My anticipation for the first concert of the season was a combination of returning to a cherished familiarity and a wish to be delighted & surprised.
The familiar is obvious: reuniting with my music lover "buddies",
enjoying the colorful stage – the flowers and the lady musicians
dressed in rainbow hues and of course, the elegant space of Heinz Hall.
And then, the ritual of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ performed while we all stand-up and acknowledge the start of a new musical season
The choice of music was surprising. Although I have seen the
concerts listing of the entire season months ago (& even blogged
about it) I just paid attantion to the fact that the music was not
under the banner of "Grand & Famous" as usual (last year’s season
started with Beethoven’s ‘6th Symphony’ & Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’) but rather music infrequently performed. Zoltan Kodaly’s ‘Suite from Hary Janos Opera’ was not performed here for 20 years, Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Sceherazade’, for 13 years and the most recent performance (6 years ago) of Prokofiev’s ‘1st Violin Concerto’ is quite a challenging composition even for well trained ears.
Oh, yes! The Mystery Piece made a come-back! (Can’t talk about it… tomorrow there will be another performance.)
Bravo to Yan Pascal Tortelier & Bob Moir and above all to the PSO!
On Friday night the hall was full and the standing ovation at the end
of the concert promissed me additional music lovers "buddies". You see,
I take it all so personaly…
Now, a few impressions I had during the concert and some thoughts right after I left Heinz Hall.
Kodaly’s ‘Suite from Hary Janos’,
not only embraced Hungarian folk melodies & instruments (the cimbalom!) but is evidently a great example of playful
mockery. The sense of playfulness reminded me of Strauss’s ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’ which I had the pleasure of listening to perfomed by the PSO on their recent European tour. The mockery reminded me of Shostakovich’s ‘Symphony No.9’. That Kodaly
was an avid gatherer & recorder of Hungarian folk music is well
known, but I wondered if the mockery was introduced by the composer,
tired of the Austrian Empire which finaly broke into pieces during WWI
and allowed Hungary its independence. (Alas, not for a long time…)
Prokofiev’s ‘1st Violin Concerto’ brought
back the "required quest" I formulated years ago for those who break
new artistic ground: "With how much can I get away with and still be
performed?" This young composer (hardly 25 at the time) was surely
offering a new musical voice to the 20th Century. I was captured by Leila Josefowicz‘s virtuosity and the degree of interwoven sound with the orchestra.
Which brings me to ‘Scheherazade’.
The title of this Symphonic Poem and the titles of the four movements
evoke episods from the famous tales of The Arabian Nights. The music is
colorful, rich with beautiful melodies and full of excellent solo parts
for all the instruments in the orchestra. What a delight & a great
showcase for the PSO and especially for Andrés Cárdenes with his lyrical & seductive violin playing.
Thinking about the smart conclusion of this old Arabian tale and the title of the last movement- ‘Festival at Baghdad’ I
could not but wonder: where had such wit and wisdom gone? Had it perished
for ever from that part of the world? Would it not be the most
cherished gift to humanity if the art of story telling and the sound of
great music would stop the carnage in nowadays Baghdad?