Saturday, January 30, 2010

New York: Day 4, Part 2: Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Carnegie Hall

Ravel: Le Trombeau de Couperin (1914)

Dalbavie: Flute Concerto (2006)Bartok: Bluebird's Castle, Op. 11
Pierre Boulez, conductor.

On my way to Carnegie Hall I spotted the creation you see on your to the right from across the Q express tracks at Times Square/42nd St. station (the uncropped version can be found at Flickr for the full context)... perhaps I've been spending too much time looking at Contemporary Art or perhaps it's a testament to the quantity of public art throughout the MTA system but my first take was to try and figure out the artist's intent... first guess was a figure lounging while reading a book, then a reclining figure playing a bowed instrument of some kind with the music in front of him... and when I finally realized it was graffiti I had to take a picture.

Until this evening the Cleveland Orchestra was truly the only orchestra I had heard*. Upon learning that, a talented young violinist I met through told me that I would be disappointed with anyone else I would hear. During the preshow lecture, I noticed the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage seemed particularly acoustically live and boomy as compared to Severance Hall, which, in retrospect is fairly dead acoustically**. My seat was not in the best location, visually or acoustically, but it was serviceable.

I was not disappointed -- the concert was thoroughly enjoyable, but I felt like something was missing. There is something intangible, indescribable, ne sais qouis that makes listening to the Cleveland Orchestra -- at Severance or Blossom completely different than what I listened to tonight. Near the end of the Bartok piece I realized that when I'm listening to TCO I feel like I'm listening to an integrated whole that envelops me in the music. Tonight, on the other hand, I felt detached and it almost seemed as if every section existed in it's own universe that while contributing to the whole ignored the constituent parts. It's hard for me to come up for a good description for what I felt.

There were a few moments, particularly in the Ravel and Bartok pieces where the reverberant nature of the hall was instantaneously distracting -- I'd hear a note from a flute or a horn and milliseconds later hear that same note from "behind" me.

It was interesting to watch Mr. Boulez conduct; of all of the conductors I've observed I think he was the most understated, rarely moving his hands more than a few inches, never moving on the podium, and every movement was fluid; I didn't notice a single sharp/aggressive gesture..

I think Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin was my favorite from the evening, particularly the first and fourth movements (Prelude and Rigaudon). Dalbavie was in attendance for the performance of his Flute Concerto which was not bad, though I didn't particularly take anything away from it.

I turns out that despite my giving the Metropolitan Opera a pass, I was still destined to hear opera while I was in New York City. While Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle will not ascend my favorite's list, The piece had several interesting moments and the performance benefited from several features that made it immensely more enjoyable:
  • The use of an electronic display for surtitles, and that display was at a reasonable height above the orchestra (perhaps 15' above the stage), allowing both the orchestra and the titles to be in view at the the same time. One of my chief complaints with Opera Cleveland is that they position the title board at the top of the proscenium arch, making it impossible to both watch the action on stage and follow the story at the same time.
  • A printed text and translation for the entire opera in both Hungarian and English. While I primarily used the surtitles, this booklet made it easier to gauge the progress of the work and review any dialog I missed.
  • The singers were not amplified, and mixed well with the orchestra. I could easily "tune out" either group depending on my listening preference at any given moment.

Finally, I thought it was interesting how many times the words "Cleveland Orchestra" appeared in the program: The schedule insert for the 'Great American Orchestras I' series (February 5, 2011); Mr. Dalbavie's biography [page 33]; Mr. Boulez's biography [Page 38i]; Mr. Aimard's biography [Page 38j]; and Ms. DeYoung's biography [Page 38m]


*- I don't consider the two "pops" orchestras I've heard (Long Beach and Cleveland Pops) or student orchestras (the Cleveland Institute of Music) in the same orbit

No comments:

Post a Comment