I’m pleased to begin my blog with the Pittsburgh Symphony on a positive
note. I have to admit, I had plenty of expectations on what last night
would be like.
I imagined a thousand seat concert hall with hundreds of musicians
on stage. I envisioned being so far away from the conductor that he or
she would look like an ant. I even ventured to guess that I just might
have been one of a handful of 20 year olds in the audience. I was
wrong, and thankfully so.
Heinz Hall is a musical paradise. The architecture of the building
represents one that was purposely engineered for acoustic perfection.
The balconies, including the one that I was sitting on, were staggered
as such to allow the full breadth of sound to penetrate every inch of
the hall. It seemed as though no matter where one sat in the building,
they were close to the stage. I marveled at this. It made me even more
excited to take in all the musicians had to offer.
I couldn’t have asked for a better seat. It allowed me to look down
at the main floor, and since there was no one sitting in front of me I
had an unobstructed view. The only place that I can think of that could
possibly be better would be the front row. Considering the inevitable
neck cramp that would come of a first row seat, I was quite satisfied.
I think I should take a minute to speak of the ambiance of the
evening. There was a pre-concert interview session with Jim Cunningham
of WQED radio, Composer Jennifer Higdon, Composer and Director of the
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Lucas Richman, and oboe Soloist Cynthia
Koledo DeAlmeida. Looking at the ornate glass chandeliers and elegant
gold paint accentuating the walls of the building, I thought I was
swept back centuries. But, hearing their interview made these
distinguished people seem real. It gave the entire concert feeling, a
meaning- something tangible. The audience laughed with them and
listened intently as they spoke of what it’s like to be in their shoes.
It created a down-to-Earth atmosphere that was contradictory, but
perfectly blended all the same. It was just like the general attire of
the evening. Some were dressed completely formal, and some wore blue
jeans. Comfort seemed to be the theme, and I felt it. I was not
uncomfortable even though I was a newcomer.
Adding to this was the helpful staff. I was not intimidated to ask
questions, and ask I did- about everything from where my seat was to
where I could get coffee. They knew what they were doing. I was very
appreciative of the attention to detail.
By the time the musicians were on stage, I was so hyped up to hear
the concert that I didn’t read the program to see what it was they were
playing. The irony was that I didn’t have to either. I let the music
dictate the evening, and then put a title to the feelings when I came
home and read what they were.
I was more focused on the sheer volume of string players in the
orchestra. It seemed as though the entire stage was filled with violin
and cello players, and I was shocked. Being left handed, I looked
around to see if there were ANY left handed string musicians, and saw
none. Then I pondered the notion that maybe, just maybe, no one makes
a left handed violin. No matter- the french horn is my favorite
instrument by far, and ALL of those are made left handed. I thought
about my earlier experiences in band as a horn player, smiled, and
turned my attention to what 40 violins would sound like.
As soon as they started Dvorak’s Symphonic Variations, Op. 78, I
understood. There’s a certain expression value to having it just the
way that it is. This was a very enjoyable classical work. I was glued
to my seat and taken aback by how different the symphony sounds on the
radio as opposed to live. I can say that there isn’t anything better
than closing your eyes during a piece and allowing the composer to make
you feel whatever it is that they intended. It’s like poetry,
interpreted a thousand different ways.
I also took note early of how many times the audience applauded for
the musicians and the conductor. I understood the reason for that
too. What other place can someone go where the quality of musicianship
is so high that it sounds perfect every time? I can’t think of any off
the top of my head, and they deserve every last bit of appreciation
that they get.
The oboe solo by Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida was the brilliant point of
the night. She played like she was singing through the instrument. It
was absolutely gorgeous, and the accompanying bassoon brought out the
spiritual expression intended by Lucas Richman. I felt like I was
sitting on a cloud through most of the piece. It made me want to find
out all I can about their works, and possibly even try out the oboe
The nine movement West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein was
what I had been waiting for. I remembered little snippets of the
melody from listening to it before. I can’t recall if it was the
second or third movement, but I heard a single french horn player power
out a part of that melody that instantaneously brought me to tears. I
made a personal connection with the musicians right then. I had not
experienced that before, and I loved it. It was the most contemporary
of all the music that I heard last night, and a great way to finish the
As I walked out of Heinz Hall, I had a new understanding of what it
means to be a professional musician. I had a new ability to relate to
people that have a taste for classical music. I learned a lot about
the culture and etiquette of professional concerts. And, most
importantly, I can’t wait to go back and see the Pittsburgh Symphony