Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Metropolitan Opera – Verdi’s Falstaff. December 21, 2013.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center – Family Circle (Seat G204, $47.50.)

Story.  See previous post.

Conductor – James Levine; Dr. Caius – Carlo Bosi, Sir John Falstaff – Nicola Alaimo, Bardolfo – Keith Jameson, Pistola – Christian van Horn, Meg Page – Jennifer Johnson Cano, Alice Ford – Angela Meade, Mistress Quickly – Stephanie Blythe, Nannetta – Lisette Oropesa, Fenton – Paolo Fanale, Ford – Franco Vassallo.

Anne and I saw an NYCO production of this opera in 2008, I frankly didn’t remember much about that experience.  A review of the blog entry reveals my generally positive experience with the performance.

I got a ticket for today’s show for several reasons.  James Levine has returned to limited duties as a conductor, I would like to see how he does.  Anne has a meeting in Flushing in the afternoon so I wanted to have something to do.  Finally, there were still a few reasonable seats (price and location) left when I enquired about the performance.

My seat didn’t provide a good view of the orchestra pit, so I don’t know if Levine was already seated when the performance began.  There was a prolonged applause for the audience, probably a show of support and appreciation for the return of the maestro.

Levine generally led a crisp and spirited performance.  The singing carried well into where I was seated.  My one issue is with the balance of the voices.  Stephanie Blythe has such a strong voice that made all the others sound relatively weak in comparison.  I sometimes wonder if for the sake of the overall performance if she should dial it down a little.  This reminds of my remark about Domingo who as Giorgio in La Traviata really impressed with being such a great “team player.”  Nonetheless, the great voices of the other singers managed to come through.  I was especially impressed with Oropesa in the role of Nanetta.  In some ways her voice outshone those of Meade and Cano.

The sets here are quite elaborate compared to what I remembered of the NYCO production.  The gentleman (from South Africa) sitting next to me and I were both wondering if Falstaff was in the laundry basket was inside when its contents got dumped from the window.  We both decided there had to be a trap door.

There was quite a bit of ensemble music, and often I couldn’t tell who was singing which line.  This was compounded by the fact that the LED panel for subtitles was in my direct line of sight to the stage, making the words difficult to read.  So I lost some of the timing.  I have to say the translator did a great job, as the lines often rhyme.  (Perhaps Shakespeare wrote it that way?)

All the misgivings notwithstanding, this was a delightful performance.  Falstaff gestured to the orchestra pit as Levine couldn’t make it up to the stage.  The applause was enthusiastic, deservedly.  The New York Times review is uncharacteristically lengthy, going into many aspects of the production and the cast.  The reviewer thought there may have been some opening night jitters; if those are settled in subsequent shows, he thinks the opera will “enter the annals of opera history.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

New York Philharmonic – Andrew Manze, conductor. December 18, 2013.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.  Orchestra 2 (Seat Q1, $40.)

Messiah (1741) by Handel (1685-1759).

Joelle Harvey, soprano; Tamara Mumford, mezzo-soprano; Allan Clayton, tenor; Matthew Rose, Bass
Westminster Symphonic Choir, Joe Miller, Director
Continuo: Eric Bartlett, cello; Satoshi Okamoto, bass; Kim Laskowski, Bassoon; Kent Tritle, organ; Paolo Bordignon, harpsichord
Matthew Muckey, trumpet

We got these rather good seats at half-price from Goldstar.  The Philharmonic is repeating this program five times, many other organizations are also performing the Messiah this time of the year, it is quite amazing the attendance is still pretty good.  And evidently the audience is not limited to Christians. For example, quite a few people were wearing yarmulkas.  It is either the holiday spirit, or people are there for the great music.

Even though today is another “gridlock alert” day, we decided to drive in as taking the train would mean getting home after midnight.  We left at about 4:15 pm and got to the West Side at around 5:30 pm.  And we found free off-street parking.  With the closure of China Fun and Ollie’s, we weren’t sure where to grab a quick dinner.  We did find a Chinese restaurant serving “Szechuan” food on 72th.

