Few experiences are as soul-stirring, life-affirming, joy-bringing and majestically-magnificent than hearing live music played by a symphony orchestra. It was my privilege to attend a Boston Symphony Orchestra rehearsal of Symphony No. 2 Resurrection by Gustav Mahler, conducted by James Levine, in the majestic Boston Symphony Hall on Thursday morning. (I was there in my capacity as a marketing consultant for the Door2Door to the Arts Program with a group of patrons. The rehearsal was part of the fall calendar that I’d put together with a colleague.)
The music was gorgeous. The acoustics were fantastic. The hall was teaming with people, both for the pre-rehearsal lecture by Marc Mandel, BSO Director of Program Publications,,and for the rehearsal itself.
James Levine, the conductor, was appreciatively applauded by the audience. He’d been away most of the past season because of back surgery. He told us how happy he was to be back. He was “large and in charge” as he conversed with the musicians and vocalists getting them to repeat certain passages until they were just right. Each change of pacing resulted in a different (and better) sound.
What I find most alluring about live classical music is the synchronicity and unity of the disparate performers as they become one. (I love seeing the bows of the violinists raised in near-perfect symmetry!) The sheer focus of their attention; the utter respect that have for the music, conductor and audience; the solid professionalism evident in their preparation; and the love they give and express through their playing makes each of them part of a more profound experience than they could reach as individual musicians.
This Mahler work swells and subsides, rises and recedes issuing waves of sound that threaten to crash and small ripples that gently lap. The music was quite rigorous and seductive.
I was blessed to be there and enjoyed seeing the orchestra in their street clothes. I can only imagine what a phenomenal experience the full performance that night was.
(Note to self: Put tickets to the Symphony in the budget. I don’t know why I let myself get away from classical music which I enjoyed since my elementary school days when I went to hear the St. Louis Symphony on school field trips. Something happened to muzzle my enjoyment of the music…I think it was the 70s.)