There was no overt attempt to mask the conspicuously sensual symphonic theme this evening that Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra delivered before our hungry ears. The beautiful music was placed right out there before us, the listeners, to hear and to enjoy. The four selections all shared a somewhat romantic, sometimes modern, yet indelibly satisfying music that quelled an insatiable appetite for sound, simply for the sake of the aesthetic pleasure in relishing the resonance, vibration and intonation of each accented note, each symphonic chord that strikes deep within the soul, and scores with musical tones; no words, just glorious notes.
Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin prelude to act 1 is a favorite of mine. I know, I’ve indicated that so many selections are a favorite, but this one really does stand out near the top of the list. A fan of Wagner, yes, and yet this is the first time I’ve heard Wagner live in concert. And wow is all I can think. I’ll listen to this music over and over and yet never grow tired. It’s motivational, as if to make one’s mind soar beyond the bounds of our physical, to contemplate what’s beyond the possible, to grasp a higher plane, mere words cannot say, the present is a realm which now approaches the infinite. And then it gets better, louder, more meaningful as the percussion and horns brazen a flourish, then strings bring the subtle meanderings around to gentle resolution – and it is profound, found again and again with an ending reprise. And I’m wanting – to hear it again.
This is immediately followed by the premiere performance of Alan Fletcher’s Concerto for Bassoon and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, commissioned by and for the PSO with Nance E. Goeres. I always enjoy listening to new selections, it’s a chance to experience something for the first time, and to concentrate on the music to try to understand it’s meaning, its aesthetics and its impressions. I liked this concerto from the outset. Nancy Goeres did such a great job at introducing the concerto beforehand, and with the solo selections, it seemed amazing – some long and drawn out, and others quick and technically challenging – with a dynamic range on the instrument that seemed quite wide and ranging. Alan Fletcher did a great job of blending the Bassoon with other instruments, and the PSO, led by Honeck, blended the parts quite well. With the harp, it sounded like a perfect amalgamation, with the drums a clever counterpoint and often a sonorous march, with the large cylindrical bells (what are they called) it was a metronomic duo, and with the strings the Bassoon would soar. This concerto has something for everyone, starting off like a Shostakovitch modern sound, then moving to the second movement with a slower more romantic andante, then ending with building march-like rendition more classically structured, where entropy equalizes counterparts, and at the end, it was a sudden conclusion, not typical, and surprising, perhaps the bet way to conclude this addition to the concerto repertoire. All three movements received well deserved applause.
More on the second half next time.
Scenes of Pittsburgh on the way to the concert: