Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields – Joshua Bell, director and violin. March 18, 2018.

Prudential Hall at NJPAC.  Tier 3 (Seat A147, $57).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture, Op. 21 by Mendelssohn (1809-1847).
Overture for Violin and Orchestra by Meyer (b. 1960).
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 by Wieniawski (1835-1880).
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 (Pastorale) by Beethoven (1770-1827).

Chung Shu got several other people interested in this concert, so there were six of us who attended it together.  Our seats, in the first row in Tier 3, were reasonably close to the stage, and had a good view of it.

Many announcements before a concert at this hall include something like “if you unwrap a candy in Tier 4, the person sitting in row 6 in the orchestra section will hear it.”  I have no reason to doubt that, but what they don’t tell you is the sound would be so muffled that you won’t be able to tell if it is hard or soft candy (somewhat joking here.)  Indeed, we could hear the music without any problems, but the sound was dampened and lacked the liveliness one would expect from a live concert.

This orchestra was started by Sir Neville Marriner in the 1950s, and Joshua Bell is its current director.  Despite having a few records with their performance, and our actual visit to the church (I still remember having coffee in its basement), I had never seen them perform, so was surprised that they did it without a conductor.  When acting as the “concertmaster,” Bell would use these rather large gestures to lead the ensemble, sometimes not playing the first violin lines.  And he would also give the orchestra cues when the solo violin was silent.  A bit of a contrast with Orpheus where the leader doesn’t seem to do as much leading.

It’s also a sizable ensemble.  The number of string players is 8, 6, 4, 4, 2 (violin 1 to bass), and there were four French horns, two flutes and a piccolo (the latter used only a couple of minutes, but the lady sat there during the entire Pastoral Symphony.)

Chung Shu recognized Edgar Meyer’s name as someone who used to play double bass for the New York Philharmonic; he is no longer in the roster.  After a bit over a day I discover I can’t remember any of it, other than it ended with quite a flourish.

My first encounter with the Wieniawski concerto was when I was around 12. Some prodigy student of my violin teacher won the open violin competition in Hong Kong with it.  He had to be around 13 at that time.  To a 12-year old with only a couple of years of violin lessons that was simply awesome.  It didn’t look simple this afternoon, and Bell put in one of the better performances I had seen from him in terms of clarity.  There was not my usual complaint about problems with intonation.  The three movements are: (I) Allegro moderato; (II) Romance; and (III) Allegro con fuoco – Allegro moderato (a la zingara).

There was not as much contrast in the Beethoven symphony as I would like; not sure if that’s the problem of the orchestra or the aforementioned acoustics.  I had enjoyed most of the prior performances I had listened to, but today I found it a bit tedious, the motifs seemed overused.  Perhaps someone could produce an abridged version that is 10 minutes shorter: a heretical statement to fans of Beethoven, I am sure.  And I don’t recall ever seeing the movement markings in German, although I am sure they were originally written in German.  So is the Academy trying to be true to Beethoven, or is it pretentious?

Joshua Bell after performing Wieniawski's Violin Concerto.

In the Program I found only a bio of Bell and a description of the orchestra.  There were no notes on any music.  Both the concerto and the symphony had movements played without pause (let me be pretentious: attacca), and the audience was confused about when to applaud.

Attendance was okay, although there were quite a few empty seats.  This program will be repeated in Lincoln Center.  Using New Jersey as a warm up for the Big Apple works out well for us as going to Princeton and Newark is much easier.

We left church at around 1:40 pm, and got back just after 6 pm.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Jersey Symphony – Xian Zhang, conductor; Montclair State University Singers, Heather J. Buchanan, conductor. March 16, 2018.

Richardson Auditorium in Princeton.  Balcony (Seat GG21, $15).

Ave vernum corpus, K. 618 (1791) by Mozart (1756-1791).
Abendlied for a cappella chorus (1855, rev. 1863) by Rheinberger (1839-1901).
Flame for a capella chorus (2011) by Parry (b. 1965).
Requiem, K. 626 (1791) by Mozart (compl. Sussmayr).

Soloists: Emily Pogorelc, soprano; Kendra Broom, mezzo-soprano; Roy Hage, tenor; Dugukan Kuran, baritone.

Tonight’s program was relatively short at about 75 minutes total.  The Requiem is about 50 minutes in duration, and the other pieces a few minutes each.

Both Ave vernum corpus and the Requiem were written during Mozart’s last year of life.  In fact Zhang explained that Mozart’s contribution to the Mass stops at “Lacrimosa,” and that the orchestra would pause for a bit before it continued.  The Program Notes was a bit less clear, as Sussmayr evidently concluded the piece with what Mozart had for the beginning.  Probably still a raging debate among Mozart musicologists, but the piece sounded coherent enough for my untrained ears.  I could tell there was a change in style (timber, richness, etc) from Mozart to Sussmayr, but that sensitivity was no doubt suggested by Zhang’s comments.

Within a couple of minutes Anne decided Montclair students don’t sing as well as Westminster students.  I took a bit longer to come to the same conclusion.  The sopranos sounded very strained on the high notes, and there were problems with precision.  On the other hand, the average age was a tender 20, per Zhang.

The soloists are all voice students from Curtis, which evidently requires the students to mention full scholarships are given to them, and what scholarship it is.  The soprano has a clear but unrefined voice, the baritone was weak on the low notes (perhaps expected?).

The pieces by Joseph Rheinberger and Ben Parry were both sung a capella.  Abendlied is based on Luke 24:29 “bide with us, for evening shadows darken, and the day will soon be over.”  Ben Parry is a young British composer.  The lyrics were by Garth Bardsley and is Buddhist in nature: happiness never decreases by being shared.  I don’t know of any religion that would say this is not true, though.  The lights were dimmed for Parry’s piece, and then one “candle” appeared and the light was passed on to the entire chorus.  One way to illustrate the point, a bit cheesy for me.

At the conclusion of the concert.  Front of stage from L to R: Kuran, Hage, Broom, Porgorelc, Buchanan.

Despite my misgivings, I enjoyed the concert.

These tickets were bought at $15 each when they were on sale on Thanksgiving Day. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monmouth Civic Chorus – Ryan James Brandau, conductor; Kate Maroney, guest artist. March 11, 2018.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, Long Branch, NJ.  (Reserved seating, $30).


I found the Program Notes quite useful in understanding the different songs.

This is the second of the three concerts to MCC that we have tickets to, as our friends’ daughter Jennifer sings in the chorus.

 Our Lady Star of the Sea is a Catholic Church located in Long Branch, NJ.

Kate Maroney and Ryan Brandau after performance of The House of Clouds by Colin Britt.

Many of the songs for this afternoon aren’t easy, requiring a good grasp of modern tonality.  Overall the choir did a credible job.

Maroney, a mezzo-soprano originally from Toms River, sang with a clear voice.  She was the soloist in the first song, and a few lines in the last.

Brandau explained that many of the ensemble pieces were volunteered by members of the chorus.  The standard there varied from ensemble to ensemble, which is to be expected.

The Program Notes contains a good discussion on each song, which I appreciate.  It is certainly a great improvement on prior Program Notes from the organization.

The Homs and we had dinner at this new Chinese restaurant in Hazlet (called UJ Jia).  We were told that the choir members had to pay for their own music, and that orchestra members were paid for their services.  I guess the love of music can be costly.

New Jersey Symphony – Xian Zhang, conductor; Sara Daneshpour, piano. March 10, 2018.

Count Basie Theater, Red Bank, NJ.  Balcony (Seat E111, $38).

