Saturday, March 14, 2015

can you play me a memory?

“San Miguel de Allende and Chapala will have nothing on us.”

I have heard the refrain before.  This time, a piano player from San Miguel de Allende was coming to our little town for a concert.  For some reason, as starved for high culture as we are, we tend to create hurdles for ourselves we cannot possibly cross. 

I call it pianist envy.

My interlocutor was discussing the appearance of Antonio Cabrero, maestro with the San Miguel de Allende Orchestra, who was going to regale, as the poster said, "Tourists, Expats, and Residents."  Through various sources, I knew the evening was going to be classical, Gershwin, and popular piano pieces.

I would normally pass on that program.  Even though our area has some very talented bar musicians, concert pianists are few and far between.  I took the risk.  And, overall, I was glad I did.

The program turned out to be exactly what I anticipated -- pieces that everybody in the audience had heard numerous times before.  It is the type of music people would listen to while completing a shopping list.

The classical section included excerpts your niece in Omaha would have played at her high school recital: Saint-Saëns's "The Swan;" Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" theme; and an excerpt from Rachmaninoff's "Second Piano Concerto."  Essentially, the musical equivalent of Highlights from Hamlet.

The Gershwin selections were primarily from Porgy and Bess: "Bess, You is My Woman, Now;" "It Ain't Necessarily So;" "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin';"  and "Summertime," along with "Foggy Day."

Followed by a list of northern favorites: "Satin Doll," "Embraceable You," and "As Time Goes By."  And those old Mexican stand-bys: "Maria Bonita" and "Granada."

And for the finale?  "New York, New York."  Bet you didn't see that coming.

If you are saying, "Wait a minute, Steve; you are asking the maestro to perform a program he did not choose," you are absolutely correct.  It is a fair cop.

Some very talented musicians have taken banal material and breathed new interpretations into it as their own.  So, how did Maestro Cabrero perform the program he chose to perform?

I am not certain.  Probably for reasons of mobility, he performed on an electric piano -- in a concert hotel conference room.  I could not tell if the lack of dynamic, missing pedal points, and unscored dissonances were the result of his technique or of the limitations of his instrument and the room. 

The audience appeared to give him the benefit of doubt, but the glissando and finger rolls in the Gershwin piece came across as merely muddled.

Having said that.  It was live music.  A lot of sins can be covered by that simple fact.  And my fellow audience members appeared to be quite taken with the performance.

There is a reason we get excited when musicians offer us new fare.  There are a group of us here who are starved for music that will challenge us -- that will force us to listen at Aaron Copland's third level of listening: the sheer musical plane, where we listen to the music as an abstract art form; or, in Copland's words: "the notes themselves and of their manipulation."

Can Antonio Cabrero provide that?  I hope so.  In fact, I hope he comes back.  But this time with some music to challenge our listening abilities.  Maybe something by Guillaume Connesson -- or something similar.

And when he returns, could someone please supply this man a grand piano -- rather than the equivalent of a moog synthesizer?

The local Rotary who helped make this event possible deserve a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish.  I just hope they can do it again.

No comments: