Thursday, February 15, 2007

wheels and "Last Round"

I seem to be the only person in Miami who goes to concerts at the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts by bicycle. I'm wondering why no one else does this - is it rude to carry a bicycle helmet into a concert hall? I've heard that in some European cities everyone pedals to concerts, even in their fancy clothes - this might be a liberal fantasy though. Some friends warned me it might get stolen, but I'm more worried about losing my bike on South Beach, where bike thieves are rampant. And I've heard so many complaints about the Carnival Center's parking situation, even in the New York Times. Anthony Tommasini's recent piece about the Carnival Center described how during the Cleveland Orchestra they passed out refreshments after the concert to quell the angry mobs at the valet parking driveway.

Anyway, I'm happy to be the only bike guy, since there are only about three convenient places to lock up a bike around there. And it is nice riding across the causeway afterwards, in the peaceful night (as long as it's not raining). The latest concert I heard was this Tuesday, the Chicago Symphony playing Also Sprach Zarathustra, Elgar's Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham, and "Last Round" by Osvaldo Golijov. This seems to be the piece of the moment, at least around here. The Cleveland Orchestra also played the piece, and just this Monday a group of New World Symphony musicians organized by bassist Jory Herman played it on a Musicians' Forum concert.

Jory's group played the smaller version of the piece, with two string quartets bracketing a single double bass, while the Chicago Symphony did the full string orchestra version. The full strings fill out some of the harmonies in the slow second movement nicely, but I actually preferred the performance on Monday by Jory's group. The smaller ensemble brought out the edgy tango rhythms and the sexy glissandi, and they had an interplay and groove that the Chicago Symphony often lacked. And for whatever reason, CSO principal bassist Joseph Guastafeste had his solo part amplified, which came out oddly to my ears. I don't complain of too much bass very often, but this was occasionally bordering on gross.

Still, the audience at both concerts seemed to enjoy the performance. One older lady at the Musicians' Forum said, "I loved the playing, though I didn't like the piece" - which is maybe as much as you can ask for among contemporary music-averse listeners. I think as a piece like this becomes more familiar audiences will start to form a relationship with it, and realize that they can enjoy the piece on its own merits.

Check out the Golijov website for more information.

1 comment:

mh said...

Calling the amplified J.G. 'bordering on gross' is putting it very tactfully.

A heroic cellist was observed surreptitiously turning down the volume at the dress rehearsal.

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