Saturday, March 15, 2014

Elgar and Prokofiev

Paul Watkins plays Elgar with the CSO
Tonight's Colorado Symphony concert included three firsts. The evening opened with a new arrangement of selections from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. This is an expanded version of what is usually played as an orchestral suite, arranged by conductor Andrew Litton. It was a nice set, played very well. The Colorado Ballet had performed the piece in 2012 (click to see my review), but it is nice to see it performed as concert music.

The second first of the night was Paul Watkins performing the Elgar Cello Concerto for the first time in the US. It's nice to hear something else played on the cello other than the Dvorak. Unfortunately the Elgar is not quite as melodic a piece. Watkins played well, although he seemed to have a little trouble on his high string. Not only did it sound a little flat but the tone quality did not project well.

The highlight of the evening was the Colorado premiere of a piece that originally dates back to the 20s; Prokofiev's Symphony #4. Parts of it were extracted from a ballet that he wrote in 1929 and were expanded into a symphony for the Boston Symphony. Years later, the composer revisited it and write an expanded version, which is what was performed tonight. I have to say I liked it quite a bit, even though it did remind me of several other works by the composer, including Peter and the Wolf. Also, earlier this year we saw an excellent production of his Cinderella with the Colorado Ballet, and parts of it reminded me of that.

Conductor Andrew Litton made a point of asking the audience not to leave at intermission, which I thought was odd, they must have had an exodus last night, but it appeared that most people stayed. However, a handful of people walked out between the third and fourth movements, an odd choice to make it so close to the end and then leave early. Also the piece is mostly Romantic, it's not that weird or dissonant that I would have expected it to drive people out of the hall.

Classical music is in a strange place. I'm sick of hearing the same pieces performed over and over again, yet there is a lot of new music that is crap (in my opinion). They really need to figure out how to get audiences involved in orchestral music again.
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