Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boston Philharmonic Orchestra at Harvard University

The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra Tuning Up Before the Concert Begins!

Being immersed in music, splendidly performed, is one of life's most supreme joys.

Such was the case Sunday, April 15, when the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra performed its final concert of  its 31st season in Sanders Theater on the Harvard College campus.  Benjamin "Ben" Zander, conductor of the orchestra since 1979, exuded high energy, endless enthusiasm, and magnetism.  

Dressed in a dark tux, white shirt, and red tie, with a shock of whitish grey hair, Zander gave a pre-concert lecture. In his electrifying speaking style, he eloquently explained the music that was about to be performed. He described Silvestre Revuelta's "Sensemaya" as "an amazing piece of music" that is "hypnotic, fun, and not too serious." Part of the music portrays a snake that has "magic properties," which eventually meets his sacrificial death in the piece.

Guest harpist, Gwyneth Wentink, a native of the Netherlands, played Harp Concerto, Op.25 by Ginastera with shimmering grace, style, and passion. More than 6 feet tall and reed slender, she wore a magenta colored floor-length gown, strapless on one shoulder. Her exquisite performance highlighted the afternoon.

The third piece performed was Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."  In his pre-concert lecture, Zander colorfully expalined how Stravinsky had a dream about a virgin dancing herself to death.  He wrote "The Rite of Spring,"
a "complicated piece," that took 120 rehearsals for musicians to play it for the very first time in May of 1913 in Paris.  At that time, there was Pandemonium in the audience and some concert goers were even hurt in the commotion. Zander explained how the "strangeness of the music and choreography caused anxiety and tension in the audience."  The piece, which provides a "phenomenal experience,"  also unleashes primitive emotions within people, Zander said.

Within The Rite of Spring there are "sounds of nature, the stored up energies of spring, and wild dances."
      "This is not the Nutcracker," Zander joked.  "There are no tutus here. It is the opposite of grace." 

He was quite right when he said the music could be felt viscerally in the body.  "It's very exciting," the conductor told the audience. "It bristles with excitement. It has power, violence, and speed."

How could anyone not want to hear a piece that roars "like a lion" and sounds like a  "herd of buffaloes in full cry?"  The part of the piece where the virgin dances herself to death is "terrifying in its intensity," Zander said. Again, he was right. The Rite of Spring would be impossible to forget.

Sanders Theater, where the musicians played, is wrapped in wood from floor to ceiling. It is patterned after a theater in Oxford, England. A large lighted circular chandelier hangs way above from the wooden ceiling. Harvard commencement ceremonies used to be held there. Throughout the years, some famous people have spoken in the theater including Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King!

The towering statue to the right of the stages depicts Josiah Quincy. It was done by William Wetmore Storey.  Quincy served as a Massachsuetts congressman, judge, mayor of Boston, and president of Harvard.

Kudos to Ben Zander, guest harpist, Gwyneth Wentink, and to all members of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for such a splendid performance!


Chatty Crone said...

You are so blessed to have been able to see this! Lucky too. Some day I'd like to see them too.


Anonymous said...

That must have been spectacular. I've only been to a handful of concerts at Powell Symphony Hall but I so enjoyed them. You must have really enjoyed yourself. I'm so glad you got to attend.

Rebecca said...

Oh, the sounds and sights you encountered! I know it was soul-enriching! Even "second-hand" (thanks to your fine commentary) I'm able to joy over the gifts and talents of musicians and architects!

BECKY said...

Sounds wonderful! I've been to just a few concerts at Powell Symphony Hall, too. (If we're talking the same "Powell", Rosie@JourneytoCharm must live somewhere near me! Thanks for the info and the photos, Susan!

diane stetson said...

I've been to Sander's Hall and have seen the orchestra and I always am amazed at how much I learn when I hear Maestro Zander's lectures. So glad you had the opportunity to go to a Boston Philharmonic concert! Great shots of the hall too!

Dayle Allen Shockley said...

I would have been in heaven.

Leann said...

Hi Susan

What a wonderful treat! Thanks so much for all of your warm and lovely comments this week.

I'll be by again as soon as my life calms down a bit.


Susan said...

Hello Everyone! Thank you all SO MUCH for visiting and leaving your comments. Wonderful to hear from each and every one of you.

And WELCOME to all new followers! Denise, Jane Girl, Carolyn, and Dayle! I am SO HAPPY you chose to follow. Please stop by any time you can as that will always fill me with joy!

Sincerely, Susan

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