Now I’ve met Ludwig Van Beethoven – Ruth Snoke

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Heinz Hall was that there were more people there than the previous week—quite a lot more, actually.

This was due to the fact that last week there were puppets (heaven help us!) and also because Beethoven’s 5th
is one of the most well loved (and rightly so) symphonies. In any case,
the box office was overflowing with people and the halls were teeming
with people anxious to hear one of that great German composer’s most
famous works.

The program began
with Brahms, and the first piece, ‘Nänie,’ was my favorite. While all
the Brahms pieces were very colorful and vivid, I found the sweet, soft
strains in the beginning very alluring. Having lived in Germany and
studied German for years, I can tell you that German is a terrible
language for pop music, but a magnificent one for choral music. The
second piece by Brahms, ‘Gesang der Parzen’, was especially fun for me,
as the wonderful Mendelssohn choir sang each syllable in short, sharp
gasps, reflecting the message of the words with their voices: Es-fürch-te-die-Gött-er-das-Mensch-en-ge-schlecht!

the intermission came I think I would have been perfectly content to go
home and mull for a while about the selection of Brahms, but the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was not ready to let me go yet, and as
the lights dimmed at the beginning of the second half the strings took
up the familiar piece. I’ve known Beethoven’s 5th since I
was a child (who hasn’t heard the famous music in some form or other?),
but I’d never heard it live, before, and it was thrilling. Being a very
slight musician and not able to imagine composing anything like
Beethoven’s work, I was only able to throw myself into the music and
enjoy it. Everyone who has heard the piece knows the way the strings
unify, break apart into converging voices, then come back together; I
can only agree with those who have said that live music is nothing like
recorded music. It is far better.

because of associations and the fact that it was familiar to me,
Beethoven’s ‘Allegro con brio’ was my favorite piece, but the others
were all equally well-executed and rich in vibrancy. At one point the
drum began to beat steadily, seeming to drive the other instruments to
silence, and I felt my pulse rise as it gained power. Something was
coming, but what it was I didn’t know; I held my breath until the
instruments came in.

applause that burst from the audience before the instruments were
silent spoke volumes about what the crowd thought of the PSO’s
performance, and the musicians and conductor received a long standing
ovation. While a standing ovation in Pittsburgh doesn’t mean quite as
much as it might elsewhere (I am sure every show I have attended in
this city—be it a ballet, musical, opera, or symphony—has received a
standing ovation) the PSO really did deserve this one. If all future
symphonies are as thrilling as this one, I am in for a very stimulating


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