3 Cupcakes
Berkeley Symphony's 2009-2010 Season

Salonen conducts Beethoven's 5th

Salonen * Notes *
Esa-Pekka Salonen is currently conducting LA Phil in a program which includes his own Violin Concerto, Ligeti's Clocks and Clouds, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Today's 11am performance was quite packed, since it is a part of a three-week celebration that marks the end of Salonen's tenure as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The festivities this morning started with a short film on Salonen's career in LA, followed by the Ligeti. Clocks and Clouds had a particular sort sustained droning, a pretty shimmering sound. The piece seems scored with female voices instead of violins, and the ghostly sounds the women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale produced were absolutely lovely. At other times they sounded like a flock of unidentifiable beasts, each intoning calls to one another. The effect was strangely arresting.

The soloist for the Salonen, Leila Josefowicz, appeared grounded and played with great intensity. The first movement had a folkish aspect, but with a certain etherealness as well. Movement III - Pulse II was the most fun, it involves a drum kit and a good deal of flirtiness. In contrast, the ending was rather forlorn.

Beethoven's 5th was played with relative restraint, without unnecessary bombast. The orchestra sounded bright here, and Salonen sense of phrasing comes out distinctly. The horns never blared, and only had a few brief moments of wooliness. The woodwinds did have a few seconds of incohesiveness in the slow movement. The last movement was suitably triumphant.

* Tattling * 
After a five hour drive to get to this performance, the box office could not find my ticket. Apparently I need use the NATO phonetic alphabet when spelling out my name over the phone. Then I managed to sit the terrace instead of the front orchestra, and had to scramble around to find the correct seat. Thankfully everyone involved was very nice to a rather harried and sleep-deprived Tattler.

The acoustics of Walt Disney Concert Hall are such that not only can one hear every sound of the musicians, but also of the audience members. This is especially terrible in the case of quiet music, in the Ligeti there was a veritable chorus of coughs from every direction. It seemed to me that if one person was to unwrap a candy in quite far away from where one was sitting, it could sit be heard and was not buffered by the presence other people or by the structure of the seating. Acoustically, everyone is exposed.

The audience was fairly good, impatient at the Ligeti but still quiet, attentive to the Salonen, and more relaxed with Beethoven. Either someone's hearing aid or some recording device made rather loud, high-pitched sounds during the loudest parts of the Beethoven.