Sunday, April 29, 2012

City of lights hewn before my ears

Conductor Gianandrea Noseda introduced the Respighi "La Boutique Fantasque" this evening with his usual flair. Some conductors don't take the opportunity to talk to the audience, yet it's often a very entertaining way to connect the music with the audience. His assertion was that perhaps this piece was 50% by Respighi and 50% by Rossini, who came to Paris at the 'ripe old age of 37', and for a while didn't write a note. Eventually, according to Noseda, he did write some piano pieces, which were eventually orchestrated by Respighi for the 8 movements fantastically presented this evening by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

This composition, which I'm hearing for the first time tonight, except for a few melodies which I do recognize, seems amazing to me. Each piece, each section, and as a whole, this music is much to amazing to be so obscure. The overture begins with a great melody, playful and enticing, and when it's done, I wish to hear more. Yet no fear, each and every movement to follow has the same quality, enduring and melodic. With this music as a backdrop, I begin to write the following, even turning into poetry...

In the beginning there were sounds. Sounds, branching into myriad amalgamations of sonorous tendrils bundled algorithmically into packets of temporal relations, juxtaposed behind alternating selections thematically grouped in musical forms intended to smack the listener with the greatest melodic impact.

Then there were words, but just what words can accurately, concisely and vigorously capture the fullest splendor of the music?

Words can be beautiful. Words can be bright.
Say the thing you mean, but do words have the right?
Can they usurp the reality of the tender music,
That we would hear throughout the night.

A vain attempt these words do make
to model reality and meaning take;
losing in the transcription the larger part
between harmonious reality and what's in my heart.

My noble attempt to say the words, now past
has led me here to the threshold, magic at last.

The city of lights this night is hewn before my ears,
release the hidden subtlety as comprehension nears;
the music, as with the light, unleashed to shed our fears.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meandering Contemplative Juxtapositions

A misunderstanding or perhaps simply my misplaced accounting of the movements that comprise Berlioz' Romeo and Juliet led my confused mind wandering down several wrong-way paths of meandering contemplative juxtapositions whereby I was questioning the composer's dubious choice of musical content meant to picturesquely represent the various scenes from Shakespeare's play.
My eventual state of bewildered confusion was only temporary; somehow I was off by two movements. The programmatic music had the titles of the movements listed in the program, and since I've never heard Berlioz' suite before (Suite from Roméo et Juliette, Dramatic Symphony, Opus 17, 1839), and because these are only excerpts (we don't get to hear the choral finale), I miscalculated where I was along the way.

'Love Scene', I confused for part of 'Romeo Alone'.  'Queen Mab Scherzo' I substituted for 'Festival at the Capulets' followed by erroneously thinking the true 'Love Scene' was 'Romeo at the Tomb of the Capulets' -- a mistake which had me all mixed up, wondering: what was Berlioz thinking? As the music sequenced further beyond what was published, I realized my mistake, feeling somewhat embarrassed and realizing that instead of misguided, Berlioz was a genius composing such luscious, broad, delicate and sweeping sounds gloriously representing the love of Romeo and Juliet. The real scherzo (not the one I imagined from before) is creative and vibrant and with beating drums and dramatic tempos first fast then slow then fast again.

I really did enjoy this version by Berlioz, yet it's difficult not to compare the version by Tchaikovsky which is really spectacular, so it's not fair to pit the two against each other in a hypothetical match-up. Certainly I want to hear the Berlioz version again, I find that listening to selections repeatedly reenforces my like for the music.

After intermission we were treated to Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2, music with which I am very familiar. Nicholas Angelich took complete control with his mastery of the piano. His technique wasn't subtle, his tumultuous approach at the beginning was enough to wake the sleepiest of patrons, simultaneously usurping the role of the orchestra, at least for movements 1 and 2. I really do like the music, but for some reason the first two movements seemed too loud for my liking, somehow saturating my senses, like clipping for speakers (when the peaks and troughs of a sinusoidal waveform hit the maximum permissible value, it indicates a signal has been 'clipped.'). However, the 3rd and 4th movements were just right, the perfect volume, and very well played by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Note to self: get seats further back next time.

I always enjoy seeing guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda with the PSO, he did a great job as always, very animated with adroit clarity - I hope he returns often.