Before a sea of crawling babies and red balloon animals and mint chocolate chip ice cream, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra rolled up its sleeves and performed to a sweaty, yet satisfied, Three Rivers Arts Festival audience. A few sprinkles of rain and demanding gusts of wind seemed to settle the weather and anxious families into an evening of live entertainment.
Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances were fast, lively and boisterous, indicative of their Presto and Allegretto names. Friends found each other in the masses and listened to three of the 16 original pieces. Woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings all found their presence within the expansive space.
As a flashback to the FUSE@PSO series this season, Beethoven + Coldplay was a huge hit. Cheers and applause accompanied the Eroica-Oratorio through the harmonic blend of “Viva La Vida” and “Fix You.”
The sun began to set and reflect quietly on downtown’s landscape while the Orchestra performed the first movement of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, Opus 92 with gusto. The dynamics and modulations got people to rise to their feet, dancing with one another in circles of strangers.
As Steve Hackman, co-conductor with Francesco Lecce-Chong, pointed out, the Symphony had just returned from a three-week tour in Europe, including three concerts in Vienna. As a tribute to that tour, the performers honored Johann Strauss, Jr. with Wo die Zitronen blühen, Where the Citrons Bloom. While the piece starts off subdued, it crescendos and swells and takes on a lively form of musical wit and melodic precision.
To end the night of the dance, the allure of Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town episodes transcended space and time and traveled back to New York City in the 1940s. The first movement, the Great Lover, sounded of late-night, up-tempo swing dancing. Lonely Town, however, contrasted celebration with isolation. Finally, Times Square came alive with memories of smoldering cigars and whiskey on the rocks, a subtle swagger set to the tune of a Broadway performance.
Near the end of the performance, a young child turned to his mother and said, “I want to watch them play. I want to hear them.” Hundreds of others felt the same way on a smoldering Saturday in the city.