3/24/09

Citation Is Hard; Needs More Drama

A choose your own adventure! One of the functions of the review is to inform (besides offering criticism and opinion) the reader about the concert program. This includes, conventionally, naming the pieces performed, or trying to, or something.

This review comes to us from the Ann Arbor News. There was a concert, and some works were played. Let's see if we can figure out what!

It's not often there's a bit of drama at a classical music concert,

It's not? Usually there's at least musical drama, no? Like a "what-key-are-we-in-now?" drama, or "when-is-this-Glass-piece-going-to-end?" drama.

but drama there was at the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra's "Midsummer in March" concert Saturday night, in honor of Mendelssohn's 200th birthday.

Apparently...some kind of extra-musical drama? Maybe the drama is in the consonance of the program title. Mendelssohn...Midsummer...March...Mmm.

The evening began with a marvelous playing of Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21, Op. 61.

Somewhere in the universe, there's a closing double-apostrophe missing its title. (Poor little guy!) Also, the citation is confusing, or wrong, or both. Mendelssohn composed the "Overture to Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21" in 1826. Later, in 1842, he penned the incidental music for the same play (Op. 61) which incorporates the op. 21 overture as its...overture.

I choose to believe the following: It's not often there's a bit of drama in a classical music review, but drama there is in trying to ascertain what was played at this concert.

Violins are the thing in the overture, and they were perfect.

I don't know what that means, but "thing" seems to agree with "they"...or rather, doesn't. More drama?

The flutes got a workout during the scherzo, and were more than up to the task of navigating the more tricky passages.

More more, more? (How did you like it?)

The Wedding March ended the segment, with the brass playing nicely off the strings. I was reminded of how magnificent this familiar music can be when played by a full symphony.

I'm still not certain if all of the incidental music (that's Op. 61 for those of you keeping score at home) was played or not. I do now know, however, that whatever was played was played by a "full" symphony.

Next up was J.S. Bach's intricate Concerto for Piano No. 1 in D minor, with guest pianist Joel Hastings.

Oh, sorry. I have to stop you there. The d minor Concerto (BWV 1052) was not composed for the piano, at least not as we think of it. The intended instrument was the harpsichord or perhaps clavichord; this is a small matter. But calling the work "Piano Concerto" as we think of it today is at best misleading, and at worst plain wrong.

The audience was startled when, during the first movement, Hastings abruptly stopped the performance and went to confer with conductor Arie Lipsky. When it happened again, everyone was buzzing.

Well, at least if they all had a buzz on they weren't that annoyed by the interruption?

Was Hastings upset with the orchestra? With Lipsky? That kind of thing is highly unusual.

Ah! the drama. What happened next? Was there a denouement? I hope there was a denouement.

The second movement went without a hitch, however just before the end of the third, as Hastings was playing solo, he stopped yet again.

Intriguing! A climax of sorts, perhaps?

Despite the problems, which were later attributed by A2S0 executive director Mary Steffek Blaske to memory lapse, Hastings soldiered on, playing beautifully.

The...executive director later attributed the repeated stoppages to...memory lapse? The pianist's, one assumes? Goodness gracious! How will this resolve?

He has just the right touch to let the work's subtleties shine though. At intermission, it was all anyone seemed to be talking about.

Unless I read this wrong, after all of the "drama," at intermission the audience was talking about...his touch and subtlety. One would think they'd be going on about said repeated interruptions, but...no. Unless...the paragraph is constructed this way deliberately to reflect the drama of the performance! Yes, that's it. It's a Choose Your Own Adventure: rearrange the sentences to find the intended meaning (and slay the dragon)!

Also: what happened?

A highlight of the concert was "The Wise Virgins," a suite from Walton's delicate ballet based on Bach "Sheep May Safely Graze" and others.

What?

A highlight of the concert was "The Wise Virgins,"

Okay...

...a suite from Walton's delicate ballet...

Gotcha...

...based on Bach "Sheep May Safely Graze" and others.

Do what now?

Others? Other whats? What's a Bach "Sheep May Safely Graze"? Is that like his pro wrestling nickname?

Figure 1: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

Figure 2: Johann Sebastian "Sheep May Safely Graze" Bach?

If I may, I think it means something like:

A highlight of the concert was a suite frim Walton's delicate ballet "The Wise Virgins," based on melodies from Bach's Cantata "Sheep May Safely Graze" (BWV 208) and others.

(Incidentally, Walton's ballet "The Wise Virgins" was made up of arrangements of music by Bach, orchestrated by Walton, and is officially "lost", so I wonder where this came from.)

"Ah! How Ephemeral" simply sparkled, and concertmaster Aaron Berofsky's violin on "Sheep" was sublime.

I don't know what "Ah! How Ephemeral" is, nor whence it came. I'm all researched out.

The evening concluded with Mendelssohn's 5th "Reformation" Symphony, a real treat featuring the music of Martin Luther and concluding with the triumphant "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

This makes it sound like Mendelssohn composed 5 or more "Reformation" symphonies. Which is not true.

What a great way to ring in spring.

With Midsummer? Obfuscation? A bit of both?

I bet I wasn't the only one who left the Michigan Theater feeling uplifted.

But what happened to the drama? Pfft. No denouement for me.

9 comments:

Empiricus said...

Tiny correction about the Midsummer obfuscation: Midsummer is the celebration of the last day of spring.

But it got me thinking: How else was the program spring-like, other than the super-facile and lame "it was performed in spring?" I mean, the Reformation Symphony and The Wise Virgins are also "great ways to ring in spring," right?

Anyway, I decided to do some investigation.

OCTOBER, 1517: The official beginning of the Reformation.

OCTOBER, 1648: Peace of Munster treaty ending the Thirty Years' War, marking the end of the reformation.

JANUARY, 1830: the intended completion date of the Reformation Symphony for a performance in FEBRUARY.

JUNE, 1830: the first performance of the Reformation Symphony. (June 25, actually, which is the day after Midsummer Eve, or the marking of the first day of summer)

-

As for Walton's Wise Virgins and the Bach chorale tunes:

Movement 1: "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" was written for the 15 Sunday after the Trinity, whose earliest possible date is somewhere around mid-May, which means it was used for SEPTEMEBR-OCTOBER!

Movement 2: "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" was written for the 16th Sunday after trinity. Again SEPTEMBER or OCTOBER.

Movement 3: "Misericordias Domini" is from Psalm 89--no seasonal application.

Movement 4: "Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig" or "Ah! How Ephemeral" is for the 24th Sunday after Trinity.

Movement 5: "Schafe können sicher weiden" from BVW 208 was written to be performed in FEBRUARY 1713.

Movement 6: "Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott" from BWV 129 is actually for Trinity Sunday, so it's for spring! Whee!

That took way too long.

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Empiricus said...

Thanks for reading. Don't worry about what to say. As "experts", that's what we're doing. Just chime in when you think/feel you suspect your local/important critic of less-than-smartery. We mostly love daily criticism, but often find it wanting.

We also don't like the priorities of newspapers nor their business practices, in which our important critics are hopelessly mired.

Sator Arepo said...

E, replying to the spam[mers] makes you seem...crazy. If I could write that out in all weird, wiggly letters I would...c...r..a..z..y!

Sator Arepo said...

I could be wrong...

Empiricus said...

No. I always like to take the time to reiterate the DR's mission statement, spammer or not.

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