Friday, February 24, 2017

Beethoven as SEEN at the KC Symphony

"A lot is going on at once allowing you to direct your attention where best you see fit in a given moment. It's like life that way." - Colin Fleming, referring to Beethoven's 8th Symphony

The program for the Kansas City Symphony last weekend (I was there Sunday Feb 16th) included Beethoven's Eighth Symphony. As is always the case at a KC Symphony concert, the sound was incredible. No surprise there. But what stood out for me was the visual nature of Beethoven's music. Just as our eye follows a basketball or tennis ball in said sporting events, one can also "follow the ball" of a Beethoven Symphony.  Unlike the previous piece on the program, a wonderful, ethereal work by young composer David Hertzberg called "for none shall gaze upon the Father and live" which requires utter silence to begin (made difficult due to Amber Alerts blowing up every one's phones and the multitude of chronic tuberculosis sufferers in attendance) the 8th blasts off without warning. Maestro Stern hopped up on the podium for the Beethoven and immediately "served" the ball to the strings...the opening fifteen note phrase. Then, with confident ground strokes and and pinpoint volleys, he guided the ball from section to section as musical themes and phrases developed and were passed around the stage. Maestro Stern really seemed to be having fun. He did not use a score and he moved all around the podium to get as close as he could to the musicians, who also seemed to be having a blast playing this amazing symphony.  In doing so, it helped the listener...or viewer I should say... see where the music "was." It really was fascinating. Another great reason classical music should be experienced in a concert hall whenever possible...especially in Kansas City!

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