Spano and the musicians did very well this evening. None of the complaints that I had regarding the ASO’s last three concerts applied to this concert. Rex was back in the first chair of the cello section, which was good to see. (There was actually a little applause when he came on before the show, though I’m not sure that he could hear it.) The program, however, left me wishing that I’d found something else to do with my evening.
There were two pieces on the program for tonight’s concert. The first was the world premier of Mark Grey’s Frankenstein Symphony. Continuing the theme of backwards concerts, this symphony is a suite of music derived from an opera that has not yet made its premier. Based on the music from the symphony, I suspect that the opera will serve opera fans the way that Michael Pink’s Dracula serves fans of ballet: it’ll be a piece that bores them to death but that they’ll attend because it’s a familiar, romantic story that is accessible enough that they’ll be able to finally convince their more square friends to come along. The symphony is very dramatic and full of some very pretty parts and, as I suggested, is very accessible. At first I thought that I might enjoy it but, as it progressed, I found my mind wandering: Is one of the musicians really wearing small polka dots on her shoes? The fact that women don’t actually have a uniform in this orchestra makes them all look kind of like substitutes. Is she wearing velvet? When was the last time that I hugged someone who was wearing velvet? Is velvet completely out of fashion? When was the last time that I heard Schumann programmed? Are his works out of fashion? That musician always looks so dapper in white tie and tails; someone should write a spy novel inspired by him. She’s cute from this angle. Are they still playing Frankenstein?
You could play both of the suites from Bizet’s Carmen and then play either one a second time as an encore and still be within the runtime of Frankenstein Symphony. It just drags on and on and it’s not particularly inspired or inspiring. Like I said, it’s very accessible, which is nice in a way but it also means that there was nothing challenging me to listen closer. I might go so far as to say that it came across as rather facile.
I considered leaving during intermission. The other piece on the program was Brahms’ Piano Concerto no. 1: It’s long, I’m not a big Brahms fan, and my attention span had already been challenged. I didn’t leave, though, which gave me the opportunity to let my mind wander even more. The soloist for the evening was Jorge Federico Osorio, who was a substitution for Peter Serkin who had canceled his appearance. Federico Osorio was good: he had an intimate understanding of the piece and played it with great sensitivity. Still, everything that I like about the piece sounds like Beethoven, only not as good and I found it to be rather tiresome after having sat through Grey’s monster of a work. I think that I would have preferred something from the original third ‘B,’ Berlioz, to conclude the program. I think that it would have brought my attention span to life after Frankenstein killed it. I’d also like to hear Federico Osorio play again some other time: I suspect that his Beethoven is solid and his piano concerti would hold my attention much better.