Thanks Giving:
  • Braxton Blake, Max Bruch & Antonin Dvorak
  • Manfred Honeck, Randolph Kelly & Andres Cardenes
  • Richard Simmons

Last Friday evening, the ambiance at Heinz Hall was bursting with excitement.

It is true that in most Friday concerts I sense an elevated energy combined with a higher degree of anticipation, as I walk through the hall, observe the audience, meet "Friday regulars" (most of the time I attend Saturday concerts), and get into my seat. It makes sense: it’s the first concert of the weekend, the program & performance were not yet criticized and groups of young people add to a certain buzz. Adding this time, "out of town Thankgiving guests" and the picture get even sharper.

The concert was titled ‘New World Symphony’. I would like to name it Thanks Giving’.

I was still in the mood of a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, I shared with dear friends the night before, whom I met again in the hall and I was still reflecting on many topics we had discussed & pondered over.

So here are my thanks givings:

I am giving thanks to Braxton Blake, a contemporary composer who, intrigued with Bach’s music, recreated a ‘Viola Concerto’ out of a lost piece, except for a version (by Bach)
for different instruments. For those who feel uncomfortable listening
to new music sounding like a 300 year old composition, I beg to suggest
re-examining their feelings when entering a new church or a university
campus built in the Gothic style… Now we are talking about 700 years
apart. (There are times when I crave for artistic craftsmanship of
previous generations when I enter a contemporary art gallery. But this
is another story for another time.) The ‘Viola Concerto’ sounded lovely, lyrical & delightful. So I am giving thanks to the soloist (our) Randolph Kelly.

I am giving thanks to Max Bruch for his ‘Violin Concerto No.1’ which whenever I listen to it at home, I always imagine the composer praying to God. Andres Cardenes created the magic I expect in a live concert: memories of familiar music being reborn afresh and so exquisite. So I am giving thanks to the soloist (our) Andres Cardenes.

I am giving thanks to Antonin Dvorak for his ‘Symphony No.9’,
his gift to a new nation, searching for expressing its being in musical
terms. Musicologists will forever continue to debate whether he
incorporated African & American Indian tunes, or the other way
around: his influance on American melodies. One way or the other, he
composed this great (& last) Symphony while being here in 1893. It
was already 30 years after the civil war, and a period of large waves
of immigrants (including from his own Bohemian homeland), who settled
in the vast & open lands of this country. I believe that his
artistic genius grasped an ‘American Experience’: longing for past
memories & wishing so strongly for a better future, and he elevated
a new nation to "A New World"!

I am giving thanks to the conductor Manfred Honeck and to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
for such a remarkable performance. The synergy between the orchestra
& the conductor was apparent during each piece and obvious when all
the musicians were applauding Honeck, while we applauded them all!

I am giving thanks to Richard Simmons for his outstanding & generous gift to the PSO.
At a time when so many orchestras in this country are straggling to
stay afloat, I believe that such a gift is not only a sign of his care
for keeping the artistic excellency of the PSO for years to come, but his belief that this great orchestra is a catalyst for a bright future for this city.

As a surprise encore, Dvorak’s ‘Slavonic Dances’,was
just the right music to express gratitude. The orchestra played with
such joy and pleasure! What an exuberant way to conclude a Thanksgiving concert!

I am an immigrant, I love classical music and I love this orchestra. Could I ask for more?

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