Tuesday, March 20, 2012

two concerts

Friday: The string quartets on the Mandelring Quartet concert at le petit Trianon aren't particular favorites of mine, but I do know them well enough, so it was no trouble evaluating the performances in my review. The other half of the concert, however, consisted of unfamiliar music (mostly: I'd heard one of the pieces before, once) by obscure postmodern composers, in the eye-catching form of quintets with marimba. Marimba, yes, and quite a virtuoso playing them, and pleasant enough to listen to, but other than noting the eerie smoothness of the playing in the more familiar work, how were they? Hard to say.

Monday: Stephen Hough, pianist, at Oshman. Surprisingly, the acoustics behaved themselves. Whether it was because the shell was pulled forward or because there was only a piano in front of it, instead of being awful, it was just rough, like unsanded wood. This is not ideal when the piece you're playing is Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata - the girders kept showing, in the sense that the sound of the harmonies came out too crisply and overpowered that of the flow - but at least it wasn't agonizing to listen to. The acoustics undoubtably contributed to a brusque, harsh Scriabin Fifth Sonata. Hough also played a long sonata of his own, which sounded as if he'd knocked it together from scraps one afternoon in his basement workshop, and he played the Liszt Sonata the same way, quasi-improvisationally, with one intriguing sound or effect following another with no sense of what they were doing there. Still, a peaceful interlude in a tough and uncomfortable day that promises many more to come.

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