September 30th, 2013

music

Symphony concert

My reward for a weekend of volunteering with my church's international outreach ministry and the McFarland Family Festival: a ticket to the first concert of the Madison Symphony Orchestra's 2013-14 season! In a strictly technical sense, it wasn't a reward -- that is, my receiving it was not contingent on having done the volunteer work, and that it happened the same weekend was coincidental -- but nevertheless it sort of felt like one.

I got the ticket from my friend Susan. She and her husband are season ticket holders, and unfortunately he was unable to attend due to health issues, so last week at choir rehearsal she put his ticket up for grabs, and I was the fastest grabber.

The seat I ended up grabbing wnded up being a rather outstanding one: an aisle seat on the main floor, stage left, 12 rows back. The last time I saw the Madison Symphony, I was up in the circle or perhaps even the mezzanine. Not that it makes much of a difference, really; it pretty much sounds the same to me wherever I happen to be seated. But being on the main floor meant I could clearly see the concertmaster's fingers fly as she performed the solo parts in Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade Symphonic Suite.

Aside from the Rimsky-Korsakov, the other two pieces on the program were Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite and Richard Wagner's "Prelude and Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde. I'd heard all three many times before -- I think I might even have performed the Wagner -- but it was a rare treat to hear them performed live. And performed very well, I might add.

My only complaint is that the concert seemed much longer than it should have been. Per the program notes, the three works on the program were a combined 82 minutes long, but the orchestra finished Scheherazade more than two hours after the concert was scheduled to begin. There was an intermission, of course, but a lot of other little things further added to the length: they started a little late; they opened with the national anthem; the director walked offstage and took a curtain call after both of the first two pieces; and he made some brief remarks after intermission. I can forgive all of those but the remarks. In my experience, it's rarely a good idea to let a conductor talk to the audience, because they rarely know when to shut up.