fatigue factor

It’s that time of the season when the first wave of fatigue starts to set in.  We’ve had two back-to-back classical series, then the Inside the Score concert, and now we’re on our second back-to-back classical run.  It feels like everyone is pretty much running on fumes this week, and with the Stravinsky Symphony in C on the program, we’ve got yet another unfamiliar piece for the orchestra to learn, after last week’s Rachmaninoff Third Symphony OSO premiere.

It’s an interesting ‘perfect storm’ in terms of several factors coming together to make the work especially fatiguing.

The first factor in the last two weeks is the guest conductor.  Even though we don’t like to admit it, symphony orchestras have a bit of the “while the cat’s away the mice will play” mentality – when the music director’s out of town, the conductor who is in town gets a bit of the substitute teacher treatment.  This treatment escalates exponentially in severity when the conductor is, in the estimation of the orchestra, not up to snuff. Fortunately, our two guest conductors during this period, Christoph Campestrini and Jean-Marie Zeitouni, are both capable and most important, nice gentlemen and good sports.  Zeitouni especially has an easy manner, doesn’t put on airs, and has a healthy sense of humor.

The second factor is repertoire.  Put a completely unfamiliar work in front of an orchestra and there will be some resistance.  Orchestras like just the right ratio of tedium to terror, and new works, regardless of when they were written, tend to require a bit more thought than the lazier of us would like to put into the process.  This is when having a patient and persuasive conductor comes in handy.

The third factor is the schedule.  Pity the poor guest conductor who comes in to conduct a new work with an orchestra just off of a long vacation period or an extended run of pops concerts.  Also, if there have been three major classical concerts in the last four weeks, with one Brahms symphony thrown in for good measure, then the attention span of the orchestra is going to be a bit shorter than usual.

The long and the short of it is that a lot of us are tired (those of us who have to play entire concerts, that is) and are ready for a couple days off.  Oh, did I mention we’re doing a run-out to Salem this week, too?  Argh…

ned rorem at 85 and other odds and ends

Composer Ned Rorem

Ned Rorem turned 85 last week – and I’ll be 95% of the classical music world didn’t even know.  I have a little bit of a reason to know, since I have several good friends that studied with him at the Curtis Institute, but it’s a shame that he’s not gotten more recognition in the form of performances on such an auspicious birthday (and how many 85 year old composers do you know who have their own MySpace page?). Continue reading “ned rorem at 85 and other odds and ends”

interesting, mediocre, horrible – or simply practical?

Stephen Marc Beaudoin takes a look at this year’s OSO programming, and he doesn’t like much of what he sees.  Here’s a brief sample:

The Oregon Symphony is playing fifteen Classical Series concerts this season. Five of the programs are terrible. I will hasten to add that an additional two of them are mediocre.

Of the fifteen, I find but three of them to be really inspired and hey, three out of fifteen is a good place to start, Oregon Symphony. The rest I could take or leave (but won’t attend). So on the whole, I find more than half of the Symphony’s Classical Series concerts to be utterly and thoroughly uncompelling. I’m sorry, more than uncompelling: dead on arrival. (Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Tchaik make a number of appearances)

Read the complete post here.

It’s one of those posts that have me straddling the fence – I’m not so much opposed to the content as in the way it is presented.  I do have to say that I’m shocked that anyone would hate the Brahms Violin Concerto so much, but it is possible that Anne Midgette has made anti-Brahms sentiment the critical default mode.

Part of the puzzle of putting together programs is that to get a “name” artist, you have to book several seasons ahead.  At that time, there is often no repertoire attached to the artist – you don’t know exactly what the artist will have on offer until maybe a year ahead of time.  So, while Josh Bell could play Corigliano or Bernstein, he wasn’t offering those pieces this year, so we got Mendelssohn.

What you see this year is programming that is trying to tread a delicate balance between being stimulating for the cognoscenti and at the same time having no small amount of populist appeal (i.e., butts in seats).