Author Topic: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel - in concert  (Read 1732 times)

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Offline Brian

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Veni, Veni, Emmanuel - in concert
« on: May 12, 2007, 07:48:15 PM »
Just got back from a concert featuring Colin Currie playing James MacMillan's percussion concerto, Veni, Veni Emmanuel. Currie told us before he started playing that the work has been performed around the world 400 times since its premiere 15 years ago.

The beginning was overwhelming - in terms of volume. The work divides into roughly four parts, as I see it. The opening seemed a bit like a person with A.D.D. improvising a percussion part while the orchestra played bad war movie music. Now, I may sound critical there, but I was quietly impressed with Currie, for his playing was extraordinary, especially as he had to methodically stride up and down the stage to bang on his various implements. Then the second part of the composition rolled in, which seemed a bit like Copland having a seizure. This was followed very quickly by a sudden clearing-up in which Currie stopped playing and we were left with a single eery violin figure. Oooh! Things got quiet and mysterious for a creepy marimba solo ... this was easily my favorite part, actually the only part I liked. The section thankfully lasted quite a while before we moved on to part four, which was Copland having a seizure again, the poor fellow. Then Currie walked off to the back of the room (by now I had learned that watching him was far more interesting than listening to the anarchical, pointless banging music - especially when he used two sticks in each hand!) and played some church chimes and it was over. (Chimes: that reminds me, why do composers [like MacMillan] use those annoying little dinky chimes that sound like a Disney character throwing magic pixie dust? It drives me BONKERS.)

In summary, I liked about 5 minutes of the work. The rest seemed like Currie being talented, but not making sense. Is it just me, or is classical music today reverting to the sturm und drang of the mid-1700s? By which I mean, pointless turbulence just for the sake of being turbulent? Back in those aulde times it seemed to be a problem too: but maybe that means we're a little ways away from a new Mozart or Beethoven.

Interestingly, about half the audience (including me) did give a standing ovation for the work (for Currie's amazing playing, actually!). Then they played Mendelssohn's First Symphony, which is certainly not the most exciting thing ever, and everyone stood up.

Oh, one more comment, but you probably know this already: Thomas Wilkins is one of the most talented conductors in America today.  :)  Kudos to him for a good concert (mostly).

Offline Brewski

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Re: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel - in concert
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2007, 06:01:17 AM »
I like Veni very much, and IIRC it's one of MacMillan's most popular works, along with The Confession of Isobel Gowdie.  And Colin Currie is an amazing percussionist, no doubt about it.  Try some other MacMillan works, like his piano concerto called The Berserking or his organ concerto, A Scotch Bestiary

Even Beethoven's 5th was new once. Imagine being in that first audience

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Re: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel - in concert
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2007, 02:27:44 PM »
Brian, the Austin Symphony? Sounds like an interesting experience! Have you see Evelyn Glennie live? That's another unique, and inspiring experience.

I'm not familar with Veni, veni, emmanuel, but your writing makes me want to hear it... And ouch, what a pairing!

And I do agree about the current sturm und drang, but many recent works I know that suffer from this actually seem to something to say under all that, so yes, maybe we're not too far from them settling down!