I’m so sorry I’ve been out of the loop for the past few weeks, dear readers. I was unable to attend one of the weekend concerts a few weeks ago, and then the most recent concert I attended (Oct. 17) had me writing for the PSO’s newsletter. And with work and graduate school (and an upcoming conference this week in Georgia, at which I’m presenting some of my scholarly work), I’ve been swamped. Luckily, my head came above water this past weekend, and I was able to immerse myself in the beautiful music of the PSO instead of books on theatre in 18th-century Britain. Change is good every once in a while, right? *wink*
Saturday night’s concert was extra special for me: I’ve been an avid Mozart fan for, oh, what seems like ages. I wrote a 40-page research paper about him when I was a sophomore in high school, and I fell in love with the movie Amadeus the first time I saw it fifteen years ago. Having studied piano since I was six years old, Mozart has been a significant part of my musical education and musical life. His birthday falls one day before mine, too. Needless to say, I love him.
So to be able to hear his work performed by a soloist was a thrill. It always is. I’ve heard many soloists perform Mozart before, and each time I feel as though I’m surrounded by the warmth of an old friend. That’s Mozart to me: that comforting presence that has never failed me, always lifted me up, inspired me, challenged me. And Jonathan Biss? He channeled that presence beautifully.
I always enjoy watching professional pianists perform. There was a point in my life when I thought I might be one of those pianists. I studied piano very seriously until I was about 17, visiting Juilliard and dreaming of practicing on a Steinway every single day within its walls. But fear got the best of me, and I chickened out. I realized that kind of life just wasn’t for me. So when I saw Jonathan Biss and heard him play Mozart so beautifully, I decided to live vicariously through him in those moments. He was fantastic. So elegant in his playing, so smooth. At one point when he had a break from the piece and the orchestra was featured during a particular passage, he lightly ran his hand across the keys, as if he was reminding his 88 friends that he was still there and would intimately return to them soon. It was such a beautiful moment, and I was reminded just how powerful the connection to music and an instrument can be. I know. I’ve felt it.
And Strauss? Holy moly. Alpine Symphony has to be one of the most magnificent works I’ve ever heard. And Saturday night was my first exposure to it. The way Strauss tells the story of hiking through the glorious mountains, experiencing nature, and enduring struggle—incredible. I was transfixed. I shut my eyes and felt myself swept away with the music. And when I opened my eyes the pure visual rush I experienced in seeing the entire stage packed with musicians and instruments—including a tremendous wind machine and thunder clap contraption hanging from the ceiling—made the piece all the more powerful. I wish I could find words to do it justice, but I’m failing miserably at this point.
Saturday night was an amazing concert. I realize that’s kind of a blanket statement, but it’s the truth. And it’s my hope that you’ve been to hear the PSO at some point this season. Really. You won’t be disappointed.