Friday, March 11, 2011

CSO

Due to a bizarre scheduling fluke, my wife and I wound up seeing three of our seven subscription concerts in the last 14 days (plus a night at the ballet). I have to say that was pushing it a bit. I love the symphony but I am getting over a bad cold and could have stood a night off. So perhaps that colored my view of tonight's concert.

It was strange programming. The night began with Haydn's 25th Symphony. You don't get a lot of early Classical music with the larger symphonies, and there's a reason, it just doesn't fill the hall well. The orchestra sounded OK, but it's not a brilliant work like some of the later symphonies.

That was followed by Liszt's Piano Concerto #1. Although I love the chromatic motif that opens the piece, it does seem a bit short and underdeveloped after hearing brilliant performances of Ravel and of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto over the last two weeks. The 23 year-old Joseph Moog made his North American debut with the piece and did quite well, but was not amazing. Again, he gets the short end of the stick following two phenomenal soloists in previous weeks.

Instead of having one major work, the concert had four shorter works, which leaves me a little unfulfilled. After intermission the highlight of the evening was Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. The orchestra played their finest on this piece. Guest conductor Gilbert Varga did a great job with this piece.

The evening ended with Richard Strauss's Death & Transfiguration which had the weakest performance of the evening. Harmonically it is the most complex piece and the intonation was weak throughout. The strings were pretty consistent but the winds were all over the place. This is not Strauss's best work, although the section that John Williams stole for the love theme from Superman is pretty interesting. Strauss was an interesting character as he began writing in the late Romantic era but did not die until 1949 (there are color films of him conducting his own works), but his style never really changed. In his own life, he went from cutting-edge to passé. Unlike some of his other tone poems, this one is lacking.
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