Reaction Time with Shostakovich

Maybe it’s due to my incessant preoccupation with human behavior, but I am perpetually fascinated with, and often entertained by, the audience reactions that I spy from my cozy little corner of the hall.  Indeed, last weekend’s performance of Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 2 provoked some interesting responses from my fellow audience dwellers.  This is primarily due, I believe, to the uniqueness of the composition itself.  The percussion was so surprising—it grabbed my attention at the most unexpected moments.  The dynamic pairing of guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda and visiting cellist Enrico Dindo accelerated this roller coaster ride through the ebbs and flows of Shostakovich’s opus.  I couldn’t sit still and passively listen; each time any semblance of tranquility began to emerge, the orchestra stabbed it with a jarring bout of sound.  The listener is all but physically forced to remain mindful of every passing note and nuance that the concerto presents.  It was one of the edgiest performances that I’ve heard at the PSO.

And speaking of “edginess,” this brings me back to my audience observations (or it will…eventually).  I typically allow the orchestra to take my malleable imagination wherever my whimsy so chooses, flowing with the delicate rhapsody that entirely enmeshes my subconscious.  THIS performance captured and commanded my thoughts, drawing me in as few compositions have thus far been able.  My sentiment was echoed by one particularly vocal audience member who, as he was walking to the lobby during intermission, vociferously declared that he “didn’t get any rest during that one.”  I concur.  I also had to giggle at a woman who jumped in her seat constantly, evidently startled by the excitement of the music.  (I wouldn’t want to go with her to a haunted house.)  The symbiotic relationship between the audience and the orchestra is never more apparent than during the performance of a lively, spirited composition.  The energy that the audience and the musicians feed to each other is truly a unique experience—one that certainly cannot be replicated from simply listening to a recorded version of the work.  This is the reason that I brave the frigid temperatures to reach Heinz Hall instead of staying at home to sip wine and pet my cats.

I also think that Gianandrea Noseda is absolutely endearing.  He’s one of the most animated conductors that I’ve seen; I fully believe that I was able to burn off at least 512 calories just by watching his wildly energetic style.  As a side note, Noseda is returning to the PSO this weekend as the orchestra delves into the works of Ravel and Strauss, featuring the ridiculously talented pianist, Benjamin Hochman.  I MISSED his last PSO performance in 2010, which I’ve heard, was spectacular.  Don’t make the same mistake—go this weekend. And remember to take your observational skills.

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