Monday, April 15, 2013

three concerts

I've not often been to Boston, but I did once attend an organ recital at Trinity Church on Copley Square. That's close enough for me. Such memories help personalize and make vivid tragic events. Brrrr.

Musical happenings close to home have included:

1. Saturday, Redwood Symphony. Cycle of Persian songs, accompanied by Western orchestra in a gesture of culture rapprochement. Pretty nice stuff. Persian-born soprano looked delighted to be singing in her native tongue for once, instead of Italian operas which are her usual fare. Followed by Christopher Theofanides, Maestro Kujawsky's latest discovery in the field of big, tough modern symphonies. Weird and arresting-sounding, but brutal. Imagine a symphony composed by a bear. Huge walls of dissonance rolled out towards the audience. Maestro K. thought it ended quizzically (it does), so he topped it off with an encore of Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights" from Romeo & Juliet. That's famously brutal, but it sounded mild after the symphony.

2. Sunday, San Francisco Symphony. Annual Blomstedt visit, week 1. This wasn't on my regular series, but I got a ticket because 1) I'm reviewing week 2 and wanted to see how he's doing; 2) it's Blomstedt. The Eroica, strong on the energy and the drive, less on the darkness and intricacy. Brilliantly vivid performance, dazzling musicianship. The same priorities did not fit so well with Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod. Also, ultra-modernist piece, Poesis by Ingvar Lidholm. Literally no melody, no harmony, and no rhythm. So what did it have? Jagged sheets of sound passing through the orchestra, so artfully juxtaposed that it actually sounded pretty interesting.

3. Monday, Calefax. This was an Oshman concert by a Dutch ensemble that's an orthogonal version of a wind quintet: oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, sax, bassoon. It makes for a deeper, more woody sound than a regular quintet. It also means it has no repertoire, so the musicians have to arrange everything themselves. We got Debussy's Suite Bergamasque, a few bits from Weill's Threepenny Opera, and Bach's Goldberg Variations - the whole enormous thing. Bach is suited to this sort of assault and worked fairly well. The rest, not so much. Unimaginative tutti arrangements, unsuited to the instruments, coupled with a stolid playing style, made for a rather dull show.

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