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Saluting Joseph Flummerfelt

Joseph Flummerfelt and the New York Philharmonic

Say it ain't so, Joe!

We salute our close friend and artistic partner Joseph Flummerfelt. This week's concerts, with the New York Premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Karawane, are the last in the legendary choral director's 44-year run of preparing choruses for New York Philharmonic concerts, as he is retiring after this season.

Highlights of his career with us include Brahms's A German Requiem nine days after 9/11, John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls a year later (the recording of which won three Grammys), and last season's Verdi Requiem (see photo). Listen to the Verdi Requiem here.

If you've joined us or will join us for a concert this month, you may have seen the feature article on Joe in Playbill. It gives you an appreciation of his thoughtful, erudite, and deeply musical nature, and of the largely behind-the-scenes yet crucial role the choral preparer plays. If not, check it out here.

At the start of yesterday's rehearsal, Music Director Alan Gilbert congratulated Joe on stage in front of the orchestra, and they gave him a rousing round of applause.

Thank you, Joe, and best of luck.

(Photo: Chris Lee)

Joseph Flummerfelt New York Philharmonic

On the Cover: Blake Hinson Gives a New View on Strauss

In this final installment of this month's On the Cover series, Philharmonic bassist Blake Hinson gives us his perspective on Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. Blake plays a bow's-eye-view excerpt of the spinning, energy-building — and, for bassists, pulse-racing — section beginning at rehearsal nine.

Learn more about Blake Hinson.

On the Cover: Blake Hinson

Star Wars or Star Trek? 

A. Star Wars

B. Star Trek

C. Neither

D. AAooooo….Noooo  (read: cannot compute, decision not possible)

If your answer was D, you and October’s On the Cover musician, Philharmonic double bassist Blake Hinson, can relate.

Get to know Blake through his video Q&A above.

You’ll also see Blake in action, behind the scenes, in another Instagram Tuesday Takeover. Bass nerds, Blake will blow your mind with his GoPro video of Rehearsal 9 of Ein Heldenleben.

Tune in to the Philharmonic’s Spotify account and jam along with Blake’s mixtape. See below.

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr, and YouTube to get the full On the Cover experience! See all the On the Cover posts here.

Learn more about Blake Hinson.

On the Cover: Pascual Martínez Forteza

How do you get to be in the New York Philharmonic? Be extraordinary.

Philharmonic musicians are models of extraordinary virtuosity and determination, on top of being extraordinarily cool people! That’s why we’re launching On the Covera new series highlighting Philharmonic musicians.

Over the past few years, you've seen that a different Philharmonic musician graces the cover of Playbill each month. On the Cover gives each cover musician an opportunity to engage with you in new and exciting ways on social media and nyphil.org. 

We love sharing concert photos, intriguing stories, and behind-the-stage action with our social-media followers, and now we are excited to share engaging content designed by and/or featuring our cover musicians. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, Tumblr, and YouTube to get the full On the Cover experience!

Our first On the Cover musician, on the September Playbill, is clarinetist Pascual Martínez Forteza. Later this month, we'll share his curated Spotify playlist [see below] of what he's listening to, plus a video in which he plays some of his favorite parts of Beethoven's Seventh. Pascual will also take over our Instagram account to show you life as an Orchestra musician through his eyes.

We hope you like On the Cover — let us know what you think!

The Price of Being an Artist

Ice Maiden Video Shoot

Opening tonight, A Dancer’s Dream is what director/designer Doug Fitch calls an “über Fairy Tale,” combining Stravinsky’s disparate ballets The Fairy’s Kiss and Petrushka to create a new narrative.

Here’s the story: a young woman, played by ballerina Sara Mearns, sits entranced at a Philharmonic concert. She is “kissed” by the passion to become an artist and drawn into the performance, dancing to the complete score of The Fairy’s Kiss. By the second act, she has completed her transformation into an artist, becoming Columbine in Petrushka. But becoming an artist has consequences. As Giants Are Small detailed in a production plan, “she loses her ability to have an ordinary life as the demons of ambition and love claim her as their plaything.”

The real Sara Mearns can relate. As she told The New York Times, "It's kind of true that you have this massive dream to be this ballerina, to be out there onstage performing, and you pour everything into it. Then there is a point where you feel like you are trapped in it and cannot get out. And that is the curse.”

Stravinsky meditated on this theme in The Fairy’s Kiss, which he dedicated to Tchaikovsky, an artist who paid this price (“Tchaikovsky’s personal life was a mess,” Mr. Fitch says in the Times). As Stravinsky inscribed in the score: “I dedicate this ballet to the memory of Pyotr Tchaikovsky by relating the Fairy to his Muse, and in this way the ballet becomes an allegory, the Muse having similarly branded Tchaikovsky with her fatal kiss, whose mysterious imprint made itself felt in all this great artist’s work.”

Deciphering the Dream

Deciphering the Dream

"Tonight, our story unfolds as a kind of über Fairy Tale, connecting two great ballets by Stravinsky,” explains  Doug Fitch,  director/designer of A Dancer's Dream, in a note for Playbill: “The thread that weaves them all together takes the form of a young woman who slips into the world of her own imagination and is swept away by muses to become a ballerina.

"The Fairy’s Kiss is based on a haunting story by Hans Christian Andersen (The Ice Maiden) and was composed by Stravinsky as an homage to Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky saw the ‘kiss’ as a metaphor for the artistic gift — that mysterious, intangible phenomenon that can bestow immortality, but not without extracting its human price. We have merged these into a kind of daydream — a reverie induced by the seductive and transformative power of great music…. She then enters into the world of the Shrovetide Fair-setting of Petrushka and becomes the puppet ballerina character Columbine. Things in this daydream seem to have real consequences and it is hard to distinguish the artifice from the reality it is designed to imitate.

"After its premiere, Stravinsky said that dance is not applied arts — it is a union of arts; they strengthen and complement each other. It is in this spirit of developing a union between artistic media — some old, some new — that we have pursued this project…. We invite you to enter this world with us — to put together the pieces in your own mind and to weave your own stories as you watch and listen. You are very much a part of this collaboration."

(Photo of A Dancer’s Dream rehearsal courtesy of Giants Are Small)

Mearns's Turn

Sara Mearns in Rehearsal

“I think if you are a true artist, passionate about your art form, who can’t imagine life without it, you are kissed with this curse of always trying to do your art form justice, create the beauty it deserves. It’s our job as performing artists to give the audience a taste of that passion — to let them fall into that world,” says New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns, who is featured in this month’s Playbill as we gear up for A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky  at the end of June. Learn how she’ll be transforming into an Ice Fairy and a marionette when she appears with Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic.

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