Best BSO concert I have ever attended.
I attended the BSO’s Gala Celebration concert on Saturday evening, and although it started with about half an hour of people promising their speeches would be brief and completely failing to deliver on those promises, the music that followed made it absolutely worth it.
First was a short piece by Ginastera – very nice – and then a few of the more famous bits from Bizet’s Carmen. The latter were accompanied by flamenco dancers, and in that I learned that flamenco is really not (to my untrained eye, mind you) a solo sort of thing. The woman looked okay, but the man dancing alone looked absolutely ridiculous; flourishes and stomps that fit beautifully when partnered looked like bizarre interpretive dance unaccompanied. Maybe I’m just a philistine, I don’t know.
Then came a short piece by Villa-Lobos, an entirely unexpected work orchestrated for a single soprano surrounded by a gaggle of cellos, then an allegretto by Rodrigo with a quartet of guitarists. Interesting, pretty, but only foreplay for the highlight of the evening: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg soloing in the incomparable Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.
I had never heard of Salerno-Sonnenberg prior to this (although I’d probably heard her play on the radio before unknowingly); as soon as I mentioned her to my mother, however, she (my mother, not Signorina Nadja) immediately declared herself a big fan. So I had high hopes.
They were surpassed.
I may catch a lot of flack for this comment, and even more so for the fact that I mean it as a huge compliment: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg plays like a man. I partially mean that physically: eschewing the usual concert gown, she came out in glittery pants, which allowed her to spread her legs a few feet apart and hunker into the violin like a football player awaiting a pass.
She swayed and stomped, and when she played, she wasn’t gently caressing the notes, she was fighting and conquering them. So often this is a bad thing – you don’t generally want to battle the music – but this was no struggle. She was clearly certain of her victory, and as such enjoying her path to triumph; every stroke of her bow was a deeper sink of her teeth. I thought it was absolutely magnificent.
As for the Piazzolla itself, it was more classical than I would have expected – I tend to associate him with the bandolin-infused fusion of Maria de Buenos Aires – but it was laced with whimsy and abnormal uses of the music, with lots of scratching at the frog of the bow. Thoroughly enjoyable and I intend to hit it up on iTunes, but I question the inclusion of Vivaldi; the piece is listed as inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, not sampling it. Sure, it provided a few laughs of recognition, but ultimately I feel it took away from the piece.
For the finale, a Spanish dance by Manuel de Falla, which invited back Salerno-Sonnenberg, the guitar quartet, and the Flamenco dancers. Very well done indeed, but a decided comedown from the Piazzolla. Nevertheless, a fantastic concert, and if you missed it: you idiot! Not to worry, though – after next week the BSO season starts up again for real, and I’ll be keeping you informed.
Does anyone know of any more Baltimore/DC area performances by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg? I’d really like to hear and see her play live again.