Monday, October 25, 2010

Charles Rosen, victim of careless program notes

Generally, I think the discussion of applause at concerts is a horse that should go ahead and die, but the situation at Saturday's concert was so weird, I want to elaborate on a point I made at the end of my review, which appears in today's Times-Dispatch.

Here's a blow-by-blow:
-Charles Rosen takes the stage to applause.
-He performs R. Schumann's Intermezzo from "Faschingsschwank aus Wien."
-Silence. More silence.
-Rosen fidgets, takes something from his left breast pocket (glasses? but he's not using music), fiddles with it, takes something from his right pocket, puts both things back into the right pocket.
-He plays the opening chord of Schumann's "Fantasia in C," stops, grunts, fidgets and begins again.
-After the second movement of the Fantasia, a quarter to a third of the audience bursts into applause that lasts several seconds until people realize by Rosen's body language that he's not done.
-Rosen finishes "Fantasia," everyone applauds. Two rounds of bows, then intermission.

The absence of applause after the first piece was not because the audience didn't like the performance. I'll lay double my life savings on that.

Even though the program listing showed the Intermezzo, the program notes didn't mention it, diving instead straight into the middle of a discussion of the differences between the first published, revised version of the Fantasia and Schumann's original version. Dutiful note readers saw the titles of the 3 movements that Schumann originally gave the work (but no movements were noted in the program listing) and must have gotten confused about what was what. They counted three chunks of music, then clapped.

I'm still thinking about why I and other people who knew that the Intermezzo had ended didn't applaud. I guess I'm not used to being the first person to start clapping--I kind of like waiting a breath-length first--and then the longer the silence went on, the harder it became for anyone to be the first to clap. I started thinking that maybe other people knew something I didn't, like he was going to add the last movement of the Faschingsschwank.

In any case, the second half of the program probably erased the awkwardness of the first in the minds of most people. I'm just hung up on the program note thing, maybe because it's so fixable.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The two tenors of Tracey Welborn

First, here's my review of an August concert by the Richmond Chamber Players.  Even though I spent just as much space on the Clarke viola sonata as on "Ten Blake Songs" by Vaughn Williams, I was much more captivated by the latter. Tracey Welborn's voice was a perfect match for the music, words, oboe and space, which was a church sanctuary.

So I was looking forward to hearing him sing again, the tenor solo in Beethoven's Ninth when the RSO performed it in September. My review of that concert is here, but Clarke Bustard's has a more accurate analysis of what was happening with the Ninth.

My sense was that Welborn wasn't a good match with Kevin Deas, the bass. The first is wildflowers, the other lawn. And had the tempo been less "breathless," as Clarke notes, I think Welborn's voice wouldn't have given the impression that he was lost in the hall. I'm looking forward to hearing him sing again under different circumstances.