...and yes, we know that critics are not always responsible for their titles. However, riding the line between pandering and inexcusable is:
Really? Thanks, Mr. Editor!
What say you, Mr. Ward?
Consciously or not, the management and artistic staff of the Houston Symphony couldn't have picked a better work than Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to kick off its 2008-09 season.
You think...there's a chance...they selected the Fifth...unconsciously?
Certainly they had their eyes on the box office for Saturday's gala opening classical concert.
You'd think they'd be watching the concert.
Beethoven is about as sure-fire for ticket sales as it gets and the Fifth rivals only his Ninth Symphony in popular appeal. Jones Hall was virtually full.
I would argue, perhaps, that the Fifth is more well-known than the Ninth, but I haven't run the numbers. However, it's good to hear the concert was well-attended. Also, hyphens are outstanding.
But the real significance of the Fifth Symphony — for this year at least — lay in the work's musical progress from fatelike opening motive in a minor key to the triumphant conclusion in a major key.
Lay? Lies? Layed? Fatelike? Fate-like?
The symbolism of that artistic journey couldn't have been more appropriate. As an organization and musical organism, the orchestra has been in just that place: moving from seemingly implacable financial problems to, at least now, a fiscal stability where the orchestra has balanced its budget for four consecutive seasons. In the history of the Houston Symphony, that's a feat of epic, Beethoven proportions.
Beethoven proportions? Beethovenian? Adjectives?
Not that the Fifth Symphony has the monumentality of the Ninth. Formally, the first movement is particularly taut, and — the loquacious second movement aside — the work is typified by conciseness (versus the endless bluster of the Ninth).
Endless bluster? The Fifth is not monumental, rather, concise, but the Ninth has endless bluster. Is that good or bad? It sounds bad, yet monumental. What?
Because the Fifth is so overplayed, it's difficult for conductors and orchestras to find new insights. Saturday's performance had none, but music director Hans Graf and the orchestra made their performance vital, alive, in sync with the gentleness of the slow movement but ready for the robust celebration at the end.
Vital but not insightful. Okay...John McCain? In Sync?
Beethoven's Triple Concerto opened the evening. It is unique in the standard repertoire as a concerto for violin, cello and piano. Violinist Jennifer Koh; cellist Sophie Shao, who is originally from Houston; and pianist Jeremy Denk were the soloists.
The concerto is not top-notch Beethoven. A performance of it needs goosing rather than the caressing, even lax, energy that Graf preferred. Overall, the performance drifted.
Into the Gulf of Mexico?
Also: What's with the sexual imagery? Goosing?
The three soloists occasionally kicked up a real storm in their joint solo passages but in individual solo playing, only Denk was totally reliable. Shao occasionally was nervous, and Koh periodically had problems finding pitches accurately.
I want a joint solo!
Wait; joint solo? Multiple singularity? I...
I was disappointed with how the evening opened.
That is fair.
After Houston Symphony Society president Jesse B. Tutor finished his remarks (some of the introductions belonged to the party after the concert), he gestured to the empty stage and asked the audience to welcome the orchestra.
That is...embarrassing. But what does "belonged to the party after the concert" mean?
Nothing happened. The audience's applause almost died out before a musician came through a stage door.
Classical music organizations still don't get that such slip-ups are inexcusable in this day of ultra-produced entertainment. When something is promised but not delivered, the buildup dissipates, and the chance for electric excitement is lost.
Well, after all my snarky fun, Mr. Ward has a good point. However, the generalization is lost on me. Some classical music organizations do get it; apparently, the Houston Symphony does not.