20 Questions with Ingrid Fliter

Ingrid Fliter, piano

Ingrid Fliter, piano

Meet Ingrid Fliter! This internationally renowned Argentinian pianist joins the Houston Symphony on March 9, 11 & 12 for performances of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Get to know our special guest with these fun questions.

Calvin Dotsey: What’s one thing most people don’t realize about playing the piano?

Ingrid Fliter: That it is indeed a percussion instrument, but we shouldn’t make it sound like one (except for some specific works).

CD: If you could go back in time and meet one person, who would it be?

IF: Beethoven.

CD: What is your biggest dream?

IF: To save animals from mistreatment.

CD: What is your spirit animal?

IF: Dog.

CD: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

IF: Flight.

CD: What is the last recording you listened to?

IF: Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin as performed by pianist Zoltan Kocsis.

CD: What’s something that scares you?

IF: Loosing freshness of spirit.

CD: Describe the music you are going to perform in three words.

IF: Beautiful, sparkling, alive.

CD: What is the last really delicious thing you ate?

IF: Argentinian Asado.

Lake Como. Photo Credit: Bernini Massimo.

Lake Como. Photo Credit: Bernini Massimo.

CD: What are you most proud of?

IF: My family.

CD: What is your favorite place in the world?

IF: Lake Como.

CD: What is the last book you enjoyed reading?

IF: A Year with Schopenhauer by E. Yalom.

CD: What is the last movie or TV show you enjoyed watching?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an American police sitcom.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an American police sitcom.

IF: Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

CD: Name one person who inspires you.

IF: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

CD: If you had to have a job in a different field, what would it be?

IF: Painter or…hairdresser.

CD: What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

IF: That I’ve designed a dog’s coat collection.

CD: If you were a musical key, what key would you be?

IF: Eb Major.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was one of the great baritones of the 20th century.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was one of the great baritones of the 20th century.

CD: What is the natural tempo marking of your life?

IF: Allegro agitato.

CD: What’s one quality you look for in all your friends?

IF: Honesty.

CD: If you had to play another instrument, what instrument would you pick?

IF: Clavicembalo or French Horn.

Don’t miss Ingrid Fliter with the Houston Symphony March 9, 11 & 12, 2017. Get tickets and more info here.

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20 Questions with Fabien Gabel

Fabien Gabel, conductor

Fabien Gabel, conductor

On March 9, 11 & 12, the Houston Symphony welcomes acclaimed conductor Fabien Gabel back to Jones Hall for an exciting program of Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn. Get to know our guest maestro with these fun (and surprising!) questions.

Calvin Dotsey: What’s one thing most people don’t realize about conducting? 

Fabien Gabel: How physical it can be. After a concert, I feel like I’ve just spent 3 hours at the gym.

CD: If you could go back in time and meet one person, who would it be? 

FG: Louis XIV. Everytime I go to Versailles I am in awe.

CD: What is your biggest dream?

FG: That my 6 month old start sleeping through the night!

CD: What is your spirit animal? 

FG: A frog! I’m French after all…

CD: If you could have a superpower, what would it be? 

FG: Flying – I would avoid long lines at customs!

CD: What is the last recording you listened to?

"Everytime I go to Versailles I am in awe."

“Everytime I go to Versailles I am in awe.”

FG: Harlem – Duke Ellington.

CD: What’s something that scares you? 

FG: Disease.

CD: Describe one of the pieces you are going to perform in three words.

FG: Tchaikovsky’s 6th- Intense, passionate, heartbreaking.

CD: What gets on your nerves?

FG: Rudeness.

CD: What are you most proud of? 

FG: My three children.

CD: What is your favorite place in the world? 

FG: Anywhere where I am on vacation with my family.

CD: What is the last book you enjoyed reading? 

FG: Robert Schumann’s biography.

CD: What is the last movie or TV show you enjoyed watching? 

"I always hope to be in the States when Shark Week is on!"

“I always hope to be in the States when Shark Week is on!”

FG: Any shark documentary. I always hope to be in the States when Shark Week is on!

CD: Name one person who inspires you. 

FG: Ricardo Muti. In my opinion he is the greatest living conductor. I’m lucky I was able to play under him when I was a trumpet player.

CD: If you had to have a job in a different field, what would it be? 

FG: A surgeon. Musicians heal souls, surgeons heal bodies!

CD: What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you? 

FG: How much I enjoy baking for my kids. My banana bread is award-winning.

CD: If you were a musical note, what note would you be? 

FG: C4. [Middle C]

CD: What is the natural tempo marking of your life? 

FG: Allegro con spirito.

CD: What’s one quality you look for in all your friends? 

FG: Loyalty.

CD: If you had to play an instrument instead of conduct, what instrument would you pick?

FG: French Horn.

Don’t miss Fabien Gabel conducting Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky March 9, 11 & 12 with the Houston Symphony! Get tickets and more info here.

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The Beauty of Bruckner

“It almost unfolds like a flower—you can almost see and hear the generations of believers for whom the kingdom of heaven has been opened.”

That’s how HS Chorus Director Betsy Cook Weber describes one of her favorite choral masterpieces, Bruckner’s Te Deum. This major work has inspired many attempts to translate its heavenly beauty into words. A great composer in his own right, Gustav Mahler wrote on his copy of the score: “…for the tongues of Angels, heaven-blessed, chastened hearts, and souls purified in the fire!”

Featuring a large orchestra and chorus plus a quartet of vocal soloists, Bruckner himself regarded it as his greatest work, even though it is far more compact than the monumental symphonies he’s best known for. A deeply spiritual man, he is reported to have said:

“When God finally calls me and asks, ‘What have you done with the talent I gave you, my lad?’ I will present to him the score of my Te Deum.”

Part of Bruckner’s secret to composing profoundly moving music is his mastery of gradually building up to incredible climaxes. This poses a great challenge for conductors, who must carefully control the flow of the music to maintain suspense up until the climactic moment.

Fortunately for us, our former Music Director Christoph Eschenbach is returning to Jones Hall this weekend to lead an all-Bruckner program. Principal Horn William VerMeulen said of Eschenbach: “Christoph has a way of pacing things that’s just amazing…there’s a sense of restraint that builds up in a way so that when these climaxes do happen, they’re even more powerful…”

Bruckner’s Te Deum shares the program with his Symphony No. 1, a work that has been somewhat overshadowed by Bruckner’s later (and much longer) symphonies. Had it been by another composer, a work of such quality would likely be more famous today. As VerMeulen told us, “You’re still talking about a great genius…it’s still a fantastic piece and it’s been great to study.” Eschenbach has chosen to champion it this season, conducting Bruckner’s First in Washington D.C. and right here in Houston.

Don’t miss Eschenbach Conducts Bruckner March 3, 4 & 5, 2017! Get tickets and more info here.

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20 Questions with Timothy McAllister

Timothy McAllister, saxophonist of mystery

Timothy McAllister, saxophone

If you haven’t heard, Timothy McAllister is one of the world’s best classical saxophone players. He’s so good, in fact, that he inspired one of America’s greatest living composers, John Adams, to write a Saxophone Concerto just for him. It just might be the greatest Saxophone Concerto ever—but don’t take our word for it. Timothy McAllister will perform this virtuoso showpiece for saxophone and orchestra with the Houston Symphony at our upcoming concert that also features Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. On top of that, Timothy McAllister is from Houston, which obviously means he’s super cool. As evidence, we offer his answers to the 20 questions below.

Calvin Dotsey: What’s one thing most people don’t realize about playing the saxophone?

Timothy McAllister: The saxophone is probably the easiest instrument to pick up immediately and make a sound on, but one of the hardest to play in-tune with a good sound.

CD: If you could go back in time and meet one person, who would it be?

When you think about it, it would make sense to visit Einstein after using a time machine.

When you think about it, it would make sense to visit Einstein after time traveling.

TM: Albert Einstein.

CD: What is your biggest dream?

TM: I’m lucky to say I’m currently living it.

CD: What is your spirit animal?

TM: Velociraptor.

CD: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

TM: Flying, of course.  Heat vision rocks, too.

CD: What is the last recording you listened to?

TM: Philip Glass’s Meetings from the Edge (Pacific Symphony, Carl St. Clair, conductor).

CD: What’s something that scares you?

TM: Velociraptors. Oh, and heights.

CD: Describe the music you are going to perform in three words.

TM: Muscular, sweeping, nostalgic.

CD: What gets on your nerves?

I suppose a velociraptor might fear other velociraptors.

I suppose a velociraptor might fear other velociraptors.

TM: Tardiness.

CD: What are you most proud of?

TM: My six-year old daughter, Roya.

CD: What is your favorite place in the world?

TM: Michigan Stadium on a fall Saturday in Ann Arbor.

CD: What is the last book you enjoyed reading?

TM: The biography on legendary oboist Marcel Tabuteau by Laila Storch.

CD: What is the last movie or TV show you enjoyed watching?

TM: The Lego Batman Movie! It was epic.

CD: Name one person who inspires you.

TM: Michelle Obama.

CD: If you had to have a job in a different field, what would it be?

TM: Geology. I love the study of formations and how tectonic movement shaped beautiful features throughout the world.

CD: What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

We are not that surprised.

We are not that surprised.

TM: Most people don’t realize I’m a massive Star Trek nerd. I think about Star Trek a lot. I mean a lot.

CD: If you were a musical key, what key would you be?

TM: Concert Pitch or transposed? Lol. I play an instrument pitched in either Bb or Eb. But if you must know, F# Major.

CD: What is the natural tempo marking of your life?

TM: Presto.

CD: What’s one quality you look for in all your friends?

TM: Openness.

CD: If you had to play another instrument, what instrument would you pick?

TM: Cello.

Don’t miss Timothy McAllister with the Houston Symphony February 23, 24 & 25, 2017! Get tickets and more info here.

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The Power of Photography Through the Eyes of David Doubilet

Imagine someone gave you a camera and told you to go shoot the essence of Houston. But you only have an hour. And you have less than 100 feet of visibility.

That’s how David Doubilet described difficult assignments as an underwater photographer.

“Photography has the ability to illuminate, surprise, astound, humiliate, and celebrate. The power of photography is like the power of poetry. It has to go right to the heart,” says Doubilet.

swimmer

A swimmer explores waters near Spring, Florida. Credit: David Doubilet.

Our upcoming National Geographic Live speaker series event, the second in a four-event series, features David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes, a husband-and-wife team who have no shortage of adventure in their lives. Doubilet is a National Geographic magazine legend, his captivating work with the publication spanning back to 1971. Hayes is an aquatic biologist, author, and published photojournalist.

From boiling tropics to freezing poles

Doubilet and Hayes routinely travel to remote areas of the world studying the environment and taking pictures that may sometimes seem to be from another planet. But those pictures are of this planet – 70% of it as Doubilet points out.

“Water powers life on earth. But what goes on beneath that surface is intriguing, extraordinary, exciting. It goes beyond the quality of our dreams,” said Doubilet.

papuan_fisherman

A Papuan fisherman stands in a boat above waters teeming with fish. Credit: David Doubilet.

In Papua New Guinea, they were in the “epicenter of marine biodiversity, the empire of coral.” In this area, part of the Coral Triangle, there are over 500 coral species and over 3,000 species of fish.

Doubilet said that diving in the St. Lawrence Gulf is among his happiest adventure as part of this assignment. They spent time observing harp seals – an animal whose time on the ice is very short. They nurse their offspring a few brief days before sending them off on their own. They struggle to survive now as their environment is changing rapidly.

seal_kiss

Two harp seals kiss. Credit: Jennifer Hayes.

Going from the boiling hot tropics to the freezing poles, Doubilet said that working in this field is part adventure and part science, but there’s also a lot of personal emotion involved. His job, he says, is to organize the chaos into the rhythm of an image.

Diving Among Oil Rigs

Part of Doubilet and Hayes travels include a dive near oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Doubilet said he knows first-hand how complex and intensely beautiful oil rigs can be underwater. He described how larvae, algae, armies of angelfish, and barnacles all surround a rig.

“People don’t realize how difficult it is to make gasoline – all that is required to do that,” Doubilet said. “There’s 33,000 miles of pipe there – mostly put down by divers. This goes to the heart of what Houston energy is all about. Doing that and being environmentally responsible – that goes hand in hand. It requires real vision.”

fish_school

A school of Red Pinjalo Snappers swims through Kimbe Bay off the northern coast of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Credit: David Doubilet.

Photography, Doubilet says, has the ability to convince the unconvinced, and it allows us to show the engine of life. Doubilet and Hayes want to open people’s minds to how vital the oceans are and what we’re learning about the systems that make the oceans work.

The future of biodiversity

Being underwater, Doubilet said, is always a challenge and every dive is an exploration. He says he feels that with these dives they are documenting a time and place that may be slipping by us.

Climate change is the looming threat to this intense biodiversity. This, Doubilet says, is where he feels a responsibility as a photographer.

“There are people aware and awake about climate change – they are ready to accept and change our lives for the better. We as Americans have to deal with it too.”

A plane flies above the Hook and Hardy Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef. Credit: David Doubilet.

A plane flies above the Hook and Hardy Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef. Credit: David Doubilet.

When asked what advice he would give to future underwater photographers and biologists, he said:

“The sea needs you – your heart, mind, vision, dreams and poetry. It needs engineers and artists. It needs economists and it needs builders…We have 7.2 billion people on the planet. There’s no free lunch in that…Our children’s children will say, ‘You had your chance – why didn’t you do something about it?’”

This Tuesday evening is going to take you on a journey. And it’s going to challenge what you think you know. This Nat Geo Live speaker series will be held in Jones Hall on January 10 at 7:30pm. Tickets available from $20. 

Note: The Houston Symphony will not be performing at this event.

Posted in 2016-17 Season, Nat Geo Live | Leave a comment