The full Messiah is over 2 hours long.  I think for tonight’s performance they skipped some sections, and the entire program, including a 30-minute intermission, was a little less than 2 ½ hours.  About half an hour into the program, the conductor paused.  At first we were wondering what was happening, it turns out they were letting late comers come in.  Some people were complaining, shouting “apologize to the orchestra;” others were saying “it’s alright.”  New York Philharmonic’s usual practice would be to have the late comers miss the entire first half.  In this tug-of-war between not disturbing something in progress and being accommodating, I usually go with the former – I have been denied entrance a few times. This is the Christmas season, so perhaps we can be a bit more generous.  The interruption did affect the artists a bit, in my opinion; they eventually recovered though.

I went with the aim of just enjoying this great composition, and managed to do that.  All the soloists did well.  The only one I heard before was Mumford who I remember as one of the Rhinemaidens in the recent Ring Cycle.  The choir consisted (mostly) of college students, and did well technically.  Though Manze conducted with enthusiasm, he also elicited a controlled performance from the artists.  I would have preferred one that was a bit freer; but have no issue with how he interpreted it.

The Playbill gives a description of the three sections of the oratorio: (1) the prophecy of Christ’s coming and the circumstances of his birth; (2) the vicissitudes of his life on earth; and (3) the events surrounding the Resurrection and the promise of redemption.  Evidently Handel finished the entire composition in three weeks.  It also talks about the various theories on why people stand up for the “Hallelujah Chorus,” and says “in the spirit of democracy we leave it up to [the individual.]” All the soloists stood up, and most in the audience did also.  The gentleman wearing the yarmulke didn’t, Anne didn't stand up, and in solidarity I remained in my seats  Afterwards Anne explained to me her back was hurting so she didn’t want to aggravate it by jumping up.

Our trip back home was uneventful.  There was a little bit of a tie-up on 12th, turns out it was due to cars lining up for the car wash, a first for us.

(Note added Jan 17.)  I didn't expect to find a New York Times review on this oft-repeated program, but here it is.  The reviewer enjoyed especially the soloist, although she had good things to say about everyone, except those who chose to leave early, and the person who coughed throughout one of the arias.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Metropolitan Opera – Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. December 13, 2013.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center – Balcony (Seat B116, $100.50.)

Conductor – Edward Gardner; Octavian – Daniela Sindram, The Marshallin (Princess von Werdenberg) – Martina Serafin, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau – Runi Brattaberg, Annina – Jane Henschel, Valzacchi – Hohn Graham-Hall, Faninal – Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, Sophie – Erin Morley.

Story.  Octavian is asked by Baron Ochs to deliver a silver rose to Sophie as a token for their engagement.  Octavian and Sophie fall in love when they see each other.  Sophie then finds out Baron Ochs is a crude older fellow and doesn’t want to marry him.  A scheme is then hatched to get the Baron in a compromising situation and he leaves the scene, thus allowing Octavian and Sophie’s relationship to continue.  There are a couple of side stories also.  One is that Octavian was originally the lover of the older Marshallin who accepts and encourages Octavian to be with Sophie.  Also, Sophie’s father Faninal really wanted his daughter to marry into royalty and was willing to give up a lot, including her happiness, to do so.  He eventually changed his mind.

There is this reference to too much of a good thing.  And then there is, simply, too much of a thing.  Today is somewhat in the latter category.  A 4 ½ opera following a 45 minute tone poem by Strauss will make one feel that.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

We had a few hours between the New York Philharmonic concert and this Opera, so we went down to Chinatown, walked around a bit, had a simple dinner, and it was time to head back.  I seldom go to Chinatown nowadays, it seems to be much cleaner and orderly than the Chinatown I remembered.  Perhaps the below-freezing temperature was a cause?  Luckily it wasn’t windy.

The concert didn’t start on an auspicious note.  First we were handed these small slips saying both the roles of Octavian and Baron Ochs would be sung by substitutes, the singers originally programmed (Geraldine Chauvet and Peter Rose) were ill.  There was another substitution announced on stage, the Singer Eric Cutler would be replaced (I forget the replacement’s name, one with a Chinese name.)  There were quite a few empty seats at 7 pm, the start time.  Perhaps to be expected as this was the last performance for this opera this season, this was the year-end shopping season, and it was very cold.  The orchestra was seated, but nothing happened for 15 or so minutes.  A couple of announcements came on to say the concert would be delayed due to technical problems with the set, and that the show would commence “in a few minutes.”  All in all the start was delayed by about 30 minutes, resulting in an end time of around midnight.  On the bright side, I got to finish the Synopsis and the Program Notes.

