Step back to the future!

Conductor Arild Remmereit quickly enters Heinz Hall, brimming with a wide smile, and his rakish good looks, he waves to the audience, then briskly begins Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. Many times I’ve listened to this symphony on CD in my car. Hearing it for the first time live and in concert is a treat. Remmereit’s style of conducting is an animated immersion into the music, reaching low and bringing up the strings, with his hands adroitly leading the woodwinds and horns into action. No need for a baton or podium, this music he obviously knows by heart, and with his direction, the symphony orchestra accentuates this classical composition.

The second movement (Andante) begins with the viola section, and quickly the elegant blending of sound moves like a wave through the sections, at times highlighting the pureness of the higher notes coming from the strings – a beautiful sound indeed. Smiling again, Remmereit starts off the third movement, a Menuetto, as if he is dancing with the orchestra in a Waltz, leading the movement back and forth, his hair waving as he gestures. Then comes a mini-intermezzo of sorts, that Mozart has sandwiched between the Menuetto, with highlights provided by the Bass and English Horn, then again the toe tapping tune returns. Finally an Allegro brings a furious movement of the fingers on the strings, and we hear one of the best forms of music provided by Herr Mozart. I wish it wouldn’t end, and if it were in my car, the CD would progress to Symphony 41, but here we have vigorous applause by multitudes of happy smiling faces. I’m patient, I’m certain the PSO will bring Symphony 41 someday.

Next enters beautiful Viviane Hagner with her violin, and a magnificent dress of silver background and colorful ornate patterns adorned. To me this is the highlight of the evening. The PSO led by conductor Remmereit introduces the Haydn Concerto with their usual aplomb, and as Ms. Hagner joins it, I’m instantly impressed not only by her playing but by the timber and quality of the sound from her violin – the volume is powerful. The four instantly recognizable notes that begin use a special technique of playing two strings each at the same time, bringing out a special harmonic quality. The second movement (Adagio) is intimate in the appeal provided by Ms. Hagner, the luscious tones accented by quiet pizzicato provided by the string section. The Finale: Presto, I’m amazed, a lively performance by a reserved soloist (in stature), yet resoundingly outward in the quality and volume of sound.

The Haydn Concerto was written around 1765, 20 years or more before the Mozart Symphony that preceded this performance this evening. I can’t help but imagine what it would have been like to have lived in that time, and to have experienced each new composition anew. Tonight Ms. Hagner took me back in time, as if it were indeed the first time this concerto had been presented to a listening audience. And when it was over, I was forced to step back to the future, and stood and applauded, as if waking from a dream.

Intermission begets the advent of Sibelius Symphony No. 5. I envision a series of scenes, as if sequences of a motion picture. Perpetual motion found in the strings is augmented by particular ambiance of the woodwinds and horns, like the birds and the bees in a mid summer’s amalgamation. By the end of the movement the climax is intense, and as I see in the conductor’s furious strengthening of the tight knit and voluminous melding of sounds from 100+ orchestra members, it ends at the peak of a spectacular precipice, and the audience can’t help but applaud, even though we’ve got more to go. The second movement employs an effective use of pizzicato. The third and final movement brings out, finally, the love scene, a beautiful sequence of notes presented by the English Horns, the famous melody of this Symphony – unforgettable! The scene leads to a chase, and eventually a recapitulation with my famously coined love scene melody, only this time a bit ironic as if lost, and eventually at the conclusion, again found. A great ending to a marvelous evening!

3 thoughts on “Step back to the future!”

  • Well, different strokes for different folks, I guess. Of my 7 concerts with the PSO (all which simply dazzled me), this was by far the least satisfying.

    All through Mozart, something seemed amiss, not quite right. It seemed the life of the piece was just not present. And then the applause came! What? Already? I looked at my watch. What should have been a little more than 31 minutes was reduced to 27 minutes of playing! What?! And then I knew what had been gnawing at me – the tempo was all off, much too fast. You cannot find a recording of Mozart’s 40th in this time. So that was a disappointment.

    On to the Hyadn and Viviane Hagner, by all respects a well-received soloist. Yet I was underwhelmed by her playing in the 1st and 2nd movements. She seemed timid in her playing, unable to inhabit the phrasing (listen to Joshua Bell, for example). The 3rd movement was wonderful, though, and Ms. Hagner deserves kudos for presenting it so well.

    Though disappointed before intermission, the Sibelius was magnificent, full of power and nuance and charm and life! Here our guest conductor shone in all his exuberance. It was a great piece to end the concert.

    So I guess we hear different things when we listen to the same performance!

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