Category Archives: Classical

Meet Sam Boutris: 2016 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist

Sam Boutris, clarinet

Sam Boutris, clarinet

Meet Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist Sam Boutris! This talented 25-year-old clarinetist is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at Yale University and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Curtis Institute of Music.  We recently got a chance to ask Sam a few questions about his life in music.

Houston Symphony: Where did you grow up?

Sam Boutris: Fort Worth, TX.

HS: What role has your family played in your musical life?

SB: My grandparents have supported me in every way imaginable from day one of clarinet.

HS: At what age did you begin playing your instrument and what memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

SB: I began in 6th grade. After seeing the movie Amadeus, particularly the scene in which the woodwinds play his Gran Partita, I was basically hooked for life.

HS: What has been the most exciting event for you in your musical career?

SB: Playing Mozart’s Gran Partita Serenade with Curtis on Tour summer 2013.

HS: Do you have any pre-performance habits or rituals?

SB: Gin and Tonic.

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have had on you?

SB: Ricardo Morales taught me how to practice. Michael Rusinek taught me how to think. Donald Montanaro taught me how to listen.

HS: Who is the most famous person you have met or worked with?

SB: Tony Hawk—he gave me his hat.

HS: What are the “top five” pieces or songs on your playlist or iPod?

Photo credit: Stuart Sevastos

“Tony Hawk. He gave me his hat.”

SB: Late Mozart piano concertos, Of Monsters and Men.

HS: Do you have any favorite TV shows?

SB: The Office.

HS: What is your favorite kind of food?

SB: Texas Barbecue.

HS: Do you have a favorite city or travel destination?

SB: Dallas.

A man of few words—but lots of music! See the inimitable Sam Boutris perform Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major for FREE at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music on Thursday June 2. And don’t forget to get tickets to the Finals Concert!

 

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Filmmaker Duncan Copp on The Cosmos—An HD Odyssey

Duncan Copp, filmmaker

Duncan Copp, filmmaker

The Houston Symphony caps off its season May 26-29 with The Cosmos, the final journey in its HD Odyssey series. Producer Duncan Copp tells us how he dovetailed high-definition video of the heavens with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World.

Houston Symphony: So far in the HD Odyssey trilogy, The Planets has taken us around our solar system, and The Earth has given us new views of our own home. What will we see in The Cosmos?

Duncan Copp: I think astronomy is experiencing a golden age. We’re seeing the cosmos in a detail never witnessed before. I’ve mined some extraordinary images from the Hubble Space Telescope, revealing star birth and star death in our galaxy, and of course jaw-dropping images of galaxies beyond our own. The video for the symphony’s first movement centers on wonderful time-lapse movies created mainly by astrophotographer Alex Cherney. Alex’s exquisite work captures the stars, planets and our moon as they cartwheel across the heavens. In the third movement, I draw on a satellite called the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It observes the sun in wavelengths invisible to our eyes. This way, the sun reveals itself in its true colors, so to speak—a seething ball of superheated plasma.

HS: Do you have any favorite images?

NCG 4921 - Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive / ESA / NASA

“And there are one or two Hubble images where, apart from the main galaxy that’s featured, it’s possible to see countless other galaxies in the far distance. ” Galaxy NCG 4921 – Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive / ESA / NASA

DC: That’s like asking if I have a favorite Beatles track or movie! I like some for their dynamism, like the giant eruptions on the surface of the sun. The time-lapse astrophotography always draws me in. It’s like a great painting—every time you look, you see something different. And there are one or two Hubble images where, apart from the main galaxy that’s featured, it’s possible to see countless other galaxies in the far distance. You start to feel the incredible enormity of what you’re seeing—galaxies everywhere, each containing hundreds of millions of stars.

HS: When you combined video with Gustav Holst’s The Planets, the titles of the movements tipped you off about linking images to music. How did you go about it with Dvořák?

DC: While Dvořák’s New World doesn’t have the same obvious connection regarding cosmic images, it’s a wonderful and evocative symphony that lends itself to a visual companion. I don’t feel there needs to be a very strong narrative pictorially. The symphony has great tonal and tempo variation within and between movements. That always helps distinguish and delineate my visual vignettes.

HS: Does The Cosmos have spots in which you’re especially proud of how you’ve matched music and video?

Photo credit: Anthony Rathbun

The World Premiere of The Cosmos will be conducted by Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada.

