Thursday 7 June 2012

Muffled symphony

I took Trevor to his first classical concert. I was surprised when he told me that he had never attended one. I had got two invitations from a friend to see a youth orchestra from an American music school. They were to perform a concerto for two pianos by Mozart and Mahler's 5th Symphony. The concert took place at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. I had never been to any concert there - I had never been to the Memorial at all, only walked past it. Such kind of monuments never attracted me, whatever the country.
Trevor was very happy to be there. I was happy to bring him to his first symphonic concert. I had never heard of that music school. Those two pieces were famous, so they were risking lots of harsh comparison.  
As soon as the piano concerto started, I knew we were in trouble. Much less because of the musicians than the acoustic of the venue. It was simply awful, better suited for conferences or meetings. After all, it was the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall not a concert venue... We were sitting on the 25th row and could barely hear anything. The sound of the orchestra was muffled by the heavy curtains at the back of the stage which considerable altered the timbre of the instruments. I took advantage of the intermission to hop down a good dozen rows closer to the stage. Trevor hesitated at first (were we really allowed to do so?) but was glad we did so. I called my friend who works as an agent for the orchestra, whether there would be any possibility to The sound was only slightly better, but that was already a huge improvement. 
The conductor didn't merely give the tempo and hold the orchestra. He had some personal ideas about how the music should be played. The prominent French horn part of the third movement became a solo part, so he invited the player to come to the front stage. The orchestra was clear and precise, beside a few occasional ducks and the fact that the winds and brass were much stronger than the strings, which sometime would make it sound like a harmony band - which wasn't unsuitable to some aspect of the symphony. I had been telling Trevor about the fourth movement, the famous adagietto which had enchanted so many music lovers and cinema goers alike. I was impatient to share the moment with him. But the conductor had other ideas. He obviously wanted to avoid any sentimentality and from adagietto, the movement became allegretto. Instead of the usual ten, eleven minutes favoured by the likes of Bernstein or Karajan, the whole affair was executed in no more than seven quick minutes. Worse than a coït interrompus. 
But Trevor was happy. He genuinely seemed to enjoy the music. The orchestra played a few encores. While the audience was applauding, I heard, for no apparent reason, the opening bars of Strauss' Radetzky Marsch. The reason was clear a few seconds after when the orchestra played the march. "Why are people so predictable?" I thought.

My way of communicating with Trevor is odd. Since I can't speak Mandarin, and his English is limited, we have to use his i-Phone for the translation. He even tried the vocal translator, but the results were as hilarious as they were unconvincing. 
I want to bring him to more concerts. Hopefully, better concerts.


1 comment:

  1. Hey, your blog post chronological system is interesting. almost make me miss your post.

    Next time, dont rely on iphone, trust the eye contact instead.

    Oh yea, i love the quote from Leon: we life our lives. and, i agreed, let your hair down dude. To live in the moment, just like what Jason Mraz sang.