I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra’s Blues to Beethoven: Beethoven & Gershwin concert Saturday night. Pat Angeley and I began our evening of cultural consciousness-raising with a lovely dinner at the Double Nickel Restaurant. We missed our first shot at sophistication when we passed up the wine list. I have never acquired a taste for wine, and Pat’s favorite was not on the list, but the glasses did look elegant and formal on the table, well, until our server removed them and used that space for food, which is what we came for in the first place.
The concert was at the Civic Center Theatre, where the level of refinement dropped a notch in favor of fun as patrons were presented with a glow-stick that turned into a blue bracelet to carry out the blue theme.
So, decked out in our cool blue glow-stick bracelets, we stood for the national anthem, which was emotional enough, but the program started with what are probably the best-known pieces penned by American composer George Gershwin, (1898-1937), An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, which were the reasons I wanted to come to the concert in the first place.
And I was not disappointed. My mother introduced me to these two masterpieces, and I never tire of listening to them. In fact, I traveled to Lubbock in 2008 to hear one of them the last time An American in Paris was performed by the symphony. I have two CDs of Gershwin, one by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops; the other by Leonard Bernstein and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. I play them when I am home alone so I can turn up the volume as loud as I want to in order to anticipate and appreciate all the instruments and movements. And I love both these interpretations, but I assure you, listening to a CD is not the same as being there, having the music envelop and wash over you, fill you with its harmony and melody, and as it catches in your throat, you feel like your heart is going to burst as the music hits its final triumphant notes, and the beauty of it touches your soul. At least it did mine. Tears were shed.
When Rhapsody in Blue was finished, guest pianist Jason Hardink played another short Gershwin piece for an encore, but I think I was only half listening; I was still reliving the last notes of Rhapsody.
After a brief intermission came the Beethoven part of the night. To tell you the truth, I already had my money’s worth, but I figured we should stay so we could be educated enough to be able to appreciate Beethoven and upon hearing his pieces some time in the future, be able to smugly say, “Ah, yes, Beethoven’s 5th…” Never mind that the whole world responds to da da da DA! but might not have a clue that it is in fact Beethoven they are hearing. It dawned on me as we were leaving that there is even a version of it on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack called “A Fifth of Beethoven.” See. You knew more about Beethoven than you realized! The symphony also played Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, which I did not recognize, but did enjoy hearing.
The Beethoven selections were beautiful music beautifully played, but it is Gershwin that I can’t get out of my mind as I try to recreate the experience.
My two CDs are going to enjoy a renewed sense of purpose now that I have been reminded of just how much I like these two semi-classical treasures. In fact, one of them has already found its way into the car CD player…
But I will be impatiently waiting to hear this beautiful music again, live, in all its musical splendor. Maestro Cho, are you listening?