Sunday, April 26, 2015

1.5 concerts

So there's this local series called the Silicon Valley Music Festival that I've reviewed a couple times, and they sent me an invitation to a "VIP Gala Event," at a local golf course clubhouse, at which they would have some News on the future of the Festival.

Smelling news that I could report for SFCV, I went. Figuring it'd be formal, I wore my jacket and my tie with the Mozart mss. printed on it. What the news was I'll hold for SFCV, but it involved fundraising, and most of the guests were donor-types. I spent some time talking with a lady whose non-monetary contribution to the arts is to host visiting performers in her home.

In between the appetizers (rolled-up bacon strips with an extra dollop of fat in the middle) and the dessert (skewers of melon pieces drizzled in chocolate sauce) there was some music: songs by Debussy sung by a soprano with the physical expressivity of the opera singer she normally is, a movement from a Beethoven cello sonata played by a cellist with the toughness appropriate to Bartok, and part of a Mendelssohn piano trio with the violin part taken by flute: that's a first. All of these accompanied by a pianist so relieved when it was all over that he broke into unscheduled jazz.

Then I headed up north for the next day to meet friends Alan and Jeanne at their countryside rural home, the only house I've ever visited where a live chicken is likely to wander in to the bathroom. We headed over to the Green Music Center for a cello-and-piano recital that we'd picked as the most promising concert we could all get to.

I'd heard both cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan before and liked them, but was less enthused today. Their Beethoven and Schubert were reserved and a bit stuffy. A piece by a young American composer named Joseph Hallman was vapid and thoughtless, almost as bad as something by Kurtag. Even Rachmaninoff's passionate Op. 19 sonata lacked concision and bite.

But if the problem was that Weilerstein was failing to put richness and soul in her playing, it's because the Green acoustics were beating it down with a rubber mallet. The sound quality here is like dialing the treble gain up to 11. It doesn't make low notes harder to hear, just gives them a grating, hard-edged sound.

We'll see what happens some other time with a larger ensemble and more people in the seats (which affects the acoustics too).

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