I had not slept well the last few evenings due to a lingering cough, and Anne started the day at 9 am.  We both had to work hard to stay awake during the first Act.  I eventually conquered my sleepiness; I am quite sure Anne kept dozing off despite being able to sit quite still.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t get to enjoy some aspects of the opera.  The opera is mainly a comedy, and as comedic operas go it is reasonably effective.  As the Playbill says, some elements are slapstick, some are more subtle; and I find the slapsticks one quite tastefully done.  But there are a couple of other aspects illustrated by the “side stories.”  One was the Princess’s resignation and acceptance of her inability to hang on to Octavian due to her being much older than him; this was done with a moving poignancy.  The other was how snobbish the Baron was and how Faninal was willing to sacrifice her daughter’s happiness to move up the societal ladder.

The music was uncharacteristically easy to listen to, and the orchestra put in a great performance.  The well-known waltz from this opera, it turns out, is an adaptation as an orchestral piece (evidently done with the blessing of Strauss).  In the opera it was never played from start to finish; we only get various snippets of it, mostly associated with the Baron.  It is a good thing that this waltz was not the only reason we wanted to see this opera.

The singing was surprisingly weak, with a few exceptions.  I do not know the last-minute replacements, perhaps they are great singers in their own right, but both Octavian and the Baron sounded a bit on the wooden side.  The low notes sung by the Baron actually didn’t carry at all into the balcony.  There are many singing roles (I only listed what I consider the main characters), and the substitute for Eric Cutler did quite well, although he had only two passages.

The role of Octavian, a young lad of seventeen, is sung by a mezzo-soprano.  He (she?) sings many duets and trios with the two leading ladies, and I find the arrangement very confusing.  To make things worse, Octavian at some point disguised himself as a chambermaid.  So you have a situation where a woman playing the role of the man disguising himself as a woman – I think I got that right – and I was hopelessly lost.  And the costumse didn’t try to conceal the fact that the artist is a woman either.

The Playbill talks about a “famous final trio, a gorgeous blend of female voices that is among the supreme accomplishments of lyric theater,” which I unfortunately don’t quite appreciate to such a degree.  A couple of other interesting tidbits: one is the pause between “younger” and “prettier” that reflects the Princess’s mindset, I think it is lost in translation; the other is the words “ja, ja” added by Strauss so the Princess gets to say something in a particular scene, that I got.

The three sets used are all traditional, depicting the opulence of Vienna at the time.  And the costumes were also period, which I appreciated.  However, there were very few moving parts to the sets other than curtains and doors, so I couldn’t figure out what the technical programs at the beginning could possibly be.  Anne overheard during intermission that the sets are about 50 years old (actually they were first used in 1969, per the New York Times), that may explain all the nail pounding we heard between acts.

So my reaction to the opera is mixed.  What I couldn’t tell was whether it was the performance or my not being as sharp as I could be.  For the few people who read this blog that think I am over-critical, my remarks are downright enthusiastic compared to the gentleman sitting in front of me.  He thought the artists could neither sing nor act.  The New York Times review of an earlier performance (with many different cast members) was effusive.  Perhaps I should see this again (and I can hear Anne saying “noooooo.”)

Given the late start and the length of the opera, and that there was still much traffic in New York City at midnight, it was well past 1 am when we got home.

New York Philharmonic – Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, conductor. December 13, 2013.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.  Orchestra 1 (Seat G111, $46.25.)

Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93 (1811-1812) by Beethoven (1770-1827).
Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), Op. 40 (1897-98) by R. Strauss (1864-1949).

Today is going to be a double-header.  For various reasons – one of which is to avoid NYC gridlock during the holiday season - we decided to move our tickets for Der Rosenkavalier to coincide with this afternoon concert.  It ended up being a rather long day, especially for Anne: she left the house at 9 am for her class, and didn’t get home until 1 am.  More on that in the next blog.

James Keller, the New York Philharmonic program annotator, can’t seem to make up his mind whether there are real distinctions between Beethoven’s odd- and even-numbered symphonies; for today’s notes he uses the term “more intimate celebrations.”  However, it is quite clear that the Eighth didn’t catch on as quickly as Beethoven’s other symphonies, one factor was it had the “misfortune” of being premiered together with the Sixth and Seventh.

If I had been a music critic at that time, I would have a hard time finding things not to like about the symphony.  It was generally light-hearted, with nice tunes, and – to the modern ear – easy to follow, even though it may be have radical for its time.  All in all, a great appetizer for today's concert.  The four movements are Allegro vivace e con brio, Allegretto scherzando, Tempo di Menuetto, and Allegro vivace.

