‘Emperor’, Ein Heldenleben, Tchaikovsky 5.

A relatively short post, because it’s very late and I’m tired.

This past weekend I heard the most wonderful concert. The SLSO did Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto and Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss.

Seeing anything by Strauss live is always a great experience, and Ein Heldenleben was no different. The power, the excitement, the HEROISM! I imagine it would be a lot of fun to get to play something like this in an orchestra.

Then, ‘Emperor’. The Fifth Piano Concerto is arguably my all-time favorite piece of music, and I had been waiting for this performance for many months (especially after I found out that Richard Goode was going to be playing). After attending the pre-show lecture by David Robertson, I was nervous. He was talking about how Goode had been having interesting ideas about the dynamics and tempo of the piece, and how it’s always important to think about music in new ways. 

I was really very impressed with the first movement. It seemed like they took the volume down a lot from all the recordings I had heard of the piece. They were playing it very delicately, with almost a regal sound. Then, they got to the second movement, which is my very favorite. I was disappointed with the tempo- I felt like they played it much too fast. I understand why Goode interpreted the piece the way he did, however I don’t agree. The entire emotional impact of the second movement lies in the tension, the delay between phrases, the unresolved trills. The section with the trills is the most incredible thing to listen to when it’s played at the right tempo. Of course, Beethoven is known for (among other things) being very progressive with cadence delay, and this is evident in the piece. But when it’s played too fast, it loses almost all of the effect that I feel Beethoven was intending.

That being said, it was somewhat redeemed by the third movement. They played very well. Not my favorite interpretation, but still a joy to listen to.

Finally, I’ve been listening to a lot of Tchaikovsky. I bought a copy of Swan Lake, and I’ve been really enjoying that. Also, I was trying to become better-acquainted with his symphonies when I stumbled across the most incredible thing: Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. I know that I’m biased because I’ve been listening to it non-stop for almost five days now, but I think it might be my favorite symphony.  From the quiet start and then grandeur of the first movement to the amazing strings and horn intro of the second movement and the recurrence of the theme throughout… it’s just a sublime piece of music. I hope to have more time to study it in the future.

Bedtime.

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