One of the best things about being a Wash U student is getting discounted tickets to the St. Louis Symphony concerts. The St. Louis Symphony is one of the best orchestras in the country—it won a Grammy last year! It performs live at Powell Hall, a beautiful concert hall with beautiful chandeliers, glass mirrors, and fancy furniture. As a violinist, I just *had* to go see Joshua Bell perform a few weeks ago.
I went to the symphony with my best friend/suite mate, Kate, on a Sunday afternoon. After sitting through an hour-long meeting for the Exec Board of WU Pops, we went back to our room and got into our fancy attire (when you attend a symphony concert, you get to dress up in an expensive looking dress!). And since all Wash U students get a free U-pass, we decided to advantage of that and get free transportation. We took the metro and then the bus. It was quite a journey. We took many selfies/Snapchats on the way there and sent them to our friends who were not lucky enough to get tickets to the concert).
The venue for the concert is “Opening Weekend with Joshua Bell,” even though Joshua Bell only played for the last portion of the concert. David Robertson conducted the concert. Kate and I sat in the first row and admired the expressiveness of his conducting. I have honestly never looked at conductors while they conducted from the audience’s perspective that closely, but since then, I realized that they have quite a tough job. Plus, standing up there onstage and moving around that much must be super tiring.
The first two pieces sounded like stories because they had a folk feeling to them and included many ethnic percussion instruments. The orchestra performed Janáčk’s Taras Bulba and Kodály’s Háry János Suite. According to the program description, these two pieces “brought fame to their respective composers.” In addition, “Leoš Janáček’s Taras Bulba tells the tale of a warrior and his sons as they journey into battle while Kodaly’s Háry János takes a different approach in the form of a folk opera depicting a dream world.”
During intermission, we walked around in the lobby and acted like fancy adults. I remember waiting in line and finally giving up (p.s.- during a symphony concert, everyone waits until intermission to use the bathroom, so the lines become super long). We also saw another violinist who brought the scores of the music to follow along during the performance. Now that is definitely a sign of dedication.
Finally, after waiting for over an hour, Joshua Bell came onstage to perform all of the movements of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnol with the orchestra. The program says that the piece is a work “memorable for its pyrotechnics and outstanding melodic and rhythmic flair.” After reading that, I laughed a bit. I have previously performed the first movement of the symphony in high school. Instead of thinking of the piece as having “melodic and rhythmic flair,” I remember struggling to play even the first line (the symphony is famous because it has a super high note right in the opening few measures…I think it is the 7th note).
Finally, after an incredible performance, Joshua Bell came back to do an ENCORE. He played Rachmininoff’s “Vocalise” and dedicated it to the previous concertmaster of the symphony. I’ll be honest—it made me slightly teary. If you haven’t heard the piece yet, go look it up on Youtube. It is such a moving piece.
Even though I didn’t get to meet Joshua Bell in person, I managed to snap a few pictures of him! Now my life is complete.
~ Nancy <3