The last time I was at a symphony or orchestral concert was probably when I lived in Philadelphia (maybe even with Rebecca in Vienna), but each time I go back I immediately remember why I love “classical music” (really, I love the romantic era the most) so much. Live music has this special capacity to encompassing for both the eyes and ears and orchestral concerts take it to a whole different level. The acoustics are so distinct – you hear and see things that just aren’t the same via a recording. It’s magical, really.
With that said, Jim and I attended our first concert at the Halle aux Grains here in Toulouse. We were treated to two Beethoven numbers (Beethoven’s Léonore III, Overture & Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4) and one Tchaikovsky sympony (Tchaikovski’s Symphony No. 2 “Petite Russie”). In sum, it was a positively lovely evening. I’m excited to purchase season tickets for the 2016/2017 season. Looks like a season full of Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms (!), Ravel, Tchaikovski, Mahler, Bartok, Mozart, etc).
We sat in the nose bleeds (I know they’re not as “posh”), but I like the bird’s eye view of what’s going on with all the musicians – where you can see the conductor (and preferably his face) as well as the movements of each section, ultimately working as one well oiled machine. There’s something just fascinating about seeing rows of violins moving in unison. Or the excitement in the eyes/mouth of the conductor when a movement comes up he’s especially excited about. You simply do not have that view in the first row or even the 10th. From there you only see a part or individuals, but from up high, you see the full scene/production.
Jim’s favorite was the initial Beethoven number (Leonore III), which was probably my second favorite of what we heard. I typically prefer my Beethoven in minor keys (love a good Sonata), but I love the depth his music tends to convey. I remember the first number having a good amount of pizazz toward the end, which I enjoyed.
After a short break, part of the stage descended into the floor and when it returned, it returned with a grand piano. Both Jim and I were pretty excited about the pianist joining. The concerto had some absolutely beautiful solo piano parts (in the program they described the pianist as a poet of the keys, which we thought apropos). After his ovations, he came back out and played a solo piece (I think it was a bonus ditty), which was quite pretty. It reminded me of music students playing the piano in the UT student union, where I’d go to study (only this guy was stunning). Makes me wish I’d learned to play the piano.
After a brief intermission, they came back out with Tchaikovski, which was my favorite of the night. This piece really gave every section a moment to shine (including the percussion and brass section). I particularly enjoyed the percussive elements: cymbals, a gong (!), and loud drums. A perfect exit for the evening and closing to the concert. As we left, I continued to hum the elements (I was even still doing it a little this morning).
Some interesting things I discovered about concerts in France: (1) the French applaud in unison (seems kinda like you’re at a soccer game…something I’ve never experienced in the USA…there it has always seemed just loud, no one clapping together, just clapping) and (2) the French do not stand up with ovations, eventhough they give like 4 after every number.
All in all, great start to the summer. Excited for upcoming concerts there…