I haven’t posted on here since December. Pretty much an entire semester has gone by without me actually writing anything, so I figured I might as well fix that.
Last night I went to the last Chamber Orchestra concert of the year, and my oh my, it was worth writing about. The program opened with the suite from The Double Dealer by Henry Purcell. The ensemble was just a double string quartet, bass, and harpsichord. The playing was very tight and unified, but there was very little striking about the piece, and I will consent that my taste played a rather large role in the statement.
Next on the program was something that was my taste: Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, which, for those of you who don’t know, is an arrangement of the 8th String Quartet, done by Rudolph Barshai (who also has a pretty decent Shostakovich symphony cycle). The main problem with taking a string quartet piece and making it a string orchestra piece is that in the quartet, each part is very soloistic, and there is also, just by nature a tighter ensemble. The present arrangement does a pretty good job of dealing with those problems by using solo players. I mean, try to imagine that high cello solo in the fourth movement played by a cello section. That’d be rough. This performance of the score was tremendous. There was a savageness and ferocity in the playing that was really palpable. The second movement, just by nature, calls for this kind of playing, as does that knocking figure at the start of the fourth movement, but they also made the third movement scherzo sound much more savage than I’m used to. Usually this movement is treated as a bitter waltz, but last night I heard it as a angry bitter waltz. The playing was superb, and dedicated. I could’ve sworn that some of the violins were going to snap their G string. Thankfully that did not happen, and the piece got a well deserved round of applause.
After intermission the full orchestra, now complete with winds, played Beethoven’s Second Symphony. The first two are generally thought of being the tradition of Hayden and Mozart. That’s not wholly true, at least for No. 2. The Eroica gets all the talk for breaking the symphonic mold, which is very true, but No. 2 has a much greater scope than the symphonies that came before it, and you can hear in it what was going to come in the later symphonies. I think it was in the first movement, but there was a passage that was strikingly similar to the opening theme of No. 9, dotted falling arpeggio. The playing here was also stellar. The strings were on point, and the winds blended very well, and the timpani playing added just the right punch. I really can’t get over how good the playing was. The concert was really exceptional, and at the end the orchestra got a well earned ovation, from the sizable crowd.