Thursday, January 31, 2013

REVIEW: Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Monday January 28

It started with Riccardo Muti cancelling because “He was subsequently diagnosed with an inguinal hernia, which requires surgical treatment as soon as possible. His doctors determined that to delay the surgery until after the scheduled tour to Asia could lead to complications.” Then they announced that Lorin Maazel will replace Muti (Taipei got Osmo Vänskä). Well, they have to bring in a well-known conductor worthy to replace Muti (or all hell will break loose), right?. So far, I was okay… then they change the programme! They kept Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Op. 73, BUT they replaced Stravinsky’s The Fairy’s Kiss: divertimento and Busoni’s Turandot Suite, Op. 41 with Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C K551, Jupiter. If I had known this, I would have chosen the second night (January 29) with Verdi, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Trying to be positive, I thought that it was better to listen to something that CSO was more comfortable with rather than listen to them fumble through something they are not ready for.

Was it because I was disappointed with all the changes that I just can’t seem to appreciate this performance? Jupiter was Mozart’s last symphony and also his longest. Maazel, by using a slow tempo, didn’t do the music any favor. Worse is that it was a very uninteresting slow crawl. Sometimes I don’t mind the idiosyncratic pace that some conductors employ as long as they were trying to say something or even just simply trying something new, but this Mozart was just boringly standard and to certain extends plain. Some portions were so plain that my mind wandered around. And because I was seating on the first row, my immediate line of sight was the feet of the musicians… and their feet were far more interesting! My conclusion is that some of them do really need to clean their shoes and preferably polish them. Also, the trumpet player should really leave his cowboy boots in Chicago.

The Brahms improved a little, but not much. My eyes did continue to wander and this time they went to the attires of the female members of the orchestra. The word “dowdy” came to my mind. In fairness to Maazel, the problem in Brahms was not all his. The orchestra was not there. A few times, a few members of the string section overshot (not finishing together). First, I thought I was imagining it, but then when the second time it happened, my friend and I immediately looked at each other with disbelief! The piece had a promising start...there was an interesting “swing” to it, but it didn’t last sadly. Slowly it descended into measured, careful and academic performance… quite average.

The band gave two encores, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor and the Prelude to Act III of Wagner’s Lohengrin.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
28 January 2013

MOZART Symphony No 41 in C, K551, Jupiter
BRAHMS Symphony No 2 in D, Op 73 29


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