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Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Time Event
3:05p
Music: Milwaukee Symphony "Darkness and Light"
On Saturday the 17th, we went to the Marcus Center for the Milwaukee
Symphony's concert "Darkness and Light." Actually, if there were sense
to the program name, it would have been the other way around, since the
"light" part of the program was the first half, and the "darkness" was
in the second.

Guest conductor Gilbert Varga lead the MSO through Haydn's Symphony #73;
the Mozart Horn Concertos #1 in D, and #3 in E-flat; and two pieces by
Ravel, the "Mother Goose Suite," and "La Valse." Maestro Varga did an
excellent job and had the orchestra well in hand throughout the evening.
His touch was particularly felt on the Haydn symphony, taking it at a
rather brisker clip than we were used to hearing, which did good and
interesting things for it.

William Barnewitz, the orchestra's principal horn player, soloed on the
two Mozart concerti, and filled the hall with a full, round tone
whenever he played. Very enjoyable.
I had not heard Ravel's "Mother Goose" before, but found it very
interesting and enjoyable. "La Valse" was the other "big" piece of the
evening, in a number of ways, having a much larger ensemble than any of
the others. With it's dissonances, sliding tempos, and wildly varying
dynamics, "La Valse" is the forerunner of every movie dream-scene
soundtrack. I would like to know more about the writing of this piece,
which apparently was first commissioned, then rejected, by Diaghilev,
the ballet impresario. The impression is of listening to Strauss waltzes
with an absinthe hangover. One wonders if Ravel had gotten really sick
of listening to standard waltz music, or what. I don't mean to give the
impression that I didn't like the piece--I did--but it is more of an
intellectual and musical exercise than simple music, and therefore a bit
challenging. The orchestra and conductor seemed to have a great deal of
fun with it--indeed, with the entire program--, and were applauded
enthusiastically for their efforts.

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