Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pittsburgh Symphony - October 26

Pittsburgh Symphony - October 26
Conductor - Marek Janowski
Max Bruch - Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46 (with Arabella Steinbacher)
Hector Berlioz - Le Roi Lear (King Lear), Op. 4
Richard Strauss - Macbeth, Op. 23

First of all, let me say that Mark Rohr is my new favorite program-notes-writer. This week included such gems as:
"In his own time he was considered to have a similar stature to Brahms; today, not so much."
"Berlioz was, of course, a nut"
"... and often critics and audiences treat [Strauss' Macbeth] as a batty uncle kept in the attic."

I'm not being sarcastic, I really do enjoy them. His notes make me smile, because often they say what real (non-critic, non-writer) people would think, the way that they would be thinking it, if they were thinking like critics or writers, which they are not doing, because they are not.


I'll give you a minute to sort through that last sentence. Enjoy.


Back to the program. Janowski didn't really leave much of an impression on me, which was surprising considering how much I had noticed the previous two conductors through their respective concerts. I have no theories on why this is, I'm just sayin'. (< channeling my inner Mark Rohr? Maybe not . . . )

The program notes made a big deal out of how much Bruch was respected equally to Brahms in their time, and how it is a shame that this equally great composer has been so forgotten, etc etc. Sorry guys, but I disagree. It was a good piece, I enjoyed it, it was fun . . . but it was no Brahms. Let's just all get on board with that and move on.

Ms. Steinbacher was interesting to watch. She seemed to move her right shoulder much more than most violinists I've seen. But while her playing certainly looked very athletic, it didn't sound that way . . . neat trick. Her sound was lovely and everything went well (and, because I'm girly, she was wearing a knockout red strappless dress that she only pulled off by virtue of being a twig, and I mean that in the flattering, jealous way). There were a few little tears between the soloist and orchestra, but not enough to cause any serious distraction.

For an encore, she played something more modern that I didn't recognize, but in my opinion she shined more brightly during the encore than during the concerto. She seemed more at home in the style, freer, as though THIS was from the heart, while the concerto was from a publicity photo. Not that her playing in the Bruch was bad by any stretch, but it wasn't nearly as *alive* as it was in the encore. I really wish I knew what the piece was.

I don't remember too many details from this one. I enjoyed it, and I remember thinking that it would make a good college orchestra piece. Not too long, nothing too complicated ensemble-wise, but still fun to listen to.

This was the highlight of the concert for me. WHY have I not heard this before?? If you don't know it, go listen - you have been missing out. It was seriously exciting with all the extremes that you expect from Strauss . . . it had all of the personality of his other literarily-inspired works (and yes, literarily IS actually a word), but because it alludes to rather than outlines the plot, it has somewhat more musical freedom. I wish I could remember more details about this performance, but suffice to say that I wandered out with a huge grin that lasted the rest of the afternoon. I must get a good recording of this piece, asap.


Ruth said...

Yay! Ali has a blog!

thechuck said...

I seem to recall the encore being a theme and variations on Dies Irae, right? We just didn't know who wrote it.