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Two reviews: SFS and NSO

In today's Washington Post: MTT and the SFS offer foil to Tetzlaff's violin on Wednesday, by Anne Midgette.

Hrusa, Müller-Schott make NSO debuts on Thursday, by Anne Midgette.

A contrasting view of the San Francisco Symphony concert comes from Philip Kennicott.

Other views welcome.

By Anne Midgette  |  March 26, 2010; 1:55 AM ET
Categories:  Washington , local reviews  
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How can you not like "Tasso"? Not liking that work is like not liking the scene in "Independence Day" where Will Smith punches the alien and says "Welcome to Earth!" Oh, wait, a lot of people don't like "Independence Day" at all. But I like it and I like "Tasso."

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 26, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Midgette's NSO review did not make it into our morning WP and were not surprised. It was a long concert with insufficient time between the last note and the print deadline. We were seated with a group that has been sitting together for years interspersed with a young person who admitted not being familiar with classical music. My wife and I both thought the Dvorak was uneven with the cello's voice disappearing from time to time, something the program notes described as a problem with cello concertos in general. Evidently the lower notes make it harder to discern than a violin's. Unfortunately, expectations are raised when one's familiarity with the work is based primarily on recordings where the cello can be made more prominent. Beyond that, the brass, which play a dramatic role in this wonderful piece, were a little too dramatic and to our ears a little harsh. At times the winds and strings seemed to be having trouble getting in sync and a couple of flubs in the horns didn't help. We were disappointed. Our novice listener also felt there was something not quite right but our more seasoned seat mate, who has listened to more recordings than we will ever have, thought it was a great rendition.

My wife and I both felt that things came together in Schubert's Unfinished and sounded up to their standard in the Janacek Taras Bulba. I had heard of Janacek's Tara Bulba and therefore must have heard it at some time or another, but it was altogether unfamiliar to me. It is an episodic piece, jumping from one idea to the next with a Linzertorte richness to the orchestration that reminded me a bit of movie music (I like movie music). It certainly did not lack for drama.

I was interested in the varying opinions among my seatmates. The novice, with limited contact with classical music and who brought little in the way of expectations (baggage?) to the concert, liked the Taras Bulba best . The people with more experience had varying views. But this is what makes live performances so much more fun than recordings.

And I do wish Schubert had been able to finish that symphony.

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | March 26, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

The mention above of Schubert's ‘Unfinished’, Janacek’s ‘Taras Bulba’ tone-poem, and Christian Tetzlaff, reminded me of Janacek’s powerful, beautiful, and unusual Violin Concerto (only 12 minutes long) which was left unfinished, but which was finished (in one edition) in 1988 and recorded by the very young Mr. Tetzlaff on Virgin. It’s sound world is similar to that of ‘From the House of the Dead’, and some distance from the late romantic (or impressionistic) ‘Taras Bulba’ suite.

In my opinion, Washington audiences would have been more enriched this past week if (short of hearing a Washington National Opera produced ‘From the House of the Dead’) either the visiting San Francisco Symphony or the National Symphony had programmed Janacek’s Violin Concerto (of 1928).

(I, personally, would have liked to have heard the Leos Janacek ‘Violin Concerto’ and the Victor Kissine ‘Post-scriptum’ on the same program as played by an excellent orchestra.)

Posted by: snaketime1 | March 29, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Andrew about "Tasso" -- it may not be a masterpiece, but it was great to hear it, especially the way the SFS played it.

Further thoughts --

Posted by: Charles_D | March 29, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

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