I attended the Southern Illinois Festival Orchestra's performance with the Eroica Trio on Saturday night. It was an enjoyable evening. The concert was poorly attended, which was a pity. The Orchestra did a fine job, and the Eroica Trio are excellent performers. The concert hall, at Southeast Missouri State University's RIver Campus, is not a large hall. The balconies were closed, and the floor was only filled to about 20% capacity, I would guess. I can't imagine that there was really a better way to spend a miserably hot Saturday evening in Cape Girardeau, but it seems most of the population disagreed with me. Nonetheless, those of us that found our way there were treated to a very enjoyable concert.
The concert opened with the orchestra performing Smetana's The Bartered Bride Overture. I'm not a great fan of this piece, but they did a competent job. The stage had been prepared for the Eroica Trio's performance as well, which meant that the orchestra was largely hidden from view behind the grand piano and the small podiums set in place for them. I always enjoy watching the performers, so this was a disappointment. Even so, I had a good view of the several of the members of the string sections, so I didn't have to spend the first part of the concert staring at an empty piano bench and two chairs.
Following the overture the director, Edward Benyas, spoke a little about the programme, after which the Eroica Trio came on stage. They performed a concerto for piano or orchestra by Jay Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg, we were told, was sixteen when he composed the piece. He wrote it, we were told, specifically for the Eroica Trio. In my humble opinion, it sounded like a work that was composed by a sixteen-year-old. Sadly. Mind you, this is coming from someone who cannot compose two notes in a way that would sound remotely musical. My observation was that Mr. Greenburg was influenced by movie or video game soundtracks. The music seemed to jump from one mood to another without unity, again in my humble opinion. Throughout the first two movements, The trio was limited to short measures, played intermittently be each member of the trio. For their part, the performance was masterful, they simply weren't given a masterful work to perform.
The third movement, the Passacaglia, was slightly better. The performers were given ample opportunity to display their talents in solos lasting longer than a few notes. Even so, Mr. Greenberg's tendency to have the trio passing the theme from one to the other became tiresome, IMHO. The violist would begin the theme, the cellist would play the middle, and the pianist would complete it. They did this masterfully, but the effect was not so grand as I suppose Mr. Greenberg intended. I hope that, in future compositions, he focuses more on the music and less on showmanship.
The piece was met with rousing applause. The trio returned for an encore, in which they performed, flawlessly, a tango by Astor Piazzola. This was, for me, the highlight of the evening. Sara Sant' Ambrogio, the cellist (and native of St. Louis, MO) was most impressive. She seems to immerse herself totally in the music, whether that is showmanship of passion for the music is hard to say, but I will satisfy myself to say it was passion for the music. The other two members of the trio, Erika Nickrenz on piano and Susie Park on violin, are also outstanding performers, but I found Ms. Sant' Ambrogio seemed to steal the show.
An intermission followed the encore. I purchased a couple of CD's in the lobby, which fortunately do not include the Greenberg piece. One nice thing about the small venue and lack of a crowd was the pleasure of actually meeting the trio. Generally, the push of the crowd is such that when you ‘meet' the performer you have just enough time to say "hello" as they sign their autographs. In this case, I was honoured with the opportunity to speak with them for several minutes. It was very enjoyable, and they are a very pleasant group.
After the intermission, we returned to hear the orchestra's performance of Schumann's Symphony No. 1, the "Spring" symphony. The performance was excellent. The Eroica Trio's piano and podiums had been removed, affording a full view of the orchestra. I thought the orchestra did a magnificent job.
If I might add a word about applause here. I mentioned back in my review of the Lord of the Rings Symphony a bit about it. I've long thought that standing ovations are becoming overdone. Many well-known performers pretty well demand them, and will remain on stage until they receive them. I've always thought they were reserved for extraordinary performances, although I've been known to ‘go along with the crowd' and stand even when I though the performance fell short. I've also understood that they were reserved for the end of a concert, except when a particular piece was truly inspiring. I presume this is done so as to not ‘raise the bar' for the remainder of the concert. The Eroica Trio, which left the building after the intermission, did not receive a standing ovation, even though I though the Piazzola piece was deserving of one. At the end of the concert, the orchestra received a standing ovation, which was deserved, though the Eroica Trio was equally deserving, in my opinion.
I have to ask, what is the board's opinion on applause in general, and standing ovations in particular?
Last edited by Shapley
on Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:15 am, edited 4 times in total.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.