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Concerts: previews / reviews

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I'm not pitching Shostakovich against Bartok - I'm very fond of them both. 

Patrician? The Leningrad has its detractors (especially that march) but it's a much programmed and recorded piece. Are you suggesting that those of us who like the piece and fail to recognise it as 'a horrible piece of music' have got it all wrong? That you know better? 

There was a documentary on the BBC a few weeks back about the Leningrad. An oft-told story - I'm sure its relative popularity in the concert hall has a lot to do with the marvellous tale woven around it. But what was heart-wrenching about the programme were the interviews with people who had been in Leningrad at the time and attended the first performance. At the end they were shown listening to a performance. The contrast between their humility in the face of the music and your 'what a horrible piece of music' was stark. 

I don't get on with Verdi but I'd never denounce 'Aida' as 'a horrible piece of music'. Not (yet) to my taste but I'm sure that's down to the particular contexts of my listening rather than anything at fault in Verdi. 

 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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1 hour ago, A Lark Ascending said:

I'm not pitching Shostakovich against Bartok - I'm very fond of them both. 

Patrician? The Leningrad has its detractors (especially that march) but it's a much programmed and recorded piece. Are you suggesting that those of us who like the piece and fail to recognise it as 'a horrible piece of music' have got it all wrong? That you know better? 

There was a documentary on the BBC a few weeks back about the Leningrad. An oft-told story - I'm sure its relative popularity in the concert hall has a lot to do with the marvellous tale woven around it. But what was heart-wrenching about the programme were the interviews with people who had been in Leningrad at the time and attended the first performance. At the end they were shown listening to a performance. The contrast between their humility in the face of the music and your 'what a horrible piece of music' was stark. 

I don't get on with Verdi but I'd never denounce 'Aida' as 'a horrible piece of music'. Not (yet) to my taste but I'm sure that's down to the particular contexts of my listening rather than anything at fault in Verdi. 

 

Perhaps if I had been through the siege of Leningrad, I might feel differently about the symphony, perhaps not. Of course, by "horrible piece of music" I mean IMO, though I did note that Bartok among other notable musicians found it browbeating/hollow/irritating, etc. at the time, and I offered at least one musical detail. I do "know better" for myself, as you do for yourself.

As for the "stark" contrast between the "humility [of Leningrad siege survivors]  in the face of the music" versus my "what a horrible piece of music," if I'm listening to a dirge or funeral march at what is (or amounts to) a memorial service for a million or more of my murdered comrades and relatives, I'm likely to have a very solemn expression on my face and sad, humble emotions in my heart. That is then a case-closed judgment of the value of the music that is being played?

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Ok, small sample size, but getting less small...I find that Shostakovich in general needs to be handled "just so" in order to not sound slight and/or over-obvious. It seems that the less nuanced the interpretation is, the less "value" the content has for me. There's a recent-y Martha Whatshername live thing on DG that pissed me off so much I couldn't finish it, just poundpoundpound blatantblatantblatant, and the crowd went wild etc, but jeezus, no more of that for me, ever. Yet I have a  1967 broadcast of Symphony 11 with the Leningrad Philharmonic conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky that is one of the most sublime things I've ever heard. Goosebumps, chills, etc, like the flu only fun. Objectively, I don't know that there's that much difference between the compositions on the two records other than the obvious 500 lb. gorilla ones, maybe just enough to make that much of a difference, but I'm more inclined to think that this is a composer whose music is best revealed under only the best of interpretations, and to that end, all of the Columbia Bernstein readings of Shostakovich symphonies I have are really crying out for wholesale replacement now that I've heard what can really be gotten out of them, or at least some of them.

I also know it's sort of an accepted truth that a great composer's music will reveal at least some of its greatness under almost any interpretation, but no, I don't believe that to be universally true, and Your Honor, I'd like to enter The Music Of Dimitry Shostakovich as People's Exhibit A.

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FWIW, I took Larry's assessment of No. 7 as "horrible piece of music" to be a subjective observation, buttressed by Bartok, but nonetheless his own view, entirely valid of course, as is Bev's. 

And I would note that Larry pointed out the orchestra played wonderfully, and surely he knew what he was in for when he entered the fray.

 

 

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Pretty much knew what I was in for. We went because my wife Julie in her former life had worked for the Pittsburgh Symphony when Jansons was the conductor there, and she admired him as a musician and as a man (not that there's anything wrong with that). We joined the queue to say hello to him downstairs after the concert; he lit up when he saw Julie. I was introduced as "my new husband."

