In which we get some culture

This Christmas I purchased some tickets to the Oregon Symphony as a gift for Kimberly. Today was the day of the performance, a matinee featuring violin soloist Joshua Bell. Of course there was a cloud of doubt hanging over the afternoon due to weather forecasts, and during some brief, hard snows I had some worries, but overall the weather proved no obstacle.

Actually the biggest obstacle was the length of the line to get into the women’s washroom in the Schnitz. Thankfully we arrived plenty early, so it did not cause a big problem. We were in our seats several minutes before “curtain up” (there was no curtain). Very few of our neighbors had found their correct seats, so the last moments before the beginning of the concert were filled with “can I see your ticket?”

The first thing you need to know about the Oregon Symphony is that their music director has textbook maestro hair. Carlos Kalmar also has the inscrutable conducting style which is de rigeur for the professional orchestra scene. He led a very enjoyable program, which offered some good variety.

Joshua Bell, the featured soloist for Brahm’s violin concerto, was excellent. The program notes called him a “rockstar” of classical music. One of the benefits of being a rockstar classical musician as opposed to being a rank-and-file musician is that you do not have to wear a tuxedo in performance.

(Speaking of the rank-and-file, I found at that the members of the Oregon Symphony are in a labor union, the American Federation of Musicians, local 99).

Bell plays the Gibson Stradivarius of 1713. He purchased it for just shy of $4 million. I realized during the concert that it must be the most expensive object I’ve ever laid eyes on. When Brahm’s (the composer of the concerto which Bell performed) was born, that violin was already 120 years old!

It was really fun for Kimberly and I take to take in this concert. We’ve both been involved in music, Kimberly especially so in college, but we had not been to such a concert in quite some time. We also got to check off “go on a date” from our Winter Bucket List.

Sometimes the pageantry seems ridiculous. Why does everyone dress up so nice, and why are there such formal strictures of concert etiquette? Shouldn’t $4 million dollars be appropriated somewhere more helpful? But at the same time I cannot help but appreciate the beauty of the endeavor. Symphonic music represents an excellent yet under-appreciated aspect of our culture. I think it is wonderful when really talented people come together and make music. It was nice to just take it in for an afternoon.

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One Response to In which we get some culture

  1. Erin says:

    That sounds like a lot of fun. I miss the days when we had season tickets to our symphony. It is rather entertaining to read the biography of the violin or cello of the featured soloist in the program notes at the symphony. Joshua Bell being able to afford his own really does make his a rock star! In many cases we’ve read at concerts that the violin or cello is owned by a bank or trust and on loan to the musician.

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