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April 13, 1999

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Finale

A Review by Pat and Ernie Pinson

Mobile music lovers bid goodbye to the Louisiana Philharmonic this night of 26 March 99 at the Saenger-- not only for this season, but for the coming years since the Mobile Orchestra will have its own full fledged season next year, new conductor and all. We say goodbye with a certain regret since the Louisiana Orchestra has filled in this city's orchestral offerings and has been instrumental in providing moral and maturational support while we were in a kind of holding action.

With a confident command of respect, maestro Klauspeter Seibel strode in and immediately began one of Beethoven's rare ventures into ballet -- the Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus. This not-so-well-known work has enough majestic ring for critics to see a biographical parallel of Beethoven with Prometheus, the mythical god who brought mankind the arts, sciences, and fire stolen from the very hearth of Zeus himself on Olympus. In this view Beethoven saw himself as liberating composers and musicians from the restrictions of earlier forms of music imposed by the church and aristocrats. The performance was clean and the strings were especially crisp in their fast passages. Seibel, ever the gracious businessman of music, kept this work under classical control and restrained it from Promethean proportions.

Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 was written to celebrate his return to Russia in 1933 after nearly 16 year's absence. The work began with the solo violin playing the G minor melody with the chromatic turn which pervades the entire movement. Even though special guest artist, 22 year old Lelia Josefowicz, used the bow to its fullest extent on a rare 18th century instrument known for its resonance -- a Guarneri (in the same class as the Stradivari and Amati family instruments) -- it was sometimes hard to hear. This perhaps was due to the acoustics of the grand old Saenger hall which has some dead spots.

Especially well done throughout the whole concerto was the rubato -- that slight lingering without losing the beat -- at the high points of the lyrical melodies floating above the orchestra or at the moments of the return of the themes in the first and second movements. The last movement was full of the percussive dissonance and asymmetrical rhythmic patterns typical of Prokofieff's work. Josefowicz controlled the tempos with stressed beats in the brilliant passagework as the work rode on to its exciting conclusion.

Conductor Seibel, showing his willingness to share his views with the audience verbally in a music performance, explained how Anton Bruckner tried to transfer the grand sounds of the cathedral organ to the orchestra in his Symphony No. 3 in D Minor. Darkness abounds in the mixed basses of the first movement. Agreeing with biographer-critic Gabriel Engel, maestro Seibel noted the second movement dialogue between the voice of Bruckner (who questions in the violins) the voice of God (who answers in the basses). The composer seems to become anxious about the unexpected answers he is getting from God. Then in the third movement after an earthly landler dance, the trombones and trumpets appear to cry out, and the strings reply in a soothing manner until a resolutions and synthesis is reached in the finale. Thus, the second and third movements juxtapose each other as if heavenly voices vie with the worldly.

Although a much loved Austrian composer, Bruckner's works are seldom performed in this country. By and large they lack the subtlety and vastness of Brahms and the sophistication and orchestration of Mahler. This work often seemed to thrash around and to have awkward transitions and endings. It didn't seem difficult to play, and needed extraordinary pacing and nuance to make it work. Even though there were some intensely beautiful moments of lyrical melody and interesting comparisons to organ registration, it seemed overly long and labored -- a not so grand finale for a much-appreciated orchestra.


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