November 24, 2020
Notes of Connection and Gratitude
During this holiday season, we asked some of the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians to write about a musical work that reminds them of connection, gathering and gratitude. Associate Principal Horn Herbert Winslow, first violinist Rebecca Corruccini and first violinist Rudolf Lekhter each shared their favorites. Read their personal stories and then listen to the musical works that bring them so much joy and peace.
Thinking about a piece of music that sustains me through these times, gives me hope, keeps me connected, and fills me with gratitude leads me to Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, particularly the Berceuse (Lullaby) and Finale.
A close family member struggles with mental health issues and, for her and me, these last two movements represent the descents into darkness and ascensions back into the promise of a new day that she experiences. The Finale opens with one of the loveliest of all orchestral horn solos, representing the breaking of the dawn out of darkness, and it keeps me connected with her.
As we have struggled throughout this pandemic, I imagine most of us have experienced these same moments of darkness and light. The melancholy bassoon solo, the descending line of the strings nearly extinguishing all hope, the horn’s impression of first light returning, the ascending line of the harp, and the triumph of the brass bringing us back to a new day and new possibilities always lift me up. That these seven and a half minutes of music can portray all these emotions amazes me!
I am grateful this piece means so much to my family member and that I have had the opportunity to play it on a number of occasions with the Minnesota Orchestra. I fondly remember playing this with our retired principals—John Miller on bassoon, Basil Reeve on oboe and Kathy Kienzle on harp—and it connects me to the Orchestra’s past. I look forward to having the chance to play it with bassoonist Fei Xie and our newest principal, harpist Marguerite Lynn Williams, once we can all return to Orchestra Hall!
I'll always be thankful for the Orchestra’s 2015 tour to Cuba, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which connected us to the Cuban people through music. The tour repertoire that best symbolized connection and gathering to me was Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. Beethoven’s design brings together the symphony orchestra, vocal soloists, chorus, and piano soloist. This particular performance brought Cuban and American performers together as well; players in the Minnesota Orchestra were joined by Cuban pianist Frank Fernández, vocal soloists, the Cuban National Choir and Coro Vocal Leo. This piece also happens to be a personal favorite of mine from a young age. My violin teacher during junior high and high school taught me to admire Beethoven amongst classical composers. When I look back on various experiences in my career, this performance in Cuba is a pinnacle amongst concerts!
Somebody once said that music is a body of water that one can compare with the ocean. The image of mighty rivers and smaller streams bringing their tribute of styles and origins of various time and geographical spaces fits this description of music as an ocean. If you extend the analogy you can well find new and old musical worlds just waiting to be discovered. In my long professional musical journey of 50 years, it is difficult to find the most important piece of music to me. I feel torn between such musical giants as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Shostakovich, just to name a few. But lately, since our orchestra with Osmo Vänskä started to dive into the deep waters of Gustav Mahler’s Symphonies, one particular piece of music that brings to my soul solace, joy, sense of peace and hope is the Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.