A week ago Saturday brought to a close the New York Philharmonic season as far as my attendance is concerned. It’s been a pretty disappointing first year for symphony concerts here in the Northeast in my opinion. Good-and-occasionally-very-good-but-not-great performances of Strauss, Mahler, Bruckner, and Beethoven (James Ehnes excepted!) from the NYPO, the bullet-riddled corpse of Schumann 4 in Philly, and a respectable but ultimately unspectacular Rachmaninov 2 from the band on the Jersey side left me wondering just when the Phil was going to bring the pain and fucking represent as their reputation suggested they should have been doing all along. I got my wish thanks to John Storgards and the genius that is Sibelius.
For many years I had threatened to see Bernard Haitink in live action, and Saturday night that threat made the transition to promise thanks to the Philharmonic. Haitink is 87 years old now, and I think I had projected some ill health on to him that he does not at all appear to be suffering from. Mahler 9 is obviously right in his wheelhouse, and even at his advancing age his conducting was as clear and impactful as I always figured it was. He received warm ovations both before and after the music, the applause feeling to me like it carried the subtext of a final goodbye for certain audience members, myself included. I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to see and hear the man in his element again, but I can tell you unequivocally that dude’s still got it.
Last Saturday was cold as balls. Nevertheless, we spent the entire day in the city, seeing “Fun Home” in the afternoon on a whim (it was superb…one of the best things I’ve seen since moving here) and ending the night at Lincoln Center listening to Semyon Bychkov leading the Philharmonic in Mahler’s Symphony no. 6. Continue reading
A couple weekends ago we headed to Lincoln Center for a concert featuring music by one of the three B’s and another B that I assume would crack the top ten of B’s if we were ranking them (I’ll file that one away). Guest conductor Juanjo Mena, who I remember from a show back in Kansas City, was there, as was James Ehnes, whose violining I’ve enjoyed from the distance of various broadcast recordings for some time now. It was a surprisingly well-attended and perhaps not-surprisingly good concert. Continue reading
Last month I wept my way through the 9th Symphony of Anton Bruckner in Chicago. Last Saturday I strapped myself in for the other emotionally draining 9th Symphony of the decades bridging the gap of the 20th century back at “home,” a term I find myself using with more and more mental air quotes. This was the fourth Mahler symphony I’ve heard the local band and conductor Michael Stern perform (along with numbers 1, 4, and 6). As a matter of general principle I would say that my impression of Stern’s Mahler conducting is quite favorable, and the orchestra has largely proven themselves worthy of high praise. The performance of the 9th may have been the weakest of the four, but that is not to suggest that it was without merit. Continue reading
Now that you’ve already been bored to tears by part 1 of my Chicago adventure, let’s get on to the part where there was actually music involved. As I said previously, in spite of my unflinching love of Bruckner’s music, I had literally never heard any of it live before, which is kinda insane when I really think about it. Truth is, there is still a relatively decent-sized subset of conductors who either don’t get Bruckner (and therefore avoid programming him) or think his music sucks (and therefore avoid programming him). Even so, it’s a bit surprising I hadn’t run into a live Bruckner performance by accident. Needless to say, considering the fact that I had been waiting, consciously or otherwise, for 15 years since I first discovered the man’s music, my expectations were through the roof, atmosphere, and a good chunk of the galaxy going into last Saturday night. Continue reading
Being single isn’t really all that cool. There’s freedom to be had and you can choose to get off with any number of people without being held responsible to society’s pressure to live monogamously and you can watch whatever you want on TV or whatever, but for the most part it isn’t nearly as appealing as those who are in long-term relationships want it to be. That isn’t to suggest that it’s a completely lost cause, though, because tied into the whole idea of freedom is the Southwest Airlines notion of feeling free to move about the country. Last month I visited a friend in Atlanta, enjoyed a weekend of good company, football, and the best burger in America. Next month I have a train trip into the heart of what is sure to be a blindingly cold Chicago to hear my first ever live Bruckner performance (how I’ve come this far without hearing any live Bruckner says something about both myself AND Bruckner, I think). This past weekend marked a return to the place that spawned my singlehood some 7 months ago: Dallas, Texas, home of USCIS Basic Training, a repulsive professional football team, and a top-15 American orchestra playing in one of the most notable halls in the country. Continue reading