Before I start on tonight's concert (which was great, by the way) I gotta say one thing: I LOVE getting to concerts early. It doesn't happen often and it's not like the evening is ruined by showing up on time, but there's something special about watching musicians get ready. It's like when you're early enough to a ballgame to catch some batting practice. On the one hand, it's just the warm up and nothing important is happening but on the other you can tell something important is going to take place nevertheless.
Owing to our seats in the "Family Circle" section, my wife and I were able to look down upon the band assembling. A sampling from Saturday Night:
- A cellist (whatzizname – the one who's a dead ringer for The Amazing Randi), sauntering over to his friend the timpanist for a nice chat,
- The First Chair Trumpet banging out some snippets of the ending to the Egmont,
- The Horn and Wind players separately going over some parts last minute – stacked, aleatorically speaking, in a way that only Charles Ives or John Cage could love.
Until the time when the hall lights go down and the oboe pitches the A440, it's a wonderful peek into a different frame of mind. The men in White Tie, the women in Black Dress waiting for the beginning of the concert to arrive. The buzz of anticipation is ever-present.
We'd made it downtown with a few hours to spare. We thought we'd walk around the Arts Festival – where, let's all be honest, there easily has to be half as many tattoos/body piercings as there are overall patrons. This is NOT to say, of course, that half the crowd was inked and pierced – just that those who were, were inked and pierced alot.
Not a big deal. Though in retrospect, I have to admit to feeling a bit, um, under-decorated. But then again I am old and dottering and thus this is more or less expected from men of my time and place.
Back to the music. Of this week's concerts, The Trib's Mark Kanny wrote:
Artistic diversity is usually thought of as contrasting works from different times, cultures and styles. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony take a different tack at this week's subscription concerts, showing that works from the same period and place can provide just as stimulating and rewarding a concert experience. Maybe more so.
All of the music performed Thursday afternoon at Heinz Hall, and which will be repeated tonight and Saturday evening, was composed within the span of a quarter century in Vienna, Austria. It was the high tide of Viennese classicism led by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
While I think he's right (of course, he's right – he's Mark frickin' Kanny!), there are some big differences between the classicisms of Mozart and of Beethoven. The danger here is that it's too easy to generalize such things so much as to render them completely empty of any real validity. That being said, perhaps a careful generalization is in order. Between Mozart and Beethoven the musical imagination of Europe markedly shifts from High Enlightenment to Early Romanticism. In Mozart, we find Voltaire's Enlightenment at its fullest flower, a human mind delighting and reveling in the exuberant exercise of its own intelligence. In Beethoven there is struggle. There is always struggle in Beethoven. As if newly recognizing our own unnoticed dark corners, Beethoven is at a constant struggle with the shadows our intelligence can't so easily comprehend.
The music of this evening is evidence of that.
I agree with Druckenbrod of the P-G that the Honeck's tempos in the Egmont were hardly what one would call slow. But, he writes:
They accentuated the drama of the piece that honors a real-life hero, the 16th-century Flemish Count of Egmont, who fought for freedom against the Spanish and was beheaded for it. (Beethoven actually symbolized it with an abrupt stroke by the violins.)
But some nobility was lost in the heightened moments that were almost noisy in Honeck's hands. The horns, however, were wonderfully rustic in the coda, and the strings gained a rich timbre.