Everything I expected, and more. That’s the proverbial phrase, yet there it is, I’ve thrown it out and I hope you can catch it. Hilary Hahn exuded technical mastery and exquisite tone. Her fingering on the strings were amazing to watch. And the whole of the the PSO brought a depth that moved my very soul.
Backup to the afternoon before the concert. I decided to do a photo similar to one I’d seen on Hilary Hahn’s web site. I read in her journal that this perhaps this is her ‘snow’ year, as she encountered snow in Nashville and at many stops along a recent European tour. Here in Pittsburgh we had quite a bit of snow, and perhaps it was everyone’s snow year, but to tell you the truth, I’m glad it’s spring now and that there is glorious weather out there with green leaves and birds singing everywhere. In her photo she was holding her violin out in front of her, and the depth of field shows the difference in focus. So I tried to replicate the effect, setting up my camera on self timer, then running, turning and holding up my genuine fake Stradivarius before the shutter would release.
In the last movement it was interesting to see the techniques that Sibelius ascribed to some of the instruments of the orchestra. The Cello section kept a fabulous tempo moving along not so much by the drawing of the bow across the strings, but more so with a clever bouncing of the bow – which produced an sound almost akin to the low drums, they too were keeping time. The tribal flavor if this movement is hauntingly melodic and lingers with me still today. Yesterday morning I was humming along to the country tunes of Red Rain Music, and today I find I’m whistling the melody of the Sibelius Concerto
During the applause it was refreshing to see Miss Hahn applaud the orchestra and even the audience, with the obvious humility to appreciate those around her and we that came to hear her play.
After intermission the next grand treat was the huge Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. Not only had the size of the orchestra increased, but the grandeur and depth of the music also enlarged. I was fascinated by the politics associated with the writing of this symphony, as described in the program notes. I can feel for Shostakovich and his dramatic struggle between freedom of expression, and towing the government line. Freedom is a virtuous thing, and he didn’t exactly have the freedom we all enjoy. His solution to me was clever, this symphony, while a response to demands from politics, seemed to me to have hidden mockery to that very system. It started slow, with 4 feld notes, repeated, and then went in to convoluted mixtures of directions, as if torn. There were militaristic marching mixed in, as if to portray a nationalism, but then the second movement mocked that them with a jovial joke. The third was slow, but ramped up a time or two and the final movement brought the house down in its grand style. All together I believe the composer accomplished two goals, to put together something that the politicos were asking for, and at the same time resist total loss of individualism with his the obvious mixture of themes.