November 2007

Berlin in Lights at Carnegie Hall

November 19, 2007 14:59

From November 2-18, the culture of Berlin was brought to various New York institutions. The Museum of Modern Art ran a series of films focused on the capital, the Goethe-Institut showcased photography from Berlin, and Carnegie Hall presented the music, offering performances by one of the world’s greatest orchestras.

The Berlin Philharmonic performed three sold-out concerts during the week of the 11th. Tickets were not cheap, running from $62 to $210. Luckily, as a student subscriber, I got my tickets to the last concert for only $15. I didn’t have great seats, but I had a pretty impressive view from three tiers up. ;) Darn good for fifteen bucks.

The last time I heard the Berlin Philharmonic was in May, and I was spellbound for ages afterwards. Normally, I’m not can’t-breath-can’t-stop-grinning-excited for concerts, but this time was different. I was more excited than when I... well, I can't even remember the last time I had been that excited. I wanted to re-experience what I had felt for the first time when I heard the orchestra in May—that mix of lightheadedness and awe and joy, that insane jumble of emotions. I was dying of anticipation. I warned myself that I was thinking too much. Just sit, and enjoy the concert.

The concert began with György Kurtág’s Stele, Op. 33, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. I had never heard it or of it before, and I don’t remember much about what happened during the fifteen or so minutes it lasted. I believe I just sat and listened when all of a sudden the piece ended and I was left confused with a question mark over my head. The concert was quite interesting that it started slightly past eight, and the intermission came at around 8:20. The second half (of rather 8/10) of the program consisted of Mahler’s 10th Symphony. Mahler died before he got to finish his 10th (the score played was the one completed by Deryck Cooke.) All I can say is: MARVELOUS. The solos were breathtaking (flutes and cellos, oh boy!), and Sir Simon Rattle became a soloist in that he played one instrument: The Orchestra. Each separate section was in such perfect unison with the others (violas included xD), and what crescendos! This description is going to sound crazy, but as I was watching the violin section, I felt that their bow arms were, well, swimming. Hmm… I really am losing it, aren’t I? At the end of the Mahler, Rattle held his arms in the air for a couple of minutes (audience was deadly silent) before dropping them (audience bursted into applause). A standing ovation was totally deserved, and the applause was nearly as loud at the Berlin Philharmonic fortissimos. ;) Bravo!

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And today's debate topic is: 'How to play like Linda'

November 2, 2007 15:28

In school, at least one day every week, someone will raise their hand to state an opinion. This will often lead to more people stating their points of view and eventually the whole class will be involved. It’s a great scenario for a debate class, but the class isn’t about law or politics—It’s about orchestra. High school orchestra.

Yes, there are a handful of students who find it necessary to question every little thing the teacher says, just because they can. These students have discovered how easily the teacher can get annoyed and have experimented enough to find out the best way to do it in the shortest amount of time. The teacher isn’t great in terms of controlling the class either—Sure, he’s a nice guy and he really tries hard to please everyone, but he’s just a bit sensitive for the average high school orchestra. Combine the students and the teacher and you get an everyday situation:

Student A does something really dumb to get the teacher pissed off just because-->
teacher getting annoyed, which is what Student A wanted in the first place-->
Teacher makes big long speech about ‘behavior’ in orchestra, how it’s the last time he will get angry, how it’s always the same people-->
Student B, who sits by Student A, accuses the teacher of accusing ‘the same people’ when “we didn’t do anything-->
Teacher tells everyone to put down the instruments for a debate-->
A big fiery debate which will end when Student A raises her hand to say, “Why is this happening in orchestra? We’re here to make music… why can’t we just do that?”

Past issues discussed in these debates have included orchestra rules, the culprits of excessive talking, and, unbelievably, abortion. Today the debate was a lot more interesting than usual because I was the indirect cause of it.

My teacher has these “playing tests” every few weeks where he listens to each person playing ‘orchestra excerpts’ and checks to make sure the fingerings are written on the music (aka abridged arrangements of popular tunes, like the can-can or 1812). These playing tests are counted as tests and make up x% of the report card grade. Today, he was reminding everyone to show him their marked music when he made the mistake of saying, “…unless you play like Linda.”

Student A then raised her hand to ask, “well, excuse me… but what exactly do you mean by play like Linda? Why do you always have to use her as an example all the time?” This led a huge discussion on what “play like Linda” meant and how one "played like Linda", in which half the orchestra stated their opinions. Meanwhile, I was relaxing in my chair, half-smiling and rather enjoying the action. It felt (horribly) wonderful to hear the majority of people come to my defense. Haha, it was just one of those moments where I thought, "This can't seriously be happening."

I have to say that it was the first time I caused chaos without trying to, which proves just how evil I truly am. ;) So any overnight tips on how to play like Oistrakh? xD

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