Come for the Music, Stay for the Intrigue

I always have the best adventures on symphony nights. I usually don’t provide a play-by-play recap of my shenanigans, but last Friday night needs to be an exception. Weekend Deux of the Paris Festival began with an elegant wine tasting event, during which I met up with my fellow blogger and new wine tasting buddy, Doug Bauman. Wendy (my BFF) and I had sipped le vin with Doug and his guest on the Heinz Hall patio with the serene melody of the garden’s waterfall in the background. I truly have not felt that relaxed and at peace with the world in months; I was more than ready for another round of Claude Debussy and Impressionist music. Doug and I chatted about the upcoming performance and I instructed him, in my bossy way, to experience the emotion that is evoked and not concentrate on the operative details. (At least, I think that’s what I said…we’d been consuming adult beverages, ok??) Doug is extremely knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the symphony and is, therefore, more inclined to pick out and analyze individual pieces of the music. So he did in his blog. I, on the other hand, largely allow visceral emotions to navigate my literary meanderings, so here we go…

My love affair with Impressionism continued. Manfred Honeck was back at the helm this weekend, conducting Debussy’s “L’Apres-midi d’un faune” (I’ve just checked, and yeah, I’m still infatuated with Debussy’s awesome self.) The piece made me feel very Midsummer Night’s Dream-esque; I imagined hanging out with Shakespearian characters and indulging in delicious mischief inside of a Monet painting. After Debussy, we were treated to a performance by the Mendelssohn Choir, who performed Lili Boulanger’s Psalm 130, “Du fond de l’abime,” which translates to “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” The emotion was tangible. I wanted to snatch fistfuls of music from the air and stuff them into my handbag for later. The choir’s haunting vocals penetrated my bones and injected an electric bolt of pure evocative exhilaration into my spine. (I love it when that happens.)

The capstone of the evening was, in my opinion, Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. Let me preface by saying that the orchestra played the piece magnificently. I also loved the “Impressionist Lighting” (can we officially call it that?). The music pulsed in tandem with the lights; the entire hall was infused with the rapid echo of Ravel’s masterful and epic composition. The music itself was wonderful and, as Wendy will certainly attest, I was humming it for the rest of the evening. It was like a piece of gum that was inconveniently stuck to my shoe—no matter what I tried to do to rid the melody from my mind, it remained adhered to me mercilessly. I stayed for the post-concert Gershwin performance, which was fantastic…but even the power of Gershwin could not un-stick Bolero from me.

One final note about Part Deux of my Parisian Festival adventure: while I am quite disappointed that I did not meet and mingle with Honeck as Doug did, I was fortunate enough to have a celebrity encounter of my own. As Wendy and I were enjoying our post-concert martinis (as is tradition), we happened to meet Woody Harrelson, currently of Hunger Games fame, at Olive or Twist. Mr. Harrelson was extremely gracious and patient as Wendy and I gushed about our unfaltering adoration for him and his stormy Hunger Games character, Haymitch Abernathy. He expressed curiosity and interest in the Paris Festival when he spied my program…and of course, I plugged my humble little blog and attested to the fantastic talent of the orchestra.

As I sweep up all of the names that I’ve just pretentiously and obnoxiously dropped, I must express my excitement about the program for the conclusion of the Paris Festival this weekend. Honeck will be conducting Gershwin’s An American in Paris. (A basic rule for life states that if an opportunity to experience Gershwin ever presents itself, TAKE IT.) Additionally, the PSO will be performing Igor Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and Arthur Honegger’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, with Anne Martindale Williams shining as the soloist. I wholeheartedly recommend going for the Impressionism, the romance, the music and the intrigue.

The best adventures are always to be had on symphony nights.

1 thought on “Come for the Music, Stay for the Intrigue”

  • What a vivid and wonderful thought: “I wanted to snatch fistfuls of music from the air and stuff them into my handbag for later.”

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