San Juan Symphony Treats the Palm to Full Orchestra, Virtuoso Bassoon
by Art Goodtimes
Feb 19, 2009 | 834 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SCHUBERT’S UNFINISHED … I have to admit bias upfront. I’m a big fan of town doc David Homer, who manages to play classical bass, as well as serve the community as a primary health provider and the county’s official physician. So when he told me the San Juan Symphony was coming to town, I was interested. But getting interested enough to make it up to Telluride from Norwood is often another thing … Then I saw the program. Franz Peter Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor was to lead off the set, and I was hooked … As a young man, the oldest in my working-class family, I was somewhat precocious. I spent my seventh- and eighth-grade years reading science fiction, running my own corporate conglomerate (the Arturo Company), directing plays I’d written for the neighborhood kids, developing my own alphabet and designing an octagonal dream home. And I listened to classical music on old 78 LPs in my second-floor room, all tricked out in knotty pine. As it was, one of my favorite pieces had been Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony … So, I was excited to connect to my past, as well as enjoy the power and beauty of a full symphony orchestra – something that, living out in the rural West, had eluded me for over 30 years … And I wasn’t disappointed. Hardly. I have to say the performance, for me, was ecstatic! Philip Mann with his coiffed flamboyant ’do and black tux commanded the music with a wild dance of baton and hands, completely inhabiting every nuance of sound with definitive gesticulation and poise. The San Juan Symphony with professional musicians from all over the region (as well as our own semi-professional David Homer) was excellent. Timing was on the button, solos articulate and crisp, and the full effect of Schubert with its clash between softly plucked violas and crashing full-on crescendos was incredibly moving. As Mann explained after the first piece with its two movements, Schubert – who died at 31 and never got to hear one of his symphonies performed in public – may have stopped because there was perhaps no way to follow his Allegro and Andante with two more movements, particularly a finale – anything more would only weaken what had already been done … The Unfinished is brilliant in just two movements, and I now see why as a young man I was so overwhelmed with the play between “a bittersweet melody spun from a spooky amalgam of clarinet and oboe sounds” in the first movement to a “death-defying pianissimo before bringing those violins back safe to the home key” in the second … But the program didn’t end there. It got even better. Virtuoso bassoonist Benjamin Kamins took center stage for Vivaldi’s Concerto for Bassoon in E minor and was an absolute delight with his dazzling mastery of basso profundo runs and glissandos. Then, after intermission, Mann’s “Sketchy Business” program took an amazing leap from the baroque to the contemporary with American avant garde composer Michael Dougherty’s hilarious musical spoof, Dead Elvis. The thread that made it credible after Vivaldi was its focus on the bassoon again. Only this time out comes the duded up Kamins in a white sequin Elvis costume, acting out the rock star role to a chorus of screeching women admirers, tossing his guitar off stage, embracing the bassoon, and performing in his virtuoso manner (actually a theme borrowed from Dies Irae, a Church piece usually done for the dead), as though the classical music and his bassoon were rock music and a rock instrument. I found it funny, goofy and absolutely riveting … And then Mann brought us back to the romantic era with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. As someone said after, we all know and have heard that piece, but this person had never seen it actually performed. Neither had I. It’s lush, lovely and as big a sound as any orchestra piece written. A spectacular finish which drew a standing ovation – yes, for the last piece, but really for a marvelous evening of classical sound at its most intricate and triumphant (with even a little virtuoso detour into the experimental present) … I promised myself afterwards to do everything I can not to miss the San Juan Symphony the next time they come to town. Bravo!

FOREST SERVICE … Maybe it was a throwback to the days when this agency was run by federal folks who placed little truck in local viewpoints. Worried about endangered species and municipal watersheds, San Miguel County was outspoken in its opposition to some very bad lease sales on national forest lands recently, even to the point of rudeness to ground-level USFS soldiers forced to parade a bad idea out for public review at the behest of a ideologically skewed lame-duck administration … But in the end, Forest Service officials showed their true colors, took our criticisms to heart, and deferred what were clearly ill-considered gas leases. More power to them! … I think our Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond and our Regional Forester Rick Cables deserve a big round of applause from citizens all over our county. Turning back a bad idea from higher-ups is never something that gets done easily, but listening to local people in making decision on federal lands is a collaborative management style that deserves wide praise. Thank you to all the men and women in green. And my personal apologies for any harshness in my original outrage at these particular gas leases.

CLUB 15? … I appreciated Ouray-based David Mullings' recent Brand X editorial supporting the Grand Junction-based booster organization for oil and gas interests (oh yes, and some Western Slope issues too) and urging Ouray County to continue bankrolling this exclusive business club. But I'm a little surprised Editor Mullings is so sure that this group is a good fit for Ouray County, after conferring only with the group's director, Reeves Brown. I don't recall Mullings attending club meetings in the 10 years I was associated with the group. Nor do I believe that the Ouray or Ridgway papers are paid members of this group themselves … What Editor Mullings did do, however, was neglect to inform Ouray County citizens that not only San Miguel County but county governments in San Juan, Gunnison, Eagle and Archuleta have all dropped out of the club this year and refused to pay their annual dues … Or that Brown tried to recruit the Town of Ridgway last year to join up, and was politely refused. Which has to make one wonder, is an industry organization rejected by so many surrounding counties and towns for its corporate bias really deserving of taxpayer funds in these hard economic times?


The field

is good

for Daisies

and the Daisies

for the field

-Jack Mueller

Log Hill Village

from his chapbook “Whacking the Punch Line”

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