Friday, August 26, 2011

Wiener Philharmoniker - Summer Evening - PBS

A short note with some reflections on the wonderful Vienna Philharmonic concert this evening that was broadcast on PBS. The performed Liszt "Les Preludes," Paganini and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (in the traditional Ravel orchestration). It was a wonderful concert. The orchestra was wonderful. They have such a luscious string sound. The winds overall sound is different from American orchestras. I find the brass brighter, and the winds darker in sound overall. I have to say I do not know how anyone can follow Valery Gergiev. He conducted a beautiful performance - but as I watched him I could not imagine how the orchestra was able to follow him and they played behind the beat - which I find disconcerting. Best just to close ones eyes and not watch.

For me the highlight was the "Pictures" though for once I wish an orchestra would have the creativity to use a different orchestration than Ravel. (Immediately following the concert I went to iTunes and downloaded Leonard Slatkin's recording with Nashville where he has created a performance with a pastiche of different orchestrations - also Evgeny Kissin's recording of the work on piano). I did enjoy the dancers from the Vienna State Opera Ballet. The kids were cute and the pros were sensational. All the more because of the conditions, which seemed not so dancer-friendly. There was a nice wind and it looked to me like they were dancing on the concrete steps of the castle - I would think that would not be comfortable, but they were great and maybe they had laid down a different stage which I could not distinguish. One of the standouts in the orchestra was the contra-bassoon. What a great sound! No wimpy playing from that musician - he was ever present and his sound was solid - he blended in ensembles but you knew he was there. I loved it! This world needs more contra players like this guy! The oboist played beautiful - though his hand position seemed wrong to me - but it is a different style and what do I know. Except I don't think I could have gotten away with that hand position with my teachers Gomberg, Lucarelli, Thorstenberg and Mack. But, he played beautifully and he IS the principal oboist of the Vienna Phil - so it must work for him.

Listening to "Pictures" gave me one of the few pangs of nostalgia about playing. I really have not missed playing oboe/English Horn. I enjoyed it while I was doing it. I love playing the rep. I grew to hate being personnel manager in a mis-managed organization with all the power plays and diva fits. But there were moments - playing the EH entrance in "The Old Castle" with the shaping of the long note - high Bb (a difficult note to make sing on the EH) with a slur up to the high Eb in the midst of a decrescendo. I know the trick and I pulled it off every time! Doubling the strings in the Goldberg movement. Carefully blending and following the principal in the final promenade which is so exposed. It was a challenge - but I did it and I was good - once upon a time. I think I must have played this piece at least a half dozen times - not counting school. We played it in Caracas and I played it with every other orchestra I played with on a regular basis. So I enjoyed the concert - it was fun. It made me miss playing EH in orchestra - at least for the moment.