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 →
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 →
While Robert Spano was conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Christopher Theofanidis’ Symphony no. 1, I found myself thinking about something one of my college philosophy professors said about Immanuel Kant. She said something along the lines that he would put thoughts and ideas in a box until it was filled and then write a book out of what was in it. I have no idea as to the veracity of this story, but I kind of got the feeling that this was how Theofanidis composed his symphony because it seemed like a bunch of unconnected aesthetic ideas mashed together into an oddly and impressively coherent whole. Continue reading →
I have the softest little black bag that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra gave to me as a subscriber at the concert last night with a little Post-It calendar in it and I feel like it should be useful but I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. It goes with the new color of the walls in the hallways of Symphony Hall, which were painted black. There are new portraits of the musicians, too, which are in vibrant color and in which everyone is dressed smart casual instead of how they dress on stage. I’m honestly not happy about the dark wall – it now feels even more cramped when the auditorium is emptying out. And the pictures seem kind of disingenuous if they’re going to keep the men of the orchestra performing in tails. It’s not really that bad, though: just not what I’d do. I was pretty happy at first to see that they got rid of the two projection screens hanging off of the proscenium on either side of the stage in favor of one large one suspended from between some of the acoustic shell’s drop panels – sitting in row C made the old ones a bit uncomfortable to watch – but then I noticed that they kept the projector in one of the little compartments in the mezzanine so now we have three lines through anything they put up there from the shadows cast by the hanging microphones over the stage. They do get credit for trying, though, and I think they finally fixed the torn cloth cover over one of the built-in speakers, which is unquestionably a positive. Maybe if I ever become a multi-decamillionaire then I’ll grant them the money for a real renovation. Continue reading →
Henrik Nanasi was originally engaged to guest conduct this evening’s concert but he was under the weather and couldn’t make it, probably due to the after effects of an alien abduction. This evening was also the second time in a row that I’ve seen concertmaster David Coucheron come only for the last piece on the program. I assume that his tardiness is due to the legal issues with his alleged involvement in the international kitten snuggling ring. Fortunately, when alien abductions and kitten smuggling threaten to ruin a concert, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra can call on Assistant Conductor Stephen Mulligan. Continue reading →
Michael Stern looked kind of off this evening. The opening of his waistcoat started below his waist, his tails were either in need of a professional pressing or were poorly mended, his French cuffs were slightly crushed, and his thick hair was only almost well groomed. While conducting, he seemed to cue a lot more with his baton in his right hand than with his left — indeed, there were times where he seemed to forget that he had a left hand. And, while his cues were generally good, I’m glad that I don’t have to try to keep count by watching him since he often seemed to forget that he was supposed to be beating the rhythm as well as giving cues. He also had to take a breather after the first movement of the symphony on the program, which seemed a bit odd for someone who does this for a living and wasn’t showing any signs of illness. Continue reading →
There was a lot to like about this evening’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert conducted by Jun Märkl. The program was fairly light-hearted, with two neo-classical works with a smaller orchestra in the first half and Schumann’s “Spring Symphony” to conclude the show. Under Märkl’s baton, the music was a warm delight on a cold winter’s evening. Continue reading →
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