Selections from the Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66a (1888-89) by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).
Carnival of the Ancients for Piano and Orchestra (2016) by Danielpour (b. 1956).
Sifonia concertante in B-flat Major, H. I:105 (1792) by Haydn (1732-1809).
Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (1876) by Tchaikovsky.

Musicians for the Sinfonia concertante: Eric Wyrick, violin; Jonathan Spitz, cello; Robert Igliss, oboe; Robert Wagner, bassoon.

This was a concert in the NJSO’s Red Bank series, so I got the tickets without really examining the program. This turns out to be an interesting and diverse program; I enjoyed it very much.

Sleeping Beauty is of course a well-known piece of ballet music.  It set the mood that tonight’s program was of the “sit back and relax” variety.  Which would be fine by me.

Both Richard Danielpour and Sara Daneshpour are born in the US from parents of Iranian descent.  Zhang had a short interview with Danielpour before the start of his piece.  He mentioned that “Ancients” was a reference to the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) which was an important piece of literature to Persians, akin to how Dante’s Divine Comedy is to Italians.  The last of the four movements was Danielpour’s own invention where the spirits of the great Persian poets dance in paradise.  In addition to heaping praises on Zhang, the NJSO, and Daneshpour, he also mentioned his composition “idols” of Mozart, Bartok, and Debussy.  Thrown in the mix was him learning how to compose under Leonard Bernstein.  This piece was commissioned by the NJSO and these performances are the world premiere.

It was easy to notice the large array of percussion instruments used in the orchestra.  Copying from the Program Notes: an extensive percussion battery (glockenspiel, crotales, two chimes, vibraphone, marimba xylophone, wood block, guir, slapstick, snare drum, triangle, two sets of tom toms, tam tam, two bass drums, cymbals, nipple gongs, Almglocken, two water gongs.)  For good measure a harp was thrown in.

The amazing thing is the piano was never overwhelmed by this huge array of percussion instruments.  My first impression of the piece is it is like a Philip Glass composition, but on steroids.  The themes are pounded out with more vigor, and there was more overall contrast from segment to segment, but the themes get repeated over and over again, and there were few abrupt changes of pace.  My lament is again there are so few opportunities to listen to these contemporary compositions that one can’t dig deeper into the music.  It was a pleasant enough 20 minutes, though.  The movements are Simurgh; Rostam Fights the Dragon; Sohrab and Rostam; The Poet’s Celebration.

Zhang, Daneshpour, and Danielpour on stage after Carnival of the Ancients. 

Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante is a delightful piece that placed the listener in a calm and collected mode.  The soloists, principals of the different orchestra sections, produced clear and well-coordinated lines.  The string instruments had to reach very high notes, and there were occasional intonation problems.  Overall it was well-performed.  As it usually is with Haydn, there were little surprised interspersed in the work which would often brought a chuckle from me. The three movements are Allegro, Andante, and Allegro con spirito.

Wyrick, Spitz, Ingliss, and Wagner after performing Haydn's Sinfonia concertante.

Francesca da Rimini finds its origin in Dante’s Inferno.  She was in love with Paolo but was forced into marry with his brother Giovanni.  When the latter discovered the two lover in an embrace, he kills them both.  Dante encounters Francesca in the second circle of hell (Canto V).  Tchaikovsky quotes 22 lines of the poem in his score, and the Program Notes has a good description of the music.  For me the most memorable was the ascending and descending passage, although I can’t tell what “incident” it refers to. I wish I had done more preparation for this.

We plan to see the opera (by Zandonai) in Milan in May – if we can get tickets – during our trip to Europe.  I look forward to it.

Again, I found this concert quite enjoyable, even though there were problems here and there.

We went to Hoboken in the afternoon and drove straight down to Red Bank.  We didn’t have time for a proper dinner, so we grabbed something quick at the Dunkin Donuts in town.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Metropolitan Opera – Strauss’s Elektra. March 9, 2018.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center.  Balcony (Seat B111, $110.50).

