I just returned from the concert at Carnegie Hall of Herrmann's and Korngold's only symphonies, and Botstein and The Orchestra Now did a fantastic job on both pieces.
My seat was first row in the center orchestra, right between Botstein and the first violinist, and I could even hear her solo pizzicato accompaniment to a wind soli.
This made a huge difference in my appreciation of the music, as I've had mediocre experiences at Carnegie Hall
in the past with performances of orchestral works by Hindemith, Walton and Honegger when I've had orchestra seats much further back.
Tonight was a much superior listening experience than listening to the Unicorn recording of the Herrmann Symphony. I can't say the same of the Hindemith, Walton and Honegger experiences.
I came too late to be seated for the Psycho Suite, so I listened to it through the speakers.
Other than the Prelude, there's not much there without the film , so I didn't feel bad about missing it.
I was VERY lucky they scheduled it first, or I probably would've gotten in trouble for trying to sneak in during the performance. I used the time to load up on Ricola...
They opened up the concert with one of the soloists reading something about BH, but I missed it
Herrmann's Symphony was magical, his orchestration technique was as close to perfection as any composer has ever gotten.
The difficult high french horn parts were performed flawlessly, and it was like a dream hearing this piece performed live.
The strangest part was in the third movement. There is a strange percussive sound that I could never figure out. It turned out to be Herrmann ordering the string players to attack their instruments with some black plastic square-shaped object (their resin cases?).
It was startling because BH chose a part of the third movement which was silent until it was interrupted by these dainty Asian cellists savagely striking their cellos, and the audience looked at each other in shock!
The structure of the Symphony is more programmatic than formal, and the best way to understand it is as BH's story of WWII, with evil being defeated by good in a long struggle that ends in a joyous final movement.
It's a tremendously effective piece that the audience reacted to very strongly.
The snotty critics discouraged performance of it, because they claimed it showed BH's 'unfamiliarity with composing in the formal structure of the symphony', but IMHO it has held up very well due to Herrmann's endlessly fascinating harmonic/rhythmic/melodic vocabulary.
I've been listening to it for forty years, and never tire of it (other than the meandering third movement, which was more interesting live), as opposed to the music of the 'masters' of formal structure.
A good example of this form vs. content argument was the Korngold Symphony in F#.
It's a great piece, and shows Korngold's obvious superiority in mastering the formal structure of the symphonic form, but the development sections became too 'show-offish' in their length, and I found them too drawn out.
The content and mood of the fabulous first three movements was undermined by a light final movement; otherwise it's another masterwork that should be performed more often.