Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Start of March Music Month

I'm very excited about this month! There are lots of things going on in my music circles and it all started last night with the Toronto Symphony.

Since the tsoundcheck program is so awesome, and reasonably priced, I decided to take in a concert program of elements I was not familiar with. The concert consisted of Sibelius' Suite from King Kristian II, Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor, a Chorale by Magnus Lindburg, and the backbone of the evening, Elgar's "Enigma" Variations. My first step was to find some youtube versions of the Piano Concerto, and the Enigma Variations. Discovering that I at least recognized the opening theme of the concerto, and the famous "Nimrod" variation, I got tickets without really knowing what else to expect.

As usual, live music beats any recording, well that's my opinion. There's something to be said for watching the music being made. Overall, the evening was filled with lyrical melodies and lots of moments where it was nice to just close your eyes and let the sound sweep over you. I really enjoyed King Kristian II which had lots of full string sounds. Having played some simple arrangements of Grieg's dances, it was nice to hear the Piano Concerto, his only significant large-scale composition (according to the program notes). The soloist, Lars Vogt, was animated and an excellent musician.

The piece that seemed an opposite to the others was the Chorale (after J.S. Bach "Es ist genug"). Now I know nothing of the original Bach, having never heard it, but this piece seemed to lack the lovely melodies found in the rest of the evening. Indeed the composer of the work says "I have always considered my music as non-melodic, in the sense that melody arose out of the harmonies which I never though of as having a tonal quality. In Chorale I have my harmonies, but suddenly there is a melody on top." It was different.

The highlight for me in the Enigma Variations, was "Nimrod", although I really liked the 10th variation as well. According to the program notes, it represents a "charming young girl with an unfortunate stammer". I will need to listen to the whole thing again, and probably repeatedly, to completely appreciate all the other great parts. The 14 variations are all based on elements of Elgar's life, the first being his wife, the last himself, and in between there's a sea voyage, country squire, 18th century house, even a friend's bulldog.

Next up it's back to Ottawa Pops with Mysterioso: Music, Magic, Mayham, and about throwing it all in there! Can't wait!

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