Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Too Few To Mention

It seemed like any other Saturday evening on my way to Heinz Hall to attend a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The traffic Heinz Hallwas not bad and I arrived almost an hour ahead of the performance.

Yet this time it was different - there were quite a few people walking along the streets of the cultural district, many were in costume. It's spring, yet I somehow it seemed more like Halloween.

I don't know exactly what was  the cause all of these young members of the millennial generation to be dressed up as they were, but I realized that between the numerous concerts, the Penguins playoff game, and whatever else was going on in Pittsburgh that it was going to be difficult to find a parking space.

I was right - I tried many different parking garages including the convention center, and they were all full. After about 45 minutes of looking and driving around the congested streets I decided I was not going to be able to make the concert, and unfortunately I left to go back home. Regrettably I didn't get there earlier, but I had no idea that this was going to be this situation.

I was looking forward to seeing this concert. Several days earlier I listened to an interview with Jim Cunningham with Music Director Manfred Honeck and his brother Rainer Honeck who debuted at Heinz Hall with the Britten Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Rainer Honeck was last in Pittsburgh with Leonard Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic (Wiener Philharmoniker) 30 years ago, he has been the concert master for them since 1992 (Manfred also was part of the Philharmonic ). In the interview they said there was no rivalry between them at the time. Manfred said he was always impressed with the insights that Rainer gave him on how to play Mozart in the really Viennese style.

Manfred indicated that the program was designed for 'new elements' including the first time he performed with his brother Rainer in America. There was to be a world premier of Dvorak: Suite from Rusalka, a Concept by Manfred Honeck Arranged by Tomáš Ille, the first performance by the PSO of the Britten concerto. And the first time the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra would record the Tchaikovsky Symphony 6: one of my favorite selections.

One bright note for me:  On Monday morning Jim Cunningham did an instant replay of the third movement, a March: Allegro molto vivace, so I was able to hear part of the concert.  Apparently the last movement was very tragic.  I'll make sure I buy a copy of the CD once it is release so that I can hear the entire symphony.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Exhilaration of Notes

Conductor Manfred Honeck walked out onto the stage and announced that earlier in the week he received a text from Helene Grimaud, indicating that she was quite ill. She would not be able to come to Pittsburgh to play the Schumann Concerto in A minor for Piano and Orchestra. He said that she is a fan of the Pittsburgh Symphony and especially asked to extend her best greetings. Imagine, one day before rehearsals, going over the whole list of possible replacements.

Manfred Honeck indicated that Joyce Yang was able to fly in and begin to rehearse. An excellent choice, she offered more than just an admirable performance, it was profoundly brilliant! I was quite impressed at her ability to quickly re-familiarize herself with this quixotic composition. Strictly by memory, she exquisitely and adroitly played the challenging composition along with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and conductor Manfred Honeck. The result was deliciously stunning!

The first movement began with sweeping flow of boldly stated passages with give and take between the soloist and the orchestra. Tumultuous chords interrupted by a brief intermezzo, and the parts played by Yang alone seemed flawless, enough to bring a tingle to the sumptuous exhibition.

As the first movement drew to a close, there was a pause, then suddenly the audience began to applaud. Manfred Honeck turned, and with a quick thumbs-up, smiled, and turned to commence the second movement.

With this new, slower movement I tried to conjure in my imagination a soft parade of notes, marching along a temporal measure of strings, with various sounds appearing and re-appearing in dramatic succession, like an elliptical dance with repetition and harmonic development, a recapitulation to passages heard before, yet savored for one more flavor. The whimsical scherzo fraught with folly gave goose-bumps, and moved quickly into the finale with no pause or trepidation. A tempestuous sound romantically mixed and the familiar ending was the perfect way to conclude a stunning performance. A standing ovation was well deserved.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Never Meaning To Send

Here I am at Heinz Hall awaiting the upcoming Moody Blues concert. At my seat I look below at the stage and I see a smoky aura wafting upwards - I realize they are using dry ice to emulate a smoky concert feel.

The orchestra pit is filled with people and at first I believe that those are orchestra musicians from the Pittsburgh Symphony ready to play along with the Moody Blues, but then I realize instead that those are other patrons who have been seated there to watch the concert just like myself.

My impression that the orchestra would be playing
along with the band perhaps originated from a concert many years ago that was billed as having the PSO play along with the Moody Blues. I assumed that the same thing would be on tap for this evening but to my slight disappointment that was not to be.

I have been in a lifelong fan of the Moody Blues going all the way back to the early albums of the sixties and seventies. I've got most of those on long playing 33 1/3 vinyl records and I've listened to them over and over for many years. Their music is somewhat of an enigma just like their name. Moody as in 'moody' or not quite upbeat and Blues as in 'blue' or perhaps sad. Yet the amalgamation of the two names moody and blues becomes upbeat and happy in my estimation. Now they are a legendary trademark, just the "Moody Blues."

Each hearing of their music is a temporal masterpiece painted upon my visceral brow bringing lush pinpricks of joy and deep feelings of poetic harmony. The sound is symphonic, melodic and spectacular. It's hard to separate them from the rock band genre, and the symphonic element interlaced with that sound.

Almost indescribable sounds emanate to penetrate the either, providing lyrical passages which the listener can often identify with, like "nights in white satin" or "letters I've written never meaning to send," "beauty I've always missed with these eyes before."

Poetry in motion always flowing always fresh never growing old and now I'm glad I am finally seeing them live in concert. It's hard for me to believe that it has taken me all these years to do so and I'm glad that I did because being here in person is a genuine treat.

The lighting on the stage and even projected into the audience is something I have not seen since many years ago - the last time I had gone to a rock concert - its been that long because I've pretty much been into classical music. Oh what a difference between this kind of concert and the classical here at Heinz Hall. This concert is so very loud, but I have to admit that I used ear protection to prevent ringing in my ears. The decibels are so loud I can easily detect clipping of the amplified audio making for unnatural distortions. If they had only turned it down a bit the sound would have been so much better. Yet I forgive them, as I am so excited to be here.

The music of the Moody Blues has always seemed to me to be very close to orchestra type music. It almost sounds as if there is an orchestra in many of their songs and I suppose that's why I also felt like an orchestra ought to be playing along with them, but the lack of the orchestra did not matter because I was so thrilled to see the band that I love.

Justin Hayward's voice is amazing. In fact John Lodge and Graeme Edge - all of their voices are really good especially considering their age. I wonder how they are able to keep their voices so fresh after all these years especially considering that they perform in concert every year.

"Tuesday Afternoon" and "The Question" are two songs in which Hayward must maintain a note that goes up and down for a very long period of time, presumably taking a very deep breath. He is still able to do a pretty good job of it - it's amazing.

If one would envy another, would it be for their appearance, or perhaps for their youth, or maybe for their wealth? I can admit in my case it's none of those but that I envy the voice of Justin Hayward - The Voice - Voices In The Sky - still amazing after all these years.

I made a list of the songs they played for the concert:
  1. Gemini Dream
  2. The Voice
  3. Steppin' in a Slide Zone
  4. You and Me
  5. Gypsy
  6. Nervous
  7. Say It With Love
  8. Peak Hour
  9. I Know You're Out There Somewhere
  10. Story In Your Eyes
  11. Your Wildest Dreams
  12. Isn't Life Strange
  13. Higher and Higher
  14. Tuesday Afternoon
  15. I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)
  16. Late Lament
  17. Nights in White Satin
  18. Question
  19. Ride My See-Saw
Check out this segment of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
Interview on CNN 1986