ASO: Robert Spano with Jean-Yves Thibaudet

There’s a concert that I want to attend on Saturday, so I exchanged my normal season ticket for the ASO for the concert tonight. Overall, it was very well programmed and was an excellent performance. They opened with a world premier by Gandolfi, which was followed by the Suite from The Firebird by Stravinsky. After the intermission, the soloist, Thibaudet, played Ravel’s Piano Concerto and the show concluded with Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

The Gandolfi had some interesting ideas, though I think that the piece fell a little flat simply due to the fact that a concerto for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn isn’t necessarily the best idea in the world. Of course, that idea originated with those who commissioned the work and not with the composer himself, so I think that we can give him a pass on that.

The first movement seemed in want of a larger orchestra. Gandolfi scored the piece for an orchestra more the size of what was used in the Classical period than the larger compliments that have been in use since the Romantic period. This was probably appropriate given the instrumentation for the soloists but I’m not quite sure that he really managed to keep the limitations of such a small orchestra trying not to overpower the woodwind soloists in mind.

The second movement was similarly disappointing. There were some interesting ideas presented but they never seemed to go anywhere. As a dance, I felt that it could have used more color and finesse. It wasn’t until the third movement that I felt that the composer was on to something. In fact, I’d like to listen to the third movement a few more time, it was so intriguing. The fourth movement was a decent conclusion, too. Honestly, I’d love it if he reorchestrated those two movements for a larger orchestra and de-concerto-ize them and maybe flesh out a larger piece using them as a starting point.

After the merely ok Gandolfi, Spano managed to really draw me in with his conducting of Stravinsky’s Firebird suite. He really brought out the excitement, power, and mystery of the piece without overpowering the charm and beauty. This was the highlight of the evening for me.

Sadly, I haven’t much to say about Ravel’s Piano Concerto. Thibaudet seemed excellent but I had a very hard time concentrating because of the stereo effect of crumpling plastic bags as oblivious slobs in the audience munched away throughout the piece. Particularly bad were a couple sitting in row W, in the low to mid teens on the right side of the orchestra. It was worst during the quiet parts at the beginning and I was able to enjoy bits and pieces of the latter parts of the piece. I have no idea if it was as bad for others as it was for me. I was sitting in row Y, being the best seat that I could get when exchanging my normal Saturday ticket for Thursday’s performance. This put me in a position that all audience sounds were in front of me. Worse, I was exhausted from a 75 minute commute and a long day at work, so I couldn’t control my attention very well. Still, I suspect that the people sitting around them were annoyed. I really wish that more people would be bold enough to tactfully request that such people be more mindful of the rest of the audience. I usually have a good reaction when I ask people, both from the offenders, who usually don’t realize their effect on the audience, and from other audience members.

The noise subsided somewhat for the Gershwin that ended the performance. It was a great rendition of An American in Paris and Spano made it delightfully dramatic. It was also a great use of the concertmaster.

Hopefully the concert that I’m attending Saturday will be worth the trouble of changing my ticket for today and sitting in an unpleasant seat amongst an unpleasant audience. Regardless, I enjoyed this show and am very glad that I attended.

Leave a Reply