Monday, December 6, 2010

Beethoven at his Pleasant Best

Since I'm behind again, the Yuletide Celebration posts that will follow this one are sure to be long, and this was short concert, here's the highlights.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Afterworks Concert
Nicholas McGegan conducting
Tom Allen hosting

courtesy of TSO
Camille Saint-Saens-Cello Concerto #1 in A minor, performed by new principal cellist Joseph Johnson.
In a brief chat with the host following his performance he mentioned this is a piece most cellists start with, and indeed when he asked the cello section how many had begun with it, all raised their bows.  It hasn't been done with the TSO in 15 years, but is a very beautiful piece of music.  Mr. Johnson is starting to grow on me, and I do like how he seems happy at the end of a performance and smiles!  The orchestra gave him (and the guest conductor) a rousing applause when he finished, so they obviously liked them both.

Beethoven-Symphony #8 in F major
The very personable conductor and host gave some background on this piece prior to playing it and the orchestra even played snippets from each of the 4 movements.  I really like that, since the jokes that only serious musicians and students of Beethoven might get, are made accessible to the general music lover.  Turns out there are lots in this piece.  

The first movement begins with no introduction, it's right into the first theme, and ends rather abruptly with a restatement of the tune, but that's it.  Unlike the final movement which has several false endings.  You think he's ramping up for a big finale, and suddenly the tune reappears and he plays with it a bit more.  Apparently the recapitulation is almost as long as the main statement in that movement.

The second movement is shortest and jokes about the recently invented metronome.  The woodwinds have this incessant "tick" throughout, and I'm sure are very glad it's less than 4 minutes long.  As described by Bramwell Tovey in his CBC podcast on this symphony the break in of the double basses gives the feeling "oh turn this darn thing off".  The third movement is Beethoven's final ode to a minuet and trio with a hard French horn part, but a really nice mix of it with the clarinet, and whatever other instrument makes up the trio.  I was too busy watching the clarinet to notice :)

Nov 24 (see I told you I was behind :) )

As usual, Roy Thomson Hall

I'm working on seeing all of Beethoven's symphonies performed.  There are 9 and I've now seen 3 (#5-with the famous "da da da duh" opening, #6-the Pastoral, and now #8-short, pleasant, concise, and funny!)

tsoundcheck, is there any better way?

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