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On Skiving Off

February 25, 2011

sfchorus.jpegThere's something enormously satisfying about experiencing impromptu art, whether it's coming across a flash mob performance in a shopping mall or shirking off an afternoon in the office to experience a matinee concert at the Symphony.

I relished doing the latter yesterday when I decided at about 20 minutes notice to head around the corner to Davies Symphony Hall to hear Michael Tilson Thomas lead the SF Symphony and Chorus in a matinee performance of Mozart's Requiem. Additionally on the program were two pieces that were new to me: Lacrimosa, a melodious five minute a cappella choral work inspired by the "Lacrimosa" movement from Mozart's Requiem by the Lithuanian composer Mindaugas Urbaitis, and Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel, a sepulchral-meditative work for chorus, solo soprano and mezzo-soprano, solo viola, percussion, timpani and celesta.

The delicious naughtiness of taking unplanned leave of my laptop for a couple of hours probably enhanced the experience as well as the stormy weather outside, but I enjoyed the program entirely. The Feldman, in particular, took me to a different place, with its blues-tinged celesta harmonies, sparse vocal and viola lines and spirit of lonely calm. I also enjoyed the Requiem. The "Lacrimosa" stood out for me, not just because of Urbaitis' quoting of it at the start of the concert. MTT took the movement at a clip, which stopped it from sounding like a dirge. But the musicians and singers managed to imbue the music, even at the faster pace, with longing, pity and regret. I was deeply moved.

In other news, I was sadly not impressed by Alison Moore's soap opera-sitcom of a black comedy at The Aurora Theatre, Collapsed. The theme about how the stresses and strains of modern life are causing the world to fall about our ears is a tired one. The metaphor of a collapsing bridge to illustrate this idea is as obvious as the inane jokes that pepper the script. Even the talented ensemble cast couldn't save Moore's play from coming across as moronic.


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