Three Poems & one Lament: Higdon,Messiaen,Scriabin & Mozart – Naomi Yoran

I have heard more than once Robert Moir describing the planning of
a Season Program to making sausage! As the Artistic Planner of the PSO
he loves to point out the many obstacles of putting together a coherent
& balanced concert which will have the "right ingredients" to
satisfy our discriminated but varied tastes. Beside revealing his sense
of humor, I became aware that my reactions to many compositions depend
not only on their own merit but also on their relative position in a
particular concert.
So one of my favorite "games", after a concert, is finding common
associations among the musical pieces & than contrasting them with
each other.

It is a great game. It is as though I am inviting the composers
for "tea & discussion" and let them speak their mind & tell
each other wether they enjoy each other’s company… (I demand that
they leave their sense of decorum at the door!)

On Friday evening it was dinner instead of tea. We were treated to
a 4 course meal. Somewhat unusual. Two apetizers & two main
courses. The second main course served as a dessert as well.
So how was dinner? 
Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral was a fresh &great appetizer. I liked it so much, I wished it was a bit longer.
The composer offered many clues to her composition (& you are
all invited to read it in the program notes & on her blog and
website) & it all made a lot of sense & created much
anticipation. Still, each of us has different taste-buds, and being an
architect, my imagination took me to an all glass cathedral: Very tall,
chilly & brilliant. (Her music reminded me of Sibelius’, only many
of his openings translate in my mind to chilly & horizontal forms
expanding far into the horizon.) It did not end there. A solo clarinet
warmed the space and from this point I heard a dialogue of cold &
worm sounds: Heaven & Earth in a gentle melodic conversation which
went up higher & higher till ending as far away as the blinking
stars… It was so beautiful I did not wish it to end.
The first apetizer was a poem, one of three in the program. Messiaen’s Un Sourire (the second appetizer after Mozart’s delisious main course, was also a poem, dedicated to Mozart.) The third poem, Scriabin’s Ecstasy  was dedicated to himself…
Messianen’s  short composition was also a dialogue. This one,
between gentleness & exhilaration and it ended as though he too was
reaching to the sky. So these two composers had much in common and they
loved each other’s company.
The main course: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24 is one of my
beloved concertos. It always reminds me how often the best of artisic
creations evokes sadness, introspection, examination of life’s agonies.
Through wisdom not lament. The utmost beauty. When this concerto is
performed by a virtuoso as Andre Watts you wish him to offer you
dessert… Even a short  Chopin nocturno would have been satisfying…
Instead, we were treated to another main course: Another poem,
only this one was long, bombastic & so full of sounds!!! Well, it
was a little to much for me. In another "dinner party" I would probably
enjoy it & take much pleasure in it’s giagantic form. Only at that
point in the concert, having a third poem in such contrast with the
other two & especially following Mozart’s introspection, Scriabin
sounded more like a self promoter without boundries than a good match
to his fellow composers… Too bad. I had a feeling he was trying to
bully the rest of the company! The orchestra & the Conductor (The
excellent Andrey Boreyko) had much fun playing this Ecstasy and I rejoiced in their performance but my mood was still with Mozart, Messiaen & Higdon.
I think I would invite these three again for another conversation.
I think Shostakovitch would fit in with any of his "moods". If Scriabin
would insist of coming I would ask him to bring along one of his piano
sonatas.

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Nov 7