ASO: Pre-Concert Chamber Music

I had this plan, see: I was teaching a class at a professional conference in Buckhead and I’d been told that I’d probably get out early so I’d finally have the time to make it to one of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s pre-concert chamber music performances. It’s hard for me to make it to them these days because my commute is so awful on Thursdays, so I was excited to take advantage of this opportunity. Doubly so because there was a piece on the program that I really liked and wanted to hear live. I figured that I could grab an early supper nearby and pop in to hear the show.

Unfortunately, my class was at the end of the conference and covered a topic that drew a lot of questions and, having slept poorly last night, I didn’t do as good of a job of controlling the attendees as I might have, so it went over time by about 10 minutes. Then clients came up to ask related questions or just to introduce themselves to me, which lasted another 30. Then there was an additional five minutes or so to chat with the VP in charge of my product line about an issue that one of the clients brought up. So it was around 5:45p before I was able to go to my car and schlep through Buckhead traffic to make my way to Symphony Hall. I considered giving up and going home but I don’t like to let work defeat me like that, so I ate a granola bar on the way to calm my rumbly tummy and made it to the stage about five minutes or so before show time.

The two pieces on the program were from either end of the 20th century, the first having been composed in 1992 and the second in 1909. They provided an interesting aesthetic contrast while both addressing the same subject: the wind.

Toru Takemitsu’s “And then I knew ’twas wind,” which began the concert, takes its title from the second line of Dickinson’s poem, “Like Rain it Sounded ‘Till it Curved.” Scored for flute, viola, and harp, the piece is gentle and meditative. The tempo seemed to change quite a bit through the 15 minute piece, though without losing a sense of flow, and, at times, it called for somewhat novel sounds from the instruments.  At times it was hard to tell the viola from a second flute, for instance, and the harp’s sound would slide down a step in a manner that sounded like an impersonation of a Japanese stringed instrument. I found that it lulled me into a peaceful state while, at the same time, presenting me with a complex tapestry that kept me deeply engaged on an intellectual level. The piece makes me feel like the ‘wind’ presented by the music gently caresses me like the tender touches of a lover on an idle afternoon. I mostly came to hear this piece and I wasn’t at all disappointed with the performance.

The other piece on the program was also written based on the work of another artist. Franz Schreker’s “Der Wind” is subtitled “After a poem by Grete Wiesenthal” and was written for a dance piece by Wiesenthal and her sister Elsa that ended up never being produced. Scored for violin, clarinet, horn, cello, and piano, it is a pleasing piece and not without its charm, although it didn’t manage to grip me the way that the Takemitsu did. It made use of much more clearly defined rhythms, was more dramatic, and had a richer orchestration than the previous piece did. I think that I’d have enjoyed it more as an accompaniment to a dance piece than standing on its own. I might also have preferred to hear it before the Takemitsu, which might create a sense that Takemitsu’s work is an evolution of the Schreker. Still, it was well played and enjoyable to hear.

Overall, it was well worth the stress, hunger, and fatigue to attend the brief performance. I doubt that I’ll make it to terribly many more until I find somewhere to work ITP, so I’m glad that I took advantage of the “opportunity” this evening.

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