Friday, November 30, 2012

Night of Knights

    It was a gloomy but mild November 29 eve as we drove toward the downtown theatre district. It was our concert night. We've been regular TSO enthusiasts since the early '70's.
    We always start our date night with a special dinner at one of the restaurants nearby. There are so many choices. After a leisurely meal we amble along King Street heading to Simcoe Street, to the Roy Thomson Hall's entrance. 
    Tonight we strolled past a gorgeous tall spruce tree, all lit up with white LED lights. They sparkled brightly and I smiled. I had a feeling tonight would be a fun evening musically. I would not be disappointed. By 19:50 we were seated in our designated places prepared to be uplifted by the sounds of music.
   The opening piece was Mendelssohn's overture to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' with Sir Andrew Davis conducting. His guest appearance added to its splendour for me. My mind at times wandered as lovely familiar tones set me adrift. In this very hall, 30 years ago, having just given birth to our daughter, I sat and like a typical mom I hoped someday she would develop a passion for listening and playing all kinds of music. But Andrew knew how to draw me back into real time. Beautifully as he waved his baton the music flowed.
   The next presentation rocked my soul into a whole different place. A mere seventeen year old, Jan Lisieciki, opened the only Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor with a big bang! His performance was as breathtaking as the piece itself. I recall I smiled as I thought of Schumann's wife Clara who had opened this piece on New Year's Day in 1846. Then I found myself being ported off to imagine what influence George Sand had on this composition if any. The pianist, conductor and the music gracefully ported me back into real time. All three movements captivated my attention in different ways. Having studied and taught instrumental music, I listened as well as watched aspects of the conducting and the techniques of the players. I listen for the blending and the individual sounds of the instrumentation. And I marvelled at Sir Davis's interpretation. Each conductor adds his uniqueness. And I dared to day dream too. What fun!
   For me the greatest surprise came after the intermission. You have probably heard of the story of Don Quixote and Sancho. Perhaps you know the story line from the film 'Man Of La Mancha'? But have heard the Richard Strauss version? Can you imagine a composer depicting the madness of Don Quixote using a cello to portray him? Or Sancho being the viola and several different instruments depending on the situation between those two? Strauss's use of minor keys and lots of rhythmic and tonal modulations create a spectacular composition, even a playful piece. He depicted many scenes from the story including the windmill and the battle against the sheep musically. I was most amused and I enjoyed this complex side of Strauss's music. 
    Sir Davis displayed his own enjoyment! Prior to conducting the Strauss piece he gave us a short oral synopsis, something we could just as easily have read in the program notes. He was clearly amused about performing this piece though he hinted it was quite a challenging one for both conductors and musicians. 
    Holding his baton in the air after the last note was played, he managed to hold us in total silence almost like the fellow who forced Don Quixote back into reality. Then slowly he lowered his baton. Once his hands were completely lowered the thunderous applause was as wild as the piece. Sir Davis had us all paying attention and he was loving it. How fitting that a real knight was at the helm for this piece and playing with our minds!
    And I left the hall thrilled. The gloomy eve felt so much brighter while we drove home. Music has a power that can change our senses.
P.S. There is a full version of Don Quixote by a different conductor and orchestra on You Tube here if you wish to listen. 


  1. How absolutely wonderful to have had such an experience, and then to share it with me. I enjoyed reading about your pleasure in hearing it. Sounds like everyone was thrilled to have been there. :-)

  2. Wonderful post! It sounds like you really enjoyed yourself. I was happy reading about the marvellous effect the music had on you.

  3. What a great post! It sounds like a very enjoyable time. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. What serendipity that you have just heard Strauss's Don Quixote, for I have just been introduced to this piece as well—though only on CD. I've never read the book, and now I must! Who would have thought of DQ as a cello, eh? I learned about Strauss's work here. Looks like tilting windmills has recently gone on both sides of the Atlantic!

  5. Oh, this sounds like a fabulous night. I'm a huge fan of classical music and Mr TR & I love going to listen to the symphony.

  6. Sounds like you had a marvelous time. So happy for you.

  7. Dear Heidrun, I know little about classical music and so I learned a great deal from your posting today. Thank you for explaining to us what to listen for in the Don Quixote piece. I so enjoyed also your descriptions of the conductor and his delight in music....and yours too. Peace.