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Do You Notice the Symmetry?

Mandelbrot FractalJames Judd is most gladly seen in the area and the more of him I see, the more I like him. There is something – hard to define – about him that just makes you want to hear him again and again. There’s nothing either fancy or flashy about the Music Director of the NZSO. Instead, there is something ‘fine’, generous in the way he elicits music from the BSO.

Last – Thursday – night, at Strathmore, he presented an “Explorer Series” concert with that orchestra. This last of a series of three such concerts dealt with symmetry in music. “Symmetry and the Golden Rule” were supposed to be explored around Bach’s, Schoenberg’s, and Mozart’s music. If it did not quite work out that way, it certainly was not the orchestra that was at fault here.

The Bach was rumbling, warmhearted, genial – played in a way you don’t much hear anymore these days. Apart from individual trumpet squeaks, the BSO brass was a pleasure to hear in Bach. (After all, you hardly hear Bach by non-period groups these days, and their brass is often not good.) Music lover and astrophysicist Doctor Mario Livio then took over to talk.

His presentation was reasonably short and entertaining, but sadly lacking in substance. He repeated – word for word – his short talk from last year’s season announcement: A bit more was needed. That Bach worked with symmetry and numbers we now know – but how did he do it… and how did Schoenberg? The swirly-swirl of static fractals and nature’s patterns did nothing to enhance Verklärte Nacht.

It so distracted from the music that it came to the point of sabotaging the performance. How it illustrated anything at all about this music I have not quite figured out yet. Why was I looking at bark for five minutes – only to be torn away again by these patterns? Schoenberg’s monumentally beautiful work deserves – nay: needs all the attention that it can get.

“Power Point is thy enemy” – Mr. Livio presents very well, but the format was flawed. Mozart was enjoyable on its own, though, and not interrupted with projections above it. Symphony No.40 was meaty (no harm) and enjoyable with a certain eagerness. Although it contained a few sloppy moments, they were of the amiable kind, not maddening. A night of wonderful music well played, even if the concert’s raison d’etre misfired.

So you noticed the symmetry?


Michael Lodico's review of the same concert can be read here. This program will repeat tonight and tomorrow evening (March 30 and 31, 8 pm) and Sunday afternoon (April 1, 3 pm) at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.


Anonymous said...

Ha. I think I get it.

1 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 1

And the title and the last sentence both have five words. Or is there more to it? Pretty obscure, I would say, but funny.

jfl said...

Very close. It's also symmetric on the level of syllables. [8] (6 x 4) x (4 x 6) [8]. (Eight syllable header - six paragraphs of four sentences each with 24 (=4x6) syllables – eight syllable extro.) Very glad someone got it. 