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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Five Best Orchestral Concerts: Spring 2017

We look at the five best concerts of the spring season that was.

As I'm on vacation this week, we're going to be looking back at some of the most memorable performances of the year 2017 (so far, anyway.) Here are the best symphonic concerts, from shows seen at Carnegie Hall (including Daniel Barenboim's nine-concert Bruckner cycle) to as far away as Osaka, Japan. Oh yeah. I went to Japan in February. Anyway, here's the reviews, all written by yours truly.

Berlin Staatskapelle: Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 (posted Jan. 25, 2017)
"Bruckner's career started at the organ, an instrument he learned to play at childhood. In writing this piece, he began to treat the orchestra as a kind of giant organ itself, using blocks of brass, wind and strings in the way that an organist uses mechanical stops and presets in order to change the tone coming from the instrument. In this analogy Mr. Barenboim may be be seen as the organ's mechanical engine, his baton bringing the breath of life into the army of players arrayed on the stage."

Carnegie Hall opens La Serenissima (posted Feb. 6, 2017)
"As if the sun had risen over the Grand Canal, familiar names started to fill the stage. Music by Vivaldi and Mozart followed, with the latter's Rondo alla Turca getting a raucous re-orchestration. Members of Hespèrion XXI and Les Concerts de Nations combined their resources here, powering this familiar music with a bold and wild energy that does not emerge from the fingers of the average pianist. Mr. Savall either conducted or led from the bow, the more familiar tenor viol now between his knees."

The Osaka Philharmonic plays Shostakovich (in Osaka!) (posted Feb. 28, 2017)
"Michiyoshi Inoue led his Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra forces in a concert that featured both of these enormous symphonies with only an intermission break between. In doing this, he created a larger narrative, the story of a people rising up against oppression, and detailing both the the positive and negative consequences of that an action. More importantly, this programming choice provided valuable insight into a pair of compositions that have been largely neglected outside Russia, and have become little more than career footnotes following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991."

Yo-Yo Ma plays Salonen's Cello Concerto (posted March 17, 2017)
"The second movement was fascinating, incorporating taped loops of Mr. Ma’s playing, projected on small speakers arranged on different levels of the house. This allowed the cello signal to rotate around the audience, pass between the four levels of the auditorium before returning to rest at the stage, ready for the next instrumental utterance. "

Salonen conducts Mahler and Sibelius (posted June 7, 2017)
"Mr. Salonen was expert in his handling of the rapid and very subtle tempo shifts between the different sections of this knotty piece. The orchestra responded with full-throated strings and a purring roar from the trombones, bringing the final pages of this great work together in a transcendent glow that lingered with the listener long after the music stopped."

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats