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August 9, 2009

Evocative Music Summer

I have absolutely no right to complain about missing music here. This summer has been a real treat. The special joy is that the pieces I hear evoke wonderful (usually) memories of ways I've interacted with them before.

I'll start with last night. We joined Chris at the Saratoga (NY) Performing Arts Center to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. The first piece was Valses nobles et sentimentales by Ravel -- a real treat. I'm a sucker for Ravel, Debussy, and Impressionist art - so there. The second piece was Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto played by Joshua Bell. Serendipitously, he was interviewed on NPR during our drive to Saratoga - sounds like the kind of guy you'd enjoy meeting and having a casual conversation with. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his Stradivarius and how getting his new instrument a few years ago felt like divorcing one partner and taking on a new one with more vivid colors and life. As much as he loves the new instrument, he said he might replace it if just the perfect one came along. He is an amazing violinist. I had heard him a number of times with the SPCO and have several of his CDs. After watching calm violinists playing away in their orchestra seats, it's always such a contrast to see the physicality of a soloist like Bell. (He's also close to being a pro tennis player - it shows.)

Seeing performances like that always ramp up my dedication to whatever I have going on. ("Seeing" isn't the right word. Although I'm sitting in the audience, I'm much more engaged than "seeing" or "hearing" would imply. I wonder what the right word would be?) The final piece, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (from the New World) was a special treat. It brought me back to high school. I was participating in summer band camp at UT Austin and we performed the 4th movement in symphonic band. We worked very hard and pulled it off. It was especially challenging and fun, because we clarinets had all the great parts that the violins would otherwise have gotten. Anyway, the Phila Orch played with great passion and energy. I must say, the conductor drove me crazy. His beats (such as they were) were all over the place. As a seasoned orchestra would, they mainly ignored him and followed their collective internalized conductor, and it worked just fine. In person, I suspect he is as pretentions as his program notes made him sound. They stated, "Mr. X has traveled and visited ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD." (caps mine) ... Really??!! C'mon! Give me a break. Anyway, it was a delightful evening.

Earlier visits to the Berkshire Choral Festival last weekend (for the Rachmaninoff Vespers) and Tanglewood (for Stravinsky's Rites of spring and the Brahms Violin Concerto) were equally enjoyable. Even though each of these venues is a 2-hour drive away, the countryside is beautiful and the journey makes it really feel like summer. Life is good.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:52 AM