If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that my favorite orchestra is the Philadelphia Orchestra, and my favorite place to catch their act is Carnegie Hall – right up the street here in little ol’ New York City. I’ve been “catching their act” for close to a decade now attending their concerts when time permits whenever they come to town.
Why my favorite? Because I find them to be the most groove conscious – ‘rhythmic’, for some of you more classical music lovers out there – “tight” for all you musicians. Many orchestras feel a bit on the sloppy side to me as they play through their repertoire and coming from the rhythmic world of pop music and having grown up a drummer, this aspect of the band playing “tight” is super important to me.
So the other night I had two tickets to the Philly and my dear Missus volunteered to stay home so that I might take my son, Dustin, of 27 years, to hear Glinka, Chopin and Ravel. For whatever reason, Dust had never been to Carnegie Hall even though he grew up here in NYC. He’s a pretty eclectic music lover, an ex-piano student (7 years of torture) and the child of some pretty accomplished musical people (Jenny Burton and yours truly – with some additional assistance from stepmom, Julia Wade). He’s moved from pop to rap to indy to metal to rock to esoteric music throughout his life and so, growing up a New York kid, he’s had a pretty deep musical education and influence.
When I called him at work to ask him if he wanted to go, he jumped at the chance. I’ll have to admit a touch of trepidation at inviting him because introducing any rocker to classical music is a bit of a stretch, but I figured a Russian Overture (Glinka) a piano concerto played by Maria João Peres (Chopin) and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe gave me as good a shot as any to intrigue him.
He’s an interesting young man. At age 27, he owns two companies, is a Systems Administrator at Viacom where he has placed both his companies as outside contractors. He’s 6’6” tall and stands out in a crowd not only for his height, but also for his good looks. (His mother is tall and beautiful.) You might call me a proud poppa.
We arrived early and had great seats – third tier, audience left, first row, high above the orchestra so that we could lean over the rail, look down upon the orchestra, watch the bowings, and see over the pianist’s right shoulder to her hands as she tickled the ivories.
Before the concert began, I had the opportunity to set things up for Dust. We talked about the prefect acoustics of the great hall and the century-long struggle to keep them perfect, we talked about the various sections of the orchestra and I was able to point out the players (first & second violins, violas and cellos, 8 double basses!, woodwinds, brass, percussion, etc.) and I also explained the conductor and the concert master and a raft of other details.
Dustin, of late, though he gave up piano long ago, has decided that he would like to learn to play the fiddle, so he went out and bought himself a violin and had picked it up sporadically in his far too busy life and begun to learn the instrument. He’s a beginner, but intrigued.
So my favorite moment of the evening came early when the orchestra finally began Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila with a most impressive, furious 16th note violin section run to begin the piece. I glanced over at Dust to see his eyes bug out and his jaw drop about six inches at the wonder of the musicianship, and right then, I knew we had him.
In the Chopin (Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Opus 21) Maria João Peres played with such mastery that I couldn’t help but shake my head and heart at her super-human effort and total dominance of her instrument. Dust also sat in wonder as this little being ate up this 9’ Steinway. Later on, walking home, Dust exclaimed, “Halfway through the piece I realized that there was no music on the piano. She was playing the whole thing by memory!” Such are the lessons of life from the masters.
The Ravel was the perfect piece to end with. Here was the same orchestra, but with a totally different sound. Here was Carnegie Hall at its best, handling the wide dynamics of Daphnis and Chloe with aplomb. The Philly was tremendous in its performance of the piece and our conductor, Charles Dutoit and his band of renown received a well deserved long, drawn out ovation at the end. Our hands were raw from clapping.
I couldn’t help but think that this wondrous piece of musical invention was one of the great basics of modern film scoring. Though intended as a ballet, it has provided hundreds of moods in its phrases and expressions for film scorers to steal from or borrow from or just learn from. It’s a fascinating piece. I only wished that he (Ravel) would have just settled down and given us more melody in his writing as well as his superb technical proficiency and mastery of his orchestra and orchestrations – my only complaint on the evening.
All in all the evening was a total success. Now my son, Dustin, wants to go again and is talking about going in with us on some season tickets. Ah, growing up … It took me a lot longer. But I don’t suppose it’s time-based, finding the largess and greatness of music. It happens when it happens.
I’m only glad and grateful to live in a city where great music is prevalent on nearly every street corner on any given night. It’s also nice to live 10 blocks from the greatest concert hall in the world.
These special evenings spent in this great hall over the years, sitting in the lap of music, has been truly one of my life’s great gifts. This particular evening will always be a memory that I shall cherish.
It was the night I took my son …
Even More Inspiration
Tags: Communication, composer, Inspiration, Inspirational, Inspirational Music, Inspirational Music Artist, inspirational music composer, Jenny Burton, Julia Wade, Music, New York, Personal Thoughts, Peter Link