Sturm und Drang
If the late afternoon weather so far up here in Vail is any guide, the DSO’s performances at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival will be full of excitement, drama, and intensity. Our first concert Wednesday evening had all that and more. Music Director Jaap van Zweden was heard afterwards to say “It was one of the best Beethoven 7’s we have ever done!” I have to agree with him on that.
But it wasn’t an ordinary opening night by any means, let alone a normal concert.
The day started off well enough with perfectly fine conditions for a morning rehearsal of Beethoven.
Even Mr. Conductor who guards the front of the theater was happy in the dappled sunlight.
Other than the process of getting situated in the environment, starting to acclimate to the altitude and dry air, dealing with the logistics of instrument and wardrobe cases, and adjusting to a different performance schedule, it was pretty much business as usual for a first day on tour.
After the rehearsal we all went about our afternoon routines with an eye on getting back to the theater during the five o’clock hour rested, refreshed and ready for the concert at 6 p.m. It’s actually pretty tough to keep energy and focus on this schedule, especially early in our time up here. I’m always impressed with how the players manage in the thin air — especially the ones who have to BREATHE. You wouldn’t know by listening to them that their bodies were all racing to make more blood cells and oxygen.
So, despite a few afternoon clouds, it was a lovely Colorado day. The players gathered on stage to begin the concert with the Star Spangled Banner. Senior Associate Concertmaster Gary Levinson tuned the orchestra, Maestro van Zweden went out and gave the cue for the timpani roll, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra was off and running in its first performance of the 2011 Vail festival season.
After the banner, the orchestra launched into a vigorous Egmont Overture. They sounded great, and the horn section did indeed rock it; what fantastic music!
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto followed the overture with violinist Ida Kavafian, cellist Peter Wiley, and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott (who is also festival Artistic Director) as soloists. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the wonderful performance.
At intermission we had a stage move to reset for Beethoven Symphony No. 7. This is one of the busiest times for an orchestra librarian during a concert — moving folders, picking up soloists music, exchanging full scores for the next work, and generally making sure everyone has their parts (and wind clips).
The orchestra then began the second half and I went into the lounge to start writing this blog. All of a sudden, as if on cue with the timpani, I heard a loud sound that was clearly not man-made and looked up at the skylight to see dark sky and trees waving wildly in the wind. Stormy weather had moved in without warning. Oh no, the music!
I raced out to the edge of the stage to see players frantically clipping their music while continuing to play. At this point, there wasn’t real rain, and after a few minutes things died down. The orchestra went on as if nothing had happened, and all seemed under control. It wasn’t long, though, before the storm decided to unleash its full force. Now there was rain coming in from the sides of the stage. Musicians were moving their stands and chairs away from the rain’s range, and some had to leave the stage altogether. At the end of the movement Maestro van Zweden begged the audience’s indulgence and waited a few moments to begin the slow movement. The orchestra did make it through that but just barely — it was now clear the concert couldn’t continue.
Once again the Maestro told the audience the orchestra would have to stop so the instruments were not ruined. But he asked them to wait, and we would try to come back and finish the symphony. That brought loud cheering and applause, and musicians and listeners alike waited for the wind and rain to abate.
And in true Colorado fashion, it did just that. A little bit later sun came through the clouds and a dazzling rainbow arced across the theater. The players moved back on stage, took their places, and completed the performance with a rousing Scherzo and Finale of the symphony. It really was a spectacular performance enhanced by nature’s drama and unpredictability. Live music at its best!
We shall see what transpires in our upcoming performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. With the Hammerblows of Fate, I doubt Mother Nature can resist a little atmospheric gift. See you then.