Time & again, when attending a concert featuring a premier of contemporary music,
I arrive to the concert hall with a similar thought: Well, if "the
contemporary piece" will not capture me, at least I will enjoy "A" and "C".
(As we all know, the new is always "sandwiched" between the established
Classical Cannon, so we will have no choice of slipping away…) As a
recent habit I came to the Friday concert. At least there would be this
special energy of an Opening Night…
Mozart’s Symphony No.40 at the start and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 at the conclusion, was programmed as expected with Reza Vali’s The Being of Love in between, for a "captured Audience".
To my great surprise and delight, The Being of Love was
the highest point of the concert! And not just for me. Heinz Hall was
roaring with applaud, bravos & an immediate standing ovation at the
conclusion of this amazing performance.
For me, it is not as though I did not love Mozart’s & Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies. Of course I did. I always do.These Symphonies are part of my "normal musical diet" and in a live performance of the PSO they were as fresh sounding & perfect as ever. But Reza Vali’s "new born" was the absolute star of the evening!
I can imagine that it could have gone the opposite way. How many
great composers, experienced failure at the first performance? There
are countless examples from Mozart to Tchaikovsky & Beethoven in between…
In retrospect, The Being of Love had the best of all for immediate success: a combination of great music performed by a great Orchestra, led by a superb Conductor – Manfred Honek and the perfect Soloist- Michelle DeYoung. I was to captured by it, I have a need to go into details.
First, I could not separate the poem from the music. (What a great
gift to be a poet and composer!) They were integrated as the best
examples of the classical western tradition I could recall during the
concert. My immediate association was Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) which was just performed last month and I figured was composed 100 years ago.
The Being of Love, a tapestry of traditional Persian folk songs (Bartok
comes to mind) and original musical interpretations of that old
tradition, gave it the depth & unsurpassed meaning and beauty. The
subject of the poem: exploring & experiencing the various
dimensions of Love, concluding with a profound quote from a Persian
Mystic (Rumi) of the 13Th Century, added the ultimate gravitas.
Having the printed poem in the program, Persian & English side
by side,contributed to my delight. Prior to the concert (..still
bracing myself to the unknown) I read the poem (…& fell in love with it…) and during the performance I followed DeYoung’s
singing the Persian original. The language, unfamiliar as it was,
penetrated my conscience as though I did know it. The only explanation
I can come up with, is the integration of poetic rhythms with the
musical sounds performed in perfect balance by the PSO and Michelle DeYoung.
And than, having the commanding "stage presence" of the Conductor & Soloist contributed as well. I perceived Manfred Honeck’s stage personality leading the Orchestra in this "Virgin Voyage" as a Captain & interpreter of the Composer’s deepest feelings. The Soloist’s persona– a unique combination of Botticelli’s & Rubens’
beauty with a perfect voice to communicate longing, desire, sorrow,
playfulness and ultimately the deepest meaning of the essence of Love
as Rume and Vali offered us.
This Symphonic poem,
reaching back to both Western and Eastern traditions, was for me an
artistic triumph of the first order. I could not ask for more. But I
did. I returned on Sunday and immersed in it all over again!