Friday, October 17, 2008

National Symphony Orchestra - October 4, 2008

National Symphony Orchestra - Oct. 4
Conductor - Miguel Harth-Bedoya
Beethoven - Overture to "The Consecration of the House," Op. 124
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 (with Helene Grimaud)
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5

Nicole and I showed up only to be told that there were no student tickets that evening - bummer! But the awesome guy at the ticket office said that somebody had just cancelled two $78 tickets in the tenth row, and he gave them to us for $20! More ticket luck!

The Beethoven Overture was, honestly, disappointing. There were numerous ensemble tears, the string sections didn't always line up within themselves (violas playing undulating 8th notes, I'm talking to you), there were tempo problems (rushing, first violins!), the winds hung over on some cutoffs, the last stand of first violins were slouching back in their chairs and not using much bow . . . AND a clarinet played in the rest before the final chord. Talk about a buzz-kill. At this point, I was wondering if it was worth even the $20 we paid.

The Piano Concerto was better . . . still, the orchestra played like they were bored. The soloist was golden in the soft moments - so delicate and musical and perfectly played - , but didn't seem to have the power that one expects from a pianist playing Beethoven. It was good, but not great - I fell asleep a couple of times.

Intermission - we were nervous. A lackluster Shosti 5 would be a little soul-crushing.

FORTUNATELY - the Shostakovich was awesome. I would have liked some more precision from the first violins in the first movement (some of the moving figures after sustained notes didn't start exactly together). The rest though . . . stunning. Movements 2, 3, and 4 . . . SO great. And after sitting for the third movement, you'd better bet that the brass section let it rip on the finale opening! There was plexi-glass in front of the brass, and it was still just a wall of sound! Very impressive.

Overall - the strings weren't as together as I expected, the winds were "nice" but didn't have as much depth of sound as I'd like (the principal bassoon did have a killer solo in the Beethoven overture, though), the brass were pretty kick-ass.

So it turned out to be a great experience after all. Ok, so it was a guest conductor . . . but still. My disappointment was less because of the occasional imprecision and more because the whole orchestra just seemed BORED most of the time! Because really - if they can play Shosti like THAT, why did they waste my time with that sad, half-hearted excuse for Beethoven?

*Disclaimer - I am, of course, well aware that that orchestra is full of amazing musicians who are all a great deal better than me. But the fact remains that the first half of the concert was just not exciting. Sorry.

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