Posts Tagged ‘CSU Philharmonic’

Musical Chairs that Make a Big Difference

October 4, 2010

The Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra concert last Thursday was a smash hit.  It was the debut concert for the orchestra’s new leader Paul Hostetter.  Reading his credits and past professional positions makes it easy to understand why his dynamic leadership paid off with a brilliant concert. 

I was so impressed with the CSU Philharmonic Orchestra performance I had to whip out my iPhone and take this picture.

How can Columbus State University attract such high-powered  talent? Money and respect. The extra money comes from endowments called Chairs.  Hostetter is the Ethel Foley Distinguished Chair in Orchestral Conducting. That million-dollar-endowment made number 15 for the Schwob School.  And I am told there are more to come.   Add student scholarships to the roster of world-class faculty members attracted by impressive stipends and you get a good idea why Schwob is probably one of the finest music schools in the country, maybe the world.

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CSU Philharmonic Plays Final Concert of the Year

April 30, 2010

Dr. Fred Cohen, Conductor of the CSU Philharmonic, following October, 2009 concert

It’s your last chance this year to hear one  the finest college symphony orchestras in the world, the Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra. Who says it’s one of the finest?  I do.  How would I know?  Good question.  Last time I discussed it with retired CSU President Frank Brown, he agreed with me.  We couldn’t both be wrong.  Do we have ties with CSU and could that influence our opinion?  Well yes, we do have ties.  He was president for 20 years, and I got a degree there and facilitate a course about Abraham Lincoln for the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning ,which is a part of the CSU continuing education program.  Still, we have both listened to a lot of symphonic music over the course of our lives, and that’s a long time, so we do have some idea of when an orhestra is good. I could also point out that I was a professional musician, but that’s only because I got paid for playing, not because I was a great concert, big band, and jazz combo drummer. I was good enough to know I wasn’t anything to brag about. Still, I did get paid.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself tomorrow night, Saturday, May 1, 2010, at 7:30 at Legacy Hall, whether the CSU Philharmonic is one of the best.  After you attend, you can come back to this post, hit the comment button and let me know if you agree or disagree.   If you love symphonic music, don’t miss it.  They are playing Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, and 3 movements from Bach’s Orchestral Suite #3 and a piece called “Nightsongs” for trumpet and strings and piano. Not only will you enjoy it, you’ll be showing your support for the outstanding , School of Music.

Fred Cohen’s Gift to Maxine Schiffman

October 7, 2009
Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr. Fred Cohen, Director

Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr. Fred Cohen, Director, Dr. Gila Goldstein, piano soloist

 Just as I said it would be, the Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra’s Sunday afternoon concert was special.  In that context, “special” could be inferred as meaning good.  That’s not necessarily the case. Something can be especially bad, but  that was not the case Sunday.

The young musicians once again proved they are up to expertly playing the great classics . They nailed Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E-minor, OP 98, as best as I can tell. And, this time, they showed they were up to to playing a big, new,  and challenging  symphonic work.   That work is what made the concert special, because it was the world premier of Dr. Fred Cohen’s Piano Concerto No. 1

Maxine Schiffman, whose family foundation donated 67 Steinways to CSU Schwob School of Music

Maxine Schiffman, whose family foundation donated 67 Steinways to CSU Schwob School of Music

Dr. Cohen, who is Director of the Schwob School of Music, wrote the Concerto as a gift to Maxine Schiffman to show his appreciation for her family foundation’s  gift of 67 Steinway pianos to the school.  The word “Steinway” is to pianos what the word “Cadillac” is to cars. 

Dr. Gila Goldstein, CSU Professor of Piano

Dr. Gila Goldstein, CSU Professor of Piano

Professor Gila Goldstein brilliantly played the complex and unique concerto on one of the Steinways Sunday.  It’s a Hamburg Steinway.  The sound coming from it was indeed grand. 

What about the Concerto itself?  What was it like?  Was it good?  Not being a musicologist myself, how can I write a review on it?  I decided I can’t.  I can tell you my reaction to it, but it’s not an expert opinion.  All right, I will tell you my reaction to it.  It was exciting, and, since I was a drummer at one time, I really enjoyed the fact that Dr. Cohen effectively used a lot of percussion.  The sounds coming from the orchestra had a uniqueness to them. They certainly weren’t the harmonies of the Romantic and Classical periods of symphonic music.  They were contemporary, and some were dissonant. 

Piano Concerto featured unqiue sounds with lots of percussion. It takes a really big mute for a tuba.

Piano Concerto featured unique sounds with lots of percussion. It takes a really big mute for a tuba.

After the concert, I went out into the lobby looking for a real expert to get a take on the piece.  I found one, retired Columbus Symphony Orchestra violist and pediatrician Dr. Mary Schley. Our conversation went something like this:

“What did you think of the Piano Concerto?”

“It was magnificent!”

“What did you like  about it?”

“The wonderful colors that he gave us.  He is one of the best composers in being able to do that.”

“Could you hum any of it as you leave the theater?”

“I don’t need that.  After all, it’s not a Broadway musical.”

“The great composers like Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms all gave us memorable melodies.”

“I need to hear it again.”

“So do I.”

“Maybe when we hear it again, some of those great colorful passages will provide melodies of color.”

Maybe they will.

I decided to ask a lay person for an impression of it.  “What do you think of concert?” I asked another doctor who was headed for the Spring Harbor bus. (Spring Harbor is a plush, expensive retirement facility.)  I’m not sure he knew I have a blog. So I won’t use his name.

“I liked two-thirds of it.”

“What was the third you didn’t like?”

With a wry smile, he said, “The one in the middle.”

“The Piano Concerto.”

“Right.  I am not much for contemporary music,” he said.  “It has too much dissonance in it.”

An honest answer.

Me? Well, I can enjoy some contemporary music.  I don’t need to hear knock-offs of the great classical composers.  I can get the real thing, and I did with the Mozart and Brahms.  I did enjoy the Piano Concerto because of that color that Dr. Schley talked about, those unique sounds coming not only coming from the orchestra, but also from the piano and, as I said,  the use of a lot of percussion.  As Dr. Schley said, we need to hear it again.