As I watched the six-movement symphony, I felt that there was a story to be told in the interplay between the conductor and the orchestra. In the first movement, the horns have a melody that is high, is loud, and is comically tedious. The second movement starts with a sweet and soft melody in the strings that is interrupted frequently by the horns, now also joined by the oboes. And, mind you, this isn't the kind of subtle musical effects that only music nerds can hear ("I say, did you hear that ridiculous chromatic modulation to the secondary dominant? Hi-larious!). No, Haydn's humor is obvious and slap-stick (remember the bar fight?). The jokes go on, all the way to the end of the symphony where the strings suddenly stop and retune their instruments in the middle of the piece. All of this should be hammed up and dramatized by the conductor, and I think the audience would have loved it.
But Michael Christie didn't do any of this. He played it straight and, frankly, I was disappointed. I know it's his nature to be serious, but in this case it worked against the success of the performance. However I won't criticize Christie too much. This is the classical music that we have made for ourselves: Serious stuff with no room for horseplay. What's worse is that this is part of the turn-off for a lot of people. We need to grow our audience, not drive them away because of we're too serious! Besides, if you think about it, music is as much suited to comedy as it is to drama. If you don't believe me, try watching a funny movie or scene without the music. It won't be as funny.
Would it hurt so much if the audience chuckled--or even laughed out loud--during a concert if the music was meant to evoke laughter? Last night the audience was completely silent during Haydn's musical antics on the stage. (They may have been asleep.) My father, who attended with me, didn't even know it was supposed to be funny. He asked me after the concert, "What was wrong with that Haydn symphony?" I'm sorry, but that is a failure to communicate, plain and simple. It's the performer's job to communicate that extra narrative along with the music. In the same way that musicians often close their eyes as they play beautiful and emotional music, or they bounce and move as they play music with a catchy groove, they need to mug, make faces and generally ham it up when they perform music that is funny.
Regarding my own music and productivity: this week was my own version of "Il distratto". When Anali leaves town, anything can happen. When she was out of town in April, I stayed up late several nights playing and writing music. (I hadn't planned on it, but it turned out that way). This week, I found myself frequently out and then when I was at home I was distracted by many different things. (It didn't help that I broke Anali's computer, and then spent a lot of time trying to fix it.) Anyway, I'm not going to cry over lost productivity but I wanted to come clean with my own personal distractions. Next week I'll get back on track. It'll be easy because my wife (and thus my routine) will be back.
By the way, the Mesa City Band's first concert was this Wed. night at Leisure World and it went very well. Next concert is Swing Memories on Veteran's Day at The Citadel.