Michael Daniel Core C Fine Arts Critique #1 – Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 02/26/2007 On February 16 the Honors College took

a trip to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) to hear the symphony perform for IUP night. The Orchestra perfomed “Rainbow Body” by Christopher Theofandis, “Concerto Number One in C Major” by Ludwig Van Beethoven, and “Symphony Number One in D Major” by Gustav Mahler. I only caught the last movement of “Rainbow Body” because the orchestra walked onto the stage moments before we arrived at the door to get our seats. The ushers literally slammed the door in our faces. I was dismayed that the PSO wouldn’t wait less than a minute for the IUP students to arrive before the performance began, as it was IUP night. If I did not need to be there to write this paper I would have walked out and demanded my money back. I wound up watching the concert on a TV in the small bar upstairs. Another student was with me. It was a relaxed environment where we could sip our soda and point out interesting features of the performance to each other without fear of getting hushed for talking during the performance. We could hear the performance quite clearly from the bar. To our surprise, we found that the regulars (some call them blue hairs) found our conversation enlightening. I found that I had a better view of the concert on the television than I would have had in the hall anyway. The music almost made up for the venue. I enjoyed the music. The part of “Rainbow Body” that I did hear was in a major key. It was brassy, happy and upbeat. The regal horns expressed confidence with their fanfare at the end. Someday I hope to hear that piece at a venue that knows how to treat patrons better.

Beethoven’s Concerto Number One in C Major began with the strings playing phrases of light, airy, soft flowing notes followed by phrases of staccato. The horns came in, which lent intensity to the piece. The phrase that stuck with me was the horns playing rum – bum – bum – bum. That phrase acted like punctuation between phrases. The piano played some flowery music. The strings moved in with happy staccato. The tempo picked up then the brass played the rum – bum –bum – bum and there was a rubato pause. After the pause they began with an elegant mood but it was sad somehow. I wouldn’t call it a minor key, but it didn’t quite sound major either. Then the music took a turn into a proper minor key and then to a major key. The music built and fell, the piano came in. There was what I would call a distressed minor phrase which was so extreme that the brass fanfare barely came thru. The music battled between major and minor for a while. The more I listened to this piece the more I became aware of the wood winds. I had never really noticed the timbre of woodwinds before. The timbre is halfway between strings and brass and is sometimes hard to pick out, since woods intertwine thru the string and brass sections so easily. I spent much of my listening energy keeping track of them and simply appreciating their subtle yet dynamic timbre. The next part of the song began with the piano playing softly and sweetly. It was slow yet flowery and the wood winds were heavily used. The rum – bum – bum – bum was still there but it was more subtle this time. Dynamic phrase changes happen more. The strings and horns would alternate every two phrases, building on each other. I see what people mean when they say that Beethoven used deep phrasing. Everything built to a crashing crescendo followed by another rubato pause. The piano came in with flowery

staccato. When the orchestra came back the authoritative, punctuating horns were replaced by authoritative, punctuating woods combined with the strings and timpani. Everything ended with a grand crescendo. For an encore Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude” was played on the piano. It was a wonderful performance. The pianist was very skilled. After intermission Symphony Number One in D Major was performed. It began with the sound of the cuckoo being played on the woods. The timpanis rumbled softly and the strings were layered into the piece. It sounded as if Mahler was painting a picture with the cuckoo in the foreground and the grand elements of nature in the background. It was played in a major key, which sounded like a nice, sunny day. It built to what I anticipated would be a crescendo but the crescendo never materialized. The song simply kept building and building in volume. Timpani provided punctuation then pause and cuckoo – cuckoo. The orchestra came in with some major flourishes and then moved to a minor key. Rather than building in the minor key, which was what I had expected, the song moved back to a major key, became flowery again and built to a brass fanfare crescendo. Strings and woods come in, softly building to the brass crescendo then down again. The song went up and down for a while. Timpanis provided definition and texture for the piece. The strings came in with a minor phrase that sounded like a Russian gulag march. I enjoyed the gulag march because I was listening to the woods, which were heavily used in that part of the song. The song transitioned into a waltz in a major key. The song battled between major and minor keys, the minor became loud and distressed and the song ended with a major key in a triumphant crescendo.