16 April 2018

Stravinsky, Martinů, and Sibelius

Last month, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra came to town. And since we had a friend staying with us, who was interested in the music that was to be played, we bought tickets. And surprisingly, this was the first time where I could say that I wasn't too satisfied with the music.

They played three pieces. First was Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements (1945). This was my most favourite piece of the evening. In typical Stravinsky fashion, the rhythms were radical and all over the place, and the orchestra was perfect in executing them.

The second piece was Bohuslav Martinů's Cello Concerto No. 1, H. 196 (1930). The soloist was Sol Gabetta, who truth be told, was a name I haven't heard of before, but then again, I don't really follow soloists. I find it more interesting to dive into the music, and I care more about what is being played, rather than who is playing (there are a few exceptions, especially when it comes to pianists, where I definitely see differences in interpretations between different pianists). Nevertheless, she gave a very virtuoso performance, and even though I am not at all familiar with the piece, it was marvellous to listen to.

After the pause, the final piece was Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82 (1919). Unfortunately I must say that I wasn't captivated by this piece. It was probably too romantic for my taste. My friend was very enthusiastic about this piece, but unfortunately I actually fell asleep in a few occasions. Falling asleep during a classical music concert doesn't happen often to me, but when it does, it typically is because I find the music not exciting enough. Perhaps I have a big bias towards contemporary classical music, and I just found Sibelius to be too quotidian. The most exciting thing I found in the piece was the coming and going of the crescendos, as if they were waves of sounds going up and down, but unfortunately, I didn't find much beyond that.

All in all, it was a learning experience. The performances were great: the orchestra did an amazing job that night, and the soloist was breath-taking. But the music was not really helpful in keeping me to the edge of my seat. I suppose I find it more interesting if the music were composed a few decades later, the type when people might actually walk out of the auditorium, because it's not the typical classical music you encounter.

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