April 04, 2013
As a classical music rookie I think it’s fair to say the term Baroque is an intimidating term if you have no idea what it means. Frankly it sounds complicated and severe. So when I saw “Mostly Baroque” in my calendar I frowned a little. Not knowing what Baroque meant, I imagined it might be the Latin phrase for the drawn out and very technical mourning process for the death of a royal. Turns out it’s just a period of music and actually means “misshapen pearl” in Portuguese. I like weird jewels as much as the next guy and after the concert I decided I also liked Baroque. Mostly.
The concert started off with Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B-flat major “Gran Partita”. Admittedly “Gran Partita” was a little long for my taste but I did find something familiar in the music. Oddly enough it reminded me of a big family dinner put together by your mom where you end up having to help out because mom is clearly stressing out. The second movement had that distinct passive aggressive motherly feel to it. You know the feeling: when she’s being nice but it’s secretly kind of nagging. It’s not her fault, just the stress of hosting a big dinner. At some point Mozart’s mother probably saw that he didn’t fully set the table and politely yet sharply pointed it out. Mozart rolled his eyes because do they really need two forks for each place setting? But he was a good son and trudged to the silverware drawer to get those missing items. The third movement had a back and fourth part that almost sounded like a conversation. That means Mozart’s talkative uncle has arrived. The fourth movement had a very festive almost Christmas-y tone to it which I assume represents the actual dinner. The fifth movement has a bossy, annoyed mom part that indicates that the dinner conversation has clearly gone in a direction Mozart’s mother does not approve of and she’s trying to change the subject. It’s very likely that Mozart’s uncle made an off color joke. After a moment of uncomfortable laughter among the Mozart family, the Serenade ends with the final movement in joyous upbeat manor that tells me the party was ultimately a success.
After an intermission came Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-Flat major, “Dumbarton Oaks”. I quite liked this piece because it felt very American and dramatic which is often a good combination. It felt like manifest destiny had a musical baby with capitalism. The result is full of sorrowful strings (sorry Native Americans), mischievous oboes (you got us robber barons), and focused bass plucking (baby boomers) but had a triumphant and satisfying end (the internet!).
After the patriotic musical journey through America’s past came Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV. I really liked this one mainly because of the KILLER piano solo at the end. The piece was just very upbeat and fun thanks to support of a variety of strings that come in at the perfect moments to uplift the brilliant piano work. If my notes and Wikipedia are correct, this kick ass piano solo technically should have been performed on the harpsichord but for this performance was not. I’m going to take an uneducated and inappropriate guess and say that Jeffery Kahane might have a mortal vendetta against playing the harpsichord. I suspect one of his mentors was killed by a rouge harpsichord. If someone asks him about playing the harpsichord (don’t do it) he will get a sad twinkle in his eye and unconsciously crush the baton he is holding. In any case the piece worked out really well on piano.
Handel’s Water Music was the last piece and made me really appreciate the crew who sets up for the Chamber Orchestra. All four of the pieces that were performed required completely different arrangements of musicians and instruments. The crews had to scramble to change things around on stage after each piece ended. Water Music did include Mr. Kahane’s hypothetical mortal enemy, the harpsichord. To his credit, he did not smash it and the performance was all the better for it. The harpsichord’s unique sound added to the regal feeling of the music. The horn section also really drove home the royal ceremonial sentiment. But I have to say, nothing about this piece of music made me think of water. I wonder if anyone in LACO can play glasses of water. That might have been too on the nose though.
All in all, I can now safely say that I am no longer intimidated by the word Baroque. I really enjoyed these misshapen pearls of classical music. As you might expect with a weird clam’s valuable byproduct each Baroque (and mostly Baroque-like) piece was different and had it’s quirky charm. It was a true testament to the versatility of the LA Chamber Orchestra.