Feb 26 2012
Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Symphony returned to the C. W. Post campus of Long Island University, about 50 minutes from midtown Manhattan, for the first time since 1988. Long Island is the 17th largest island in the world with over 7.5 million residents. The Post campus is named for Charles William Post of the Post cereal company. The administration has offices in the original mansion given to the private liberal arts college with 10,000 students and more on a second campus in Brooklyn. The campus has a sprawling country estate feel with an arboretum open to the public for walking among rare species of trees and plants. I walked a little but in the winter and at night with a howling wind and light snow blowing the conditions were not ideal for exploring. Even so it was lovely.
It was great to see LIU’s Dean of Visual and Performing Arts Noel Zahler, who I last saw on opening night at Heinz Hall in September just before he left his post as as Head of the Carnegie Mellon School of Music. He is delighted with his new job. Wife Clara Zahler is also working for the college at the Tilles Center. They live just 8 minutes away.
There were lots of fun stickers backstage as in many theaters from visiting productions and shows including a Pittsburgh Symphony tour sticker from 1988. Ed Stephan warmed up on his drum pad while violinist Peter Snitkovsky and Bass Drum regular John Soroka continued their 34-year-long backgammon game in the break from the rehearsal.
George Lindsay, Jr. is the General Manager of the Tilles. He expressed a genuine delight in working with over 150 students to put on thousands of shows in the 30 years he’s been in the theater. The staff including the technical director Thomas Pascarella could not have been nicer. The student union was a little sleepy. The Starbucks Coffee shop closed at 7:00 pm. Only 2,000 students live on campus; 8,000 are commuters. George told me the business has really changed. Subscribers are now much older. Most concert goers decide at the last minute. I heard some nice spots on WQXR for the Pittsburgh concert.
Six orchestras will visit C. W. Post this season– down from 13 orchestras in a single season a number of years ago. The Dresden Philharmonic and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos will appear on March 30. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo had been there Friday night. Alan Gilbert led the New York Philharmonic in Thomas Ades’ Polaris in January. The Leipzig String Quartet, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and the Soweto Gospel Choir are all coming this season.
Lorin Maazel brought the Orchestra of France in 1984. Kurt Masur, Alan Gilbert, Yo Yo Ma, Herbie Hancock and many many more have their photos on the wall just outside the 2200-seat theater built in 1981.
Steven Stucky’s Silent Spring was received warmly on Long Island. He has three pieces in New York this week. The New York Philharmonic is playing Son et Lumière three times and on Friday the New Amsterdam Singers will perform his Whispers, written in 2002, at the Church of the Holy Trinity. Steven is the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Composer of the Year. Manfred Honeck will take his Dreamwaltzes on tour in October, 2012.
Hilary Hahn was sensational in a red gown for her performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto. The Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony drew applause at its false ending that often confuses audiences. After the final blast, there was a standing ovation. Then came the Kabalevsky encore, the Galop from The Comedians ion which Principal Clarinetist Michael Rusinek cuts loose with a solo cadenza that is different every time.
Violinist Louis Lev told me he was going to investigate an all-night chess emporium in Greenwich Village where you can join in the fun of some fighting chess every day of the year, 24 hours a day.
I enjoyed walking around the student union at LIU with banners for the fraternities and sororities. Posters suggest “Find Out How Good You Really Are,” encouraging potential students to explore careers such as radio. One poster features a successful grad who was offered a job on Z-100 New York even before he graduated.
For principal Trumpet George Vosburgh, it was a return to his old stomping ground. He grew up just thirty miles away from CW Post in Nassau County’s Woodmere near Kennedy Airport.
Tinsy Lipchak and Visit Pittsburgh have gathered contacts for business growth opportunities to hear the concert this afternoon. They are meeting first at the Porter House restaurant in the Time Warner Center. Representatives of tour sponsor Alcoa Foundation will be backstage to say hello to Manfred Honeck.
I saw Berlin Philharmonic conductor Simon Rattle in the lobby yesterday with his wonderful frizzy white hair. He was gone before I could whip out my camera. The Berliners are back on the plane this afternoon and the Pittsburgh Symphony will be back in the city Monday night.
In just three hours at Avery Fisher Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic, we’ll hear the Pittsburgh Symphony there for the first time since 1991 with Lorin Maazel.