a rousing night indeed – part I

throughout last season the oso performed works by 9 living composers, which was pretty kick-ass if you ask the beav. for 2011/12 that number’s down to 3 – but hey, it’s quality not quantity, right?  the first of this season’s un-dead is christopher rouse, an american composer with a penchant for writing stuff that forces musicians to practice, practice, and practice.  his 7-minute phaethon was no exception last night, but (as usual), the band pulled it off (and blew it up).  i’m guessing that whenever instrumentation calls for contraptions like slapsticks, thundersheets (with a lightning bolt decal!), tam-tams, and tom-toms, it’s enough to give percussionists a wood block in their shorts.  captain niel, sergeant matt, and the rest of the bang-bang brigade not only seemed happy to see us, but pleased as punch to hammer their way into our hearts.  ka-boom, indeed!

during a kink fm (?) interview this week, rockstar soloist alban gerhardt boldly described the cello as “the closest thing to the human voice.”  well, sure enough, last night the spirits of paul robeson, luciano pavarotti, and sarah vaughan (among others) were most certainly swirling around inside mr. gerhardt’s magical instrument, just waiting to be released from its depths with a tap of his bow.  sparked by the first prokofievian note, the cello’s voice effortlessly soared above the band and up through the schnitzer balcony – pure, sure, and mature.  a thousand and one youtube viewings could not prepare me for the bittersweet beauty of uncle sergei’s music, brought to acoustic life by an insanely perfect performer.  i’ll tell you what, the middle movement alone was worth the price of admission.  and after presenting (without a written score, btw) this intricately demanding concerto four nights in a row, what does alban do?  a freakin’ rostropovichian encore!  [jesus h. christ, the monday night crowd is totally lucking out with these departing bonbons, eh?]  so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye mr. gerhardt… until next time…

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