Sunday, October 23, 2005

Is this blog abandoned? Not yet. . . Scheherezade.

Haven't posted in a few days. There certainly is a great deal to post about, locally and otherwise, but I've been too busy with real life. The demands of commerce and breadwinning are slightly greater than in past weeks, and we've had more activity here at the house. Also I'm reading EE Reynolds' book, St. John Fisher, which is taking longer that the typical large-type 180 pg Evelyn Waugh novel (although it's undoubtedly better for my soul). What I do have to say this afternoon really has nothing uniquely to do with being a traditionalist Catholic; sorry to disappoint.

Mrs. Curmudgeon and I went to the Kansas City Symphony on Saturday evening. It's the first time we've been in a few years. The program was ambitious for our little symphony: Richard Strauss's Don Juan, Ravel's Scheherezade, and Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherezade. The Strauss piece seemed (to my pedestrian ears) flawless, and the Ravel very good as well (although I had never heard the Ravel piece before and I'm not a huge fan of 20th century music anyways). Of course, in true middle-American fashion, a few dozen people clapped after the first movement of the Ravel piece. But, we Kansas Citians do catch on . . . there was no clapping between the second and third movements of Ravel, and no clapping between movements in the finale.

As for Rimsky Korsakov . . . he's at about the outer limits of my tolerance for Romantic music, but I like Scheherezade and Capricio Espagnol. How could anybody not? Even though Haydn, Corelli and Mozart are staples that get me through my week, a rousing round of Brahms or Rimsky Korsakov or Berlioz or another 19th century Romantic now and then is good to liven up my a nice prime steak after a few weeks of the better-for-me pork/chicken/hamburger/fish rotation.

The performance...WOW! You don't realize how complicated a piece like that is until you actually watch it (instead of just listen to it) performed. It wasn' t recording-perfect (I have a good recording of this piece). There was a hesitant entrance or two by the woodwinds and the assitant concertmaster missed a harmonic near the end of the last movement and marred a brilliant, horsehair-bustin' performance by the concert mistress. But it was really, really good. The concert mistress, the principal cellist, and the french horns were outstanding. I wasn't moved to tears like I am sometimes by 18th century music, but I was certainly moved.

I don't know anything about the new music director, Stern, but he seems to be leading the orchestra in the right direction. Based on a couple of concerts a few years ago I always thought of the KC Symphony as a mediocre orchestra in a mediocre hall (the Lyric, which I believe is an old converted Masonic hall). When Marilyn Manson was hired (or was it Anne Manson?), I would occasionally check the schedule when we had the money to go, but never saw anything I really wanted to hear so badly as to brave the artsy crowd and suffer in the cheap, poor under-the-balcony seats. But if Stern sticks around, and they continue on their present course, a new music hall in Kansas City might be worthwhile.

In the meantime, two things: (1) sit in the balcony; the sound is best there, and (2) dress like you're going to the symphony. Don't people know how to dress anymore? There were only a smattering of sportcoats and ties out there, much less men in suits. What's the world coming to when open shirts outnumber ties 2 to 1 at a Saturday night symphony concert?

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