December 6th, 2019


Beethoven, Reich, Beethoven

Everything goes better with Beethoven!

To me, the selling point of tonight’s concert was the local premiere of Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, a work co-commissioned by the Philharmonic. To their marketing department, it was “Bronfman and Beethoven”. Their titling is always inane and infuriating, but really, you commission a piece then program it as an afterthought and promote it that way? Yeah, they do. Par for this course, but as grating as always.

Much as I love Beethoven, he doesn’t get me in the hall. New Reich (or even old Reich), even smothered in Beethoven, does. The second symphony and fourth piano concerto (with Yefim Bronfman) did the honors. And really, they did them quite goodly. JVZ does indeed have a talent for delicate things to go with his bombast, and demonstrated that well tonight.

The Reich is in the mold of his recent work, fast–slow–fast, phrases burbling in and out of view. It’s perhaps not as striking as some, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything to argue with. I’m sure I heard it with one of the other commissioning orchestras (no, actually BBCNOW) on the BBC sometime in recent months, and it made a similar impression; I can’t say I listened as carefully then.

We were on the opposite side and further back from our usual, and found the balances very sketchy. I’m not sure if it was the distance or reversed perspective or the combination, but it’s a vantage point I’ll endeavor to avoid in the future. I’ll believe the latest renovation announcement when I’m sitting in a new hall (well, ok, maybe when the first closure actually happens), but it’s certainly a necessity.