What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?

Photo credit Carlin Ma

Beethoven's 9th 

Seattle Symphony @ Benaroya Hall

Right, right… it's Beethoven's glorious 9th. And what a triumph it was. Having lived in Seattle for nearly a decade now and never having encountered anyone remotely resembling Dr. Frasier Crane, going to Benaroya Hall for a performance by The Seattle Symphony seemed like one last place he might be hiding. As it turns out… Nope. There were certainly more blazer jackets than one is likely to see wandering the streets of The Emerald City, but Dr. Crane's tuxedo was a poorly represented minority. However, it made up for what the night lacked in fictional TV characters from the '90s with awe-inspiring music.

My only regret is that I didn't catch up with The Seattle Symphony sooner, and my New Year's resolution is to make up for lost time. What a magical experience! To listen to a small army of masterful musicians, all exceptionally accomplished on their instruments, brought together in an agreement of sound by the music Ludwig van Beethoven; sometimes, humanity doesn't suck. All cynicism aside, it's moments like these which make me proud to be a Homo sapien. Though it's been a long time since I listened to a symphony live, I grew up playing clarinet and have taken my place in a pit orchestra several times. I sincerely appreciate the genre, listening to it with some regularity, but this is the best classical music I have been privileged to hear live. My familiarity with Beethoven's 9th Symphony made it all the more exhilarating to hear it vibrantly brought to life. They played the 2nd movement magnificently, building to a powerful culmination with the choral finale of Beethoven's declaration of love for all humankind. Hearing that live, feeling its forceful vibrations pass through you, warming your innards, is a near-overwhelming experience. I think Anthony Burgess said best through the words of his wicked little Alex, "It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now."

I love a song that can make nonsense of gravity, so I returned the following weekend to float through interstellar space again, this time with the sounds of Antonin Dvořák and Sergey Rachmaninov. Now, I had the unique pleasure of listening with virgin ears to both pieces. There's nothing quite like the first time. With Pablo Ferrández playing the title instrument for Dvořák's "Cello Concerto in B minor," the passion was palpable. The dance between Ferrández's cello and accompanying woodwinds, particularly the leading flutist, was utterly enchanting—such humbling and humanizing sounds. Rachmaninov's "Symphony No. 2 in E minor" followed and was an emotional experience with all the rising peaks and titillating troughs that come with a memorable sexual encounter. A truly intimate experience. At moments. I felt removed from my surroundings, and if I closed my eyes, there was only an expansive darkness and my solitary consciousness as it was enveloped in the ranging pulse of human emotion. I like that. I like that very much and want more of it.

 As a tail-end representative of Generation X, I find myself in a place of shifting preferences for what to do with a Saturday evening. While a band like Tool still has all the power to galvanize, I find myself with an itch for intricacy that much modern music can't quite scratch. Moreover, sitting down and not having to fight for my place in a mosh pit perpetually has its advantages. As a specific call-out to my fellows of our oft-forgotten generation, if you've never sought musical epiphany in the grandeur of Benaroya Hall, then I highly recommend exploring all the possibilities that await you. Plenty of reasons make living in a big city complicated and sometimes difficult, but having regular access to the caliber of performance presented by the Seattle Symphony is a convincing argument for making it all worth it.

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