be our guest

hospitality is in the air: me and my hubbie are offering up the spare bedroom to our new yorker friend this week (hey alena!), showing her a good time around brooklyn-west and, of course, escorting her to the oregon symphony concert last night.  the orchestra, meanwhile, played host to a pair of out-of-towners: austrian fiddler ben schmid and guest conductor james not-the-bacon-loving gaffigan [who will go down in my personal grievance stat book as the first musician to blow off the beaver].  okay, i’ll try and let that go, only because maestro gaffigan perfectly played the role of cool substitute teacher, dressing down in black pajamas, throwing sly winks right through that proverbial fourth wall, and best of all, allowing the viola section to shout “hey!” during a russian folk tune section of the tchaikovsky symphony.  hell, for all i know he was smokin’ in the boys room during intermission with a gang of percussionists.  anywho… the classical program two weeks ago kicked off with a germanic wagner overture, so it’s only fair that italian opera got equal time last night with an energetic rossini ditty.  after this musical antipasto, the main course arrived on stage in the form of a violin concerto by william bolcom.  amidst all the excitement of 1983 – amy winehouse was born, ira gershwin died, jabba the hutt chained up a bikini-clad carrie fisher, the first chicken mcnuggets were sold, our boys in uniform invaded grenada for some freedom-loving reason – mr. bolcom composed this shape-shifter of a concerto that, based on the dwindling applause that barely brought out the brilliant mr. schmid for a second well-deserved bow, seemed a difficult pill to swallow for most of the audience.  unexpected stops, unassuming starts, no firework violin solos, ever-changing musical styles, odd time signatures… this work was as easy to hold onto as a greased pig during a thunderstorm.  a more traditional crowd-pleaser was saved for dessert: the first ever symphony written by a 20-something tchaikovsky.  and how sweet it was to hear a few auditory inklings of sleeping beauties, sugarplum fairies, and dying swans… and gosh darn it, no one (and i mean no one) revs up the ol’ orchestral engine like pyotr.  all in all, it was another stellar night of impeccably technical performances by the band, especially those crazy-ass violists, who proved that “hey” ain’t just for horses.  word.

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