Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beethoven at the BPO

I attended the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra last Saturday night. I've been thinking about it ever since. As I've come to realize, this singular event collapsed SEVERAL different threads and energies swirling around me lately. I think only by writing through them here at M(MotT) can I finally bring it all together. Ready?

I don't remember the first time I ever attended a "symphony" concert. I have had college-aged students attend such events for the first time ever as part of their grade in our course. Obviously, they would remember that. I don't. It was definitely before college, but I have no recollection of where, with whom, why, etc. It was not a common activity in my family, none of my close friends were into music like I was (meaning heavy private lessons, practice, performances, etc. as a kid)...I just can't recall. But, I love the sound of a live orchestra. As a pianist, I'm always astounded by the "group" element of an orchestra. My musical training was highly individualistic...practicing alone, performing solo, talking only to myself at the piano, etc. I could, alone, play the whole piece. It takes almost 80 musicians in an orchestra to perform their music, one line and instrument at a time simultaneously....Interesting that I can't remember my "first" professional orchestra concert.

I used to attend these events a lot, especially in Denver, but also in Madison. I loved it. Since moving back to Buffalo 1.75 years ago, however, I have not stepped foot into Kleinhans Music Hall for a BPO concert. Not a single one! Now, I can attribute this to all sorts of excuses--babysitters, cost, finding people to go with, negotiating downtown Buffalo (this is very lame as I love urban settings, but living in the 'burbs has made me wimpy, me thinks), and so on. Several concerts were very powerful--chills, tears, euphoria, etc. It's been too long since I participated in these experiences.

Classical "art" music has taken a back seat to my habits and hobbies since leaving graduate school and moving to The Buff. In fact, I have realized that MUCH of my music listening has taken a back seat as I have tried to resume/instigate a "normal" life 'round these parts. I teach piano lessons but don't practice much on my own. I teach about pop music but find my days steeped in silence while I write. I teach about classical music but rarely play it in my home (or, obviously, attend concerts). I think it but don't feel it. What the hell is going on with me?

I haven't gone somewhere alone in a very long, long time. I mean, yes, the grocery store, errands, all that bullshit. But like, an adventure on my own. And I attended the BPO alone. It was a last minute decision due to other plans being cancelled. My son was already at my mom's for the night, and I just suddenly remembered that pianist Andre Watts was performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, nicknamed "the Emporer," with the BPO. I immediately hummed the main theme in my head and remembered that that piece is a MONSTER. And I love Watts. So, off I went. No child, no boyfriend, no one to take care of or deal with. Phone off. Just me. It was awesome.

BPO conductor JoAnne Falleta dedicated the performance of the Beethoven "Emperor" concerto to the victims/families/community affected by the Continental plane crash in Cheektowaga two weeks ago. Watts is an astounding, suburb and confident pianist. I'm really speachless as far as how to describe the 40-minutes or so that it took for the "Emperor" to resound through the hall. It was like I was transfixed, thinking about nothing and everything at the same time. It felt like I was in another world! I thought writing about it would help, but maybe the whole notion of "words can't describe it" applies here.

I saw this piece performed before in Denver. I can't remember the pianist, though (male, but the name alludes me right now). I did not feel the same way about that experience as I do about the one five days ago. And I think that's the point. I'm not the same person. I'm not negotiating the same things. And I'm not doing the same things and some of them--like striking out on more adventures and doing more things that I truly enjoy--need to be done more often.

I felt like an "Emperoress" walking out of Kleinhans the other night! Whoo-whee! There was power in that performance and it found me, someone who on that particular day and for all kinds of particular reasons, needed some recharging. I pictured Beethoven grabbing me by the shoulders, shaking me, scowling and shouting, "Wake up! Wake up! Stand up! Shout! Smile! WAKE UP!" It was wild. I can't describe it any better than that, I'm afraid.

And I hope I never forget it.

No comments: