The Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra recently performed Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (“The Emperor”) and his 6th Symphony (“The Pastoral”). I feel very fortunate to play timpani with this orchestra in that, unless you hold one of the few timpani positions with a full-time symphony orchestra, there are not a lot of opportunities to play timpani.
The soloist for the Emperor Concerto was my friend Alex Peh, professor of piano at the State University of New York at New Paltz and a contemporary music devotee. He is a consummate master of older classical music as well. Although it was his first time playing this concerto, you would have thought he had played it all of his life from hearing this performance. It was also my first time playing timpani for this concerto, which has several timpani solos, most notably at the very end where the timpanist plays an ostinato under the piano’s final phrases. I was admittedly a little nervous, having read that in 1836, the timpanist in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra was fired by the conductor Felix Mendelssohn for totally bungling the ending of the concerto. Mendelssohn then hired Ernst Pfundt (choral director, tenor soloist and piano teacher), who played so well that he continued to be timpanist under Mendelssohn and established one the first schools of timpani playing. You can read all about it in The Cambridge Companion to Percussion, edited by Russell Hartenberger (founding member of NEXUS). I am proud to say I managed to play it correctly and did not get fired! I, however, have no ambition to create a new “school” of timpani playing. While the timpani are heard in only one of the five movements of the Pastoral Symphony, they play the ROLL of Zeus, so to speak, representing the sound of thunder throughout the violent storm movement.
The members of NEXUS will be the soloists on April 14th, 2018 with the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra under the direction of its music director Kathleen Beckmann. We will be playing the Shchedrin arrangement for percussion and strings of Bizet’s Carmen Suite. It is scored for five percussionist using 47 percussion instruments. I hope there will be room on the stage for the string players! The concert will be at the famous Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Come hungry for entertainment, victuals and inspiration.
Maya Kvistad, iPhone