Story.  Klytamnestra plotted with Aegisth to murder her husband Agamemnon, and their daughter Elektra constantly mourns her father’s death and vows to avenge him.  Her sister Chrysothemis doesn’t want to kill, despite all of her pleading.  News reaches them that their brother Orest is dead.  When Elektra is beginning to lose hope, a stranger shows up and is in fact Orest in disguise.  He kills Klytamnestra, and also Aegisth when the latter shows up.  Elektra celebrates by dancing in silence until she dies.

Conductor – Yannick Nezet-Seguin.  Elektra – Christine Goerke, Klytamnestra – Michaela Schuster, Chrysothemis – Elza van den Heever, Orest – Dwayne Croft, Aegisth – Jay Hunter Morris.

Yesterday’s opera is about the tragic life of Cio-cio-san.  Today’s about the equally tragic life of Elektra.  Madama Butterfly rises and falls on the shoulder of its main character, so does Elektra.  There the similarities end.

Elektra is based on the Sophocles tragedy Electra, although it glosses over why Agamemnon is killed in the first place – he murdered his child.  Thus in the opera there is every reason to avenge the killing of Agamemnon.

While Butterfly is expected to show a range of emotions, for Elektra is the desire to exact revenge.  And in this case Goerke is expected to sing at the top of her lungs most of the time.  She doesn’t leave the stage from her first entrance early in the opera.  Comparison with Hamlet is quite appropriate, although Elektra isn’t the person to do the killings.

A full orchestra is used for the opera, and Goerke manages to get herself heard, most of the time.  Similarly, van den Heever and Shuster put in stellar performances.  Croft as Orest sounds weak when the orchestra is playing.

The Playbill has a very useful description of the techniques used by Strauss to convey the different characters: a crashing motif represents Agamemnon; the short, broken phrases of Aegisth (who did very little singing); the approachable, attractive music of Chrysothemis; the corrupt lines that hover between identifiable keys of Klytamnestra; and the pathological obsession of Elektra as her music returns inevitably to the Agamemon motif.  Too bad I didn’t get any of that, perhaps some book study is in order.

One thing I did get, there was some hint of Der Rosenkavalier towards the end.

Nezet-Seguin taking a bow as the cast looks on.

Madama Butterfly premiered in 1904, and Elektra in 1909.  It is amazing how different the operas sound.  I can’t tell, but wonder if the same level of difference exists in music written today.

I enjoyed reading the New York Times review, which heaps praise on Goerke and Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, for making this possible.  The reviewer also has a lot of good things to say about Nezet-Seguin.

Goerke will be singing the role of Brunnhilde in the Met’s ring cycles in 2019.  We are seriously considering attending one of them.

Today’s traffic was much heavier than yesterday’s.  The opera started at 8 pm, which allowed us time to eat at East Szechuan.  The upstairs area is now very small, part of that being converted into a shop (with a separate entrance.)  Let’s hope it doesn’t go the way of China Fun and Ollie’s.

Metropolitan Opera – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. March 8, 2018.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center.  Orchestra (Seat CC32, $25).

Story.  See previous post.

Conductor – Marco Armiliato.  Pinkerton – Roberto Aronica, Goro – Tony Stevenson, Suzuki – Maria Zifchak, Sharpless – Roberto Frontali, Cio-Cio-San – Ermonela Jaho.

Projection on curtain at the end of the opera.

The “previous post” referenced above is from 2006, a good 12 years ago.  A search of my blog shows my first entry referenced having seen this opera before, and Anne and I recall seeing only the one by New York City Opera.  One reason for the story being so familiar has to be its simplicity, and perhaps also its lasting impression on the audience.  I remember listening to WQXR a couple of weeks ago.  The broadcasters must have seen or heard this multiple times, yet their voices broke when they described the synopsis of Act III.