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Beyond the matter of the "Leningrad", one can find lots of negative opinions re. Shostakovich.

One of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful music fans I know dismisses DSCH as "not an opera composer".

If you search for "Preludes and Fugues" recommendations on rec.music.classical.recordings, you'll find that a significant number of the "cognoscenti" regard those pieces more or less as musical doggerel.

I can understand where these critics are coming from (especially with regard to opera), but I still enjoy the P&F, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and The Nose, though there are many works of contrapuntal keyboard music and opera I listen to much more frequently.

Edited by T.D.

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People are going to differ in their reactions to Shostakovich (I don't get much from 2, 3, 12 myself) and want to discuss the reasons why. I've no problem with anyone expressing their dislike of a piece of music, composer etc. 

'What a horrible piece of music', however, is not a piece of reasoned argument. It's posturing. An exaggerated response designed to provoke and assert the accuser's perceived superiority of taste. 

I know we have fundamental differences over this issue - 'strong opinions' trump all amongst the loudest voices on this site. I, on the other hand, think you can express your lack of empathy with a piece of music without resorting to such grandstanding. Out of that comes genuine discussion rather than attention-seeking 'shock' pronouncements. 

The strength of this site is the sharing of enthusiasms. Look over the pages of this thread alone and you'll read mainly enthusiasm. I just found it sad to see that positivity spoiled by a bit of 'well look how unimpressed I am everyone' showing off. 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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7 hours ago, A Lark Ascending said:

People are going to differ in their reactions to Shostakovich (I don't get much from 2, 3, 12 myself) and want to discuss the reasons why. I've no problem with anyone expressing their dislike of a piece of music, composer etc. 

'What a horrible piece of music', however, is not a piece of reasoned argument. It's posturing. An exaggerated response designed to provoke and assert the accuser's perceived superiority of taste. 

I know we have fundamental differences over this issue - 'strong opinions' trump all amongst the loudest voices on this site. I, on the other hand, think you can express your lack of empathy with a piece of music without resorting to such grandstanding. Out of that comes genuine discussion rather than attention-seeking 'shock' pronouncements. 

The strength of this site is the sharing of enthusiasms. Look over the pages of this thread alone and you'll read mainly enthusiasm. I just found it sad to see that positivity spoiled by a bit of 'well look how unimpressed I am everyone' showing off. 

I already knew I didn't like much Shostakovich -- exceptions for me are symphonies 1 & 5 and several of the song cycles -- bu in-person immersion in the Leningrad was something of a shock; previously I hadn't quite grasped the full experience of the work (if in fact I did). Expressing that shock by saying the next morning (with a detail or two)  "what a horrible piece of music" seemed to me like a natural thing to do; I said the same thing to my wife at Symphony Center less than a minute after the applause died away. You're sure that I was "posturing" -- I think that perhaps you have a thin skin on some subjects. As for sharing enthusiasms, I do that all the time here -- e.g. my post the other day about that Geri Allen version of Mary Lou Williams' "Zodiac Suite."

Another detail in the Leningrad -- hard to nail down without listening the whole work again, but I'll try. Early on in final movement there's a sweeping theme for all the violins (perhaps violas and cellos, too) which is presented divisi and in a slightly dissonant manner in a way I don't recall ever hearing before -- and this is, to be sure, a subjective response that also ventures into the realm of reading sounds per se as fairly explicit emotional tokens, although that I would say is something that even Shostakovich admirers  find that his music does as a matter of course. In any case, the sweeping string theme in itself has a somewhat sorrowful lamenting tone to it, but the divisi semi-dissonant framing of it was (or seemed to me) to be almost explicitly tearful, as though Shostakovich were presenting us with something (the string theme itself) that was more or less sad or sorrowful in tone while at the same time the divisi semi-dissonant framing of that passage amounted to cue, even  a virtual command, that we should weep over it. One knows or suspects what the primary source for such a musical/emotional device or tactic might be -- Tchaikovsky (also Mahler). But as a confirmed admirer of Tchaikovsky, I  think that there's a fundamental musical and emotional difference between Tchaikovsky's procedures and those of Shostakovich, at least in the Leningrad. To quote a negative assessment of Tchaikovsky's Fourth from Carl Dahlhaus (which I think is accurate as far as it goes, though there is more to be said): "[F]or Tchaikovsky, the relation between lyricism and monumentality, so precarious to the symphonic order under 'late romantic' conditions, becomes an open contradiction. To have expressive cantabile themes culminate in bombastic fortissimo was not to resolve the dilemma but to conceal an admission of failure.... To put it bluntly, the grand style fundamental to the [symphonic] genre has been split into a monumentality that remains a decorative facade unsupported by the internal form .... and an internal form that is lyrical in character and can be dramatized only by applying a thick payer of pathos."

