Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Last weekend, Sandy and I went to a very pleasant concert given by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to welcome their new artistic partner, soprano Dawn Upshaw. The program, directed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, included songs by Stravinsky, Mozart and Ravel, as well as a Mozart Piano Concerto (No.23) and a Haydn Symphony (No.60). I find his playing to be quite exceptional: the perfect marriage of masterly technique and artistic expression. Highlights for me were the Mozart concerto and the Ravel songs (Three Poems by Stéphane Mallarmé). After the concert, we attended a reception in the Saint Paul Hotel where we had the pleasure of talking to Pierre at some length about piano music, opera and sundry other topics.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Robot guitar

Over Xmas, I bought a Gibson Les Paul Robot guitar, Number 227 of only 4000 made. This limited edition instrument tunes itself, through a combination of string sensors and servomotors that drive the pegs. It can be operated in different modes that give you different tunings. The automatic tuning really works well. There's a huge difference between being sort of in tune and being really in tune. It's also a very pretty guitar, with a sparkling blue finish that most of the pictures on the Gibson site don't do justice to.

I got to play out with it last week, sitting in briefly with Kimberly Michaels and Tony Axtell in Maple Grove, MN. It was great to able to tune automatically while sitting at the bar and then just step up and play, knowing I was in tune with the keyboard. I could then concentrate on getting the amp settings right for the room. The Robogit gave a good account of itself on 'Stormy Monday', delivering a nice blues sound through a 16-watt Carvin tube amp. This guitar is definitely a keeper.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

MacPhail Gala

The MacPhail School of Music is now in an awesome new building; Sandy and I went to the Gala opening last Saturday and stayed until after midnight. The centrepiece of the building is a new performance space called the Antonello Hall, donated by Jean and Michael Antonello. The evening featured a concert that included Osmo Vänskä (conductor of the Minnesota Symphony) on clarinet and Nachito Herrera with his Latin Jazz Ensemble.