New Work, New World – Bethany Hensel

How cool is this? I’m sitting in Heinz Hall, right on the end seat of the center aisle of the orchestra, more to the left than the right side of the stage, and am typing this review during the intermission on my brand spanking new laptop. This laptop is amazing. It has humongous memory space, is incredibly fast, and is so compact and small that I can fit it very nicely int my pretty small Coach purse.

I love this laptop.

And I love the PSO.

I think it’s apropos that I type my very first review of a show on my very new laptop that is, in fact, a very new show. The world premiere of The Good Life, a symphony written specifically for our fair city of Pittsburgh. Pretty impressive, no?

Don’t be surprised though if you don’t hear or see the word Pittsburgh though in any of the lyrics or even the title itself. As conductor (and a personal favorite of mine) Leonard Slatkin so wisely said right before the premiere, “When you have a piece written for just one city and the piece is named after that one city, there’s a chance it might only play in that one city!” Wise words.

Written by Derek Bermel, The Good Life was very good. Soprano Hila Plitman and baritone Kevin Deas really did it justice, and the Mendelsshon Choir was, as always, amazing. I’ve seen them perform twice now and the Choir is as consistent as the PSO itself in terms of professionalism and delivering moving, graceful performances every time.

35 minutes without a break, The Good Life, admittedly, had me fidgeting in my seat a few times, but I really do give the piece credit for being true – meaning the composers really really researched the city and talked with the residents to get a feel of what Pittsburgh is all about.

Okay, the intermission is ending. I’ll write about the second half tonight!

Okay, it’s tonight. Continuing the review, during intermission, I met two really sweet, nice bartenders, Serena and Sandra. They were fabulous and really enjoyed working with the PSO and at Heinz Hall. They suggested a surprisingly good sandwich for me to eat, prepared by the Common Plea Restaurant, and chatted with me about Sarah Chang and the great performers they have happened to meet. So hi to Serena and Sandra! 🙂

Finally, the performance I was very much looking forward to: Dvorak’s "The New World". Now talk about a piece that is drop dead gorgeous! 40 minutes long, it felt like it lasted 40 seconds!!! I didn’t want it to end. My favorite part: the first half of the largo. Simple, melodic, bittersweet. Just sublime. The PSO musicians really did it justice. And Leonard Slatkin – such a wonderful guy – is so animated and fun! I loved watching him conduct. 🙂

Much like my brand new laptop, the entire night seemed pretty compact – two big numbers, two big stars (Hilman and Deas) and two big spectacles (Slatkin and the PSO) – but it packed major punch. And, much like my brand new laptop, I kept finding things throughout the night that just kept pleasantly surprising me.

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