With your ailing moderator having taken to bed last night, we thank Friend of Ionarts Robert 'Mecki' Pohl for the following thoughts on the Thursday evening concert by the National Symphony Orchestra.
S. Isserlis, Why Handel Waggled His Wig (Faber, 2006)
The second piece, in contrast, featured old friends. Both Steven Isserlis, whom I have heard many times over the last fifteen years, and the Schumann cello concerto, which I have listened to countless times. Once again, both came through. Isserlis, who writes that Schumann invites you into his inner life as no other composer does, invited us to join him, with great sweeping gestures of his arms as he finished another of the phrases. Isserlis is also one of the all-time great musical salesmen: he could sell Khachaturian to the Azeris. And there was no doubt that the audience was buying. The NSO, for its part, ably supported the cellist. (I believe that's the term; frankly, I barely noticed them, as my attention went entirely to the cellist. It is thus that the amateur is differentiated from the professional.)
Anne Midgette, NSO offers unusual Haydn and Brahms, plus cellist Steven Isserlis in Schumann concerto (Washington Post, February 7)
Steven Isserlis, What is it like to come from an intensely musical family? (New Statesman, February 6)
Peter Aspden, Cellist Steven Isserlis on his pianist grandfather and his compositions (Financial Times, January 10)
In the second movement, the trumpets came in with the theme, and it was a revelation, as if this was what Brahms was really after. From there, the piece grew in leaps and bounds, and soon it was as if one was listening to a long-lost Brahms symphony.
It was the final Rondo all Zingarese where Schoenberg really went to town. The orchestra -- which had grown over the last two pieces -- now filled the whole stage, and the music became all-enveloping. Xylophones, glockenspiels, snare drums, and cymbals added textures and colors that Brahms wouldn't have dreamed of. One expected the Kennedy Center organ to burst in at any moment. Thus did Schoenberg drag Brahms out of the nineteenth century fully into the twentieth century.
This concert repeats tonight and Saturday evening (February 7 and 8, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.