Lowell Liebermann’s Third Concerto has brought me to three corners of the US in a short few weeks. The Key West Symphony in Florida, did a wonderful performance with their dynamic music director, Sebrina Alfonso. The players hail from across the US, and I made many new friends. Key West has some beautiful streets to walk through, and I did some 3 miles a day of just that away from the typical tourist locations. Standing at the Southernmost tip of the US, 90 miles from Cuba, was a surreal experience. The audiences support their orchestra and enjoyed the new music very much, much due to Sebrina’s tireless dedication to this orchestra, which she founded.
Next was the Southwesternmost premiere, with the San Diego Symphony. I confessed to Maedtro Jahja Ling, that it did indeed take 15 years to finally make music together. It was well worth the long wait. Jahja is a warm and generous man, and wonderful musician. It was the beginning of a warm friendship, and the orchestra played superbly. The Gaslamp district in San Diego is a delightful potpourri of restaurants, of which I only sampled the night before I left. I also met a young man who is a pianist and also works for Qualcomm. I offered to teach him and he played splendidly through Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantaisie and some of Chopin’s Etudes from Opus 10. He tossed off the first two like child’s play. I also taught a master class at the university, and the playing was on an extremely high level. I am sure the balmy weather has to agree with everyone that lives there.
Next up was Anchorage, Alaska. For this trip, my wife and sons joined me. It was a school break and a working vacation. Firstly, the Anchorage Symphony played beautifully, led by their energetic conductor, Randall Craig Fleischer. He did an amazing job of getting the orchestra to play on a higher and higher level from the first rehearsal to the concert. We enjoyed this concert so much, and I look forward to collaborating with Randy with his other two orchestras. He’s full of spirit, which is evident in his rehearsal and concert style. For the vacation portion, we were scheduled to take a guided tour to the south of Anchorage, but due to an avalanche, roads and tourist spots were closed. We decided to take the guided tour north of Anchorage. Mind you, it snowed in New York while it was a balmy 40 degrees in Alaska! The tour included a magnificent view of the Chugatch mountains, windeing up the Hatcher’s Pass to a lodge for lunch. The views are unbelievable. On to the Musk Ox farm, which was remarkable in that these prehistoric animals faced extinction. At one time, they came from Canada via New Jersey, to Alaska. There, they bred and multiplied. The undercoat, Quiviut, is very expensive, and they send the undercoat to native Alaskans to make clothing with, hats, scarves, etc. It is the warmest outer clothing you can wear, and the prices do reflect that. The animals are interesting, in that they are bovine, but also have traits of the bull, as they ‘butt heads’. The oldest musk ox, a male, stared at me, and I stared back with the greatest respect for the eldest of the oxen.
We rented a car one day, and visited the Alaska Zoo, and on another day, drove the southern route on Seward Highway to the Turnagin Arm–an amazing sight! The warnings of falling rocks and avalanches was a bit unnerving, but the view more than made up for that. We did drive through the Wildlife Conservation Center, though it probably should have been closed to visitors. We got stuck in nasty ice chunks, and that the family of bear were just over the fence, didn’t make life easier! Had the roads been better, we would have enjoyed the experience more, but the animals are varied and quite interesting to see from your car. Just after the brief visit to Girdwood, we drove on to see if the Portage Glacier might be visible. I didn’t know to take the turn off on Portage Glacier Road, and found my way to a sign reading, ‘Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula’. I noticed the trees covered in snow, and the mountains glowing in the sunlight. It was absolutely breathtaking. My wife thought it might be a good idea to go back, since the roads were getting icy and we apparently missed a turn somewhere–and, we had a flight that night back to New York! Alaska is quite spectacular–I would like to see it in the summertime and visit the other cities as well.
After returning to New York on the 25th, I hopped a flight from New York on the 26th to Albuquerque via Houston–and I am writing this late at night the 26th while these details are still fresh in my mind. I last performed with the New Mexico Symphony in the late 1980s and 1990. The New Mexico Symphony will also play the Liebermann Third Concerto, and after this, it’s back to Springfield, Mass. for Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto next week, and then Leroy Anderson’s Concerto, Keith Emerson’s Concerto, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F throughout the US.