DSSO conductor provides appreciation sessions before symphony concerts

Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune

October 23, 2009

Somewhere in the third movement of a recording of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, Markand Thakar's right hand began doing the abbreviated movements of a maestro. It was seemingly an involuntary sway for the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchesta's music director in front of a small audience of season ticket-holders. ''Music creates energy,'' he said, after stopping a Panasonic CD player. ''A piece of music is a fight against silence.''

Thakar has been leading small-scale music appreciation sessions on the Thursdays before the DSSO's Saturday Classical Concerts. This week, Thakar devoted an hour and a half to Brahms and Dvorak in a conference room at the DSSO's office on Superior Street.

Thakar prefaced the session — which he characterized as ''inside baseball'' — by telling attendees to forget everything he said when they go to Saturday's performance at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Auditorium. Thakar advised his audience to live in the moment at the concert, and to think back on what he had said afterward.

Thakar was conversational, sitting at the head of a conference table with the CD player's remote at the ready. He provided anecdotes about the composers, historical context of the music, and played parts of each movement. He also added tidbits from his own experiences.

For instance: The Czech composer Dvorak was homesick during his time in the United States. His folk background found him seeking out the music of Native Americans and slaves. Dvorak spent some time in Spillville, Iowa, his afternoons filled with jugs of beer.

Thakar played a version of Symphony No. 9 ''From the New World'' performed by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. Not his favorite version, Thakar admitted. ''The fast parts are too fast, the slow parts are too slow,'' he said.

While listening to a recording of Brahms Concerto No. 2, Thakar had a CSI: DSSO moment. He stopped the music and wondered aloud whether this recording featured a Russian piano player, and actually, some vibrato from the horn section sounded Russian, too.

Rose Kenisberg, who has had DSSO season tickets for the past five years, was at Thursday's discussion, and said last month's session on Tchaikovsky furthered her appreciation of the following performance.

''It's like the hors d'oeuvre before the entrée,'' she said.

© 2004-2009 Markand Thakar

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