An Ode to Joy that I've been waiting for, and it approached my hearing in temporal time. And that precise placement on the timeline has passed and now it's gone except for the memory, which is divine.
weekend's concert with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony
Orchestra premiered Christopher Theofanidis' "The Gift”. I enjoyed this
PSO commissioned piece immensely for the music and this tenor singing.
composition, based on it's name got me to thinking, with every gift
there is also a Giver. In this case the giver was board chairman, Dick
Simmons, to whom this piece was dedicated. But in my mind I started
thinking more generally as the piece progressed. I thought of a book I
read a few years ago called "The Giver" about a boy growing up in some
future society where everyone was equal and the same, and there was no
individualism. Yet in the story, as there always typically is, one boy
finds a way to rebel against this obvious restrictive nature setup in
the beginning, restrictive to human and individual desires to excel.
They even outlaw 'color' -- no one is allowed to see color as it might make
them strive for more. The boy begins by momentarily seeing the color red
when an apple is thrown to him. The book goes on and on with his
journey to rebel when he and a girl eventually leave this society to the
wilderness to rough-it and build their own.
I heard colors and
beauty in the composition. I did not read the text or try to hear the
words from the tenor, because to me the music is what I came for, and
the music is the real base for the conceptualization of beauty. And
indeed there was beauty.
Beethoven's symphony number 9 was the
masterpiece I came to hear. I enjoyed it fully. Yet this version was an
interpretation by Music Director Manfred Honeck. His idea was to use the
metronome marks from Beethoven himself. He introduced the idea in a
generous introduction to the audience. To me, these introductions are
both informative and rewarding, and I always appreciate it when a
conductor takes the time to do so. It also lets us see a little of their
personalities, which for all the conductors witch have performed with
the PSO, is entertaining and a treat in my opinion.
at length about tempo, for which he vehemently stressed in many ways
was traditionally slow, and in his portrayal will be faster, adhering to
Beethoven's markings. Yet he did briefly delve into a few other
changes he was to make. He talked about the 'wording' of the notes and
choral parts and how they are accented. For instance the word 'Bruder'
(which means Brother) was to be accented on the leading part and then
softened at the end. I heard that during the concert. That word is used
quite a lot in the 'Ode to Joy'.
I did enjoy the tempo (he got a
laugh when he said that the quicker tempo would make for a quicker
ending to the concert). I enjoyed it as I always enjoy this concert, and
I think either way I would not object. The rhythms and accents were
also interesting, to this I did not object. The tempo, especially for
movements 3 & 4 were fast and enjoyable specifically because we
could here the difference that he had demonstrated at the beginning, and
I could sense that Honeck and the PSO must have spent a lot of time
rehearsing for this.
I want to give particular kudos to Angela
Meade, soprano, Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano, Anthony Griffey, tenor,
Alexander Vinogradov, bass and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh for
the beautiful vocal and choral parts in the 4th movement. To say that
I'm a Beethoven "Ode to Joy" devotee is an understatement, I've heard it
so very many times. I think that the first time that someone hears the
4th movement they might not fully appreciate it. Yet after a while it
grows on you, then it becomes a part of you.
To me, for the first two movements, I could not sense a difference in the tempo between
this version and the so-called 'traditional' versions. The famous second movement is a
main-stay, and always brings a smile to my face.
My only complaint was with the first movement, not
the tempo, not because it wasn't well performed. There was something
wrong that was difficult for me to place my finger on. The best I can
say was that perhaps the trumpets in a few spots, even though they were
soft, seemed out of place. I wanted to more fully enjoy the strings yet was distracted by the trumpets.
Perhaps all the recordings I've heard mix it that way and I'm just used
to more strings. Yes, the first is my favorite movement so I want it to
be just right. Yet what is 'just right' is certainly objective.