Sunday, May 18, 2014

tuning up

Let's see.  Where did we leave off?

Oh, yes.  I was just leaving the hotel in hopes of getting to the concert before it started.

As I was heading out the door, I grabbed my mobile telephone and slipped it in my pocket.  Most concert halls do not allow cameras.  But cameras in telephones never seem to bother authorities.  At least, concert authorities.

You will note, though, the only photograph is one I took of the auditorium earlier in the day.  The exterior looks like a cross between a community college and a Motel 6.  The interior, however, is stunning.  The place obviously was built for the production of music. 

So, why no additional photographs?  Simple.  I left it in the taxi.  It is now gone.  And don't worry about making suggestions.  The moment I sat down in the auditorium, I was reconciled to the fact that it has disappeared.  It is not worth worrying about -- or having further discussion.

But, if you would like to talk about the music, I would love to.

I almost didn't buy a ticket.  The fare was rather thin gruel.  A Beethoven concerto I have heard multiple times and Ravel's Bolero.

I am glad, though, I went.  There is something about watching live music being performed.  And even with amplification, it sounds better than any recording possibly could.

The Beethoven piece was his Violin Concerto in D Minor.  With a Danish soloist -- Nikolaj Znaider.  I have heard recordings of his work, but I have never seen him perform live.

Great composers know how to surprise us with their music, while leaving us with the sense that the direction of the music is inevitable.  Beethoven is one of the masters at working that magic.

Znaider teased out new bits from a familiar piece -- leaving the audience feeling as if they had heard the piece for the first time.

The second piece was new to me.  A recent composition (2005) --Trilogie Cosmique -- by the French composer, Guillaume Connesson.  A piece very much in the modern style. 

But with an accessible form.  Even though it is made up of many low, soft tones that aging ears may find challenging.  (The woman in front of me wanted to know why the orchestra had stopped playing while the conductor was still waving his baton.)

For me, it was the best piece on the program.  Not so, for most of the audience.  The applause was tepid at best.

But the next two pieces -- regular fare on pops concerts -- met with sporadic standing ovations.

The first was Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  It is often a brave piece to play now that Disney has subsumed it into the Mouse Empire.  There is probably not a western person alive who can keep Mickey out of his head when the first soft note floats through the auditorium.

But it is Dukas's tale; not Disney's.  Or, actually, it is Goethe's.  Dukas borrowed the tale from a Goethe poem to create his tone poem.  But all of the characterizations are there.  It is pure program music.

That does not mean it cannot be rousing good fun.  And it was.  Helped, of course, with the tonal richness of a live orchestra.

I was ready to leave when it came time to roll out Bolero.  It has never been my favorite Ravel piece .  Its primary reliance on rhythm is hypnotic.  And not in a good way.  I wonder if 10 had never been filmed if the piece would still be lingering in concert halls -- with all of its sex tape provenance? 

But the orchestra played it well -- pulling out what little originality and surprise lingers in the piece.  And the audience loved it.  Demanding an encore.  For which we were served up the last two minutes of the piece repeated.

Was it worth the walk?  And the money?  And the rush to get to the auditorium? 

You bet!  This is my grand tour of Europe.  Without concerts, there is no grand in the tour.

Later today, my ship will be coming in.  We spend the night here and then sail away at 11 PM on Monday.

Here's hoping for a good internet connection.

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