I find myself in Tokyo this week at the home of good friends. Â I’ve only been here a few days, but I think I’m already starting to get the flavor of the place. Â 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. Â 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. Â The cello concerto is a piece I recently conducted and was still very fresh in my mind. Â I found the performance utterly lifeless, the soloist overblown and the sound lacking any warmth or color. Â 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. Â [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. Â This is a piece that I’ve had problems with in the past, having conducted the first movement in a lesson once, largely unsuccessfully. Â I think the hardest thing about this piece is the pacing, and Mr. Otaka really brought it off with charm and ease. Â The sound was beautiful all around and the playing was precise and impassioned. Â 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. Â BUT, I was able to buy his new album, which won’t be released in the states for who knows how long. Â It’s a short little affair, but a welcome addition to the most excellentÂ EXIT.
I’ll offer a tantalizing amuse-bouche: