Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

An Organ Symphony

This morning I slept in a bit. My dogs woke me in the mid-morning, i.e., around 6:45 a.m. I attended the 11 a.m. service, where a guest minister's sermon advised us that our church may be helping to "plant" a church a bit closer to our home.

This afternoon I went to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. I purchased the least expensive tickets, which put me in a choir seat just behind the orchestra. This proved to be a quite good choice, as I found myself within a few yards of the percussionists and able to look the conductor in the eye.

I attended the prelude before the concert, in which a knowledgable music Ph.D. explained the three pieces. I was pleased that Poul Ruders, the Danish composer, discussed the piece he had written to be premiered at the DSO this weekend. He described how it did not have a narrative, but only the narrative that one has in one's mind while listening to it--perhaps colors, perhaps something else.

The first piece the orchestra played was Mozart's Symphony No. 35 in D Major, the Haffner symphony. This was eighteen minutes of light, pleasant but not bland melody, rather like an aperitif.

The second piece was the main course--Poul Ruders' Symphony No. 4 (an Organ Symphony). This piece was a fascinating entree'. The first movement, the Prelude, came upon the listener with a quiet interplay of strings and organ, as if the piece wished to come upon the listeners unawares. Mr. Ruders had suggested that his mental image was the organ and the orchestra first waking up, but I felt like I was at a bird blind at dawn rather than at an awakening in the suburbs. The second movement, the "cortege', featured strong melodic passages, including ominous dissonance. I liked its force, and also the Haydn organ homage tucked away in it. The third passage, the Etude, mixed darkness and light, and featured an elusiveness I liked. The fourth passage, the Chaconne, began with brimming classical and romantic nods, before slipping the paddock and wandering among the tallgrass. I rather liked this 4th Symphony. Mary Preston, the organist, did a great job with the many technically demanding sections in this very varied work. The organ at the Meyerson is a fine pipe organ, with an expressive sound.

After this fascinating piece, the audience gave good but not impressive applause. The composer came out, bowed, was handed a cowboy hat, put it on, took it off, bowed, and then exited. I heard a number of my fellow patrons express words of doubt about the piece. One member of the orchestra even cast an aspersion about the piece to a music student of his acquaintance nearby, showing the student a particularly difficult bit of the score. This was not this player's shining moment in human tact and common courtesy.

Had this piece debuted on Stillstream, the ambient netaudio radio station, it would have met with an appreciative audience, despite its being contemporary classical rather than ambient. People at that station would have "gotten" this piece's intentional shifts of theme and intensity, and its sense of whimsy. During the pregame, the composer told us that his mission statement is to entertain, amuse, and disturb, but not necessarily in that order. I like the people who support classical music, but sometimes I wish more of them were listeners rather than archivists. I like to see classical music as a living thing, and not casket memories.

The orchestra's third piece was "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the Strauss piece familiar to almost everyone because its opening passage is the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey". I'll tell you something--sitting in the cheap seats is a blessing when it lands you five paces from the timpani during the opening passages of this piece. The Strauss piece has all the bells and whistles of a romantic tone poem. I found it a delightful little dessert--rather like a huge Boston Creme pie, with extra creme.

When I emerged from the concert hall, another cold front had moved in. I had a great time at the concert--a world premiere by a noted composer is not an everyday event. I wish I had gotten someone to take a picture of me with him just after the lecture, but I saw no real context to impose myself upon either composer or fellow spectator in that way.

I drove to Allen, got a frozen yogurt at Yogurtville (I had skipped lunch), saw my wife embarking on a walk to the park (she had spent the afternoon with a woman from her stock club, researching), and then settled in to enjoy the waning of the weekend.
Tags: 4th, dallas, danish, organ, poul, ruders, symphony

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