When the spirit soars in the concert hall

Alexander Mickelthwate Random Notes
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

Dear music lovers,

As I write this, I’m taking a little stay-cation and recuperating from a grueling week of music. Rachmaninoff’s massive fourth Piano Concerto put me and the musicians through our paces keeping up with piano superstar Alain Lefevre. Alain is an old friend and when he was here we got into a big discussion about why we do what we do. What is all of this music-making about?

I started really thinking about this question and the work we do as musicians. You may not be surprised to learn we actually discovered the answer in the concert – specifically in the second movement of the Rachmaninoff Concerto. The music slows and there is a very fluid interplay between the piano and the orchestra. In those few minutes Alain and I were able to really move beyond the notes, beyond rhythms, the beats of the measure, and move to a higher plane. It was a very powerful moment. I realized this is the answer, this is why we make music: to find the transcendent moments when as humans we are performing in perfect synchronicity and sharing something profound.

Joshua Bell joins the WSO for their opening night on September 20. (Photo by Chris Lee)
Joshua Bell joins the WSO for their opening night on September 20. (Photo by Chris Lee)

Now spring is here and with it another season of music is coming to an end. The orchestra takes a few weeks break in June before our summer concerts at the Concert Hall and around the city and province. Then we’re off for most of July and August to enjoy our beautiful if brief summer. During that time I’ll be preparing for one of the most exciting concerts we’ve presented in years: Opening Night with Joshua Bell on Sept. 20.

The famed violinist is renowned for his performance on the Red Violin soundtrack, as one of the first classical music YouTube stars with his pop-up performance in the Washington metro, and really one of the most dynamic musicians you will ever see perform. Joshua will play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, a stunning classical masterwork. Personally, I am looking forward to the evening because I expect we are going to create a few more transcendent moments, moments where the orchestra and soloist transform from 68 individual musicians into a single body performing in perfect unison. I guarantee you will not want to miss this.

But for now it is time to get outside. Enjoy your gardens, enjoy the sun, and soon we will see you back at the Concert Hall.

Auf Wiedersehen!


Alexander Mickelthwate is music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

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