Archive for November, 2010

Hindemith and Wagner at Disney Hall

November 27, 2010

The music of German composers Paul Hindemith and Richard Wagner filled Disney Hall with Helsinki-born Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and the Welsh bass/baritone Bryn Terfel in song. You can read that in any program or Wiki. What you can’t read is that the Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Marta von Webe begins robustly. Heavy. Like a pot of thickened stew. Boisterous comes to mind. Bravado. Potatoes, carrots, and peas.

A portly violinist sits three rows up from Salonen, closer to my ears, moving with great concerted effort. His round belly protrudes over his his belt and makes it look like work, determination, pulling the bow just so to make Hindemith, first violin, and Salonen happy. Silence fills the air. A sauce stirred from the bottom of the pot.

Salonen brings us back with a lighter piece, but not by much. It is still German rye. Trumpets and trombones plunder the air, a cacophonous medley to soothe a burly soul. It feels as if we are all plowing still frozen fields. The notes work their way out the instruments to us. There are the clip-clops of hooves as we plunge through the storm. Cymblas clang. The triangle dings. Softly the flutes moan. Hindemith takes refuge. Perhaps in his lodge. Continued angst. Even inside he is troubled. Mellow. Restrained. He bristles with anger, rages one last time, a soliloquy to life’s strum.

Intermission. We stand and stretch like cats.

Bryn Terfel fills the stage. Beside Salonen, he is a mass of man. Weight, heft. Huge expressive hands which make passionate fists as his lips move out the words. Overhead a drop down screen translates the lyrics for us. They are full of Spring air, birds, and another man of another time who sings with gusto and tenderness.

This night’s music brings four Golden harps stage front. That’s right: four. Harp Number One greets the first evening star. They serenade the death of a fair girl who rises to become an angel. Somewhere. Assuming we still believe in angels and fair girls. Terfel resumes. He reminds us of Wagner’s native tongue with its harsh consonants. Bravo.

Then, the Ride of the Valkyries from “Die Walkure.” Most of us know it as the music from “Apocalypse Now.” What is there to say about greatness?

Except that when Terfel returns for Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music, he stands erect. Poised. That of a determined bass/baritone to mark his place on the stage this night at Disney Hall. November 25, 2010. Bravo.