ASO: Robert Spano with Pedja Muzijevic

This was one of those bad-audience nights. The person sitting behind me had a deep, sickly, bronchial cough and, on the occasions that she tried to suppress it, made even more noise for longer periods of time getting cough drops from her bag. There were a couple of (probably) middle-schoolers next to me who were were whispering during the performances even more than the two adults sitting in front of me. There was, what sounded like, a hearing aid somewhere to the left of me that was squealing from feedback. And, although I hate to admit that seeing her still gets under my skin, the phony of phonies was there: Lauri Stallings, with whom Robert Spano regularly debases himself by working with her company, glo. Despite all of this, I wasn’t really bothered for the first half of the concert because what was on stage wasn’t really worth hearing or thinking about. Fortunately, things turned around dramatically after the intermission.

The first work of the evening was John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances.” This is a lively and engaging piece when performed well. Unfortunately, the basses, which play a heavy role in this piece, were very muddy and at least one of them was getting an overly bright sound out of their instrument as though they had dramatically over-rosined. (I can confidently say that it was not Colin Corner, whose issues seemed to have been resolved sometime during last season, because he had a wonderful sound in the next piece on the program.) There were also two violinists, one in each section, who were out of step with the rest of their respective sections as one could easily see by watching their bows. They made the violin parts sound off and, at times, muddy. Overall, it just was not an enjoyable thing to hear.

Next we had the evening’s concerto: Mozart’s piano concerto no. 22. I’m not a huge fan of Mozart’s orchestral or chamber works (though I do like his operas and songspielen) but this is one piece that I am generally able to enjoy. The soloist was Pedja Muzijevic, who will be returning to the Atlanta Area to play with the St. Lawrence String Quartet at the Schwartz Center in March. Interestingly, he played on a Yamaha piano rather than either of the familiar Steinway & Sons pianos that the orchestra owns. In my seat that’s far too close to the stage, I end up hearing a lot of the sound from the underside of the piano, which is generally a bit hollow from the Steinways. This Yamaha sounded better to me, though the notes were not as crisp sounding. I’m not sure that I’d feel this way if I was sitting even a few rows back.

Muzijevic’s playing was sweet and competent, though I found the entire piece was taken a bit too slow. I felt like it plodded along and the dynamics in the orchestra seemed a bit off again, as though Spano didn’t really know what to do with such a large string section on a piece from the classical period or at least didn’t care enough to figure it out. I briefly considered taking a short nap and might have gone through with it f it weren’t for the gross sounds around me and the fact that, as rude as I am when I write, I do try to avoid being that bad of an audience member.

After the intermission, as I mentioned, things got much better. Spano and the orchestra’s performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 5 completely blew me away. It is very clear that Spano put in some serious time studying this work because he managed to bring out every bit of Stalin-suppressed emotion in the work with an intensity that never lost a sense of honesty no matter how far it went. I was particularly impressed with his mad interpretation of the second movement: I suspect that I’m probably going to be dissatisfied with any other interpretation going forward. It was an amazing ending that made for a good night, if not necessarily a good concert.

3 thoughts on “ASO: Robert Spano with Pedja Muzijevic

  1. Robbie – if you’d like to avoid a lawsuit I suggest you remove your commentary regarding Laurii Stallings – this is slander and I am happy to discuss with you in person – email me please at immediately.

  2. Your comments regarding Lauri Stallings are slanderous – I know that you’re not a journalist so cannot expect ethical or professional behavior, but I would like to speak in person to address your comments. Please contact me via email or phone: 773-991`-1432

  3. from: Robbie
    date: Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 6:03 PM
    subject: Re: Robbie Writes “Lauri Stallings”

    Hello Rick,

    As you have already stated, my opinions regarding your partner are not actionable. I am not amenable to altering my blog post according to your requests because it accurately reflects something that affected my audience experience, which is what I chronicle in my blog. Given that you have threatened me with a lawsuit, you’ll understand if I must insist that any communication between us be done in writing.

    I do moderate comments on my blog, which is why the ones that you posted do not show there at the moment; I will leave it up to you whether or not I approve them. If I do then I will cc this response there.

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