On October 2, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, under Music Director Robert Spano, presented a program that included:
Golijov- Sidereus, Overture for Small Orchestra
Tchaikovsky- Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, with Joshua Bell as soloist
Brahms- Symphony No.4 in E Minor
Golijov is one of Spano’s Atlanta School of Composers and “Sidereus” was Co-commissioned by the ASO. Like his counterparts in the Atlanta School, his music is listenable and does not challenge the ear. I like his music better than what I consider to be the bland music of his colleagues. “Sidereus” begins with a theme that seems somehow not just right. The orchestra seems unraveled and not together, but as the music builds, by the middle of the piece, the whole business comes together in a pleasant piece. The ASO did a fine job with the music and everyone seemed happy.
Then came Joshua Bell. No surprise here- he played the Tchaikovsky as if it were his second skin. My guess is that he could be half conscious and play it well. The ASO played a supportive role and acquitted itself quite well. My only objection to the performance was that this concerto was played only last April in Symphony Hall by the ASO and Sergei Krylov. With Bell’s extensive repertory, I wonder why it was necessary for us to hear this all-too-familiar work again. I assume it was programmed in order to sell tickets. I must admit I have grown so tired of this warhorse that even a great performance feels old and tired. The audience, however, loved it. There was applause after each movement, which gave Bell the chance to wipe his brow.
The Brahms Fourth, while beautiful, is, for me, the weakest of this great composer’s symphonies. There are times in it where the transitions between sections seem worn out and not of the highest order. That aside, this piece provided ample opportunity for the best of the ASO to show through. The trumpets, strings, and woodwinds sounded magnificent. Spano’s interpretation did not provide new insights into the work, but it was a grand performance. The audience applauded in between movements also.
There was the requisite standing ovation at the end of the performance. Atlantans are always courteous, if a bit over -exuberant. But if this kind of programming and performances will pack the house, then I am all for it.