Throughout the nation, performing arts teams report sluggish ticket gross sales since reopening after pandemic lockdowns. For the viewers, it’s comprehensible: a sketchy mixture of native outbreaks, new work-from-home routines, restaurant inflation and all the opposite uncertainties that make public leisure a questionable exercise in our not-yet post-Covid lives.
Week after week, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert events seem like combating the identical complicated issues. Even the excitement of our nationally acclaimed music director, when she’s on the rostrum, doesn’t generate the anticipated field workplace. There’s no magical repair.
So on Thursday in Symphony Corridor, a wet night with a lesser-known Finnish conductor, Hannu Lintu, main the band and with out a top-10 hit on this system, it got here as no shock to see massive blocks of empty seats.
What was encouraging was all of the clapping between the concerto actions.
Violinist Gil Shaham, an amiable classical star for nearly 30 years, was soloist for Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto. It’s music within the sweeping, late Romantic custom, a method that had been largely swept away by the point of the concerto’s premiere in 1945.
Korngold had one of many extra outstanding (and creatively tragic) careers in Twentieth-century music. A baby prodigy, praised by Mahler, Strauss and Puccini as a youth, he wrote sensational ballets and operas and, by his early 20s, had what’s nonetheless his most substantial work, Die tote Stadt, premiered on the Metropolitan Opera. Quickly Hollywood referred to as, and he answered. His plush, emotions-on-sleeve type turned the definition of “cinematic.” Once you thrill to considered one of John Williams’ outer-space or dinosaur soundtracks, give slightly due to Korngold.
However after the second world battle, his music and his angle couldn’t incorporate the affect and edges of modernism. He continued to jot down music for the incorrect century and died a uncared for (however not forgotten) composer.
Shaham, together with his lush, buttery tone and heat interpretation — and likewise by no means snug with musical modernism — made the best soloist. He lower maybe the definitive recording of the work three many years in the past, and this week’s program booklet reminded us that he truly introduced the concerto to the ASO for the primary time, in 1999, underneath Yoel Levi.
Thursday, Shaham didn’t a lot play to the listeners as share his love for this melodic gem with us. In any case these years, he’s saved it contemporary, and his joyous enthusiasm and sense of collaboration with the orchestra was instantly obvious. There’s a tranquility to his virtuosity, too. His violin enjoying isn’t as seemingly easy and athletic because it as soon as was, however he delivered a superbly complete studying.
Korngold knew the way to write for an viewers. The opening motion, typical of many Romantic concertos, ends with a flourish and a bang that signifies an ending — referred to as a cadence in musical jargon. You hear a daring closing gesture and also you wish to cheer. That was the response by an incredible many individuals in Thursday’s crowd. Shaham and Lintu smiled proper again, fortunately accepting this honest reward.
And there was extra applause after the beautiful second motion (which doesn’t finish with a cadence) and naturally additionally after the high-spirited romp of the finale, the place the composer borrowed from his outdated movie scores, with the sounds of Westerns and high-seas adventures within the combine. Enjoying to the viewers’s id, the whomping loud flourish on the very finish triggered euphoria.
But century-old concert-hall etiquette dictates that the viewers stay quiet between actions of a concerto or symphony. Close to my seat on the primary ground, an older gentleman sighed after which huffed at these intrusions. To applaud on the incorrect locations means you’re not a daily concert-goer. After an analogous live performance fake pas, an nameless web commentator going by the sobriquet Musicological Duck identified, “for those who don’t need folks to clap between actions don’t write cadences” — a twisted logic that lays blame on the composers.
On the ASO, applause between actions means that they “papered” the corridor, freely giving tons of free tickets to college students or different teams who would possibly benefit from the present however don’t usually attend classical concert events. It’s each sensible and beneficiant: If a corporation can’t earn the earnings on the field workplace, they may as nicely fill empty seats and provides paying prospects (and the musicians on stage) a fuller sense of group. An alive viewers, reacting to the music as they hear it, enhances everybody’s expertise, proper?
The clapping stuffed the areas, too, in Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2002. The ASO helped construct Higdon’s profession — commissioning her, recording her music, successful Grammy Awards for it. They usually’ve saved her massive works within the repertoire. The orchestra is aware of her type and sound in addition to they know any residing composer.
Because the title implies, the Concerto for Orchestra, in 5 contrasting sections and modeled after Bartók and Lutoslawski’s masterpieces of the identical title, places every part of the ensemble in a starring position. The opening motion is wild, maybe overwritten. The textures are sometimes so thick you may’t hear what’s occurring throughout the stage. At a number of factors, you see the intense effort from the woodwinds — their faces flush crimson and determined to take a breath — however you may’t hear them beneath the boisterous percussion and the total weight of the strings.
This opening is intense, or perhaps slightly uptight, a giant piece making an attempt to say rather a lot in a rush. Conductor Hannu Lintu appeared extra the visitors cop than interpreter, the place conserving everybody collectively counted as success.
Within the interior sections this piece actually soars, usually brilliantly. The second motion opens with plucked strings, a nifty sound that builds in layers and hooks the listener. The third contains lengthy solos for lots of the part ideas, highlighted by flutist Christina Smith, her tone at turns purring heat or centered and biting — good. However because the gamers take their turns, usually with beautiful phrasing — oboe, clarinet, double bass, second violin, cello, viola, and so forth. — it begins to really feel extra professional forma than musically natural. The composer went down the guidelines of orchestra personnel. Everyone will get a flip.
The fourth motion is the stand-apart spotlight. Scored for a truckload of percussion (and backed with harp, good contact), it appears to cowl most each soundworld potential, from the anticipated to the unlikely and the compellingly bizarre, usually with eerie or emotional impression.
Whereas the Korngold and Higdon won’t have been music of conductor Lintu’s selecting, he opened the live performance with music of Finland’s nice composer Jean Sibelius, a uncommon probability to listen to his tone poem The Oceanides, a piece impressed by Greek mythology and polished whereas on a 1914 sea voyage throughout the Atlantic. (This was apparently the ASO premiere of the work.) Lintu introduced out all of Sibelius’ signature strikes, however his studying lacked urgency, perhaps a standpoint.
This system repeats Saturday at 8 p.m.
Pierre Ruhe was the founding govt director and editor of ArtsATL. He’s been a critic and cultural reporter for the Washington Put up, London’s Monetary Instances and the Atlanta Journal-Structure, and was director of creative planning for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. He’s publications director of Early Music America.