|The String Orchestra of Brooklyn with Maestro Eli Spindel|
Whoever thought of presenting a concert in a cemetery? Andrew Ousley (Mister "Death of Classical") himself, that's who! And if the thunderous applause at the end of the performance by The String Orchestra of Brooklyn didn't wake the dead, nothing would. Mr. Ousley has set out to disprove the death of classical music by ironically presenting compelling concerts in crypts and catacombs--concerts that invariably sell out. Last night's event was held in the lovely Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It was the opening event of the second season of The Angel's Share.
This stellar event was graced by good weather, although a tad chilly. Guests chowed down on burgers by Harlem Public and madcap cafe, two providers competing for the Golden Spatula Award. Just as we do not list the winners of vocal competitions, we will not say who won. We will just say that we have never eaten a burger with bacon and peanut butter and enjoyed it enormously. We do not drink bourbon but plenty was provided, along with beer for paisani like me. One never felt so alive as when picnicking among the dead!
We were so busy eating and socializing that we never found the solo cello nor The Three B's String Trio but we enjoyed the jazz stylings of The Wayfairs who entertained during the dinner hour at the entrance to the cemetery.
The capstone (not tombstone) of the evening was the stirring performance by The String Orchestra of Brooklyn with Maestro Eli Spindel who gave a tight performance with precise hand movements sans baton.
Since we started writing about opera we rarely have had time for symphonic music and that's a shame because we first starting loving classical music by listening to the two symphonies we heard last night. Schubert's 8th Symphony in B minor (the "Unfinished") comprises only two movements and seems to have been abandoned in 1822 when the young Schubert became ill.
It's a case of a glass half full. We could mourn the fact that the listener is left hanging, so to speak; or we could revel in the glorious melodies that this composer of over 600 songs (!) lavished on his final orchestral work. It's a challenge not to hum along and, indeed, several audience members sitting behind me saw fit to do so. Isn't that what music is all about? Contemporary composers take note! We want melodies!
The Schubert was followed by Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in C minor, finished in 1808 when the master was already deaf. We believe that if you polled music lovers about their favorite symphony, this one would come up at the top of the list. Not only is it concise but it is well knit. The rhythmic motif we all recognize appears throughout in various guises and melodic themes reappear as well.
The symphony is written in classical form with the first movement involving two very different themes expressed alternatively--the rhythmically strong theme and the gentle lyrical one. The development section reminds one of a dialogue or even an argument between a man and a woman. The restatement of the themes involves the secondary theme changing keys. So, does the "man" win the argument? Just sayin'!
It was clear to us that Beethoven had a powerful influence on Schubert and we sort of wished that the order had been reversed. Still, it was interesting to go back to Schubert's roots. We liked Maestro Spindel's control over the orchestra and the way he elicited the themes as well as the inner voices. The percussion section was particularly notable as well as the brass (added for the occasion) in spite of a recalcitrant horn. We have nothing but admiration for a musician who chooses such a difficult instrument just because it sounds so haunting.
No one was haunted at the party and everyone left happy. We have a sense that many guests were rather new to classical music because they applauded after every movement. Rather than feeling annoyed at the interruption, we felt pleased that the event brought in some "noobies". We have no doubt that they will pursue their interest and this is all to the good. Death of Classical? No way!
(c) meche kroop
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