18 May 2009

KC Symphony: Beethoven, Shostakovitch, and Brahms

Our last season tickets for the symphony were last weekend, so Saturday we went to hear Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Brahms. We had spent the majority of Saturday shopping for a new car and all that haggling with sales people left me drained and ready for a relaxing evening of music.

The primary piece at this weekend's concert was Shostakovitch's Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by Baiba Skride, a young Latvian violinist, and conducted charismatically by guest conductor Grant Llewellyn. Skride stepped out on stage wearing a sparkling red dress, red like the color of the first car we test drove that morning; Skride has a youthful appearance and looked, for a moment, too young to even have a license to test drive a car. The rest of the orchestra were clad in the usual black which, on that day, reminded me of the color of the car we did end up buying at the end of the day.

Sergio loves Shostakovitch. I, on the other hand, can appreciate the intricacies, the depth, the rich range of sounds ... but as with much of 20th century classical music, I often have a hard time getting my bearings. Skride's intense solos seemed pitted against the orchestra's full voice; the tones seemed uncertain or uneasy. Shostavotich seemed troubled. All a fitting soundtrack for one who is mulling over the negotiations of a sale. I spent all day Saturday trying to get my bearings on the car purchase, never quite finding that plumb line of truth. Much like this concerto.

Skride is a skilled and passionate performer who is, by far, old enough to have a drivers license. (Watch a great video here.) She comes from a thoroughly musical family; she plays the Stradivarius "Wilhelmj" violin (1725), generously on loan to her from Nippon Music Foundation; when she came out to sign her CDs at intermission, she had changed from the sparkling red dress into a plain green shirt and jeans. She looked, simply, like one of us. But none of us are anything like her.

After intermission I savored the Brahms: stable, reliable, metered, and sure. It's music I can see on the page and music I can tap my toe to; music that signifies a world where I can always get my bearings, where I always know what's what and who's who, where I don't have to guess so much. A world that doesn't necessarily exist, I know, but that I take comfort in imagining nonetheless.

Thus ends the 2008-9 season for Sergio and me; we will unfortunately miss the Season Finale with Peter Serkin next weekend. But we will see you in the fall, KC Symphony.

"Symphony of Steel" - Construction is underway for the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: here's an interesting video of the work done so far - with a curious soundtrack of music and sledge hammering: http://www.kcsymphony.org/video/steel.html


Sergio said...

Emily, I absolutely loved reading this entry. All I remembered from Saturday was spending what felt like an eternity buying a car and then going to a wonderful concert. Your writing made the memories of Saturday come alive in a beautiful way. I love that Skride's dress was red like the first car we test drove and that the orchestra was dressed in black, like the one we ended up with. This is definitely one of my favorite entries of yours. Cheers.

LO said...

I am more of the Brahms-Beethoven-Mozart school of music appreciation - especially Mozart when I'm going for complexity and Beethoven when I want to purge demons. I have trouble enjoying modern works that seem dissonant. I always chalked it up to being old and boring, but I've never thought about it in terms of reliability and a having sense of my bearings - an intriguing idea. Thank you for this insight.