This season has been, to date, devoted to performances of the “LL3″. What’s the “LL3″? A new car, a new enzyme, a new train, a moon of Pluto? No–it’s a concerto. It’s Lowell Liebermann’s Third Concerto. As students at Juilliard, we had short codes for pieces, like ‘Rach 3′, ‘Rachy 3′, ‘Prok 2′, ‘Prok 3′, ‘Rach 2′, ‘Tschaik 1′. I think LL3 is cool. I also find the piece to be quite remarkable, as this weekend brought me to two cities with excellent orchestras to perform it.
The Columbus Symphony in Georgia is one of 18 orchestras that co-commissioned the new concerto. I met their music director, George Del Gobbo in Lake Forest, IL in the mid-1990s. We performed the ‘Rach 3′ (Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto), and stayed in contact after the performance. George invited me to perform Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto in Columbus, GA in the late 1990s. During 2004, the orchestras agreed to represent Georgia to participate in the Liebermann Third Concerto project. When we first worked together in Columbus, they did not have the concert hall they have today, though it was a very fine orchestra. This weekend was an eye-opener for me. Returning after nine years and walking through a brand-new concert hall and arts center was like stepping into the new century–literally. The orchestra played the first rehearsal nearly at concert level–quite remarkable. George is a perfect collaborator–always there, never a worry. He’s been the music director for this orchestra for some twenty years. People come from far and wide just to work with him. He has a light sense of humor, which helps get things fixed and concert ready quickly. The Columbus State school is part of the arts center, and is a beautiful building. It was remarkable that Jon Kimura (‘Jackie’) Parker was spending a good deal of time with the students in master classes and collaborative chamber music concerts. We were pupils of Adele Marcus from 1979-into the 1980s. It’s hard to believe we go back nearly 30 years! I caught some of his teaching–fantastic! It was a very special feeling performing the ‘LL3′ knowing my friend was listening–with the same kind of ears our teacher had. I knew he was listening and understanding everything the new piece had to offer. I left with a wonderful feeling that Columbus has a wonderful new concert hall, a fabulous conductor, and a strong audience group. I do hope to be back there soon!
Early rise the next morning at 5am for a drive to Atlanta, flight to Detroit, connection to Traverse City, Michigan, and rehearsal at 5pm. I was in Traverse City last in 1995. Due to my friendship with Robert Hanson, music director of the Elgin Symphony in Illinois, he brought me to Traverse City in 1995 for the Grieg Piano Concerto. His associate, David Holland conducted that performance very well indeed. We performed in the Lars Hockstead Auditorium, which is part of the high school. It was a lovely performance, and David did a wonderful job–and he is in the viola section of the current orchestra. When Kevin Rhodes, music director for the Traverse City Symphony, brought his Springfield (MA) orchestra on board the ‘LL3 train’, he also brought the Traverse City Symphony into the project as well. I must say, the first rehearsal was startling, in that they played it so remarkably well. I am finding the level of the orchestras in the cities I had visited over a decade ago, to be playing on an extremely high level. The players out there are truly amazing. Our concert today is at Interlochen–I have never been there, and I look forward to performing there.
On another curious note, when the Ellen Taaffe Zwilich project, ‘Millennium Fantasy’ was assembled in 1998-2000, the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra joined the commission. Matthew Hazelwood was their music director, and I was told that Matthew is quite busy these days as the music director for the orchestras at Interlochen. I found his phone number and we chatted for a while–he lives in Traverse City! We worked together in 2000, so it would be rather special to see him if possible while here. He has a performance today as well with his orchestra off premises, but hopefully, we can find each other later on somehow. What is interesting is that we mark the passing of time by how much older our children are! (We get older too!)
In summation, I always love to perform the standard repertoire, as there are enough sandwiched in between the new pieces. But what I find truly gratifying is that these new commissioning projects have brought me to many new places, working with wonderful musicians and music directors, and forging new friendships in music. I find it amazing how cities and orchestras get better over long spans of time.