Concert Review: 師大音樂學系交響樂團- Espansiva

It was an ambitious program, one that convinced me to go see them. I’ve been to every one of their concerts over the past few years. They’ve played things like Rachmaninoff’s second symphony, Brahms’ second, Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto, and more. Tonight was perhaps the most adventurous, with Carl Nielsen’s third symphony (hence the name Espansiva), Bruch’s double concerto for viola and clarinet, and a 蕭泰然 piece written only a few decades ago. 
Let me say I’d have enjoyed the concert much more had it not been for one of the most disrespectful, uncouth audiences I’ve ever had the displeasure to be part of. All my senses were engaged. Smelly people, loud people, playing with phones, kicking my seat; the whole auditorium burst into applause between each movement of each work, but hesitated to clap when the baton came down at the end of each piece. Shame on all of you. The concert hall is a place to be respected and respectful, and talking and eating and all the rest through a program of young, dedicated artists playing  challenging, engaging music. I was furious.

That all being said, the Nielsen was touch-and-go at times. I can see how this would be a challenging work. While Nielsen is no Elliott Carter or John Adams, his language is more modern than most, and there are moments of (more) intricate detail, exposed solos, and even wordless vocal parts from a soprano and baritone. Ballsy move, in my opinion. It’s a work with lots of layers, and intonation and balance proved tricky this evening. Horns could have used some more confidence and control, but 許瀞心 drove the ship like a pro, and they all worked and kept it together for the Nielsen.

Bruch after the break was a much easier piece to command, a far smaller ensemble with two shining soloists to take the spotlight, a viola and a clarinet. I’d not even been aware of the existence of such a double concerto, but it was a very traditionally Romantic work, and quite nice to hear a viola featured in light of our recent podcast episode. It’s not a long piece, but it was nice.

Lastly was 蕭泰然 with a work that grabbed film music, gospel music, and the requiem by the handful and put it all in an ‘overture’ form. I’d have likely enjoyed this piece much more had I not been in a terrible mood from being kicked and all the rest the entire evening. It was quite straightforward, pentatonic in places, easy to follow, clean, but there’s something almost viscerally powerful about an army of human voices in harmony, something powerful and important.

I did my best to give the conductor, soloists and choral directors the respect they deserved (and didn’t get from many losers in the audience) by not breaking out into a full sprint to leave the hall after it was over. Everyone got their bouquets and I made my exit.

Rude, crappy people can ruin a good concert. Let’s have more Nielsen and other exciting unique programming in Taiwan. Bravo.


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