As noted in this space before, columnists are not necessarily responsible for titling their efforts. Mr. Ward may not be culpable, here. However, if some editor wrote the title above they 1) read only the first paragraph when choosing the title, and/or 2) did not bother to edit the rest of the article. Because it needs editing, which I will now elucidate. Begin!
The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra needed a few movements to warm to guest conductor Joel Smirnoff. When it did, it took to music of Maurice Ravel, Joseph Haydn and Brad Sayles with relish and zeal.
I’d prefer “warm up to”, but I’ll accept “warm to” in the interest of brevity. However, I do not like relish. I do, though, like zeal in my martinis. “Give me a dry martini with zeal,” I’ll often say.
In the practice of today, ROCO named its final program of the season The Philosopher.
“In the practice of today”? What does that mean? Read that sentence again. I’ll wait. See? What? I…don’t know.
Taken from the nickname of Haydn's Symphony No. 22, it was a silly choice.
Only one of the three works had anything substantial to do with philosophy: Sayles' Echoes of Invention after the popular public radio program of John Lienhard.
What? How has the connection between the work’s title (let alone the piece itself) been shown to have “anything substantial” to do with philosophy? Sayles’ piece is “after” a popular radio program? What? Named after? Inspired by? I really…
Smirnoff and others soon gave up trying to pack the music inside that title during their comments.
They…gave up…packing music…into the title…during comments? You…how does one pack music into a title? Perhaps the intended sentiment is something like “…they failed to show how the music conformed to the rubric “The Philospher” during their pre-concert talk”? But that’s the most sense I can make of this madness. Is it me? Am I dense? The…
The first performance, Saturday afternoon at
“A standard concert-giving”? Passive voice much? Is “a standard concert-giving” in “the practice of today”? Has anyone proofread this? Common usage is on the what now?
Only the excessive chattiness marked any departure.
Ugh. A common complaint. Critics hate it when artists take the time to try to explain the music to an audience. Especially because they’re trying to attract new audiences, often people who are less-than-familiar with the repertoire. My theory is that critics secretly hope classical music will just finally fucking die, so they don’t have to do their dreary jobs (attending concerts and subsequently writing about it) anymore. Perhaps they all secretly want to be laborers?
Much of the talk added little to the music.
It was particularly embarrassing to hear St. John Flynn, KUHF's new director of cultural programming and host of the arts program The Front Row, place Smirnoff as the new head of the Cincinnati Institute of Music when the correct city is
Okay. That is really, really embarrassing. I’ll give you that. That is, in fact, unconscionably stupid, and Herr Ward is totally on the money here. Here’s a hint, St. John Flynn (director of cultural programming, for fuck’s sake): If you’re addressing a bunch of people, know what the hell you’re talking about.[Edit: This was not his fault; see comments section. However, I will not delete the paragraph in the interest of honesty--SA.]
Smirnoff opened with Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, which looked back at Baroque dance movements for inspiration.
Le Tombeau de Couperin looks at things now? Since when are musical works sentient? Perhaps it was Ravel who was…
The first two movements went by as if everyone were on cruise control, rolling down the musical highway with highly tuned technique but little roar from the emotional engine. But midway through the third movement, Menuet, a swell of volume and energy turned into a swell of commitment and alertness. For the rest of the program, Smirnoff and musicians really clicked.
I don’t like the construction here. “Emotional engine”? However, the sentiment expressed is a valid criticism couched in a bizarre, if apt, metaphor. Fine. But:
In Haydn's symphony, Smirnoff and the musicians gave listeners a vivid reminder of Haydn's penchant for the unexpected:
It wasn’t Haydn that reminded listeners that he did strange things...it was the performance?
a seeming wrong turn in harmonies there,
Seemingly? (Note: adverbs modify verbs.) Also, some other performance of the same piece would not have “reminded” listeners of the seemingly wrong harmonic turn?
or, in the first movement, an unusual music texture.
Ah, yes. This is the one that really got me. “Unusual music texture”? Music texture? The…I…whew. No explanation, no elucidation, no…anything. First, “music texture” is redundant, since the article is about music. That’s like calling a cow a “land cow.” Second, that is the most awkward turn of phrase…ever. And what in The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s name does it mean?
The horns opened with a question, as Smirnoff termed it, and English horns answered, while the lower strings gave a very good imitation of the walking bass from American jazz. That's not the usual opening heard in Classical-era symphonies.
You…you just intimated—no, asserted—that Haydn’s 22nd Symphony (I assume, because you’ve failed to mention which symphony was played) IMITATES AMERICAN JAZZ. Can I please have your time machine? Because you’ve lost all track of the linear flow of history. I like the piece where Bach imitates Charles Ives. It’s my favorite!
The orchestra played with zest
As noted, I love me some zest (and/or zeal)! Especially with gin. Mmmm.
and distinctive style. The second movement had a low gusty roar, in part because the strings played with lots of grit to
“to” = “in”?
their bowing. The fourth movement, the last, sped along with woodwinds churning out repeated notes with surprising clarity.
The fourth movement was the last in a Haydn symphony? Dang!
Sayles' work comprised a series of six segments using text by Lienhard. The subject was "ghosts." They often were unexpected things that reminded us of the past in ways that might discomfort us, like the mummy found in the
What? Who are “they”? Do you mean “there”? Also: What? Mummies?
A recording engineer at KUHF, Sayles surrounded the words with a comfortable, eclectic style that suggested here and there movie themes of John Williams, the repetition of Philip Glass, soaring movie scores in general, pseudo-tribal dances, and a few other styles. The music sounded comfortable but the compositional technique was sure and the emotional shape of the music instinctively first-class.
John Williams’ movie scores, Glass, and, oh, also, movie scores. And a few other, non-specified styles. Great freaking sentence, wordsmith. Also the “emotional shape” (whatever that means) totally has extra leg room, a drink before take-off, and no charge for headphones for the in-flight movie. Instinctively.
KUHF's Dean Dalton narrated. Unfortunately, his body microphone wasn't well sited and many of his words came across slightly distorted and, often, overwhelmed by the accompaniment.
Finally, a coherent thought. About microphones.
Back to the top, and title: How, if at all, does the bulk of the article elucidate how the concert “started on a slower note”? What? Not at all? Only the first paragraph? Oh. Fine. I'll just show myself out...