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
It’s a tried and true formula to stuff the music of our time down the throats of reluctant concertgoers by sticking it in the middle of musical Wonder bread. A tag line like “come for the security of dudes like Liszt and Tschaikovsky, please for the love of God stay for this thing that you’ve never heard before!” might be snarkier than what’s warranted, but it would at least be straightforward and honest. It’s a pity, frankly, because it’s a tremendous joy to hear music written by human beings who remain among the breathing. We’re all set in our ways and we all have favorites and comfort zones and all that, but hearing something genuinely “new” to your ears is loads of fun, even if the work fails to move you. We bear the same responsibility as those patrons in Vienna whose job it was to distinguish between Beethoven and, say, Louis Spohr, and that SHOULD be one of the best parts about hearing live music.
Last Friday night the Kansas City Symphony awoke from a long winter’s nap to perform Mahler’s massive Symphony no. 6. Dubbed “Tragic” by someone who wasn’t Mahler but endorsed by someone who was, the Sixth is an emotional tour-de-force that provides the ultimate musical test for both conductor and orchestra. Like a kid who eats tuna and listens to Mozart the night before the SATs and like the opposite of an Amy Winehouse toxicology report, conductor Michael Stern and the members of the Symphony passed with flying colors. Continue reading
Last weekend guest conductor Nicholas McGegan ventured outside the world of early music for performances of Haydn and Orff with the Kansas City Symphony. We arrived an hour early under the auspices of soaking in the Saturday night ambience (and finding parking that wouldn’t involve us waiting 45 minutes to wade through a gerontological sea of humanity on the way out) and figured we’d enjoy a cup of coffee and a glass of red wine. Urgent bulletin: they don’t serve red wine. Of any kind. At any point. And the coffee, while possibly delicious, is marred by the use of sketchy-ass creamer that erodes any semblance of good flavor. Kansas City’s Roasterie makes tremendous coffee, so why waste it with cream that would be better served at Waffle House? It’s like playing a Mahler symphony on keytar. Did I mention that I am an elitist prick when it comes to food and drink? And now you know!
“Everything in moderation” is a maxim that I generally try to apply to my own life as often as possible. There are exceptions that I allow for, such as chocolate-covered pretzels, sports, and Oxycontin, but for the most part I find that moderation is indeed a functionally useful life tool. Sometimes, though, life presents a grand opportunity to tell moderation to go fuck itself and bask in the warming glow of too much of a good thing. Last weekend Sandy and I embarked on a two-city musical odyssey between Missouri’s two major cities that was a study in contrasts in a lot of ways except one: there was a shitload of good music to be heard. Continue reading
Yesterday, for the first time in God knows how long, the weather in Kansas City was palatable. It was so palatable, in fact, that I decided to wander the streets with no real purpose or intention. I took my headphones, my wallet, and an appalling sense of fashion and set off from my apartment in Midtown. Here are five things I learned on my journey:
Allow me to preface this partial review with a disclaimer: I am not an etiquette Nazi. In fact, I myself possess little etiquette. Hell, I use the word “fuckin’” where other people use “uh,” as in “the guy from Shawshank Redemption? Isn’t that fuckinnnnnnnnn…Tim Robbins?” That’s but one example of my downright boorish persona. I bring this up only to provide a reference point for the next couple paragraphs. Suffice it to say, I haven’t read any of the books by, what’s her name, fuckinnnnnn…Emily Post. Hey, any review of a classical music concert that begins with Nazis, the F word, Shawshank, and Emily Post must have been some kind event. Continue reading