4/26/10

It's been a long concert season...very long.

Summer is right around the corner and it's beautiful outside. You've been going to concerts every weekend for nearly 7 months now...season opening spectaculars, patriotic tributes, that obligatory performance of the Nutcracker, the unfortunate pops concert when Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels played with the orchestra. I know you're tired and that writing a concert review is the last thing you want to be doing right now. I understand.

But the finish line is so close. Don't give up yet!

First up, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's season is coming to an end, and William R. Wineke is on the case for Channel 3000.

Review: WCO Ends 50th Season In Triumph

Johann Hummel's 1816 "Piano Concerto in A Minor" provided a thrilling end to a brilliant season.

Hummel did that? I'm pretty sure that nothing that Hummel did was "thrilling", but okay.

As always, the performance was enhanced by Norman Gilliland's "Grace Notes" commentary.

Yes, program notes can provide useful historical information and context for works far removed from modern day. What historical gems did Mr. Gilliland uncover about Hummel, an obscure-ish composer largely unknown to those who didn't play trumpet in high school?


Gilliland noted the composer was such a gifted artist that he was invited to live in Mozart when he was seven years old, went on to study with Haydn and Salieri and was a friend of Beethoven.


Who knew that Mozart was such a hospitable guy.

[F]ollowing the intermission, the WCO played Franz Schubert's "Symphony No. 9 in C Major," nicknamed the "Great" symphony, partially because it takes the better part of an hour to perform.

Well, not really. The moniker was meant to distinguish the work from his "Little C Major" Symphony...but you know, whatever.

So, how well did the WCO perform the "Great"?

It's a powerful symphony and was performed very ably by the very able WCO,...

I'm not going to lie, that's a very able description.

...but after the excitement of the Goodyear piece [the Hummel concerto, which is strangely being referenced by the soloist], it seemed almost anti-climactic.


The Hummel concerto made the "Great" Symphony seem anti-climatic?

It has been a very long concert season indeed.

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Down the road in Indiana, Ivy Farguheson, of the Star Press, thinks Orff is a musical genius (and Tchaikovsky too).

REVIEW: "Carmina Burana' was a live masterpiece to behold

Symphonies are meant to perform Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and luckily the Muncie Symphony Orchestra met with their fate Saturday evening in Emens Auditorium.

Okay, a bit ridiculous, but it's actually a pretty clever opening sentence. Good start, Ivy.

Most musical productions are meant to be listened to in person. Rarely is a live performance worse than a studio-backed recording and Carl Orff’s epic work is no exception.

A clumsily written thought, but point well-taken. On to the review...

That’s not to say there aren’t recordings,...

No, no, you don't need to explain yourself. Live performances better than the recording...we're with you.

Just move on and don't waste time backtracking, or you might get into some convoluted explanation comparing Orff's Carmina Burara to some random recording artist...like, say, Prince. That would be bad.

That’s not to say there aren’t recordings, even live recordings, that transfer the various emotions from the masterpiece on the stage or in a recording studio into your living room with passion. There clearly are.

Great. I was wrong. We made it out the other side unscathed.

But in much the same way seeing Prince...

I thought we had an understanding?

...live in concert can change the way you understand the guitar,...

figure prince: Changing the way I understand the guitar.

...compared to that nice CD in your car, listening to Orff’s music can open your ears to things you’ve never heard before.

Where are you going with this?

That’s why in both cases, with Prince and Orff, you choose the live option over the recording. You want to be in the presence of genius.

We are very liberal with our use of 'genius', aren't we?

And you want to be exhausted when they’re finished gracing you with their presence.

I suppose.

figure exhausted: Just heard Carmina Burana performed live.

Because Prince is great live, CDs should never have been invented? I like your logic.

So, how about the actual concert?

With the help of the Ball State University Chamber Choir, Concert Choir and the University Choral Union, the orchestra began the production with the most popular piece from “Carmina,” “O, Fortuna.”

I think most "productions" of this piece start with that part, seeing that it comes first in the score.

There isn’t an American who has ever seen a television commercial or watched the NBA playoffs during the last 20 years who has not heard the beginning measures of “O, Fortuna.”

Americans do love the arts!


embeddence orff: Wait, they have Orff in Canada, too?

And, sadly, maybe people’s experience with “Carmina” ends there.

Oh. You mean there's more to the piece than just the "O, Fortuna" part?

[snip]

So, the piece embodies the genius of Prince and the popularity of promo music for the NBA playoffs...what conclusions can we draw?

“Carmina Burana” is one of the most powerful musical pieces ever written and listening to it in any fashion will make you wonder why symphonies across the world don’t simply perform this production and maybe Tchaikovsky, another musical genius.

Carmina Burana is awesome and should be performed by every orchestra, "and maybe Tchaikovsky, another musical genius,"too.

This is quite possibly one of the greatest sentences I've ever read.

Listening to this epic live will make you wonder why musical recordings were ever created, period.

That's quite the side effect of attending this concert. Perhaps the surgeon general should slap a warning on this concert: May make you question why musical recordings were ever created.

And make you search for other live symphonic productions in another town near you.

Just a second...did you say that Prince can change the way I understand the guitar?

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It's been a very, very long concert season.

4 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

1) Leave Hummel alone!

2) Carmina Burana should constantly be playing everywhere, obviously. And probably Tchaikovsky, too; preferably simultaneously.

Gustav said...

Re: 2. Agreed! Well, and Prince too, to complete the triumvirate of musical genius.

Also, no Mozart/NAMBLA jokes? It took every part of my being to leave them out.

Danny Liss said...

I've been away, so I'm just now catching up.

I don't want to believe all the stereotypes us sophisticated folks up in the Communist Northeast have about people from Muncie, In., but then you read a review like this and it's hard not to. I found it so puzzling, that I've spent the last half hour researching the Muncie Symphony and the person that wrote this review to see if I can figure it out.

The review would have made a lot more sense if it had mentioned that there were dancers performing as well, so the repeated use of the word "production" was not actually misplaced. Also, apparently, a Russian touring ballet company brought Swan Lake to Muncie this season, which may explain her enthusiasm for Tchaikovsky. (Why it then follows that orchestras should stick to Carmina Burana and Tchaik is beyond me. Is she really asserting that Carmina Burana is underperformed?)

I'm sure we've all been guilty of coming out of a concert saying, "Wow, that was really great, I wish they'd do it again next year!" But you'd think by the time you sat down to write the review you'd have something more substantial to say.

Gustav said...

Thanks for extra research, Danny. That does actually explain some that the more bizarre word choices. The Tchaikovsky comment, however, was just so incredibly unprepared...frankly, I like it better to think that she just drops that into most conversations about music.

Ivy: Did you know that Sibelius' Finlandia is about Finland?

Editor: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's a nationalist work about his homeland, in part to protest the influence of the Russian Empire.

Ivy: Yeah, all orchestras should make live productions of Tchaikovsky.

Editor: ...some of his music is quite nice, yes.

Ivy: [hears radio, and sings along] "A body like yours (a body like yours), Oughta be in jail, Cause it's on the verge of bein' obscene"

Editor: ...

Ivy: Doesn't Prince just change the way you think about the drum machine, and maybe Tchaikovsky, another musical genius?