If there was a list of classical musicians who’d be fun to dance with, Gil Shaham and Pablo Heras-Casado would make the top ten of that very selective and short list. At Tuesday night’s Mostly Mozart concert at Avery Fisher Hall, Heras-Casado led the very energetic and engaging Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra through a performance of Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto (1938) with the energy one would expect from a young conductor. His gestures were bouncy, animated, outwardly expressive–a perfect match to Shaham, who engaged the audience with his ultra-extroverted performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219. The second movement Adagio felt a bit rushed, as if to say, ‘Let’s get to the fun stuff again!’ And indeed, Shaham performed the third movement with playfulness and virtuosity of the first. We did not expect what came after the Mozart was finished…
Dubbed by Shaham a ‘Turkish-dance-not-by-Mozart,’ both Heras-Casado and Shaham just let it rip (we can just imagine Heras-Casado telling the orchestra, ‘I’m gonna to this stompy thang here and make my curls bounce, just go with it’). Complete with blue and bent notes, improvised-sounding phrases, and a driving rhythm, this music brought out laughs, and afterwards, a standing ovation, from the audience.
This audience clapped between every movement (who wouldn’t appreciate a little ‘Go you!’ during a performance? ). According to Allan Kozinn, this shows that ‘this was an easy crowd to please.’ At least we know that the seats were not filled by only music students and industry people. This also showed how little often people go to concerts at all. If this was someone’s first concert experience, it was a great one: Shaham and Heras-Casado, and the Mostly Mozart orchestra not only played, but performed, traditional repertoire with skill and emotion. This is the type of performance that would make people come back.
We left at intermission. The orchestra was to perform Beethoven’s Second Symphony, but we felt we got the meat of the program. Not to say that Beethoven is excess bun, but when you’ve heard several performances and recordings of something, sometimes you just want to go get a drink already. (We know, ‘But each performance is different!’ Okay.)
It seems the Mostly Mozart Festival really knows its audience, which seems to be one that does not listen to classical music regularly. This was a smartly programmed concert, with a non-stereotypical classical composer (people 99% of the time instantly think Beethoven or Mozart) alongside pieces to be found on ‘Mozart for Munchkins’ or ‘Beethoven at Brunch.’ That, plus the engaged performers, a conductor who is alive, and Shaham’s encore that showed classical music’s ability to be fun and trivial, contribute to this concert’s success. Heras-Casado+Shaham=a good time.
I would have to say last night was pretty good. Not the most amazing I’ve ever had, but a solid good. Marc-André Dalbavie was my favorite with Lei Liang coming in second. Didn’t get to discuss Liang’s piece much at all last night.
The most interesting thing about Liang’s Verge was the manipulation of the strings to emulate Mongolian sounds. I’m looking forward seeing how Asian influence in classical music pans out, as I don’t think it’s fully settled in yet (or maybe it’s my ear that hasn’t settled in)…seems to still be in its experimental stages.
In other news, the super cool-looking, instrumentalist-free installation, Stifter’s Dinge by Heiner Goebbels, takes place this weekend at the Park Avenue Armory as part of Lincoln Center’s New Visions thang. I wonder if they’re aiming for a younger audience at all? While it’s probably worth it, I don’t see, both at our age and in this economy, and during this season, many 18-34′s dropping $55 to see this (and it says nothing about student tix on the site)…whatever, ramen every day next week doesn’t sound too bad, right?
This is hard! Note: post will change throughout evening.
Just finished hearing Arlene Sierra’s Game of Attrition. Lindberg interviewing Lei Liang, he made his piece based on his son’s name, Albert. His piece, Verge, has ideas of converge and diverge. Inspired by Mongolian tradition. Anyway you can read all the educational stuff online.
Listening to Verge now. Guess it’s not about his son, as there seems to be an uneasy feeling prevalent, and at times anxious feeling. Liang has created some unique effects with the strings.
Sierra: indifferent. Liang: strong like, not love.
intermission…I can chill now thank goodness.
Concert about to start again
Lindberg discussing spectral music with Marc-André Dalbavie. D. said something about color and the music being autobiographical in Melodia, upcoming piece.
Dalbavie isn’t afraid of having some tonal elements in his music. Yes there are enough unique harmonies and non-diatonic melodies (man I NEED to brush up on theory if I’m gonna keep doing this live stuff) that make it sound ‘new’ enough. But Dalbavie conveys cohesive musical thoughts…I should probably go into depth, but like I said about my theory skills…anyway it’s clear there are some established compositional elements he uses that do not take away from the originality of his voice.
Artur Kampela wearing funky black and white plaid pants talking about Macunaima. Talking about how idea of listening is philosophical, linked to the imagination, how we only hear and mostly see. He talks really fast and is enthusiastic about listening! Applause and amusement from the audience.
Electronic sounds start off the piece–church bells, wind. Pretty stark. People walking down the aisles making sounds with what seem to be home made can instruments. Basically sound effects to set up atmosphere–sounds like the wild, nature, even frogs. Kampela creates a picture, relates back to what he was saying about listening and imagination. I’m wondering though, do I have a certain picture in my head because I associate these sounds with what I’ve heard in movies? Disney cartoon is coming to my head. Running through the forest. Cheshire Cat. I was expecting something else after that talk. Tuba and viola, I believe, just walked off stage.
Now it sounds like we’re back at the fair! As if we had fallen asleep and had a weird dream. People who walked off are playing different music backstage…the musicians who are on stage have a sound effect type of deal going on. The two orchestras create the feeling that we’re in two places at once–body in one place, mind in another. Musicians are coming back now…
Now it comes full circle, the music continually transitions almost as if rewinding, back to the atmosphere of the opening, closing with the people who had walked on at the beginning exiting with equal starkness.
I am hungry and I can’t wait to have a drink at the post-show reception.