Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Were We at the Same Concert?

If you're a reviewer, you hear or see that question a lot, especially if you're a daily reviewer in a paper that has comments on reviews. Even when people appear to be physically in the same place, internally we hardly ever are.

San Francisco Symphony, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011
Vasily Petrenko
Shostakovich; Tchaikovsky (arr. Glazunov); Glazunov; Elgar
So I'll come down, overall, with JK. I understand what Kalimac means by "all butter and no sinew;" Bell's tone is gorgeous, rounded, without cutting edge. But there's plenty of sinew in Bell's line, which is long, longer, longest, never slumping or fading. I wish singers could all do what he did in the Glazunov and Tchaikovsky.

I told a friend the day of the concert that I didn't know any of the works on it. This turned out to be wrong. I am sure I played the Shostakovich Festival Overture in a band back in the 1970s, most likely the Teaneck Summer Band under the late Fred Streckfuss. I am even more sure that we played it at maybe two-thirds the speed that Petrenko took. With a band like the San Francisco Symphony, anything is possible.

As for the Elgar, this was my first-ever hearing of the piece, so I have absolutely no basis for comparison. But I liked it fine; the grandeur of the work and its Mahlerian mood certainly came across firmly. Jeff Dunn knows it rather better than I do, though, and perhaps I'd be closer to his viewpoint with his knowledge.


    sfmike said...

    Festive Overture bombastic and fun. Tchaikowsky, Glazunov and Bell extremely boring (which I wasn't expecting). Petrenko conducting Elgar absolutely wonderful.

    And yes, it's all subjective as can be.

    Lisa Hirsch said...

    Sure is!

    John Marcher said...

    My take on it was different from all of the above- all downhill after the Shostakovich.

    Lisa Hirsch said...


    I must have missed that posting. Will link to it.

    Anonymous said...

    The difference between me and Jeff is that, as I alluded in my review, my previous experience with Elgar's First had not been very winning. (It's frustrating: there's no other major symphonist whose other music I like as much as I do Elgar's whose symphonies appeal to me so little. My favorite of his symphonies is the Third, which he didn't write.)

    Petrenko's account thus tipped me towards the First in a positive direction, whereas for Jeff, who already liked the work as it is, it tipped in a negative direction. Our evaluations of this performance need not be that different (though actually I think they were); the real difference is the context we put the performance in.

    I see what you mean about Bell's line, but I wouldn't use "sinew" to describe his lyrical approach. It's a buttery line as well as tone.

    Lisa Hirsch said...

    Thanks! Thoughtful comments.

    I need to find out from Jeff which recordings he likes of the First. Elgar is a difficult composer for me; need to get to know his recordings better.

    Two questions for you: which Elgar recordings do you like, and um he didn't write his Third Symphony? (Right, I don't know much about Elgar beyond Catholic, came from the "wrong" class for his line of work, had difficulty getting adequate training, depressive.)

    Anonymous said...

    Jacqueline du Pre playing the Elgar Cello Concerto is something you have to hear.

    I like Sir Charles Groves conducting the whole set of Pomp and Circumstance, and an old mono LP of Boult (always good with Elgar) in some of his bonbons, the 3 Bavarian Dances and Chansons de Nuit et de Matin.

    Plenty more hefty works as well as light ones. The Piano Quintet is good. You might like the quasi-oratorio "Dream of Gerontius".

    Elgar left only bits and pieces of the Third. The version put together by Anthony Payne in 1997 is not a completion but more a reconstruction, and is officially titled Elgar's "Sketches for ... as elaborated by ..."

    Lisa Hirsch said...

    Thank you, calimac - copying those to my "recordings to get" list.

    I know Gerontius, not well - lovely, lovely work.