Thursday, January 21, 2016

NSO does interesting Brahms, Dvorak before the big DC blizzard

The National Symphony Orchestra tonight presented a curious concert, and given the approaching blizzard, one wonders if the Friday and Saturday concerts can be held.

The concert opened with Christoph Eschenbach conducting “Phaeton”, by Christopher Rouse (b. 1949, Baltimore), composed in Indianapolis in 1986.  The piece is very dissonant, deliberately so, way beyond the schmaltzy music of Schoenberg and Berg that I have gotten used to.

It continued with soloist Daniel Muller-Schott performing the Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104, by Antonin Dvorak  The work is in Dvorak’s mature late style, which is more idiomatic than his earlier works (which are quite interesting, especially the first two symphonies, which are a curious brew of Brahms and Bruckner, if one can imagine such an admixture).  Eschenbach took the second theme of the first movement at quite a leisurely pace, and drew out the quite epilogue in the finale, just before the rush at the end.

But after the intermission, the main event was Arnold Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Piano Quartet #1 in G Minor by Johannes Brahms (Op. 25).  Does this give us a Brahms “Symphony 0”?   Would it fit with the “big four”?  The orchestration is a little more intimate and “modern” than Brahms would have used, and frankly I missed the piano, especially in the “Hungarian Rondo” last movement.  Schonberg calls the C-minor second movement am “Intermezzo” rather than a scherzo, and the slow movement (in E-flat) emphasized the march-like middle section, sounding like the mood in Germany in the 1930s just before Hitler.  The work does not go into the Picardy major at the end, but rushes to a prestissimo conclusion in minor.  The last movement was used in the 1986 film “Parting Glances” by Bill Sherwood.

The Millennium stage presented the Dhol Foundation.

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