DC: I particularly like the second movement. The tempo, which mostly is slower, is more emotive to me. It lends itself to really absorbing the beauty of the imagery. With the Hubble imagery I used here, I really slowed down the tracking movements. I think that heightens a synergy between what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing.

HS: Video technology must have advanced since you created The Planets in 2009. Can you do anything in The Cosmos that you couldn’t back then?

DC: We have worked very hard to create a production that enables conductors to interpret the symphony in whatever manner they want. This of course can be tricky. How can we keep the music and pictures in sync during every performance, and with different conductors’ interpretations? With refinement, and with the advent of better software and hardware, we think we’ve found a solution. It allows us to edit the production in real time during a performance, without compromising my original edit. Conductors have the freedom to express themselves without being slaves to the video.

Don’t miss the World Premiere of The Cosmos—An HD Odyssey, May 26, 27, 28 & 29 at Jones Hall! Click here for tickets and more information.

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Meet Christine Lee: 2016 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist

Christine Lee, cello

Christine Lee, cello

Meet Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist Christine Lee! This talented 24-year-old cellist is a recent Master of Music graduate of The Juilliard School and an artist-in-residence at Queen Elisabeth Chapelle Musicale for the 2015-16 season.  We recently got a chance to ask Christine a few questions about her life in music.

Houston Symphony: Where did you grow up and how did that community affect who you have become?

Christine Lee: Korea and Philadelphia—I have been exposed to many different cultures. I’ve learned to appreciate their differences and be open to them!

HS: Are there other musical people in your family?

CL: No, I’m the only one, however my family is my rock! They carry me through the difficult times and am grateful for the fact that I have unconditional support. They have encouraged me to give back to the society and share my passion. Never underestimate the power of music!

HS: At what age did you begin playing your instrument and what memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

Pablo Casals. Not only for his music for his belief in humanity and peace!

“Pablo Casals. Not only for his music, but also for his belief in humanity and peace!”

CL: I started playing the piano when I was five and also took some singing lessons at the same time. I started playing the cello when I turned seven. I remember being excited to “practice” because I was allowed to watch TV while I would work on my bow grip. I also remember feeling like a princess when I was able to wear dresses for performances when I was younger.

HS: What has been the most exciting event for you in your musical career?

CL: There are so many! For me, every time I go on stage is a new adventure. One of the most memorable experiences was when I traveled to Europe for the first time with some of my favorite people for a tour in 2010.

HS: Do you have any pre-performance habits or rituals?

CL: Remember to breathe! I like to eat bananas and chocolate also…

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have had on you?

CL: Pablo Casals. Not only for his music, but also for his belief in humanity and peace!

HS: What have you been listening to lately?

CL: For this week, some of the pieces I’ve been listening to are Haydn Piano trio No.19 in G minor and Vaughan Williams Piano Quintet.

HS: Do you have a favorite TV show?

CL: These days…Californication.

"Paris is always a good idea."

“Paris is always a good idea.”

HS: Do you have a favorite city or travel destination?

CL: Paris is always a good idea.

HS: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?

CL: Yes! Too many to list, but one that occupies me the most these days is French.

See Christine Lee perform for FREE at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music on Thursday June 2. And don’t forget to get tickets to the Finals Concert!

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Q&A with Pianist Gabriela Montero

Gabriela Montero, piano

Gabriela Montero, piano

Venezuelan pianist, improviser and composer Gabriela Montero has won over Houston Symphony audiences many times. Aside from her performances as part of our Classical Subscription Series, she has also helped us celebrate special occasions with her awe-inspiring talent: she was the guest soloist for our 2014 ¡Bienvenido Andrés! concert, which began Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s tenure as Houston Symphony Music Director, and she also appeared as guest soloist for our Fiesta Sinfónica concert later that fall.

We are very excited to welcome her back to Houston to perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto. In addition to her acclaimed interpretations of the standard repertoire, she is also world famous for her astonishing ability to improvise and has recently released a recording of one of her original compositions, Ex Patria (audience members at the concerts this weekend will have the opportunity to purchase this CD and have it autographed by Gabriela). I recently got the chance to ask this amazing pianist, improviser and composer a few questions about her upcoming concerts and career.

Calvin Dotsey: How would you describe Grieg’s Piano Concerto to someone who has never heard it before?

Edvard Grieg ca. 1870, two years after he composed his Piano Concerto.

Edvard Grieg ca. 1870, two years after he composed his Piano Concerto.

