Sunday, October 29, 2006

SFS: Abbado/Midori

I caught the SFS concert last night with my friend Mike; a program of Petrassi's Concerto for Orchestra No. 2, Britten's violin concerto, and the Schumann Fourth.

The Petrassi is competently written, but meandering; there are real compositional possibilities in the repeated rhythmic phrases and orchestration with which, sadly, he does nothing much. There was a moment when I thought "Wow, sounds vaguely like the score to a Hitchcock film...Bernard-Hermannish..." and when I mentioned this to Mike he finished the thought with "...but Hermann was a much better composer." Right-o.

The astonishing piece. He does plenty with repeated rhythmic phrases, and the orchestration is original, arresting, and full of glories. That passage at the end of the first movement, with the cymbals, harp, solo violin, and...a horn? a trombone? The passage elswhere with the tuba and two piccolos (!!). The muted brass sonorities at the end. The incredible scherzo. Midori was magnificent; at the intermission, I said to Mike "Never mind the Schumann. Couldn't they just play that again???"

Maybe that would have been a mistake, maybe a second reading wouldn't have had the magic of the first. And the Schumann was first-class, an excellent performance of a work that I think is somewhat underrated. They played the heck out of it. And Peter Wyrick, one of my barometers, smiled a lot. I hope the musicians enjoyed the concert, the conductor, and the soloist as much as I did.

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