Back to back evenings at the CSO

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Jeff got back to back performances from the Rivers series at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Not that I’m complaining – I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances of orchestra playing, how the different musical instruments interact and play against each other.

On Wednesday:
Yo-Yo Ma led players of the CSO in a chamber music performance. He opened with Bach’s Two Part Invention. I didn’t quite take to the piece, but found Cynthia Yeh’s deft and graceful playing of the marimba mesmerizing. I enjoyed Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major however, and was swept up in the delight of Beethoven’s sprightly and merry Septet in E-Flat Major, Op 20. It was so much fun! Evidently, the musicians had a blast too – Yo-Yo Ma played with fervor, but with a grin; he even winked at us in the terrace behind the players.

On Thursday:
Sat up in the gallery again, all the way up on the 6th floor. While the view isn’t at all bad – our front row seats affords us an unobstructed view of the stage in the relatively intimate hall, I get nervous about the narrow and confined staircases that lead to the gallery seating. Add to the fact we have to shuffle behind glacial moving crowds on unsteady feet… it’ll be disastrous if a fire ever breaks out. But as we say in Chinese, choi choi!

Anyway, I really, really enjoyed Smetana’s “The Boldau” – the melody with the bass undercurrent vividly painted a fast flowing but smooth river. I didn’t quite get the same imagery with Toru Takemitsu’s Riverrun (though his sinister and almost funeral pace reminded me of the misty lake in the 1982 Swan Lake cartoon).

After the intermission, we were treated to 40 minutes of Beethoven’s languid and evocative Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral); the movements flew by as we lost ourselves to figurative stroll in the pasture, and the grandeur of the passing storm.

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