A sip of culture … through a fire hose
Last night Paul and I began what will be a series of four nights during which I’ll be magically transformed by the process of immersion into “el hombre del mundo” and a cultural elder statesman. Well, maybe not, but at least I’ll have doubled the number of operas I’ve ever attended and seen performances in some of the world’s most notable symphony halls and opera houses.
Thursday night we attended a performance of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, conducted by Kent Nagano who, like everyone else worth knowing it seems, is a friend of Paul’s. The program that the Symphony performed was wildly varied, a characteristic of Kent’s programs Paul tells me. The evening began with a performance of the San Francisco Polyphony by Gyorgy Ligeti (1923 – ) a modern, atonal and frankly puzzling work. I remarked to Paul that I kept waiting for a song to break out, but it never happened. The group performed well under the Maestro’s leadership, but despite the precision and skill it must have taken to play together when there was no apparent melody or chord structure, I can’t say I liked the piece. The highest praise I can pay it is to say that I found it interesting, which regrettably damns it with faint praise. The second piece, Beethoven’s Concert for Violin and Orchestra with the soloist, Viviane Hagner, a wisp of a young lady with immense talent, was much more comfortable for me because of the more traditional “song” structure. There was a melody, harmonies that “felt” right and the violin soloist coaxed magic from her instrument. The evening concluded with a rip-snortin’ performance of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, a piece that almost everyone has heard the beginning of but too few have heard the ending of. I believe this was my first hearing of a performance of the entire piece. The evening was varied and entertaining and to top everything off, Paul took me back stage where I had the chance to meet Kent Nagano himself, who was very personable, down-to-earth, and who had the absolutely softest hands I’ve ever shaken. Don’t know what he uses Ladies, but whatever it is you need to get yourself some.
Tonight (Friday) we attended the second of our “let’s get Perry some culture” performances and heard Sergei Rachminoff’s Vespers, performed a capella by a professional choir, the Rundfunkchor, under the Direction of Tonu Kaljuste. In preparing for this trip I had borrowed a CD (thank you Steve Backiel) of the Robert Shaw Chorale’s performance of this compilation of pieces, so I was prepared for it. The music is beautiful and I can put it no other way, soothing. I knew that if I were the least bit sleepy I’d doze off during the performance, because it is often soft, always smooth and seldom startling. So this afternoon I got about an hour’s nap before the event, and I was able to stay awake through the whole thing — something I’m grateful for because it was extraordinary. The approximately 40 professional musicians performed flawlessly, and the appreciative but comparatively small audience gave them several curtain calls for their exceptional performance. My buddy and cohort, Paul who isn’t feeling well this evening, wasn’t so lucky as I at tonight’s performance and he did succumb to his weakened condition and dozed throughout the evening. He did, however, wake up for almost all the breaks in the music as the audience cleared its throat and shuffled in their seats, but after those brief interludes, he quickly returned to the arms of Morpheus once the music started back up.
Next up? The premiere of Turnadot tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to it.
For those of you who are more into pictures than words, I was able to get a few pictures posted at my web gallery this afternoon at this link, Berlin 2003.