Friday, June 15, 2012

Escape to Music!

No question about it.  Life is tough out there for the regular Joe and Josephine.  One minute we're coming out of the Great Recession.  The next minute, jobs numbers disappoint expectations and countries in the Euro Zone are having problems figuring out what to do about their economic woes.  Europe's issues affect us whether we like it or not.  So what do you do when you get down and out about money?  Your job?  The rich hoarding all their cash?  Is it a guilty indulgence?  Or something like a movie with all the concession trimmings?

Frankly, I find solace in music.  Sometimes it's the really commercial stuff like rock or rap.  Most of the time, however, I choose classical music to soothe my nerves and my soul.  Now, don't get me wrong!  I'm far from being elitist and I don't think of classical music as elitist.  If you like movie soundtracks, you'd like classical music -- they are essentially one and the same.  At the moment, I'm trying to get the theme music to the TV show of 12 O'Clock High out of my head with Beethoven piano sonatas.  Who the heck is "Beethoven"?  He's Ludwig van Beethoven, born in Bonn, Germany in 1770, died in Vienna, Austria in 1826.  Yeah, he's one of those dead white European guys that get batted around occasionally.  But, he's more than that -- he was a pioneering composer who influenced all who came after him, even those who write popular music (whether or not they're aware of it).

Photo: Greg Helgeson
For a truly awesome aural experience, try a real, live symphony orchestra concert.  Not sure you'd know how to behave at a classical music concert because you're used to dancing in the mosh pit at Aerosmith concerts?  That's easy to rectify.  Check out these spiffy guidelines entitled "How to be an Elitist Snob in 20 Easy Steps" by Sam Bergman via Drew McManus at Adaptistration.  C. C. Yager also writes on the subject at Anatomy of Perceval.  It's not difficult, people.  Nowadays, it's not even necessary to get dressed up.  For the consideration of those who will sit around you, however, it's advisable to take a shower before you go and refrain from talking while the music's playing.

When I need a live symphony orchestra concert, I travel to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis for a Minnesota Orchestra fix.  Under current Music Director Osmo Vanska (2 dots over the a's please), this orchestra has become one of the best in the world.  The acoustics in Orchestra Hall give the audience the best experience of listening to live classical music played by outstanding musicians and their conductor.  They've just ended the 2011-12 season but they have a summer season that will please.  During the Orchestra Hall renovation, the orchestra will perform at the Minneapolis Convention Center primarily for the next year.  And what about those tickets?  It depends on where you want to sit in Orchestra Hall, but it's possible to buy tickets under $30.  And, during the regular season, there's a rush line.  Now that I've got those logistics out of the way....

Thanks to the MN Orchestra Musicians for this photo!
Have I told you how good this orchestra is?  Their precision and ensemble playing takes my breath away, their rich sound thrills, and they are the only orchestra I know of that can actually play ppp (piano pianissimo), the absolute quietest possible.  But you really don't need to know all the technical music stuff.  All you need to do is listen with an open mind and heart.  They're excellent.  They make this world bearable for me.

They have recorded all of Beethoven's symphonies under Osmo Vanska's baton, Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, the Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos with pianist Stephen Hough, and are working on Beethoven's Piano Concertos with pianist Yevgeny Sudbin.  I recently acquired their new recording of two Sibelius symphonies, Nos. 2 and 5, that takes me straight to Finland, the forests, and looking out at the Baltic Sea from Helsinki harbor. 

In this uncertain economy, sports somehow never suffer.  It's always the arts.  And yet, where do we turn for comfort, joy, and fun.  Of course.  We didn't go to a baseball game to memorialize 9/11.  Orchestras all over the country gave concerts and the New York Philharmonic's was televised.  We don't attend a football game for the joy of a wedding.  Silly?  Maybe, but you get the point.  Music is far more important to human beings than it gets credit for.  Musicians' work doesn't end with the last note of a concert.  Their work continues through daily practice, teaching students of their instruments, and rehearsals.  The Minnesota Orchestra has been truly fortunate, also, to have a Music Director like Osmo Vanska. 

The best part?  They are all people, just like you and me, with families, pet peeves, loves, problems, aching muscles, and a job.  Their job, unlike yours and mine, brings beauty into the world and pleasure into lives.  I love to listen to them.....

No comments: