My Dad and I had fun at the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra concert this past weekend. Thanks to my Peace Corps friend, Dorothy – who also happens to serve on the Sustaining Board with ProMusica, we were treated to a pair of complimentary tickets to last Saturday’s performance at the Southern Theatre.
Here’s what was on the program.
AUERBACH Eterniday (Homage to W.A .Mozart) for Bass Drum, Celesta, and Strings
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1
Under the direction of Maestro David Danzmayr – who is a fun and animated conductor to watch – the program started with an introduction to Ms. Lera Auerbach herself who was both the composer of the first piece and the soloist for the Mozart Piano concerto.
I don’t know of much music that’s been composed by women, so it was cool to hear her music. She seemed quite likable. I’m almost sorry I didn’t like her music at all. Auerbach and Maestro Danzmayr took a few minutes to discuss the first piece with the audience, called Eterniday, which was written as an homage to Mozart.
There was nothing in it – even after the explanation of the piece itself – that made me think of Mozart. It was a bunch of hard, dissonent, glissando-filled music that – according to a friend of mine who was also there on Saturday – just sounded angry. She couldn’t figure out how it was an homage to Mozart either.
That said, the concertmaster, Katherin McLin, was absolutely incredible and did an amazing job with the many solos throughout the piece. The principal double bass, cello and viola did some impressive playing, too, but the violin! Wow! I swear that piece had her playing the absolute full range of the instrument.
One interesting tidbit about this piece is that it was written twice. Auerbach had written it and was traveling when an electrical fire started in her music studio burning down everything from the piano to her newly-written manuscript. I don’t care if you like something or not. That’s just the worst thing that could happen to a composer. Imagine how much music has been lost throughout history because of fires or floods or other such disasters. It’s just heartbreaking.
Speaking of Mozart
The Mozart piece was nice – Piano Concerto #20. The soloist (also the composer of the 1st piece) had a rather heavy touch on the keys – like I do when I play that same piece, though quite honestly, I only play the second movement. The heavy touch is one thing I don’t really like about my own playing! I don’t know – maybe I’m pickier on this piece even knowing that she still played it better than I ever could, but it just didn’t seem like her performance was polished. It was as if playing the piano solo were an afterthought, a side gig to the performing of her own music that was played that same evening.
As for the cadenzas – bleck. I absolutely did not care for them. We were playing Mozart now – she already had a chance to show her 21st century tastes. They don’t belong in 18th century music.
We were in a concert hall, not an SCA event, so they didn’t fit. I did not like them one bit. It’s as if we were listening to this lovely 18th century music and then BAM! We were yanked right out of it for no reason. When I go to a concert to hear a piano concerto by Mozart, I expect to hear a piano concerto by Mozart. I know that traditionally, pianists can create their own cadenzas, but this was billed as Mozart, not Mozart with a twist of Boulez or Lindberg.
She did say that she added that cadenza, which had originally been written for another pianist, to be more introspective and meditative so she could give it a 21st century perspective.
My line of thinking is this: Please save the 21st century perspective for 21st century music.
Maybe I’m a purist – I like original Hershey’s chocolate and I think our National Anthem should be sung as written, but I also love classical era music. So – don’t mess with Mozart!
Which leads me to the Beethoven
This was the absolute best piece of the evening – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1! ProMusica musicians – you outdid yourselves. OMG – WOW!
Obviously his earliest symphony as it’s Symphony No 1, it wasn’t as obviously recognizable as Beethoven. It was kind of Beethoven before he was Beethoven. You could definitely pick out parts here and there that were reminiscent, as it were, of his later works, but this was music of a man perhaps still figuring out his own style and it was just gorgeous.
This symphony was the greatest part of the entire concert and Maestro Danzmayr had to have been having so much fun. He was bouncing around and dancing the whole time – totally getting into it. His enjoyment was infectious. I would love to have seen his face while he conducted! For my part, THIS piece deserved the standing ovation it received from a very enthusiastic audience!
WELL DONE ProMusica! Thank you for an evening of great music!