Too Smooth--Max Bragado Darman wields a polished baton.
Thursday, February 25, 1999
Max Bragado Darman gave his Sunday afternoon Monterey Symphony audience a visual treat. His oil-smooth baton technique conveyed both elegance and authority. But he did not use it to stamp his performance with originality or insight. And there''s the rub.
This was, after all, a music director audition. The conductor field is generously endowed with competent, well-trained, technically accomplished musicians--but relatively few artists. The latter set themselves apart by expressing a personal vision. Bragado Darman chose an odd program for such a purpose, including two lesser works by greater composers, and a Beethoven symphony that holds up even with a minimum of artistic engagement. In fact, in the slow movement of the deaf composer''s Symphony in A, Bragado Darman delivered the real goods by giving the kind of attention to dynamics and phrasing that the other movements wanted as well.
Despite the lack of a personal conception, the orchestra charged energetically and confidently along to a rousing finish. The credit goes to Beethoven and the orchestra, and thanks to Bragado Darman for scheduling it.
The program''s first half contained even less that would reveal the conductor''s artistic ideas, though both works might have been better exploited to that end. Pelleas et Melisande by Sibelius is a pastiche of programmatic meditations intended to accompany a production of Maeterlinck''s "symbolist" drama. Here, Sibelius often sounds, uncharacteristically, as impressionistic as Delius. The many short movements of quiet, slow utterance caused not a few audience members to nod off. Oboist Bennie Cottone added handsomely to the bucolics with his lengthy cor anglais solos. Brahms'' Schicksalslied again found the orchestra in good fettle though, perhaps out of respect for the underutilized symphony chorus, Bragado Darman played it straight, sacrificing opportunities to intensify dynamics and dramatize phrasing.
Like surprises? You''ll love the just-announced latest twist to the Monterey Symphony music director search. MS management has disclosed its intention to follow the current season with an "interim season" of guest conductors who are not music director candidates.
By way of explanation, in a letter to current subscribers, executive director Joseph Truskot says, "We must start our ticket renewals in March, but we will not have heard and interviewed all candidates until the end of May. Moreover, it would be impossible to wait until we name a music director and then match his or her availability with suitable hall dates for the season beginning in the fall. Therefore, we have planned an interim season with seven guest conductors who are not candidates for the position..."
For those dedicated long-time subscribers who are used to making a psychological and financial investment in the organization''s artistic leader, this is "disheartening news" (as one of them told me), and represents another long season of "one-night stands."
So why was this information held back? The Monterey Symphony management must have known when it announced its search season last spring that it could not name a music director before it had heard its last candidate. It also knew that it could not bind its chosen candidate to dates of its own choosing (as it has previously) because it no longer requires exclusive dedication to this community; the conductor of choice would have other career commitments.
By announcing an "interim season" with non-candidate conductors, the Monterey Symphony has committed itself to the following: 1) It will cut off its music director search at the end of the current season and 2), lacking a music director, the orchestra''s disciplines will continue to add tarnish through the 1999-2000 season. Though he is no musician, executive director Truskot will continue to function as artistic director.
While the auditioning conductors this season have a great incentive to make as impressive a show as possible, the non-auditioning guest conductors of next season do not. A similar situation occurred in the Santa Cruz Symphony''s last search when an entire season was given to guest conductor JoAnn Falletta--not a candidate--who took no responsibility for maintaining the orchestra''s disciplines. The actual search season followed and the new music director, John Larry Granger, went to work immediately after that. It took the SCS five years to return to its previous level of quality. cw
Last Week''s Quiz After suffering a criticism of his music by Napoleon, what eminent composer in Paris retorted, "My dear general, you are certainly an excellent soldier; but, in regards to music, you must excuse me if I don''t think it necessary to adapt my compositions to your comprehension."? Answer Luigi Cherubini.
This Week''s Quiz Name the Italian opera composer who remarked, "One can''t judge Wagner''s Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don''t intend hearing it a second time"?
Composer Amy Knoles Friday, 8pm. Cutting-edge, computer-assisted electronic percussion specialist Amy Knoles performs new works by Joseph Koykkar, Rand Steiger and herself for the Salinas Concert Association. Main Stage, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. $18/general; $10/under 21. 754-6829.
Soprano Sari Gruber Friday, 8pm. Mozart Society hosts recital of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss songs and Lieder. Sunset Center, San Carlos Street & 9th Avenue, Carmel. $15/general; $5/students. 625-3637.
Lovejoy Concerts Sunday, 3pm. Student piano recital by Brendan Hurt, Kiran Moorty, Grant Smith, Chris Wade, Ginger Xu, Bryan Adalpe and Nicole Jenson, to benefit local branch of Music Teachers Association of California. Unitarian Universalist Church, 490 Aguajito Rd., Carmel. $12/adults; $6/children 12 and under. 625-5633.