Sunday, January 22, 2012

Phoenix Symphony: Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

Last night, Dr Desert Flower and I went to the Phoenix Symphony to hear Mussorgsky's, Pictures at an Exhibition performed (link here).  Over-all, it was a good performance. The Mussorgsky piece was played after 1/2 time, preceded by a discordant work by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov called "Last Round" which was played in 3 movements.  Why Christie picked this work to go along with Mussorgsky, I have no clue, but it was played by a standing violin & viola sections with randomly distributed cellos in the middle.  Supposedly it was to evoke a Argentinian accordion (or 'bandoneon'), but it  mixed the 1st chairs, 2nd chairs, violins and violas sharing stands haphazardly in a completely chaotic fashion, and the players stood VERY Stiffly, out of their element, trying to play the work.  To me, it sounded likes several cats being strangled in the first movement, followed by a somewhat sad and somber second movement, and a disconnected 3rd movement.  I was happy when it finally ended.  In contrast, Dr Desert Flower liked it, and did not understand my distaste for having to endure it.

The 2nd piece played was by a composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the Concerto in D major for Violin & Orchestra, with guest violinist Chloe Hanslip.   Korngold was a famous composer of Hollywood movie sound tracks back in the 30s and 40s, escaping the Third Reich prior to Nazi Germany's clamp down on artist emigration.  Like John Williams today, Korngold wrote nice works for movies... but I don't go to the symphony to hear movie sound tracks played.  That's just not my preference.  Ms Hanslip played beautifully and passionately.  Seated around her now (no longer stiffly standing from the Golijov work) about 80% of the Phoenix symphony gave it a good shot and stepped up their performance to match her masterful playing.  It was an enjoyable piece, but I can't say it was truly memorable. 

After intermission, the Modest Mossorgsky work, orchestrated by fellow Russian Gorchakov, began impressively.  The brass section blasted the FFF sections beautifully.  The woodwinds and percussion supported nicely, though the oboe at one point struggled in some of the rapid fire staccato sections in the middle.  The cellos and violas sang wonderfully in support of the violin voices.  Well played, and passionately delivered by about 95% of the players - there are still a few hold outs in the last chairs of the first and second violins who play as stiffly and meekly as corpses, displaying as much passion as a gathering of cloistered nuns for prayer.  For the most part precisely executed (A- if report cards were being given out for precision, but A+ for over-all impression).  A well deserved standing ovation was given.

It would be awesome if Christie could select enjoyable music for an entire concert instead of trying to inject his own personal preferences of miscellaneous & awkward tripe that I'd prefer not to pay for or waste ym time hearing, but the discordant Golijov work was a small price to pay for the beautiful Mossorgsky tour de force.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.