A lesson learned: never doubt the symphony – Ruthie Snoke

I was feeling rather flirty and fun on Friday night, as I pranced my way from the parking garage to Heinz Hall. With a little sunlight still in the air and the warm, gentle weather, I felt as if I was walking toward an old friend. On the way out the door my brother had asked me if I was growing tired of symphonies, and I immediately said, ‘Of course not!’ But it did make me think, as I drove downtown. Was I getting a little wearied by all the concerts? Would I have given up my tickets for something else?

As I pulled into the parking garage I felt the same feeling as always: a moment of longing for the city. I used to come downtown three times a week for classes at the Pittsburgh CLO, by bus, and I really knew the city back then. Every time I come down for a symphony or other performance I am reminded of those days and the times I spent walking around my beloved Pittsburgh. That was the first indication that no, I am not tired of the symphony.

As soon as the symphony began I had the eerie feeling that they (not the musicians themselves, or the conductor…but simply THEY as a whole) knew what I had been thinking, and, anxious to prove to me that I really do love the symphony, they put on an extra special show. Ravel’s ‘Ma Mère l’Oye Suite’ was delightful, and true to the program, I enjoyed the sixth movement—‘Conversations of Beauty and the Beast’—best. (But then again, ‘Laideronette, Empress of the Pagodas’ was also intriguing and playful.)

Witold Lutoslawski’s proud piece was breathtaking. As soon as it began I could feel emotions struggling to come out of the music—the passion the composer could not contain any longer. I can see why the Polish people love it; I am not Polish, and my date was not Polish, but as he said: ‘It grabs my heart.’ Hmm…a little cheesy there, Greg, but it gets the point across.

I’ve written before about how much I love Rachmaninoff, so it will come as no surprise that I was spellbound by ‘Concerto No. 3 in D minor.’ Throughout the entire intermission I anxiously awaited what I knew was going to be wonderful, and when Mr. Ohlsson came striding out I heard a voice whisper in the back of my mind, ‘And you wondered if you were tired of the symphony. Tired!’ I have heard a lot of piano concertos over the past months, but I don’t think any of them compared to what I heard on Friday. The highs of the music were so piercingly vivid, and the lows were so full and deep and rich that I was almost beside myself when it ended. As I sprang to my feet and joined in the thunderous applause, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would never tire of the symphony. It is all music, but the music changes, and I have changed with it. For the better.

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May 17