A Pleasant Surprise – Ruthie Snoke

The days are finally starting to warm up—so much so that I was at long last able to go out into the garden and enjoy the splashing water—but I almost wish that they weren’t. With the approach of summer, and my graduation from high school, many things are wrapping up in my life, one of which is the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and its marvelous shows.  Next year, as I live in Chicago at school, I am sure I will have the
opportunity to hear and see great art, but I am also sure that nothing
will compare to the pleasure this year has given me.

Each week I went
to the symphony with high expectations, and each week my expectations
were met and exceeded. This week, of course, was no exception. In fact
this week impressed me even more than usual because…well, one thing at
a time.

To start in the proper place, I should say that it was even
more crowded than usual at Heinz Hall. As I sat down in my seat I
thought to myself that the crowds must be expecting something quite
special this time, or else they would not have turned out in such
force. The opening piece, ‘Serenade in D minor’ by Antonin Dvorak, was
unlike anything I’ve heard yet at Heinz Hall. With no strings except
one double bass and a cello, the sound was completely different—the
setting much more intimate. I found myself drawn to the humorous,
playful, and yet sometimes mournful sound.

Rachmaninoff is quickly
becoming one of my favorite composers. There is something about his
music that tugs at my soul, and Saturday night was especially
enjoyable. I am not, sad to say, up on my names of pieces, but part of
Rachmaninoff’s ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’ (Variation No. 18) was
what made me love classical music before I really knew what it was. I
don’t remember when, but sometime in my childhood my mother put on a CD
and as I heard the strains of ‘Rhapsody’ something in it just forced me
to stop and listen to what would become one of my favorite pieces of
music. So when, on Saturday night, the talented Mr. Parker seemed to
take a deep breath and ease into the first strains of that variation, I
caught my breath, and I don’t think I let it out again until the next
variation began.

My evening was made by hearing that piece, but I was
delighted by Mr. Parker’s encore as well. The classic, well loved music
of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ embellished magnificently by Mr. Parker’s
composer friend (whose name escapes me…) made a perfect encore. As I’ve
said before, I especially enjoy the symphonies with a piano soloist,
and I felt that I could have watched—and listened to—Mr. Parker until
the end of time. Mozart has never been one of my favorites, and coming
after Rachmaninoff, it could hardly compare in my mind, but I enjoyed
it nonetheless. In fact, I thought it was one of his less traditional
sounding pieces, and the fact that he composed it in only four days is
incredible. But that’s Mozart for you, I suppose. And when charming
conductor Pinchas Zukerman took up a violin and began playing Brahms’s
‘Lullaby,’ I for one was ready to go to bed and dream of all the
wonderful music I had enjoyed.

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