Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hipster Stravinsky Makes Me Weep

Amazing doesn't even cover it.
The Vienna Philharmonic was phenomenal. an orchestra tickled my ear drums in a way I had never experienced before.

The Hall
Upon entering the hall I noticed that, with the formerly long-standing tradition of an all male orchestra in mind, I can't help but wonder why the architecture portrayed a massive array of full-figured bare-breasted women and only a few busts of men.
(Not my photo)
Golden women carved from roman columns guarded the music appreciators, accompanied by statues of women on every roman "roof" on the walls. More beautiful painted women watched the performance from the ceiling and helped spice up the organ that hung proudly behind the orchestra. Women are beautiful, I get it. But why so few men if they are so highly regarded to the point that orchestras of the highest caliber were so exclusive and partial to the male persuasion? The males of the hall were alive and engaged in skillful and scholarly activities while the women were frozen, dead, and forever objectified. I'm curious why. But there's a topic I'm more than willing to leave in my Women's Lit class from sophomore year. Moving on....

The Ensemble
I noticed the impeccable balance first, followed by how tight the group was. One could convince me that every single one of the members were related. They were tight as family. In the beginning of the Beethoven I heard secretive strings. Then you hear a horn standing in the back of the small crowd trying not to be noticed but it's meant to be there. It makes its presence hinted at but not disruptive. For some reason.... this made me think of my kids. What was the difference? What would one of my beginning band students say if they were with me? "It was too quiet. The horn was too quiet." To which I would respond, "Was it too quiet if that's what Beethoven wanted?" I pondered that if they played a piece that called for them to be subtle and controlled, they would struggle because a beginning band student's priority is to be cool by being heard no matter what. A young horn would stomp on the strings. While listening to the Vienna Philharmonic play, my mind spun memories of my kids and how they were no where near entering the ensemble mindset. they were still worrying about themselves, and they will continue to for years.

The Composers
Stravinsky was the original movie scorer. He wrote music fit for films before it was cool. I completely understand why his music would cause riots. I would not be surprised to know people were frightened by Stravinsky concerts.

Imagining myself as an elderly musical patron, I too would leap from my seat, canes a' blazin'. His music takes so many turns, it's so dark, so much color, so programmatic! I do love Stravinsky. The fanfare at the end...they got me. I cried. It reminded me of the video I saw  of the Phantom Regiment hornline doing 4-5's from one end zone to the other playing those chords flawlessly. I just remember how in awe I was at that video. Then to hear it again live by an amazing ensemble, ugh. It brought me to tears. It reminded me of everything I have been through musically. it reminded me of marching band where i strengthened my passion for music among many other life skills. It reminded me of all my college studies, how much my mind was opened after I escaped Shelton. It helped me realize...I'm done. I'm done with all the classes on the extensive list that left me winded as I examined it as a freshman thinking, "I have to do ALL of this??" And now here I am. I did it. I tackled everything thrown at me and I got what I went to school for. To experience the Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein in beyond rewarding for all my hard work and diligence. My inner elderly musical patron says - This day was a real swell treat.

My honest opinion about orchestras is that they are too quiet. I think the orchestra reached my ideal forte at least once in the entire performance. Don't get me wrong, orchestras are beautiful. However, I much prefer wind ensembles - which is exactly what this experience brought me back to. From the moment the soprano played in bolero I cried. I never thought I would miss playing as much as I do now that I've graduated. Soprano reminds me of the first time in my musical life that I was legitimately pleased with my own sound. It was the first time I could consider myself a good player. I felt unsatisfied and critical of myself up until my last semester of senior year.

These types of ensembles can't be judged through the same lens. orchestra is the elegant woman that draws your attention with her beauty and subtlety. Wind Ensemble is the eccentric virtuosic tyrant that commands your attention with untamed innovation. Yes, orchestras can party too, but to me they get crazy in different ways. While Wind Ensembles will always have a special place in my heart, I can't deny that Orchestra will always have the antiquity and wisdom that wind ensemble can only attempt to imitate. They are the masters of historic preservation. Wind Ensembles cant take that away. And there's no doubt a wind ensemble's got nothing on the Vienna Philharmonic.

A day to tell my grandchildren about, of course.

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