SPCO concert 12/1/07

Tonight’s SPCO concert featured works by Mendelssohn, Werben, Schoenberg, and Beethoven.

Because of the weather, the Ordway was not as full it should have been. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, artistic partner was the director and played the soloist for the Beethoven piano concerto number 3.

Of greater importance, really sadness, this was the farewell performance for Daryl Skobba. Daryl has been a cellist with the SPCO for 38 years, that is more years than I have been alive. The concert started with an introduction by SPCO president Bruce Coppock and then Layton “Skip” James told a very nice story about an impromptu session at a school while waiting for another SPCO musician to show up.

As I have mentioned in the “about me” section of this blog, I am not that critical a reviewer. I really liked the opening Italian Symphony by Mendelssohn, which I heard with the Minnesota Orchestra.

The Webern and Schoenberg pieces I didn’t care for. Other people like them, but I don’t. I did like the 3rd movement of the Schoenberg. It was hard to tell exactly from my seat, but it looked like cellist Sarah Lewis was playing the organ for this piece.

After intermission, the Beethoven piano concerto was amazing. Probably because he was the soloist and still directing, the piano was placed with the keyboards facing the audience. If my memory serves me right, I think that was the configuration of another concert last year with Aimard, I think the February 2007 concert at Temple Israel. This configuration was a nice treat for me as my seats normally don’t let me see the pianist play (actual fingerwork on the keys). I was struck by how soft his touch seemed on the keys. This piece got a standing ovation by the audience. On the piano, it seemed that it had the solar panel looking plexiglass cover to direct the sound towards the audience.

Where the concert gets more special is that Aimard played not an encore, but a present to Daryl Skoba afterwards. He didn’t announce what the piece was (or if he did I missed it), but it was a beautiful solo piano piece. After he finished, the audience remained seated, he departed the stage. When he came back on stage, he did not go to the podium, but stopped where Daryl was and singled him out. At this point, the audience rose again to honor Daryl.

Outside of the great playing of music, this concert really highlights how special the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra really is. With the Minnesota Orchestra you may have 100 musicians playing on a night, but the SPCO typically is not larger than 40 musicians, and for the Webern tonight, just 9. It gives the SPCO an more intimate feel, almost like a family. I have found the musicians to be very approachable and very nice. I have never talked to Daryl, and after tonight, I feel I may have missed a chance to talk with a really nice person. But I can already tell that he will be missed and I wish him well.

According to the featured musicians page for Brandenburg Concerto concerts, December 14-16, it looks like there will be another chance to see him, as he is listed. I hope that he is also at the neighborhood series next week.

-Josh

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