ASO: Thomas Søndergård with Blake Bouliot

I decided to leave at intermission rather than suffer more of Søndergård’s soulless Sibelius. I love Sibelius when played well, but played poorly his work can be terribly boring. I’d say that I was disappointed, but my expectations weren’t high given that this wasn’t the first time that I’ve heard him with the ASO and the two times that have occurred since I started keeping this journal were also fairly poor performances. Two and a half concerts worth of my time is enough; I’ll not be using my ticket for next week’s performance featuring him on the podium even though the program is really interesting.
Continue reading

ASO: Robert Spano with David Coucheron

I debated whether or not to go to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s concert last night. I’m still in the mourning period for my mother and, according to tradition, I’m supposed to avoid listening to music. However, doing so was starting to make me feel like a prisoner to my grief and, besides, there are a few other rules that I have set aside due to practical concerns. The concert was very good so I’m glad that I did go.
Continue reading

ASO: Robert Spano with Jorge Federico Osorio

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.
Continue reading

ASO: Robert Spano with a Pre-Concert Chamber Recital

Tonight’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert was one with a pre-concert chamber recital. I barely made it in time for it, so this was the first time that I didn’t get to sit on stage with the musicians. Instead, I was in my assigned seat, though I didn’t realize it at the time; it just seemed like a good position so I sat there. The acoustics weren’t horrible for the most part: there was really only one piece that suffered a little because of it.
Continue reading

ASO: Robert Spano with a Battalion of Guests

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra crammed a lot of people onto their stage for last night’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 under the baton of Robert Spano. They had to angle the sides of the acoustic shell so they sloped outward downstage to fit everyone in. The ASO Chorus mixed with the Morehouse College Glee Club were in the regular chorus seats up-stage. Just below them were the Gwinnett Young Singers flanked on either side by some of the women of the ASOC and the Spelman College Glee Club. The rest of the women were on risers flanking the stage, with their backs to the walls of the acoustic shell, facing inward and slightly downstage. The on-stage soloists occupied the sliver of space left downstage of the orchestra musicians. The lineup included sopranos Evelina Dobračeva and Erin Wall, mezzo-sopranos Michelle DeYoung and Kelly O’Connor, tenor Toby Spence, Baritone Russel Braun, and bass Morris Robinson. Mater Gloriosa was sung by Nicole Cabell from the stairs of the left mezzanine loge and some brass played from the feet of both loges in the mezzanine to surround us with sound during certain dramatic scenes in the Goethe section.
Continue reading

ASO: Donald Runnicles with James Ehnes

Last night’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert wasn’t for me. It featured two pieces that I wasn’t that interested in hearing. The first was Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony, which received a lengthy, though interesting, introduction by Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles. I really appreciate the effort he goes through to help audiences engage with the works he’s playing. It didn’t help me with this symphony, though. I’ve always felt that it was a a bit of an incomplete patchwork of a piece full of quotations that sound like they want to tell a story but don’t quite know what to say. I also think that the orchestration could be a bit more interesting in one direction or another. Last night’s performance made me feel like more attention was paid to certain parts than others, though I’m not entirely sure if it would be the fault of the composition or the performance. One bright spot were the soloists: most of them were excellent and truly a joy to hear.
Continue reading

ASO: Lionel Bringuier with Lise de la Salle

I really enjoyed last night’s concert by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Guest conductor Lionel Bringuier brought a remarkably good sound out of the musicians. Prokofiev’s fourth symphony and Stravinsky’s Firebird were both dramatic, fun and, just really well played. It was Ravel’s piano concerto in G minor where I really appreciated his conducting, though. It was like he molded the orchestra around the sound of pianist Lise de la Salle to bring out the best in the piece and also to bring attention on the best of her playing. And de la Salle’s playing definitely deserved the attention: from the speedy, jazzy fireworks to the smooth and soulful slow parts, de la Salle brought out every bit of character and charm from the piece that a soloist could. All in all it was a wonderful concert.