Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A night of musical magnificence at the ESO

This past Friday (January 27th) was our first ESO Masters series concert of 2012. It was quite the night to get back into the swing of things (not having had a concert since early November). The program's line up included Mahler, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninoff. This was just the sort of concert that suited me to a tee. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before but, I love Russian composers. So, with Shostakovich's first symphony in the first half and Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto taking up the whole of the second, I found the whole night musically magnificent.

Many people (especially Canadians) are familiar with the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony, although possibly without knowing it. Excerpts from this movement were used for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's Olympic winning free dance. Their interpretation of the music was exquisite and I had the pleasure of seeing them reprise their performance at the 2010 Stars on Ice show in Edmonton, where they skating an abridged version of this program. Anywho, I'm writing about the ESO concert, not figure skating (alas I missed the ESO show just a few weeks ago which involved Toller Cranston [1976 Olympic men's bronze medalist] as MC). I've been familiar with the Mahler long before Virtue and Moir skated to it, and have always loved it for its wonderfully romantic theme. It lived up to my expectations in the skilled hands of the ESO musicians. A lovely way to start the show.

Changing gears completely, next came Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Opus 10. Although, according to the program notes, the Lento movement has more than once been compared to Mahler's Adagietto, so perhaps it wasn't a complete shift. I loved this selection right from the first, highly rhythmic notes--they made me think of Wile E. Coyote, scurrying in between hiding places on tip toe. Actually, the whole symphony reminded me of movie music because it was so changeable and dramatic. It seems this might not be such an unheard of comparison as Shostakovich made ends meet by playing piano in a movie house at the time he composed this music. Sometimes when the ESO performs the slightly more unusual, less known selections the audience isn't quite sure what to make of it. There seemed to be no problems on Friday as the nearly full house clapped enthusiastically as the guest conductor ran about the orchestra queuing featured musicians to stand and take a bow (there were a lot, it took a while).

Finally, after the intermission came the biggy, the masterpiece: Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Opus 30. Wow. This is one seriously massive work, not only in terms of length (almost 40 minutes), but the skill required by the solo pianist. Known as one of the most remarkable pianist ever, Rachmaninoff wrote this work to showcase his skills for his 1909 tour of the United States. As a listener, if feels like a non-stop barrage of notes, not in an unpleasant way, of course. It's just so busy. The pianist almost never gets a break. Recordings of Rachmaninoff playing the piano still exist. I've heard them played on the CBC before. According to Wikipedia, Rachmaninoff recorded his third concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1939.

The guest pianist for Friday's performance was Alexander Korsantia. He's originally from Tbilisi Georgia, although he currently lives in Boston and teaches at the New England Conservatory. He was a rather unassuming soloist, coming out in a simple black button down shirt and black pants. Even when he finished the piece, he turned to congratulate the first and second violists, and the conductor before taking a bow. Korsantia was also simply magnificent. Sometimes I envy pianists, and wish I could play as well as them. Oddly, on Friday night I felt no envy, just awe. Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto if far beyond anything I could even hope to play (my fingers barely stretch an octave). Despite the length of the concerto, it flew by, then almost the second the final cord was struck, shouts of 'Bravo!' filled the Winspear. It didn't take long for us all to get to our feet.

Ciao (I'll try to write again soon),


Monday, January 9, 2012

I haven't posted in a while.


I haven't had much of interest to post about, but I thought I would at least write to say: I AM ALIVE.

Well, I am alive and it's now 2012. So, does that mean anything in particular? No. Not really. Sure, there are a couple of new things on my plate, but other than that things are pretty much operating as usual.

I'm finally the official librarian at work. I've been the only librarian in my group for almost a year now, so nothing really changes except the title under my name on the sign outside my cubicle. I also get more pay and more vacation. Definite bonuses, but in the grand scheme of things, everything is still the same.

I'm planning to participate in a triathlon in June. Just the sprint level (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run), nothing major. Since my IT band doesn't seem to like long distance runs I've given up on the half and full marathon idea, but I feel I'm still capable of endurance sports so I thought this might be a nice compromise. Plus, I actually enjoy swimming, and biking is still one of my favourite things to do on a temperate day with minimal wind and the Alberta blue sky appears to go on forever.

And I'm still writing. Okay. So I haven't written much in the last two weeks (I think Christmas holidays is something of a misnomer, what I experienced was not a holiday or relaxing), but I'm back at it now that I'm home. I'm still fixing up Cimwai, but I hope to submit it soon. I've also started watching my email and snail mail for responses from Tor regarding Nora, even though it's way too early.

That's about it for me.