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Sydney Menees

View From the Audience, Part 1

March 23, 2010 at 5:16 AM

 In the past few months, I have had the privilege of seeing many great concerts.  Until now, I have only “reviewed” more professional concerts such as programs performed by the Kansas City Symphony or recitals by famous soloists.  To open this blog, I will begin in the same way.  At the end of January while I was still home for winter break, I attended two concerts by the Kansas City Symphony.  The first program consisted of a Manachem Wiesenberg’s Reflections (US Premier), Brahms’ famed Double Concerto, and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.  Works on the second program included Stravinsky’s Suite from Pulcinella, the Barber Violin Concerto and Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto (both performed by the unmatched Gil Shaham), and Shostakovich’s First Symphony.  Both of these concerts happened over two months ago, so, due my faulty memory, I am only able to recount the highlights.

In the first program, the Brahms Double merits mentioning simply because it’s the Brahms Double and, by proxy, awesome.  The soloists were two Curtis students, Josef Spacek and Camden Shaw.  They charmed the audience through the upper balcony (where I was) despite Brahms’ challenging writing (especially copious amounts of double stops).  The program notes also referred to Brahms as a “curmudgeonly bachelor,” but I digress.  In the same program, the KC Symphony led by Asher Fisch rekindled my love for Dvorak 7.  My introduction to this symphony was performing it in 2007 in the Kennedy Center.  Experiencing Dvorak 7 again from the audience’s perspective was a wholly new exercise.  This time I felt like the orchestra was taking me on an escapade through the mysterious first movement, the mellifluous second movement, the jesting third movement, and finally, the most majestic and breathtaking fourth movement.  The symphony and Asher Fisch really milked the finale for all it was worth.  On the final chords, was literally holding onto my seat from the zeal and volume of the orchestra.  It was spectacular.

As far as the second program, I can’t praise Gil Shaham enough.  He can produce the sweetest tone for the Barber and the most raucous tone for Prokofiev 2.  The best part about being present for his performance rather than listening to a recording of it was that he really enjoys what he does and it’s obvious in his playing.  I distinctly remember one part in the Barber where, before his entrance, he took an excited gasp and smiled as if surprising himself with the music he was producing.  Shostakovich 1, also on that program, is a rather interesting symphony.  It is so very characteristically Shostakovich, but has more vigor than some of his later works in my opinion.  I also found it odd that it turns into a bit of a violin and piano concerto in sections.  During the punctuating piano chords in the second movement, some of the audience laughed.  Because I was familiar with Shostakovich 1 going into the performance, I wasn’t caught off guard, but I suppose it could sound like the pianist messed up big time.  That said, I was slightly put-off by the laughter because those chords sound so angst-ridden to me.  Overall, this was another fulfilling program, led this time by Michael Stern.

Stay tuned for Part Two, which details my first time hearing the New York Philharmonic and various musical happenings at Bard.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 24, 2010 at 4:40 AM

It's good to hear from you again Sydney.  Your concert reviews are second best to being there.  I've never heard Gil Shaham play solo live, and now I really want to do that. 

What were you doing at the Kennedy Center in 2007?

Bard used to be a very good women's college.  Has it gone co-ed like most of the others?  My alma mater Goucher College has.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 25, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Sydney - thanks so much for posting those reviews.  I think Shaham may be the best of the current crop, and I do not get to see enough of him.

From Sydney Menees
Posted on March 25, 2010 at 4:02 PM

At the Kennedy Center, I was part of the National Symphony Orchestra's Summer Music Institute.  It was a really great time; very orchestral performance based.

I think Bard has always been coed.  It was formerly St. Stephen's, I believe.

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