A view from above

Have you been to a concert somewhere in the world recently? Share your thoughts with us about the performance, the more details the better!

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
Ricordanza
Posts: 1794
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

A view from above

Post by Ricordanza » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:57 pm

Why do I go to concerts? The obvious answer, of course, is to hear great music. While I could also hear great music by listening to CDs and downloads, attending concerts satisfies my desire for the immediacy and (occasionally) thrill of live performance. But there’s another reason--I also go for the visual experience. For Saturday night’s Philadelphia Orchestra concert, I deliberately bought seats in the First Tier so that I could experience the program in all its dimensions: the best sound in Verizon Hall and the opportunity to see the entire orchestra. I was amply rewarded for this choice.

The program began with one of the great showpieces for orchestra, Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Also Sprach (Thus Spoke) Zarathustra. Movie fans are familiar with the striking opening segment, Dawn, thanks to its use by Stanley Kubrick in the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. But if you’ve only heard the opening segment, and never heard the rest of the piece, you’re missing one of the most distinctive contributions to the orchestral repertoire.

The piece is based upon the work of that name by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, consisting of a series of purported “proclamations” by Zarathustra (or Zoroaster). Each of the nine segments of this piece is meant to illustrate a specific proclamation. The resulting music is widely varied, yet held together by the recurring C-G-C theme that is first heard in the opening segment. I can’t quite figure out how one of the segments—a Viennese waltz—is related to the sayings of the ancient Persian sage, but my puzzlement is secondary to my admiration for the vivid, extraordinary music that Strauss created.

Another feature that comes through in live performance is that this is the work of a master orchestrator. Strauss uses an unusually large orchestra for this work, but it never sounds muddy or unbalanced. From my seat on the First Tier, I could see as well as hear how Strauss at times divided the various string sections into further sub-sections to produce an even more varied texture in this music. The view from above also enabled me to see each of the principal players when it was their turn for an instrumental solo.

Great music needs a performance to match and, on this night, guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen led a finely crafted and intense rendition of this masterpiece.

After intermission, the orchestra performed two works by the 20th Century Hungarian master, Bela Bartok. The Viola Concerto was the last work written by Bartok before his death in 1945. Although the work was nearly finished in “short score” form, Bartok’s colleague, Tibor Serly, completed and orchestrated the piece. This was my first opportunity to hear the piece, so it’s hard to provide a good description of this 20-minute, three movement work. I will say that the rhythmic third movement, with its folk-like character, made an immediate positive impression. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal violist, Choong-Jin Chang, delivered a superb performance.

The title of the concluding work, the Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, suggests an exotic and fanciful story set to music. But when we hear the music, we know that this is not a polite children’s fairy tale. I’ll spare readers the details of the play on which this music is based (you’re free to look it up, of course), but the story is grotesque and violent. So if you get the opportunity to hear this music, don’t expect a lot of pretty tunes. What you will hear, however, is one of the most powerful and wrenching musical creations of the 20th Century. The orchestra, under Salonen’s expert direction, delivered a penetrating and searing performance of this music. Principal Clarinetist Ricardo Morales provided some outstanding solos, as we’ve come to expect from him. But the real heroes of the piece are the trombones, whose sneering and lurid outbursts conveyed the utter depravity of the underlying work. Once again, the view from the First Tier added an unforgettable dimension to the experience of this performance.

Rach3
Posts: 1008
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:17 am

Re: A view from above

Post by Rach3 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 7:49 pm

Thanks for this. The Strauss I have never warmed to, but the Bartok " Mandarin" is a stunner.

Ricordanza
Posts: 1794
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Re: A view from above

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:29 am

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Feb 21, 2019 7:49 pm
The Strauss I have never warmed to
I will admit that I didn't like "Zarathustra" on first hearing, or even second. In contrast, "Till Eulenspiegel" and "Ein Heldenleben" became instant favorites. But after listening to "Zarathustra" a few more times, I came to love the piece.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests