My girlfriend and I changed
our usual pattern for a Friday night concert. Instead of arriving in
the Cultural district early, we had dinner in Oakland, by my office,
and came to Heinz Hall after dinner around 7:30, which is probably when
most people arrive. Some things were different, we were much higher up
in the parking garage when we arrived, and the crowds were bigger. But
our arrival at Heinz Hall was just as efficient and friendly. And we
still arrived early enough to greet a musician of our acquaintance
before the concert.
After the orchestra was settled in, Sir
Andrew Davis came in with an air of enthusiasm and pent up excitement.
When he mounted the podium, instead of going straight into the music he
addressed the audience to introduce Stravinsky’s Pulcinella.
The substance of the introduction was to warn us of parts to listen
for, and appreciation of forms that will come up in Stravinsky. And
his manner conveyed humor and excitement, certainly a bit more than
someone clocking in at the office. I tend to appreciate these, because
it means when I get to something new it is easier to take it all in and
fit it into context, both in the small and the large, as opposed to
reacting "where did this come from?" In particular I appreciated it
for a baroque-y piece, as I generally find baroque music to be rather
busy (even if I would classify it as beautiful at the same time.)
Then, off into Pulcinella.
The first movement seemed to be a solidly baroque movement (I say this
as a non-expert). In the second movement came the oboe solo over
strings, as advertised, followed by oboe and orchestra. The trombone
and bass duet later in the piece was an absolute hoot. I’m glad I was
warned so I could appreciate it from the start rather then puzzling
over it for the first few phrases. And same with the racing fanfare to
the punctuated endings of the last movement. The feel of the end was
over the top and, understanding that was intended, enjoyable.
After a pause as the Steinway piano was wheeled out and many more seats
added to the orchestra, Jonathan Biss and Davis walked out. With
Schumann’s Piano Concerto going straight into the piano part, Biss lost
no time in demonstrating his energy. From my seat I could watch his
fingers move, the right hand dancing on the keys while the left hand
pranced and leaped above with unflagging force. Ah, to be young again
(ok, it was not *that* long ago, but still, I don’t have that kind of
energy any more).
The last piece was the Sibelius Symphony. Now, it was wonderfully
grand, with the theme developed in the beginning, the second movement
of quieter variations on a theme, and majestic and powerful final
movement, but it is a pattern that starts to merge after having the two
weeks of Brahms (yes, there was the Spanish concert since then). Of
course part of it may be I was just getting tired but the superlatives
in the program notes did not seem to apply. I was originally
indifferent to the thought of an encore, not being sure if one was
warranted, but I thought the encore was a more engaging piece then the
symphony. Not as grand, but with more grace and a better note to end
the concert then the symphony.