Saturday, March 21, 2015

concert review: Peninsula Symphony

I went to this concert, even though I'm not reviewing it, because I couldn't resist the program: all seven continents in music. A pretty good selection of travelogue or landscape-painting pieces, inconsistently played.

Three of the works were by natives of the continents they depicted: for North America, Copland's Appalachian Spring (though this was the abridged suite, it was still much the longest piece on the program); for South America, Villa-Lobos' Little Train of Caipira (a vivid account of a steam-train ride in music, and the best performance at the concert); and for Europe, Sibelius' intensely nationalistic Finlandia, also pretty well played.

The other four were tourist or imperialist music. Borodin's famous little tone poem In the Steppes of Central Asia was written to celebrate the Russian Empire's annexation of same, did you know that? (It wasn't very well played tonight, either.) Saint-Saƫns spent a lot of time in France's African colonies for his health, and wrote a fluffy little piano concerto, titled Africa for not much reason that I could discern. (I much prefer his Algerian Suite, which at least smells North African.) For Antarctica, nothing other than the Scherzo from Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica, derived from the music for a film about Scott, and very atmospheric. Mixed-quality performance.

For Australia we had the one truly non-standard offering. Ron Miller, a clarinetist with the orchestra, composed Aurora Australis for a Peninsula Youth Symphony tour of the continent some years ago, and it was revived here. It opens with a depiction of the southern starry sky (held open chords with a lot of brass) and moves into a ritual dance (heavy complex drum rhythms). To make it Australian, there's a solo for didgeridoo. This was played by a tubaist, who had trouble coaxing sounds out of the instrument other than some gasping blats. Meanwhile there was also a dancer galumphing her Mickey Mouse way around the stage.

No - I enjoyed this concert, but I was better off not formally reviewing it.

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