The next piece was a Gershwin composition called "Lullaby for String Orchestra", which was pretty and relaxing, and not too demanding. I suppose a lullaby is meant to lull one to sleep, and it could have done just that, if I wasn't anticipating Hancock in the second half. The third selection was a watered down medley of Ellington and Strayhorn hits. I was impressed by the Symphony, however, this kind of "Pops" material is not to my taste. But believe me, I've heard much much worse.(We visited my mother-in-law in West Palm Beach, Florida a few years ago, and had the misfortune of hearing Bob Lappin and the Palm Beach Pops. Not only was the music a snoozefest, and some of the musicians had arrived late and had to sneak on stage, but Lapin made a terribly inappropriate comment about how it was the orchestra's 15th anniversary, and how "we hope to see all of you at the next 15th anniversary", somehow not taking into account that the average age of the audience was 86!)
Hancock's performance on Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was even better than the rehearsal;indeed, Hancock's chops were clearly warm, and he has great facility and dynamic range. He mostly stuck to the written music, however, even a few little embellishments were invigorating. It was great to see Hancock perform and overall, I was satisfied. Nevertheless, when it comes to music, my mental wheels are always spinning; call it the curse of the artist's permanent state of dissatisfaction. In short, I can always find something to kvetch about. Whining is one of the great American pastimes!
What I wondered about is the state of music, the state of The Orchestra as we have come to know it, and the state of our culture. Musicians like Herbie Hancock are constantly looking for new ways to approach the music, while typically The Symphony Orchestra in America is by and large about preservation of old traditions, traditions from the Old World. Not everything new is good, without a doubt. And traditions can be important. However, there is always the question of relevance. "Rhapsody in Blue" was written in 1924 by a composer who was considered "cutting edge" at the time, and celebrated for it. Gershwin, although influenced by the European masters, thought that it was important to be contemporary. This is a quote:
True music must reflect the thought and aspirations of the people and time. My people are Americans. My time is today.
As impressive as it is that Hancock knocked "Rhapsody in Blue" out of the park, my question is, where is today's equivalent of "Rhapsody in Blue"? Who is today's George Gershwin? Why isn't Hancock being commissioned to write a modern day concerto for piano and orchestra?Would it even be for piano? What about Fender Rhodes? Or synthesizer? Maybe the piece would include rappers and soul singers. Or maybe even turntables and loops.....
|The New York Phil, which is apparently millions in debt.....|