Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mozart and the celesta (i.e. ice cream truck music)

This blog post is a week late, but here it is anyway. I hope I haven't forgotten anything too important.

Last Friday (March 5th) Andrew and I attended our regular Masters series concert at the ESO. At first we weren't entirely sure if we were going to go or not. I had (another) bad fall that morning at skating and was suffering from a sore back, knee, and hip. I'd been taking muscle relaxants (which I've never done before) during the afternoon, and alternately heating and cooling my back. I was worried about: a) how well I would sit through the concert; and b) if I would be able to stay awake during the concert (the muscle relaxants I was taking caused drowsiness). We were unable to find anyone to take the tickets on short noticed, and not wanting to let them go to waste, we decided to go.

Since Edmonton has been experiencing moderate, spring-like temperatures as of late we decided to walk to the Winspear (about a 25 to 30 minute trip) and along the way we met one of the members of the ESO. Dressed in black and a instrument case strapped to her back we guessed we were probably heading in the same direction. Andrew, being much more friendly than I, decided to ask if she was indeed a part of the orchestra, and she confirmed she was a part of the viola section (second viola as we discovered later once we had taken our seats). We had a nice chat as the three of us walked downtown, until Andrew and I departed to take care of a couple of quick errands at the City Centre Mall.

The evening's programme was filled with Mozart. Two of his better known, with two of his lesser known pieces. To confess, I am more of a Beethoven, than a Mozart fan, but I enjoyed the concert all the same. The first piece performed, the Fantasy in F Major, had a most fascinating history. What we heard on Friday was in fact a orchestration of Mozart's original composition, which was written to be played on a mechanized organ (supposedly much like a player piano) owned by an eccentric German collector. Although Mozart reportedly felt the piece sounded tinny, it has since been recognized that the Fantasy contains once of his best fugues. The first half of the evening was rounded out with Symphony No. 40. At first I had mistaken this to be his Jupiter Symphony, but have since determined that that was actually Symphony 41. Regardless, No. 40 is still an easily recognizable piece for classical music lovers, and one of the last Mozart wrote.

Having learned our lesson at our last ESO concert, Andrew and I took the opportunity the intermission afforded us to stand, and stretch our legs and back. Thankfully, I wasn't in much pain and I didn't have any difficulty try to stay awake as I had initially feared I would. The second half began with Mozart's Adagio and Rondo, which featured the celesta. The celesta is an intriguing key-board instrument, which produces a ring/chime sort of sound. Mr. Eddins (ESO conductor) noted it unfortunately sounded a great deal like an ice cream truck and confessed later during the after thoughts that he hoped he would never conduct from the celesta again, as he had that night. Interestingly, the Adagio and Rondo was actually written for the glass harmonica, an instrument something akin to playing water glasses. The final piece of the evening was the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor. The piece is only the 2nd of 30 Mozart piano concertos written in a minor key.

Once again, we had a lovely evening at the symphony. As I've expressed before, I always find the ESO performances excellent, and the Winspear Centre a wonderful venue. We received our order form for next year's concerts earlier this week and I can't wait to renuew our tickets. There are a number of additional performances on the list that we hope to attend including the ESO's Gala: Cirque de la Symponie (yes we saw this show a year ago, but Andrew and I both love Cirque), a Bugs Bunny and the orchestra show, Chantel Kreviazuk and the ESO, and if possible a show featuring Tom Allen (a CBC radio host) as narrator. I really do love classical music, and since I will be back to full-time work, as of May, I'm looking forward to supporting my local symphony orchestra.



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