I find myself in Tokyo this week at the home of good friends. I’ve only been here a few days, but I think I’m already starting to get the flavor of the place. There really is no “center” of Tokyo — rather, it is a conglomeration of 23 cities, each with its own center, surroundings and specialties.
Yesterday, we took in a concert of the NHK Symphony. There were only two pieces on the program, both by Edward Elgar: the cello concerto and the 2nd Symphony.
It would be very difficult to describe the huge difference between the impression these two pieces made. The cello concerto is a piece I recently conducted and was still very fresh in my mind. I found the performance utterly lifeless, the soloist overblown and the sound lacking any warmth or color. It was a sonic version of the Raw Horse Meat I had eaten the night before:
A dish that I expected would be full of wild, gamey flavor really ended up being about as tasty as a glass of water. [PS. The Japanese charmingly refer to this dish as “Cherry Blossom Meat”.]
The performance of the 2nd symphony, however, under the baton of Tadaaki Otaka, was a true delight. This is a piece that I’ve had problems with in the past, having conducted the first movement in a lesson once, largely unsuccessfully. I think the hardest thing about this piece is the pacing, and Mr. Otaka really brought it off with charm and ease. The sound was beautiful all around and the playing was precise and impassioned. Delicious as a rich okonomiyaki.
Also, the NHK concert hall had an ingenious idea of how to deal with children at concerts:
Oh that concert halls in the U.S. would adopt such a sensible Baby Policy.
The superb rendition of the Elgar 2nd almost made up for the disappointment of not getting to see Shugo Tokumaru, who was playing a sold out show in Tokyo the night before. BUT, I was able to buy his new album, which won’t be released in the states for who knows how long. It’s a short little affair, but a welcome addition to the most excellent EXIT.
I’ll offer a tantalizing amuse-bouche: