Charles Petzold

Concert Overload Syndrome

February 22, 2006

Sometimes all the recreational events we have planned pile up in the same part of the month, and that's what happened last week when we saw 3 concerts in 5 days. Two of them were free — one of the benefits of living in a city with several music schools.

Last Monday we saw the students of the Julliard Percussion Ensemble (conducted by Daniel Druckman) at Alice Tully Hall performing 5 works all composed within the past 35 years. The anticipated highlight was Part III of Steve Reich's Drumming (the part featuring three glockenspiels); the surprise was Pattern Transformation, a witty work for two marimbas and four players from 1988 by Lukas Ligeti (the son of the famous Ligeti).

Wednesday we ventured southeast to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for Handel's Hercules with Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie. Christie specializes in reviving semi-obscure Baroque operas and oratorios, and collaborating with innovative directors in jaw-dropping productions. (The last time we saw Christie was a couple years ago when BAM presented a spectacular production of Rameau's Les Boreades.) The plot of Hercules is simple: After a long absence, Hercules returns to his wife Dejanira with a captive Princess Iole in tow. Iole is much younger and much blonder than Dejanira, which causes much tension around the Hercules household. (Who would have guessed that Handel — "the Water Music guy" as Deirdre called him — was capable of writing a hair-raising mad scene?) The cast was dressed in a variety of modern-dress outfits, including army fatigues, and performed in a bunker-like set on a sand-covered stage littered with dented oil drums and scattered fragments of a broken statue of Hercules. It run over 3-1/2 hours, but we loved every minute.

The next evening we journeyed uptown to the Manhattan School of Music (located near Columbia and Barnard) for a concert by the student orchestra. They performed an adequate Brahms Violin Concerto with violinist Judy Kang, and the concert concluded with Shostakovich's 12th Symphony, which is total crap, of course, but probably lots of fun for a student orchestra. with lots of percussion, small solos for the woodwinds and brass in the back row, and very loud climaxes.

That was six days ago. We are now sufficiently recovered to see Joshua Bell in a violin recital tonight at Carnegie Hall.