Week 8: Symphony Seduction

I close my eyes for a moment and pretend I am at the Great Hall in Vienna listening to the beautiful sounds flowing from the orchestra’s instruments. Today, the audience is easily transported to such a lovely setting while enjoying the music played during San Diego Symphony’s New Year’s Day Annual Salute to Vienna.

salute to vienna program

What better way to spend New Year’s Day than listening to such uplifting performances to get your soul ready for a new year. I had never been to the symphony before, and attending one was on my 50 weeks list. By chance, during our New Year’s Eve conversations, our hosts Sharon and Joe were talking about the next day’s plans and mentioned that they had tickets to the symphony. Joe was, let’s say, not jumping at the chance to attend and offered the tickets to anyone willing. Well, I mentioned that I had never been to a symphony performance and Joe was most eager to help with my 50 weeks journey. So it was decided that I would be Sharon’s date for the show.

And what a special performance for my first time! The Salute to Vienna concert is in its 19th year touring the U.S. Now, I have been to Vienna. My maternal grandparents took me there when I was in high school, as part of a grand tour of Europe. But we didn’t listen to classical music while there. We did eat our way through every city, and I remember the wonderful breads and pastries of Austria! Oh, sorry, I digress. See the music has already transported me to Vienna.

The concerts’ conductor András Deák, soprano Alexandra Reinprecht, and tenor Martin Piskorski are part of the Strauss Symphony of America. For bonus entertainment, there were performers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and the International Champion Ballroom Dancers. Not only did I get to enjoy the symphony, but I had never been to an opera either, so it was a welcome surprise to get some operetta selections thrown in there.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the performing arts. I have been to a number of musical productions, on Broadway in New York City, at the Pantages in Hollywood, all those Las Vegas show versions, and even our local small theatre productions. But never to the symphony or to the opera, and I’m not counting the band performances my son was in during elementary school, or my own orchestra days in junior high. (Yes, I played the flute and once made first chair!)

I do like live music. Piano bars, small music venues, concerts — I just don’t get around to attending as often as I would like. And quite frankly, never really had an interest in classical music. Maybe that’s why I do so horrible in answering those types of categories on Jeopardy.

But I had put down attending a symphony and/or opera on my 50 weeks list because, well, isn’t attending such things a sign of maturity? There’s something grown-up about getting a little dressed up (I actually wore heels), to listen to classical music.

symphony2

Once the conductor raised his baton to start the orchestra, I was captivated.

As you watch from behind, the audience follows the conductor’s movements as he sways during the waltzes, or sharply points to the musicians when it’s a march. You notice the excitement in his arms, his step, his body. I would have loved to been able to have seen his facial expressions from the viewpoint of the orchestra, as he leads his musical team.

The musicians themselves were the stars of the show, as you watch them pour their own heart and soul into the pieces. The synchronicity of the violinist’s bows, the precision sliding of the trombones, and even the gentleness of the kettledrummer in calming down the skins. Praise also goes to the guy who plays the triangle and other percussion instruments — for one song he had to shoot a gun for special effects. With the smell of the smoke you would have thought this was a 4D performance.

And the singers…wow, after listening to a few songs, I am ready to attend a full opera. What is it about opera singing when you don’t understand the language being sung, but because of the way their voices reverberate through your heart, you can still understand the international language of emotions. And when the soprano crescendos along with the orchestra, the unison sends chills down your spine.

As the performance continues, I notice even more how much the musicians themselves sway to the compositions. How lucky that they have a profession that they enjoy so much. And why do they have to sit? I think they would love to play standing up and moving about. Has anyone ever thought of letting them move around on stage, like a marching band during a halftime show? Now that would be awesome!

The encores brought out the playful side of the conductor, including once when he decided to conduct the audience through a symphony of claps. We’re very good at following his instruction, regardless of his heavy accent, the conductor’s hand movements give us sufficient direction. It must have been that glass of champagne the conductor drank that made him so lively.

Listening to the symphony was very soothing. I would have loved to lay back, close my eyes, and snuggle underneath a blankie.

***

Attending a symphony performance, you get to appreciate the amount of work it takes to create such an extravaganza. Maybe the maturity is not in realizing the beauty of classical music in itself, but in learning to appreciate the creativity of things. The harmony of music, the twirls of fabric, the rustle of leaves, the colors of the sunset, a child’s art project. We don’t have to look or listen very far to appreciate the beauty and the creativity that surrounds us. You can be 5 or 50 to learn to appreciate that there is so much beauty right in front of you. Just make sure to do it soon enough for it to make an impact on your life’s outlook. That is a sign of maturity.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

***

There are times at home that I will listen to music on my phone before falling asleep. Usually I’ll play something like Journey, U2, or Pink Floyd. But I’ve added the Vienna Symphony Orchestra to my playlist. As I listen to the Viennese waltzes in the evening, I dreamily imagine dancing away in an ornate ballroom with my gown’s golden chiffon layers swirling around me. My escort twirls me around in his strong arms, as we head towards the open balcony doors for a bit of fresh air. With all that dizzying waltzing, I then proceed to throw-up over the balcony railing. Well, that’s not supposed to happen. As long as I don’t get the gown dirty…it’s a rental. Sweet Dreams.

***

Notebook: San Diego Symphony/Jacobs Music Center, 750 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101, 619.235.0804, www.sandiegosymphony.org; KPBS Salute to Vienna special and CD, www.kpbs.org; New Year’s Day 2015: 20th Anniversary Performance, get your tickets now at www.salutetovienna.com.

P.S. Thanks for the ticket Sharon and Joe, and Gigi and Tom too – hope you are feeling better!

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