Monday, May 16, 2016
Delight in Dancing
The New Century Chamber Orchestra closed out their season with music written for dance, including a world premiere commission from composer Jennifer Higdon above. Like much of Higdon's music, the five-movement Dance Card was easily accessible and enjoyable while being simultaneously complex and offbeat. The performers seemed to love it.
The concert in Herbst Theater started off with Khatchaturian's Sabre Dance, complete with a percussionist to punch up the sound, and after intermission was followed by a dry, dull reading of Stravinsky's score for the Balanchine ballet Apollon musagète. The concert ended with a transcription by Clarice Assad of Dance of the Seven Veils from Strauss's opera Salome. Even with the return of the percussionist and Peter Grunberg on piano, the chamber version sounded anemic compared to the huge Strauss orchestra for which the music was written. My mind daydreamed back to being onstage at the SF Opera as a supernumerary guard at the cistern of John the Baptist watching Marie Ewing acting crazy as Salome while Leonie Rysanek, sitting on a throne playing Salome's mother Herodias, displayed 300 different ways to upstage another performer (vigorous fanning, playing with jewelry, jumping up and making faces at John the Baptist) while I tried desperately not to break into helpless giggles.
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is in her final year as Music Director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra, and she's brought energy, excitement, and lots of new music commissions to the group over the last decade. Let's hope the ensemble finds an interesting leader to take her place, because the group is playing at a very high level.