Monday, November 4, 2013

Could they be listening?

Stuff is certainly happening at the ASO.  The ongoing change is that an entire month's of concerts appears in one program.  Detailed program notes can be downloaded from the ASO website.  Thee program contains a condensed version of notes.  AMC finds that this cost-saving strategy is quite reasonable. In fact, AMC had previously proposed on August 18, 2012 that something be done to reduce the costs of programs. AMC proposed charging but the ASO solution has merit.

The public areas of Symphony Hall have been spruced up.  AMC suggested  this in a column dated February 1, 2013.

Music Director Spano directly addressed the audience.  AMC noted how successful a strategy this could be in a column date January 21, 2013.

Could someone at the ASO have been reading AMC?

The First Friday concert began at 6:30 and ended at 7:30.  The house was not full, but there was much more melanin in the audience's hair.  In fact, there were even well-behaved children.  There were well-dressed twenty- and thirty- and forty somethings in the audience. Part of the impetus for First Friday is to attract those already in the city who had not yet left after a day's work.  Judging by what AMC saw, this goal was likely achieved.  Stephen Hough was the soloist in the Liszt piano concerto.  Maestro Spano was on the podium.  The Liszt piece is in three movements, played without a break.  It is also fairly brief at nineteen minutes.  AMC considers that to be the best part of this concerto.  However, Mr. Hough is technically strong and addressed the challenges of Liszt's writing with ease.  His can generate quite a few decibels when needed but does not lack subtlety either.   The audience loved Mr. Hough, calling his back for numerous curtain calls and guess what, there was a standing ovation!  In Atlanta you ask?

The Beethoven Fifth was beautifully played by the ASO.  The new orchestra shell really does reinforce the basses and they were most impressive.  By the way, I have never seen a bass player get into his work quite as much as Joseph McFadden.  The low brass are also clean and not muffled.  AMC still hears a bit of hollowness in the solo piano and a slight smudge still hovers over the violins.  These are minor quibbles in the face of notably improved sound.  The winds were again a standout, with the clarinets and bassoons being standouts.

The Saturday and Sunday performances had complete programs that added Copland Short Symphony and Stravinsky's Petrushka. Full program notes can be found here:

The conductor was James Gaffigan and Mr. Hough again played the Liszt.  The Copland piece can be instantly recognized as Copland because of the familiarity his music has gained from the popular Appalachian Spring and Bill the Kid ballet music.  The Simple Symphony sounds like those pieces, to a great degree, without the breaks.  It is pleasant, but AMC herdr a latecomer say something to the effect that she was happy to be in the lobby so that she didn't have to listen to "that."  Who can argue taste?

Mr. Gaffigan did not appear to be a particularly tall person (neither is AMC) but he is a powerful conductor who does not spare gesture to encourage and cajole the orchestra.  His beat is apparent as is his directions for entrances and dynamics.  He is currently chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic.  Nice gigs for such a young man.  He previously worked as an apprentice conductor at San Francisco with Tilson Thomas and Cleveland with Welzler-Most.

But the best for AMC was saved to last.  Stravisnky's Petruska is a marvel of rhythm, color, melody, drama, complexity and all things good.  It employs a very large orchestra, including a full range of percussion.  The ASO sections played this wonderful music with the very best they have to offer.  AMC's only niggle was that at the very beginning of the piece, the cellos did not have the bite or volume that was needed.  AMC suspects the cellos are just not loved by Symphony Hall, even with the new shell.  Even for someone who has spent so much time in the concert, AMC still gets piloerection when an orchestra plays at full volume with great skill.  Many sections of Petrushka use the full orchestra and it was wonderful.  the new shell makes loud enjoyable rather than painful as was in the case before it was installed. Maestro Gaffigan walked through the orchestra thanking individual members who played so well.  This was another great performance by the ASO under the leadership of an emerging conductor with a very bright future.

Thanks to all the benefactors, patrons, and volunteers that made this program possible.

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