No better proof of repertoire choice relating to turnout was
demonstrated than in Friday's only weekend ISO concert. I'd guess that the Circle Theatre was
less than one-quarter filled for a single program (no weekend duplicates) featuring
Sibelius and Brahms bookending two new works by Sarah Kirkland Snider, 46, and
and soprano Shara Worden.
In keeping with all major symphony organizations' desire to
expand performing repertoire with the introduction of new works, and the
expected loss in attendance in programs dominated by them, it would seem
prudent to fit a single contemporary piece into a program of either warhorses
or "common practice" (1700 - 1930) works. This will help ensure each of these
new works the greatest possible exposure. It is clearly self-defeating to
inundate a program with new works if exposure is what is desired.
In Friday's program, Snider's offering came first, Three songs from her incidental music to Unremembered: 1. The Guest - 2. The Swan
- 3 The Witch. These
three--out of 13--recall Snider's imaginative childhood. She introduced them, as she announced
from the stage, by singing Schubert's final song "Der Leiermann" from his late
written cycle Die Wintereise which
had inspired her, with the house and stage darkened, a spotlight trained on Worden
standing on the upper stage -- and a piano accompaniment. For the three Snider
songs, Worden returned to the podium, the lights returned, and she hooked
herself up to an amplifying system.
What to say about her singing? Whether intentional or not, her notes blended
with the orchestra's held tones such that she couldn't be clearly heard, even
with amplification. Vocally
Worden sings nearly "white" with an occasional trace of a light vibrato. The orchestra
tended to hold sustained notes while shifting rough harmonies beneath them. In short I found
myself unable to respond to these latter-day songs (while admiring the
Not so with Caroline Shaw's following ISO commissioned Lo for Violin and orchestra, with Shaw
herself doing the violin solo. Though compositionally similar to the
Snider songs, Shaw's use of tonal harmonies made all the difference in my
response. Lo's three connected movements spun a
web of continuous lines over shifting harmonies filled with common and
not-so-common chords. The concerto featured a prominent use of the bass drum
without timpani (rather like Paganini's first violin concerto). As any piece of new
music should accomplish, this one revealed new beauties. Shaw's violin work was light as she
blended with her players without much contrast.
Outwater began the program with Sibelius's piece The Oceanides, one whose modal
inclinations recalled for me the composer's Sixth Symphony, but with the music
more continuous in its overlapping phrases. The concert ended with Brahms'
familiar Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a, the theme being the St. Anthony Chorale from a Haydn woodwind quartet now thought to have been written by one
of his students. Both
works received routine, uneventful performances. Feb.