A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan
Review: Denève, Los Angeles Philharmonic sparkle in Rachmaninoff. Orange County Register, April 25, 2014.
classical music, reviews
Bartok, Gil Shaham, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Rachmaninoff, Stephane Deneve
April 26, 2014
Do you want to comment?
Comments RSS and TrackBack URI
Spot on review, Tim. I, like you, have never been crazy about 2nd Symphony but this performance made me want to reassess the piece. I heard it last night at Segerstrom and that hall seemed a perfect venue for this symphony.
Thanks for the review. I’m a big fan of Shaham and very sorry to have missed him. He’s quite a musician.
There are certainly valid reasons to criticize Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. And yet, for an orchestra that just before last week went through a fortnight-long minimalistic maxi-marathon made up of several different programs including a couple of all-Glass concerts, complaints of “inane repetitions of inane phrases” in the Rachmaninov sound more than a little bit ironic and possibly even very unfair. As for the Bartok’s Second “Fiddle” Concerto, no disagreements there – it’s a great piece.
The repetitions in Rachmaninoff are of an entirely different kind than the repetitions in minimalism, and they serve a different musical function. And who says if one thing is inane another can’t be? I certainly find at least some minimalism to be inane and not all Rachmaninoff to be so.
There’s a famous poem by the Roman poet Martial, translated thus:
“I do not like thee Dr. Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee Dr. Fell.”
A critic should tell why he doesn’t like something. The “why” of it is more important than the opinion itself. We cannot always know the reasons we don’t like something; sometimes we can’t say why we do. But to explore the “why” part of it is valuable to the reader and listener, I believe. And those repetitions in the Rachmaninoff Second bother me, because in context, I feel, they are inane.
Thanks for a serious reply to my comment. So, what are the different musical functions of repetitions in those two cases? And if Rachmaninov’s repetitions do serve a certain musical function, then how can they be inane?
For me as a listener, and possibly as a performer too, it is rather simple: if a musical phrase is musically meaningful, it may be worth repeating once or twice. The more meaning in a phrase, the more repetitions it can sustain without becoming inane, and vice versa. Measuring the amount of meaning in a phrase is obviously not an exact science and is highly subjective, just like most other judgements in music in other arts. But i have not yet encountered a musical phrase that would justify scores of uninterrupted unchanged repetitions.
Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:
You are commenting using your WordPress.com account.
( Log Out /
You are commenting using your Google account.
( Log Out /
You are commenting using your Twitter account.
( Log Out /
You are commenting using your Facebook account.
( Log Out /
Connecting to %s
Notify me of new comments via email.
Notify me of new posts via email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Join 410 other followers
Sign me up!
Blog at WordPress.com.