Monday, March 8, 2010

Concerts Concerts Concerts

I have been busy busy busy! No, I won't continue to repeat everything three times (times times), but I've had a few interesting concert experiences over the last few weeks.

February 25 - Prokofiev's The Gambler at the Royal Opera House. The Gambler was Prokofiev's first opera, and it's generally regarded (with good reason, methinks) as his worst. Still, it was given an immaculate performance at one of the world's great stages, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Despite my comically distant standing place (from my vantage point, I could simultaneously lean on the back wall and touch the ceiling) and my headache, I liked it more than I had anticipated. In a strange way, the faults of the piece were more inspiration than the high points; I couldn't stop thinking of how I would have done it differently.

March 2 - Vienna Philharmonic with Lorin Maazel. This concert was old school to the max. With extra starch. I counted three women in the whole orchestra. As it was only four days before Maazel's 80th birthday, I consider myself fortunate to have seen him conduct; he is one of the most famous and recorded conductors of the 20th century, and he didn't use a score for any of the music. All that being said, the music itself was quite disappointing. Maazel was at turns showy and tasteless. And the orchestra played like they were completely nonplussed by him. For me, the highlight of the evening was probably when they tuned: they actually tune to the concertmaster, rather than the principal oboe, a practice I would advocate had I an orchestra to which I could advocate.

March 5 - Ensemble 10/10 at Wigmore Hall. Ensemble 10/10 is Liverpool's contemporary music group, but they come to London every now and then to give a concert. This one was quite good — varied and with solid, committed playing throughout. I especially liked Ian Gardiner's piece, a sort of bass clarinet concertante. And the primary reason I was there was to hear my teacher's piece, Music of a Distant Drum, which closed the program. After six other pieces, I was pleased to hear how well its craft stood up even to tired ears.

March 7 - London Symphony with John Adams. I expected the best orchestra I would hear this week would be the Vienna Philharmonic, but the hometown LSO blew them out of the water — and with an American at the helm to boot. There may have been empty seats dotted here and there, but the applause was far more robust (and genuine) than it had been a few nights before. I'm very much looking forward to Thursday night, when he premieres his new piece, City Noir.

And it doesn't let up just yet:

March 11 - A second concert of the LSO conducted by John Adams

March 12 - Dawn Upshaw with Emanuel Ax

And then off the Turkey. All this traveling over the past few years, but Asia will still be only the third continent I've been to.

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