Friday, February 01, 2008

In which Falstaff goes for a Concert after a month, and Stravinsky mops the floor with Bernstein

Poor Bernstein. It's bad enough that one of last century's finest conductors is now at risk of going down in history as the composer of the insufferable kitsch that is the score to the West Side Story. But when the Philadelphia Orchestra (in yet another of its inspired programming choices) decides to follow the schmaltzy strains of 'Mariaaaaa' (even as rendered by Joshua Bell, who I can't help feeling is a tad overrated [1]) with the genius of Stravinsky's Petrushka, the whole thing just seems too monstrously unfair.

Petrushka, as usual, was pure joy. The vitality, the subversion, the heart-pounding ruthlessness of it all, the orchestra turned into a precision machine, one capable of stopping on a dime, and the sense of being endlessly second guessed (even though you've heard the piece half a dozen times before) that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the performance. Remember how Blake said "Energy is eternal delight". Stravinsky is the best proof of that assertion I can think of.

[1] It's possible I'm being unfair. I thought his performance yesterday was considerably inferior to the other violin soloists I've seen play with the Philadelphia Orchestra this season - Midori, Sarah Chang - but Midori was playing Britten and Chang my beloved Mendelssohn, while Bell was playing Barber and extracts from the West Side Story. You can see why I liked the others better.

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