I consider Strauss a difficult composer for the average audience member (i.e., me), and find it interesting that he is quite popular among concert programmers.  I have seen three of his operas (Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Egyptische Helena, and Capriccio), and each time came away scratching my head to various degrees.  His tone poems (Also sprach Zarathustra being the latest one) are a bit easier to grasp, especially if there are programs associated with them.

It speaks to Strauss's ego that he thought it was time to write a musical tribute to himself at age 34.  The 45 or so minute piece is performed non-stop and spans the hero’s entire life: The Hero – The Hero’s Adventures – The Hero’s Companion – The Hero’s Deeds of War – The Hero’s Works of Peace – The Hero’s Retirement.  Even though that was the extent of the program, the differences from one section to the other were marked enough that I could tell what part of his life I was listening to.  Even though a large orchestra was used – including “an imposing 18-member brass section” – I didn’t find the music particularly loud, especially given our seats in the front.  And I didn’t notice our violist using her earplugs either.

The concertmaster had quite a few solos to play, mostly in The Hero’s Companion section.  The passages are quite difficult.  Glenn Dicterow didn’t have any trouble with the technique, although I continue to quibble with his sound.

From my prior blogs I noticed that I had heard de Burgos conduct about a year ago.  He evidently used a chair at that concert, but got up quite often.  I also remarked that he was in his early eighties.  Turns out he turned 80 earlier this year.  And whatever ailed him last year went away: he stood, and did his job with gusto and lots of rather exaggerated arm movements.  There is an article in the Playbill where many NY Phil players sang his praises.  I am sure that is all true.

The New York Times review was a bit critical on how The Hero’s Life was performed, but loved how Dicterow played.  The reviewer also made the remark that the Philharmonic’s sound has turned “bright and unsubtle, with a glimmer of metal.”  I wonder if I would notice the change if I pay more attention.

Friends of Mozart: Chamber Music on Period Instruments. December 11, 2013.

Christ and St. Stephens Episcopal Church, W 69th Street, New York.

Trio in G major, K. 564, for fortepiano, violin, and cello (1786) by W. A. Mozart (1756-1791).
Sonata in A major, K. 526, for fortepiano and violin (1787).
Trio in B-flat major, K. 502, for fortepiano, violin, and cello (1786).

Theresa Salomon, violin.
Lindy Clarke, cello.
Yi-heng Yang, fortepiano.

We went up with Agnes, Eric, and Kimberly.  The drive back took quite a while.

Friday, December 06, 2013

New York Philharmonic – David Zinman, conductor; Richard Goode, piano. December 5, 2013.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.  Orchestra 2 (Seat Q20, $22.)

Three Studies from Couperin (2006) by Thomas Ades (b. 1971).
Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major, K.456 (1784) by Mozart (1756-91).
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, Scottish (1840-42) by Mendelssohn (1809-47).

Going to this concert was a last-minute decision.  Goldstar had them at half price, and the seats we got, in the "Orchestra 2" section, were quite reasonable.

We had only one prior encounter with Francois Couperin (1668-1733), at a pre-concert recital for a Mostly Mozart concert this summer, and I had forgotten all about it, except that the lute was also used in that pre-concert.

The British composer Ades is a self-acknowledged fan of Couperin who considers staying at home playing his harpsichord music to be a perfect day.  He orchestrated three movements of Couperin’s, each the last movement from an “ordre,” and grouped them as the Three Studies.  They are (i) Les amusements (The Amusements) from the Seventh Ordre (in G major) in Couperin’s Second Book of Harpsichord Pieces (1717); (ii) Les Tours de Passe-passe (The Sleight-of-Hand), final movement of the Twenty-Second Ordre (in D major), Fourth Book (1730); and (iii) L’Ame-en-peine (The Soul in Distress), Thirteenth Ordre (B minor), Third Book (1722).

While the ensemble that played the pieces was small, it was quite complicated as befits the work of a contemporary composer.  For example, there are two string orchestras of 16 players each.  The music is a mixture of baroque and modern, with emphasis on the former.  It would be interesting to compare the orchestrated version with the harpsichord version.  For Study 2, the Program Notes talks about how a descending melody comes out in the harpsichord while the music calls for hand  crossings (thus its title “Sleight-of-hand.”)  However, in the orchestrated version such “trickery” isn’t needed.  Overall it was an enjoyable introduction to the evening.

