The Night The SLSO Got a Hashtag
November 16, 2010
[show_avatar email@example.com align=left avatar_size=62]Friday night marked the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s fifth incarnation of Blogger Night at the Symphony. Various and sundry St. Louis scribblers were offered complimentary tickets to see our world-class orchestra perform Russian composer Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 “Classical”, contemporary British composer Thomas Adès’ Concentric Paths, and Russian Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous Scheherazade. The SLSO is in the midst of a season-long celebration of Russian composers and while I love Prokofiev, and the David Robertson-conducted version of Scheherezade was outstanding and different from any other version you’re likely to hear, but, but, but, but: I’m going to focus on the Adès because guest solo violinist Leila Josefowicz was phenomenal and she’s well-known for championing the work of contemporary composers.
Also, I chose the Adès because I decided going in that I’d be writing up the experience for IWTAS, which doesn’t normally do this sort of thing, and I figure the more rock-star quality the better, right? In fact, this post will be completely different from all the other blogger-night symphony reviews I’ve written to date. Dig in, chickens. This is going to be bad asssss.
After the Prokofiev ended, we settled back down after intermission and noticed that there were like, eight or nine timpani in the back corner of the stage, almost touching each other. Conductor Robertson cracked wise that it looked like they were having a yard sale. Here’s a great reason to go to the symphony if you’re otherwise not inclined to do so: The SLSO loves noobs. The conductor is charming and charismatic, and he explains things in a way that isn’t condescending or tedious to people who know what’s what, but he doesn’t lose the attention of the uninitiated with elaborate fancy-talk. Everything you need to know, he tells you. And if you like to read, you can get even more info from the program. Seriously, the only thing intimidating about the SLSO is the red plush velvet and the chandeliers, and you get used to those pretty quickly.
For the Adès piece, Mr. Robertson (hey, let’s call him Dave!) told us that there would be big spaces in between the movements because he has to give the percussionist time to tune the timpani. Timpani can hold pitch and each one is tuned to a different note, that’s why there were so many. Pretty freakin’ rad. He told us about the pauses so we wouldn’t accidentally clap in the wrong spot, thinking that the piece was over when it was really just a pause between movements. Not gonna lie, it is pretty embarrassing to clap in the wrong spots, but I hate clapping in general, so I don’t worry about it.
Okay, so then the soloist comes out, and she’s this tall blonde in a gorgeous silver evening gown with tiny straps.
Dave has her run through what she’s going to do, so we’ll be able to appreciate the various ways the soloist interacts with the rest of the orchestra. I’m telling you, the guy’s a genius. Leila Josefowicz has the most unbelievable biceps. Holy crap. She could decapitate someone with a half-nelson. Her technique was very fluid and emotive, and when she really got wound up we noticed her dress was a two-piece and her top rode up to reveal a two-inch section of her rock-hard six pack abs. [I really hope this tone is embarrassing you as much as it is me.]
You all know how much I dig Baroque-influenced anything (with the lone exclusion of interior decoration), but this performance was nothing short of jaw-dropping. The program will tell you things like, “The influence of Baroque-period compositional practice is even more evident in the ensuing slow movement. Here, Adès employs a procedure well known to Bach and his contemporaries: the chaconne, in which a recurring sequence of harmonies provides a ‘ground,’ a musical foundation, for ongoing variations.” I will tell you, go to Amazon.com and download Thomas Adès’ Concentric Paths and listen to it like nine times with good headphones and it will BLOW YOUR MIND.