Last night I had the privilege of watching the San Francisco Symphony perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Stravinsky’s The Firebird conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. It was fabulous!
Now in undergrad I was forced to write a piece comparing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Picasso’s Guernica, and TS Elliot’s The Wasteland….a daunting task indeed to a young scholar. But I did it and in the process cultivated an aversion to Stravinsky (although Picasso and TS remain favorites of mine…but not The Wasteland with its interminable literary and biblical allusions…not learned enough to appreciate the depths!). But I digress. I went to the aforementioned performance with tempered anticipation, having developed an appreciation for the clean resolution and harmony of Bach and Mozart and the like…and dreading a bit (ignorantly) the anticipated complexity and potential atonal meanderings of Stravinsky. But went I did and what a treat.
Dudamel unassumingly took to the stage with a springy gate and his wild curly hair bouncing playfully about. He took his station in front of the huge orchestra…3 harps, 2 pianos, several percussionists and an army of horns and strings. He nodded…and then without a score drew from that assembly of virtuosos something absolutely sublime. It was stunning.
I am not a sophisticated audience for such performances….I sit with a common man’s understanding, a gross and course perception….much a nuance is lost on me. But even I could appreciate the extraordinary magnificence of the performance. I felt blessed.
Adding even more to the experience, my date was a friend who has played the violin since she was 4 years old…having attended a conservatory and committed in her youth to serious study. Although she plays only for pleasure now, the sensibility of that instrument is in her bones….it is part of her. And so my enjoyment was hugely enhanced by feeling-hearing-seeing her respond to the brilliance of the performance….sitting next to her helped me hear with more depth and appreciation.
The performance was met with a resounding 5+ minute standing ovation and several curtain calls by Dudamel. Everyone was abuzz as we all poured out of Davis Symphony Hall. Drinks at Jardinière afterwards we were surrounded by the musicians getting a late night bite and a drink…their instruments laying this way and that….musicians and audience all mingled and casual once again….and the perfect consummation of the evening lingered.