Words about music, Music about words – Doug Bauman

Last Saturday’s PSO concert at Heinz Hall began with Leonard Slatkin conducting Peter Mennin’s Concertato for Orchestra, titled Moby Dick. The forces of the sea were fabulously brought out in this movement. Yet for me, it was like the beginning of a great symphony, only to end too soon, without the rest of the movements, and that left me hanging for more.

But I was not disappointed, because the next piece was the world premier of Richard Danielpour’s A Woman’s Life. Soprano Angela Brown had such a beautiful voice singing the words of the poetry of Maya Angelou, the 7 texts which make up the cycles of a woman’s life. It fittingly ended with the mention that what she really needed was a friend, no more, no less.
Now back to my thoughts of a metaphor. The first work, Moby Dick, seemed to be the stereotypical ‘Man’s Life’. So what would be more fitting than to combine that work with this premier of a Woman’s Life. And indeed they did seem to fit together quite well, musically.
During the performance I must admit that I couldn’t understand the words, but the voice was beautiful, and I rarely can understand the words in operatic music. Consider that Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the choral parts are in German, and although I know a bit of German language, I don’t understand the words, when it is performed, and that too is beautiful music.
After intermission came the beautiful and masterful Jean Sibelius Symphony No. 2. This was a perfect finale for the evening, a broadly sweeping symphony that indeed had moments that could have been set at sea, and others perhaps on land. The proverbial stormy sea being a setting fit for a man, and perhaps the gentle heartwarming homecoming of a land setting being the woman’s home and life. Now if those two were combined, the man and the woman would unite and be as one, and somehow the fourth movement suggested this to me, in no uncertain terms — several dramatic themes came together and formed a singular motif that provided a thoroughly enjoyable ending.

2 thoughts on “Words about music, Music about words – Doug Bauman”

  • Hi Doug,
    Great photos – For those of you who were at the concert and might be wondering how come you’ve missed this (did I just sleep for a moment?):
    This is from the Concert Prelude (our half-hour conversations about the evening’s program)before the weekend’s concerts. WQED-FM’s Jim Cunningham engages composer R. Danielpour and Pittsburgh’s own Toi Derricotte (poet and co-founder of Cave Canem) in a lively conversation about the sisterhood of the arts of music and poetry.
    Thanks for posting them, Doug!

  • I too found the Moby Dick to be underdeveloped. There were some great compositional devices, but not enough genius inspiration to truly hold my attention. An interesting piece, but no hidden gem, in my opinion.

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