|Posted:||3/6/05; 10:48:09 AM|
|Topic:||The Maestro visits, then leaves|
|Msg #:||1133 (top msg in thread)|
We first got word Saturday afternoon that the Maestro had left, but despite what we call an information age, the Web had nothing about it until this morning. The Baltimore Sun had it first, in what became the basis for wire-service copy:
Sergiu Comissiona, the elegant Romanian-born conductor who transformed the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from a little-known ensemble into a nationally respected orchestra, taking it to Carnegie Hall and Europe and winning for it the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, was found dead yesterday in his Oklahoma City hotel room. Maestro Comissiona apparently died of a heart attack, hours before he was to serve as guest conductor for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. The New York resident was 76. Known for the spontaneity and flair that he brought to the orchestra's playing, Maestro Comissiona led the BSO from 1969 to 1984. "He elevated this orchestra to a level that had never been aspired to, and he created the platform from which to build a world-class orchestra," said John Gidwitz, former BSO president. During his tenure in Baltimore, Maestro Comissiona created an orchestra that, though at times technically uneven, played with passion and expressiveness. The conductor also laid the groundwork for the symphony to take its place among the nation's foremost orchestras. He gradually expanded its season to 52 weeks - a necessary step for it to become truly polished. "They were talking world-class when he was around. That had not happened before," said Melissa Zaraya, a BSO violinist for more than three decades. "He had a wonderful way with French music." [...]Maestro Comissiona became dizzy Friday evening as he was conducting a rehearsal with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, said Mr. Levine, who dropped him off at his hotel. "He said, 'Joel, don't worry. You won't be conducting tomorrow night. Would you turn out the lights please?" Mr. Levine said. Yesterday morning, a hotel worker found the conductor dead. Maestro Comissiona was scheduled to lead a concert with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma this week in Puerto Rico, said the maestro's niece, Jeanne Schayes.I'm a fan of orchestral music and somewhat well-versed in the classics, but not fluent in them. I had not heard of Maestro Comissiona before this week. However, as described by The Oklahoman:
In addition to his guest engagement with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Comissiona will conduct a master class at Oklahoma City University at 4 p.m. Thursday. Four student conductors will be coached by Comissiona. The free master class is open to the public.I was there - not because I was familiar with Comissiona's work, but because one of the four student conductors (I think there were actually five) was Justin. He conducted the overture to Mozart's The Magic Flute with the OCU Symphony, as he had in concert a week earlier. Other students also used that overture, but Justin was obviously a lot more experienced at it. All young conductors tend to work very hard at leading a large ensemble, keeping time like clockwork, mastering the mechanics of the baton as metronome, and adding emotion and style with large body movements. The Maestro, however, looked quite relaxed. He would occasionally stand beside the podium and conduct briefly alongside a student. He kept tempo with the tiniest motions, so larger hand gestures clearly communicated his style and dynamic wishes. He told Justin to have more fun with the overture - it's musical comedy, not Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony (another master class choice). I know that Justin knew that, because he'd often talked about the differences in style between the two pieces, learning how to get a delicate performance after rehearsing the dramatic Tchaikovsky movements. Perhaps it was easier for Justin to fuss with the second violins, as he is one of them when not conducting. Maestro Comissiona spoke of shaping instrumental lines (from what I could hear), turning the notes into music. From my viewpoint, he seemed to have fun working with Justin. I've conducted enough to know I don't want to be a conductor, so I understood what was happening on stage, and it stuck with me through that night. I believe that most creative arts are best when they're least. The less work you do to achieve your desired effect, the stronger the result. Before last week's Oscars, Jim Emerson, writing under Roger Ebert's banner, noted that the statue is often awarded to the people who did the most acting, not the best acting, because the best is often all but invisible. Strunk & White similarly taunt me with rule 17:
17. Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.Few paragraphs make me feel more inadequate. I mainly went to the clinic to support Justin, as part of errands to run in Oklahoma City on Thursday, and to try out the new Canon PowerShot S70 digital camera we got at work this week, hoping it could make decent pictures without me knowing what I'm doing. As it turned out, I still have to know something to get good shots out of odd conditions, like sitting in a dark auditorium and photographing a well-lit stage without using a flash. The pictures wouldn't make anyone's portfolio, except that they were taken about 36 hours before the Maestro passed. Here he is on stage with Justin and the OCU Orchestra.
I expected nothing of the master class than to watch for an hour or two, but I learned anyway, and not just about conducting. I suspect that's what made him a Maestro.
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