February 27, 2011
How was your weekend? Mine was quite lovely, thank you for asking. My Saturday night was spent at the Alex Theatre, in the company of hundreds and hundreds of other concertgoers and some extraordinarily talented musicians, at LACO’s French Connection concert. It was a beautiful evening, through and through, so let’s start at the beginning. The first piece performed was “Pavane for a Dead Princess” by Ravel, and thanks to LACO’s informative eLACO about this concert, I had learned earlier in the week that a Pavane was a stately court dance from the 16th century. Do you receive eLACO newsletters? There’s lots of great, fun information in them. If you don’t, sign up for them on the home page of laco.org. Anyway, I’ll start by saying if this is what they danced to in the 16th century, then I’m glad I live 500 years later! (Running water is another nice perk of living now, too.)
Don’t get me wrong – the “Pavane for a Dead Princess” is a stunning piece of music, and the LACO musicians nailed it, but it’s also very slow, and very somber. If anyone ever performed a Pavane on “Dancing With the Stars,” I bet we’d all change the channel, and quickly. I just can’t imagine, after a feast of turkey drumsticks and potatoes (in my mind, 16th century members of the court ate similarly to what’s served at Medieval Times), a king or duke standing up, and saying “come, now, let us reassemble in the grand hall, where we will dance the evening away to a glorious series of Pavanes!” That’s when I’d graciously step out: “Thanks, King, but I’m gonna pass. I really should go… um… powder my wigs.”
If the Pavane was the elegant, thought-provoking amuse-bouche, than the entree of the evening had to be the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor. A piano was wheeled front and center, and the Orchestra was joined by Lise de la Salle, a 23-year-old pianist who left me (and, based on the applause afterwards, the rest of the audience as well) breathless. As my aunt would say, Holy Goodnight! Can someone please calculate how many keys she had to hit per minute in that Concerto? The number must be astronomical, based on how her hands were flying up and down the keyboard. This piece was totally right up my alley – it was rollicking, with a boisterous energy that made me think about how easy it could be for a musician to lose their place, get ahead of themselves, or, I don’t know, break their instrument. It was incredible, in every sense of the word. The thunderous applause resulted in de la Salle performing a solo encore, which was something-or-other by Debussy (I think), and that, too, was a whimsical, delectable treat. Four pieces of music for the price of three? Score another point for LACO!
After intermission, Louis Langrée, the guest conductor, led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. Langrée devised an interesting introduction to the piece – an actor (named Dan Selon) read from a letter Beethoven had written to his brothers at the same time that he was writing this symphony. The letter, which was full of despair (his deafness had gotten pretty bad by that point), proved to be quite the counterpoint to what was a pretty joyous piece of music. It was a great idea to incorporate a glimpse into the composer’s life into the concert – although the Symphony wasn’t my favorite piece of music, I certainly have a bigger appreciation for it – the addition of some context really made a huge difference. Hey LACO, you should definitely look for opportunities to do things like this again!