Saturday, September 29, 2007

Back to Music and Politics

Bright and early at 7:45 on Friday, my good friend Joe called me up asking if I was coming down to Indy for the weekend--he had tickets for the Symphony for performances he wasn't planning to attend. I of course said I'd be delighted to lighten him of a couple of tickets. Last night saw the return of the most recent winner of the Indianapolis Violin Competition, which is an event that has seen quite a bit of respectable international attention in the past decade. It turned out that it was the opening concert for the Classical series, so there was quite a bit of prefatory shenanigans going on in the discussion that they often have in one of the reception rooms. Mario Venzago, the conductor, mentioned that some might think that Richard Strauss' Death and Transfiguration an odd choice to open the series with, considering its rather grave opening section. He mentioned that he thought it apt.
Many of the usual folks were there, Friday seeming to be the night that those closest to working with the Symphony plan to attend. Marianne Tobias, the musicologist who writes the program notes, was called on to demonstrate augmented fourths on the piano. Her husband was also there who many will likely recognize--Randall Tobias, the Bush-appointed AIDS "czar," who recently has been in a spot of trouble or two. He seemed to be in quite good spirits, in spite of his shady resignation. Wife Marianne was quite bubbly and seemed to not be affected at all by the recent scandal. either that or the medications are working quite well. Considering that her husband was CEO of Lilly company, I'd assume she's getting the best drugs money can buy.
But I digress. Venzago's comment about Death and Transfiguration being an apt season-opener, no doubt, has to do with the recent shake-up in the orchestra recently, with quite a few principal chairs picking now to retire, and this quite soon after what appears to be a Venzago-leveraged replacement of the Concertmaster the season before. There are quite a few fresh faces (and by this I mean young in addition to new) in the current lineup. The new concertmaster is all of 28 years old.
He was featured quite a bit in the pieces yesterday, with the various solos in Death and Transfiguration, which opened the concert, and the following Poem of Ecstasy, otherwise known as the fourth symphony by Alexandr Scriabin, which is about 35 minutes of sex. Yep, that's about the only way I'd be able to describe it--that Scriabin dude was rather preoccupied. His ten piano sonatas are a great overview of what his style is like and how it evolved into the ecstatic metaphysical vision that he had toward his last years. The audience seemed rather bemused/confused by all the sinuous swirling of the massive forces packed on the stage. I was rather distracted by my nose, as the woman next to me had her perfume set on tazer stun mode. I found I only had a tiny little Dairy-Queen napkin in my pocket and I was doing all I could to make it last through the performance.
The last piece was our Violin Competition winner, Augustin Hadelich, performing the Tchaikovsky Concerto. As winner of the competition, he has been given the use of the Gingold Stradivarius made in 1683 for the next four years, so this was also an opportunity to hear the voice of a famed and ancient instrument. He did wonderfully. As most who have been to Classical performances know, there are folks who think the whole piece is over when only the first movement has ended and they'll clap. Tonight was no exception, especially with the barn-burning ending to the first movement of the Tchaikovsky, but a couple of people in the fourth row went so far as to give him a standing ovation, which brought other people springing up who didn't appear to know any better. This went on for some time, with various Others not knowing quite what to do and standing up to clap while the orchestra had a not-particularly well-hidden chuckle.
I have half a mind to go again tonight, but with finances the way they are, I'll think it's best not to. Next week--The Beethoven 9th. There'll be plenty to see with that one. The general public piles in and proceeds to yawn and consult their watches through the first movements of the symphony, but perk right up as soon as the Chorus stands up. They seem to think that that movement is the 9th symphony. And who knows--perhaps I'll be able to corner Randall and ask him a bit about massage therapy...


Kristen said...

Um, I would argue that the Poem of Ecstasy is about a little bit more than sex. Not that there is anything wrong with celebrating sex, but remember that ecstasy does have meanings other than orgasm and drugs. But, perhaps I'm just being a highly prejudiced Scriabin fan.

Brian Burtt said...

I've become a fan of BIS' new series of budget box collections. I just ordered this:
(Scriabin's orchestral works conducted by Leif Segerstam, a conductor who I quite like, but isn't to everyone's taste.)
I'll have to let you, um, "borrow a copy".

I have to admit, though, that I don't quite "get" Scriabin yet--though I have this feeling that, once I better understand Szymanowski, I'll be part way there.

Davo said...

Scriabin certainly isn't all about sex, but glenn gould's mention of Scriabin's music being evidence of scriabin's having some rather pronounced erotic fixations is certainly something I agree with. His particular form of eroticism goes much past the strictly physical