Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2013/ 16 Adar 5773
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It is customary now to go to a concert of classical music and hear ... a talk.
The custom long ago spread to the
For a starter this evening, we get a condensed Music Appreciation course delivered in a tone that would be suitable for an assemblage of small children, or maybe gentle idiots. How come those who go to rock concerts or an evening of jazz don't have to suffer through an explanatory lecture first? Maybe it's because they know music speaks for itself, or should.
Listening to musicians talk about a piece of classical music -- its background, composer, formation, technique and other addenda -- is almost as stultifying as listening to writers talk about writing (the word processor versus longhand) or an actor being interviewed after a performance. Reduced to writing his own lines, he decides to enlighten us with his views about the Great Political and Ideological Issues of the Day, heaven help us.
The actor who's as interesting off the stage as on is the rare exception to a dismal rule. (The names
Tonight, instead of music that soothes the savage breast, we begin with a mini-TED presentation. Luckily, not even all the talk tonight can put a damper on the musicianship of the Rockefeller Quartet, aka The Rocks. This is their 10th anniversary concert, and their opening number -- Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 3 in D Major -- was worth waiting 10 years for. The quartet played more than well. They played in that realm where words fail, where they would only get in the way.
At the end, the audience leaps to its feet. I don't remember getting up; the music must have lifted me. Afterward, looking at my program, which is where I scrawl notes on the concert, I see only one: "I am so happy."
Then it's time to go from the sublime to ...
If there is a single word to describe both the best and worst of
Perhaps seeking distraction, any distraction, I hear the sound of the air-conditioning turning on in the hall, and for a moment wonder if it's part of the composition. It would be just like
But there are those who love Glass, and can't wait for his latest composition, which to my ear sounds like all the rest -- like a prelude to some impending disaster, but without the relief disaster might afford.
Maybe I just haven't heard enough Glass, but I'm not about to. A little of his music goes an awfully long way. It never seems to end, just stop.
Then, mercifully, it's time for a reprieve. I mean intermission. It's followed by Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1 in D Major. It's played expertly -- you wouldn't expect less of the Rockefeller Quartet. Nothing wrong with its execution, though a critic's ear might detect something here or there. No, it's not the execution that's off but the conception. Where is the Russian melancholy that looms behind Tchaikovky's even gayest pieces?
Instead, this rendition makes his music sound ... almost sweet. Like one blini after another, each served with a different accompaniment -- sour cream, caviar, apple sauce, maybe maple syrup. The effect of the whole is enough to make you a little queasy, or at least eager to leave while the Mendelssohn still lingers in the air and mind.
We do. And I'm still happy. Thank you, Rocks.
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