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 →
Thursday’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert was preceded by a wonderful chamber concert programmed by principal harpist Elisabeth Remy Johnson. It featured five women composers in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Sadly, aside from one piece a year by Jennifer Higdon, the ASO includes women composers on the obnoxiously long list of groups of composers that it rarely bothers to program for its Delta Classical Series. This concert represented a 500% increase in the number of women composers that series subscribers will hear in Symphony Hall this year. Kudos to Remy Johnson for pushing for this program and shame on the ASO for failing to deliver a meaningful variety of music to its audiences. I can’t think of a single reason that they couldn’t have put one small piece by a different women composer on each week’s program in March. Or, for that matter, one piece by a Black composer each week in February for Black History Month. It’s absurd that concert goers in the 19th century probably had as much or more exposure to women composers than we do now, with artists like Beach, Farrenc, or Smythe being regularly programmed. Aside from a significant number of contemporary composers, we have centuries of works to draw from so there are no shortages of pieces that will fit into any given program. It bugs the crap out of me that, as a regular concert-goer, I hear the same pieces over and over again from the same men from the Classical Music Pale of Settlement between the Rhine and the Volga when there are so many other amazing pieces of work that are ignored just because the (mostly) men who are in charge of programming were all brought up with the same tradition of music education that seems to have its roots in the toxic German nationalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Continue reading →
Maestro Edward Gardner gave a brief introduction to the pieces on the program before he began conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in last night’s all Rachmaninov program. I always appreciate it when conductors or soloists give a bit of an intro like that: even if everything they say is in the program notes, the way that they say it gives a clue as to how they see the work. He did a decent job as a conductor, too. He took Isle of the Dead dramatically but not without sensitivity to begin the concert. There was nothing exceptional or exciting in his interpretation, but it was good. Similarly, Symphonic Dances at the end of the program got a solid treatment but without anything notable standing out about Gardner’s approach. I don’t think that I had known until I read the program notes before the concert that Rachmaninov had originally started work on the piece as a ballet to be choreographed by Fokine. It’s a shame that the choreographer died before its completion because I think that the music suits his choreographic style immensely well. Continue reading →
I really enjoyed last night’s concert of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It began with some dancey fun in the form of three dance variations from Bernstein’s ballet “Fancy Free.” It was a vivacious start to the evening and the musicians sounded great under the capable baton of Peter Oundjian. Continue reading →
What an excellent evening of music from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra! Conducted by Robert Spano, the program was mostly Russian (with a Russian-inspired piece by an Englishman), 100% composed in the 20th century, and made use of two soloists, both of whom were local: Elizabeth Pridgen, best known as the artistic director of the Atlanta Chamber Players, and David Coucheron, best known as the concertmaster of the ASO. This may be the first concert of the main season where every performance and piece on the program appealed to me. Continue reading →
The ASO violins left me wondering if they had to use a large number of subs or if they had even rehearsed this concert en ensemble. They were really off this evening and you could even see bows moving out of sync and in opposite directions of the rest of the section on numerous occasions, especially during Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, which certainly didn’t help me appreciate a piece that has never really caught my ear. I’m also not a huge fan of Brahms’ violin concerto, for that matter. Top that off with me, due to an unfortunate series of phone conversations that I had to have today, being in a mood that seeing Lauri Stallings — a choreographer who has been called out by the NY Times for blatantly ripping off other artists and, in her supreme ignorance of her art form, has likely caused physical harm to her students in the past or, at the very least, taught them absolute worst practices in regards to basic dancer safety — really got under my skin. Despite all of that, I can, in all honesty (and with a little help of some wine during intermission), say that I enjoyed the evening’s concert. Continue reading →
I was disappointed in the first half of tonight’s concert. I have no idea if it was somehow just me, but everything under Spano’s baton seemed sterile. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard Sibelius’ “The Bard” before this evening, so I can’t be sure how it is normally played, but I found myself unable to find any expressiveness in the way that it was performed. I actually bought the ASO’s (somewhat) recent all-Sibelius album and listened to the first half of “Tapiola” on the way home to remind myself that Spano et al can most certainly do more than mere justice to the composer’s music. (This is a great album, by the way, and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while. If you haven’t heard it, do try to give it a listen.) Continue reading →
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