Sunday Afternoon With the Symphony

The three of us enjoyed an afternoon of music, food, togetherness, and a miscommunication. I had been hoping for an improvement on the liturgical morning when we had a sacristan not show up for one Mass, a surprise extra plug for donations not from our weekend’s guests from CFCA, an usher quit in a snit about ten minutes before Mass: just the usual head-scratching, hair-pulling events that go into dealing with volunteers.

The Kansas City Symphony provided the highlight of the day’s experiences. Though we almost missed it. Does this concert description intrigue you?


JENNIFER HIGDON blue cathedral
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2
MUSSORGSKY/RAVEL Pictures at an Exhibition

The Symphony’s season opens with Music Director Michael Stern conducting American composer Jennifer Higdon’s moving tribute to her brother, and Chopin’s delicate and poignant Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring the marvelous talent of pianist Garrick Ohlsson. Ohlsson is the first American to win first prize in the International Chopin Competition. The concert concludes with Mussorgsky’s crowd-pleasing Pictures at an Exhibition.

A college friend of mine loved Pictures, and occasionally quoted the “walking” theme when he was at a piano keyboard. The Ravel orchestration certainly was a crowd-pleaser for the matinee audience today. I have a recording on vinyl, but it’s been two decades since I’ve listened to it.

The Romantic Era sometimes seems a big jumble to me. It’s not that Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, and the rest sound all alike, but the period just strikes me as being overdone in the usual repertoire. That said, Ohlsson did a fantastic interpretation of the Chopin, expressive yet subtle. The orchestra is really little more than accompaniment for the soloist.

blue cathedral was outstanding. First time I’d heard it … or anything by Jennifer Higdon. My friend Joe said I would enjoy it. Michael Stern programs a lot of American composers–as well he should: American orchestras should be playing more American works. I think he had fun with Pictures. Stern often conducts at least one piece without a score every time I see the symphony.

The miscommunication? The symphony usually plays its Sunday afternoon concerts in Overland Park at the Carlsen Center‘s Yardley Hall. We drove out there for the pre-concert talk at 1PM to find nothing going on. Then it was a mad drive to downtown on the Missouri side to reach the concert hall in time for the music. Whew! We made it without getting a speeding ticket.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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