Night at the CSO

Here’s a quick report from the field for last night’s Honors Program attendance to the CSO.

The first piece the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featured–Entr’acte No. 3 from Rosamunde–was so gentle that the conductor Muti was making motions like someone brushing snowflakes off velvet.  It hardly sounded like the sort of thing you’d expect from a manic dynamo like Schubert.  In fact, the second composition–a tone poem by CSO composer in residence, Anna Clyne–was intended to complement the Schubert pieces, not by imitating his Romantic musical vocabulary, but rather by offering a harrowing rendering of mental disorder and the possibilities for peace for an artistic temperament.  I have a somewhat limited patience for that sort of psychologistic project. But Anna Clyne’s process of creating the piece was utterly fascinating: she oscillated between the piano bench and canvases on the wall of her studio.  She described this as collaboration with herself, a description which I thought pretty wonderful. 

(It also suggested to Bryan Kunz that perhaps we should try naming ourselves as collaborators on our submitted essays to professors and editors, perhaps even citing ourselves in our footnotes: “Careful readers of this essay will note my indebtedness to and collaboration with myself.  See page three of this essay.”)

The final work of the evening was Schubert’s “Grand” Symphony.  Now there’s a word we don’t use often enough, or properly enough.  But the music was grand, not only in the largeness of its sound, but also in its constant deferring of resolution.  Schubert likes to switch back and forth between major and minor keys, and he does this in a grandly evocative way in this composition.  There was a man below us (we were six floors up–a little dizzying) who could hardly stay in his seat, head back, swaying to the music, waving his arms, and so on.  But the music called for response.  It wasn’t just to be overheard.  It asked to be joined. 

It was good to be in Muti’s company, and Schubert’s.

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