A crazy thing happened during Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 on Saturday—the entire audience apparently contracted the croup.
Saturday night’s performance marked the debut of Manfred Honeck as the PSO’s widely-heralded Music Director. The concert was being recorded for a CD that is scheduled to be released in the spring. The audience was asked—almost begged—to stifle any pesky coughs that may try to emerge. We were reminded that the acoustics in Heinz Hall are such that any small sound would be absorbed onto the CD and saved for all of eternity…in other words, suck on a cough drop and wait for crescendo. It was inevitable, however, that someone was going to ruin the CD. After a nearly-perfect “canvas of silence” prior to intermission, the mere suggestion of coughing proved to be more than most audience members could bear, and an epidemic suddenly ravaged Heinz Hall.
By the way, for those of you who purchase the CD: that annoying growling you’ll probably hear was my stomach. Sorry.
And then there’s Joshua Bell. Such talent I have never before witnessed. He’s come a long way from the boy who plucked tunes with rubber bands that were stretched around his dresser drawer handles. Here’s the fantastic allure of Joshua Bell, the “classical music superstar”: his talent transcends any lack of musical knowledge. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about the violin, but it absolutely did not matter. His music made me feel, if only for a fleeting moment, that true, untainted beauty does indeed exist, and I was fortunate enough to experience it. I was all at once inspired and lifted. The delicate notes that he conjured from his instrument colored my thoughts so that I was incapable of worry and stress. I was, for a brief moment, completely and totally free from this world.
I wanted to meet Bell during intermission; alas, I could not meet him without missing part of the performance, so I returned to my seat and prayed that he would be available afterward. Much to my chagrin, I missed him; I will now have to stalk him online like any other normal person. (To that end, I’ve already become a fan of Bell’s Facebook page. If I had a locker, I would hang his picture in it.)
I must mention that Manfred Honeck is incredible. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized how historic Saturday’s performance truly was; it heralded a new era in the PSO’s illustrious lifetime, as Honeck took the reins of the orchestra and cantered into a new era. It was extremely fitting to commence the evening with The Star-Spangled Banner. Honeck took an authoritative command, conducting a rousing version of our National Anthem and then launching into John Adams’ breathtaking Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Hope you took your blood pressure meds before that one, my friends…my heart was in my throat for the duration.
It was absolutely a glorious, fabulous, wonderful evening, full of emotion and musical surprises. I think that I may be falling in love with the symphony…