A Golden Rectangle of Light and Sound

February 9, 2010

I usually get into town early enough to pick up my tickets  and slip down to the Heathman for a cocktail before the concert or the pre-performance lecture starts.  The bar is not much of a bar. It reminds me of a British Railways cafeteria in a large city terminus, built when marble was popular, but with a much better stocked bar. I try to sit against the window with my preferred mix;  a Manhattan Up.  From there I can watch the human and metal traffic on Broadway.

The rain held off and I drift up the fifty yards to the Schnitzer dry. My seat is way in the back, the very last row on the aisle. I have the whole row to myself. Perfect. I have the same feeling when the doors close on a flight and you realize you have the space you need to endure the flight. But in the Schnitzer I am not enduring anything. I am enjoying every minute. The bright golden rectangle of the stage glows ahead of me. The dark heads of the people in front of me are calm and still. The program begins.

I am not a big Wagner fan but Siegfrieds Idyll is an interesting challenge to me.  It is less strident than a lot of the composers work and so very complex that I cannot help but float along with the piece. I am really waiting for the next piece; the Prokoviev Violin Concerto. Karen Gomyo is the soloist. Watching her play this technically challenging work is somehow like watching someone disassemble and reassemble a musical Ferrari Testa Rossa in under half an hour and not have any screws left over. She got and deserved a standing ovation. The Orchestra has its own hard work to do and never faltered.

At the intermission my location at the back of the hall means I am first to the bar. The Bartender says, “My first intermission customer!” She does not think there is a discount for this distinction.  I take my drink to a corner and watch the people who are watching each other, and me.  The hall was by no means full and sadly the geezers outnumber the young by four to one.  I find myself in the majority.  Greying hair, bespectacled and concerned about parking and umbrellas.

The Sibelius Symphony Number 2 is as hard work for the Orchestra as the Prokoviev was for Ms Gomyo in the Sibelius.  I am drawn to the large amount of Pizzicato, and the way the Timpanist is constantly bending close to his skins to check the tuning. He does have a huge part in the work and is justified I suppose, but he appeared almost comical, bending and straightening, bending and straightening. But I am not laughing, I am admiring his minute attention to detail, his professionalism.

And it is a delight to sit there in my isolated inexpensive ($32) seat and let the sound wash over me before it hits the back wall. The golden rectangle of light of the stage now a furious source of intelligible energy as the players move toward the climax of the piece.

Leaving the Schnitzer, going into the wet chill of Oregon February air is pleasant with the power of all the music inside me. In April Itzhak Perlman, Pinkas Zucherman and Midori will be in town. I would forgo my cocktail to buy a ticket that I know will be more than $32 and sit in row that is full to hear anyone one of these string gods.

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