Tuesday, December 10, 2019

concert review: Symphony Silicon Valley

Here's the review.

I knew exactly what I wanted to say here, but am not satisfied that I said it with any elegance or complete clarity. Especially with the Brahms. Did I convey what was odd about this performance? It's not that it was badly played, though there were more clams than in the other pieces, often a sign that the musicians haven't been fully inculcated into what the conductor wants them to do.

What he evidently wanted this time was the same kind of playing they gave Khachaturian and Glinka, which was fine for those pieces but doesn't really fit Brahms, like the wrong size clothes. But whether that was responsible for the enervated feeling in the opening movements, I'm not sure.

I am pleased that my editors let me get away with calling playing the Khachaturian piano concerto "exhuming" it. That kind of language is my critique of the modernist hegemony, which for decades buried works like this because they were too good: they show that standards other than severe modernism are still viable. This wouldn't be news in any other realm of music.

I had one research tickle here, when I looked up my old review of the SFS concert with a musical saw in it and confirmed that, yep, it was the same player. Since this concerto has been played with a saw or a flexatone or no added instrument at all, I wrote the orchestra management in advance to ask, and they told me their whole story.

And one challenge: I recognized the pianist's encore as a Strauss waltz, but I didn't know which one. Doubting that I'd be able to keep the tune in mind over the second half of the concert, I adopted something new to me as a memory device: I went outside during intermission, pulled out my phone, and sent myself a voicemail humming the melody. It was easy enough to look up in Barlow & Morgenstern when I got home.

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