Prokofiev, Prokofiev, And Brahms

I was planning to write a more or less review type blogpost, rather than what I usually do (musicology-lite), but last night  something happened at Heinz Hall that I’d never seen there before.

The lovely wife and I were sitting in the “Orchestra Seating” section (Row O on the floor on the far left as you face the stage, if you’re keeping score) when during the middle movement of the Prokofiev concerto, there was some commotion to my far right – directly across the orchestra seating section in the far aisle.  From what I could see, an elderly woman was beginning to be escorted up the aisle by a small group of patrons.

Usually this is a breach of concert etiquette unless something serious is going on.

I guess something serious was going on because a few seconds later, I couldn’t see her any more and a number of ushers were rushing to where she’d been.  A few minutes after that, a Police officer arrived and I could faintly hear sirens outside.  Then a pair of EMTs arrived and then a few more arrived a short time later with a gurney.  At quiet points in the music, I could make out what was being said on their radios.

If my memory serves me she was wheeled out, oxygen mask in place, near the beginning of the third movement.

Having a frail elderly mother, I hope that whoever collapsed is OK and that it was nothing serious.

But it does bring up an odd question.  While I could tell from the faces of some of the musicians on stage that they could see that something was going on, and it would have been nearly impossible for soloist Gabriela Montero to have missed it, at what point would there have been enough of a crisis to at least pause the concert, bring up the lights and let the EMTs do their jobs?

But the Prokofiev kept rolling on.  It was odd to think that the EMTs were working a few dozen yards to my right to a live sound track.

After the concerto ended and before her two encores, Montero pointed out to the audience that she could see that something had happened and that she was hoping it wasn’t serious.

Me, too.

In light of the woman’s collapse, everything that follows in this blogpost seems rather less than important.  But here we go anyway.

Much has been said for the conductor Christoph Koenig filling in for the scheduled conductor, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, who cancelled.  Druckenbrod of the P-G liked him very much:

Stepping in for Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos on Friday night at Heinz Hall, Mr. Konig, the Dresden-born conductor, impressed before he even took the stage. It’s always a good sign when a last-minute substitute doesn’t alter the original program. It may mean he knows the repertoire — Mr. Konig has been conducting Brahms’ Second — or it may mean he has the artistic heft to take on anything coming his way.

A combination of both would seem to be the case with Mr. Konig. He just debuted with the Houston Symphony, and already there was a call to consider him a successor to music director Hans Graf.

I don’t want to get carried away; he has room to grow. But here was a substitute who didn’t just take the reins of our thoroughbred orchestra, but also led it his way from the beginning.

Kanny of the Trib liked him, but not as much:

Much younger German conductor Christoph Koenig took his place and made a much more favorable impression on the second half of the concert.

The concert on Friday night began with Sergei Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, the famously witty take on old classical forms. Koenig offered a curiously moderate view of the opening Allegro con brio. The tempo was sturdy rather than fleet, and balances were hardly ever bold.

Although the conductor brought more brio to the third movement, Gavotte, and the finale, the performance hardly showed the symphony orchestra at its best.

The concert continued with Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, featuring Gabriela Montero as soloist. This performance was more problematic than the Classical Symphony. In some places Montero overpowered the orchestra, which was balanced too deferentially.

Kanny also heard some “gaping ensemble problems.”  None of which I heard on Saturday.  Though I can’t say I disagree with him about the Konig’s far too regal interpretation of the Classical Symphony.  My understanding is that it’s a witty and somewhat ironic homage to the classical style of Haydn and early Mozart – no trace of any titanic Beethovenian struggles here.  All fluff and elegance as reworked and represented by an artist composing in the war and revolution plagued Russia of 1917.

Konig’s interpretation of the piece, while certainly affectionate and unerringly reverent, lost all of the wit and humor I’d expected to hear.

Completely different world we come to with the concerto.  It was absolutely brilliant all around.  No need to say anything else.

And now we get to Montero’s two encores.  While on Friday, she encored on “Some Enchanted Evening” (though Druckenbrod said it was “One Enchanted Evening”), on Saturday, she asked for something “local” and after a few seconds an audience member sang the first few notes of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as a suggestion.  Montero was off.

Let me tell you, to my ear there were a few mid-period Beethoven swatches and not a small amount of Schubertian textures in there and to her credit she rejected the easy way out as there was was little, if any, KV265 to be heard. For a second encore, she again asked for something local, after rejecting Stephen (“I Dream Of Jeannie…”)  Foster, she found, again “Here We Go, Steelers, Here We Go!”.

She did this last time she was in town.

While her “Twinkle” variations were Schubertian, her Steeler variations were downright Debussyesque.  It was most impressive to behold.

Brahms 2, much like the Prokofiev concerto, was simply amazing.

2 Responses to “Prokofiev, Prokofiev, And Brahms”

  1. Marc Lewis says:

    My mother was the one who collapsed – she is fine now, and has been since fitted with an pacemaker/defibrilator. She turned 84 the week before, and remarked to me after the fact that “I died at the symphony, then came back to life there too!”.

    She’s better than ever, and was very grateful to the doctor who saved her life and along with the EMTs.

  2. Just a note to let you know that I am the woman who went into cardiac arrest at the Symphony on November 19. I am doing quite well after receiving a pacemaker/defibrillator. It was better that the orchestra continued playing as I had created enough disturbance in the Hall…….also, I enjoyed hearing the music as
    I came to!
    Hope to see you at our next Symphony.

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Nov 20