We heard the CBSO last night in Symphony Hall.
Having got up at the crack of dawn to drive to Chester to research (and order) fittings for our wardrobes, we drove home via Birmingham. We’d booked ages ago for this particular concert – Richard Strauss and Rachmaninov – and looked forward to hearing some terrific music played live in our favourite concert hall. It was recorded live for Radio 3, so if you’re quick, you might be able to hear it too. It’s also widely reviewed here and here
We were not disappointed!
What made the evening more special was the preconcert talk by Stephen Johnson, who spoke so eloquently about Strauss and the relationship of his work to Nietzsche – in particular, about Also Sprach Zarathustra, of course. To hear him rattle off bits of Nietzsche with ease, referring only briefly to notes whilst making it sound so interesting, was pretty impressive! We usually find that the pre-concert talk enlightens our listening, but last night it was a model of its kind and made the performance so much more enjoyable. Sadly, the Radio 3 programme presented by Stephen Johnson is lo longer available – I’d really like to hear what he had to say once again, having listened through the piece with shivers down my spine. Not only were there times when the whole audience was sitting absolutely still and silent to hear the smallest of quivering sounds but there were also plenty of those awe-inspiring moments when Symphony Hall seemed to be completely full of the most wonderful music that made us all sit up and draw breath.
The interesting thing was that neither of the Strauss pieces end on a “high”, so though the applause was resounding, there wasn’t the same obviously rapturous reaction from the audience as one might have expected. What was noticeable though, was the fact that the audience remained seated for several curtain calls and Andris Nelsons’ acknowledgement of the various soloists and sections of the orchestra. Having watched the audience in Boston jump to their feet in a standing ovation but then scuttle out the door before the applause has even begun to abate, it’s good to watch a more respectful audience respond to a great evening of music. In particular, it’s fun to enjoy what has already become a small tradition between Andris and the orchestra – he begs them to stand and take another bow whilst they sit firm, insisting that it is he who should accept the applause and acclaim. Only after several of these small interactions does the leader of the orchestra finally give the nod and the orchestra rise to their feet and give in to their conductor’s request.
Such is the warmth and excitement with the CBSO right now – we feel particularly fortunate to be able to listen to such terrific music, if not quite on our doorstep, then certainly just a short way down the road.