Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The New Bassoon

Alexey Sizov, RNO principal bassoonist, proudly poses with the new bassoon, flanked by Angelika Lucchetta and her brother Ralf Reiter, proprietors of Wilhelm Heckel GmbH whose workshop in Wiesbaden, Germany hand-crafted the instrument to fit Alexey's hands. The portrait in the background is Wilhelm Heckel, 1856-1905, great-grandfather of Ralf and Angelika.

To learn more about the 160-year-old Heckel family enterprise, renowned for its fine woodwind instruments, click here for a link to the company web site.  To read more about bassoon basics, including an explanation of the German Heckel system, click here.

From Sharon Wing on the road with the RNO in Germany...

I met the RNO in Munich on October 27, where they began a week-long tour. The first concert was enthusiastically received--a program conducted by Maestro Pletnev featuring Glazunov's Prelude from Opus 79, Rachmaninoff's First Piano Concerto with soloist Jonathan Gilad and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15.
After the concert I boarded the bus with all the musicians to return to the hotel. Applause broke out when our principal cellist Alexander Gotgelf approached. Sasha's colleagues were paying tribute to his talent and spirit, demonstrated during the concert. How wonderful it is to see that respect continues and even grows amongst musicians who have played together for almost twenty years!

Next morning Alexey Sizov and I set out quite early to drive from Munich to Wiesbaden. Our mission—to pick up the new bassoon—was still a matter of disbelief and mystery to Alexey. Could this really be happening? In recent months his bassoon had become unreliable and more than troublesome.  During a New York concert of the  RNO Wind Quintet the bottom part of the bassoon crashed to the floor.  In the middle of an orchestra concert the bassoon had fallen apart on several occasions. Still the stressful period of waiting while the Heckel company crafted his new instrument coincided with the global economic crisis. For Alexey it was not at all clear that the necessary funds would be found to pay for the new bassoon. In the end Maestro Pletnev and orchestra friends in many countries made the bassoon a top priority.

At Heckel GmbH in Wiesbaden, the new bassoon had also been a priority for many months. Alexey could not believe his eyes when Ralf Reiter presented the glossy, gleaming black bassoon. The instrument glowed. Alexey glowed, too, as he took it into his hands and began to play—at first simple scales and then excerpts from Tchaikovsky, testing the sound and getting acquainted with his new partner. Alexey needed a lot of time, and indeed he spent more than four hours with Ralf and Angelika, trying many different bocals to select just the right ones for what he called “the RNO sound."

I learned that the bocal is often the most important part of the bassoon. It is the curved metal tube that connects the bassoon’s double reed to the body of the instrument, determining its tone. It comes in many different lengths, depending on the desired tuning and playing characteristics.

Ralf Reiter was patient and helpful to us during this get acquainted and bocal-testing process. Then he packed the new bassoon into a custom-made case for the journey to Nurnberg where the RNO was scheduled to perform an evening concert. While I navigated the autobahn at top speed, Alexey examined each piece of the precious new bassoon.

Major traffic jams in Frankfurt and an accident as we entered Bavaria meant we did not get to Nurnberg in time for the RNO concert. However, we arrived in time to introduce the new black beauty to RNO musicians backstage.

Alexey carefully and lovingly carried the new bassoon on the flight to Grenoble, France. Then on to Rouen and Paris, where the sound was said to be oo-la-la.   And thus was launched a bassoon's new career with the Russian National Orchestra.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Maxim Rubtsov US Concert Tour Achievements

Five Concerts, Five Master Classes, Two Dance Workshops, Performances with Piano, Organ, Dancers, Children, a Bumblebee and a Squirrel.  1245 miles on the road, many friends and fans, one parking ticket.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dance Workshop and Discussion at Center for the Arts CUNY-Staten Island

Photo by Sullah Bien-Aime
On the Staten Island Ferry Maxim entertains Lady Liberty

Photo by Sulaah Bien-Aime
Sitting on the stage after their performance at CUNY-Staten Island Maxim and Germaul explain how they met in Russia at a dance workshop. Germaul says of his Russian friend, Maxim has a visual idea as well as a musical idea when he performs. You see this in his body language. He has what only a few artists have—natural movement, the desire to collaborate, and the ability to perform in two genres—music and dance—at the same time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Travel to New York City...

...and the suitcase known as Yellow Submarine is not big enough.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Celebrity Series Features Maxim Rubtsov, Flute, and Pamela Penick, Piano, with University of Alabama Dance Students

"I was completely mesmerized by Maxim's playing. So much so, that I moved to the third row to capture the full extent of his coloristic and artistic magic."  Dr. John Ratledge, Professor of Music

Monday, October 5, 2009

University of Alabama Residency, Crimson Tide Meets Golden Flute

Photo by Sarah M. Barry
9am Choreography Workshop with Professor Sarah Barry's students.  She emphasizes the qualities of live music that inspire movement and express emotion--rhythm, phrasing, dynamics.  She asks a question of her dance students that Maxim often asks of flute students, "What idea will you give the audience?"

