Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Waving the Baton Goodbye

Richmond Symphony music director Mark Russell Smith conducted for the final time in Richmond last night. His music of choice was Mahler's 9th, a piece written once Mahler realized his own mortality and impending death. Some would call this musical choice a vanity piece (it ran 1 1/2 hours with no intermission) with Smith mopping his bald head with a handkerchief between movements. As far as I was concerned, it was an opportunity to hear an infrequently performed piece live.

Of course, the music had to compete with the audience noises. A woman in the row behind me had a on a tinkly charm bracelet, so she naturally had to move her arm incessantly. The woman with the oxygen machine running constantly provided further background noise. And what's a symphony performance without a man snoring in the back row. Yes, all the stock characters were in place.

Love him or hate him, Mark Russell Smith spent 10 years working with our symphony and there's something to be said for a decade of service. On the other hand, he never moved his family here, so here's hoping our next music director is willing to make the commitment to not just conduct in RVA, but actually live here, too. I don't think that's asking too much...do you?

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