Saturday, December 04, 2010

Alexandria VA group plays Ellington "adpatation" of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite

Well, if Mozart could use some polytonality (at least in his Coronation Concerto), Tchaikovsky could use some jazz, particularly in his (first) Nutcracker Suite. That’s the theory of the jazz wind group of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (VA), which gave a Christmas concert today (Dec 4) at the Rossyln Spectrum Hall in Arlington, VA. The site for the orchestra is this and the sponsoring group is Arlington Arts, here.  (There is also an Artisphere in Greenville, SC). The group was conducted by Kin Allen Kluge.

Jazz works with music originally conceived in the idiom. Gershwin’s Piano Concerto, to me at least (in Pandolfi’s concerts) conveys real passion. (Even Alban Berg deployed jazz effectively in “Lulu”, which, for all its atonality, is grand romantic opera.) But here, the derivative work (of Tchaikovsky) by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn) does sound like so much manipulation (even Stravinsky, to my ear, sounds sincere an natural in comparison). The music was very loud, compared to a normal concert (there appeared to be amplification) and the all male band would be exposed to hearing loss from the constant din.

The group played several Christmas carols, and the Alexandria Choral Society Chamber Singers joined in, along with the audience, for several more (just one verse each carol).

If you want to hear some real Tchaikovsky, go see the Aronofsky’s film “Black Swan” in a theater with digital projection; the movie is essentially a thriller contemporary setting of “Swan Lake”, and I never heard Tchaikovsky sound so violent. At the end, the “pas de deux” was a little hard to work in, and the final major chords convey some irony.

I used to play a CD of the St. Louis Symphony playing "The Nutcracker" every Christmas Day (the story really takes place on New Years Eve, not Christmas). I love the penultimate G Major climax shortly before the end.

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