Then there was Saint-Saëns' prodigiously vacuous Second Piano Concerto, which returned to Davies after a mere two years -- far too soon for an exhumation -- under the ministrations of soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.He's also honest about this particular quirk:
This gets at least one vote for the most pointless piano concerto in the active repertoire, a clattery stream of scales and arpeggios that the pianist must deliver at top speed in a desperate search to keep the audience from expiring out of sheer boredom at the lack of any musical ideas. Thibaudet, in whose playing elegance and virtuosity are so intimately intertwined as to become a single compound virtue, lavished all his considerable flair on the score, but in vain.
The only thing on the [2007-08 SF Opera] schedule that leaves me cold is the opening-night Samson and Delilah, and that's a function of my own idiosyncrasies: I have no particular use for any 19th-century French music that isn't by Berlioz (remember, "Gounod" is an anagram of "ungood"), and although I'm an Olga Borodina fan, I'm not, you know, the world's biggest Olga Borodina fan. If you're a little more normal than I am on either of those two points, then even that one should get you going.Now, I'm a fan of Saint-Saëns (though I otherwise agree with Joshua about the value of 19th century French music), but it's a good thing when critics are clear about which composers they just can't take. I'm willing to bet that every working critic has a little list of works or composers they'd just as soon not review, or maybe hear again for the rest of their lives, whether from outright dislike or overexposure. Here's my list:
- Rossini comedies. I've seen Barber, I've seen Cenerentola, I've seen L'Italiana (in her guise as Riot Grrrl on Mars), and I've had it. It's not worth sitting through hours of boring music and tired stage schtick for the sake of a good overture and a prima donna showpiece: I have plenty of recordings of Una voce poco fa and Non piu mesta, and that's sufficient. Neither the 20-ton revolving set nor the presence of Thomas Hampson or Nathan Gunn in the title role could drag me to the last two go-rounds of Barber at SFO. The only exception I'm willing to make is for Il viaggio a Rheims, which has a gigantic cast and an astonishing act finale with 14 singers all going at once, sometimes a capella.
- Carmen. Only if Crespin or Supervia comes back from the dead, despite the great reviews both Hadar Halevy and Kate Aldrich got at SFO last season.
- The Mozart Requiem, a work I've performed and still don't like very much
- Any complete opera by Massenet, a composer whose work is best performed as excerpts
- Palestina. Luckily, I have never reviewed a concert with any work by Palestrina on the program, but anyone who sings early music has had to sing a lot of Palestrina. His music is dull and always fails to move me; many of his contemporaries are far more interesting to sing or hear. I have reached the point where I will skip concerts in which my chorus is performing Palestrina.
- Copland. Sorry! I cannot stand St. Aaron's music either in wide-open-spaces/Americana mode or in his overblown modernist style.
- Vivaldi. STOP with the twittering flute concertos! STOP with the damned Four Seasons already!!
- Most of the second-string German Baroque composers whose music clutters up the airwaves thanks to lowest-common-denominator radio programming
- Most of Gershwin's concert music, though Jonathan Bellman's performance of the Second Prelude at the Stanford symposium earlier this year did get me.
- Works I'd skip in a minute because I've heard them too often, but would be willing to hear again with the right cast or after a long enough break: Tosca, Butterfly (I'll probably go see Racette this season), La Traviata, Boheme, Don Giovanni (I'm very glad to have seen and reviewed this year's SFO production, but on the whole, it's done badly when it's done). The prominence of Puccini on this list does say something about opera company scheduling.
Anyone care to join me in 'fessing up?