Sunday, December 17, 2006

tension and release

I saw another concert today, by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a group started by Daniel Barenboim (Israeli pianist and conductor extraordinaire) and Edward Said (Palestinian literature scholar) in 1999. The idea is interesting; a bunch of students from different areas of the middle east and Andalusia get together every summer, play and talk and learn about each other, and then give concerts. As Barenboim said, "People call this an orchestra of peace. (applause from audience) It isn't. (laughter) But it's a way for young people to get to know the Other, to talk and share this beautiful music."
The concert itself was very enjoyable, if not always electrifying. The program was Beethoven's "Lenore" overture, Mozart's Sinfonia concertante for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and orchestra in E-flat, and Brahms' first symphony in c minor. The Beethoven was not my favorite of his works, by any means. It seemed long and kind of needlessly repetitive. But I guess not everything can be a late string quartet or a symphony... The Mozart was nice, and the soloists were excellent. I know Mozart makes you smarter and all that, but I prefer playing it to listening to it usually. The Brahms... Brahms is always always fun to listen to; he was so into making beautiful noise, and so freaking good at it. We played this symphony last year in Civic, so I know it pretty well, and I had a great time just revelling in the harmonies and tension and release that he is so masterful with. My main problem with the concert was just that... I felt like there was some hesitation in the orchestra. Like people weren't always hitting cadences at the same time, like there was some confusion. Only a few times throughout the concert, but enough to throw me.
After the set program, Barenboim gave a short speech (which I paraphrased part of earlier) and then they played Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod (lovedeath) from Tristan and Isolde. It's a very moving piece; the opera has a theme that never ever resolves until the very end, to symbolize the death of the main character (think all you want about sexual metaphores about prolonged leadup to a release). It's beautiful. It's also totally taboo in Israel, presumably because Wagner was a racist anti-semitic asswipe. So it was, generally, an interesting and rather ballsy way to end this particular concert.


Anonymous said...

"...a bunch of students from different areas of the middle east and Andalusia get together every summer..."

Andalusia as in southern Spain? Is there another Andalusia, or is there a connection between Spain and Israel/Palestine that I don't know about?

But anyway, the concert sounds pretty interesting.

-- Jesse

Anonymous said...

I love your description of Wagner. And I agree with you about Mozart; playing is much more enjoyable than listening. Interesting ensemble idea, overall. You see such cool concerts!

ammie said...

Re Andalusia... I believe that is because the scholarship fund that allows a lot of the musicians to participate is based there? There's some sort of connection to the group, not necessarily to the ideals or whatever. And yeah, my cool concert quota this week has been far higher than normal!