ASO: Carlos Kalmar with Yevgeny Sudbin

Oddly enough, I have no idea why I had a ticket to the ASO tonight. It wasn’t a bad program but it was also not one that normally would attract me: I prefer my Beethoven from later in his career and I’m just not big on Brahms. When I checked the program sometime last week to see what I was doing this weekend I found myself wondering why I hadn’t exchanged this ticket for something else. Maybe it was because I’ve never heard Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Brahms Piano Quartet in G Minor and was curious. Who knows but, that said, I enjoyed it and am glad that I went.

There was a moment before the show when only a small number of musicians were warming up on stage that they sounded like they were playing a Gyorgy Ligeti piece. I really enjoyed it and kind of wish that someone had transcribed it and would flesh it out. I’ve pulled out one of my old Ligeti Project albums to listen to while I write this.

Anyway, the concert itself was very good. I have to say that I like Carlos Kalmar’s conducting. He brought out all of the drama and color in Suppe’s Poet and Peasant overture. Rex handled the cello solo parts extremely well and I was really impressed by the way that Kalmar managed to balance the quiet sound of a solo cello with a full orchestra without pulling the orchestra back too far. Indeed, that section seemed soft and rich rather than dampened, as it often does, and it made the transition into the fiery portion that followed more dramatic without seeming hammy.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 1 isn’t one of my favorites. Like I said above, I prefer his work from the Romantic period, and this is firmly rooted in the Classical period. Still, it’s a very good piece and, under the fingers of a good pianist, the piano part is amazing. Yevgeny Sudbin’s fingers were more than good enough to bring life to the piece. He had a casualness to his playing, as though he were playing it in a parlor for the enjoyment of himself and maybe a few guests rather than on stage for an audience of ticket-holders. I got the impression that he might have enjoyed sitting in the audience listening to the orchestra, though not as much as playing with it. It was definitely a good performance.

The final piece was Schoenberg’s orchestration of a piano quartet by Brahms. I’m not aware of having ever heard this orchestration before and I really liked it. In fact, I think that I liked it more than any of the works that Brahms orchestrated for full orchestra except, perhaps, for his third symphony. It seems that Schoenberg decided to orchestrate the chamber piece for full orchestra because he really liked it, felt that it wasn’t played often enough or well enough, and would make for great make-out music. I think that Kalmar and the ASO were really effective in bringing this latter aspect out of the piece and I suspect that if I’d been sitting in the back of the audience instead of the front then I’d have seen a number of couples making out to it. Instead I heard a young kid blowing on his mother’s face through the whole thing. Kids always react to make-out music in the strangest ways. It’s probably a good thing that we don’t let most of them go through puberty until they’re in their teens.

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