12 o'clock David Duff of Alabama Public Radio interviews Maxim on air. 
Maxim:  "It's GREAT to be in Ah-lah-bah-mah!"

Photo by Pamela Gordon
1pm rehearsal with accompanist Pamela Penick. 
Maxim, "We are a TEAM."

2pm to 4pm
Flute Studio of Professor Diane Boyd Schultz poses with Maxim Rubtsov following his master class.  Maxim tells the students, "You need a good sound and mastery of all skills, but performance is 90% attitude, feeling, passion."

Photo by Sarah M. Barry
6pm to 8pm Rehearsal with dancers Sharra Coley and Laramie Tyson in Yun's Etude for Flute
Choreographer Rita Snyder, "Maxim has an excellent natural sense of what to do with dancers."

Photo by Sarah M. Barry
Maxim with Bryant Henderson in Debussy's Syrinx.

Photo by Sarah M. Barry
Did you do all that in one day?!
Maxim:  "Plus I ate Dreamland BBQ and went out to a piano bar."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago Flute-Organ Prelude at Two Morning Services

Organist John Sherer and Maxim performed Four Psalms by American composer Moonyeen Albrecht in the magnificent acoustical space of Chicago's Fourth Pres Church at Michigan Avenue and Chestnut Street. 

About Maxim and Moonie, John said, "Four Psalms is a delightful piece that conveys the meaning of each psalm in a poignant manner.  Max has a tremendous talent and gives his all to the music, which is very inspiring.  He brings out the best of the music.  He shapes each note and each phrase with great artistry.  Many people in the congregation commented on how much they enjoyed hearing him."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Maxim's Day Off--Well, Almost...

The Family Band
Maxim, Anna and Matthew
How to Count Three Beats per Bar

Friday, October 2, 2009

FAQ Maxim Rubtsov

Photo:  Tema Bryansk

Why do you take a wide stance when playing the flute?

Maxim:  For better breathing and balance.  During a long performance your body, chest and throat must be open.  You become like a breathing machine.  For me this is a natural way to stand.

Why don't you stand in the well of the piano, as most soloists do?

Maxim:  This has to do with sound and what I hear.  When I stand by the piano strings, especially if the lid is open, I hear too much of the piano sound and not enough of my flute sound.  Also when I turn toward my accompanist, my flute sound goes to the back of the stage.  If I stand on the other side, my sound goes out to the audience.  I can hear my sound and the piano better--and get a better balance.  Then I feel more as if I am playing as an ensemble with the pianist, not as a soloist.  We have a closer connection, and actually on most pianos the music stand has a reflective surface and the accompanist can see me, as if in a mirror.

How does dance training affect your music?

Maxim:  Well, I guess I feel the music with my whole body and I'm not afraid to move.  Mainly, I just understand how much dancers want to perform on stage with live music, and I like to be there with them--dancing a little bit with my flute and my feet.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Northwestern University, Road Signs, Weather Signs and Eyebrows

Some days ago a road sign offered the option:  West to Chicago or East to Cleveland.  "Hard choice," said Maxim at the wheel of the little red car, "both good orchestras." After bowing in the direction of the great Cleveland Orchestra, we headed for Chicago with the anticipation of meeting CSO's legendary flutist and principal piccolo Walfrid Kujala.

Professor Kujala and his experienced Northwestern administrative team had prepared all details of our visit.  Time Out Chicago posted the concert on its web site, and the Chicago Tribune announced, "Maxim Rubtsov Flute Recital and Master Class."  Posters on campus highlighted the Thursday concert of "Maxim Rubtsov, Flute, with Yoko Yamada-Selvaggio, Piano." 

Maxim took the stage on a dark and stormy night that seemed to foreshadow trouble.  It came in the form of a sticky key on the piano, B above middle C--a note you can hardly avoid in the repertoire of a recital and master class.  With Yoko struggling to deal with the troublesome piano, Maxim added to the challenge.  He stepped forward at mid-point in his recital and announced, "Thank you for coming out tonight!  I decided to add one more beautiful Russian song to the program.  After Red Sarafan I will play The Nightingale by Alexander Aliab'ev.  They managed to finish with a near record-breaking one-minute Flight of the Bumblebee.  Before the students played, Wally Kujala offered a modest assessment.  “Most of you are too young to realize this," said Professor Kujala, "but I can observe that Maxim has the stage presence of Jean-Pierre Rampal from his eyebrows to his feet.”