Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rock on

I caught the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra tonight at the recently renovated Symphony Hall.

The venue is still big and spacious with great sound but the interior is now all light wood which makes the concert space very bright which can be distracting. Other than that, however, their normal home is much better than the Orpheum where they played last season (and where I saw the Gerswhin program on the 30th.)

Scottsdale resident James DePreist conducted the orchestra. The setlist was as follows:

Gabriel Faure: Pelleas et Melisande Suite
Ernest Bloch: Schelomo (with special guest cellist Alisa Weilerstein)
[encore break]
Jean Sibelius: Symphony 1 in e

The Faure was, well, what one would expect. I'm not a big fan of French Impressionists whether we're talking painters (Monet) or composers (Debussy, Faure)... it's too pastel, fluffy, slight color variations for me. I like it all right and this piece is fine but, eh.

After the first piece (there was, by the way, no opening bands) Alisa came out with her cello and a hush went through the crowd, we knew they were going to pull out something special. I was kinda hoping for Dvorak's Cello Concerto and someone yelled out for some Bach sonatas (she wasn't going to do a solo, man) and another screamed for Some Red-Handed Slight Of Hand but these were nothing compared to a pair of idiots, one who was requesting All Right Now and the other for some Neil Young song (no cello, folks!)

Well, once she had sat down and started playing we (or atleast I) realized it was going to be Schelomo. I like the few Bloch pieces I've heard, this one was quite strong. It's not quite a cello concerto though it plays like an oddly structured one done as a single movement. The cello was fiery, the orchestra was lush, everything sounded good.

We clapped and clapped and I wasn't sure they were going to come back, many folks even filed out... but it looked like almost all of them came back when that clarinet solo started. Ahh, my heart jumped. I never thought in a million years that they'd play that early work. It ran a bit awkwardly at times and Sibelius certainly did have better symphonies (6, if you're wondering) but this has the cymbal crashes and fugues all in the right spots... and the brass, the brass sounded wonderful this evening. They played loud and powerful without blasting, without overblowing. The strings at times felt more tentative and less full than they needed to be but for the most part they held their own, for the sweeping, soaring bits that Sibelius is justly famous for they got the job done.

All in all it was a good show. The good news is they're coming back. I have tickets for their show the day after Thanksgiving but I may end up having to swap those for something else as that weekend may end up being full.


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