7/15/08

Disambiguation

I really only have issues with two sentences, but in fairness to Charles Ward of the Houston Chronicle (who does an otherwise fine job) I’ll let his context breathe. To wit:

Beethoven heads to the country at Dollar concert

The Houston Chronicle Dollar Concert is a long-standing tradition that, hopefully, introduces new listeners to the Houston Symphony.

That is outstanding, and an admirable goal! Huzzah!

Fittingly, the best playing this year came in the program's major orchestral work: Ludwig van Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.

I don’t know why that’s fitting, but...sure. Fine.

Sunday's concert was sold-out but Jones Hall wasn't packed (no-shows being another long-standing Houston tradition). The audience was a pleasing mix of young students, families (with a couple, mandatory squalling kids), and at least one man lured there under some sort of pretences.

Sold-out? Sold out? Not sure about the hyphen usage, I could be wrong. Also: “a couple, mandatory squalling kids”? That seems...like strange comma usage. Surely one of our grammar-loving readers will set me straight.

He grumpily left during the concerto — Edouard Lalo's, for cello, with the winner of the orchestra's 2008 concerto competition — and was sitting a table waiting to yell, "Can we go now?" as his companion left the auditorium at intermission.

That is one odd-ass sentence disambiguating the concerto between m-dashes in the middle of describing the unhappy patron. But let’s chalk it up to style, eh? Great.

Grant Llewellyn, music director of the North Carolina Symphony and the 193-year-old Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, was the conductor. He and the orchestra clicked very well on Beethoven's Symphony No. 6.

Not “Handel-and-Haydn Society”? Heh. Just playin’.

Beethoven, the revered giant of 19th-century composers,

Really? That Beethoven? Not Camper Van Beethoven?



Really?! Oh. If ever a composer did not need disambiguation...

may have legitimized so-called "program music" for them. At the time of its premiere, the Pastoral Symphony was highly unusual for its overt reference to events external to the music.

What? For whom? Let’s take another look:

Beethoven, the revered giant of 19th-century composers, may have legitimized so-called "program music" for them. At the time of its premiere, the Pastoral Symphony was highly unusual for its overt reference to events external to the music.

For whom did Beethoven legitimize so-called “program music”? 19th century composers? The Handel and Haydn Society? The pissed-off patron who left during the concerto—Lalo’s, for cello, with the winner of the concerto competition? I am baffled.

The outer movements addressed feelings — cheerful ones after arriving in the country and grateful ones after a thunderstorm — while the other three were pictorial. The most famous was the brief thunderstorm, in which Llewellyn and the musicians managed to provide a pretty fearsome clap of thunder. The performance was utterly charming and seldom overstressed (mostly in the biggest moments when players forgot to lighten up a bit). The gurgling brooks, the peasant dancing, and the elevated sense of gratefulness in the last movement were beautifully laid out. A staple of the orchestra repertoire was once more fresh.

Nicely put, sir. What else?

The soloist in the Lalo concerto was Laszlo Mezo-Arruda, first-place winner of the 2008 Ima Hogg National Young Artist Competition.

I really had to look up “Ima Hogg” to avoid making cheap jokes at her expense. Turns out she was a famous Texas musician!


According to her Wikipedia entry (and I never would have guessed this) while her father was governor of Texas they lived in the Governor’s Mansion! Who knew?

His best playing came in the slow sections of the middle movement (of three). He brought a quiet elegance to lyrical melodies that become very beguiling. Elsewhere, the playing was too much by-the-note and plagued with intermittently loose intonation.

Brought...become? Became? But nicely phrased.

Llewellyn and the orchestra began the evening with Johannes Brahms' Academic Festival Overture. From the start, Llewellyn urged the musicians to play with urgency and intensity. The opening moments thus had a hushed sense of intrigue that gave way to the overture's main point: celebrating Brahms' receiving an honorary doctor degree with a potpourri of high-spirited student songs, at least one perhaps urging a swig or two at the local pub.

That is an hilarious conjecture!

Brahms is known for his intellectually and emotionally elevated exploration of traditional forms of classical music but Sunday's spirited performance of the overture left a burning question unanswered: Was Brahms a party animal at heart?

But...you turned your hilarious conjecture into the...parting shot in your review? After all of that wonderful descriptive language, you're leaving us with "Was Brahms a party animal..?"?

Why?

7 comments:

Empiricus said...

Ugh. "The outer movements addressed feelings..." Sounds like a phoning-it-in post kind of statement.

Sator Arepo said...

I figured I'd leave that to you, E.

Gustav said...

It's hard to say whether Brahms was a party animal, I've always thought of Brahms as the Jabba the Hut of the composition world (with Clara Schumann as his Princess Leia in a metal bikini). Too fat to actually party himself, but still the center of attention.

BTW, I'd have been tempted to leave during the Lalo as well.

AnthonyS said...

Fuck, Gustav beat me to the punch.

I would have wanted to leave during the Lalo as well.

anzu said...

"Grammar-loving", but not verse-appreciating. (And don't give me flak about putting my punctuation outside of quotes. . ..) Ok, I'll bite. :-P

Actually, it's not that I "love" grammar so much as I feel like if you write for a living, as this guy does, and can't write basic grammatical sentences (and yes, we all make mistakes, so I'm not talking about that), you lose your credibility. It frustrates me to read something written by someone who actually writes for a living, in which I can pick out 5 mistakes within the first few sentences.

This particular article (well, the first few sentences) was so full of errors that I suspect the copy editor is off-duty. Either that or the Chron has a weird style guide.

And since you asked, I think sold-out is hyphenated if it is a modifier (e.g. sold-out concert), but not as a noun. Although sell-out (as a noun) is often hyphenated, and I can't explain that inconsistency. The other was just plain poorly written (adverb modifiers on the other hand, do not get hyphenated) English. It should have read "a couple of mandatory squalling kids" or something like that.

Also, last I checked, I thought pretense is spelled with an "s" (not c) in this country.

However, maybe he just had a really bad day.

As for Brahms, I don't know about his partying tendencies, but he evidently fell asleep while Liszt played one of his own newfangled long piano works (maybe the B minor sonata?)for him.

Sator Arepo said...

I forgot to use the "all the editors are dead" tag. Thanks, anzu.

Marc said...

The Houston Symphony has a young-musician competition funded by the Ima Hogg Foundation. It's very presitigious.