Friday, May 8, 2015

My, My, Mahler

I'm already late in my recap of yesterday's working rehearsal for the NSO performance last night of Mahler's Fifth Symphony at the Kennedy Center, so the Washington Post's review, focusing on guest violinist Leonidas Kavakos's participation, should fill in my usual gaps.

What I love about the working rehearsals is seeing the actual work go into an artistic performance. The musicians are not demigods, delighting the elites among us mere mortals (though you do have to be elite enough to join the Kennedy Center's second-to-lowest membership level to score a rehearsal invite--a privilege I have to forgo for the next season due to my recently compromised budget). The disadvantage is that you don't get the whole impact of the performance, as there are fits and starts, do-overs, and, as I learned, movements might get moved out of order.

Yesterday's experience was a delight on at least two levels for me, so there will be a part two of this post coming later (I know not to say "Soon" in some of my social circles).

The Level One delight (for blog post Two) was hearing Mahler's Fifth Symphony and being caught up in a vivid and very visual narrative. Some call that daydreaming; others call it plot development. The result was a treatment, a story line, for a ballet. There was enough light in the Concert Hall's orchestra seats to let me scribble notes throughout the rehearsal, which apparently broke for an intermission before completing all five movements.

I know this because, ignorant as I am about music, I never demur from asking stupid audience questions when given the opportunity. And I got that opportunity, so this gave me a bonus delight from yesterday's experience. A woman sitting in the row in front of me appeared very knowledgeable about what was going on, and I overheard her tell her seatmate that the conductor left something out. There was something wrong about the movements and the order in which they were rehearsed.

And this expert in the audience also happened to notice me scribbling in my Handy Dandy Notebook. She assumed I had some musical knowledge and would be able to answer her question about the missing Mahler movement. I oh-so-casually said, No, I never heard this piece before. I'm just writing a ballet here. Heh.

We had a lovely conversation after that. My new friend, a violinist, was happy to hear how I, as an audience member, responded to the music. (I won't lie, I don't know how proficient any particular musician is except how he or she makes me feel; that Mahler piece, despite all the interruptions, had me in tears.)

So at the end of the working rehearsal, I got to ask my Stupid Audience Question, something that had been niggling at me since last year's NSO working rehearsal with clarinetist Martin Fröst and guest conductor Osmo Vänskä, performing a clarinet concerto by Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. I noticed that the musicians were very busy scribbling notes on their sheet music so as to execute Vänskä's instructions on the obviously difficult piece. So my question was, Do the musicians get to keep the sheet music?

The answer, my friend informed me, is No. The sheet music used by the NSO is returned to the orchestra's library, where someone erases all the pencil marks scribbled by the musicians. Mystery solved! I love it.

Next time - Notes on a Ballet inspired by Mahler's Fifth Symphony.

Love, hosaa
dancing in my mind

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