Well, summer break is finally over and the new school year started just yesterday. With the start of the new school year also comes the start of the performance season of Chicago’s many arts organizations. And so, yesterday after classes ended (and a couple hours spent working on a quantum mechanics problem set…homework on the first day??), I got to head down to Symphony Center for the first Civic Open Rehearsal of the season – conducted by Maestro Muti! He led them in the first two movements of Brahms 4th Symphony, which served as a pretty good preview of how he’s going to approach the cycle of Brahms’ symphonies later in the season. Like I’ve said before, one of Maestro Muti’s strengths, which derives from his years of experience conducting opera and learning from/working closely with singers (Maria Carbone taught him a lot about the voice), is his ability to make an orchestra “sing.” Ultimately, because the voice is an innately human entity – which is why everyone resonates so closely with song (all genres), an orchestral/symphonic performance is, in my opinion, infinitely better when this “singing” quality is emphasized. Now, it’s not a trivial thing to accomplish this – the orchestra couldn’t quite achieve what Maestro Muti was looking for, “it should not just be beautiful notes, but it should be words.” Like seriously, every one of Maestro Muti’s rehearsals I attend is basically a reincarnation of my music analysis class (except with a world-famous conductor and minus the readings). However, there were brief moments throughout where the orchestra managed to play with the desired lyricism and expressivity – especially in the first movement – and those proved to be the highlights of the evening.
Of course, besides an evening of good music and lots of musical insight, there was the usual display of humor that has really come to characterize these open rehearsals, one of my favorite things about the rehearsals. Last night just so happened to be the night of the first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump, and Maestro Muti made sure to reference this. In fact, I think we ended a bit early (at least compared to previous rehearsals I’ve been to) because he really wanted to get back to watch the debate – some highlights paraphrased below:
- Upon seeing the audience – “There’s so many of you here…why aren’t you at home watching the debate?”
- Illustrating the power of the pianissimo dynamic – “When a dog barks loudly, you don’t care, but when a dog growls softly – you run…none of what I just said made any sense, just like in the debate.”
- An earlier occurrence in the day – “Just this afternoon, the Italian TV [networks] called me and asked for a comment on the debate…no comment because 1) I am not American and 2) I’m afraid they’ll take away my passport, and I want to go home!”
And on a more serious note:
- “I care, not because I am not American, but I care because I’m a citizen of the world…the whole world is watching this debate [presidential campaign] and waiting to see what happens.”
Anyways, a great way to start off the new school year/season, and this week in general. I’m headed back tonight to hear the Strauss/Bruckner program that opened the season, and then back on Thursday to hear some Martucci/Catalani (with Joyce DiDonato making her CSO debut!). Hopefully I can make the Lyric event on Wednesday (a backstage look at the set of Das Rheingold!!!), but there’s a going away party for two postdocs in my group that I just found out about, so I might not make it. But I’m definitely looking forward to the start of the Lyric season as well (I’ll try my best to sit through Wagner 😀 ).