There may not be a scene in Cleveland, but there sure is an Orchestra

cleveland_orchestra_gross2Oh, how I miss Cleveland right about now! Tonight I saw the Cleveland Orchestra for the first time since 2002. It’s been five years! Just four days ago, I heard that The Orchestra would be playing at St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater this evening. Instead of writing a meandering narrative, I’ll post thusly:

Facts and Opinions:

1|A very young Miguel Harth-Bedoya led the orchestra in all three works without a score! This left him plenty of room on the podium to move around and practically get right there with the top desk strings. The program: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, De Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade.
2|Though not the most adventurous program, these staples of the repertoire were so well executed that I was brought back to the reality that I live in Central Florida. Even though we have several fine ensembles in the area (The Florida Orchestra and Orlando Philharmonic in particular), it was obvious from the very beginning that this was no regional Orchestra. I think the key to this lies in the back of the sections. The top chairs in our orchestras are excellent players, but that level of excellence doesn’t always make it to the back of the section. In Cleveland, the last desk has a standard equal to the first.
3|William Preucil was soloist for the Rimsky-Korsakov. This was the first time I have seen him play with the Orchestra, a fact alluded to in an article I mentioned recently.
4|There was only one German Bow player in the Orchestra tonight and he is not a permanent member.
5|The new addition to the Cleveland bass section was not present for the tour.
6|After having put my foot firmly in my mouth a while back, It is still a trip to watch Max Dimoff’s technique. Mr. Dimoff was the only standing member of the section and played with a very relaxed (almost casual) stance/grip/etc while maintaining the utmost precision of attack and intonation. Can someone tell me more about his type of playing? He looked very relaxed throughout the program; I would like to find out more about the school of playing this comes from (Mr. Dimoff, if you’re reading, I would love to hear from you).
7|Though it’s not Severance Hall, the Mahaffey is quite an agreeable hall, providing excellent seats well into the balcony and great sound.
8|The hall was probably 90-95% full.
9|One member of the CO bass section was significantly more animated than the others and, though unnoticeable to the majority of audience members, it seemed peculiar considering the refined, if not restrained, demeanor of the rest of the section.

Kevin Switalski
It was so good to speak with Kevin Switalski, my instructor of several months early in my undergrad. I often go back and listen to the minidiscs I recorded during our lessons. Kevin’s living room had hardwood floors and we would often work with doors and windows open. I sure sounded a lot better in that room than I did in my own practice room, and that is not saying much at all.

It’s hard to believe I was studying with a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (much less one sitting at the top desk) within a year of beginning my double bass studies. I have Mike Hill to thank for the contact and Kevin to thank for his patience. Should I ever move back to Cleveland, the first call I make (after family, before the cable guy) is to Kevin to set up lessons. I hear in those minidiscs his patience and my naivete and it’s almost embarassing. Some days I feel like I haven’t improved much since I left Kevin. I know it’s not true, but I also know I’m not playing at a level near where I should be. It’s my own fault and something I can rectify.

I went to see someone I consider a friend play in one of the best Orchestras in the world and was reminded why I love the double bass.

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