January 24, 2010
I’ve wanted a mandolin for a really long time. I’ve seen them on TV, and at a store once, and enjoyed watching others use them. Of course, I’m thinking of the kitchen tool that makes easy work of cutting vegetables into slices of equal thickness… but here’s a fun fact: there’s another type of mandolin, which was played during this evening’s LACO concert, and it looks like a little guitar! The mandolin player was Chris Thile (which, as I’ve gathered, is pronounced like ‘tea leaf’ but without the ‘f’, but please correct me if I’m wrong…), who was phenomenal. My friend Tavi, who came with me to the concert, noted that his hands and fingers, as they flew across the mandolin with furious speed, looked like they were on crack. Nicely put, Tavi! Mr. Thile played a Mandolin Concerto that he composed, and followed it up with 2 really amazing encores.
While Mr. Thile’s performance was passionate, evocative, and really fun to watch, my favorite pieces of the evening were the two Aaron Copland works – which is a departure for me, because I usually like LACO’s newer pieces more than the classics they perform. One of the Copland pieces was the very famous Appalachian Spring, which I was familiar with but had never heard live. And it was stunning, and eventually brought a tear to my eye. I loved how it alternated between livelier, upbeat sections and more moody, mournful parts. The other Copland piece, Music for the Theatre, was built around a sorrowful melody that was almost haunting.
That leaves the piece that kicked off the evening, Nico Muhly’s By Any Means. I’ve written about Mr. Muhly in the past – he’s a hot shot composer in his late twenties, and I listened to an album of his to practice writing about music when I got this blogging gig. I was looking forward to hearing this piece this evening, but afterwards, felt more like a Newbie than ever before. I just didn’t get it. Jeffrey Kahane spoke before the show, and mentioned that Mr. Muhly was referencing two other works with this piece (this was also explained in the program), and I wondered during the piece if I would appreciate it more if I was familiar with the two pieces being referenced. To me, it seems to be a collection of sounds and noises. I guess I like music with more of a thru-line. I get to listen to more of Mr. Muhly’s work next weekend, because I ‘m going to listen to the Master Chorale at the Disney Concert Hall perform a number of pieces, including one of his. I’ve never been to Disney Hall before! I hope to blog a little about it afterwards, so check back here for that.
One more thing: Mr. Thile looked remarkably clean-shaven this evening. That’s a reference for a friend of mine. If you don’t understand why I would write that, than it’s not you!