Tuesday, May 10, 2016

concert reviews

In place of the orchestral concert I originally thought I was going to review last weekend, I was sent to two others, and the reviews of them are finally both up. Both featured the premieres of new works: smaller orchestras, often by forming consortia to split the costs, are contributing to the vitality of new music by commissioning works, and they're finding it worthwhile in terms of attracting audiences to do so, because we're finally getting past that horrible era of several decades past when composers felt obliged to prove their intellectual credentials by writing music that was ugly and repulsive to listen to. Now they've recovered their ability to write music that is both attractive and interesting.

First up was the New Century Chamber Orchestra, a string (with percussion) orchestra of such quality that the concertmaster of Symphony Silicon Valley - a quite good orchestra itself - is one of the back-row violinists. And that's what she was doing that caused her to miss this weekend's SSV concert.

The premiere was a dance suite by Jennifer Higdon, whom I consider one of the best we've got. I was taking a constitutional around the block before the concert, and when I got back to the front corner, right there walking across the intersection towards the church was, I recognized, Jennifer Higdon. It may not be the days when you could see Mozart or Brahms around the premises before a concert, but it's thrilling enough.

Then on Mother's Day I drove out to Walnut Creek for the California Symphony. Were my mother still around, I'd have taken her to this, for the Brahms symphony that concluded the program: Brahms was her favorite composer and she would have loved this slow and dark performance. (My silent exclamation on its finish was: "Wow, Otto Klemperer lives!", a sentiment I got into the review.)

I rather doubt, though, that in her later years at least she would have been able to hear a note of the premiering guitar concerto. It was very quiet and entirely unlike anything I previously knew by Dan Visconti, whom I think of as caustic and cheeky. I also didn't find it as subtly crafted as the Higdon, but it appears to have been what the younger members of the audience were there for.

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