Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Handel's Messiah

Through the second half of the performance I had an internal dialogue with myself, and my thoughts fell into two distinct but related categories.

"The Importance of Body Language" and "They can't all be winners".

The biggest issue I had with the concert itself were the male soloists. I wasn't enamored by their singing but particularly distracting was their body language when not singing. I've seen people in line at the DMV who looked like they were enjoying themselves more: Imagine three people sitting in front of the orchestra who look like they're undergoing some sort of painful medical exam staring at you for two hours. It should be noted that my comments do not apply to Ms. Wilson who was both pleasant to listen to, and looked like she was enjoying listening to the concert when not singing.

The concert was nearly sold out by my estimation, and otherwise unremarkable.

This is the first time I've heard anything other than the Hallelujah chorus from the piece, much less a "Complete" version. While I certainly enjoyed parts of it (the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus was fantastic) the vocal lines just got too repetitive and I didn't get the spark of excitement, that, for example I got from last week's concert. As a oratorio, the music plays second fiddle to the voice... and if you don't love the voice...

I don't know that it's a piece I need to hear in its entirety again. I would be interested in hearing Mozart's take on the material with a larger orchestra... perhaps next year?

The pre-concert lecture was particularly illuminating and humorous, especially the comments on the origin of the standing (perhaps it was a case of gout; perhaps the king was confused and thought it was part of the national anthem) the amount of time the piece was composed in (most likely because he wasn't doing well financially and needed to get something on stage), the fact that this staple of "Christmas music" was actually written for Easter... and the fact that the music for the "unto us a Child is born" number was lifted from an Italian opera Handel had written.

Meanwhile, because the business of the arts intrigues me almost as much as the art itself, I stumbled across this article (Philanthropy Journal, Patron Churn: Love Them or They'll Leave) that I wanted to share. I don't think any of that is news... but the one specific suggestion stood out to me as a great idea that I don't think anyone in Cleveland is doing. I'll let you guess which one.


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