I’m clinging to summer, not willing to let it go — hanging on with both hands to it’s ankle as it drags me wearily toward the exit.
Saturday night I was privileged to attend the first concert of the Ann Arbor Symphony’s 2016/2017 season. It’s time for music again, in conjunction with the arrival of fall. It reminded me, as I was sitting at Hill Auditorium, that there are exciting aspects to the end of summer. That, in fact, it’s less about something ending than it is about something beginning.
The music Saturday night was fun and exciting, even joyful as befits the beginning of something wonderful. It started, as all Ann Arbor Symphony season opening concerts do, with our national anthem. There’s something about an auditorium filled with musically inclined people, all singing their anthem loudly and enthusiastically, accompanied by a first class musical unit, that makes you appreciate just how lucky we all are to be living in this country. And how lucky I was to be there to hear it.
The first piece of the evening was Festive Overture Op 96 by Shostakovich. I know, I know, many of you don’t like the music of Shostakovich. But listen to a little of this. It was written the year after Stalin died when the composer could finally express his joy. Listen to the first minute of this wonderful piece of music, and at the 45 second mark note the clarinet work. Amazing. Just another reason why I enjoyed this piece so much.
The second piece of the evening was Der Rosenkavalier Suite by Strauss. Another joyful beginning to a piece, with strong French Horns and full orchestration.
And then it was time to hear the guest soloist, Jon Kimura Parker on piano performing Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major by Brahms. He talked to members of the audience prior to the concert, explaining the piece and talking about what it was like to play it. He told us how different it was from other concertos, in that the slow movement wasn’t second, and the fourth and last movement wasn’t necessarily the triumphant ending with brass, that in fact the trumpets had nothing to do in the piece after movement number two! The explanation made listening to the work even more fun.
I had thought the opening piece by Shostakovich would be my favorite of the evening, but it turns out that the fourth movement of the Brahms was my favorite. It starts out so light, almost the bouncy dance of a small child. But then, just about one minute into the movement the orchestra begins to swell like gentle waves at the ocean. The piano comes back in dancing, the waves continue to pull.
And so I began to see a child dancing on a beach, the waves calling, the child dancing faster, the waves always just beyond the toes of the dancing child. So it goes, the dancing piano, the frolicking orchestra. Each playing off the other, until, in the last seconds the piano and the orchestra are joyfully dancing at the ocean’s edge together.
And that’s what this concert was all about. Joy. Anticipatory joy for the autumn season approaching, for the music season now upon us and reminiscent joy for the wonderful summer just experienced. What better way to experience the transition from summer to fall than to spend an evening listening to such wonderful music.
And I can tell you that it sure took the sting out of having to say goodbye to summer.