I agree with Dahlhaus up to his "conceal an admission of failure" -- rather, I think it is the musical-emotional dilemma or contradiction that Dahlhaus speaks of that Tchaikovsky by and large seeks to and manages to dramatize; the undeniable sweeping pathos that one feels is one that the music itself, so to speak, also feels. It is not finally imposed on us externally nor is it "a decorative facade unsupported by the internal form." Yes, there is some significant divergence between internal form, such as it is, and lyricism cum monumentality that is unsupported by the internal form in Tchaikovsky's Fourth, but again that divergence between lyricism and monumentality unsupported by the internal form arguably is what the music itself speaks of with such power and, yes, pathos. Shostakovich in the Leningrad -- there the divergence between lyricism and monumentality is close to omnipresent but is (I think) scarcely even acknowledged in the actual workings of the music; one more or less gets chunks of lyricism and monumentality placed side by side, as though one were switching from a channel where a parade or scenes of combat or destruction are being shown to another channel where funerals and mass graves are depicted.

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I would not call it a horrible piece of music, although I could easily call it a massive piece of temptation.

Again, I come back to interpretation, particularly for pieces such as this that have the ability to "go wrong" built into them. What I remember is that when the DSO did the Leningrad recently, I went into it with two things in mind - the Bernstein Columbia version (which I guess is a "famous" one?) & the fact that the conductor for the night was a literally last-minute sub, younger than van Zweeden, yet somebody who was studying him very closely during his rehearsals.

In both cases, the concern was "what's gonna happen here"? I had found the Bernstein reading to be hard, agressive, almost(?) a piece of Cold War Propaganda that hit the "message" first and foremost. Not particularly something I felt moved by, except in the sense of those animal shelter tv donation ads where, AWWWWWW, damn that's sad, what other reaction are you allowed to have without feeling like a total louse? Van Zweeden I knew to be a real stickler for, as the one critic calls it, "micromanaging", with the end result is that there are arcs all the way through his performances, long arcs, and when climaxes occur, they occur within themselves because of themselves, organically, not tacked on to themselves as advertising, neon or otherwise.

I wrote earlier in this thread about watching Canellakis that night to see if the orchestra and/or the piece would ever get away from her, and implicit in that was that this was a piece where Van Zweeden-ish micro-managing of detail could easily be left behind for Pavlovian Passion Signification, just ramp it on up there and "move" everybody with the "tragedy". Once the orchestra starts doing that, how would the conductor stop it? But that did not happen, Canellakis was brilliant in not letting it happen, and I heard a piece delivered with a whole helluva lot of care, thought, and nuance, with the result that the music was not overplayed/overstated, which to me, gave it a lot more meaning (instead of "meaning").

What's the difference? Minutiae, no doubt, starting crescendos earlier and building them more slowly, tempos allowed to breathe more deeply, ensemble balances set to let the whole orchestra be heard equally while the arcs are building, just little things like that. Probably. Hell, I might enjoy attending rehearsals more than concerts?!?!?!?!

Those differences are essentially musical, but are also, unavoidably, perhaps, socio-political. We're talking about music made to commemorate an event that is now more than a few generations in the past, so the need probably should shift from shouting it out to deafen all interference to letting one contemplate, like, we don't need to be reminded of the horror itself, let's now think about what that horror MEANS. To do this in a really "understanding" way, perhaps it takes a new generation, one for whom the specific events speak as one among many, not a Single Fixed Point Of Outrage & Tragedy. WWII is over, The Cold War is over, which does not meant that shit did not happen or that it loses its weight, but at some point...at what point, do people shift from open wound to scab, and then from scab to scar, and then from scar to just....something you live with, it happened, it left a scar, but we must now move on? And then, how do you interpret this piece, this music, this conductor?

Whatever the answers, I seriously doubt that they will arrive all at once, in one single package that the whole world gets on the same day and opens in unison.

