Relishing two Hamburgers

The interpretation that Christian Tetzlaff offered, at Carnegie Hall yesterday (October 5), of his fellow Hamburger Johannes Brahms's Violin Concerto seemed to me as interesting as any I've ever heard.  It was fresh and provocative but not eccentric, attentive to detail but never pedantic or mannered, viscerally and emotionally involving but never exaggerated. Tetzlaff possesses a brilliant technique, but producing golden-glow sound evidently is not his highest goal in life.  The intellectual and spiritual intensity that he brought to this work led him to take many technical risks, and those risks led to an occasional out of tune or slipped note.  But who could possible have cared?  This was real music-making -- seconded absolutely by the Met Orchestra under James Levine: from the ecstatic quality of the climax of the first movement's introduction, it was already clear that something special was taking place, and the impression continued right to the end of the work.

The concert -- the orchestra's first of the season -- began with the version for string orchestra of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, originallly written as the finale of the String Quartet, Op. 130.  The piece sounds more incisive in the dramatic sections and more delicate in the graceful ones when it is played by a great quartet rather than a full complement of instruments, but the Met Orchestra's strings are so fine, and Levine's concept of the work (which I'd bet he first learned under the aegis of his early mentor Walter Levin, founder and first violin of the legendary LaSalle Quartet) so rigorous that the performance was gripping from the first note to the last.

Not to be outdone by their horsehair-wielding colleagues, the orchestra's wind players and percussionists took the stage for a performance of Messian's Et exspecto resurrectionem, in honor of the centenary of the composer's birth.  I find this work's discourse much clearer than that of many of Messiaen's other large-scale compositions, but this may be a result of my own laziness.  Or perhaps the fact that the "Turangalila" Symphony, for instance, always gives me a colossal headache has prejudiced me against it.  In any case, in Et exspecto sonic beauty and formal rigor seem perfectly balanced.  Many thanks to Levine and his people for performing it with such care and conviction.

My religious sentiments, however, are much more in tune with those of Bill Maher than with those of Messiaen.  I saw Maher's movie Religulus this evening and enjoyed it immensely, Yes, his satire is often over the top, but he has an irresistible way of uncloaking hypocrisy and self-delusion -- and who can deny that the United States, increasingly overrun as it is with bible-thumping, war-mongering "creationists" and the like, is much in need of many more Mahers?

October 6, 2008 11:15 PM | | Comments (1)


Harvey know best about Tetzlaff, Levine, and Brahms. Extraordinary. On the Messiaen, however, I am closer to Tomasini in the NYT this time: I've decided, first, that Levine chose the piece as a paradoxical Yom Kippur offering (and a shofar could have worked once or twice), and, second, that the long pauses must be taken as exercises in control...of the audience. A bit of a power play, reminiscent of the interminable silences used by the Living Theater in one of its productions, decades ago. When I saw that--in a small Ohio college gymnasium--the audience finally broke down, singing and shouting. Carnegie Hall is too disciplined, as Levine knows. But I was tempted.

A question, Harvey: don't you find all those bass fiddles much too much for the Beethoven orchestrated "Grosse Fuge"? I do, but I don't want to plunge ahead and exclaim "Stokowski." Talk about it sometime.

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Me Elsewhere


Ensemble for the Romantic Century

(These are two organizations that any music lovers in the New York area should get to know.)

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This page contains a single entry by Overflow published on October 6, 2008 11:15 PM.

The Rosenberg Case again. And the Met reopens. was the previous entry in this blog.

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