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We received some comp tickets to the Central Oregon Symphony for last night’s performance by the 3 Leg Torso accompanied by the orchestra followed by Michael Gesme conducting the orchestra in Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.


The symphony auditorium was full, and we had to sit third row center.

We arrived fifteen minutes early because we were told it was difficult to get seats at these concerts, but as you can see from the picture the house was packed, and we were forced to sit in my favorite seat, the third row directly in front of the podium. That seat is usually empty, which is strange because it always has the best sound and visuals, and I seem to appreciate this more than most people. It was cold outside but the hall was warm and the crowd was feeling friendly and positively expectant of some great music.

The first set featured a group from Portland, calling themselves 3 Leg Torso. It was never mentioned how they acquired that strange name. They consisted of violin, accordion, bass and two percussionists and they were superb. They never mentioned the word klezmer, always referring to their music as East European, or Hungarian, improvisational or self written, but this was klezmer music at its most developed and sophisticated. Their music intentionally incorporated, as klezmer music does, the flavors of the various countries’ music where the traveling musicians perform. It is highly improvisational, but it has an underlying tonality that floods throughout the style. Debbie liked it so much she bought one of their CDs during intermission.

The Central Oregon Symphony, directed by Michael Gesme, returned for the full symphony event – Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47. It  was superbly done in every way, but Gesme did too excellent a job of bringing the suffering of Shostakovich and the Russian people to my ears and emotions. Okay, perhaps I should have a little suffering in my life, and this is certainly an aesthetic way of getting it, but pain is pain and this music certainly brought pain into my consciousness. At one point I was reminiscing on my miserable experiences with poison oak, and thinking this music was portraying that experience a little too well — the screechiness, the discordance, the itch that doesn’t go away and the pure awfulness of the whole experience; but what was worse for me was the lack of resolution. It seemed whenever things seemed to be resolving, Shostakovich would soon turn the beginning of a pleasant soothing note, or a nice little melody, into a complex mess of unresolvable horror. My life goals are to find solutions to problems, not earnestly explore the most painful possible twists on some potentially lovely life.

Shostakovich illustrates perfectly the direction I don’t want to go.