Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What was that?

The oddest thing about Sunday's Met Orchestra concert was the inordinate time -- what seemed like minutes each iteration -- James Levine spent between movements of the Messiaen piece ("Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum") doing... something. Nodding off? Meditating? Catching his breath? Remembering what came next? Whatever it was, it also involved much face-wiping, and was disconcerting to see from the Carnegie Hall seats: many in the audience seemed to think he was keeling over with some health issue.

Fortunately, Levine seemed fine (nothing odd at all to the eye) upon his return after intermission to accompany Christian Tetzlaff in an excellent account of the Brahms violin concerto. Tetzlaff's narrow but white-hot tone illuminated a clear and dramatic interpretation of the piece that fit his choice of the Joachim cadenza (for the usual broadly romantic accounts I prefer to hear Kreisler).

But Tommasini wouldn't speculate on Levine having "little feeling" for Messiaen if he had been present for the Met Orchestra performance of that same wind-brass-and-percussion piece almost a decade ago. An unforgettable event.

More tomorrow on Don Giovanni and some further performances of Salome.

UPDATE (11:30PM): The pauses appear to be written into the score. See the comments.


  1. Speaking with a brass player afterward, apparently the extreme pauses are included as written instructions in the score. (It might have been helpful to make some kind of reference to that in the program notes.)

    I thought it made for an amazing experience, but obviously not everyone felt the same. On Pete Matthews' Feast of Music, he describes the guy next to him pulling out his iPhone to check messages.

  2. Yes, the preface to the score says: "the composer requires a pause of about a minute between each section". Somehow I thought everyone knew this -- the piece has been around for 45 years now -- and it would never have occured to me that it needed to be explained in the program notes! Maybe they could explain the G.P.'s in the Parsifal prelude next time, too. Anyone who's timing the silences is "so not into it" and bound to spoil the experience for himself.

  3. "Anyone who's timing the silences is "so not into it""

    Indeed, but enough people doing this spoils the event for everyone else as well. (Not just from having neighbors whispering throughout about how he's in big trouble -- though they were -- but the break of rapport between audience and stage.)

    I don't recall the pauses being as noticeable last time, but perhaps I've just forgotten. In any case, there was not the widespread perception of Levine's fragile health then, either, and so there wasn't the same disruption.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.