The set is easy to describe, yet the sceneries – such as they are – are captivating.  What we have is an empty stage with steps in the back that also turn into a slope.  Different screens are moved around to denote rooms and doors, and on a couple of occasions people would disappear behind them in a bit of magic.  Most (or all) of the time they are moved by people in dark clothing; the idea is for the audience to ignore them, although that is a bit difficult to do.  Above the stage is a huge reflective panel that provides another view of the stage which is lit with a lighting system that moves.  Strings of reflective pieces are used to denote stars and also act as a curtain.

So in the hands of a clever set designer simplicity works.  Today's set worked much better than what we saw in Semiramide.

The other WQXR bit I remember is when this set first came out (it was the 2006-07 season) their was a description of these puppets.  I thought marionettes, but I was wrong. Turns out these are large articulated “objects” (for lack of a better term) moved around by three people in dark clothing.  Both Anne and I didn’t think it worked, especially with Butterfly’s child.  The head of the child is close to being grotesque – Chucky, anyone?  Most of the time it was difficult to ignore the puppeteers, I pity the one who had to bend down all the time to move the child’s feet.  I did like the sequence when the child slept in Butterfly’s lap and the three puppeteers knelt behind him; it was surprisingly touching.  The other puppet was used in the ballet scene in Act III.  It was dressed as Cio-cio-san.

The singing was uniformly excellent.  I especially like how “un bel di vedremo” was sung.  Our seats were in the back of the auditorium, so it was only when I used binoculars that I found Jaho unconvincing as a teenager (perhaps no mature singer can get away with this.)  However, her singing carried the show, from “ethereal” to “resigned” (among the adjectives used in the Playbill.)

Curtain call.  This is basically the set.

One surprise was how “oriental” a lot of the music sounded.  Equally surprising was the two tunes most people know about (“humming chorus” being the other one) didn’t sound that oriental.

The gentleman sitting in front had Italian on the screen, and the bird “robin” is “pettirosso” (red-breasted bird.”  Interesting only because at one point I learned some Italian so I could understand these operas better.

I couldn’t find a review in the New York Times, but the writer of the Operawire review loved Jaho.

There was a winter storm that swept through the area the day before (Wednesday) and we were a bit worried what the street conditions would be like.  Nonetheless we decided to drive in.  The streets were clear, and we had no problems with finding parking.  Also, attendance was quite good.

Dinner was at Europan.  Traffic home was unexpected busy on our way home.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden, conductor; Yuja Wang, piano. March 1, 2018.

David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.  Orchestra 2 (Seat CC106, $62.50).

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 (1858) by Brahms (1833-97).
Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100 (1944) by Prokofiev (1891-1953).

The concert is exciting for two reasons.  First is the soloist, who is always a sensation when she performs; second is the conductor, the director-designate of the Philharmonic.

The program is both aggressive and conservative.  Aggressive in that both pieces are difficult pieces, the concerto for the pianist (no cakewalk for the orchestra either), and the symphony is a complex work. Both challenge the stamina and technique of the musicians. Yet it is conservative as the works are in the standard repertoire (for a virtuoso and world-class ensemble, that is.)

Our seats had good acoustics, and a relatively good view of the stage.  The orchestra was arranged a bit differently, and some musicians were placed on platforms so they could see the conductor better.  The people sitting in front were tall, so I did have a somewhat blocked view.

Brahms’s first piano concerto is often described as muscular, stormy, and tumultuous.  It was all that in the hands of Wang.  It was always amazing how easy she made the piece look, and how well she worked the rather large orchestra, and how strong she can make a passage sound.  As usual, her performance was dazzling and mesmerizing.  She clearly enjoyed the energy from the audience as well, performing two encores.  One showed off her power at the keyboard, the other (Chopinesque) how tender and playful she could make the music sound.

Yet I was disappointed. The definitive performance of Wang’s that I heard was Ravel’s Concerto in G, which brought a level of insight to the piece that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.  While today’s performance was as good as any I had heard, there were for me no “ah, that’s why Brahms meant” moments in it.  To be fair, this Brahms concerto is not high on my list of favorite piano concertos.

