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William Kraft Timpani Concerto #2

I just received the master for a live recording I had the privilege of conducting of Bill Kraft’s 2nd Timpani Concerto, “The Grand Adventure.” The incredible soloist is David Herbert, Principal Timpanist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the wonderful orchestra is Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. Tom Johnson did a very fine job capturing it electronically!

Bill and I have been friends and colleagues since 1972. At that time I was the Conductor of the Debut Orchestra of the Young Musicians Foundation of Los Angeles. Bill was my advisor and our first encounter was when I was conducting a fiendishly difficult piece by Messiaen, “Couleurs de la Cite Celeste.” Ever since then I have been championing his music. So far I’ve recorded 8 works of his including his 1st Timpani Concerto with the marvelous Tom Akins and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra when I was its Music Director. So now with the release of the 2nd concerto, both of Bill’s fantastic pieces for the instrument can be widely heard.

The 1st concerto is for a standard set of timpani. The 2nd, however is for 15! There are 6 standard size timpani on the floor and 9 small timps suspended on a circular metal rack about 4-5 feet above the floor, surrounding the soloist. David had to not only execute a VERY difficult solo part but be in constant motion to get at the many instruments. This required him to p;lay the piece mostly from memory, another huge feat. Communicating with each other was harder than usual because we could catch each other’s eye only at certain moments. It’s astounding how good the ensemble is, especially considering that it was a live performance. David and I were really on the same page.

The orchestra was great. The players understood what they had to do very quickly and despite the complexities the rehearsal process went smoothly and efficiently. I’d like to give a special thanks to the percussion section which had so much of importance to do. At one point three players all play on a vibraphone with string bass bows. The 1st percussion had to find 32 tuned gongs for the week–and much more.

So bravo to one and all.  And another special thanks to Andrew Bales, the CEO and founder of the orchestra who recognized the value of the project and gave it his full support. It would not have happened otherwise.

Chautauqua Music Festival

Marsha and I just returned from my debut at the Chautauqua Music Festival. By the way, it’s pronounced with an “sh” sound–like Shautauqua! This is a place one has to experience.  On 500 acres of Lake Chautauqua waterfront, it is a community of 1200 residences with a mix of styles going back to the Victorian period, the post Civil War Atheneum Hotel (which has a motto prominently displayed in the grand lobby “every man has the right to be all he can be and to know what he can know), a 5000 seat covered amphiththeater with wonderful acoustics, a symphony orchestra, ballet company, opera company, theater company, a full array of lectures, art classes, sailing, a daily paper with kids hawking it on the town common, etc., etc. The season is 9 weeks in the summer and the place is shut down in the winter. The orchestra is terrific and they have to be since they play two programs a week, each with either one or two rehearsals. Mine had one in the afternoon of the performance and the players were so competent and generous in spirit that we put on a great show. Personally, I loved the pressure of producing a high standard with a minimum of rehearsing. The name of the game for all concerned is “be good NOW!” In a way, it felt similar to recording with a group that is sight reading at the session. I’ve done a fair bit of that type and I always enjoyed the artistic pressure and found that it brought out the best in everyone. Anyway, Bravo to Marty Merkey, its’s V.P. and Director of Programming, the musicians and all those responsible for keeping the vision of the founding fathers alive since the 1870s!

Fun in New Hampshire

Last week my wife, Marsha and I reconnected with the New Hampshire Music Festival where I am Conductor Laureate. It was so great to make music again with my friends in the orchestra. As always, they played beautifully and it seemed like it was just yesterday when we last were together. Jay Buckley, the Festival’s treasurer was away on a trip to Iceland and he kindly made his lovely home on Lake Winona available to us. We had a wonderful time and it was my first chance to conduct Ginestera’s Variaciones Concertantes and De Falla’s El Amor Brujo, so the week had a nice balance of peaceful relaxation at the lake and new musical discovery. Bravo to our New Hampshire friends!!

Paul Polivnick
Contact Paul at 727-298-8182

Contact Paul at 727-298-8182

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