What goes into preparing for a concert

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2003

As an internationally touring performer, violinist Linda Rosenthal can't attend a concert without paying special attention to the preparation that went into the program.

"It's an art unto itself," said Rosenthal, a University of Alaska Southeast professor and the artistic director for Juneau Jazz & Classics.

"I'm aware of the thought that went into the program, the pacing, the relative length of the first half and the second half, what comes before the intermission, the movement from slow pieces to fast pieces, and the contrast," she said.

That's the idea behind her upcoming lecture, "Cooking Up A Concert," Friday, Nov. 14, at the Egan Lecture Hall on the UAS campus. Rosenthal and Seattle pianist Lisa Bergman will discuss the behind-the-scenes considerations a performer must make before playing a show. It's the 10th of 12 fall talks in the Evening at Egan Series. Admission is free.

The lecture is tied into a performance two weeks later. Rosenthal and Bergman, a duo since 1988, will play at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29, at Northern Light United Church downtown.

"When you're a student, your teachers choose your program for you," Rosenthal said. "When you're on your own, it's up to you to do these things. A lot of it is trial and error. You have to approach each program freshly and go down the checklist: 'Have I got everything covered?' "

A performer may have his or her own needs covered, but what about the demands of the audience? Rosenthal and Bergman not only try to grab the audience's attention but try to teach a little about what they play - explaining styles and composers. At the lecture, they'll play snippets from their Nov. 29 show to illustrate their points.

"I chose the title 'Cooking Up A Concert' because it's so similar to cooking up a fiesta or a musical banquet," Rosenthal said. "All the same elements have to be considered when you're entertaining. With a big banquet or a big meal, we want variety, we want something that unifies it, we want contrast and we want a common thread, a theme if you will."

The Nov. 29 show will include mostly 20th-century composers and songs steeped in nationalism. One exception is the opener, a George Frideric Handel (1685-1789) sonata.

"It has all these wonderful characteristics of baroque music, and it has a wonderful steady rhythm," Rosenthal said. "It's a good way for the audience to get familiar with the performers and get used to the sound, and it's also relatively short."

Likewise, it sets the stage for the second piece, a sonata from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. After a brief intermission, the show will resume with a Romanian folk dance by Béla Bartk; a piano piece by George Perlman, Rosenthal's first piano teacher; a William Kroll tune originally written for banjo and fiddle; William Bolcom's "Graceful Ghost Rag;" and "Who Let The Cat Out Last Night," by Paul Schoenfield.

"The most important thing for a performer is to choose pieces that he or she loves to play," Rosenthal said. "So much of the process is just working on it and spending time preparing it. That process has to be enjoyable and challenging."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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