Sunday, May 17, 2009

Music I'm Listening to: Santa Rosa Symphony

Heard an interesting Santa Rosa Symphony concert today. On the program were Nachtgesang, from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major (the soloist was Cecile Licad), and Three Tâlas from TurangalĂ®las for Piano, Ondes Martenot, and Orchestra, by Olivier Messiaen. Soloists in the Messiaen were Miles Graber on the piano and Mary Chun on the Ondes Martenot. There was a pre-performance talk about the Messiaen piece by Dr. Robert Winter, and, apparently a pre-concert discussion of the Ondes Martenot, but I missed hearing that. After the concert I went up on stage to talk to Mary Chun, so I got the gist of what she had said earlier about her rather rare instrument (according to the program, she is only one of two people who play it in the United States). She said she is one of about 15 players in the world. For more information, Google awaits you. It was intriguing, to say the least. At times it sounded like a theremin, at times like a cross between an organ and a penny whistle. At other times it sounded like a trashcan lid.

The talk before the Messiaen was novel.  It wasn't objectionable, and clearly the audience enjoyed it, but it was a trifle long and it could have been better  introduced. It wasn't clear who the man was or why he was talking at first--not everyone reads the entire program before the concert starts. 

The Wagner was indifferently played. I'm not sure I would have liked it even if it had been played well. 

I thought Licad good in the Ravel, but the orchestra wasn't quite up to backing her, particularly in the first movement. The orchestra played quite well, I thought, in the second and third movements.  

The Messiaen was interesting, but it's not a piece I'm familiar enough with to really comment on. The range of sounds it includes is remarkable. That alone made it interesting, and it was a treat to hear a live performance of an instrument as obscure as the Ondes Martenot. I applaud the Symphony for this bold programming choice.  

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