MTT and the Really Big Orchestra

Posted by on March 26, 2010 in culture, uncategorized | 1 comment

Wednesday night, we went to see Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Orchestra perform at the Kennedy Center.  The performance was … mixed.  They did the Tchaikovsky 2nd Violin Concerto (one of my favorites), and some relatively obscure Ravel and Liszt.  And they performed a piece that premiered on March 4 of this year, Kissine’s Post-Scriptum.

I’m a heathen.  I’m not a fan of most contemporary music, say anything "classical" (read: concert hall ready) written in the last, oh, eighty years or so.  I suspect that some of my problems are based on a lack of education — I simply don’t understand the dynamics of a lot of those pieces, and I don’t understand the idiom.  Some of my problems, though, are based on a lack of attractiveness — pushing the limits of discordant sound simply isn’t attractive to my ear.  Neither are "street noises", such as sirens on stage.

The Kissine was not as unlikable as many recent compositions.  There *were* interesting things with the dynamics, and with the dialog between different instruments.  I couldn’t discern the shape of the piece, though, and at 25 minutes, it was a very long patchwork that blurred in my mind and ear.

The major thing I walked away with:  Wow, that was a *huge* orchestra.  Larger than any I’d seen before, including those that have performed Mahler.  Eight string bass, two harps, six percussionists *running* to different stations to play some instruments I’d never seen/heard before, six trumpets, six horns, four trombones, a Wagner tuba….  (And, of course, lots and lots and *lots* of strings.)

All in all, not a perfect success of an evening.  But an interesting one, and a piece I’m willing to bet I never hear again!

Mindy, through playing, ready to delve back into the day’s work 🙂

1 Comment

  1. I adore Bernstein’s work, I love ‘My Father’s Favorite’ (Patrick Doyle, Sense and Sensibility Soundtrack), and John Williams’ theme to Schindler’s List is one of my all-time favorite classical pieces.

    Classic FM in the UK has a composer-in-residence every year, and so far, a lot of very nice music has come out of that (not everything to my taste, but pieces I can appreciate musically).

    None of them are of the ‘shock’ or ‘disturb the audience’s expectations’ persuasion, much less of the ‘must be edgy, whatever the cost’ school of modern music.

    On the other hand, I simply cannot stand listening to BBC3 for very long, nor do I attend BBC concerts, as they include a lot of pieces that make my hair stand on edge; including one in every concert. (The BBC concert orchestra also make the overture to Don Giovanni sound bland and boring, which is quite a feat.)

    So, it depends. There _are_ contemporary composers who play on the past and experiment without offending the ear.