The first piece on the program was Krists Auznieks’ Crossing. Aside from a few pieces that I found online when I looked him up earlier this week, I don’t believe that I’d ever heard anything by him so I really didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that I was absolutely delighted by this piece. It started kind of like an overture to some pastorale and I got an image in my head of a protagonist going out onto a meadow to do a Maria-Hills-Are-Alive thing but then tripping and falling. They get back up and try again only to run into a cliff face. So they turn another direction and find that they’re wandering out of the meadow and onto rocky, unpleasant terrain. Through obstacle after obstacle the protagonist tries to stay positive and to do their little turn in the meadow but a sinister undertone grows underneath their theme and things keep going in a different direction. Eventually the protagonist hits their breaking point and has a “What new hell is this?!” moment where they can no longer maintain a positive outlook. By the end they are defeated, reliving a dark, warped vision of the whole thing in their broken mind. It was such an evocative piece that I found myself smiling and suppressing chuckles in the early parts of the piece and by the end I was really concerned for my imaginary protagonist whom Auznieks was leading into such a miserable place.
Up next was Falla’s Noches en los Jardines de España. When the season was announced last spring, I was cautiously excited to see that it was was programmed: I really like the piece and knew that pianist Jorge Federico Osorio could do a good job with it but I was worried about Spano, who hasn’t quite met my tastes when conducting dead composers from west of the Rhine. To my surprise, however, he rose to the occasion. It was a dramatic and colorful performance by everyone involved and I enjoyed in immensely.
After intermission, the music moved back to the other side of the Rhine for selections from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. Coincidentally, I’m going to see the National Ballet Theatre of Odessa stage the ballet this afternoon. I was a little concerned that the canned music would bug me even more than it normally does after hearing it performed live the night before, but that won’t really be a problem for me because Spano didn’t do quite as well with this as he might have. The performance was sometimes sluggish, often rushed, and mostly as dry as a cabbage that has become exceptionally dry for whatever reason cabbages might become exceptionally dry. Some emotion did make its way into the performance by the end and Spano did manage to bring a good bit of life to the score for the tragic final scene, but overall I was terribly disappointed. There were moments where it just didn’t seem like what he was doing made sense for a piece written for choreography and I wondered if Spano had ever seen the ballet performed. Or if he’d seen any ballet, for that matter. If not, then it might also explain why he seems to have believed that a certain local choreographer1 is actually a talented, creative, or original choreographer. I guess that I should be grateful that I’ll be able to watch Lavrovsky’s choreography set to canned music today without having it suffer from the contrast of a brilliant live performance.
1. This is the choreographer whose business manager/romantic partner is an assistant stage manager for the ASO and has threatened to sue me for calling her a phony.