Monday, November 4, 2013

concert review: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra

An Estonian orchestra. How about that? Like an American orchestra of the 50s playing Adagio for Strings as the opener for a more generic program, they began theirs with the most famous adagio from their country, or indeed the greatest from anywhere the last half-century, Pärt's Cantus. They followed it with the mighty Fifth of their neighbor Sibelius, which they played a little less mightily than I'd prefer, and Dvořák's Cello Concerto, a work which is capable of interesting me, but not if you play it as a meandering rhapsody.

So, not a great concert, but pretty good, and I'm glad I heard it. The San Francisco Symphony fairly blew out Bing's sound capacity when they played at the opening festivities in January; this orchestra is much smaller, and turned out to be just right in size. (At the other end of the scale, chamber groups tend to get swallowed up unless they're prepared for it.)

Neeme Järvi is one of those elderly conductors of the old school who leads as much by just standing there and staring at the musicians with great intensity as by any cues he might give with his arms occasionally. He froze them into shaping up when they tripped over their own shoelaces.

Two of the works have very odd endings, and it was interesting to hear the audience's reaction. Cantus ends with a single bell note reverberating away. You're supposed to be absorbing the overtones. Although Järvi didn't move even when the bell ceased ringing altogether, the audience stayed silent until then, and then applauded.

Sibelius' Fifth has one of the great applause tripper-upper endings: five tutti dominant chords, each played with an echoing space of two bars of silence after it, followed by one tonic chord and that's the end. If you're not paying attention to the harmony, you applaud early by not realizing that the cadence hadn't resolved yet. At this concert, though, it had resolved and the audience still was silent. Again, Järvi was providing no physical cue. So I quickly realized that nobody in the audience was absolutely sure the music was really over now, except me, because I know this piece. Somebody had to start the applause, so I did.

My SFCV review.

No comments:

Post a Comment