Thursday, December 04, 2008

KWUR Does Klassical @ Powell

Recently, the Saint Louis Symphony hosted a "Bloggers Night at the Symphony" at the 'Beat Movement' concert on Nov. 15. Eddie Silva, the SLSO's publications manager (and a former Riverfront Times writer), invited said bloggers to post their impressions of the concert and the scene that night, which many of them did here.

Independently, KWUR invited station DJ's to go to a "KWUR Does Klassical" night at the Symphony the night before Bloggers Night, that Friday. In a shameless attempt to ride very belated coattails on Bloggers Night, I asked KWUR people who went to that Friday concert to contribute their impressions:

B: "I didn't enjoy the bass centered piece so much. Maybe it's just me, but I like my basses sticking in the rhythm section or whatever it would be considered in classical music with the occasional solo. The violinist in the second piece was outstanding and a joy to listen to and also watch perform. The Rite of Spring was mind blowing. I was warned in advance that it would be an intense experience and it surpassed my expectations."

D: "I didn't like the two contemporary pieces. The first piece had two interesting movements, and then fell apart in the third and fourth movements, and even when it was interesting, it didn't really grab me at all. The second piece had one of the dumbest beginnings I've ever heard, although it grew on me by the end. The performance of The Rite Of Spring was really terrific, I thought, although I didn't like the subtitles."

T: "Weeks after the performance of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, I still conjure a vivid sensory image of the experience. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra led me with a hand firmly guided through the narrow straits of complex polyrhythms, jarring dissonances, and intense dynamic polarity that make the work so personally memorable. But the vividness of my memory is not of an aural aspect; no, the experience was distinguished by its raw physicality. In The Rite of Spring, the percussion is not remembered by mallea nor inca nor stapes but by the chest cavity, moved to reverberate. The opening melody erects an indelible pattern in the minute hairs of the neck. It is a penetrating sensation. I am thoroughly amazed by a piece that in spite of its horizon-dilating erudition is able to connect with an audience on such a visceral plane."

Because I'm a regular subscriber to the orchestra, I wanted to let the others get the first word, as my own impressions are longer:

G: "The first work by Mark-Anthony Turnage surprised me by how mellow it was. I'll admit that I was expecting something a little edgier, but I knew that jazz would play a big role, given Turnage's reputation for using jazz in his concert hall works. John Patitucci did really well, as did Erik Harris in his 3rd movement duet with Patitucci. It was nice to see the orchestra shuffle its feet in appreciation after the duet. I was expecting the audience to do the same, but they didn't.

I got said musical edge at the beginning of the Mackey concerto. I was somehow put off by the beginning, but as the piece went on, I got more and more into it, and the title made more sense. As she was in John Adams' The Dharma at Big Sur last season, Leila Josefowicz was very extrovert and totally committed, and also very appreciative of the orchestra.

This Rite of Spring was my 4th time hearing it live, each time with the SLSO. The music never fails to astonish when heard in 3 dimensions live, even on a 4th hearing. I admit that I wasn't too enamored of the subtitles for the ballet's plot on this occasion. I liked them for past performances of The Wooden Prince and Petrushka, but the 3rd time wasn't the charm here. So I just focused on watching the orchestra and tried not to look at the screen.

I talked with some (non-KWUR) friends about the concert and the music. This was the first Powell concert for two visiting students from Europe. One was surprised at seeing an electric bass guitar on stage at a symphony concert, the first time she's ever seen that. The other herself thought the start of the Mackey was not to her satisfaction, but the piece got better for her as it went along. By contrast, a third friend liked the Turnage more than the Mackey."

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