 

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3 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

I already knew I didn't like much Shostakovich -- exceptions for me are symphonies 1 & 5 and several of the song cycles -- bu in-person immersion in the Leningrad was something of a shock; previously I hadn't quite grasped the full experience of the work (if in fact I did). Expressing that shock by saying the next morning (with a detail or two)  "what a horrible piece of music" seemed to me like a natural thing to do; I said the same thing to my wife at Symphony Center less than a minute after the applause died away. You're sure that I was "posturing" -- I think that perhaps you have a thin skin on some subjects. As for sharing enthusiasms, I do that all the time here -- e.g. my post the other day about that Geri Allen version of Mary Lou Williams' "Zodiac Suite."

Another detail in the Leningrad -- hard to nail down without listening the whole work again, but I'll try. Early on in final movement there's a sweeping theme for all the violins (perhaps violas and cellos, too) which is presented divisi and in a slightly dissonant manner in a way I don't recall ever hearing before -- and this is, to be sure, a subjective response that also ventures into the realm of reading sounds per se as fairly explicit emotional tokens, although that I would say is something that even Shostakovich admirers  find that his music does as a matter of course. In any case, the sweeping string theme in itself has a somewhat sorrowful lamenting tone to it, but the divisi semi-dissonant framing of it was (or seemed to me) to be almost explicitly tearful, as though Shostakovich were presenting us with something (the string theme itself) that was more or less sad or sorrowful in tone while at the same time the divisi semi-dissonant framing of that passage amounted to cue, even  a virtual command, that we should weep over it. One knows or suspects what the primary source for such a musical/emotional device or tactic might be -- Tchaikovsky (also Mahler). But as a confirmed admirer of Tchaikovsky, I  think that there's a fundamental musical and emotional difference between Tchaikovsky's procedures and those of Shostakovich, at least in the Leningrad. To quote a negative assessment of Tchaikovsky's Fourth from Carl Dahlhaus (which I think is accurate as far as it goes, though there is more to be said): "[F]or Tchaikovsky, the relation between lyricism and monumentality, so precarious to the symphonic order under 'late romantic' conditions, becomes an open contradiction. To have expressive cantabile themes culminate in bombastic fortissimo was not to resolve the dilemma but to conceal an admission of failure.... To put it bluntly, the grand style fundamental to the [symphonic] genre has been split into a monumentality that remains a decorative facade unsupported by the internal form .... and an internal form that is lyrical in character and can be dramatized only by applying a thick payer of pathos."

I agree with Dahlhaus up to his "conceal an admission of failure" -- rather, I think it is the musical-emotional dilemma or contradiction that Dahlhaus speaks of that Tchaikovsky by and large seeks to and manages to dramatize; the undeniable sweeping pathos that one feels is one that the music itself, so to speak, also feels. It is not finally imposed on us externally nor is it "a decorative facade unsupported by the internal form." Yes, there is some significant divergence between internal form, such as it is, and lyricism cum monumentality that is unsupported by the internal form in Tchaikovsky's Fourth, but again that divergence between lyricism and monumentality unsupported by the internal form arguably is what the music itself speaks of with such power and, yes, pathos. Shostakovich in the Leningrad -- there the divergence between lyricism and monumentality is close to omnipresent but is (I think) scarcely even acknowledged in the actual workings of the music; one more or less gets chunks of lyricism and monumentality placed side by side, as though one were switching from a channel where a parade or scenes of combat or destruction are being shown to another channel where funerals and mass graves are depicted.

Interesting to contrast this 'interpretation' with a two minute address I heard Mark Elder make to the audience in Manchester in February, prior to a performance of the 15th. Positive, optimistic, unpretentious, full of a passion to communicate why the music matters to him. Elder (who has also recorded the Leningrad) made me want to listen ten times harder. I find your post focusing on what is (according to your prejudices) wrong with Shostakovich utterly depressing. 

Fortunately Elder's enthusiasm rings much, much louder. 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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 Hey, I like the Shostakovich 15th myself. :)

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Going solo to this one on Saturday, Mrs. JSngry has requested a reprieve from any and all things vocal. I made my case, believe me, but she was adamant. She has agreed to go see Miles Ahead with me the day after and she does not like Miles either (based on the one time we saw him live, she did not at all care for his stage presence, I still laugh at her about that (but to myself, ok?)), so...negotiating slices is in order right now. I can do that, especially since she's been pretty brave about a lot of other things.

https://www.mydso.com/buy/tickets/carmina-burana

Nicholas Carter conducts
Kathryn Lewek soprano
Nicholas Phan tenor
Noel Bouley baritone
Dallas Symphony Chorus: Joshua Habermann director
Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas: Cynthia Nott director

HIGDON blue cathedral

BRAHMS Song of Destiny

ORFF Carmina Burana

I'm gonna have fun AND have an empty seat to one side of me!

