website (www.chelseasymphony.org) to learn more about this versatile and inspiring group of musicians.

The October performances will coincide with the public release of Beethoven Reimagined, and there will be a gathering/release party after one of the Chelsea Symphony performances. More details to follow.

Thank you!

A few months ago, I ventured into the previously unknown-to-me world of crowd-funding, at least unknown on a personal level; I had contributed to some projects before, but I had not set up my own funding campaign. I was unsure what to expect, but the response was not only incredibly positive, but by reaching out to friends whom I hadn't seen in a while but whom I thought may be interested in my project, I felt that I was able to re-connect with many people in a meaningful way. I hope that all who have contributed to this recording understand how important you are to not just this particular recording, but to the Arts, friendships and social relationships, and -while skirting a bit close to being hyperbolic- to humanity in general. Why are we drawn to arts/entertainment? Through the arts, humans are all connected in ways that cannot be explained with words. The Arts allow us to step out of our personal worlds and minds and share experiences with others regardless of any other considerations.

I am incredibly lucky to be able to devote my life to the Arts and I thank you for helping me to create beautiful music and connect people. Thank you for putting your trust and faith in Beethoven ReImagined. I hope you enjoy the music, and recognize that you have made it possible to produce this record and share these incredible pieces with people around the globe.

Below is an alphabetical list of the incredible people who have contributed to fund Beethoven ReImagined as of April 28, 2018. (Note - this list does not include the extraordinary and generous individuals who have reached out to me privately, or who have listed their Indiegogo donations anonymously).

Sonya Feinberg Addo

Dee Alexander

Neal Anderson

Alfred Arbogast

Serena Benedetti

Sylvia Betcher and Martin Korn

Liran Brennan

Morton Cahn

Moses Chan

Bozena Checinska

Jim Cochran

Dave Dash

Sean Devendorf

Liz and Brad Duckrow

Sally Fillmore

David and Courtney Filner

Lea Gershanov

Marji Gold

Seth Goldman

Wendy Goldstein

Hrithik Govardhan

Charles and Sandy Greer

Izabela Grocholski

Alistair Hayden

Joe and Dottie  Highland

Nathan and Jenni Hill

Joel Howell

Brian Hsu

Warren Hsu

Janine Joseph

Rebeca and Asher Kimchi

Eitan Kimchi

Eyal Kimchi and Andrea Spencer

Pat Lawless

Joshua Levenson

John Marcy and Judy Christy

Monika Markowicz

David  Mastrangelo

Diane Mellon

Silas Meredith

Alexander Mishnaevski

Bob Morrow

Eric Morrow

Tomasz  Niewiarowski

Sahar Nouri

Jorge Parodi

Annaliesa Place

Carolyn Reid

Brad Rosenberg

Ben Rous

Wendell Ruiz

Sharon Ryder

Daniel and Kat Salini

Kyle Saulnier

Shelly Saxon

Patsy Schroeder

Karina Segal

Dana Segal Skelton

Umesh and Angela Shankar

William Shapiro

Akiko Silver

Fiona Simon

Kate Spencer

Dennis Spencer

Ann and Dick Sullivan

Megan Tan

Shmuel Tatz

Qiang Tu

Craig Urquhart

Dee Wilson

Barbara Yahr