Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rachmaninoff in Purple Satin

I went to the Utah Symphony on Friday night and what an experience it was. We ended up sitting on the front row, directly in the center (if I squinted I'm sure I could see the conductor's nose hairs). How that happened is beyond me, and as I took my seat, after crawling over 23 people, my attitude was less than positive. I couldn't see much beyond the first row of instruments, other than shiny black shoes and music stands. But after the music began, my awe and fascination increased exponentially through the remainder of the program. First, Stravinsky's Symphony for Wind Instruments, which as the name implies, was sans strings. Smaller sound, very unique and "cube-like." They say he was trying to achieve the same composition and technique in his music that Picasso was implementing in his art around the same time.

As the strings came in for the remainder, my elation sky-rocketed. I am eternally fascinated with people who are talented enough at string instruments to be in the Utah Symphony Orchestra, or any other orchestra for that matter. I watched each with such curiousity and amazement. Their fingers, their facial expressions, their attention to the music, and their very obvious passion. One man playing the bass violin swayed his head back and forth in such a way that I thought he may have been a metranome in another life. And the conductor...every last part of his body moved at some point during the music. It was as if the music was being emitted from his person. And, on a side note, men in tuxedos look nothing like penguins. As I watched his coattails move as his arms conducted the orchestra I could liken them to only one thing, which added to my amusement. A ladybug. Yes, I know his coat is black not red with black spots. But the coattails resembled that of a ladybug's wings as it embarks in flight. And this ladybug was fluttering about through the entire evening, much to my delight.

At intermission a Steinway Grand piano was rolled in for the second half of the program. The half that had been my reason for attending this particular symphony: Rachmaninoff. His musical genius is rarely surpassed. His pieces are some of the most complex, yet beautiful. Tonight we would hear Symphony No. 3. A young woman in a flowing purple satin dress emerged from the wing as the audience warmly welcomed her with applause, but this applause would seem like a whisper compared to that which would come at the end of her piece. The symphony was euphoric. Her passion for the music was evident, like the conductor, in her movement. Her delicate, gemstone shoes would emerge from under the soft purple occasionally as she moved amongst the pedals. I watched, from my front row seat, in the reflection on the lid of the piano, the strings and other parts move briskly and smoothly as she gave us her best Rachmaninoff.

There was once a man who learned Rachmaninoff for a concert, and in the middle of it, had a nervous breakdown, and was mentally ill for the rest of his life. I now can understand why. The music elicits such passion, awakens such emotion, such life, my heart was pounding just observing.

When her symphony ended, the crowd was immediately at their feet. She and the conductor took a bow and exited, only to return and bow 3 more times. We were speechless. When it was over I felt as if I had just had a Swedish massage, or a Spa Pedicure, or perhaps, walked again on the warm soft beach in Thailand. What a wonderful experience. The colors, the sounds, the feeling. I absolutely love music.

This Friday- Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4!

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