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Have to say that I'm with Mrs. Jsngry on the Miles film and maybe the concert - I'm only somewhat familiar with the last piece. But I hope you enjoy.

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She's going to the Miles film. Perhaps you and Mrs. Paul Secor would like to join us for a double date? I think we're going to eat afterwards.

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Thanks for the invite, but I doubt that I could get Joan to go to either the concert or the film. The food part - maybe. :D

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Higdon -very nice piece, and for some reason at first had me thinking of Next-Gen Joni Mitchell..but not for long. That was a weirdly strange wonderful thought to have while it lasted. But yeah, very nice piece, Jennifer Higdon y'all.

Brahms - did not know the piece, but the big takeaway of the night for me. Whoa. Words do not even begin to fail me.

Orff - first time hearing it live. Amazing (?) how much of its constructions have entered the popular music subconsious. Live, the contrasts of coexisting heaviness and lightness creates this pop-like Zero-G thing..can't say that I was moved by too much of it as I was simply drawn in and kept in.

However, soprano Kathryn Lewek, gorgeous voice, hearing it totally natural was a true delight...One of those "light" (as opposed to...thick? Maybe?) voices that seems weightless and free on some very demanding music. Strong music.

It was a strongly vocal evening, and the orchestra actually seemed just a little off on the Higdon. But once the chorus ok, choruses, took hold, it all locked in.

That Brahms thing, that was a whole night's worth of heaviness itself. Everything else, meaty icing a a pie-worthy cake.

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beethoven_revisited_web.jpg

Sheffield annual week long chamber music festival. I believe it started when the Lindsay String Quartet were connected to the city. Currently built round the Sheffield based Ensemble 360, a group of 5 string, 5 wind and one piano player, augmented for things like string sextets. Just over a dozen concerts over the week, mainly in the late-18th/19thC 'Classical' era with a few related or influenced pieces from further afield in time. Performed in the Crucible Theatre Studio with its distinctive 'in the round' layout:

  desktop_low_res_Ensemble_360_June_2016.p

Lunch: BARTÓK String Quartet No.1 Op.7; MOZART Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat K.452

Evening: HAYDN Divertimento No.2 in G Op.100; BEETHOVEN Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat Op.16; BEETHOVEN String Quartet in C sharp minor Op.131

I've seen many a jazz and folk concert in the Crucible Studio but this was my first classical event there. A nice mixture of music I know quite well (well, have heard a lot!), music I'm still working on and the unfamiliar. The Bartok quartet was the most familiar - exhilarating to hear live, the sheer attack of some of the music (especially in the last movement) really benefits from the visual dimension. Will look out for the later quartets in the future (I heard the 5th some years back) where he started using all those unorthodox effects that are just touched on here; I'd love to see how they are achieved. 

Did not know the Haydn - lovely little piece adapted from an earlier opera for flute, cello, violin. The two wind quintets are pieces I've know since the 80s but haven't played in a long time; enjoyed them so much here that they'll be up on the cd player before long.

The dominating piece was the Op 131 - getting to enjoy the Beethoven quartets has been an ongoing project of the last few months and this performance took me a step further into understanding why they are held in such high regard (not yet ready to blither on about sublimity and how I'm far too fine a fellow to listen to anything else!). The 'in the round' layout had a striking visual impact in the Presto where Beethoven has short phrases rapidly passed round the players in sequence; a bit like watching your laundry go round in the washing machine. 

A Golden Bev Rosette to Ensemble 360 for saying a few words about each piece (different players each time); not to mention the wonderful looks on their faces - the bassoon player betrayed virtually every emotion as the moods changed. I love the opening of the brochure..."There is no dress code, no big stage to keep performers at a distance, nothing you need to know about the music in advance." Wrenching the music out of the jealous hands of the connoisseur. 

I have two more on Wednesday and a final visit on Saturday evening. Very much looking forward to them.  

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I usually post about concerts in German and don't like the idea of translating/re-writing much, but for once I wrote this in english for another music forum:

 

MO 09.05.16


19:30 - ca. 22:00 Uhr, Grosser Saal, Tonhalle Zürich


Neue Konzertreihe Zürich



Chamber Orchestra of Europe


Vladimir JurowskiThierry Fischer

Leitung


Patricia Kopatchinskaja Violine



Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Sinfonie Nr. 10 a-Moll op. 98 "Transcendence" für Streicher


Sergej Prokofjew: Violinkonzert Nr. 2 g-Moll op. 63


Ludwig van Beethoven: Sinfonie Nr. 7 A-Dur op. 92

 


There was a change in the line-up, as reflected above: Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer took over the entire tour on short notice, as Jurowski had to cancel (for health issues, they said). No loss for sure (though I've never seen Jurowski live ... just starting to attend classical concerts in a sort of serious way).

