Monday, October 24, 2011

From the perspective of the audience

This past week the Columbus Symphony woodwind and brass players had a few days off while our Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni gave the strings, percussion and keyboards quite a workout in the following program:

Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Bernstein: Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium)

Of course it seemed strange to attend a concert presented by my orchestra in which I was not performing, but I relished the opportunity to experience one of our concerts from the perspective of the audience.

This was no ordinary concert - it was the premier of the Columbus Symphony's new series in the Southern Theatre.   For the first time ever, the CSO is presenting four of its twelve Masterworks programs in the Southern Theatre in an effort to create a more personal and informal experience for concertgoers.  The attire of the performers for the Southern Theatre concerts is more casual, and beverages are allowed in the hall.  The series also features more interaction from the stage. 
There was an undeniable buzz in the air as the sizable audience prepared to experience the new CSO format.  The Southern Theatre is quite a bit smaller than our usual venue, the Ohio Theatre.  The smaller size provides a better connection between audience and musicians. I tested several seats, from the top of the third balcony to the front of the floor, and each location provided great views (and as I would later find out, fabulous acoustics).  A hush fell over the audience as the performers walked out onstage en masse, European style.

Before the concert began, Jean-Marie Zeitouni spoke about the Bartok, explaining in understandable terms how the piece is based upon the math concepts of the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence. poster There was a slide show accompanying his speech as shown on the photo below:
I was completely blown away by the performance of the Columbus Symphony strings, percussion and keyboard players.  The superior acoustics of the Southern Theatre contributed to the success of the concert for sure, but the excellence of the concert is mainly attributable to Jean-Marie Zeitouni and the orchestra.  I have heard the strings play in the past when they performed works with no bassoons, but this performance was by far the most impressive.

Rachel with Mark O'ConnorViolin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine joined the orchestra for the Bernstein Serenade.  Before beginning the piece, Jean-Marie Zeitouni explained that it was based upon Plato's Symposium on the true nature of love.  After delivering a splendidly lyrical and colorful rendition of the Bernstein, Ms. Pine further delighted the audience with a blues encore written by Corky Siegel.  Embracing the CSO's new format, Ms. Pine regaled the audience with a fascinating story about one of Corky Seigel's most ardent fans, conductor Seiji Ozawa.

And that wasn't the end of it!  The audience was encouraged to step into the adjacent Thurber Bar after the concert to mingle with the musicians, including Jean-Marie Zeitouni and Rachel Barton Pine.  The bar was packed - the buzz turned into a  ROAR.  Even though I hadn't been performing that night, I had the pleasure of meeting some enthusiastic audience members, several of whom showed off their freshly-honed comprehension of Fibonacci and Golden Ratio concepts.....



Julia said...

Thanks for the review, Betsy. I wish I could've been there. We have a fine string section, don't we? Your diagram at the end gave me an uncomfortable flashback to 3rd year college music theory, but it sounds like the concert was very enjoyable!

violinista said...

That diagram also brought back some bad memories of my last year of theory in college, haha. (But maybe I should revisit that soon and overcome some of that discomfort!)

Good review! I really need to come to one of the CSO concerts this season. Sorry I missed the String Summit.

B.S. said...

Julia - yes, we do have a fine string section, and I'm glad everyone had the chance to find out!

Wow- you had to take 3 years of college music theory?! We only had 2 years of theory at Eastman.


B.S. said...

Violinista - It must be that we all studied the Bartok in college theory (and share uncomfortable memories of it)! I do hope that you make it to a CSO concert soon.