Orchestra programming generally takes in a number of different pieces and composers, albeit often with a common theme, presumably to ensure that everyone goes away happy with at least some of the evening, if not all of it. This weekend’s ASO concert was limited to just two pieces – Brahms’ Piano Concerto No 2 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherezade (RSI = 1.3). Two disparate pieces – one a serious undertaking by one of the three Bs (that’s Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, the three Bs of German music, as opposed to Bagwell, Biggio and Berkman, the killer Bs of the Houston Astros), the other a 45 minute musical rendition of a fairy tale.
Everything about the Brahms was restrained – the pianist, the orchestra and eventually the audience, who in turn gave it a fairly restrained reception (although enough to coax a very pleasant Mozart encore). Certainly herself got the fidgets within two minutes of the start, and deeply regretted not having bought a program, which would have given her something to read. Happily there wasn’t a sudoku or crossword within easy reach.
After the break, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherezade proved to be a complete contrast, with the orchestra ripping into the piece with a great deal of verve. The solo violin passages were as good as anything I’ve heard in a long time. It’s not often that you get to hear a bassoon solo – Bill Bailey (in his Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra) postulates that as no-one ever seems to hear them, the bassoonists are in fact surreptitiously playing Bee Gees songs. Not on this occasion, as the principal bassoonist made full use of his time in the spotlight that Sheherezade offers him. This was terrific stuff and made the evening quite memorable.