12 March 2011

northern lights at the Symphony

Thanks once again to the kind office of Mr G/S Y, I had a comp ticket to the symphony last week. I was up in the loge, for the first time. I was off to the far left, and Lisa quotes me correctly as saying the sound up there is like watching a parade pass by. It’s a very rich, full sound – just clearly going down the center of the hall, where I was not. During the intermission I moved to a more central seat, but by then the vocalist, the lovely Anne Sofie von Otter, had already come and gone. I was feeling worse and worse and in fact had almost bailed on going. I was putting a lot of energy into not coughing, which was nice of me since many of my fellow loge-dwellers felt free to talk during the music. One particularly obnoxious young woman even checked her bright shiny phone repeatedly in the second half, and then walked out with her companion halfway through the Brahms.

So there I was, separated from the sound and getting sick. I enjoyed the music, though it seemed to be happening at a distance from me. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted and once again, inexplicably, he felt it necessary to pick up the microphone to tell us how to feel about the first piece, Hindemith’s Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass, Opus 50. I didn’t really pay attention but I think he wound up by saying that Leonard Bernstein had really enjoyed the piece, which is nice but not really relevant. Does the symphony audience really need to be talked into giving this lively and attractive music a chance?

Von Otter was in lovely voice but I agree with Lisa that the Scandinavian songs she sang didn’t have as much impact as they would have in a more congenial venue – I’ve always heard of Davies as a killer for vocalists, and here was proof. When you’re sitting in the front row of the orchestra, these problems aren’t as noticeable. It seemed very different, as if I were in another room. The Brahms Serenade No. 1 in D major seemed surprisingly ebullient for Brahms, but then I was feeling surprisingly low, even for me. The next day I woke up with a migraine and felt for two days as if my skull was being crushed. It's an experience which is sort of like sitting there and feeling that the music is very bright and very distant.

No comments: