As I sat down in my seat, anticipating another wonderful PSO symphony, two things competed for my thoughts. The first was the Penguins game to be played the following night. I had gone down to Mellon Arena and watched the game on the lawn with 5,000 other fans on Wednesday, and being a recent convert to hockey did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. I was watching Sid skate around my head as the orchestra began tuning.
The other thing occupying my thoughts was the movie ‘Gigi’—I had just watched it, and the song Gaston sings in the beginning was stuck in my head. ‘It’s a bore!’ he sings, talking about everything from art to architecture to nature. His sentiments were quite the opposite of my own, for everything that night delighted my senses: the fine playing of the orchestra, the soft weather and garden all lit up and alive, the smooth silk of dessert after the symphony.
But about the music: I must confess that when I saw that the program was all Mozart I was slightly apprehensive. He’s never been my favorite, with his cultured, correct music. As the orchestra played the first piece, I felt justified in being critical of him. The music was lovely, impressive and richly formed, but to me, it felt stuffy. It was as tightly wound as a corkscrew, and each note seemed to fit into its slot with perfection and too much predictability. There was no sweeping expression, no tingling triumph to the ending or bitter longing trailing in the middle. I longed for passion, and Mozart gave me, instead, skill.
However, the next piece did much to remedy my distaste for Mozart’s music. Benjamin Hochman entered the stage with confidence, and his performance was as enthusiastic as could be. He seemed to touch the keys like he loved them and knew them all individually, flourishing his hands after each bit of playing. The piece, ‘Concerto No. 17 in G major,’ moved from smooth, expressive (much more so than the first piece the orchestra played) music to a somewhat pensive second movement, to a spirited finale. I was delighted to find the pensive air in the second movement; delighted to have my ears meet the mournful notes. My narrow perception of Mozart was challenged by the piece performed so masterfully by Mr. Hochman.
It was to be challenged even more by the second half of the program, for after coming in from the sweet touch of night air we were treated to ‘Serenade No. 7 in D major.’ The piece was written and performed for the evening before a friend’s wedding, and I could understand the movements, as relating to a wedding. The beginning was steady, seeming to prepare the listener for what was to come, as the preparations for a wedding would do. The second was soft and gentle, almost like a lullaby, and I imagined it to symbolize the halting love of the couple, the sweet uncertainty or marriage. The third movement was staid, but had an edge of celebration to it, resonant of a wedding ceremony and the simmering joy felt by the people watching the couple exchange their vows. And finally, the last movement broke through with a cheerful expression of joy—merrymakers celebrating, anticipation high.
The music was wonderful, but it was also fascinating to watch conductor Pinchas Zukerman alternate between conducting and playing the violin. At times he conducted with his bow—something I’ve never seen before.
My appreciation for Mozart grew after hearing this symphony, and even the enigmatic Sidney Crosby and the Pens’ woes couldn’t dominate my thoughts during the symphony. No matter what Gaston would say, the evening centered on the PSO was definitely not a bore.