Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

15 April 2006

The Honolulu Symphony & My Take on Classical Music

A friend gave me tickets to the Honolulu Symphony, so I enjoyed a fine concert tonight. JoAnn Falletta conducted Bartók's Dance Suite, Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 3 (in B minor, Op. 61), and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. To be honest, I was most excited to hear Bartók, but the highlight truly was the solo by Chee-Yun in Saint-Saëns. She was inspiring. The audience recognized this, and gave her a warm applause; although I imagine any other city would have given her a standing ovation. She kindly did a Bach solo encore, which was breathtaking. Her playing is my favorite combination of passionate, intense, and expressive. I would love to hear her play Penderecki, which she has apparently recorded.

I picked up next year's Honolulu Symphony program. It is hard to get excited with so many light romantic offerings. I probably will go to the Tchaikovsky Fest (29 Sept/ 1 Oct) and Exploration for Strings (Bach/ Mozart/ Bruch/ Piazolla) (9 + 12 Nov).

I realize that I was quite spoiled by having parents who took me to concerts since I was young, and by growing up in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis had the big Minnesota Orchestra, which was sometimes adventurous, but St. Paul had the amazing Chamber Orchestra. I love their sound, often with original period string instruments.

I would so much rather hear a good string quartet or virtusoso like Chee-Yun over a big orchestra with a harp [*] and so many woodwind and percussion instruments. I feel bad since I know some musicians, but I am getting more and more impatient with what seems like recycling romantic music. I yearn for music that is either exciting and intense (like Arvo Pärt or Alfred Schnittke) or the authentic sound of early music that you often can hear on NPR's Harmonia.

I suppose that my time as a graduate student in Bloomington also shaped my tastes too. I had a good friend, Inbal Perle Mersel, who was an excellent violinist. She lived on the same floor of my dorm. Her playing was just superb! She also told me which recitals to attend. The Indiana University music school was excellent, so I could select from several free recitals almost every night. Sometimes I took my books and studied outside or in the back row, so I could enjoy the fine playing. Bloomington is also a great place for early music, although I only caught a few concerts before graduating.

Before closing this rant, I should admit that I am still "discovering" the beauty of some classical works. A former roommate, Daisuke (a superb cellist!), helped me to appreciate the beauty of J. S. Bach's Cello Suites, and I fell in love with the second movement of Schubert's Trio In E Flat for Violin, Cello And Piano (Op. 100, D.929). Another friend, Edit, introduced me to the expressive sound of Armenian composers Komitas and Khachaturian. I look forward to making more new musical "discoveries," and only regret that I rarely learn of them from Honolulu's NPR station or concerts.

Complaints aside, I realize that everyone is working hard to make the music scene here happen. And Honolulu is far from the worst city in terms of music. I still vividly remember the first concert I went to at my undergraduate school. Almost the entire music faculty played a John Philip Sousa march on over a dozen grand pianos. It was so bad that I thought they were doing it as a joke. They weren't.

[*] I've decided, the only harp I like is a blues harp. Even the sight of one makes me uncomfortable.

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