THE CONCERT AS A MEAL
You've had that memorable meal: an apéritif
wine presented in gleaming crystal, a
tempting appetizer, warm home-baked bread, the main course succulent and cooked
to perfection, more vintage wine and, finally, a light and fluffy dessert almost
Perhaps we cannot expect a classical concert to achieve that kind of perfection.
Nevertheless The Concert As
A Meal is an apt simile. Overeating on an
evening of all three Brahms Piano Trio red meat dishes is bound to cause, if not
musical indigestion, then certainly fatigue and drowsiness in the listener. With
exceptions, programs such as all six Bach Cello Suites or "Brandenburg"
at one sitting, though great music, present an unnecessary endurance test for the
audience.They become athletic events, almost like marathon runs. Equally soporific
would be an evening consisting entirely of musical bonbons, candies and trifles,
matter how sweet they may be. Monotony is bound to set in.
This is nothing new. As long ago as 1930, the great German conductor Wilhelm
Furtwängler, in a probing
essay, grappled with the subject of successful program
making. Conceding that, though many program constructions based on historical,
ethnic, stylistic relationships often looked great on paper, he felt that they rarely
"worked" in practice. Furtwängler concluded that the answer was to
try to achieve
the greatest contrast possible
between works on a program. Place a musical work
in its best light so that the listener can absorb
its flavor with freshness and full
That is why The
Concert As A Meal can be very helpful here.
Symphony, heard for the hundredth time, will have a vivid presence of sound (taste)
and emotion when set off right after that bubbly Haydn Symphony. How profound,
yet brilliant, will Beethoven's "Leonore " Overture No.3 sound when performed right
at the beginning of the program, rather than at its end, when it becomes merely
an orchestral showpiece!
At a recent Carnegie Hall concert the pianist Robelyn Schrade , in a daring move,
placed Beethoven's Thirty-Two Variations in C minor immediately after an intermssion
that had followed a first half ending with Fauré and Debussy, music of obviously
different texture and syle. This "7th Inning Stretch" only
reinforced the feeling that
one's palate had been cleansed for the next course and I, for one, was able to savor
Beethoven in all his purity, clarity and grandeur.
There are obviously many ways to make a musical meal not only palatable but
delectable, varied, a feast for the senses. I have tried to do just that in my
"From Soup To Nuts"cello concert series, in its fourth incarnation
next March 14, 2008
at New York's Symphony Space/Thalia.
But that's a subject for another time.......
POSTED: DECEMBER 6, 2007
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from the"Joy of Cello Playing" site
2 SKETCHES BY SHIRLEY GIVENS
after Wilhelm Busch (1832 - 1908)