Second attendance of the TSO Beethoven / Glass concert, sans the Thiofanidis piece. And a “casual concert” this was, which means there was a relatively big under 35 crowds. This explains the applause between the movements of Beethoven’s No. 6. Oundjian wisely switched the program, putting Beethoven’s tranquil “Pastoral” ahead of Glass’ unsettling violin concerto.

I came to this concert for a second time because of the Glass piece (didn’t care much about the Beethoven in my first attendance). The Glass piece, though less thrilling this time, still hugely entertaining for its musical and performance virtuosity (not only from the superb violinist Robert McDuffie, but also from the synthesizer player and all members of the string sections. By the way, I love the double bass writing in this piece). Many young audiences around me, I suspect, after a “boring” Beethoven, anxiously waited for the Glass concerto, worrying about another bore (on a precious Saturday night!). The Bachian solo “prologue” and the 1st movement were probably not too promising. The second movement was indeed beautiful, but the excitement was still not guaranteed. Then came the 3rd movement … and I’m sure everybody was thrilled by the finale!

The soloist and the TSO musicians were not as intense in this performance as in Thursday’s world premier, when Philip Glass himself was in attendance, but they still managed to end the piece gloriously.

For me, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony turned out to be an unexpected revelation this evening. I managed to peek through the sweet and tranquil surface, more or less see the drama and the tragedy. TSO under Oundjian also gave a much finer and more sensitive performance than Thursday night. If it is not purely my subjective feeling, the reason could be that musicians were more or less emotionally worn out after the intense Glass piece two nights before.

John Terauds of Toronto Star argues again and again in his blog that it is ridiculous of Oundjian to put Beethoven piece and the Glass piece under the same “Minimalism” category. I agreed with him after the Thursday concert. But after last night’s program sequence switch, I did find the two pieces come together nicely in a sweet (Beethoven) and sour (Glass) way.

Another discovery is how to have conversation during a “classical music” (a term I despise by the way) concert: a short young man sitting beside me, who applauded enthusiastically between movements in front of his tall blond bombshell, after flipping through the program notes during the performance, started to have conversation with her by exchanging written notes! I found it courteous and inventive!

Another thought after the concert is that composers who write “New Music”‘, along with their counterparts in visual arts, such as the late Andy Warhol, put more and more emphasis on accessibility, “realism’ (in music, it means melody and lyricism) and inevitably, commercial potential, which is not a bad thing at all. Musicians, while their creation is difficult to be objectified,  deserve the same market attention the contemporary visual artists enjoy.

There is no doubt that “minimalism” is sexy. Here is a video about Philip Glass and pole dancing: