Sunday, November 12, 2023

concert review: California Symphony

The three works on this concert had two things in common: they're all cheerful, upbeat music, and they have something to do with water.

Handel's Water Music originated as a long-form serenade for entertainment at a royal dinner held on a barge on the Thames. We had about 45 minutes of it, in chipper, energetic performances.

Robert Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony was written in the flush of excitement of moving to the Rhineland to take up an appointment as conductor of an orchestra there. Schumann knew he wasn't a good conductor; he should have guessed this wouldn't end well. But for the moment, he was enthusiastic, and so is this symphony. It was a big, bold, dynamic performance, full of expressive variations in volume and tempo. Lots of great brass work, and not just in the movement depicting a grand ceremony in Cologne Cathedral across the river.

Chance of Rain is the third and final piece composed by Viet Cuong during his residency as house composer. It's a fast and nervous work consisting mostly of static phase minimalism, which gives the music an echo effect. Then - without changing the underlying music any - he throws in a popular dance beat on top.

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