No Modern Music Allowed!

[Replete with pictures that are fun to look at!]

Sarah Bryan Miller has a fair, if somewhat confusing piece up (on the vestigial blog to which they've relegated her at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) about their recent guest-conducted concert.

Symphony in A Cheerful Mode.

Is that cheerful mode...major?

If you’re one of those sometime St. Louis Symphony Orchestra patrons who has complained about unfamiliar works and dissonant (or sort-of dissonant) new music on programs,

Ugh. Open your minds, people! What freaking year is it?

you need to get over to Powell Symphony Hall this weekend, pronto. They’ve given you what you’ve been asking for.

The fine arts are merely for pandering to the audience.

Friday night’s concert was a light, bright, major-key

I was right! Yay!

crowd-pleasing delight;

A light, bright...crowd pleasing delight? Was it also at night? And out-of-sight? Ah, I kid because I love. (But that doesn't mean I'll stop...) All right! Night Flight!

Plight blight fight! Slight might!

it was filled with familiar music in a Classical or Neo-Classical mode, all beautifully played. Guest conductor Hans Graf was dressed like an apparatchik, in a quasi-military black Nehru-style jacket, but he led his musicians with a sense of fun.

It had a sense of fun...despite his jacket? Also, the modernist-haters probably don't know what apparatchik means. Just guessing. Also, Nehru jackets are outstanding.

The concert opened with a sparkling reading of Prokofiev’s

witty Symphony No. 1 in D major, the “Classical.”

Okay. The nickname of the piece gets quotes, but not the title. Got it.

Thoroughly enjoyable, if not super-subtle (there’s a time and a place for profundity, and this wasn’t it), it benefited from particularly good work from the winds.

Classical music concerts are not the time and place for profundity?


is good for what ails you even an historically noxious week in the financial markets and this performance of his Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364, was enough to lift any mood and stop any worrying.

I seriously doubt that those homeowners that were foreclosed upon were that cheered up by the Mozart. (However, your point is taken.) Thanks, though, for providing the Koechel number! That rocks.

Its soloists were drawn from the orchestra: concertmaster David Halen and principal viola Jonathan Vinocour. They proved well-matched, and demonstrated yet again what terrific players the SLSO has performing in its ranks, week-in and week-out. Both were spirited and accurate, and they were perfectly in sync, particularly in their duet sections. Graf led this cheery score with a light touch.

In Sync! (Okay, 'N Sync. It was just an excuse to post a pic that is fun to look at.)

The concert’s second half opened with Stravinsky’s

“Scenes de ballet.”

Is that...is that the nickname of the piece? Because I thought we'd established that the titles of pieces (Prokofiev, Mozart) don't get quotes, only the nicknames. Thanks, editor!

Written for Broadway, it didn’t really mesh with prevailing tastes there, but its slightly sarcastic humor fit well in this program. A series of brief vignettes, each featuring different instruments, its highlight was a cello duet, played by associate principal Melissa Brooks and assistant principal Catherine Lehr.

Stravinsky, why that's *Gasp!* Modernism! Neo-Classical modernism, sure, but I was lead to believe there wouldn't be any of that...that not-completely major stuff on this program. The horror!

The evening’s finale was Bizet’s

youthful, joyful Symphony in C. Oddly enough, it hasn’t been performed here in nearly a decade, since the last season of “Classics in the Loop;” its return is most welcome.

I have nothing to say about this sentence. Oh, except that the title of the piece is back to having no quotes. The symphony series, though, apparently does. What?

The strings executed the perpetual motion of the fourth movement with elan; the horns were in terrific voice throughout. Performed with a combination of meticulous musicianship and soufflé-light execution, it was all infectious fun.

First: soufflé-light execution is delightfully silly, and I love it. Second, why does soufflé get its accent ague, but not elan? Thanks again, Mr Editor!

In fact, the only disappointment of the evening was the inexplicably small size of the audience for such an accessible program.

Accessible = not modern. And small audience sizes are disappointing regardless of program.

It’s a little bit like the political system: If you can’t be bothered to vote, you really have no right to complain.

So, the accessible major-key programming failed to bring a large audience despite the fact that Mozart makes you forget that you lost half of your 401K. Might as well have been atonal music, I guess.


Gustav said...

I sure hope the Prokofiev and Stravinsky are grouped together on the concert so I could skip the rest of that crap and do the other thing that helps me forget the 401k: drink. (and here's hoping it's the second half, because stravinsky sloshed is awesome.)

Empiricus said...

Does anyone know if the Post-Dispatch or any online "news" paper actually edits their blogs? How autonomous are these "blogs?" Can we call them blogs if attached to a newspaper? I mistook my wife for a hat.

Sator Arepo said...

Hat? It was a boa constrictor eating an elephant, duh.

Anonymous said...

Your definition of "modernism" seems to be too broad. While Stravinsky's music was written during modern times, much of it is decidedly not modernist.

Wikipedia says, "[a]t its most basic level, Modernism could be described as the experimentation and fragmentation of the human experience, characterized by deviations from the norms of society," and that "modernism encompasses the works of thinkers who rebelled against nineteenth century academic and historicist traditions, believing the "traditional" forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated."

There is little fragmentation in much of Stravinsky's "neo-classical" forms. And in fact, he texturally, harmonically, rhythmically and melodically does NOT deviate from classical norms- he actually uses them to generate audience appreciation that his true modernist colleagues were not able to generate. For example, the "Rake's Progress" consists of traditional morals with religious overtones with a traditional libretto and a traditional form. If the work is rebelling against anything it might actually be modernism!

In Stravinsky's case modernism is a style which he chooses to write in on occasion. Stravinsky defines modernism on his own terms, not the other way around.

Sator Arepo said...

Mr Cereal,

You are right, of course. I was using the context to make a broader argument about outright modernist-hating. In fact, the "Scenes de ballet" are strikingly conservative in style. Although they do have a few modernist...touches.

Really it's best classified as neo-classical. So your point is taken. I was using the first sentence of the review as my springboard, as it were.

Go Sox!