This Friday night’s concert broadcasted on MPR was the Minnesota Orchestra under the direction of Osmo Vanska.
The first work that the orchestra performed on this chilly February evening in Minneapolis was Aaron Jay Kernis’s Sarabanda en Memoriam. Kernis explains in his notes that the music, although here for orchestra, was originally written for string quartet. The original quartet was inspired by the dances of the Renaissance and Baroque, stating that “the second movement alternates two different slow Sarabandes (slow dance in triple time) with short bursts of frenetic, furious music.” This piece, however, was also deeply influenced by the events of September 11th. Due to this, Kernis does a beautiful job of creating a mournful and serene setting of strings. It is a beautiful piece in which the audience can hear the raw emotion being poured into this piece.
The second piece that they played was W.A. Mozart’s Concert No. 25 in C Major, K. 503. Alfred Brendel, known for his work with Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart, is the piano soloist for this performance. This work is quite unique in its use of percussion and brass, for they are much more prominent in this setting of the piece than they are in his previous works (which I like being a brass player ☺ ) The slow movement sounds rather introspective and darker than many other second movements of his earlier works. The last movement turns around and starts to sound like his earlier works, ending in a lighter, more jubiliant ending.
The piece that the orchestra performed after intermission was Jean Sibelius’s Lemminkainen Legends. The piece is based on a collection of Finnish legends. I only got to listen to the opening 20-30 minutes of this piece (50 minutes in its entirety), but the beginning movement/story is lively, depicting the characters travels. The second story is as Sibelius says is depicting the “land of death” surrounded by waters. On those waters, a swan sits singing. The English horn, played beautifully during this performance by the orchestra, is the voice of the singing swan. This movement/story is hauntingly beautiful, juxtaposing the darkness of the land of the death and the waters with the beautiful sound of the English horn.
This performance by the Minnesota Orchestra offered a wide variety of music for any classical music concertgoer. They have done a great job catering to the maximum target audience and their performances have been amazing. They have been getting glowing reviews from critics and rightfully so; they played another wonderful performance.