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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Category: Great Performances

Boston Symphony Orchestra Plays a Chilling Tribute to JFK the Afternoon of his Assassination

Andrew Hitz

Music is more powerful than any of us could ever put into words.  When trying to either convey my own emotions or understand someone else's, I always turn to music. I will never forget seeing the Boston Symphony Orchestra play Mahler's 2nd Symphony in tribute to Leonard Bernstein on the opening night at Tanglewood the summer after he passed away.  There were people crying in the audience and players holding back tears on stage.  That performance expressed what could not be expressed in words, exactly how much Bernstein had meant to the Boston Symphony, to Tanglewood and to American music.

This clip is one of the most chilling I've ever heard.  It is from an afternoon concert of the Boston Symphony on November 22, 1963, one of the most infamous days in American history.  Long before every concertgoer had the internet in their pockets, news was not dispersed to people out and about.  You were either next to a TV, a radio or a wired phone.  As a result, the audience at Symphony Hall that afternoon did not know that President Kennedy had died from gunshot wounds suffered in Dallas.

Music director Erich Leinsdorf addresses the crowd at the beginning of the concert and breaks the news to them.  The audible gasps of panic, confusion and sadness are haunting.  They then play possibly the most passionate performance of the funeral march from Beethoven 3 that's ever been played.

But words do this clip justice.  You need to hear it for yourself.

Also, be sure to check out this story from Time Magazine which includes comments from the librarian that day.  He has not been able to bring himself to listen to the above performance even once in the last 50 years.  Incredible stuff.

Gil Shaham - Barber Violin Concerto: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

I don't know about you, but when I was 11 years old I sure as heck wasn't soling with the Israel Philharmonic.  Gil Shaham has been a staple of the violin world for so long that it seems impossible that he could only be in his early 40's. Samuel Barber has been one of my favorite composers since high school when I had the privilege of playing his First Symphony on a European tour with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (now BYSO) in 1992.  He is an amazing composer with a very unique voice.  My father was a fan of Barber's and introduced me to his music.  I remember thinking immediately that he seemed to have something to say as a composer.

My favorite part of this Shaham clip, aside from the phrasing and his amazing tone, is how much fun he is having on stage.  That is not always the case with many professional musicians and is a breath of fresh air.  He really seems to be enjoying the conversation he's having with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and we can all learn from that.


Tuba Legend Bob Stewart Performing Live with John Medeski and Billy Martin

Andrew Hitz

Earlier this month I had the privilege of seeing one of my favorite chamber ensembles in the world Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW) perform at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn.  I have seen them around 75 times in concert and I get very excited for each new opportunity to eavesdrop in person on their musical conversations.  They are three of my favorite musicians in the world and is always a treat to see them in concert. This was a very special gig with a really cool theme.  Instead of just being as an MMW show this was billed as MMW? and featured many guests.  The first set was a straight forward set featuring MMW.  During the 2nd set, one member of MMW at a time was replaced by someone creating a new trio of instruments.  The third set featured the usual trio with guests added.  It was a fantastic concept and came off famously.

Bob Stewart (who you can see killing Voodoo Child in 1976 here) was one of the second set guests and replaced the bass player, Chris Wood, for this jam.  These three had never met before appearing onstage because Bob was a last-minute replacement.  Marcus Rojas, another incredible tuba player from New York City, was supposed to make an appearance.  When I reached out a couple of days beforehand to tell him how excited I was to see him play with two of my favorite musicians in the world he told me that something came up and he wasn't going to be able to make it.  I was devastated.

Little did I know that they would replace him on the bill with a living legend of the tuba, Bob Stewart, whom I had never seen perform.  It was a night to remember and I highly recommend that you pick up the full audience recording made by taper extraordinaire Scott Bernstein (@scott_bernstein).


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