ASO: Robert Spano with Inon Barnatan

So, if you don’t know me and you haven’t read the About Me page on this blog, then let me warn you that I am neither a critic nor a journalist. This is really just where I dump my thoughts on some of the things that I go to so that I can remember them later. That said, I’m starting this blog entry with something whiny and unrelated to the concert itself.

Me whining about something at Memorial Hall unrelated to the concert

I’ve had this pass to go to the Delta SKY360˚ Club and get a free drink all season but never got around to using it. I’ve actually had it in my pocket at most concerts but either haven’t really wanted a drink or, for one reason or another, thought better of having one. Since this was the last chance that I had to use it, I went during intermission. One of the bartenders said that she recognized me. I’m pretty sure that she hadn’t seen me before anywhere. She’s probably seen another Ashkenazic man with a thin face and a beard and can’t tell us apart. I know that she didn’t mean anything by it and I even know how hard it is to recognize the differences between minority groups that you’re not familiar with, but it still got to me this time for some reason. I get this about once a month since moving to the Atlanta area but lately – over the past two months or so – it’s been a weekly occurrence for some reason. Normally I just “roll my eyes” inwardly and say something dismissive but polite, but instead I asked her where and when she listed some restaurant that doesn’t even serve food that I can eat and then I responded with some unnecessary snark about all of my people looking alike. I know that this isn’t someone denying me employment, calling me a kike, saying something about the ZOG, harassing me as I walk down the street, physically attacking me, or any of the other indignities that I’ve suffered being a minority in this country, but it is irksome and sometimes it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Make this part go away

Ok, so that said, let’s talk about the concert itself. Spano really focused heavily on the richness of the Debussy and Rimsky-Korsakov. Both were taken a little slow, as though to savor them. In the case of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, it was almost Satie slow, but never plodding. It was interesting and emotionally involved, though I found that some of the erotic desire in the piece was somewhat blunted. It was still a beautiful reading, nonetheless. It worked much better for the performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, which came out wonderfully. It’s a great piece to end the season, with all of the solos for the first chairs, all of whom played gorgeously.

The piece between those two, Alan Fletcher’s Piano Concerto, I didn’t like. It’s not that I thought it was bad, it’s that I thought it wasn’t good and it just didn’t appeal to me on any level. I think that if it dropped the piano altogether then I’d have liked it a lot more. The orchestra’s part sounded interesting and was kind of engaging but the piano part came across to me as being like some character who was an insincere spaz who was “right there with you” the entire way but never really understanding what was going on nor really caring so long as it got to be there and be out front. It worked with the orchestra, for the most part, but it felt contrived and not that good of a fit. I don’t really blame Inon Barnatan’s playing for this: I think that he did a good job with it but that it just wasn’t that great of a piece of music.

The first two movements explored turmoil, dreaminess, peacefulness, but never had much in the way of despair, anxiety, nor sweetness even when I kind of expected it. I found it kind of uncaring: not dry, exactly, but going through the various states without any emotion. The third movement, which was jazzy, quoted from Louis Armstrong, Rodgers and Hart, and the spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. It flowed all right with the first two movements and wasn’t completely out of place but it wasn’t a great fit. I think that the piano part may have worked better in this movement, though I didn’t feel that way while listening to it. I kept thinking that the spazzy piano character was saying “Ooh! Look at me! I can do jazz, too!” but I think that this may have been born of a bias developed during the first two movements. Overall, I think that there are some really interesting things in the work but that it’s not a good concerto.

Even so, it wasn’t unpleasant to listen to even if it wasn’t exactly something that I enjoyed. It certainly wasn’t enough to spoil the evening. I thought that this was a good concert to end the main-stage season: the orchestra sounded great, Spano did a good job with all of it, and I left quite pleased with my experience.

Leave a Reply