Dave and I and a few friends went to Berkeley Symphony’s first concert of the season last night. On the program were three short pieces by Avro Pärt and Shostakovich’s Leningrad symphony.
The Pärt pieces seemed to me to be pleasant without being very striking. What was striking was how amazingly noisy the audience was during them: constant coughing, some of it really loud (I seem to be nearly the last person left who carries a handkerchief, but couldn’t they at least cough into their hands or shirtsleeves to muffle the sound a bit?), intermittently ornamented with the crackling of candy wrappers. The Pä pieces were mostly fairly small and quiet, so it’s not impossible I might have liked them better if I could have concentrated better on them. Then again, maybe not, as none of the other music by Pärt that I’ve heard has excited me much — but it would have been nice to be able to find that out, you know?
The Leningrad symphony is of course a great big work for a great big orchestra, so I didn’t hear the woman in front of me unwrapping her candy but I doubt I’d have heard her cracking open a lobster either. The symphony seemed very well played to me, though it wasn’t all that long ago that Dave and I heard the same piece very thrillingly conducted by MTT with the San Francisco Symphony, and it’s hard to compete with the memory of that. The middle two movements seemed to me to be played a bit tamely last night, without the fire I remember from the earlier concert, but I thought the outer movements were exciting and I had a good time.
Still, though, the Leningrad symphony always seems to me to be too much of a good thing. It’s got enough thematic material for two symphonies, and it’s developed to enough length for three.