Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pastoral

You know that feeling when you're sitting with someone you love on a quiet evening, by a fireplace, and you run your fingers fondly through her hair, feeling the smoothness of it, the familiar shape of the skull underneath, the remembered groove of the skin behind her ear? The way you let your fingers linger on nape of her neck and instant longer than necessary, so that that one moment of touch carries with it a lifetime of longing, of intimacy?

That's how Christoph Eschenbach conducted Beethoven's Sixth tonight - like the caress of an old friend. It was a fascinating performance - one that made up in serenity and languor what it lacked in momentum. Here was no surprise, no sudden lark of a note soaring high into the air, instead there was the sense of great calm that is nature's, the sound of it soothing, almost consoling. As though Eschenbach, knowing full well that everyone in his audience would have heard the Sixth before, decided to bring out the nostalgia in Beethoven's symphony, rounding out its edges, accentuating its curves, and giving it a sweet richness of tone. Tonight's performance of that slow movement ranks among the finest I've heard. And if the other movements seemed tame in comparison, but that's a small price to pay.

All in all, an interesting performance (it's always impressive when you go to listen to a piece that's almost hopelessly familiar, and come back with something, anything, you've not heard before). Plus there was the added bonus of a post-concert concert featuring one of the violinists from the Orchestra performing Beethoven's Second Violin Sonata, complete with its Andante piu tosto Allegretto, a heartbreaking gem of a movement - one of Beethoven's finest.

All in all, an evening well spent.

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7 comments:

Hiren said...

The first paragraph is uniquely expressed. As for the rest, I only wish I could appreciate such finer things in life. God does not bestow good taste in everyone unfortunately. People like me are reduced to frivolous poetry. I read somewhere that Beethoven's music was poetry in motion. In that perspective, I stand immobile.

Crp said...

Your post reminds me of an entertaining flame war on a music board I frequent. Many of the participants are old timers -- one of them was an editor of one of the Penguin classical music guides, another was involved in Temirkanov's Mahler project etc -- who have been in the biz for several decades...

The Original post

Flame 1

Flame 2

This is not meant to be a comment on your post at all. Nor do I have a strong opinion on Eschenbach, having heard him live only a couple of times. I just supply the links so you may have a chuckle or two.

Falstaff said...

hiren: Thanks. Though I'm not sure I would ascribe my taste (good or otherwise) to any God.

crp: :-). Good fun. I have to say that I'm not a big fan of Eschenbach in general - though I do think the Orchestra itself is pretty good - some of the performances I've heard with other conductors have been truly spectacular. And yes, I was there for the Clarinet Concerto one of the participants in your flame war mentioned, and I was impressed.

More generally, though, I find that half the time the quality of my experience at any concert is a) overwhelmingly a function of what music they're playing and b) at least as much a function of my own mood / how my day is going as anything the conductor / orchestra can do.

Neela said...

shite. was this part of the subscription series? how come I didn't get it?

n!

Falstaff said...

Neela: yes, it was part of the Friday subscription series - the one you didn't take.

Btw, student rush available for the March 3 NY Philharmonic performance - Brahms' Violin Concerto and Schumann's 4th. Don't say I didn't warn you.

dazedandconfused said...

Nope, you got me! All I have to offer now is to recall the time when after watching the movie 'Amadeus', I spent a couple of days in the relevant Wikipedia sections.

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! »