Saturday night in Ann Arbor….for me that means the Ann Arbor Symphony. And though weather threatened snow we made the trip down for an evening of music. It was worth the drive.
They started out with Fratres for Strings and Percussion by Arevo Part, a contemporary composer. This work was written in 1977 and showcases his minimalistic style with six bars of music repeated, slightly differently, throughout the piece. It begins in the violins so softly you can barely hear and crescendos as cellos and finally the basses are added near the middle of the piece, then fades away again until you aren’t sure where it ended. The sound is contemplative, meditative, soothing.
The symphony’s Concertmaster violinist Aaron Berofsky was the featured soloist and masterfully played Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Violin in D Major, Op. 35. He has a beautiful sound, extraordinary technique and it was a joy to hear this melodic and technically challenging piece. Mr. Berofsky spoke at the lecture before the concert and said he first began working on this piece when he was 15 and it has continued to teach him throughout his lifetime. The audience was so moved that it burst into extended applause between the first and second movement.
After intermission we were delighted by Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op.13 “Winter Dreams.” Though I enjoyed the full and lush orchestration (usually my favorite parts of any symphony) of the first, third and fourth movements, I was caught off guard and extraordinarily moved by the second. (It begins at 11:42 on the link I provided.) Only a few minutes into it I realized my eyes were filled with tears and by the time the oboe and flute began their work together the tears were sliding down my face. I wiped them away surreptitiously thinking surely no one else was so moved. This piece is not played frequently and I told my Aunt after the performance that I could listen to it again right then. She grinned and responded “Wasn’t that second movement wonderful? I felt like I was floating.”
Symphony No. 1 has everything, the huge symphonic sound, the gentle tug on emotions, outstanding music for string, woodwinds, stunning horn work. If you’ve never heard a symphony please take the time to listen to this one. It’s worth every bit of the 44 minutes, I promise you. At least listen to the first two movements — I’ll bet you’ll be hooked and will stay for the rest.
Symphony No. 1 was composed in 1866, when Tchaikovsky was 25. As we drove home I tried to remember what I was doing when I was 25. I know I wasn’t creating something so beautiful that hundreds of people would sit mesmerized 147 years later. The combination of Tschaikovsky and the Ann Arbor Symphony is amazing; so wonderful so powerful, so relaxing. So beautiful that it defies description.
Last night the music was bigger than the hall. Surely it could not be contained in one room. Surely the music must have blown through the walls, burst through the ceiling and floated above the city of Ann Arbor. Surely it must have seeped into the spirit of all who live there, been expelled on the breath of everyone walking by, mingled in the hearts of all within miles, given up to the heavens and received by God.
As we walked out into the night we were greeted with snow. The holidays are upon us and the Ann Arbor Symphony had just presented us with our very first gift.
All I can say is thank you.