music for the eyes

Here’s a fun one: My local community/university orches­tra will be pre­mier­ing a new piece this week­end. Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity com­poser Mark Apple­baum has com­posed a work for orches­tra with a spe­cial, unusual soloist: a florist.

The Con­certo for Florist and Orches­tra riffs on the tra­di­tional notion of a con­certo, where one or more vir­tu­oso solists duke it out musi­cally with an accom­pa­ny­ing ensem­ble. In the new work, the orches­tra will play and the florist will…presumably array flow­ers and leaves vir­tu­os­ti­cally all over the stage. Some musi­cal con­certo soloists have rep­u­ta­tions for being high-strung indi­vid­u­als, and to my mind the new piece also riffs on the idea of florists some­times hav­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for being just as high-strung.

The work’s soloist will be James Del­Prince, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Plant and Soil Sci­ences with a spe­cial­iza­tion in Flo­ral Design and Inte­rior Plantscap­ing Design at Mis­sis­sippi State Uni­ver­sity. On his cam­pus biog­ra­phy page Del­Prince writes, “The aes­thet­ics of hor­ti­cul­ture involve recog­ni­tion of the intrin­sic beauty of plants and flow­ers along with the prac­ticed skill of flo­ral design and inte­rior plant place­ment. I enjoy and value the oppor­tu­nity to bring under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion of flo­ral and plant design to peo­ple.” And this weekend’s performance–the sec­ond time Del­Prince has worked flo­ral magic with Mark Applebaum’s music to accom­pany him–seems like a great way to bring some of that appre­ci­a­tion to a dif­fer­ent sort of audi­ence than peo­ple look­ing for some­thing to dec­o­rate their wedding.

If you want more tra­di­tional fare, the all-concerto con­cert opens with Prokofiev’s Sec­ond Vio­lin Con­certo, with Han­nah Cho, win­ner of the orchestra’s 2009 Youth Artist Com­pe­ti­tion. Clos­ing the evening will be another “con­cep­tual con­certo,” Béla Bartók’s Con­certo for Orches­tra, a con­certo with no soloists at all other than mem­bers of the orches­tra, all of whom will have to work pretty hard to play the score.

One of my music profs from many years ago, Robert Erick­son, was famous for shut­ting his eyes when lis­ten­ing to per­for­mances. He wasn’t bored; he just didn’t want the visu­als to get in the way of truly hear­ing the music. You won’t want to shut your eyese for Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances.

The La Jolla Sym­phony per­forms. Steven Schick conducts.

9 thoughts on “music for the eyes

  1. Elephant's Eye

    Yes, do tell … what did you think? Elbeth Lieben­berg says she prefers to call her­self a flo­ral artist. Have been to a few fas­ci­nat­ing demon­stra­tions — where they talked us thru , the con­cept and the design.

    Mar­i­olijn went to Pak­istan, then showed us the Himalayas. A few years back … but a piece of bark laid hor­i­zon­tally for the foothills, then cat’s tail aspara­gus for the conifer trees, and those diaphanous silk scarves for the swirls of cloud on the moun­tain tops. More I can’t remem­ber, but the whole stood as tall as she did, and we saw, the Himalayas.

  2. Stacy

    I think my nephew may be play­ing in that — he’s a cel­list with the La Jolla Sym­phony. Thanks for the alert — I’ll have to find out more!

  3. Janet/Plantaliscious

    That sounds inter­est­ing! I hope there will be some stills to help us get some idea of what hap­pens. I hop eyou are going and will share your impressions?

    I rather like Bar­tok, have done ever since we stud­ied some of his piano pieces for a music exam. I started off hat­ing it and ended up lov­ing it.

  4. lostlandscape Post author

    Susan, yes, I’m going tonight. I’ll def­i­nitely have some­thing to say. Maybe even some pictures…

    EE, I think “flo­ral artist” might be a bet­ter name for what this per­son will end up doing tonight, but I think “florist” got picked for its shock(?) value. (Def­i­nitely more shock­ing than “flautist”!

    Stacy, small world! Hope­fully you’ll get the inside scoop on the orchestra’s expe­ri­ence per­form­ing the piece.

    Janet, I’ll try to have some­thing intel­li­gent or at least semi-amusing to tell after the con­cert. Will it be just a stunt? Or will it actu­ally make sense? I’m look­ing for­ward to the Bar­tok Concerto–that final move­ment really kicks!

  5. Stacy

    Fwiw, I asked my nephew about the con­certo after the dress rehearsal, and he said it was quite a tricky piece — like Webern in the first move­ment, Boulez in the sec­ond, and Xenakis in the third. I.e., even for a 20th-century music buff like him, the piece held water. But he said it also had a fun tongue-in-cheekness through­out, as in the gong-cued, giant pruning-shear “snips” the florist made at the end of the piece. He thought it would def­i­nitely be an “expe­ri­ence” for the concert-goers (some­thing that *had* to be expe­ri­enced live), but as a player, there wasn’t much actual inter­ac­tion between orches­tra and florist, even though the florist soloist :) seemed to have a good sense of rhythm. (He also said that the stage smelled *fantastic.*)

    (And he also waxed elo­quent and enthu­si­as­tic about the La Jolla Symphony’s pro­gram­ming in general.)

  6. lostlandscape Post author

    Stacy, thanks very much for the behind the scenes look at per­form­ing the piece. I did make it, and took some pho­tos, and hope to get­ting around to post­ing a brief con­cert review. All in all I enjoyed myself, but thought that the soloist was an unnec­es­sary dis­trac­tion from the music, par­tic­u­larly since, as you point out, there was min­i­mal inter­ac­tion writ­ten into the score. I think the music held up fairly well, except for the last 2–3 min­utes where things just fell apart. (It wasn’t the per­for­mance, it was com­posed that way.) Any­way, more later!

  7. Pingback: [ Lost in the Landscape ] » concert review: concerto for florist

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