Two surprising things about the Mozart performance are (i) the soloist needed the music; and (ii) I hadn’t heard it before.  While (ii) may simply speak to my ignorance, (i) is quite unusual, especially for Mozart piano concertos.  Three standard movements make up the 24-minute composition: Allegro (vivace), Andante un poco sostenuto, and Allegro vivace.  Goode, whom we saw for the first time, put in a good performance (and I can't tell if was a great performance).  The concerto is typical Mozartean, crisp and light for the most part.  There is a rather long discussion in the Playbill about whether Maria Theresia Paradies premiered it.  Nothing unusual, except that Paradies was blind, and if she indeed was the premiere soloist, she might only have had (proper grammar?) two days to practice.

The concerto was composed during a period Mozart was extremely popular.  The Playbill references two aspects that I didn’t catch.  One was that the “anxious but not depressing” second-movement theme may have prefigured Barbarina’s aria in Act 4 of The Marriage of Figaro.  The other was a short episode in the third movement where a mixed meter (6/8 and 2/4) was used.

The last time the New York Philharmonic played Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony was in 2004, so we can conclude it isn’t a popular piece in the organizations repertoire. I was in Hong Kong last December, and attended a Hong Kong Philharmonic concert that had this and the other Scottish piece by Mendelssohn on the program (The Hebrides.)

The Symphony is easy to like, and one could tell it is Scottish (especially after knowing its title.)  The Playbill quotes the following entries from Mendelssohn’s letter during his visit to Scotland: “Yesterday was a lovely day, … red heather in blossom,” and “Our host’s beautiful daughter ... newest herrings… swam about in the water.”  It also describes listeners to the Symphony as “… happy to hear its flavor as authentically Scottish in spirit, replete with pentatonic melody sparkling rhythm, and, in its fast movements, an infectious warmth.”

All good, and indeed that was how I felt during the performance.  And I was greatly puzzled.

I recall the sentiment described in the Hong Kong writeup was quite different from what I read in the New York writeup.  Indeed going back to my notes, Mendelssohn’s remark about the landscape was “barren, rugged, unforgiving,” the people “unfriendly, drinking all the time.”  While I did say in that Blog that the music didn’t sound as bleak, it was nonetheless on the darker side.

So what gives?  I am either easily swayed, or there are drastically different ways to interpret any given composition.  As I type this, I am listening to a Youtube clip of the first movement performed by the New Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti.  It was more along the bleak end of the spectrum.

 The four movements are (i) Andante con moto – Allegro un poco agitato; (ii) Vivace non troppo; (iii) Adagio; and (iv) Allegro vivacissimo – Allegro maestoso assai.  While they were marked – and performed – "without pause," there were sufficient changes from one movement to the next that a pause would have been acceptable.  And they would have allowed me to let out some of the coughing I had to suppress during the 40 or so minutes.  It was a good thing that lozenges helped.

David Zinman, whom we have seen on several prior occasions, was quite effusive in his conducting.  This is his last season with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra.  He looked extremely energetic for a 77-year old.

The concert wasn’t well-attended, even with the Philharmonic reducing the prices on its website and the availability of further discounts by Goldstar and (I assume) similar outfits.  I hope it is because of the shopping season.

To the New York Times review writer, it was nearly all good.  She had some minor quibble with how Goode wasn't crisp enough in some Mozart passages, and how the orchestra might have been a bit too cautious.

Monday, December 02, 2013

New Jersey Symphony – Jacques Lacombe, conductor; Adam Golka, piano. December 1, 2013.

State Theatre in New Brunswick, Front Orchestra (Seat D5, $36.)

Barcarolles for a Sinking City (2013) by Lowell Liebermann (b. 1961).
Piano Concerto in G Major (1929-31) by Ravel (1875-1937).
Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123 (1942-43, rev. 1945) by Bartok (1881-1945).

We purchased these tickets, at half price, from Amazon Local.  At their regular prices these seats, located in the fourth row on the front left, would be quite expensive; they were good value for the price we paid, though.

