Beyond the mere brocade

Frequent movement all around, with percussion to astound.
Harmonies give light to sound, christening a pluck redound.
Subtle serenade subsists with symphonies and blades.
Yet gentler rhythms spark the nightly shade.
Listen to the flowing holographic chant: it’s just been made,
moving over altitudes beyond the mere brocade.
And it’s said, that nothing happens,
unless an act can move from here to there, and then we’ll trade.

On the stage of Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra last weekend were three distinctly unique artists with great appeal.

First up, Mason Bates introduces his composition: “Desert Transport contemplates the dynamic Arizona landscape from the high flying perspective of a helicopter. The journey begins in the hubbub of an airport hangar but ultimately takes us to the mystic heights of an Indian cliff dwelling.” I remember being immediately drawn to this piece, it pulled me in and kept me anticipating the next pulse of the progression, the movement of the programmatic content in perfect harmony to the musical amalgamation. And thus the little poem up above is my tribute to this marvelous piece of music, and my congratulations to Mr. Bates for being here this season with the PSO, I enjoyed every bit of the new music, especially this one played last weekend.

Next Joshua Bell plays Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin and Orchestra. The ideal of this serenade seemed to aim for a more modern appeal. Yet my anticipation conflicted with the reality of the rendered aspect. It’s not that the playing wasn’t superb, nor that the constructs and mechanisms weren’t well portrayed. I just wasn’t in to this composition. Bell was superb, and I detected a hint of dissonance here and there, but I suppose that was the way it was supposed to be. All in all I can’t complain, hearing a premier musician with a world class orchestra play a less often played composition, that’s what I strive to hear. But the worst part was that Bell didn’t come back out on Saturday night and play an encore.

And last but not least, conductor Juanjo Mena provided immediate flavor with his long coat tails, curly long hair and riveting eyes. I read in the program that he has appeared worldwide with so many different orchestras – to me that’s not easy to imagine. When conducting he draws your attention with wit and slow concentration, leading the orchestra effectively with unhurried motions. With the Brahms Symphony number three I was drawn as much to his conducting as to the beautiful music.

My friend and I had a discussion of which ‘Symphony 3’ is better, Beethoven or Brahms. I chose Beethoven and my friend chose Brahms. Then we heard the music, and the way it was played by the PSO made me doubt my decision, the Brahms was wonderful.

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