Saturday, October 10, 2015

Brief reviews....

AMC was in Pittsburgh and saw two performances:

  • The Emerson String Quartet performed at Carnegie Music Hall as part of the Chamber Music Pittsburgh Series.  Prior to the quartet was a lobby recital featuring Monique Mead from Carnegie Mellon University and three of her students: Isabel Cardenes (Piano and harp), Tino Cardenes (piano), and William Wang (violin).  Ms. Mean is the wife of violinist Andres Cardenes,  and Isabela and Tino are their children.  This was a stellar performance by all four performers.  Being able to listen to grand music in the grandeur of the lobby of the Carnegie Music Hall was a real treat. The Emerson Quartet was on the main stage playing Haydn"s Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 76. No. 4 "Sunrise."  This is a remarkable piece was published in 1799 and surely set the stage for his pupil Mozart, and Beethoven after him, to burnish the quartet as a musical form.  The second piece was Shostakovitch's Quartet No. 10 in A-flat major, Op. 118, which was written in July 1964.  The work is very lyrical in parts and does is not full of the "sturm und drang" that characterizes many of the composer's work. That is not to say it lacks in angst, but it does not sear itself into the listener's ear.   The final work was Brahms' Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2.  AMC is a huge fan of Brahms, but this quartet is awash in pretty sound but little melodic development.  Lushness cannot carry a whole piece. The Emerson Quartet played beautifully.   They were very sensitive to audience-generated noise and delayed the start of two movements because of it.  Their instruments blend in such a wonderful way- it as if there was only one very large instrument- from the E7 on the violin to the C2 on the cello.  AMC has never heard such smooth transition from one instrument to the other.  The musicians (Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer on violin, Lawrence Dutton on viola, and Paul Watkins on cello) share such a shared vision of the music that their playing sounds as integrated as the sounds of their instruments.  This is the string quartet that sets the standard for all others.  
  • The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under conductor and composer, Steve Hackman, a program that fused the music of Beethoven and Coldplay.  AMC expected this to be awful, but in fact it was a revelation.  The PSO played Beethoven's Third Symphony, "The Eroica" while three singers from time to time sang songs by Coldplay on top of the Beethoven masterpiece. Hackman made a few adjustments to the Beethoven in order to accommodate the Coldplay melodies, but it was not actually noticeable.   In fact, Hackman describes this as an Eroica-Oratorio.   The lyric "Nobody said it was easy, No one ever said it would be this hard" was used from time-to-time and it accentuated the sadness and loss in Beethoven's life as reflected in his music.  AMC found it to be very touching.  Malia Civetz had a wonderful voice.  Ben Jones and Will Post were the other singers.  They too were quite good.  The stage at Heinz Hall was bathed in gentle blues and reds that complemented the music.  The PSO played to perfection.  Their ensemble is breathtaking and the horn section is unbelievably good; it deserves its fine reputation.  AMC is always a bit surprised when hearing this level of playing- its hard to believe that it could be so good.  Hackman deserves great credit for this work.  Kudos also to the PSO to have this series, titled FUSE@PSO.  The audience was made up of mostly twenty and thirty somethings- the very demographic orchestras are attempting to draw into the concert hall.  Do I want to hear Beethoven like this always? No.  Would I want to hear it again" Yes.  Hackman cuts quite a  figure on the podium- he is undeniably handsome.  There were also hors d'oeuvres served pre-concert was well as an outdoor courtyard cocktail bar, with a deejay.  It was a celebratory event.  Good on them.  

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