A week or so ago somebody wrote about their first experience seeing a live symphony orchestra. Well I’ve seen a few, but I’ve been attending much more often since I’ve been playing with GSO. For instance, I bought seasons tickets to the local orchestra, the Nashua Symphony Orchestra.
I also bought a season of passes to rehearsals for the Boston Symphony and have so far seen one, a great show under the baton of Andre Previn.
Last night I saw the first regular (non-rehearsal) show at Symphony Hall. (I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been in New England for 15 years and had never been to a BSO concert.) James Levine is the BSO’s new music director and was conducting. The show included Ligeti’s Lontano, Mozart’s Prague Symphony, Shoenberg’s 5 pieces for orchestra and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Prentemps. I was 5 rows back, practically in the 2nd violin section (they use the classical setup instead of the “new” setup with 1st and second violins next to each other).
What I didn’t add to the other thread on live music (because I read it at work and can’t post from work) was that I can hear so much more going on with a live orchestra than a CD. No place was this truer than with The Rite of Spring. This is one of my all time favorites and I’ve heard dozens of versions and have four on CD, not including Disney’s from Fantasia, in my collection and yet I can’t believe how much I never heard until last night! I totally appreciate that piece from an entirely new angle.
And the Shoenberg – I have a CD of it but never really heard it until last night – I almost didn’t recognize it. It’s such a great piece of music but I never realized how dynamic it is. Somebody 2 seats down from me fell asleep during Lontano but I can assure you there was no snoring during the 5 pieces (or Sacre).
Music is made to be heard live, classical music much more than pop or rock. I can pick out every note of every instrument simultaneously at all times when I hear it live. I’m lucky if I can pick out one or two instruments on a CD. To me listening to a CD is almost like seeing a picture of a banquet while seeing the music live is actually being there, tasting the food, hearing the sounds, etc. There is no comparison. And of course there is no replacement for riding on a subway car full of people in Halloween costumes on the way to and from Symphony Hall (Ok, a few people had on Red Sox gear instead of Halloween costumes).
No matter how the technology improves and how close to reality it will eventually become, there will never be an experience of seeing a live orchestra from a small city orchestra like the NSO to a world class organization like the BSO nothing will replicate the experience.