Saturday, February 17, 2007

Salonen Again

The broadcast recording of Salonen's Piano Concerto is up on the NY Phil website now: make sure you take some time this weekend to hook some good speakers up to your computer and give it a listen. The Concerto starts about 33 minutes in—you can cut right to it—or before that there's about ten minutes of commentary by Salonen and Bronfman.

A couple of details I'd point out: the opening processional works a good bit better in concert when you hear the drums resonating live; make sure you appreciate that it's the first viola sawing away in a duet with Bronfman about seven minutes into the first movement; listen close and you'll hear the saxophone and contrabass clarinet in the wind section. And of course, listen to the whole piece if for no other reason than to hear that magnificent final chord.

Obviously it's a ways off from seeing it in concert, but it's so good to be able to get a second listen to a piece like this. It feels less meandering to me a second time through, and the jazz-via-Ravel highlights are stronger than I remember. Also, though the three movements share a similar surface texture and apparent tempo, I feel like I picked up more on the differences in the way they move & grow: the first movement groove-oriented, the second movement built on top of the piano's monologue, the third movement overlaying a series of regularly changing chords.

Mark Swed's concert review in the LA Times is worth reading, too—perceptive about the Concerto itself, and also attuned to the audience reaction & context of Salonen conducting the Philharmonic in the first place.

He also relates this wonderful bit from the open dress rehearsal:
Salonen began with a run-through of "Pictures at an Exhibition," which closed the evening's program. A working rehearsal, he stopped to fix a couple of small things, causing a woman behind me no end of irritation. "Picky, picky, picky," she loudly griped. "Lorin Maazel would never do that."


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