We have snow on the ground this morning, but the temperature is hovering around the freezing point now, at noon. If the forecasters are right it will warm up, the precipitation will turn to rain, and it will not freeze again until tomorrow night..... At this point I am simply happy for the soft crunchy beauty of the snow, as opposed to the ice that plagued us this week past, and the warmer temperatures. Photos in this post were taken on Tuesday, following Monday's ice storm.
I didn't really go out of the house, with the exception of walking Tikka, until Thursday afternoon, although I could have, my roads were passable. But I had overextended myself cooking for a party on Sunday, which was fabulous, and the ice gave me a lovely excuse to curl up in front of the fire, snug as could be, and recover from the remnants of my cold.
I did go to the Knoxville Symphony's performance of Dvorak's Stabat Mater last night (Friday). I was somewhat surprised that attendance was so low, as the skies were clear and the snow was not supposed to begin until late, but I suppose people were overly wary at the end of a difficult week. The concert itself was lovely enough, and enjoyable, but not inspiring. I suppose it is on occasions like this that I realize how spoiled I have been by past musical experiences. I have heard this piece in live performance at least 2 and probably 3 times. I also have several very good recordings of the piece, and although I don't usually compare live performances to recordings, as even in a less exacting setting, one can find moments of bliss and new perceptions. In this case it was difficult.
The choir needed more practice; they usually sing with the orchestra in late spring, and the lack of preparation time was evident. They were mostly together, although slightly less so in the last movement, the most difficult movement of the work to sing. But there was no real precision and not enough variation in tone and phrasing. But I can't blame my disappointment on the choir. The orchestra also was somehow uninspiring as well. The opening bars of the work are incredibly beautiful and filled with emotion and pathos, and yet they fell somewhat flat on my ears in this rather measured performance. I would have preferred a performance that played up the romantic aspects of Dvorak's work, a performance with more subtlety in the phrasing, a performance where the orchestra, soloists, and choir worked more deftly together. Of the soloists, my favorite was the bass, Benjamin LeClair, who had some moments of great beauty, especially in the fourth movement, even with its extremes of range. If only he hadn't been occasionally drowned out by the orchestra, but then all of the soloists were occasionally overpowered by the orchestra. I also enjoyed the tenor, Dustin Peterson who I felt had a strong voice that was best appreciated in those movements that required simplicity and clarity.
Although I enjoyed the performance, I came home thinking something was missing. I stayed up too late listening to the work again, this time in a performance by the Staatskapelle Dresden lead by Giuseppe Sinopoli. I would say that Shaw's and Sawallish's versions are more beautiful, but I had only uploaded the Sinopoli into my iTunes account and the I still haven't set up the CD played and speaker. Living alone, listening to a lossless recording through audiophile quality ear buds on my phone works well for me most of the time. I am reminded however, that perhaps it is time to set up the stereo and the speakers.
Back to Dvorak. The Sinopoli version of the Stabat Mater is very dark and brooding, an overtly operatic and romantic version of a romantic work, and ultimately transcendent. The choir is controlled, with breathtaking phrasing, almost angelic. Only the bass disappoints. Whoever he is, as I can't see that on my phone, Benjamin LeClare was much better.
I listened to the Stabat Mater curled up on the sofa with Tikka, Sam and Moises and a lovely glass of wine, from the bottle pictured above. The bottle was given to me by a friend, and when I first opened it I almost feared it was past its prime as I was almost overwhelmed by an aroma of overripe fruit. Drinking however was another matter. This was a wine well suited to the music, perhaps a bit upfront in its flavors, soft and lush like the finest cashmere, slipping on the tongue in a rather sensuous manner which I can only relate to the slip of silk charmers on the skin.
All in all, a lovely end to the evening.