Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Déjà vu

all over again

Sometime before dawn Sunday morning I woke up in a cold sweat. A quick check of my schedule confirmed my fears; we did play the Tchaikovsky 4th symphony last season.

Due to his tragic early demise we know Tchaikovsky only left us with three symphonies. But that is still no excuse for playing the same one repeatedly. My cold sweat came on recalling a discussion with a subscriber who elected not to renew. This person attended concerts for a number of years – sitting in pricey box seats, I might add – but grew disillusioned with the experience after hearing the same piece three seasons running. I’m wondering if there is somebody else sitting out in the audience this week, gritting their teeth through the Tchaikovsky 4th and muttering, “Strike Two!” Even if classical music is indeed a dying art there is still a whole cemetery to choose from before we need to repeat ourselves.

Alexander Polianichko led some interesting performances of the Tchaikovsky this week, to say the least, but not interesting enough to justify the orchestra taking a called second strike. In general, the Maestro used a pretty straight-ahead approach I can appreciate. However, some of his hard to follow mannerisms resulted in a few Solti-esque moments of confusion of the type easily mistaken for excitement.

Beyond the Score expanded its scope to include an actress cavorting behind a shadow screen along with the customary image projections, narrator, and actors. All in all, the explication of the symphony ran about fifty percent longer than the work itself. The thrust of it (if that is an appropriate term to use) seemed to focus on the anxiety Tchaikovsky felt facing up to his ill-considered marriage. The whole production was captured on film and will probably be available at some point.


Unknown said...

ah...yes..i forgot to comment on this...kudos to the CSO for managing to follow a former member of an orchestra, I appreciate clear conducting, which Polianichko was not. How you guys managed through the finale of the Tchaikovsky is a testament to Robert Chen and your collective sense of ensemble, I think.

Michael Hovnanian said...


Chalk one up for the collective wisdom of the group, I guess.

Insouk said...

How's the programming decided? Don't musicains have some input? We had a similar frustration a few times although we weren't quite proactive as the subscriber you mention. Repeat programming is more often than you may realize.


Unknown said...

Didn't you play the Tchaikovsky 4 last season because Muti was struck down by flue or something the last minute, and the replacement conductor Ludovic Morlot changed the program? But how about Mahler 6 on Ravinia's program last season, this regular season and then Ravinia again this summer... I am interested to know how they pick replacement conductors. But the way, personally I don't mind some repeat programs, because it's very easy now to make your own subscription series or exchange tickets for a different program through the box office.

nocynic said...

Insouk asks if musicians have some input into programming. Some in Mr. Hovnanian's unnamed orchestra have urged their representatives, the Members' Committee, to push for a committee of musicians to offer input into repertoire and scheduling. The Committee has regarded these requests as an elegant dinner party guest might regard a turd in the punch bowl. They have protested that another committee would somehow cripple the Members' Committee to represent the orchestra, although we have had Audition and Tour Committees for years. An uncharitable view of this strange state of affairs is that the Members' Committee is jealous of their standing in the orchestra. An alternative, less uncharitable view eludes some of us at this time.

nobleviola said...

We had a nightmare Petruchka with Polianichko - I had spastic twitches for weeks after that run of concerts.

Michael Hovnanian said...

My condolences.

testtube said...

There was one season where Mahler's 5th was performed twice. And both times (if I remember correctly) your Former Music Director was conducting. Bizarre.