My idea of cultural mecca is the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. It’s has a spectacular old world lobby and is just steps away from the Art Institute and Symphony Hall.
I took advantage of it’s proximity to the latter tonight and attended a performance (under Bernard Haitink) of Webern Im Sommerwind, Mahler Ruckert Lieder (with Christianne Stotijn) and Brahms Symphony Number 1.
To an orchestral music lover, this is a multi-course meal at a fabulous restaurant. One comes away content on a number of levels, marveling at the display of mastery that one has just witnessed. And, ultimately, the only thing one takes away is a memory.
The Webern was the biggest surprise. A huge romantic tone poem from the master of modernist miniatures. I will use this piece, in addition to Schoenberg’s Gurralieder and Transfigured Night as proof that one needs to have complete mastery of the current language before one can explore new worlds with any credibility.
The Ruckert Lieder is to me kind of an odd combination of songs but also is Mahler at his time-suspending best (and of reasonable length…see my earlier post about Mahler).
However, if you are thinking about getting into classical music, is there any better vehicle than the 4th (last) movement of the Brahms first symphony? This is the response of the first composing genius after Beethoven, dealing with legacy of his predecessor.
Even if you don’t know anything about classical music, this music will move you. There is something so perfect about the chord progressions and that wonderful choral harmony. It just works. It’s kind of like water, you just know that you need it and that it is good for you.
It’s hard to not get choked up when an aging conductor, clearly moving slowly on his second curtain call, instead of turning to face the thunderous applause and standing ovation, pauses, with his back to the audience, beaming at the orchestra and making a subtle, sort of stiff gesture with his right hand. Only when he is certain that the message of “it wasn’t just me, we did this as a team” is transmitted, does he turn and face his appreciative audience.