Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Runnicles and Bruckner

Donald Runnicles
Last week’s ASO concert featured Donald Runnicles conducting Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major. The Bach was played by a chamber orchestra-sized ensemble. Runnicles conducted from the harpsichord. The good news is that in live performance, the harpsichord is not prominent. Usually in recordings it is artificially loud, and being that I don’t think it the most attractive-sounding instrument, I like it a lot more in the concert setting. Now, the bad news. The Ouverture of the Bach work was oddly played. Maybe it’s attributable to the group warming up or to Runnicles’ attention being on the harpsichord or the symphony hall acoustic, but the violins could hardly be heard and the tempo was nearly undecipherable. However, the rest of the piece, based on dance rhythms of the time, was well played and very enjoyable.

The Bruckner was outstanding. I am now convinced that Symphony Hall is designed for big, brassy and loud music. I have always found Bruckner’s music interesting, in part because it is not all that well known. It also tends to move from quiet to brassy loud and quiet again. The orchestra, especially the brasses and woodwinds were magnificent. The orchestra played well together with nary a false start or intonation problem. It was a very satisfying rendition.

I was surprised that about a third to a half of the seats were empty. Maybe that’s why Bruckner is not that well known!

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