Sunday, October 4, 2009

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra: the Transcription of Brahms

I attended the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert last evening.  Elsewhere I have been critical of the ASO.  It sometimes lack precision, it has pitch problems, and the upper strings can be strident.  Some of this may be due to Symphony, which is a harsh environment accoutically and vistally.  Last evening concert had some of these problems, but the hits were far fewer than the hits.  The program began with contemporary composer Adam Schoenberg's "Finding Rothko."  The piece took full advantage of the full orchestra.  As Schoenberg noted in a short video, the music is not a literal interpretation of Rothko's art, but rather an impression of the artist's work.  The composer also noted that contemporary classical composers have the freedom to compose as they feel the need.  They are not bound by a school (e.g., romatic or classical) or technique (e.g., atonal).  I liked the piece- it kept my attention and I liked the colorful use of the orchestra.  There were some mightly low bass in sections that shoock the house.  This was followed by the Brahms "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major."  The soloist was Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic.  So what was a pianist doing playing a violin concerto? - you ask.  Lazic transcribed the concerto for piano.  I admire the violin concerto as it is.  It has beautiful melodies, and intricate theme development, and it is well integrated, unlike the music of Tchaikovsky, which seems episodic to me.  Brahms, while being a romatic, never deteriorates into hystrionics.  This transcription generally worked, since Brahms was, in fact, piano-oriented.  At times, however, the orchestra and soloist seemed inbalanced, which I assume is due to a solo violin not being as prominent as as a solo piano.  Lazic is very talented and a treat to watch at the piano.  However, there were some pitch problems in the horn section at the end of the first movement.  The final piece on the program was Mussorgsky's warhorse "Pictures at an Exhibition. " This is exciting and colorful music and Ravel's orchestration makes full use of the orchestra.  The last section, "The Great Gate at Kiev" is one of the best climaxes in the romantic literature.  The ASO played well, except at the end of the first Promenade, the cellos and bass were not together.  This is a difficult section, but I have heard it played by others with much greater precision. 

I sat in row C or the orchestra section.  I like sitting close to the orchestra where the effects of the hall are somewhat muted.  It also provides great views of  conductor Spano and soloist Lazic.  Overall, I enjoyed the concert and look forward to my next with the ASO.

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