Friday, October 19, 2007


The Fourth Symphony is the most enigmatic piece of music I have ever heard.

I am curious: has anyone ever heard a live performance of his string quartet?


Henry Holland said...

I'm assuming you were at Disney Hall on Thursday. What a concert!

I had seats behind the percussion, dead center, a perfect view of Mr. Salonen. The ESP between him and the players can only come from having worked together for so long: the slightest flick of the hand, tilt of the head elicits a response.

Yes, the 4th symphony is strange music. I kept thinking "Janacek" at the break because Sibelius and the Czech use short motifs to build the structure. I love the way the music builds and it appears there's going to a burst of late-romantic big orchestra sound and Sibelius cuts that off and moves on to something else. I don't suspect I'll have many more chances to hear the Sibelius Fourth live, so I'm glad I did.

I really liked Steven Stucky's Radical Light. It's what I call Mainstream Modernism: strings mostly playing clusters over long spans, chattering tuned percussion, woodwinds and horns interjecting, low bleats from the trombones etc. Nicely paced, beautifully orchestrated, I'd like to hear it again.

Wow, the Sibelius Seventh. What a piece! I thought Mr. Salonen really "got it" and despite my usual complaints about the Phil's brass section --pitch isn't approximate people-- the orchestra played wonderfully.

All in all, a very nice evening downtown. I was floored, however, by a beer at Patina afterwards costing $12.50. Oh well, us rich concertgoers. :-)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yes, I was there! I was in, uh, let me go check the seating chart. Oh, Orchestra East.

I've never found Janacek at all engimatic, but now I'm thinking he's an extrovert and Sibelius is an introvert. I do think, based on the Fourth and on the string quartet, which I heard Tuesday, that Sibelius's formal structure are problematic, or may I just need to hear both pieces more to understand them at all.

I love Radical Light, would have liked to hear it again. I agree with you about the Seventh, great performance.

Mike Walsh said...

Sibelius' Fourth is for me a risky piece but a great triumph. It's like those pictures of four little L-shaped squiggles but everyone who looks at it sees a square. The Largo is a piece that still brings tears when I hear it.

I can understand your not getting it at first hearing. The story is told with minimal resources, and if you miss some of the details it may not hang together for you.

Which string quartet? I know his opp. 3 and 4, and I think there's a later one.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The mature one. :)

I think it's op. 56.

Lisa Hirsch said...

P. S. Henry, are you going tomorrow night? I'll be there, and so will Mike.

Henry Holland said...

No, I could only make one of the Sibelius Unbound concerts and I choose the one with a) a new piece because I love being at World Premieres and b) the Seventh. Damn money woes......

Lisa Hirsch said...

Damn money woes indeed, and, you know, I went to Jenufa alone and my companion for the Green Umbrella concert last week got sick. Wah, I would have been happy to have you with me on the press tickets.

David B said...

Sibelius's Fourth is certainly enigmatic, but I give the prize in that category, at least among well-known orchestral works, to Vaughan Williams's Sixth.

Sure I've heard the Sibelius quartet. ("Which one?" indeed!) I even reviewed the Emersons in it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hmm, "dry, academic performance." What I heard Tuesday had issues; some of the playing was extremely square, which did not make a good case for the piece. Interesting that the Emersons didn't, apparently, do much better with it.