2010, Music

Creepy Classics or How I spent Halloween Eve

Last Saturday I went to TSO’s “Creepy Classics,” conducted by Alastair Willis.

It began with Bach’s “Toccata” from his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, as orchestrated by Leopold Sokowski. I didn’t realize how well I knew the Toccata, because I didn’t realize it was the early horror movie organ music. Though critics regularly gripe about modern conductors orchestrating classic pieces, I found the orchestral version to be quite enjoyable. As I find the orchestrations of Mussorgsky to be quite enjoyable. Ooh segue…

Up next was Rimsky-Kosakov’s version of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. Willis’ version seemed a little idiosyncratic to the version I’m most familiar with but that’s cool because I’d rather see a different interpretation than the one I know by heart.

Then there was Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice which I know solely from Fantasia.

The final piece of the first half was Franz Liszt’s Toentanz featuring Canadian pianist Todd Yaniw. I don’t know this one and I am only familiar with Liszt’s solo piano work. It was ridiculously showy (as one might expect from Liszt) and a little overlong, but I couldn’t help but stare with awe at any pianist who can play this stuff. I mean it is ridiculously tough, even if it is designed precisely to show off the pianist’s skill.

After intermission, the string section played Hermann’s opening music to Pyscho, definitely one of my favourite pieces of film music, though I am not huge on the most famous part of the score. The second half of the performance had more anecdotes from the conductor (there were only a few in the first half) and grew campier as the pieces passed.

Herrmann’s “Nightmare” from Vertigo was next. I don’t remember this specific piece but it has been years since I saw the movie all the way through.

Ravel’s version of “Baba Yaga” from Pictures at an Exhibition followed. Love Mussorgsky, so this made me even more happy.

Then we heard Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, something I’ve heard about but never heard before. It was a pretty impressive thing. The lead violinist / concert master dressed as death. As he pretended to leave the stage he made a comment about a shower; cue shower scene music, which was probably the campiest moment in the whole night.

Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold” was pretty silly and showy, but it was entertaining.

Finally, we heard a part of Stravinsky’s Firebird, which I have wanted to hear for a while. That I quite liked.

The encore was totally inappropriate: the theme to the first Harry Potter movie. Not creepy at all and playing to the kids in the audience.

On the whole the night was designed to entertain and it did just that. It was hardly great art, but it was fun and it gave me an excuse to finally go to the TSO. The performances were great (as far as I could tell) even when the music itself wasn’t all that classic. It was a good thing to do and it whetted my appetite for slightly more serious fare from said orchestra.

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