I would like to express my gratitude to the PSO this week. Obama and McCain couldn’t follow me as I embarked upon my Alpine journey, nor could they interrupt my Mozart experience. For this rejuvenating (albeit brief) respite, I was sincerely thankful.
That having been said, let me be honest: I did not have high expectations for the piano concerto. This was not attributable in any part to the symphony, which consistently produces breathtaking interpretations of everything it performs. For some reason, I am unable to connect with Mozart. I did not love the Mozart piece of the preview concert in September, though I have always maintained a vague reverence for his music. To that end, I have gained an appreciation for the eccentric quirks of his personality, thanks to Amadeus. Many concert-goers would surely classify his music as “timeless” and it earns the title. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, it’s dramatic… very similar to the composer himself. There’s no question about the complexity and craftsmanship of the music; the fact that I have difficulty engaging with Mozart has been a life long puzzle for me.
I did enjoy Jonathan Biss’ interpretation of Concerto No. 22. Biss’ talent and skill, coupled with the magic and grandeur of the symphony, presented an exciting performance, of which Mozart himself would have been most pleased. Jonathan Biss was brilliant and attacked the piano concerto like a ravenous lion with a fresh kill. He was intense and focused while performing. His demeanor in person, however, was entirely different. I have to say that I consider myself to be fairly level-headed, but upon meeting Biss in person, I turned into a repulsive pile of mush.
“I think you’re fabulous,” I gushed nauseatingly. I actually gushed. He graciously signed my program and humbly told me that I was “too kind.”
I was dying to discover what makes Biss so talented, to learn about his muses. The piano is an extremely difficult instrument to master, especially for those of us who may have had delusions of one day performing a piano duet with Elton John. Not that I know any such person. I was, however, highly impressed by Biss.
After the fast pace of Biss and Mozart, I was ready to settle in for some relaxation, Alpine-style. Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie delivered that and more. Since it was being recorded, the audience was again asked (in vain) not to cough and to silence their cell phones. I always become edgy when I am required to stay quiet, but tonight, I was so entranced by the music, silence became intuitive. I made a game of trying to guess which of the 22 movements the symphony was performing and allowed myself to take a momentary mental vacation. The musical imagery was vibrant and striking, and that vision from atop the summit was magnificent. I was able to leave Pittsburgh, politics and my arch-enemy, the nefarious Route 28, for an evening of Bambi-esque serenity. Such is the magic of the PSO…