Monthly Archives: May 2009

Adés, Beethoven, Casual Concert.

I went to see the SLSO the past two weekends, but I’ve been too busy looking for a job to get on and write about it. 

Last weekend, I went to see a pretty cool program. They played Thomas Adés’ Asyla and Beethoven’s Ninth. It was a good program. The Adés piece was really very interesting. The title is the plural for the word Asylum, which you don’t hear too often. I suppose the piece was about emotions and feelings that could be associated with an asylum. It was four movements, and only the third movement had a title. 

One really cool thing about the piece was that they used an incredible amount of percussion. The entire back of the stage was filled with percussive instruments, many of which were used only once or twice in the entire piece. There were two pianos, one of which (an upright) was tuned a quarter-tone flat to the Steinway. From what I gather, Adés specifically requested that arrangement to simulate the effect of church bells, which when sounded create many tones in the overtone series that can’t be played by an even-tempered instrument such as a piano.

The overall effect of the piece was not unlike a John Cage piece- it sounded cool, but it wasn’t particularly narrative. It was something that I know I could have enjoyed more if I had studied the score. Asyla is definitely something that I plan to hear again, and next time I’ll be more prepared. 

And Beethoven’s Ninth was Beethoven’s Ninth. I didn’t think it was performed that well, and a few other people I know agreed. Clearly, there’s not much anyone can say in way of criticism towards the actual composition, however the Ninth is a monster and should be adequately rehearsed. I regret to say that I can’t offer specific examples as it’s been a week since I heard it, however I do remember that I was underwhelmed by the performance on the whole. The Scherzo, I do remember, was really very good though. 

This past weekend, I went to a very nice Casual Concert at the SLSO. It was the first performance in their four week summer series. Overall, they played very well. Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn… can’t do much better than that!

Other than that, I’ve been trying to relax after the semester. I got an A on my Mahler paper, so I’ve been feeling good about that. 

Things I’ve been listening to:

Bach- The Goldberg Variations (enjoying the never-ending comparison between Glenn Gould’s ’55 and ’81 recordings…)

Saint-Saëns’ Third Symphony “Organ”

Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words (all of them, but I’ve been specifically enjoying Op. 30 No. 1) 

Debussy- Estampes

Brahms- Piano Quintet, String Quintets, Clarinet Quintet

The new Wilco album (it rocks)

 

That’s about it for this post. I’ll have more time to write soon.

Saint-Saëns, Franck.

Awesome! SLSO’s ‘French Impressions’ concert was very good. Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’ is always beautiful. I hadn’t heard the orchestration, but I do like the piano version. The ‘Sarabande’ was fair. 

The Saint-Saëns ‘Piano Concerto No. 2’ was the highlight for me. I really must have a thing for classical  period piano concertos. I suppose this was post-classical. I heard someone say neo-classical, but when I think about neo-classicism I think about late Stravinsky, so I’m going to go ahead and say that it was post-classical. I loved it. I’ve been too busy with finals to go out and get a recording, but I’m going to.

Marc-André Hamelin was incredible. A few of my pianist friends say that he has the best technique in the world right now, and I couldn’t really disagree with that. I haven’t heard every pianist in the world, but the latter movements of the Saint-Saëns lead me to believe that he knows what he’s doing. Speaking of Saint-Saëns, I’m listening to his Symphony No. 3 “Organ” right now. Really a fantastic piece.

The Franck Symphony in D minor was disappointing. The SLSO played it well, but I didn’t feel like it was a strong symphony. The first movement had epic ambitions, but it was actually somewhat substance-less to me. The second movement was static, and the third movement started off well, but lost my interest. I never really understood Franck- he’s famous for such a small body of work. I know there are other composers that are about as prolific (Berlioz, Mussorgsky…) but I feel like their contributions are more significant. I must be missing something- maybe I need to hear more of his organ works. I guess I’ll have to add “Investigate Franck” to my list of things to do this summer.

After the ‘French Impressions’ concert, Ethan and I went to lunch with one of the violinists from the orchestra. I won’t use the person’s name, however I will say that I learned some really exciting gossip about Joshua Bell’s sex life and also about what Richard Goode smells like  (and as I wrote this, I put on his ‘Waldstein’ recording and realized that I don’t care how he smells because he blows my mind). 

I don’t have too much else to say at the moment. I’m in the middle of finals right now. Almost done with my Mahler paper, now titled ‘Existential Issues and Mahler’s Second Symphony’.

With the small bits of free time I’ve had, I’ve been reading ‘Silence’ by John Cage. Some serious music philosophy in there. More on that when I have time to finish it.