This city is amazing, to support a beautiful downtown (canals, murals, plazas, and a renovated war memorial column smack in the middle of the city) and a full-time orchestra. The hall is right downtown, too.
Moreover, they dared to play Pendercki! The Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima sounded great in the hands of the new, young music director, Polish-born Krzysztof Urbański, who was in command not only of the 70-odd timed sections of the piece but also of the hundreds of entrances, swerves, flutters, thumps, barks and moans that the string players have in this complicated and intricate score. It's a sad and grieving piece, but strangely listening to it--or more accurately, feeling its soundscapes in my chest--I felt remarkably at peace.
The audience seemed to like it, not least because an unidentified but very articulate lecturer had spoken for 15 minutes before the concert about why the piece was important, how it was written (with projections of the score, and comparisons to a standard classical score). A great idea, turning a captive audience into a willing one.
They also stayed because the second piece was the Brahms violin concerto with Hoosier Josh Bell. Bell drove the orchestra, cajoled them, challenged them to faster bow speeds, in short, played chamber music with them. He was best in the third movement, where the hellacious passagework just flew off his fingers with gypsy nonchalance.
After the concert I got to meet principal violist Mike Strauss, who is coming to Oberlin as a faculty member this year. Oberlin's gain; Indy's loss. The violas sounded great in counterpoint with Josh Bell, but of course Brahms did know how to write for the viola!
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