Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brahms in Bryn Athyn

... now ain’t that alliterative?

Got home about an hour and a half ago from a Sunday afternoon concert by the Bryn Athyn Orchestra. (The link to my preview article is at left.) Highlight for me was the finale, the Brahms Third Symphony, which Burnett James calls the most “echt-Brahms’ of the four, and “in many respects the most characteristic and illuminating of all his major compositions,” and, measure for measure, one of my favorite pieces of music. Even a passable performance is enough to put me in a great mood, and the Bryn Athyn performance was a good sight better than passable. One of course has to allow for glitches and intonation problems with any community orchestra, but all things considered, this was a taut, effective reading. One of the musicians afterward told me that Dan Kujala, the orchestra’s music director, “knows how to rehearse a group,” and the effort was well in evidence. The problems occurred more or less where I expected them to — viz., in the rapid string passages in the last movement — and the brasses squawked in one or two places, but none of the mistakes was enough to ruin my enjoyment, or even interfere with it. The woodwinds deserve special mention: they were quite warm.

Before the break, Bill Myers, whom I interviewed for Ticket, was the soloist in Alexander Arutiunian’s 1950 Trumpet Concerto, which I had never heard before. It’s not great music, but Bill was a confident soloist, and the firm, bright timbre of a trumpet out in front of the orchestra is an arresting experience. One of the string players told me later that the orchestra nearly came apart at one point, but still managed to pull through. I didn’t notice it. The soloist soaked up most of my attention, and he covered a multitude of sins.

The elation will probably last until I get to work tomorrow. I’d say the music was better than sex, but I don’t remember sex well enough to compare.

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