Bavarian Radio Symphony / Carnegie Hall 5-16-14

No Strauss in Chicago for me today or tomorrow (get well soon, Frau R!) but thanks to the generous Dr. T, who gave me some Carnegie Hall tickets she couldn’t use, I did hear some music this evening. Also, I apologize in advance: if this account of this concert seems somewhat disjointed, it is because as I write this, there are three moderately sloshed biologists painting 3-D models of molecules in my apartment and talking about things that do not have to do with orchestras, like getting fished out of the Gorge at Cornell in one’s underwear. This is not an excuse; it is merely an explanation.

One thing about that big auditorium – what a racket you can make in there! Many varieties of racket. I still have very fond memories of hearing Joyce DiDonato there in 2012, who created a delightful baroque racket that still makes me smile whenever I recall it (not to mention more recent baroque rackets). But tonight’s racket was of the Romantic variety. I sometimes complain about the nineteenth century and its many egregious lapses of taste, but they did invent two very good things: trains, and ginormous modern symphony orchestras.

The program was essentially Three Very Loud Pieces for Large Orchestra, in reverse chronological order. The first was John Adams’s “Slonimsky’s Earbox,” of which I retain no clear memory other than that there was a massive amount of sound. I have not heard a real live full on balls-to-the-wall symphony orchestra in some time, and this involved not only normal instruments, but also three xylophone players, four xylophones, a piano, and an electric keyboard. It was DELIGHTFUL.

Next was Richard Strauss’s Don Juan, and after the intermission Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. In both cases, I particularly enjoyed the solo woodwinds, but most of all the thrill lay in the sheer volume and complexity of sound produced. In the Berlioz, when the theme representing the elusive beloved woman first appears in the woodwinds, I was startled by how loud the accompanying strings were. There are aspects of this piece that I had completely forgotten about because I haven’t heard it live in like forever. By the end, my impressions had degenerated mainly into 1. This is fun! 2. God damn, this is loud! It was great.


7 thoughts on “Bavarian Radio Symphony / Carnegie Hall 5-16-14

  1. haha, sounds like you had a blast. have never been to the hall before so i have no idea how to pick seats… was the obstruction an issue? can’t go wrong with very loud pieces i guess for sound.. but i’m curious how the single piano sound will travel up and away..


    1. I was going to commend you on your choice of seats! The one last night was in the first row of the balcony, so the obstruction was only the balcony railing; this is only an obstruction if one sits straight up in the seat – lean forward, and no problem at all. And the sound from there is great.


  2. Did Mariss conduct this? I guess he must have covered American rep when he was in Pittsburgh, but in Europe he sticks to the C19 canon. (Europe’s loss).


      1. Hoppla, that implied generalization about Europe was unintended: La Monnaie commissioned Klinghoffer & Glass has written two operas for Linz (and US Glass followers were a bit unfairly snooty, I thought, about the German libretto for Kepler). As far as the BRSO in Europe goes, their Munich programming never seems much bolder than the ultra-conservative programmes they bring to Vienna. So I’ve particularly associated Mariss with Adams before and, well, Short Ride is a bit of a ‘Alibiwahl’ (tokenistic curtain opener, auf Englisch? ‘Alibi’ isn’t as pejorative though).


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