Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Symphony, Sumo, Symphony

Posted in Classical,Music by bourdaghs on the January 24th, 2010

The weekend began Friday afternoon at Symphony Center for a matinee performance, Pierre Boulez leading the Chicago Symphony as part of the celebrations for his 85th birthday. I’d never seen the great man conduct before and was struck with his economy of motion: no over-emoting for him. Whatever the style, it worked: the orchestra played as well as I have heard it. The program opened with the latest incarnation of Boulez’ own Livre pour cordes, a particularly warm instance of serialism. They moved on from there to take on the tricky twists and turns of Bartok’s Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, played brilliantly by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich as the keyboard soloists. It’s a work in which Bartok explores the percussive nature of the piano, setting the keyboards in complex dialogues with drums, xylophones, and other struck instruments. The program closed with a thrilling rendition of Stravinsky’s The Firebird played in the full ballet version. John von Rhein, the Chicago Tribune’s classical music critic, was similarly enthusiastic in his review of the Thursday evening performance.

In the meanwhile, on the other side of the world, yokozuna Asashoryu, the bad boy from Mongolia, took charge of the New Year Sumo tournament. He wrapped up the title on Day 14. It was his 25th career championship, putting him in third place in the record book. The victory came in the final tournament for Uchidate Makiko, Asashoryu’s long-time nemesis on the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, making it all the more satisfying. Moreover, Asashoryu gave us yet another spectacular example of his trademark misbehavior during the tournament, coming close to getting himself arrested in a drunken brawl late at night after Day 6. The tournament, as expected, also saw the retirement of the great ozeki Chiyotaikai. Yokozuna Hakuho managed to defeat Asashoryu in their direct meeting on the final day, but that victory was purely moral, as Asashoryu was simply killing time until the trophy ceremony.

Friday night ended with another classical concert: Europa Galante led by violinist Fabio Biondi at Mandel Hall. A period instruments ensemble, they opened with two lovely pieces by Telemann. Guest flutist Frank Theuns could easily be the model for a new muppet character. They closed with an edgy version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the schmaltz factor reduced to almost zero, reminding us in the process that a terrific piece of music lies buried beneath all the abuse that mass culture has heaped on to it. Two short encore pieces by Corelli and Gluck (the latter had the violinists plucking their way through) brought the evening to an airy close. The Chicago Classical Review website liked the performance, as the did the critic for the New York Times, who caught much of the same program last week at Carnegie Hall (where, no doubt, the acoustics were better….).

2 Responses to 'Symphony, Sumo, Symphony'

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  1. on January 25th, 2010 at 6:29 am

    I just discovered your wonderfully informative blog, and will definitely be stopping by regularly from now on.

    Looking forward to future posts,

  2. bourdaghs said,

    on January 25th, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Thanks, Ryan. I’ve enjoyed your website over the past few years, as well. Best, Michael