This weekend the New Philharmonia Orchestra will open its 19th season with a pair of peppy and poignant performances. The music is going to be great and attending a concert is always fun, but for me, and most of the 60 orchestra members, it’s the maestro that has kept me coming to the 3 hour Sunday night rehearsals for ten years.
Our maestro is Newton resident Ron Knudsen. On paper he’s a recently retired veteran member of the Boston Symphony’s violin section, a sought-after instrument repairman and an very well-respected member of the musical scene. These are great attributes for a musical leader. However, it’s Ron’s sense of humor that he combines so masterfully with his knowledge of music that make him an unbeatable musical guide.
He tells us stories about the music that only someone who spent decades working with the world’s best musicians could have gathered. For this concert cycle, I have learned that Bartok wrote his Piano Concerto No. 3 for his wife but sadly died before finishing it and another composer took on that challenge. I also now know that Brahms never intended his Serenade N0. 1 to be a part of his repertoire but here it is! These tales are much more memorable when told by someone who is passionate about the subject than if I had read the same information on Wikipedia.
Audience members might expect the above from a maestro though. But, when you mix these stories with Ron’s wicked sense of humor, you get a rare experience. I have finally started to write down my favorite quotes during rehearsals. They can be straight on zingers, “second violins, for once I want you to sound like the violas,” often aimed at the second violinists and violas. (insert cymbal crash here) Or these quotes are real moments of awesome. I’ll let you be the judge. I now present to you my favorite quotes from last weekend’s rehearsal:
1. You should be playing almost as if you can’t stand your own joy.
2. Be cute with it. It’s a silly little tune.
3. You don’t have that nasty gleam in your eye. You need to get it back.
4. One more time!
Our rehearsals are full of high and low emotions, laughter, groans, significance, triviality, and more than anything, music. Ron Knudsen has guided the New Phil into a polished group of community musicians as he has taught us to always aim higher while still maintaining a poignant connection with the music.
If you’d like, meet Ron with via this interview from the BSO. Or, better yet, come hear the tunes and meet the man who leads them at New Phil’s concert this weekend, Sat. Nov 23 at 8pm and Sun. Nov 24 at 3pm at the First Baptist Church in Newton Centre. The program includes Brahms’ Serenade No. 1, Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring pianist Jonathan Bass and Kodaly’s boisterous Dances of Galanta. More info here.