Bass Blog

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

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Week 31

why is this week different from all other weeks?

BERIO Ritirata Notturna di Madrid
SALONEN Piano Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano


10-12:30 1:3-4 rehearsals

10-12:30 rehearsal
6:30 concert

8 concert

1:30 concert




All in all, an enjoyable week in the house of notes. Of course the answer to the question posed above, and no small part of the allure of the week has to be because we get Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings off.

Salonen is not a very excitable conductor. If you ask me, that’s a big asset when it comes to the Beethoven 7th, which all to easily crosses the line into bacchanalia in the wrong hands. I’m a big fan of period instrument performances anyhow. That aside, I sometimes get the feeling as a modern orchestra, bulked up on Bruckner, Strauss, and Mahler, it is all too easy to go overboard on these late classical/early romantic symphonies, like a prizefighter pummeling his hapless undersized opponent trapped on the ropes. I’m referring mostly to the string playing, BTW. When you find wood chips and sawdust on the floor after the performance, you’ve probably been playing too vigorously. Fortunately, the demeanor of the guy on the podium can sometimes have a calming influence, as was the case this week.

Salonen’s piano concerto was one of the more interesting and well-written new works we’ve played. I hope his retirement from the LA Philharmonic leads to more composing, and more guest appearances here.

The Ritirata Notturna di Madrid proved an inoffensive bit of fluff – as Salonen said, his mother’s favorite Berio piece – remarkable mainly for the outstanding percussion playing stage-left.


McGriddle said...

Interesting...I was pretty blown away by the percussion playing stage right myself.

I agree the Beethoven was fantastic. What did you think of the use of hand horn technique rather than valves on the second horn solos in the third movement? Sounded unfortunately like a frog to me... Despite the fact that in the early 19th century that's probably what it would have sounded like, I don't think Beethoven was looking for a special effect.

nocynic said...

The hand-horn business was the whole focus of the local critic's take on the Beethoven. I for one loved it; would have loved it more if it had been more adroitly executed. As Salonen said, it is intended to be comic. I think the whole Scherzo is an elaborate shaggy-dog story. The Trio is some of the most banal writing ever perpetrated; an utterly witless tune that goes nowhere with an interminable pedal A in the violins. Then he repeats the whole thing. After the third (!) iteration of the whole Scherzo, the Trio starts for a third time. I can just imagine the groans of despair at the world premiere back in Vienna. Luckily, before anybody commits suicide to avoid having to hear the whole thing again, Beethoven wraps up the movement with five quick fortissimo chords. I agree with Mike that we tend to beat the hell out of this music and Salonen did well to hold us back. I wish he had made more of the pianissimos; that to me is the point of a lot of the piece (such as the fugue in the slow movement). That was the main strength of DB's interpretation

Michael Hovnanian said...

DB? Who dat?

Ponder Stibbons said...

I was at the performance of Beethoven 7 with Haitink last(?) season, and I remember being disgusted with the audience's enthusiastic reaction to what I thought was a massacre of the piece. Wish I could have heard this 'held-back' interpretation.

Michael Hovnanian said...

Things need to go pretty darn wrong not to get an enthusiastic audience reaction at the end of the Beethoven 7.

'Held back' is a relative term.

Andrew Patner said...

Um, "*the* local critic," Max?

Thanks, pal!


nocynic said...

Guilty as charged, Andrew. I was trying to protect the guilty. Should have read "The critic for the local Republican paper". My apologies to my favorite critic, local or otherwise.

Andrew Patner said...


Michael Hovnanian said...

OK guys, take it outside!