Friday, November 10, 2006

An Evening with the NSO

Tonight I confirmed that Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D Major is my very favorite orchestral piece of all time. What was even better was that I had comp tickets in the orchestra section of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

I came to know this piece when I was a freshman in college. My roommate played violin in the FSU orchestra and this was one of their performances in 1968. She played the 33-1/3 record of this concerto over and over on my old stereo, to the point where I could hum the whole thing. I knew which parts were a challenge for the violins. I knew where the high points were in this piece that builds and recedes and builds again, much as an ocean wave.

When my friend and teacher Bill, who plays the bass in the NSO, asked if I wanted 2 complimentary tickets to tonight’s performance that included pieces by Ravel and Tchaikovsky, my first thought was “Can I possibly sit through a 2 hour concert without coughing?” But then I decided to be optimistic about my cold and to just say YES, of course I would love to go.

After my husband politely declined my offer (this isn’t really his favorite music), I called my 80-year-old friend Mollie, who adores classical music. What a deal – she cooked dinner for me and all I had to do was drive to and from the concert. We arrived to find we had excellent seats in the middle of the orchestra section. We were sitting next to a guy who had also been given a comp ticket by someone in the orchestra. This may well have been his first symphony orchestra concert. He shoes horses for a living and met the violist while caring for her horse.

The real thrill of the evening was Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, whose enthusiasm for the Tchaikovsky concerto was genuine and infectious. She came onto the stage dressed in a black pantsuit and a red silk jacket. It almost appeared like she and her violin were one. The expression on her face completely matched whatever she was playing. She seemed like a racehorse getting ready to leave the starting gate when it was her turn to make an entrance. Her foot tapped and her body swayed to reflect the mood of the music. The high notes must have eclipsed the range of the violin as they reached the stratosphere. She periodically adjusted her headband when she had a break, leaving us to wonder if her hair would have just taken flight otherwise. It was probably the most exciting performance I have ever seen.

Mollie surmised that she had probably played the piece countless times before, committing every note to memory. But for us it was as if it were the first time she had ever performed it.

The NSO was in fine form tonight, with guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, music director of the Fort Worth Symphony. They played 3 very different pieces, doing a credible job on each of them. Ravel’s Rapsodie Espanole was just one of several pieces which declared his fascination with things Spanish. The program after the intermission was a bizarre piece by Sylvestre Revueltas, a Mexican composer, who tried to depict the clash of the Mayan civilization with later civilization. At one point, an orchestra member was blowing through a conch shell. There were endless special effects. I feared for the safety of my friend Bill’s bass as the bass section did something between plucking an slapping their instruments in the third movement.

What a great way to spend a Friday evening. And even greater was the fact that I made it through the whole thing with not one cough, partially thanks to a purchase of cough drops today.


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

What a great thing that you did it and got to take your elderly friend. It is wonderful to share friendship and interests with people of all ages. I would have gone with you too!!!

Do you also like fiddle music? I love watching Natalie McMaster and Ashley McIssack (sp?) I really like all that Celtic East Coast flavour!

Do you know the Egmont Overature? I got hooked on that from my older sister and once knew every bar!

7:53 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- If you lived just a little closer, you would have been my first choice! Yes, I do love doing things with Mollie. She is like a surrogate mother to me.

I love the building frenzy of fiddle music, although I have to say the music itself is not my favorite. My husband's, YES!

I do know the Egmont Overature, although I'm not sure I have ever seen it performed. So many of Beethoven's pieces have that same awesomeness about them.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Isn't it marvelous the way music takes one out of ones self and at the same time makes us more of what we are?

9:44 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- Music has this powerful ability to totally unlock my mind as nothing else can. What a liberation!

10:19 PM  

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