Friday, May 29, 2009

Dawn to Twlight I

Don't believe everything The Opera Tattler and Civic Center have to say about Wednesday night's Schubert/Berg program and San Francisco Symphony - or maybe you should believe that it sounded very different in the second tier, where I sat, from on the floor, where I'm presuming they were.
Yes, I heard some roughness, but it was in sloppily attacked wind chords in the last movement of Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra. At the first performance of such a challenging program, no harm, no foul, at least when I'm not officially reviewing.

No, I would not describe Michelle DeYoung's voice as "silvery;" it has darkened considerably since I first heard her more than a decade ago in the Seattle Tristan. I last heard the Seven Early Songs performed three years ago at the Berkeley Symphony by another veteran of that production, soprano Jane Eaglen, who mangled the work.

DeYoung, by contrast, was a marvel, singing with a gorgeously-sustained line, exquisite shading, good enunciation, and plenty of specificity. I was struck by how close the songs were to the sound-world and emotional tone of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, despite the vast difference in orchestral forces, Berg's chamber orchestra neatly achieving sonorities his teacher needed 110 players for. Oh, and she really did look fantastic; see the photos at Civic Center.

As for the Schubert, I liked the opening Rosamunde overture just fine, and MTT's style with the composer suits me better than it does sfMike. I hadn't heard the Unfinished more than a few times in the last 20 years, after playing it to death in college, and I'd never before heard it live.

Hoo boy. That is one scary piece, which I mean in a good way: terrifying, awesome, powerful....MTT definitely played it for drama, and succeeded in bringing a Brahmsian grandeur and intensity to the piece. I would have taken the second movement slower, but, honestly, I can't complain about any performance that leaves me holding my breath that way. Kudos to the winds and horns for magnificent playing in that movement, especially Carey Bell, William Bennett, and Robert Ward.

My only complaint was that after the sublime Unfinished, MTT just had to pick up the microphone and tell us, incoherently, all about the Berg. Way to break the spell, fella.


Henry Holland said...

Berg's chamber orchestra neatly achieving sonorities his teacher needed 110 players forBerg probably was a better orchestrator than Schoenberg, but the reason the Gurrelieder orchestra is the size it is very simple: Schoenberg wanted most instruments (all the woodwinds, the horns and trombones) to be able to play, at a minimum, 6-note chords, and for the strings to be able to do so as well. I have the full score and it's amazing how lightly scored most of it is.

MTT just had to pick up the microphone and tell us, incoherently, all about the BergDo you think someone in the audience yelling "Shut the hell up, we don't need a lecture from the likes of you" as soon as he picked up the mic > it got quiet would stop that practice? Airfares on Southwest from LAX to Oakland are pretty cheap these days......

Henry Holland said...

What the heck happened with italics and paragraph breaks there.

Testing testing

Testing testing

Lisa Hirsch said...

I would be so happy if you would come shut him up.

On the other hand...the friend who was with me, who has a musical background but hasn't played in 30 years or something, enjoyed the talk, and is less likely to read program notes than I am.

Henry Holland said...

Now that Chatty Patty Salonen has left, I think the number of "Oh gawd, there's a microphone on the score stand *GROAN*" kinds of moments will lessen.

E-PS was doing a standup routine, erm, talk, with the composer Steven Stuckey before a performance of the Sibelius 4th (incredible). E-PS said "This symphony is as complex as anything by Schoenberg". I had the reply in my throat --"NONSENSE" I was going to say fairly loudly-- but I kept it to myself. I wish I hadn't, I can't stand puffery and obvious hype like that at all.

Yes, as your friends experience shows, the talks aren't meant for the likes of me, someone who has done his homework before they attend, so I just grimace and bear it. :-)

Does MTT still call everyone by their first name? "Well, Alban would use the tone-row differently than Arnold or Anton" etc.?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Berg & Schubert the other day, not first names.

The Sibelius 4 is kinda weird! I found E-PS's comments about it at the Sibelius Fest helpful! But he wasn't up there with Stucky for that one.

Henry Holland said...

As you probably know, the LAP did a Sibelius cycle at the end of E-PS's tenure and so I had a big "get to know these pieces" thing for a couple of months before it started, listening to the Maazel recordings constantly in my car etc.

I can see why the British loved him as a bulwark against those naughty Viennese 12-tone types: Sibelius is modern enough, but grounded in the usual suspects enough to seem familiar.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I attended several of the Sibelius programs - they were great.

Why Maazel?

I love sibelius, also Nielsen, who remains underappreciated in the US.

The Opera Tattler said...

For me, there was something metallic in taste (crazy, miswired brain) and coldish (but in a nice way) about DeYoung's voice. I loved her singing. I was down in the back of the orchestra level, indeed!

Lisa Hirsch said...

A synesthete!