Thursday, April 07, 2022

Minnesota Orchestra Scores Big

 

We were fortunate today to spend several hours with a highly talented and trained group of musicians, members of the Minnesota Orchestra. Today’s concert which will be repeated Friday evening, April 8, consisted of a varied concert of music by we—known, talented composers, Shostakovich, Moussa, and Ravel.

The concert began with Shostakovich’ Concerto No 1 in A minor. Very popular, the piece featured solo violinist, Ning Feng. He was outstanding. The Concerto has an interesting political history, having been withheld from the public for many years, due to the heavy abuse experienced by the composer at the hands of an earlier Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin. Completed in 1948, the premiere was finally held in 1955. Hearing the brilliance, the versatility of the soloist and the almost random bouts of energy, one would reasonably expect similar if not even greater abuse from today’s autocrat Russian ruler. The orchestra, under the direction of guest Conductor Kevin John Edusel, demonstrated its talent, control and overall brilliance.

The concert continued with a fascinating Nocturne from Canadian composer Samy Moussa and concluded with two well-know compositions by Maurice Ravel, Suite 2 from Daphnis and Cloe and Bolero.

The orchestra performed excellently and we were almost able to forget the wearing of masks in the concert hall. It was a relaxing, uplifting successful concert.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Minnesota Orchestra produces another fine evening of classical music

 Friday evening. Here I am in my seat at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Oh, wait. That’s a wispy memory. But I am fortunate to be able to “attend” another Friday evening concert by members of this excellent musical aggregation. I am also fortunate that my TV sound runs through an old-fashioned sound system with 15-inch base speakers and high grade mid-range and top level speakers, making it almost as if I was in the hall.

Two beginning pieces by J. Montgomery, very contemporary, “Voodoo Dolls.” And “Source Code.” The program is hosted by the excellent Sara Hicks.

And now a full orchestra backs solo violinist James Ehnes and Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto.

Liquid highs from the soloist blend with careful mid and lower-range strings. Solo flute adds crisp accents.  And foot-stomping applause from the orchestra. Regretfully I was unable to absorb the name of the guest conductor who was excellent.

The interim presented an intriguing if brief examination of score pagination and modern e-pad uses.

Mendelsohn’s 4th Symphony, The Italian, is the final piece of the evening. Not having the kind of current musical history one should have for any kind of critical analysis, let me just say the entire concert was a symphonic musical treat, lyrical well-connected, and offered by an outstanding orchestra, perfectly staged and visually positive in spite of the necessary presence of masks on many of the players. As usual, a most enjoyable concert evening.

Friday, January 15, 2021

MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA SCORES AGAIN

 

Music Director Osmo Vänskä returns to the podium conducting Principal Bassoon Fei Xie’s Minnesota Orchestra solo debut with Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto. The concert will feature Saint-Georges’ dazzling Symphony No. 1 and more.

Once again access to the orchestra concert in these parlous times somehow brings not just joy but a sense of peace and calm. It was a wonderful concert and the bassoonist's solo was outstanding.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Thought for today

Be sure your worst enemy is not living between your ears. Anon      

Friday, November 20, 2020

ALBERGA, RAVEL, BEETHOVEN PERFORMED BY MN ORCHESTRA 11-20-20

Tonight we were gifted with a fine and varied concert by television from TPT Channel 2. The concert occurred, as usual, on channel 243. Yes, I know, it’s a different channel in different parts of Minnesota. The music was broadcast, as usual, on MPR.

The program began with a fine String Quartet by Jamaican composer, Eleanore Alberga, a lovely piece featuring plucked strings, atonal passages, and strong dramatic passages. Sara Hicks was host of the program and provided her usual succinct commentary and interviews.

The second piece featured the new principal harpist, Margarite Williams on her impressive double action pedal harp. Ravel’s Quartet performed this evening with the harpist and six fine players in a semi-circle around her. Themes ranged from up tempo to moody, dark, and light. Overall it evoked in this viewer the memory of an early morning along the wooded shore of the Adriatic. There was a little too much camera work to try to isolate the fingering, but that was minor.

An enlarged stage allowed for the presentation of the full orchestra, clad in black masks and dress, with adequate separation, conducted by William Eddins. They offered a full-bore presentation of Beethoven’s First symphony, familiar, well-driven and a fine closing to a lovely evening.

As a bonus, viewers learned that scientists at the University of Minnesota are working with members of the orchestra to t race and record aerosols from the various instruments in order to advise the orchestra about distancing and air exchanges. All in all an excellent program.