Thursday, January 14, 2016

Symphony!


My concert drought finally ended last night with a wonderful performance of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.  It's been well over 6 years since I've been able to see a good concert, the last time being during my trip to Hungary a few years back.  It's been even longer since I've seen an orchestra in Canada....all the way back to my university days.  But let's not dwell on that.

I had hoped to do a quick post before leaving for Edmonton when I assumed my ticket would have arrived in the mail.  I assume it got caught up in the Christmas rush as it never did arrive in time (of course, the bills still did...funny how that works.)  But I was able to get my ticket re-printed at the box office so all turned out well.

I left for Edmonton yesterday morning, saw the concert last night, overnighted and then returned this evening. A lot to fit in to a short period of time and while I was a bit tired, the adrenaline rush brought on by seeing my first concert in far too long kept me going.

Enmax Hall at the Winspear Centre is a wonderful venue and my seat choice made for the perfect acoustical experience.  The only thing I would have changed was perhaps getting a seat in the row in front of where I sat as there was a bit more leg room but in the end this was a very minor issue.  The program was a nice mix of Baroque and Classical, with a modern composer thrown in, although this involved a work written very much in the Classical style.

So what did I see?  First off was the Vivaldi Concerto in B minor for 4 violins, Opus 3, no. 10.  Bach was to take this piece and re-work it for 4 harpsichords, so it is this guise that I know it best.  Hearing the Vivaldi original was a real treat.

Next was the Concertone for 2 violins in C Major, K 190.  Unlike the previous piece this isn't one that I was very familiar with.  (A "concertone" is something like an early version of a concerto.) I'm much more familiar with Mozart's K191, his bassoon concerto, which is better known and more often recorded.  Pure Mozart this was, light and enjoyable at a good tempo.  You hear this piece and can easily anticipate him writing some truly amazing works in his later years, which of course he did.

After the intermission came a piece by the rather awkward-sounding Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf.  (Sinfonia no.1 in C major "The Four Ages of the World").  Dittersdorf, I absolutely love.  The man was a very prolific (he did write  over 120 symphonies) but had the misfortune of languishing, like many other composers of his day, in the shadow of Mozart.

Next was a short symphony by Haydn.  Not Franz Joseph but his brother Michael, who again often finds himself in his older brother's shadow.  His Symphony no. 32 is only 2 movements and, clocking in at around 8 minutes, short and sweet.  Very energetic and dance-like and an interesting glimpse of the symphonic form still very much in its infancy.

The evening closed off with Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony no.1 in D major "The Classical".  Like the opening Vivaldi, this is a piece I absolutely love and was very familiar with.   If this had been the only work on the program, I definitely would have gone just to see it.  Prokofiev died in 1953 but wrote this in the style of Franz Joseph Haydn.  Basically it's something like what Haydn might have written himself had he lived into the 20th century.  If I'm not mistaken, this work was premiered in 1918.  This symphony has enjoyed a long playing life and has been used in a few old Warner Brothers cartoons so that segments of this piece would be familiar to the average person on the street even if it's formal title doesn't exactly bring anything to mind.

So all in all a great orchestral experience.  I just wanted to give a few brief thoughts on what I saw rather than some long-winded analysis.  This was actually the only concert with works from the Baroque/early Classical period that it looks like I will be able to get to without begging for time off of work.  At long last my concert drought is over and this was a pleasant way to do it.  The next performances I hope to get to involve larger Romantic-era performances for the most part, including a few gems that are on my "bucket list".  Great listening times ahead indeed.


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