Visiting Michigan

Dan Albertson

[March 2012.]

[Who knew that Michigan could be fun? Joining in the escapades were Daniel Pesca and Romeo Talento. In a weak moment, the author quipped that Chicago is a “backwater hellhole” in comparison; Le Très Sagace Monsieur Pesca soon corrected him, pointing out that we were in the city on a good weekend. Either way, thank you, Truly Render. D.A.]

Georg Frideric HANDEL: Concerto grosso in si bemolle maggiore, Op. 6 No. 7/HWV 325, “Hornpipe” (1740). Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Suite A-moll, TWV LV: a2* (ca. 1730-50). Giuseppe SAMMARTINI: Concerto in fa maggiore** (ca. 1730-50). Arcangelo CORELLI, arr. Francesco GEMINIANI: Concerto grosso in re minore, “La Follia”, Op. 5 No. 12 (ca. 1730-50). Arcangelo CORELLI, arr. Francesco GEMINIANI: Concerto in fa maggiore, Op. 5 No.10** (ca. 1730-50). Maurice Steger (a rec)* & (s rec)**, Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie (cond.). Jan. 28, 2012, Rackham Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI (

Maurice Steger livened an evening that began with a soporific account of Handel. The half-hour suite by Telemann encompasses the French, the German, the Italian, and the rustic, given solo embellishments verging on the indecent. One sensed that the soloist had passion on a different level than that of the accompanists. The momentum carried beyond the interval, though the concerti mercifully offered repose, as well. For instance, the third movement Sarabanda of the Corelli / Geminiani concerto grosso, here performed as a recorder concerto, had plaint otherwise lacking this night. La Follia, though joyful, was soft-edged, not as manic as some accounts.

Steger frolicked and relished the limelight. His playing, never distasteful, was clear without being forceful and teetered on the line between endearment and frenzy. One could forgive his lapses into self-indulgence; indeed, one would have wished for more self-indulgence from Les Violons du Roy, if only to keep up.

Olivier MESSIAEN: Des canyons aux étoiles… (1970-74). Tunca Dogu (hn), Francesco Tristano (pf), Frank Tackmann (glock), Alexander Radziewski (xylorimba), Hamburger Symphoniker, Jeffrey Tate (cond.). Performed with film by Daniel Landau (2010?). Jan. 29, 2012, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI (

Messiaen is a composer whose music needs no film. Daniel Landau thus made an error in his calculation, if he calculated at all. His hypersurrealism, with scenes of primeval man emerging from the sea only to find dwarves in animal suits, who proceed to torch a car, interwoven with tableaux of feasting and bulldozers in landfills, is a juxtaposition of the consumption of contemporary life and the diffidence of Mother Nature. His film of grit is at odds with the grandiloquence of the music, distracting from it rather than enhancing it. If Landau is the canyons, Messiaen is the stars in this scenario.

The music itself was performed with detachment, a boon. The birdsongs were rendered with character. Francesco Tristano, prone to improvise, wisely followed the score. Jeffrey Tate gave cues with utter transparence. The brass quivered in intonation on occasion, but for a work of 96 mins., perfection would be an unnecessary ideal.