A n Evening at the Symphony I found myself, last Friday evening, sitting in Severence Hall, anticipating a magnificent show by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. I was thumbing through my program, reading about the soloists and the selections that were going to be performed, and listening to the disjointed chords and notes of the performers warming up. It was the first time I'd ever been to the symphony, and although at first I was reluctant to go--I always thought that attending a symphony would be a very sedate and boring waste of time--but I was glad that I did. I was reading the history of Daniel Majeske, the feature violin soloist, when a thunderous round of applause erupted all around me. I looked up at the stage and out walked a young man toting a violin. He bowed to the audience, then turned towards the orchestra and signalled for a sounding note. All the performers at once tuned their instruments to that single note, then when the young violinist sat down, all was quiet. Moments later there was another round of applause, though this time much more forceful, and onto the stage, armed with only his baton, walked Jahja Ling, the conductor. He approached the two first seat violinists, shook their hands then ascended his podium, turned and bowed to the audience, then turned back to the orchestra who sat patiently awaiting his command. It seemed like an eternity. The conductor stood still, waiting for everything to become silent, and when it had, he raised his hands. The performers readied their instruments, then in a matter of seconds, music filled the Hall. I sat in rapture, my mouth agape. The music surrounded me, flowed through me. I watched in awe the performer's fingers gliding effortlessly over their instrument's, their bows swinging back
and forth in unison, their eyes shifting from their music to their leader, the conductor. I was filled with feelings of utter bliss. The first piece, Overture to Der Freischutz by Weber, lasted only nine minutes, but the music seemed endless in its passion. My heart raced to the speed of the notes and the crescendos of the music. My eyes darted back and forth from the performers who were on the edge of their seats, to the conductor who was waving his hands wildly in the air, commanding each section of instruments to do its part. When the first piece was over, the audience went wild with applause. I wanted to shout "Bravo!" along with some other spectators, but I was speechless. The performers stood and bowed at the command of their conductor, who was bowing along with them. When all was quiet again, and when the conductor had left the stage, a man brought out two music stands and stood them out front with no seats. I suspected these were for the soloists in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, and I was right. A few minutes after the music stands were in place, two men, Robert Vernon, viola soloist, and Daniel Majeske, violin soloist, walked on stage and were greeted with the same enthusiastic round of applause that the audience had been providing all evening. The two men stood in front of me on the stage and bowed low to us, then turned back to their music stands, studying the music and tuning their instruments one last time. The conductor returned to the stage, shaking the hands of the star soloists, himself bowing and leading the orchestra once again into majestic performance. I had my eyes and ears set on the violin soloist. He was totally engrossed in his playing and would often close his eyes, savoring each note. When it came to his first solo, his fingers went wild over his instrument. I could actually hear him breath as he
played, and I could see his face contort when he came upon a particularly difficult part, and relax when he had completed it successfully. I watched, too, some other performers who occasionally smiled at one another when they successfully played a complex part. The final piece, Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven, was performed with equal skill and beauty. And when all was done, and the last note had ceased to ring, a thunderous applaud sang forth from the audience. The conductor motioned for the performers to take their final bow. Three times the conductor and the two soloists left and returned to the stage to take their long, low and much deserved bows. My heart was racing, I was out of breath, and my mind was filled with the echoes of music. During the long bus ride home, I sat in silence, savoring the sweet memories of the evening. And I vowed that I'd never again pass up the opportunity to see the symphony.
Published on Nov 12, 2008