The 4th movement took the pastoral theme from the previous and expanded it in a way as to seemingly make the sounds of the instrument come alive. At one point I envisioned within my mind the scrambling of small animals, perhaps in the depths of the large Russian forests, full of lush greenery and huge conifer and deciduous trees lining the entire canopy. Quickly, with conductor Noseda’s sweeping of his arms, he inspired the orchestra into motives and sounds subtle yet attuned to my metaphor. I heard the rustling of leaves, the swaying of trees, the commotion in the forest lessened, and the sound faded out finally with the final scurry of the final animal to one side only to behold the entrance of the fifth and final movement.
Connections: Rossini, Mozart and Tchaikovsky – Doug Bauman
A rendezvous with classical music is often a journey to the depths of one’s soul. Often I see it as a look into our emotions, our hearts and our passions. When I hear the best of this form, it often elicits a lucid experience of what I love most, and for me it is the core of this music, this glorious art-form that transcends all others and mixes these emotions in inexplicable manners and expressions which fulfil and bring joy and a smile to my lips. This happened tonight as I listened to the selections performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra under the baton of Gianandrea Noseda, one of my favorite conductors
Benjamin Hochman gave a fabulous performance playing the piano in Mozart’s Concerto No. 19, a piece I’ve experienced countless times, and was perfectly glad to finally hear live and in person. I found it fascinating to hear from some friends and others that they had not heard this before, nor the Cinderella selection by Rossini, another of my perennial favorites. So I myself must be an oddity, or simply a classical music enthusiast of sorts, and it was nice to hear these selections with which I am so familiar.
Perhaps I am lauding the PSO in particular, but I suspect that the live performance aspect, as I’ve mentioned before, brings out the very best of the acoustics, the dynamic range, and the total tonal hearing phenomena to its fullest form – one’s hearing of the actual instruments at a concert hall like Heinz Hall is without compare.
The final selection, Tchaikovsky’s symphony No. 3 was breathtaking, and typical of his symphonies for its flair, Russian sounding themes, and total triumphant bravura. Being a lesser known symphony, this performance gave me the opportunity to hear it for perhaps only the second time. The final movement was better known to me, and the rest was new. My favorite parts were the softer movements – the 2nd, 3rd and 4th – out of the total of 5 movements, yet they were each interesting in their own respect.
In the 2nd there commenced a soft pastoral theme, and at one point the low basses were keeping the beat, while the rest of the orchestra dramatically presented breathtaking mood. Later, at home, I listened to this symphony again, and I didn’t hear the exact same thing, probably because it’s difficult to hear the same dynamic range. The 3rd movement was also quite soft, mixing in resplendent melodies dramatically placed using somber sounds, with low frequencies and low volumes, easily heard in Heinz Hall with its acoustics. I wondered how it would ever be done on a recording, without the use of a volume compression technique, which sort of ruins the intended effect. Throughout these movements the string section held the pieces together like a lofty tether on a lazy afternoon, holding clouds and feathers together in an ambling mixture of tepid flowing fluid.
Then the grandeur commenced, only this time my imagination brought forth to my mind the image of the huge brown bear, a national ‘personification’ of Russia — a large magnanimous creature, not clumsy, rather more cuddly, despite his size. This magnificent beast ambled into the scene slowly, with slower and softer sounds from the orchestra building concisely to a masterful statement built upon a melody that is overlaid multiple times, and eventually the whole ensemble brings together this image I’ve conjured for myself into a climax rivaled only by Tchaikovsky himself in his subsequent symphonies. One of my friends stood to applaud and exclaimed “There’s no doubt, that most definitely is Tchaikovsky!”
What are the connections between these pieces and the conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra? Well, tonight the banding piece is the PSO, our very own wonderful American Orchestra which is the binding connection itself. This evening was played three completely different pieces, written many years ago by European and Russian composers, and as conductor Noseda said himself in the post concert chat, the PSO has a “versatility that stands out,” according to “different styles,” and was able to play these pieces “three different ways,” marvelous ways, they are not just “good,” but these musicians want to play the music in a way that “touches,” by “participating in the music.” That was a wonderful complement to the PSO from Maestro Noseda, who is not only an impressive conductor, but a marvelous speaker in his own right. He also described connections between each of the selections this evening. Stay tuned for another blog post on the post concert chat…