Monday, March 12, 2007


To the Symphony Saturday night, for the last performance in Alan Gilbert's current run, a program of Thomas Adès's Chamber Symphony, Beethoven's Triple Concerto, and Mozart's 41st Symphony ("Jupiter"). My companion, The Standing Room, took off after intermission, and he had the right idea: the Mozart was somewhere between eh and zzzzz. Gilbert's a perfectly decent conductor, but I want to hear him in new music, and, really, how much is left to say about that piece in 2007? I wish it could be given a rest for about 25 years.

The first half of the program was a different story, though. I'd never heard the Beethoven live, and I think I've heard it on record at most a few times. Lovely piece, well-performed: S.F. Mike has pictures, and let me add that the cellist is buff. The Eroica had an encore, Piazzola's Oblivion, played with no jagged edges, all homogenized, moody, prettiness, leaving TSR unhappy.

Best of all was the Adès. For one thing, you had to wonder what Robin Sutherland was going to do with that accordian; when he finally picked it up, you remembered that the accordian is a reed instrument. Accordian plus string harmonics: magic, one of the last gestures in a hugely eventful, dense, and fascinating 14 minutes of music. I loved it, would have loved to hear it again, and then I noticed that Adès was wrote it at 19. It's his Opus 2, written with the self-assurance, distinctiveness, and musical conviction of a master.

The last time TSR and I saw Gilbert, the programming was similar: Adams's Naive and Sentimental Music plus Midori in a lax performance of the Beethoven violin concerto. It's a waste of Gilbert's talents. As I said, he is perfectly competent but not revelatory in Classical-era music, and a fine accompanist, but it's in contemporary and 20th century music that he shines. As TSR said, neither contemporary music nor the audience are well served by tossing a new piece onto a program with no context. More Adès, or music by one of his contemporaries, or a British composer of a slightly earlier generation, would have made a much more interesting and exciting program.


Civic Center said...

I'd forgotten about the Piazzola encore by the Eroica Trio. I thought they were playing it just to annoy Kosman, though I must say that it annoyed me too, not because it was homogenized but because the Beethoven performance was still ringing in my head and I didn't need to hear a tango.

And the cellist IS buff. I loved her.

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of room for a good performance of the Jupiter. Perhaps you just haven't heard one lately, that's all. John Eliot Gardiner did the whole trilogy proud when he came to town last year.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It was not a BAD performance of the Jupiter; it just did not say anything particularly new or interesting. I still wish it could be given a rest.

Anonymous said...

Then, as I say, you need to hear a good performance. Good performances are, it must be emphasized, good: what's left if you exclude the good performances are not all bad performances, and I didn't imagine that you claimed it was bad.

And if you've just had enough of a particular piece, then just don't go to those concerts. You're a free agent. Take your break on your own; don't argue that the rest of us should have to share it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You do realize that I do not believe anyone is going to take me up on a moratorium on any piece, right?

I think a good case can be made, exclusively of my own personal reactions or experience, for giving any particular warhorse a rest for some period of time. (Bernard Holland, who is far from my favorite critic, famously called for giving the Beethoven symphonies a rest, 20-odd years ago.)

There's definitely no good reason to assign a warhorse to a conductor whose major talents lie elsewhere.