Yuja Wang after performing Brahms's first piano conerto.

I would give the same assessment to the Prokofiev symphony which is a test of how well an orchestra works with its conductor.  Other than some jitters in the beginning which resulted in a bit of (slight) confusion, the orchestra seemed to work well with van Zweden.  And he took pains to acknowledge the individual sections of the orchestra.  Still, the rendition wasn’t at the “wow, I didn’t realize Prokofiev was trying to say that!” level.

After the performance of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony.  Note the slot in the back of the stage; a camera was pointing at the stage throughout the performance.

There were microphones around the stage, indicating that this performance was being recorded.  However, one could see a camera in the slot behind the stage; I found it distracting, and wonder if that added to the tentativeness in the beginning.

The New York Times review was “middling,” the reviewer liked the Prokofiev more than the Brahms, blaming the apparent need for van Zweden to “warm up.”  The audience, on the other hand, was enthusiastic.  There were more empty seats than I expected, though.

We visited our grandkids in Hoboken before we drove in for the concert.  Parking on Columbus cost all of $0.50.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Metropolitan Opera – Rossini’s Semiramide. February 28, 2018.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center.  Balcony (Seat C109, $110.50).

Story.  Semiramide, queen of Babylon, together with Assur, murdered her husband Nino.  Their son Arsace returns from victory in battle.  He and Indian Prince Idreno are in love with Princess Azema, Assur would like to marry Semiramide, and the queen loves Arsace (she doesn’t know Arsace is her son).  The queen announces that Azema is to marry Idreno while she will marry Arsace, which leaves many peple in despair.  The priest Oroe tells Arsace of his father’s murder, and informs him of his duty to avenge, but Arsace doesn’t want to kill his own mother.  Assur appears in the vault underneath Assur’s tomb, with Arsace already hiding there.  When Arsace strikes, he kills Semiramide by accident as she also entered the tomb.  Assur is arrested, and Arsace wants to commit suicide.  He is stopped by the people who also implore Arsace to be their king.

Conductor – Gareth Morrell.  Oroe – Ryan Speedo Green; Idreno – Robert McPherson (replacing Javier Camarena); Assur – Ildar Abdrazakov; Semiramide – Angela Meade; Arsace – Elizabeth DeShong; Azema – Sarah Shafer.

There were two main reasons why I picked this as part of our season’s subscription: one was that I had never seen Semiramide, the other was Angela Meade, who impressed in other operas I had seen.

I was disappointed on both counts.

First, about Angela Meade.  She sang with her usual clarity and force, and her voice was as good as usual.  The disappointment is her inability to act the role in a believable matter.  Semiramide is a complex character, she is sinister, na├»ve, and vulnerable at different times.  Meade did the arias, duets, and trios well, but the best way to characterize her acting is “wooden.”  Also, she looks too young to be an Semiramide.  (She is 40, but looks younger.)

Regardless of how “great” the Playbill makes Semiramide - it was the “culmination” of the Italian phase of Rossini’s career, it was “epic,” there are “achievements unique to the score” – the fact is what we saw was the Met’s 31st production, and the set is from 1990.

The set is quite simple, and the designer doesn’t even try to depict what Babylon’s Hanging Gardens look like.

I knew none of the tunes in the opera.  Given how singable many of the tunes are, I do wonder why.  Solo arias turned out to be the exception, most of the numbers are ensembles, which the singers did well.

Rossini’s choice of a mezzo-soprano voice to depict Azema was quite interesting, as I am sure a tenor would foot the bill equally well.  DeShong was believable as Azema despite my confusion with a trouser role.  Her voice lacked the refinement I expect from a well-seasoned singer, though.

 The curtain was raised briefly at the end of the opera.  I managed to get this shot of the stage.

