Alright. I’ve posted a fair amount of criticism over the course of the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute. Let me shift gears for a moment, and share a story of the magic of attending a live concert.
This also has the benefit of explaining why you really, really should go the Orchestra concerts coming up. And believe me, you have to go.
Let me tell you about the first time I heard The Planets live, under maestro Edo de Waart. To this day that concert remains in my top 3 to 5 music experiences ever.
Planets is known as an audience favorite… but for whatever reason I was fairly unfamiliar with the work before college. I had run across a copy of some bargain-label, “I Can’t Believe It’s Classical Music!” recording, which was good enough to make me aware of the work, but indifferent enough to keep me from becoming a truly passionate supporter. In college back in the 1990s I heard my hometown orchestra was performing it, and I wrangled a couple of friends together to go to the daytime Coffee Concert with a student discount.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for what hit me that morning. “Mars” began with subdued malevolence that quickly turned into unbridled savagery. Such thundering, terrifying nihilism! The final hammer blows caught my breath, and I remember looking down at my knuckles—literally white they were grasping my chair so tight—and turning to my companions saying “I’ve never actually been scared at a concert before!”
“Jupiter” was another experience altogether, and I totally understood why at the first rehearsal of the piece way back when, the cleaning ladies in the concert hall tossed aside their mops and began dancing a jig. Such good cheer—it was like all the warmth and universal joy of a year’s worth of holidays was embodied in music.
“Saturn” was… remarkable. As terrifying as “Mars” was for its sheer violence, it was nothing like the existential terror of this, “The Bringer of Old Age.” You could feel time running out, slipping away… and you instinctively clutching at it like a person fighting for their dying breaths. I remember groaning out loud and feeling an unnamed desperation, that in the end did quietly land on acceptance and understanding.
And of course, “Neptune.” A century after this piece was written, there is still nothing so otherworldly, so quintessentially sci-fi that captures the vastness of the cosmos. When the women’s voices come in, holding that ethereal note… it wasn’t so much that we heard them but that the walls themselves were shimmering. And that fade-out, done in the most primitive way of simply shutting a door… I cannot describe it. Minutes later you still didn’t know if you were hearing the sound….
Once again the Minnesota Orchestra is presenting The Planets, in concerts on February 14 and 15. There are many reasons for going to these concerts, ranging from supporting the Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale to seeing your friends on stage and off. Or even to hear how the acoustics of the Hall sound—the vast sonic range of The Planets will be an excellent test.
But most of all, go hear this astonishing work live. Experience what I described for yourself. There is nothing like it, and no recording can come close.
GO! Buy your tickets when you can, and GO!