One Person’s Misfortune… – Bethany Hensel and Luther Shalk

is another person's gain.  Right?  Is that the expression?  Something like that.

Anyway, I have been sick on and off for the past MONTH.  I just can't shake whatever germs are festering inside me.  I'm a walking petri dish.  Stay away!!  (As an aside: I'm not dying or anything.  I don't have swine flu, thank God.  But I do have a nagging cough.  It's frustrating and annoying.  I'm sure it's even more frustrating and annoying to those within a five foot radious of me.)

I thought I'd be better by Saturday night's performance.  I was not.  Every three seconds…cough cough cough.  I wanted to go.  Trust me.  But…I just couldn't justify ruining everyone's night – and risk getting people sick.  A little bit of cold to me could spell pneumonia to someone else!  Plus, going to the symphony, of all places, when you're hacking a lung out is really just rude.  To the performers, the conductor, and the patrons.  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't go. 

BUT….my friend could!  I asked him nicely if he could tell me about his experience and what he thought of the show.  He did.  He actually went a step beyond, and took the time to write a pretty nice review himself!  So, without any more delay – cause really, how long can one person talk about petri dishes and coughing – I present Luther Shalk's review of Composing with Words!


The first piece, Moby Dick, by Peter Mennin, was a very enjoyable ten minutes of music. I don't think I've ever heard so much action or variety in mood, intensity, and sounds in such a short interval of time. The PSO's performance was crisp and intense, and the brass and percussion sections ably anchored the critical points of climax. Leonard Slatkin, the conductor, hardly glanced at his sheet music, but seemed rather to take his cue from the music, fluctuating in activity and emotion with the music. It was masterfully performed.
The second piece, A Woman's Life, was not as impressive to me. I hope I don't come across as narrow-minded, but the superposition of Maya Angelou's very informal poetry over symphonic music and operatic voice seemed artificial, incongruous, and even a little ridiculous. Granted, the music and the singing were impeccably performed, and the poetry itself is admirable, but they didn't mix well together, and my overall opinion of the piece was low.
The final piece was Sibelius' second symphony. The first thing I noticed was that Slatkin did not use music at all, an impressive feat considering the length of the symphony. Again, he didn't miss a beat, and he seemed to live with the music. The orchestra performed very well, as always. I loved the chord progressions and harmonies of the symphony, characteristics that have always set apart Sibelius' music in my mind. Some other notable features were some call-and-response measures in the strings early in the symphony and a very powerful ending to the fourth movement. I did find the middle of the symphony to be a little too quiet and slow, with whole minutes of not much going on. I got a little sleepy. Otherwise, I was very pleased with the piece.

And there you have it!  A bit technical, I admit.  It certainly lacks my flair and personality. But hey, nice effort.  The Russian judge gave it a seven! 

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