If It’s Not Baroque… – Ruthie Snoke

The weather may have been treacherous on Friday night, but Heinz Hall was just as lively as ever, with crowds of people flocking to be entertained and to wipe away the stress of the week. I myself was excited to see the program containing Stravinsky, Schumann, and Sibelius: all three wonderful composers that I have not heard very often.

I don’t remember if I’ve ever written about how much I love Sir Andrew
Davis, but I really do. He has so much enthusiasm and evident delight
in the music, and he always has something to say at the beginning. He
welcomes the audience into his world: a world of lilting notes and
perfect tempos, and invites them to listen, listen, listen! He wants
the audience to feel the music just as he feels it, and every time I
watch him I get the sense that a truly successful show for him is one
in which he feels the audience, and not just the musicians, gave their
all to the music.

‘Pulcinella’ was an appropriate piece, I felt, for
the first symphony of spring. It was lighthearted and rich in color and
flavor, and to tell the truth it made me very much desire to see the
ballet! Costumes and sets by Picasso! It must have been quite a
spectacle. I would have loved to see what the dance that corresponded
to the seventh movement looked like; it must have been quite funny. And
while for some reason I found Clogsworth’s statement from ‘Beauty and
the Beast’ floating through my head throughout the entire piece (‘If
it’s not Baroque,’ he said as they strolled up the hallway, ‘don’t fix
it!’) I really enjoyed the first piece very much.

The second piece,
‘Concerto in A minor’ by Robert Schumann, was also incredible. Life
changing, really. I was sitting on the left side of the auditorium, and
I hope that for all future symphonies featuring a piano I have the
opportunity to sit on that side. From my seat I could see Mr. Biss’s
hands moving on the keys, and I was just incredulous. I suppose I knew
that was what it looked like when pianists play at the symphony, but
just the same I was impressed. It didn’t even look like the keys were
moving, as his hands danced over them, lovingly teasing them and
caressing them. His hands seemed to know each one intimately; every
note was the touch of friends meeting again. I did find myself
wondering, as I read my program, that if Clara Wieck (later Clara
Schumann) was ‘quite a good composer and had been a celebrated concert
pianist from a very early age,’ why do I never hear any of her work?
Robert Schumann is commonly accepted as one of the great composers of
the nineteenth century, and although Clara Schumann might not have been
as good, if she really was a good composer, why doesn’t anyone play her

In any case, Sibelius’s ‘Symphony No. 5 in E-flat’ was also very
enjoyable. It did somewhat resemble a puzzle, but not to the extent
that I felt confusion and disunity. I was content to sit back and let
the music figure itself out (and also content to try to figure out how
to pronounce the name, ‘Järvenpää.’ Whew.) I absolutely loved the sharp
chords at the end, causing the entire audience to hold their breath in
between the notes. And even as Sir Andrew Davis clutched his baton and
turned to the applauding audience, I caught a tell-tale twinkle in his
eye, as if he was saying, ‘So you did feel my passion after all. My job
here is done.’

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