From left: Robert McPherson as Idreno, Elizabeth DeShong as Arsace, Angela Meade as Semiramide, Conductor Gareth Morrell, Ildar Abdrazakov as Assur, Sarah Shafer as Azema, and Ryan Speedo Green as Oroe.

When a friend asked me about the opera, I told him it was a bit slow, and a bit too long.  That was particularly so for Act 1 (each act contains several scenes).  Perhaps my jet lagged state contributed to how I perceived the piece, but I found Act 2 much more compelling.

The New York Times review calls the opera “unglamorous but excellent” in its title, and reminds me that Abdrazakov’s voice is weak at the lower registers.  It also mentions that 45 minutes have been cut from the original score.

We drove in, and bought dinner at a food truck.  It was a bit cold this evening, so we ate at the Rubinstein Atrium.  We also met up with Chung Shu and a few others in Lincoln Plaza, they were there to see a New York Philharmonic concert.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

New Jersey Symphony – Rune Bergmann, conductor; Marianne Beate Kielland, mezzo-soprano. February 24, 2018.

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick.  Rear Orchestra (Seat S101, $33.)

Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nurmberg by Wagner.
Songs of a Wayfarer by Mahler.
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68, by Brahms.

Anne had commitments in Chinese New Year celebrations at a local senior center and at church, so while she was busy cooking and putting final touches to the programs, I went to this concert by myself.  And Joe Jr and family are in town, so I left them at our house also.

I misplaced the Program booklet for this concert, so have to work some of this from memory.  Bergmann is a Norwegian conductor who now leads several small(ish) orchestras including the Calgary Symphony, he is described as “imposing and energetic.”  “Imposing” could mean his height, he is at least a head taller than Wyrick, and conducted without a podium.

Wagner’s Meistersinger, which we saw within the last couple of years, is also interesting in a couple of other regards.  Composed on a break between the ring cycle operas, it is nevertheless quite tonal, and is based on a human story rather than Nordic and other legends.  The Program Notes (as I remember it) says there are three themes which Wagner wove together neatly towards the end.  I could hear the themes, but didn’t quite get the weaving part.

After this 9-minute piece, Bergmann talked a little about the program and how compassionate each of the pieces was.  He also introduced Kielland as someone who swims in the ocean every day, which is interesting.  Even more unbelievable though, is that she lives in Northern Norway.

Mahler wrote a suite of six songs after he was rejected by a Johanna Richter.  It was originally written for voice and piano, and was eventually condensed to four, with full orchestration.  The titles of the four songs are a good indication of the mood: when my sweetheart is married; I went this morning over the field; I have a gleaming knife; and The two blue eyes of my beloved.  Kielland conveyed the resignation, sadness, and anger quite well, except every now and then the full orchestra would overwhelm her low notes.  NJPAC is considerably more voluminous than the State Theatre, I wonder how well she would fare then.  The Program Notes pointed out the similarities between the songs (especially the second and the fourth) with Mahler’s first symphony.  The second song’s connection was obvious to me, the fourth escaped me.

Kielland and Bergmann after the performance of Songs of a Wayfarer.  My hands were not steady at all as I was trying to do this quickly before the ushers showed up to stop the photo-taking.

It is well known that Brahms heard “Beethoven’s footsteps behind him” and took 20 years to publish his first symphony.  But it is a great symphony.  The fourth movement, of course, contains a very familiar melody that is reminiscent of Beethoven’s Ninth.  Wyrick had to do some solo passages, which he did beautifully.  The four movements are (i) Un poco sostenuto - allegro - meno allegro; (ii) Andante sostenuto; (iii) Un poco allegretto e grazioso; and (iv) Adagio - Piu andante - Allegro non troppo, ma con brio - Piu allegro.  (Note: these movement markings are from Wikipedia, and not from the Program Notes.)

Bergmann after the Brahms Symphony.

Again the attendance was not good.  Today was college night, and students from several colleges were present.

As concerts go, this was a good one.