Tuesday, February 24, 2009

RSO Plays Beethoven: It's Okay to Feel Good

The People's Snob likes Beethoven, unlike other snobs who say they've outgrown him and his B bookends, Bach and Brahms.

The Snob especially appreciates Beethoven's music when it's programmed thoughtfully, as RSO candidate #5 Arthur Post did this past weekend, placing the First Symphony at the start of a program that moved on to Boccherini's cello concerto (Neal Cary soloing) and finished with Shostakovich's First Symphony. (The Snob can't stand it when Beethoven's music is over-dramatized in order to conclude a concert.)

Beethoven's First Symphony is reasonable, pretty, clever but not overbearingly witty; it's got tunes that can be hummed and tempos that can be tapped. In short, it's deservedly popular. At Saturday's performance, the slow second movement was the standout. The others galloped a little too much for me, and even with only 2 horns and 2 trumpets, the brass section was at times out of balance and flat, as in "blaat"--non-sparkling--not as in out-of-tune.

Likewise, the slow second movement of the Boccherini was my favorite. Neal Cary opened up his vibrato more than in the first movement... and it's just beautiful music anyway. Then, like all the extra cellists in the audience (see previous post), I had to hold my mouth shut so I wouldn't sing along with the third movement: it's the kind of giddy melody that lets even hardened snobs feel good about feeling good.

Listening to the Shostakovich symphony was like watching a building being constructed, and torn down, again and again, slightly differently each time. It's a monumental piece with many themes and voices. The performance was well-done, and like the Beethoven, not over-dramatized. Yes, it's a dramatic piece, and it ends loudly, but it deserves to. In its own way, it is just as reasonable as the Beethoven.

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