Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Opus 125

Cue Track 4: Presto, Allegro Assai.

Hit play.

Kick back. Relax. Smile.

According to an article I recently read, the first-ever CDs came out about 30 years ago last week.  I learned that these new forms of recorded music were originally going to be about one hour in length.  During development however, they were extended to 74 minutes in length to accommodate one specific piece of classical music: Beethoven’s Symphony #9 in D Minor, Opus 125, “Choral”, or as everyone knows it: simply, Beethoven’s 9th.  

The article went on to say that they wanted to cater at first to lovers of classical music because it would be they who would be the first ones willing to spend upwards of $700 for this new-fangled machine called a CD-player. 

As a result, the first CDs to market, Billy Joel excepted, were pretty much all classical music.

Personally I just think that more people wanted to be able to better hear the clarinet sections in the orchestras making the recording.  Anyone who knows anything at all about music knows that it’s the clarinet section that carries the whole orchestra.  

Of course, my having played the clarinet all the way through college may have contributed to a slightly biased opinion coming through in that last paragraph.

Cue reality: Columbus Symphony Orchestra Season Opener at the Ohio Theater, October 5, 2012

Wow.

Last Friday, for the first time in what seemed like forever (3-4-5 years at least), I went to the Symphony.  In what was the special, season opening performance of the 2012-2013 season, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Columbus Symphony Chorus performed Handel’s Coronation Anthem No. 1; W.A. Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618; and, the best part of the night, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (“Choral”) featuring 4 wonderfully-talented soloists.

In a nutshell: WOW!

This was also my first time seeing our new music director, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, perform and oh how he is so – much – fun – to watch!  I was definitely NOT disappointed in what I heard and saw on Friday. 

What. A. Performance!

As soon as I got home, I made it a point to write down some of the thoughts and impressions that went through my mind during the concert (as best as I could remember, anyway).  In no particular order…

  • Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart. Genius. Gorgeous. Peaceful.)
  • I think Maestro Z is singing along to Handel.
  • Simulcast to Columbus Commons – very cool!
  • Simulcast to Columbus Commons – very smart!
  • Camera jiggled a bit much a time or two
  • No word to the audience.
  • How the heck does he stay on that podium?
  • Chorus: Wonderful. Beautiful. Terrific.
  • Symphony: Incredible. Amazing. Fabulous.
  • Hey – I can see the bassoonist!
  • Um. I’m really high up.
  • So glad I bought season tickets, even if only a 4-pack!
  • Wish the guy about 7 rows in front of me would stop recording the whole concert on his iPhone. Glowing screen is right in my line of sight!
  • Maestro Z is an absolute blast to watch!
  • Trumpet. Oops.
  • I can’t believe I’m tearing up at this.
  • Yes, I can. Anybody have a Kleenex?
  • Totally needed more clarinets.  Just kidding.
  • I love extra curtain calls!
  • Phillip Addis. Whoa. Definitely want to see him perform again.  Road trip à Montréal?

Saturday morning, I went online to check the reviews.  Apparently one had been written at 5-something in the morning.  All the hours of rehearsals – individually, in sections, as individual ensembles, all together – and a fabulous performance Friday night were all summed up in a few paragraphs that amounted to a fairly decent review of the performance.  I like Jennifer Hambrick and enjoy listening to her (when I’m not at work!) on WOSU Classical 101, but I’m not sure she wasn’t writing a review for a final musical performance exam as opposed to a general concert review for the local population-at-large to enjoy.  I’m inclined to think the former. 

I’m not a professional music critic.  I’m just a fan, here, a lover of classical music.  I’m not a professional musician, either. Sure I’ve performed.  With the Marching Hundred, I’ve played in front of thousands of people on a football field (back when our team was good) or in Assembly Hall. Plus I’ve played in a few solo and ensemble contests.  Perhaps I’m just like the Salieri portrayed in the movie Amadeus: mediocrity with the ability to recognize genius.  Who knows?  What I do know, however, is a good performance when I hear one.  And that’s what I heard on Friday night.   

If I get excited at the sound of the brass entering about 5-6 minutes in, then it’s good.  If I get this  huge, uncontrollable, goofy grin on my face when the baritone starts singing away or if my eyes water up when all four soloists sing together for the first time in the 4th movement, then to me, it was a great performance.  Yeah – I did have an emotional moment up there.  I admit to my being a tad sappy, but I love forgetting about everything else in the world and just getting lost in the music and if you’re going to get lost, it might as well be with Beethoven. 

This will sound weird, but I’m a bit envious of the musicians themselves, and not because they’re good enough to play on stage, no. No – I loved playing the piano but I was never of that caliber nor did I ever have the desire to perform. Heck – I didn’t even want my parents in the same room.  The concert itself was simulcast, which meant it came with video – much like you’d see on PBS. While the camera jiggled a bit too much at times (not good considering how high up I was!), it did offer up views we in the audience couldn’t normally see, namely the front side of the conductor.  

Face it, by default, the conductor has no choice but to turn his back to the audience resulting in a 2-hour view of his tails.  The camera though, gave us a sneak peek of what the musicians see every day: his expressions.  What fun he is to watch, let me tell you! The man is amazing.  He sang along with the chorus during the Handel piece and made some super great expressions during the 9th.  Seriously.  You had to be there.  It was great!

Someday if a clarinetist calls in sick for rehearsal, the CSO can call me in to be a seat filler – just like at the Oscars.  Don’t worry.  I promise I won’t play, especially since it’s been since 1996 that even I picked up my old, resonite, Artley clarinet and actually blew through it.  Yes – it’s been that long since I’ve been to homecoming in B’town.  No, no – I just want to be able to watch and experience the whole fun of watching him conduct from that side of stage. Seriously – I won’t make a sound and I’ll even turn pages.  Call me! I’m equal to the task!

While the CSO may never take me up on that offer, (perhaps a guided tour of the Ohio instead?) I will say that Friday night was fabulous.  I am so thrilled that I was finally able to afford a trip to the symphony.  (Being out of work over a year a while back really put a damper on my ability to hear live music!) Since Friday though, I’ve listened to my recording of Beethoven’s 9th (Zubin Mehta NY Philharmonic Orchestra, 1983) a handful of times.  I could happily replace the male voices in that recording (something originally made possible a year earlier thanks to making the change from 60 to 74 minutes) with those of Adam Diegel (tenor) and Phillip Addis (baritone).  

Phillip Addis is performing with I Musici de Montréal, the Canadian Chamber Music Ensemble also conducted by Maestro Z, in May.  

Hmm.  Road trip anyone?

Freude, schöner Götterfunken, tochter aus Elysium, wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische dein Heiligtum!  ..Alle Menschen werden Brüder…

2 thoughts on “Opus 125

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