Emily's Mom and Dad Think Soloist Played Well

Every now and then it's nice to a have a concert that appeals to us vernacular audience members...you know with music from another country, written over a 100 years ago.

Review: Guest cellist lends his talent to Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra
J. Shane Mercer, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (inforum.com), Oct. 17. 2010

The encore made the night.

That just sounds sad. The one piece that wasn't on the program "made" the concert.

As the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra and guest cellist Zuill Bailey worked their way through...

Solid introduction -- implying that the performance was drudgery -- I'm definitely interested now. But I'm so quick with these asides...carry on.

...Richard Strauss’ “Don Quixote” at the first 2010 Masterworks concert Saturday night, I kept thinking, “I like Zuill. I’d just like a little more of him.”

Yes, well, I've never quite understood why people insist on treating Don Quixote as a cello concerto. There is a solo viola part too, you know.

But it's a cool piece, so if Zuill was happy, I'm happy.

It seemed that the composition didn’t give the chart-topping recording artist and performer room to do his talents justice.

Yep...waste of a perfectly good soloist with an awesome name. Zuill.

figure tonight's soloist: There is no Dana, only Zuill.

But with regards to that "do his talents justice" comment...don't kid yourself, that's not an easy piece music. As one string player puts it "...Don Quixote separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and in doing so tests the real quality of the musician.”

I know that's not a funny quote, but I'm making a point here: words do have meanings.

But at the close of “Don Quixote,” after much applause and a bouquet of flowers (that he passed on to a cellist in the orchestra), Bailey returned to the stage...

...for the encore? For the encore that "made the concert"?! Wow. Really, I quite excited.

...and performed a gorgeous interpretation of the cello-only Prelude to Bach’s First Cello Suite in G Major.

A lovely piece indeed.

The tones that rang from his more-than-three-centuries-old cello sounded like the voice of a human at times.

Well, I prefer my cellos to sound like...cellos. But to each his own.

With that, I felt satisfied, though I would not have complained had he gone into a second solo (or that same one again).

Man, what else is on the rest of this concert that could leave you so incredibly apathetic about hearing more of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony?

Some crappy Bruckner symphony?

Bailey’s smoky, dark good looks have helped land him a number of television appearances.

Oh, I get it. It's not what the orchestra has programmed, but you have a crush on Zuill. Well, I've always said that pretty people are better musicians than ugly people. I think it's a scientific fact.

So, what does Zuill Bailey look like?

figure handsome: Tom Brady plays the cello, too?!

This guy makes Rostropovich look like a pile of puke. So, we can see that he's hot, but what about his personality?

He hit the stage Saturday in all black with a stage demeanor that is immediately likable and engaging.

Sounds dreamy.

“He’s a real performer,” said Doris Matter of St. Cloud, Minn., whose daughter, Emily, plays bassoon in the orchestra. “He really engages with the audience.”

Wait, Emily's mom? Is she some sort of authority on this subject?

Well, what did Emily's dad think?

“You can tell he’s into his work,” said Peter Matter, Doris’ husband.

I must say these might qualify as the most random people you could have interviewed.

So, really, onto the rest of the concert. You've hit the highlight in the soloist's encore, and sort of implied that you didn't really care for the rest of the concert, so...

The music at Saturday’s concert focused on Spain.

Ah, Spain. Home of the tooth mouse, Ratoncito Perez.

figure tooth mouse: Oh yeah, this is much more amusing than a fairy.

In any case, a program about Spain, huh. Well, the Strauss is about a famous Spanish character, but the music is quite German, yes? He even quotes his own orchestral suite, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, which is based on a French play. But, these program threads are always tenuous. What else was on the concert?

It was the first Masterworks concert of a year dubbed the “Taste the World season,” in which each concert will focus on a different part of the world. It opened with 19th-century composer Emmanuel Chabrier’s “España,” a light and fun romp that has the liveliness of Spanish music,...

Wait, the Spanish piece, called "
España", has the liveliness of Spanish music...? Are you sure?

...though not a great deal of its distinctive dark half-tones.
At the end of “España,” conductor Bernard Rubenstein and concertmaster Benjamin Sung jokingly hugged, a reference to a comment said to be made by Chabrier that at the end of the piece, the audience would embrace one another.

I assume everyone was let in on the joke in advance, because while I consider myself an aficionado of all things Chabrier (as I imagine most of the audience were as well), I did not know that anecdote.

The gesture drew laughter from the audience.

I can only assume.

It’s noteworthy because it’s a microcosm of something that this orchestra is doing very well: walking the fine line of being accessible to a more vernacular audience while still maintaining the dignity of the art form.

Hugging = vernacular?

I'm not sure that word means what you think it means.

The orchestra can do so, in part, because the music is of high quality, which is really what makes art worthy of dignity in the first place.

Music of high quality is what make art worthy of dignity? It's an interesting thesis.

And, as if to illustrate that point, Saturday’s comic moment came after a tight, tidy performance of Chabrier’s creation followed by another quality performance on “El Sombrero de Tres Picos.”

Which has no composer, of course. But I notice that the title is in Spanish. Nice. That totally fits with the focus on Spain.

But, you're making some sort of point about the symphony being more accessible to us vernacular sorts. How was a quality performance of a piece about hats accomplishing that?

figure vernacular: "Left Unalakleet warmth for rain in Juneau tonite. No drought threat down here, ever but consistent rain reminds us: 'No rain? No rainbow!'"

I guess hats are vernacular, although, I can't really remember the last time I saw someone wearing a hat with three-corners, so maybe that mitigates the vernacular quality of this performance some, yes?

In some sense, Bailey’s performance was also a nod to that approach – whether intentional or not.

Really? How so?

Bailey is handsome, engaging and has television credits, too.

I see. You're right, we are a shallow, celebrity-obsessed society. We couldn't possibly value Bailey's talent as a cellist above his looks and popular culture credentials.

But when the bow strikes the strings, the form is not without substance.
And that is the key.

Lesson learned. To all you ugly children out there...just give up now. You may have substance, but without the form... .


J. Shane Mercer said...

Hey ... This is Shane Mercer, the above reviewer. All I can say is, "Ouch!" I feel like a B-movie on "Mystery Science Theatre 3000." Pretty funny though. I posted a link to it on Facebook.

Linda Coates said...

This is Linda Coates, executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony and a big fan of yours, whoever you are. Brilliant smashdown, I'm linking it on the symphony's FB page and also sending it to Bernie Rubenstein and Zuill.

Shane Mercer said...

Hey Linda ... okay ... you don't have to like it *that* much. :-)

Sator Arepo said...

Some mornings, life is outstanding.

Thanks for the links (and compliments), y'all.

Gustav said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Glad to know that you have such a good sense of humor. However, I just want to know what Emily's mom and dad think of the review. ;-)

Shane Mercer said...

I haven't heard what her parents thought, but I'll update you when they talk and AP does a story on it.