Friday, June 5, 2015

concert reviews

The backstory behind my review of the Masterworks Chorale performance of Les Misérables is that the last time I heard them, in Carmina Burana, the soloists were singing like it was an Italian opera and the chorus was singing like it was a German oratorio. It clashed, and not to the chorus's benefit. Would they do better in an explicitly staged work? They did, though the chorus as a group was far superior to having individual members singled out for small solo parts. It was a respectable, not brilliant, performance, and I gave it a respectful, not enthused, review. Next year they're doing Man of La Mancha, and they'd better get someone really good for the lead of that one.

That was last Saturday. Wednesday I ran over to Stanford because a student ensemble was doing Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians at Dinky. This 1976 work is an hour's pure, undiluted additive sectional minimalism, the real stuff. I was drawn to this because Reich's music draws a visceral reaction from me unlike that of any other composer, even other minimalists: a positive visceral reaction, I should add. This evening's event was not ideal in that respect, but it was still satisfying and a rare opportunity. As we left, I saw George Barth, the Stanford piano professor and co-convener of the Reactions to the Record symposia, who remarked, "That was fun." I entirely agree.

My beef is with the people who run the Music Department's e-mail calendar. Even though I subscribe to this, I only knew about this concert because I'd happened to stop by campus last weekend and saw a poster for it. The dept. sends out its calendar late on Wednesday afternoons, and they cover one week starting that evening. Wednesday is the day that B. often works late, so I can't go out in the evening without missing dinner, which is unfair not to plan in advance. After I thus missed one concert I'd particularly wanted to attend, I wrote them asking for a longer or slightly more in-advance coverage, and they irritated me exceedingly by responding, "There were many conversations about the timing and coverage of the Arts Weekly when we launched it several years ago. There are definitely readers who want more advance notice, and as many who scheduling their time with a 'what's going on in the next hour?' approach." The setting these up as oppositional, so that one taste gets its way and the other is just out of luck, is fallacious and offensive, though I didn't put it quite that way when I wrote back. I did say that I found it hard to credit that there was a significant body of readers who'd refuse to attend a concert unless they were left in the dark about its existence until three hours beforehand; and why do they only go on Wednesdays?

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