Either way I had one of those seats at the back of the stage, which was sonically not perfect for the Prok of the Van, but it's still fun to watch the orchestra from behind (and costs about half of the expensive seats which are just too rich for me).

Anyway, the Weinberg caught me totally off guard ... I'm not completely unfamiliar with his work but haven't heard any symphonies yet, and this one, played by just a few strings (I think I counted 18, 4-4-4-3-3) was plain amazing - plenty of soloist parts for violin, cello, viola, as well as for the double bass), intense, rich in colours, with plenty of humour too, but overall a very melancholic, brooding piece I found. I hated the audience unrest, but in light of most of them having been present when Beethoven still conducted his own works, I can somewhat relate that this music was "difficult" for them subjects of geriatrics ... dammit, don't we live in 21c by now? Can't people get the sticks out their ... and loosen up some please?

Then they had to re-arrange the stage and on it went with Prokofiev's second concerto. Now I had half the orchestra between me and gorgeous PatKop. When the music got loud, she got drowned out, alas. The concerto, which I like well enough without it being a top favourite (I had revisited the Kopatchinskaja/Jurowski recording on naïve several times in the past days) turned out to be somewhat of a let down after the gorgeous Weinberg, but Kopatchinskaja performed terrifically and in her usual, burningly intense way, stomping, dancing, facing various orchestra members/sections with whom she was interacting ...

Of course they had to do an encore, and she played the second part of Ravel's sonata for violin and cello with the leading cello player of the orchestra (who had taken care of the cello solo parts in the Weinberg), a fun bit for sure, don't think I've heard this sonata, but I have the Ravel Decca/Universal box somewhere, so ... give me time (and money so I don't need to work any more)!

After the break, they performed an animated, intense and dancing Beethoven 7. Very impressive, lots of dynamics and most lively. The orchestra had by that time grown again some and the dynamics indeed got more extreme, for parts where you'd have heard a needle drop to very loud. Now the french horns in front of me interfered some, alas (what a misconstruction anyway, that instrument ... I love its sound, but it always goes off in wrong directions, though the two dudes did an excellent job last night, not hitting one wrong note, at least not a discernible one, and not really fumbling one, either).

Anyway, a truly elevating concert, and a great experience to witness such a tight and lively orchestra!

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beethoven_revisited_web.jpg

Lunch: BACH Flute Sonata in E flat BWV 103; BEETHOVEN Horn Sonata in F Op.17; SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht Op.4 for string sextet

Evening: BEETHOVEN Clarinet Trio Op.11; WEBERN 5 Movements for String Quartet Op.5; BRAHMS String Sextet in B flat Op.18

(Sheffield Crucible Theatre Studio)

Another excellent couple of concerts of (for me) the familiar, partly known and completely new.

Didn't know the two Beethoven pieces at all - particularly enjoyed the clarinet trio. Bach was a nice short piece which I've played on record without it previously registering. 

Veklarte Nacht (here in a special arrangement for midday!) was the piece I've listened to most over the years. Beautiful piece - I'm sure I've read about this before but the programme note mentioned its 'Tristan and Isolde' sound world and that jumped out listening yesterday.

The Webern piece I've heard several times but never properly listened to. Enjoyed it very much, especially the unusual textures. Excellent introduction by the first violin who communicated his enthusiasm for the piece and drew our attention to the extreme dynamic range (the couple next to me were 'unimpressed' - 'They could have had some Schubert.').   

The big lightbulb of the day was the Brahms Sextet which I've enjoyed on record without really taking it in. Utterly spellbound by it this evening - the rich and (to my ears) very Viennese opening movement and endlessly inventive variations in the slow movement in particular. Had to throw it on the CD player as soon as I got home.

Golden Rosette goes to the (Norwegian?) violin player who introduced Verklarte Nacht by running through Schoenberg's programme for the piece in tongue-in-cheek demented primary school teacher telling a racy story fashion; had the audience rolling in the aisles (bet that's the first time Schoenberg and 'rolling in the aisles' have ever shared the same sentence). And to the organisers for free programmes.     

