Sunday, October 26, 2008


Last night the Colorado Symphony performed the Brahms Violin Concerto under guest conductor Peter Oundjian with soloist Elina Vähälä. The orchestra sounded great this week; even better than last week. The string section sounded full and rich. the conductor kept the orchestra together well.

It's a strange hall, with the orchestra in the center as in a theater-in-the-round, which means some people are sitting behind the orchestra. And the hanging lights are glass-covered, so there is a lot of reflected sound. Yet for some reason it sounded better this week.


In response to the question added as a comment:

Boettcher Hall is unique. It was in fact designed to be a theater-in-the-round, but that's an acoustical disaster. They did a redesign in 1993, but they are hoping to do a major renovation in a few years as part of a bond initiative. However, they are counting on $30M in donations as part of the funding, and with the economic changes, it's unlikely they will get that any time soon.

As for photos of the hall, I did not take any, and you are asked to refrain from taking photos. However there are a few sites that will show the layout:

This site has some thumbnails on the top row you can click on to see the hall:

Back to the concert review:

The soloist was good but not perfect. Early on there were some intonation problems. Her rhythm was a little loose, and the articulation on the runs was sloppy at times. However, she had an absolutely gorgeous sound and was a great soloist.

The evening opened with a lively reading of the overture to The Magic Flute. That was followed by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5 in D major. The conductor spoke in great detail about how it's not like other Vaughan Williams, and I was suddenly hopeful that it would not be as boring as I expected. I was wrong. This snoozefest was, in the words of my wife, "only slightly more interesting than elevator music."

However, it was still a good concert.

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!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dodgers Season Virtually Over

The Dodgers had plenty of chances to win tonight, but gave it up several times over.

A bizarre series of bullpen decisions from Joe Torre made the game almost irrational to watch. Lowe pitched 5 excellent innings, giving up only 2 runs. He was not taken out for a pinch hitter, instead the inexperienced Kershaw was brought out with no explanation in the 6th. I know Lowe was on short rest, but so what? It's a 1-run game at that point. Kershaw got an out but also gave up a walk and a hit.

From there, Joe brings out Chan Ho Park, who gives up the tying run but gets an out. Then Torre turns to Beimel, who gets out of the inning.

Things got stranger in a 4-run 8th. Kuo came in to pitch the 7th, and did so well that Torre had him bat and bunt in the bottom of the inning. He got the bunt down, but the Dodgers could not get the run in.

At the top of the 8th, Kuo pitched to one batter and was removed for Cory Wade, who had pitched 2 innings the previous night. Wade started the season in AA and has done well against lefties, but why pull Kuo? It backfired, and Wade gave up the 2-run homer which tied the game at 5.

Pulling the clearly exhausted Wade, he was replaced with Broxton, who had also pitched the previous night. Broxton's one flaw is his over reliance on his fastball. As fast as it is, there are plenty of people who can hit it, and another 2-run homer killed off the Dodgers for good.

In NY, a lot was made of Torre's bullpen decisions, but when you can finish the game with the best closer in baseball, you can still make it to the playoffs. In LA, there's not as much to work with, and those decision are a lot more important. Even in NY, there were complaints about his overuse of Scott Proctor. With Proctor on the DL, Torre overused Wade, and the result is that the season is probably over after Wednesday. Torre appears resigned to losing, and even cancelled tomorrow's workout session.

Another record crowd of 56,800 was silenced at the end of the game.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dodgers Win in LA

Following suit with the rest of the year, the Dodgers beat the Phillies back in LA again. The Dodgers did everything right, with Hiroki Kuroda pitching a great game for most of the night, and the few times he made mistakes, he got out of it relatively unscathed, going 6 innings with only 2 runs and 5 hits allowed.

Cory Wade did well out of the bullpen, pitching two excellent innings, as did Jonathan Broxton in the 9th.

The offensive hero of the night was Blake DeWitt. Although he still has a low batting average, his bases-clearing triple in the first inning broke the game open to a 5-0 lead, and giving him 6 RBI in post-season in his rookie year.

There was a strange animosity between the teams, with Russell Martin being hit by pitches twice in the game, and a lot of up-and-in pitches to both teams. At one point it looked like there would be a brawl, but the fire was quickly put out.

Attendance was a new record for Dodger stadium, 56,800, which eclipsed the old record. I guess the Dodgers renegotiated their contract with the city that limits them to 56,000 per game.

The whole team looked good. Let's hope they keep the offense alive tomorrow for Derek Lowe!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

105 dB for Dodgers!

The program Decibel for the iPhone measured the crowd at 105 dB when Broxton made the final out for the Dodgers, sweeping the heavily favored Cubs in the NLDS. The Cubs were the best team in the NL throughout the season and were expected to go to the World Series. The Dodgers barely won their division and were only a few games above the .500 mark, but they managed to fire on all cylinders against the Cubs. The Cubs on the other hand were feeble in all three games. LouPinella angrily said Fukudome would never play again, then used him to pinch hit tonight, showing how desperate he was a for a hit.

Manny was not the player of the night, but had two home runs in the previous two games, and was the needed boost for the second half of the season (along with Casey Blake). James Loney's grand slam was probably the highlight of the series, but the pitching in all three games was really the reason they won. Kuroda was excellent tonight, getting out of trouble several times, and gettings stronger throughout the game, until he was removed in the 7th.

Wade has been a pleasant surprise from the bullpen, having started the season in AA, and now an important reliever. Broxton showed excellend confidence (which he had clearly lacked earlier in the year) and also mixed his slider into the pitches well.

This marks the first time in 20 years that the Dodgers will advance to the Championship Series. It was a stellar night for the sellout crowd, with many people staying after the game was over to see the Dodgers celebrate, and excited fans screaming and honking in and out of the parking lot long after the game had finished!