Monday, October 20, 2008

Concerts Galore

After a late start, the concert season has exploded with offerings. After playing my own first concert two weekends ago, I attended no less than three concerts this past week. That's unusual for me because with symphony rehearsals at night and concerts on Saturdays, I am usually working and don't get to attend other concerts very often.

Wednesday, I was again at Disney Hall. This time for a performance by Andras Schiff of three Beethoven Piano Sonatas, the early middle ones, Opus 31, Nos. 1, 2, and 3, and the great Waldstein. I got turned on to the Beethoven Piano Sonatas only recently I am ashamed to admit, due to the fact that I am not a pianist and never had anything more than class lessons in college. How I could have gotten so far in my musical career without learning more about these fantastic works (except for the famous ones, of course, the Moonlight and Appassionata, etc.) I'll never know. I realize now that to really understand Beethoven, including the great 16 string quartets, you have to know the 32 piano sonatas.

I started last year by listening to the Robert Greenberg lectures on the sonatas from The Teaching Company. The performer for the lectures is Claude Frank and I fell in love with his free and easy style. He makes it sound like he is Beethoven himself sitting down to improvise at the piano. So of course, I had to get the box set of the sonatas played by Frank so I could listen to the sonatas in their entirety. It took several months for them to arrive from Amazon, but they are a bargain. When I told a friend about my new interest, she said, Oh wait til you hear Andras Schiff, and she sent me this link to the set of lectures on the sonatas that Schiff has given before his concerts. So I have been listening to these lectures as well. Then lo and behold, a ticket to last Wednesday's concert suddenly fell in my lap. It was fabulous.

Friday night I attended a totally different concert at the new Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The group was Jacaranda and the program included Harrison, Cage, and Partch. These three composers are all either from Southern California or lived here at some time in their lives. They were "mavericks" in the musical world, learning and plying their trade during the Depression. The concert was delightful, from Harrison's gamelon cum Western instrument pieces, to Cage's ethereal string quartet, to Partch's "rhythmic brew" played on the instruments he invented himself. The theater is lovely. I was seated in the very last row in the orchestra section, but still was able to see and hear everything clearly except for the gamelon instrumentalists who sat in back of their Western counterparts.

Yesterday, it was string quartet time at CalTech once again. We heard the final concert in the Coleman Concert Series to be given by the Guarneri String Quartet. I blogged about their impending retirement last year. It was another all-Beethoven concert—two late quartets, Opus 127 and 135. I know that all things must come to an end eventually, but I will miss these guys. Their quartet playing, especially of the Beethovens and the Debussy, will never be surpassed.

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