Gabriela Montero: The Grieg Concerto is a piece perfectly balanced with virtuosity, melancholy and innocence. Its power lies in its nobility—never showing off and always introspective.

CD: What do you think about when you are preparing and performing this piece?

GM: As with every other piece, I try to live every note, every metaphor and every emotion. It is a physical experience—a symbiosis with the composer.

CD: Do you have any favorite passages you would like to highlight for the audience? What do you personally love about this piece?

GM: The cadenza is very powerful. The mysterious build up to the climax is extremely moving and always gives me shivers. I love the naïveté of the concerto but also the Nordic masculinity of it. The contrasts, the tenderness…

CD: You are famous throughout the world for your astonishing improvisations. When and how did you learn to improvise?

GM: I have always improvised. The first thing I would do as a very young girl, was sit down at the piano and improvise stories. I never learned to improvise (I don’t believe you can—that is an oxymoron in my opinion. How can you learn something that by definition, should not exist?) and I also don’t believe you can practice it. When I improvise, it is always in the moment and I have no plan, no structure and no awareness of what is happening or will happening. I find that the most liberating experience in my life.

Gabriela's latest recording captures several of her improvisations and features an original work she composed for piano and orchestra, Ex Patria. Copies of this CD will be available for purchase at the concert, where she will sign CDs.

Gabriela’s latest recording captures several of her improvisations and features an original work she composed for piano and orchestra, Ex Patria.

CD: Do you think improvisation should be better integrated into music education than it is today? How does improvisation affect the way you interpret works that have been written down?

GM: I think everyone should find a way to improvise—the results don’t really matter (especially in private!) but the process is invaluable to bringing you to a different intimacy in your relationship with your instrument. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong. Of course there are many different levels of it, but the essential goal should be to find your voice as a communicator—not a performer. What I am interested in is artists who LIVE music, not perform it.

CD: Are you working on any new compositions?

GM: I am going to try to find some time to write some piano solo repertoire and perhaps a clarinet and piano sonata. If only I had a clone, a nanny, a cook and a teleporting machine!

Don’t miss Gabriela Montero performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto May 21 & 22 at Jones Hall! Click here for tickets and more information.

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Meet Brian Lin: 2016 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist

Brian Lin, piano

Brian Lin, piano

Meet Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist Brian Lin! This talented 24 year old pianist received his bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School in 2014, where he is currently pursuing his master’s degree with Joseph Kalichstein and Yoheved Kaplinsky. We recently got a chance to ask Brian a few questions about his life in music.

Houston Symphony: Where did you grow up and how did that community affect who you have become?

Brian Lin: I grew up in Shenzhen, China. It’s a mega-city just like New York. It made me a city-person and is probably one of the reasons why I like New York so much now.

HS: Are there other musical people in your family?

BL: My dad used to be an amateur clarinetist and saxophonist, so he really loved music and started me on piano. He has always encouraged me to pursue music as my career.

HS: At what age did you begin playing your instrument and what memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

BL: I started learning piano when I was 4 and 1/2. I don’t really remember my very first performance, but I remember my first performance with an orchestra at the age of 15. It was during the finals of the Virginia Waring Competition and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had as a musician.

HS: What has been the most exciting event for you in your musical career?

BL: It is hard to pin-point one event that was the most exciting for me, but traveling all over the world has definitely been extremely exciting for me always.

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have had on you?

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“I like to watch Friends, 24, Sherlock and Game of Thrones.”

BL: I am very easily influenced by all kinds of people and as a result I don’t have any specific people in mind who have had the most profound influences on me. I’d say that all of my piano teachers, present or past, have made huge impacts on me and made me who I am today.

HS: Who is the most famous person you have met or worked with?

BL: I had masterclasses with Murray Perahia and Richard Goode.

HS: Do you have any favorite TV shows?

BL: I like to watch Friends, 24, Sherlock and Game of Thrones.

HS: Do you have any favorite sports teams?

BL: Houston Rockets!

HS: What kinds of food do you like?

BL: All kinds of Asian food, especially spicy food.

HS: Do you have a favorite city or destination to visit?

by chensiyuan

“Both Paris and NYC are favorites.”

BL: Both Paris and NYC are favorites.

HS: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?

BL: I like playing computer games and basketball.

See Brian Lin perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor for FREE at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music on Thursday June 2. And don’t forget to get tickets to the Finals Concert!

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