Classical Music / Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

The last time I went to a concert, it was to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra with my dad.  It was at least 3-4 years back and I’m sure it had something by Mozart on the program.  (Or J.S. Bach, since that’s Dad’s favorite)

Since then, hard times have kept me from going to more.  C’est la vie, hein?  And while I love my favorite Grandview coffee shops, I occasionally want a little something more on the weekends, something not just work-related.

So, with good music in mind, I decided to forgo vanity for a while in exchange for season tickets.  Thanks to not entering a salon for what seemed like ages (yeah, yeah, yeah – I’m a girl, ok?!), I now get to hear some fabulous music by great composers like Rossini, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Mozart and by a bunch more I’ve not even heard of, such as Rébel, Glinka, Berg, and Paulus.

Thanks to becoming an official season ticket holder (and this is the really cool part!) I also get to go to the season opener at which Beethoven’s 9th Symphony will be performed. We’re talking a full symphony, a full chorus, you name it – a true performance.  And we thought the Som Sabadell flash mob was impressive!
This is going to be so incredibly awesome!!  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see it LIVE!  October 5th – I cannot wait!!

In addition to these concerts, two friends and I are also going to a performance at the Southern Theatre to hear Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Beethoven’s 6th Pastoral symphony.  They just hope that I don’t yell out “I! U!” during the Lone Ranger section of the William Tell since that’s what I used to do when I played it with the Pep Band back at all the Indiana basketball games in Bloomington.  Yeah. Probably not a good idea.

The beautiful Ohio Theatre, across from the Statehouse in downtown Columbus, has been home to our symphony, or CSO, for over 40 years. The majority of the concerts I see this season will be there.  In fact, the CSO is credited with saving the Ohio Theatre itself from demolition because it had once run into such a bad state of disrepair.

Among the locals here in Columbus, it’s no secret that the hard times we’ve experienced the last few years, have been shared by the CSO, but for them, over the last decade.  Patronage dropped.  The musicians took pay cuts.  They had a different conductor for every single performance.   There were times that they were probably unsure as to whether or not the CSO would even survive!

In 2010, our symphony brought in a new Music Director, the up and coming Montreal native, Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni.  Not only was he a skilled and charismatic conductor, but he was hired with the hope that he would lead the CSO out of the abyss and back to more successful times.

What I’ve dug up and read about him online is pretty darned impressive.  Like many of us these days he, too, works more than one job.  In addition to starting his second full season as the Music Director of our orchestra here in Columbus, he’s also the  newly-appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the world-renowned chamber music ensemble, I Musici de Montréal.

Someday the term “world-renowned” will be used to describe our symphony, too.

It is said that his conducting style is simply incredible, very energetic and animated. One person I spoke to used the word “amazing” to describe him.  While the bio page on the CSO website desperately needs to be updated, the I Musici biography page has some good info and calls him “expressive and convincing” among other positive terms. The Handel and Haydn Society calls his style “eloquent yet fiery.” The Seattle Times called his performance of Handel’s Messiah “…edgy and exciting…”.

Aside from conducting, he apparently travels – a lot.  As a fellow travel-addict, I can totally appreciate that.  Of course, he travels to and from all his numerous guest-conducting gigs, not to mention splitting his time working jobs in two different countries.  I’m sure he’s accumulated an absolute ton of airline miles by now!  Heck – I think he may have traveled to more US states than I have and I’ve lived in a lot of them!

In the U.S., he’s conducted anywhere from New York to Oregon to Texas to Hawaii (lucky dog!) as well as all over Canada, pretty much hitting every NHL city up there save, perhaps, Ottawa.  Smart man.  I wonder if he needs an assistant.  Let’s go Jackets!

He’s a young director, not yet 40, but it’s not as if he gained the title of Music Director on a whim.  Our Maestro is very well-educated. He has three masters degrees from the Montreal Conservatory in theory, conducting and, yes, percussion. In one of the preview videos he makes before each concert, he totally geeks out on all the various percussion instruments used in one of Mahler’s symphonies. In his defense, I know percussionists (my dad included). I’m not sure there’s a single one who wouldn’t also go nuts over a huge hammer.  Hmm.  Could just be a guy thing.

Via Twitter though, I happily learned that they plan on making these videos again before the concerts this year.  You can follow their sporadically-active twitter account here.

If you’re not yet impressed, check out this interesting tidbit: he has perfect pitch. Yeah.  Perfect pitch. You know, that talent that allows him to tell you that the horns of a Prius, Impala, F150 and Jetta combine to make a G-minor diminished 7th chord*.

All kidding aside though, even musicians within the orchestra have commented that his ear is a huge advantage because he can hear anything from any instrument at any time.  They cannot get away with anything which makes them play all the better. He can tell during a rehearsal when something is potentially off and can therefore make the necessary adjustments before the final performance.  That, in turn, makes the concert-goer’s experience that much more enjoyable.

While I’ve not yet seen him perform live, my expectations of our symphony now are extremely high. He is said to be able to draw the highest quality of music out of those he directs so I look forward to hearing that in person.

On a final note, no pun intended, I’m going to see the Columbus Symphony Orchestra three times in October and then not again until January.  If he’s as good as I’ve heard he is, then November and December are going to make for two very long months!

* No fact-checking done. I have no earthly idea if this is actually true or not! 

Sources: In addition to the articles linked above, here are two more from which I sourced some of the details included in this blog post.  Enjoy!  

Photo credits: Both pictures of Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni were from the Facebook pages of I Musici and CSO, respectively.  The Ohio Theater picture is my own.

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