You know what’s cool? Concertos are cool. Or is it concerti? Italian is a weird language.
See, a concerto is when a dude who’s really good at an instrument—we call him the soloist—gets up on stage with a bunch of musicians with violins and flutes and trumpets and whatnot—we call that an orchestra—and plays something. Oh, and he shows off. A lot. Could be a she, too.
But say you want to see a concerto. Excellent choice, I say. But which concerto? Just pick an instrument you like. Maybe it’s the violin. Pro tip: you want to see a violin concerto. The name pretty much gives it away—it’s a concerto for the violin. Really comes in handy, because there’s a concerto for almost everything. Guitar concertos. Flute concertos. Piano concertos. Vuvuzela concertos. I’m pretty sure that last one’s a joke.
So it’s all pretty simple. Then along comes this dude called Ludwig van Beethoven. And he looks at the concerto and says, nein. Could use some vork (he was German). Eins soloist, boring. Zwei soloists, boring. Drei soloists, interesting! So he wrote the first triple concerto. And it’s called the Beethoven Triple Concerto, because it’s a concerto multiplied by three and Beethoven wrote it.
Where am I going with this? November 15, I got to see the orchestra play this Triple Concerto. Went to see what all the hullabaloo was about. I’m up in the mezzanine (that’s a fancy word for middle balcony), and out walks this cellist, Shauna Rolston, this pianist, André Laplante, and this violinist, Jonathan Crow. And so they play, and do a really dandy job, but I’ve got some opinions. It’s middle-period Beethoven, so let’s make it a little Romantic. But the orchestra doesn’t want to be Romantic—it wants to be Classical. And that’s fine, but don’t hold it back too much. First movement’s Allegro (that’s a fancy word for fast), so why you gotta play Allegretto con moto, orchestra? (That’s a fancier way of saying “slightly less fast”, by the way.) And I’m listening for good crescendos and really driven fortes, for that beautiful Romantic sound. The crescendos were really nice, but where’s my forte, orchestra? You’re building and building and getting louder and louder and it was really good! But then you just stayed there at almost-could’ve-been-forte and I was just a bit disappointed. Lovely run with the second movement, though. Firm and refined accompaniment, really nice. Still wished it was just a bit more Romantic, especially with the forte sweeps.
The pianist is a pretty special dude. André Laplante: so good he’s an Officer of the Order of Canada. Yeah, I know. Beautiful, light, sparkling tone—I was pretty jealous of his sound, I’ll say that. He didn’t go all out Romantic, nothing too crazy. Conservative interpretation, but phenomenal execution and flawless technique. Really liked his second movement playing. Deep and sustained voice, perfect phrasing. I’d kill for his hands.
Then there’s the cellist—Shauna Rolston, search her up—beautiful sound. See, she had this really nice, rich, honeyed tone, and it was wonderful. Loved her solo melodies and trio lines. The way she handled the second movement theme? Heavenly. She had this really deep, soothing, firm voice that was just perfect. Wish I got to hear more of her sound, though. Middle balcony’s pretty decent seating, but I still didn’t catch her trio parts. Maybe she wanted a smaller voice—the whole chamber music side of the piece, probably—but the violin and piano just OP’d her harmonic line. And her third movement opening (music nerds read: Rondo alla polacca) needed a little more assertion. Rondo theme had this really sweet, energetic sound, but pianissimo. Which is fine for the first twenty rows, but please think of the middle class.
And the violinist, see, he’s usually the concertmaster. That’s a fancy word for “head violinist of the orchestra,” by the way. Jonathan Crow. Loved his playing to bits. He had this really clear, sparkling, brilliant sound that sang. No problems about tone or dynamics at all. Spectacular performance, really liked him in the third movement. Plays a mean rondo: energetic, bright, alive. Worked really well with the piano in trio passages, but tended to overpower the cello line. Pity, because the few perfectly balanced moments were wonderful. Really good transitions with cello, though, in the scale passages. Good thing he comes back every concert. You know, because he’s the concertmaster. That’s such a boss title.
So that’s what I did last Thursday. Where did you go? Oh, Semi-Formal. That’s nice, I guess. How’d you like the music?