Musique du monde

Music of the world.

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t! – Miranda – The Tempest – Shakespeare

‘Tis new to thee, and to me was full of delight — it wasn’t just the creatures, but the music!

Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony (No. 4) first movement commenced this evening of delightful music – light and airy and laced with festive Cadenza, his music always brims with optimism and joy. The fourth movement, which we did not hear, has much more drama and tension, but the opening movement, which the PSO played to perfection, opened with a flourish, producing drama only to the extent that the strings and woodwind and brass and timpani all vie for attention in transitional positioning, exhibiting a hybrid harmony where the entire orchestra combined into one sublime exposition. As pleased as I was to listen and appreciate the approximately 10 minutes of glorious music, I only wished it could have been the entire symphony – but I shouldn’t complain because up next was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Before the concert I watched a youtube video posted on the PSO facebook page with Anne-Sophie Mutter discussing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. In the interview she said:

“What I like about the violin concerto the most is the fact that it has this Midnight Summer’s Dream spirit in it, it has the young man’s appasionata/character which is so much a part of every piece of Mendelssohn – a kind of very youthful — stormy, but yet very gentle and very pure in essence – which comes through in the music”

She paused before using the word ‘stormy’ — I wondered if she was searching for the perfect adjective to describe Mendelssohn’s music, or perhaps she could have been trying to translate ‘tempestuous’…? I looked it up, and I can’t find a perfect word to translate ‘tempest’ in the German language.

I often think of Mendelssohn’s work in this way – tempestuous and sometimes impetuous. As I would say that I have a tempestuous love affair with this form music, the music itself, as in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” it is seemingly always new, as if I’ve lived my entire life without it on an island, and have opened my eyes and ears to discover the Beauty of Classical Music for the first time, each and every time, and now perhaps I fully see what the composer must see – to perceive that pure essence and sometimes impetuous youthful character which underlies the music.

Anne-Sophie Mutter played the violin much like the way she described it in the interview. Her phrasing of the music seemed to stretch the bounds of what the soloist would be expected to embrace. The soft passages were very soft, almost so soft as not to be able to hear except in a hall like Heinz Hall with the impressive acoustics. The louder, lively and fast passages (Allegro) she exhibited with the passion and fury that embellished the fervor I came to expect, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra provided the perfect dramatic backdrop to it all.

Later in the evening Mutter returned to play Pablo DeSarasate’s Fantasy on Bizet’s Carmen for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 25. Now this was even more of a flight of fantasy, full of accent and delight – a performance that figuratively brought the house down with a standing ovation.

The other performances this evening included Georges Bizet’s Suite from Carmen with the fantastic Les Toréadors which is instantly recognizable to just about anyone. The evening’s last performance was Ravel’s Bolero. To hear Bolero in person is probably 10 times more enjoyable than to listen to the music in any other pre-recorded venue. It starts out so low, yet you can certainly still hear it, then gradually works its way up to a grand and loud finish, is amazing. The dynamics of the performance came out really well.

Anne-Sophie Mutter discusses Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto

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