Monday, February 3, 2014

Prelude to Khovanshchina
Violin Concerto No. 1
Symphonic Dances

This weeks' Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's performance was conducted by Guest Conductor Roberto Abbado.  Mr Abbado, the nephew of the giant-on-the-podium, Claudio Abbado, who recently past away.  

Roberto usually guests with the ASO annually so he is well known locally.  Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was the soloist in the Shostakovich Violin Concerto.  

The Mussorgsky Prelude began oddly, with poor balances and even a few pitch problems. Possibly the orchestra did not have sufficient rehearsals, given the Atlanta snow-mageddon.  

Alas, the Shostakovich was also problematic.  Ms.  Salerno-Sonnenberg was technically brilliant, as she usually is.  But Mr. Abbado  seemed to have difficulty making sense of the music.  The first movement was sloppy and lacking sharpness.  It seemed to AMC that something was amiss.  This music requires structure, but that did not happen. This sloppiness continued throughout the piece and there were instances where the violin was overwhelmed by the orchestra.  This was in marked contrast to the Wu Han/Spano/Britten collaboration  that was so spectacular last wee.   There was the usual Atlanta standing ovation at the end- but it was a bit timid. 

The Rachmaninov piece is not AMC's favorite.  In fact Rachmaninov's orchestral works as a whole are rather weak in AMC's humble opinion.  This composer was better at composing for the piano and his efforts to score essentially piano works for a full symphony fall flat.  It is especially true in interludes where the composer doesn't seem to create any dynamism.  This is true when he composes for winds- they just seem to meander until another major (and usually) loud theme is introduced.  Finally the work requires someone who can give structure to the whole piece- who can move it along and not let it collapse under its own weight.  That someone was not Mr Abbado.  

Franz Waxman and Max Steiner are said to have gone to school an Rachmaninov for their movie scores.  For the Symphonic Dances AMC is not sure that is isn't the other way around. 

After last weeks spectacular concert, this was a lesser effort.  Nevertheless the audience again rose to its collective feet while Mr. Abaddo signaled each section of the orchestra to stand.  At one point AMC thought the shout outs to the orchestral sections were going to last longer than the applause.  

Thanks to all the musicians, benefactors, patrons, and volunteers who made this concert possible.     

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