Friday, October 17, 2008


Tonight we heard the Colorado Symphony perform a bizarre collection of works, featuring two by Mozart, as well as two other works.

The program began with a new piece by George Tsontakis, Winter Lightning from Four Symphonic Quartets. Like many new pieces, it left a lot to be desired, with the composer feeling the necessity to overuse the full orchestra simply because he could. Some sections of it were interesting, but it would be hard to imagine sitting through all four movements. It is admirable that the orchestra plays new music, but this was not a great choice. It was also a very poor way to start a concert.

This was followed by the piano feature Burleske in D minor by Richard Strauss, with the solo played by Jeremy Denk. Denk played quite well. It's a very Romantic and difficult piece, and although there were a few sloppy runs (the conductor chose a very fast tempo), overall he was impressive. Denk has a nice blog by the way. 

The small turnout for the concert was a little surprising, but the same program runs tomorrow and Sunday, so I suspect they will be better attended. Swan Lake was playing in the adjacent hall and I suspect they stole some of the audience. I do have to say that it odd leaping back from a contemporary piece to one that was SOOOO Romantic in sound. It made for a very disjointed program.

Even stranger was the choice to follow that with the Mozart Rondo in D. Another huge leap back in time, to a simple divertimento piece that has as much substance as a marshmallow fluff sandwich. This would have been a better piece to open the concert, and then go into the Strauss Romanticism, and then into the contemporary piece. The intermission would have cleansed the palette for the return to Mozart as a nice bookend.

And that return was the Symphony #39 in E flat. Again, not Mozart's best work, but certainly a nice piece. I'm so fond of the G minor, all his other symphonies pale in comparison. Jeffrey Kahane is a good conductor, although I was surprised to see how small he was in physical stature. His oversized coat made him look at times like Elmer Fudd conducting (with Larry Fine's hair). At one point in the last movement, he stopped conducting, and leaned back on the podium as though he were waiting for a train. That takes chutzpah for a conductor to trust the orchestra that much!

The concert hall is nice, but the acoustics are a bit metallic for an orchestra. The sight lines are not great (with the piano on stage, you can't see the conductor) and I suspect that is one common complaint and a reason why they are trying to raise funds for a new hall, even though this one is fairly new.

Next week we will see the Brahms Violin Concerto. I look forward to it!
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