Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Handel Festival Orchestra and Thomas Elefant

It was a rare treat to hear this extraordinary group of professional and amateur musicians perform Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 6 No. 6, and Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto last night at St. Peter's Church in New York City.

The orchestra plays expertly under the demanding leadership of Mr. Elefant, founder of the organization.  The truly amazing aspect of his high standards, however, is the constant tapping of real energetic musicianship from everyone in the orchestra ranging from profound introspection to riotous glee, all under control while feeling free as flight.

The players are excellent: intonation is wonderful without being too simple minded.

The soloist for the Beethoven was a last-minute sub, Pedja Muzijevic, who gave the best performance of the work I have ever heard, perhaps in part because it was not a full-size symphony orchestra weighing it down; perhaps because of the setting, which had the audience close enough to be drawn into the music.  Muzijevic is a virtuoso start to finish, yet far more than that: the second movement was radiant.

And everyone showed such wonderful good spirit through the whole thing: conductor and soloist even collaborating in moving the piano!  How many times have I seen that? 

Bravo! And thank you.

More on Dimensions of Time

A chat this morning with an elementary school teacher revealed something quite unexpected: apparently children who regularly attend services in a church, mosque, or synagogue pay better attention in the classroom than those who do not -- and we are talking about a South Bronx public school classroom.

This reveals something about the nature of attention:  I think it thrives on variation.  If a stimulus bombards the brain always at the same unrelenting rate of speed it merely succeeds in turning the brain off.  I would not be in the least surprised but that it was this aspect of the media that most got to me when as a child I simply couldn't stand television.  Not that I was an ideal kid who moved easily from one rate of stimulation to another: I craved speed.  Never fast enough, seemed to be my mantra.

Now I recognize the danger inherent in that kind of superficial emphasis on rapidity.  Slow down.  I work on slowing kids down, using a metronome to tease them into being aware of how fast or slowly they actually can move without losing concentration.

It's a critical skill, not just in music.