I do not go to a New Jersey Symphony concert with high expectations; however, today’s performance was entirely satisfactory.  This is especially gratifying given our seats in front of the third row of first violinists, and that the piano sound was surprisingly weak even though it was quite close to us.  But let us get back to the program first …

While I have been to several NJSO concerts before, this is the first time I saw its music director Lacombe, a youngish (at 50 years) Canadian who has led the orchestra since 2010.  He began the program by talking about the compositions for the first half of the program at length.  Both Anne and I found what he said illuminating – Anne even took some notes.  The remarks helped, especially with the first piece of the program.

The phrase “Sinking City” naturally makes one think of Venice.  Indeed the Lieberman piece was composed with that in mind (the thought that it could be about Superstorm Sandy also crossed my mind).  Between the Program Notes and Lacombe’s remarks I learned the following: Lieberman’s music is surprisingly tonal for a contemporary composer; he lives in Weehawken, NJ, right across the Hudson from New York City; the piece is premiered at this series of concerts.  The program – such as it is – for the composition is (i) Funeral Gondola, evokes how Wagner’s body was transported from Venice to Bayreuth; (ii) Barcarolle/Quodlibet is described by Lacombe as a “name that tune” movement as it quotes many popular tunes (I don’t remember him saying it, but I assume they have to do with Venice?); (iii) Barcarolle/Ostinato/Carillon evokes the music of a music box; and (iv) Barcarolle Qubliee describes the fading away of the city.  Well, that’s what I remember of what he said.  In general, the music was quite easy to understand, and pleasant to listen to.  So happens Anne and I were TV channel surfing the night before and saw the end of Casino Royale where a gun battle in Venice caused an entire building to collapse violently into the sea.  The fourth movement was nothing like that.

Lieberman came out to take a bow afterwards.  Surprisingly the audience’s applause was such that there was not a second curtain call.  The other surprise was myself.  Over the years I have been exposed to many modern pieces, my general reaction has been from “it was a mistake to come” to lukewarm at best.  Thus I have always wondered what a “classical” composition by a modern composer would sound like.  If today’s work is any indication, then perhaps modern composers should stick to writing modern pieces, while not emotionally appealing, they are at least intellectually so.

Golka is 26 years old and his picture in the Program shows a youthful face.  In person he looks quite a bit more mature – helped by thinning hair, no doubt; he is a tall man, and his knees touch the piano.  That didn’t seem to put any limitations on how “flexible” he was, though.  The Ravel piece was no doubt demanding technically – glissandos, cross-overs, double octaves, rapid runs, … He had no trouble with any of those.  I did remark the piano sounded weak, most likely because it was at an oblique angle to us and our proximity to the left side of the orchestra.  Probably because of that weak sound, I can’t say I was extremely impressed, but it was an enjoyable performance.  The 20 some minute piece consists of three movements: Allegramente, Adagio assai, and Presto.

Four years ago, I heard David Fray play the same piece with the New York Philharmonic.  Of course I don’t remember any specifics from that performance.  I did read the blog entry for that concerto and found out what I wrote about the piece and performance generally carried over to today.  While that review wasn’t all positive, I do take it as a positive sign: I go away with a similar evaluation of a NJSO performance with a NYP one.  Of course by doing so I may have managed to insult both organizations.

The Program Notes indicates that Lacombe cut his teeth on the Bartok piece.  This is again a piece I had heard a couple of times before, performed by the NYP.  I generally enjoyed this piece which wasn’t quite congruent with the dire situation Bartok was in (he would die of leukemia soon afterwards, and was in some financial difficulty at the time he composed the work.)  The five movements are (i) Introduzione: Andante non troppo – Allegro vivace; (ii) Giuocco delle coppie: Allegretto scherzando; (iii) Elegia: Andante non troppo; (iv) Intermesso interrotto: Allegretto; and (v) Finale: Pesante – Presto.  It was not surprising that Lacombe didn’t need the music score; it was somewhat surprising that there were long pauses between movements.  Again at the risk of offending both organizations, I thought today’s performance was as good as my previous encounters with the music.

During the intermission there was a “meet the musician” event where several orchestra members stayed behind to chat with the audience.  Not too many conversations were going on, as far as I could tell.  Another remark is the State Theatre which is no doubt seeing its best days through its 100 or so year history.  The only other event at this theater we attended was when Ellie graduated from UMDNJ in 2009.  It seats 1800, and has reasonable acoustics.

NJSO had a black Friday sale and I bought tickets to five concerts.  While the prices were great ($32 per ticket including fees), I was nonetheless not sure if it would be a waste of money.  Given today’s experience, I now believe I got a great deal.