At the first concert of the season, having Corigliano’s ‘Promenade Overture’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘First Piano Concerto’ & Berlioz’ ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ sharing the program, and at that order, felt as a good lesson in listening to live music, for the "initiated" & aficionados alike.
I perceived these three pieces as representing three essential "ingredients" for opening a season to a full house (and there was a full house!!!): humor, passion & drama.
The amusing ‘Promenade Overture’ inspired by Haydn’s ‘Farewell Symphony’
(in reverse order) drove home the point that classical music is not
required (as unfortunately many "purists" still believe) to be stern.
Add to it Yan Pascal Tortelier’s "over the top" stage entry as
though he was pushed out of bed, overwhelmed by a full hall but a
vacant stage, and the immidiate response was a roaring laughter! It
followed by the orchestra marching in as to a circus arena, playing
their instruments with much fan fare! The overture was charming &
engaging. As a whole it was a celebration of music making: live, witty
Tchaikovsky’s ‘First Piano Concerto’ (by now, 132 years old…) is no longer raising eye brows, nor is it controversial. Who, if not Tchaikovsky stirs up so much passion? And when the Russian pianist, Alexander Toradze
is the soloist, the alignment is just right.(…At least in the
planning phase… Somehow he sounded a bit tired to me till the last
movement when a tide of excitement brought me back to a familiar and
beloved "song of the heart"…)
It is quite seldom that the PSO concludes a concert in a
whisper. It is not that the last piece needs to be joyful to satisfy my
needs for live music, it is the drama which I crave. How many times did
I linger after a concert, invigorated & wishing the orchestra would
just start playing all over again? I can’t even count.
I am ready to listen to ‘Symphony fantastique’ any
time. Once I drove for 4 hours without a break & without changing
the CD. Still, Heinz Hall is a superior place to be immesrsed in this
entrancing music. The story line is not important any more to me and I
believe that many new listeners responded to the changing moods &
to the final high drama of the concluding notes.
So there it was: the first concert of the season. THe Pirates played
across the river, the fireworks (somehow…) did not follow Tortelier’s
beat, there was not even one seat left empty (poor Liz… standing
bare-feet, captivated by "her orchestra"…on duty…) and the humor,
passion & Drama filled the air. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has done it again!
I can’t let go without sharing this fantasy I had at opening night:
it is 30 minutes before curtain call & a long line of "last minute PSO lovers" try to get tickets. A sign is posted: "Sold Out—Tickets available @ Heinz Field". I do hope it will happen… Never mind the fire works…