Once again struck by how much the visual element increases engagement in this music - in particular being able to see the entry points of instruments. The separation on even my reasonably good stereo can't make that anywhere near as clear. Will have my eyes peeled for more like this in coming months.  

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Geez, great programs, and free?!?!

How does that happen, the free part? Is this a series, a festival, or what?

No matter, that's the kind of thing worth leaving the house for and then not being in any hurry to get back. Sweet! 

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

Geez, great programs, and free?!?!

How does that happen, the free part? Is this a series, a festival, or what?

No matter, that's the kind of thing worth leaving the house for and then not being in any hurry to get back. Sweet! 

Not free entry. A two sided piece of A4 giving a brief rundown of the pieces (extra copies run off when they run out...real in-house). Usually you get expensive programmes full of adverts. It is a festival that started back in the mid-80s when the Lindsay Quartet were in residence. 

beethoven_revisited_web.jpg

BEETHOVEN String Quartet Op.95 Serioso; HANDEL Trio Sonata Op.2 No.2; SCHUBERT Octet  D.803

My last visit (and the final concert of the series). Just getting to know Beethoven 95 and won't pretend I'm there yet - this one seems quite tough (sound wise) but I did get a greater sense of its structure. The Handel (allegedly, according to the programme) I've heard but never really listened to attentively. Would have preferred a harpsichord to the piano but that would have been a) expensive and b) probably not the pianist-with-the-ensemble's instrument.

The Schubert Octet is an old favourite, one of those pieces that first convinced me that there was more to pre-20thC classical music than moth balls. Absolutely fantastic listening last night without distraction and, once again, with those visual clues allowing you to really hear the thread that runs through the music as it is passed between instruments. Particularly struck by three sections - the end of the slow movement where the main theme is played in turn by each of the strings and then the music modulates to a very strange place before gently returning to the main theme; the scherzo, which if played on a large orchestra would sound like a Bruckner scherzo; and the variations that start with a relatively jaunty tune and run through some fairly standard variations before entering a quite different world from the fifth onwards - Schubert's music always sounds so 'agreeable' (my favourite Jane Austin word) but it's full of strange places. Never noticed any of that listening on record. 

Ecstatic response from the audience for the concert and the whole festival. I'm new to it but there is clearly a loyal following in Sheffield to the Ensemble (mainly young players in their 20s/30s, drawn internationally...some nice accents when introducing the pieces). Could have done without the 'bravos' (there should be tumbrils!) but all in all a marvellous experience. I will go again - theme will be different. This year was a commemoration of the late Peter Cropper, the member of the Lindsay Quartet who started the 'In the Round' programme at The Crucible in the 80s.       

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ligeti.d5bd935c7d9790f28b78aa1058d3b5dc.

Ligeti Quartet (Firth Hall, University of Sheffield)

Conlon Nancarrow: String Quartet No. 1 (1945)
Christian Mason: Tuvan Songbook (2016 - Ligeti Quartet commission)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 3 (1926)
Iannis Xenakis: Tetras (1983)
George Nicholson: Peter Cropper Tribute (2016 - World Premiere)
György Ligeti: String Quartet No. 1 ‘Métamorphoses nocturnes’ (1952)

Complete contrast to last week - Bartok was the modernist outlier there, here the link to 'the tradition'. The only piece I knew was the Bartok. Really enjoyed that but it was the Nancarrow, Xenakis and Ligeti pieces that really excited me. Very much hanging on by the seat of my pants but these vigorous pieces were totally engaging - lots of glissando, pizzicato, otherworldly harmonics, strange hammerings and other 'extended technique' (I think that's the correct term). All pieces I'm anxious to hear again and try and make sense of - the Ligeti might be easiest, being a set of variations....I tried to keep track but got lost around the fourth (out of 17!). Very taken by the middle movement of the Nancarrow - the programme compared the sounds to wind chimes which made sense.  

I'm no judge of 'performance' but these pieces seemed devilishly difficult - some of the split second exchanges of notes had you fearing everything tumbling over. To my ears they carried it off brilliantly.

Each piece introduced by one of the quartet. Gold star.  

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That's a great quartet, imo, and you assessment of the difficulty of the music is quite correct. Difficult to simply play correctly, even more difficult to play correctly and with a "natural" feeling (or, if you will, a "swing"). Younger groups such as this have the advantage of never knowing this music as "new", it's always been there for them, so performance can begin to focus more on interpretation and less on just getting the damn notes right. Listeners such as yourself (and me, actually) who might have been put off by the apparent "coldness" of this area of music might be well served by hearing it played live and played well but younger (but definitely expert) groups such as this. The spirit lives!

Heard last night: https://www.mydso.com/buy/tickets/jaap-van-zweden-conducts-mahler

van Zweden — Mahler

Gregory Raden, Principal Clarinet

May 27-28 | 2016


Jaap van Zweden conducts

Gregory Raden clarinet
Twyla Robinson soprano
Michelle DeYoung mezzo-soprano
Clifton Forbis tenor
Raymond Aceto bass
Michèle Bréant young soprano
Sydney Frodsham young alto
Dallas Symphony Chorus: Joshua Habermann director

COPLAND Clarinet Concerto

MAHLER Das klagende Lied

 

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Copland...don't really like Copland, to be honest. Don't DISlike him, just find him kind of...pleasantly lacking. This piece was no exception. I mena, it was "good", and I did enjoy it, certainly won't shy away from exploring it in the future as opportunity arises. But...and it could have been played better, honestly. Might have been Reed Betrayal, and we've all been there, but...if you're playing a composed piece and you know what's coming and you know where trouble is starting to arise with your equipment, I think you ought to improvise a little and find a way to work around that. That might sound harsh, and maybe it is, I mean, hell, this is live music and sometimes shit happens that you just cannot control. But anyway, pleasant but not really satisfying performance on the Copland.

 

Mahler, though, holy shit, what kind of extended paen to angst is THIS? Holy shit, brother murders brother, dead brothers murdered bone gets turned into a despairing flue, nobody lives happily ever after, hell, nobody even lears a tragic lesson, even the castle collapses. This is not what we as Abrahamic cultures come to expect, we expect at least some level of justice, or redemption, or lesson, but no, not hear, what happens here is simple - everybody dies and then they're dead. Period, end of story.

I intentionally avoided doing advance review of this one because I knew it was highly vocal and I knew there would be subtitles. I wanted to experience it "cold". So, yes, this story keeps unfolding, and there's a frigid kind to be warmed, a lovely flower in the woods, and a pure-hearted soul who's murdered by his brother, where is there NOT redemption to be had in this setup?

But no, BOOM! Castle collapses on everybody and that is that. I was more than a little taken aback.

And not least of all because the music was so freakin'   brilliantly composed and executed. Lord have mercy, van Zweden can do Mahler, and he's gotten his band (and last night, the chorus and soloists) to do it just the way he wants it. I've come to really dig Mahler once I got past past memories of Leoanrd Bernstein's Columbia/NYPO recordings, it's not all special effects boombahCRASH, there's meat there, and no need to hurry either. This was a magnificent performance and, given the story it told, a certainly unexpected one!

Driving music to and from was the new Henry Threadgill Pi album. The Copland paled as a folloup to it, but leaving the hall after that Mahler thing, it seemed like a great wave to get on to keep on going. So, yeah, Threadgill, Mahler, van Zweden, great night.

 

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6 hours ago, JSngry said:

Listeners such as yourself (and me, actually) who might have been put off by the apparent "coldness" of this area of music might be well served by hearing it played live and played well but younger (but definitely expert) groups such as this.

Definitely true. This was really worth going to - I've been investigating on record since. Good news is that they are back in the Autumn and Spring playing similar programmes.

Try later (or earlier) Copland - the Socialist Realist phase (which I do like) only gives you part of the picture. Glad 'Das Klagende Lied' went down well. One I only know from CD and not that well. A live performance would be helpful there. 

Off to Monterverdi's Vespers tonight in Beverley Minster (cathedral in a small Yorkshire town about 90 minutes away). Then it's Wagner June - 'The Ring' (semi-staged) all next week and 'Tristan and Isolde' in London at the end of the month. 

The 2016-17 programmes are just appearing here - some good things on the cards. Der Rosenkavalier (my favourite opera) and Billy Budd (Britten) in the Autumn by Opera North; and Berg's 'Lulu' in London (ENO) which is running around the time of the London Jazz Festival so I hope to double up. Also hope to try a new opera - Ryan Wigglesworth's 'The Winter’s Tale' next Spring at ENO. 

The local orchestral concerts (Sheffield, Nottingham) are unadventurous for the new season (bums on seats) but I'll probably go to Walton 1, Shostakovich 8 and a complete Brandenburg Concertos concert; also, further afield, Ravel's full 'Daphnis and Chloe' in Manchester, one I've been wanting to hear for a long time. 

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