I had gotten a card earlier in the week about this concert. And it promised Spanish composers, and flamenco dancing!? not only did I go, I went early.
The Centro Flamenco de Pittsburgh
(CFP) came to perform for us and give a somewhat different introduction
to spanish culture in addition to the usual pretalk in Heinz Hall.
During the break, the host (Jim Cunningham of WQED fm) did a couple of interviews
and, as artists, a couple of them shared about the outlook on life that
comes with dancing and the joy and emotions that dance gave. One of
the personal highlights of the evening was running into a number of
friends at Heinz Hall that I was not expecting to see, including one
who has never been to the Symphony before. And listening and watching
these artists inspired a couple of them to think about taking lessons
at the CFP.
The concert opened with Albeniz Suite Espanola. And I have to
admit, it felt a bit messy. The confusion seemed to extend to the
audience, who did not seem to quite figure out when it was over. After
Suite Espanola the orchestra rearranged themselves, cutting down the
numbers almost in half, no doubt to avoid overwhelming the solo
guitar. After the orchestra settled down Pepe Romero came and took his
seat next to the conductor’s podium. And as he opened the Concierto de
Aranjuez, the hall was silent. Mr. Romero gave the opening theme,
which was taken up by winds. And as winds, brass, and even strings
took the theme, Mr. Romero moved on. For the rest of the piece, we
were treated to Mr. Romero picking out another theme, while the rest of
the parts presented their parts in controlled play, careful not to
overwhelm the solo guitar, even when they surged to the fore at times.
And the audience was transfixed, not even the usual occasional cough or
shifting in seats or someone walking to a door. Or it could be I just
did not hear it as my attention was firmly on the guitar and orchestra,
hearing them pass around themes, take turns ascending and descending in
force and scale and create something beautiful.
And when it was done, as much as I think that as an audience the PSO
audience is too quick to give accolades, I went to my feet. Overjoyed
in the moment.
To be sure, this was something different. Not the grace of Chee-Yun
playing Saint-Saens two weeks ago, weaving through the rest of the
orchestra. Or of Julia Fischer demonstrating virtuosity playing
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto last week. But a picked guitar,
wonderously exposed to the world, vulnerable. And gone. And I was there.