Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, Liszt.

Today the SLSO played a program titled “Warm Music for Cold Nights”. They started off with Barber’s ‘Essay No. 1’, which was pretty enjoyable. I never really find anything to dislike with Barber. He always has something interesting to say, and that was the case with Essay No. 1. I felt like it was very well organized- I loved the brass parts on it, especially the horns.

The Chopin was pretty well done, but not perfect. I’m not a huge fan of ‘Piano Concerto No. 1’ in it’s entirety, but I’ve always been totally in love with the second movement of it (I have the Emanuel Ax version on my iTunes). The third is pretty enjoyable, too. I felt like the piano soloist, Louis Lortie, did the best with what had had to work with. Maybe the performance was weak, in part, because of the visiting conductor, Michael Christie. I felt like his conducting was really disconnected and reserved, which is sometimes a good thing, but not always. He lead the orchestra too much, and never really allowed them to fall into a comfortable stride with some of the longer passages of the piece. Call me a musician (I am), but I always prefer a more animated conductor who isn’t afraid to show me exactly what he wants. That’s how wonderful music is made.

I felt like Christie loosened up a bit for some of the Tchaikovsky, which I did enjoy. I’m not always a huge fan of his works, but ‘Suite No. 3’ was truly a comforting piece of warm music for a cold night.

In other news this week…

I attended a piano recital by my good friend Michael McElvain. Look for his name in a few years- you’ll find it attached to some major works. For his recital, he gave an incredibly inspired performance of Bartok’s ‘Out of Doors’. The piece itself has always been something of a delight for me, but listening to Michael play it was really a treat. He has told me on many occasions that the ‘Night Music’ movement is one of his very favorite things to play, and I can feel his love for it in every note and every cluster.

He also played Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, which was an out-of-this world experience for me. The piece starts on this really pensive low G. It just kind of lingers for a few seconds, and then again. Quarter notes. And if you know what’s coming after that, in the next thirty minutes, it gives those quarter notes an entirely new context. They almost beckon to you. They say, “Are you ready? Are you sure?” They say, “Get ready. It’s coming.” It’s almost a little scary. I could listen to the first 15 seconds on repeat.

That it for now. There are some really exciting things coming up in the near future. Next week is John Adams’ ‘El Nino’, which some critics have said is his masterpiece. I’m really crawling out of my skin, waiting for it. A few weeks later, SLSO is doing a live performance of the soundtrack to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ while showing it on the projection screen. That should be really fun, I already have tickets to go with my wonderful girlfriend.

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