Saturday, October 16, 2010

SLAVA!

The Colorado Symphony performed a a concert of music by Slavic composers tonight, titling the concert SLAVA! This was the first concert of our season package. The program was a bit odd. It opened with the Marche Slave of Tchaikovsky, which is really more of a showstopper than an overture. The orchestra played very emotionally despite lackluster conducting by guest Peter Oundjian, who was strangely unemotional.

This was followed by the Concerto #1 for Piano, Trumpet & Strings by Shostakovitch. More of an intellectual piece, it was still quite enjoyable. I liked the trumpet part a lot, played by Justin Bartels, principal with the orchestra. The piano was played by Lise de la Salle, who was also quite good.The balance was a bit off, the piano could have used a little amplification in that muddy hall, but the trumpet sounded great.

After a very, very long intermission, the next piece was Taras Bulba by Janácek. This was a strange piece to place on a long program, but one that is underplayed. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was clear Oundjian enjoyed conducting this a lot more than the previous two pieces. The concert ended with the Cappricio Espagnol of Rimsky-Korsakov. Played beautifully by the orchestra, particularly the violin solo by Yumi Hwang-Williams.

One of the reasons there was a smooth transition for me when I moved here was the presence of Steven Ledbetter's excellent program notes. Steve had done the program notes for the Boston Symphony for many years and I remembered his writing quite well. He is probably the one of the most well known music writers in the country. For completely inexplicable reasons, the orchestra's publicity department decided to "go in a different direction" this year, even though Jeffrey Kahane had specifically requested Steven's notes. I hate to obsess on the program notes, but this is really symptomatic of the terrible series of changes the orchestra has gone through this year. The first mistake was completely screwing up the subscribers' ticket renewals, resulting in all kinds of terrible publicity for the orchestra (which I wrote about here).

The new writer did not take the time to explain who Taras Bulba was, so the conductor had to do it from the stage, which was a bit embarrassing, as Oundjian made it look like a heroic tale of Cossacks raping and killing Poles. (Because of the theme of the concert, there were a lot of Slavs in the audience, I don't think that went over too well.) The new notes did not even mention the Cappricio, as if it were some kind of mistake or late addition (it was not). As both a season ticket holder and a donor to the orchestra, I am quite let down by the decision to let Steve go.

The hall was, at best, one-third full, which makes it difficult for me to believe their publicity department when they claim that they had the most successful subscriber campaign ever.

I'm looking forward to the orchestra choosing a new regular conductor.
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