Sunday, October 11, 2009

Indifferent SLSO

Last night I had an indifferent night at the Symphony. The positives, up front: It was, as always, a pleasure to see principal guest conductor Nic McGegan showcasing his specialties (including Handel and Mendelssohn) with his usual verve and vim. Newly-minted principal French horn player Roger Kaza played a lovely solo during the Nocturne from Mendelssohn's incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Local actor Gary Wayne Baker put in a hit performance as the "narrator" (actually providing textual cues from Shakespeare's comedy, in a variety of characters). The women of the Symphony Chorus sounded fine in their couple of numbers. And the English horn concerto by Czech composer Josef Fiala, a contemporary of Mozart, was a pleasing-to-the-ear novelty.

But... the featured soloists were "just OK." One of them (soprano Kate Reimann) was actually somewhat less than OK: I couldn't hear her. The SLSO's own cor anglais artist, Carolyn Banham, showed some good stuff but, at the same time, looked so nervous that I felt bad for her - which always puts a strain on one's musical enjoyment. And the overture from Handel's Occasional Oratorio sounded like a lot of meaningless hoopla to me.

I partly blame the seat I was in. Unlike my last visit to the symphony, when I had awesome seats in the Center Parquet, I was parked over in the right front corner, where my view of the near half of the stage was dominated by the backs of the cello players. I couldn't see much of what was going on, and I have a misgiving that the orchestral sound that I heard was impacted, at least in balance and blend, by where I was situated. I didn't hear as much of the strings, especially the low strings, as I would have liked. Imperfections in the players' articulation, that might ordinarily have been covered up by the overall blend, stood out. And I just couldn't hear Fairy No. 1.

So, maybe it was my seat. The price was right; the SLSO comped it. But experiences like this have taught me, when I am paying for my own ticket, to go for the seats in the nosebleed gallery. They're slightly less cheap, but with a pair of opera glasses (which I possess) and a more advantageous acoustic (which come with the seats) I tend to come away much more satisfied with what I have seen and heard - whether the soloists were perfect or not!

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