…The Seattle Times‘ forever-esconced-but-barely-there music crtic, Melinda Bargreen (reviewing Thursday’s Seattle Symphony concert):
When a conductor picks up a microphone to address the audience about the music they’re going to hear, the audience can be pretty sure of one thing: They aren’t expected to like the piece. By the time guest conductor Michael Stern had finished telling Thursday’s Seattle Symphony audience about Varèse’s “Intégrales,” it’s a wonder they weren’t fleeing the hall en masse. With Stern’s every phrase (“A certain weird clarity,” “An assault on the senses”), the impending work loomed more ominously. When the downbeat finally came, and the small wind ensemble plus a whole armory of percussion began to play Varèse’s chaotic motifs and random-sounding outbursts, no one could say we weren’t warned.
Come on now, a piece from freakin’ 1925 gets this kind of write-up in 2008?
Not that she’s the only thing wrong with this picture that is this story. I’ve got to fault Michael Stern for trying too hard to talk the piece up, in effect almost apologising to the audience beforehand. Intégrales, after more than 80 years now, is a piece that doesn’t need any such justification or apology; just shut up, Michael, and play the thing already!
And notice that Sunday afternoon’s “Musically Speaking” version of this concert — i.e., the concert for supposedly explicating and enlightening the classically curious — does away with the Varèse altogether, leaving everyone to safely ruminate (perhaps literally) over just the Victor Herbert and Rachmaninoff.