Friday, March 18, 2011

What a Cunning Little Vixen

The ASO, under conductor Jakub Hrusa, presented an intriguing program featuring works by Janacek, Mozart, and Dvorak.  For me, the excitement was in “The Cunning Little Vixen” Entre-actes from the opera and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.  I am really Mozarted-out- there is something by him on nearly every playbill this year and I have grown tired of his predictability. 

“Vixens” is rarely heard and it’s a pity.  Janacek ( is a master or orchestral color.  His use of the brass instruments is exciting and he included the contra bassoon, which, at least to my ear, provides a bit of spice to a composition.  This piece includes some beautiful melodies for the violins and I was pleased at the precision and tone of the ASO strings.  They seem to be getting better all of the time.
Jonathan Biss was the soloist in the Mozart concerto No 12 in A Major.  Biss has an ability to play pianissimos without them getting lost against the orchestra and when he plays forte, he has a commanding tone.  This particular concerto comes from the Mozart computer that composes music that is indistinguishable from many of his other works.  In spite of it being well-played, I just did not like it that much. 
After intermission, the ASO played the Dvorak Symphony No 7 in D minor.  This is a beautiful Romantic symphony that has wonderful melodies and very nice development.  The Scherzo is particularly nice, with its waltz-like them.  Again, the ASO strings were magnificent.  Even the French Horns, which have been a disappointment to me, were outstanding.  Hrusa seems to have augmented some of the Dvorak instrumentation, which highlighted the horns and the string basses.  With his approach to the work, this young conductor was able to spotlight how Dvorak was influenced by the friend Brahms.  I have never heard this link so beautifully clearly drawn.
Hrusa ( is a 30-year old wunderkind.  He has quite a resume and I expect that he will continue to draw attention because of his insightful readings and his attention to dynamics.  The ASO seems to respond well to conductors that make their intentions very clear from the podium, for example with Jaap van Zweden, and now with Hrusa.  I suppose that would be true with any ensemble. 

Before the concert, ASO members played various chamber pieces were members of the audience were able to be on stage with the players, which was a nice touch. 

In summary, I think there should be more Janacek and less Mozart.  I am not sure, however, that anyone cares!

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