Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lied me on....

The Munich Symphony Orchestra played at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, NE.  I had not been at the Lied for about 15 years and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the facility.  The auditorium, with a capacity of 2200 is painted in a warm terra cotta color.  The acoustics match the warmth of the paint.  I had forgotten how large the auditorium is and how the lack of large overhangs provides great sight lines.  This is one facility where the inexpensive seats have as a good a view as the pricier variety.  The stage also seems quite large, easily accommodating an orchestra and chorus.  The hall is simple and streamlined. The light and sound rigging over the stage is finished in soft silver.  This simple design should ensure that the auditorium should age well.   The Lied lobbies, however, are another matter.  They seemed cramped with very low ceilings.  They are decorated in 1980’s chic and are in need of some updating.  The entry to the facility contains the box office and two flights of stairs lead up to the main lobby.  This entrance area is utilitarian and cramped.  There is a woven wall sculpture which looks a bit old.  A large oil painting of Ernst Lied, the benefactor for the facility, is in the stair well to the main lobby.  He apparently looked a lot like Henry Kissinger.  The architects of the facility seemed to have made the auditorium their priority, which makes sense. Lincoln should be proud to have such a nice facility.  If only Atlanta could have as nice a facility for its symphony, but that discussion is for another day. 

The Munich orchestra was conducted by Phillipe Entrement in an all Mozart program, although the orchestra’s website indicated that “Transfigured Night” by Schoenberg was scheduled.  I would have preferred the Schoenberg.  The orchestra was rather small.  I am not sure if this was a touring ensemble or whether this is indeed as grand as it gets.  It was about half the size of a typical orchestra.  In the service of full disclosure, I must admit that Mozart is not my favorite composer.  I know that all other classical music fans think he is the greatest but I think his music is predictable and, yes, a bit boring, while being very elegant.  The program started with his Serenata Notturna, K 239.  I actually liked the piece and the all-string ensemble played very well.  The sound was warm, helped out by the Lied’s pleasant reverberation.  The second piece was he Piano Concerto No. 12.  Entrement, who first came to public attention as a result of his pianistic skills, was the soloist and he conducted the orchestra from the piano.  This is one of those Mozart pieces that seems formulaic and rote to me.  

The final piece on the program was the monumental Mozart Requiem in D minor.  This is one of the cornerstones of the western classical tradition and it deserves the reverence for it.  The Gloriae Dei Contores was the chorus, supplemented by singers from Nebraska Wesleyan, although the program was rather vague about this.  The soloists included Valentina Fleer, soprano; Julie Cherrier, Soprano; Eric Barry, tenor; and Benjamin Bloomfield, baritone.  Of these capable soloists, the weakest was Bloomfield who often could not be heard over the combine symphony and chorus.  Entrement generally kept very good balances between soloists, orchestra, and chorus.  The chorus was not so large as to drown out the other forces, as happens in Atlanta.  The chorus sang with precision and had very good ensemble.
This was a very enjoyable concert.  The Lied is a treat and the near capacity audience was grateful, did not provide a standing ovation after each piece, as happens all too frequently in Atlanta.   Maybe the contrast is due to Midwestern reserve versus Southern manners. 
Just one more small quibble- the Lied should lose the plastic trees on the stage.  They are, if you will pardon the pun, bush league. 

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