As I already discovered a long time ago, my "total concert experience"
is always richer than the accumulated impressions of the various
compositions performed at a given concert. Much of it has to do with
the unexpected associations which come to my mind during and after a
A case in point was last week’s concert, titled: Epic Masterpieces. At first glance, I found the title lopsided. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra are definitely in this category. Johann Strauss, Jr’s famous Waltzes: Emperor and On the Beautiful Blue Danube, although musical delights, are far from being epic. But than: would I wish to listen to four epic pieces in a row?
So having Felix Mendelssohn & Richard Strauss
"wrapped in elegant dances" created an image in my mind of an epic
painting framed in an intricate, gilded frame. This association pleased
Than I recalled the previous concert which concluded with 2 short (but definitely) epic pieces by Wagner: Tannhauser and Die Walkure. This reminded me that epic music does not require length of time. It also brought back memories of Wagner’s attitude towards Mendelssohn’s music which was far from epic… How could Wagner dismiss this heartfelt, exquisite Violin Concerto? How could he declare Mendelssohn not worthy of creating "true music"? Well, Richard Wagner will probably remain forever, an enigma to me, same as Friedrich Nietzsche, the creator of Also sprach Zarathustra… which inspired Richard Strauss’ monumental symphonic poem. I suspect that Richard Strauss found Nietzsche’s Zarathustra more poetic than philosophical. His music "speaks" that way to me.
And then, another association with the previous concert: Emanuel Ax performing a Chopin Waltz as an anchor… Chopin, who was born the same year as Mendelssohn and like him,died too young… and these two composers "felt" each others music…and still: I might not dance to Chopin’s Waltzes but I would listen to them, wishing they would never end…
So by the end of the concert, not only was I left with the graceful performance of the young violinist Janine Jansen and the brilliant conductor Yakov Kreizberg but an ongoing thread of historical, musical and biographical associations of a by-gone era which the PSO brought back to life.