On Saturday, November 21, 2015, San Francisco Symphony gave their amazing concert of classical music at Davies Symphony Hall. The conductor of the orchestra was Michael Tilson Tomas and Laura Claycomb sang soprano. This concert introduced three pieces which had been created in the epoch of Romanticism. The played music was the celebration of love and manifestation of the beauty of life. Fascinating melodies and professionalism of musicians provided a great pleasure and inspiration to the visitors of the concert hall.
The concert composed of two parts. During the first part two musical compositions, created by Richard Strauss were played, namely “Serenade in E-flat major” and “Brentano Lieder”. After the intermission the orchestra played a beautiful symphony composed by Robert Schumann “Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major”, also known as “Spring”. Two of these pieces consist of several parts. For example, during the concert five songs of “Brentano Lieder” were played –“An die Nacht”, “Ich wollt' ein Strausslein binden”, “Sausle, liebe Myrte!”, “Als mir dein Lied erklang” and “Amor”. The leading part in this piece belongs to the soprano singer, who is accompanied by the orchestra. And Schumann`s symphony contains 4 movements.
For me it was the first time I had heard all these compositions, but I was so amazed by the play of the orchestra that after the event, I searched on the Internet some performances of these pieces, played by other musicians and singers. And I was inspired to listen to classical music more.
Since the concert was played by the Symphony Orchestra, there were presented plenty of different instruments, which provided for truly rich and deep sound. In “Serenade in E-flat major” wind instruments, such as flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns were the most significant. While playing “Brentano Lieder” the whole orchestra was engaged: wind instruments, strings and percussion instruments played their specific parts. And obviously the main attention of the viewers was attracted by gorgeous Laura Claycomb, who was singing soprano. Performing of “Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major” also required the play of the whole orchestra but the key role in this composition belonged to the strings.
The first piece played in the concert was “Serenade in E-flat major” by German composer Richard Strauss. He created it when he was at the age of seventeen, in 1882. At that time in European music Romanticism prevailed. It was the era, when the artists, not only musicians but also those ones in the sphere of literature and art, believed in the unlimited capabilities of an individual, in the strength of his spirit and his unbreakable will. And the composers of that time thought that the music should acquire some kind of narrative character and tell a story to a listener. The Serenade begins in a slow tempo, a listener can hear the variety of sounds – sometimes it is rather sad but then some bright and light note emerges. The melody moves slowly and smoothly towards its culmination. The serenade sounds quite solemnly. Despite the melody is very light, there are some quite sharp transitions from forte to piano at the beginning. Generally, this melody expresses a wide range of emotions. On the one hand, there are happiness, excitement, joyfulness and sometimes even peace and calm. On the other hand, there are some motives of anxiety, restlessness and maybe fear. I think that the purpose of this music is to tell a story of love. At the beginning of the melody a listener can feel some uncertainty and such motives can be associated with the period when two people love each other, but they are still not sure that their feelings are mutual and they don’t know how to confess to each other. Then the music conveys the development of the relations, it gets louder and more precise. And the first bright culmination of the melody means that the lovers finally happen to be together. After this, music moves in different directions, it expresses some happy moments of their life and at the same time some obstacles they should overcome together. The serenade has very positive and pleasant finale, the last notes of the melody are full of hope and faith.
The second piece is also composed by Ricard Strauss. “Brentano Lieder” is a set of songs created in 1918. At that time, Romaticism almost disappeared from the European music, but Strauss as one of its most influential representatives kept some romantic motives in his works. This composition, as a previous one, is also dedicated to the theme of love. For me the most exciting about this performance was the singing of Laura Claycomb. The sound of her voice was so deep and pure that it made all the viewers in the hall focus their attention only on her. Her excellent soprano and the music played by the orchestra made the performance very dramatic. I was delighted by the composer`s talent to create such beautiful harmony between the sounding of the musicians and the singer. Despite sometimes the music expressed some anxiety and restlessness, in general the melody sounded very smooth.
The third composition played by the orchestra after the intermission was “Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major” or simply known as Spring, by another German musician Robert Schumann. This symphony was written in 1841 and it became the first symphony composed by Schumann, but at the same time it was one of the most famous of his works. The middle of the 19th century was the time of vigorous development of Romanticism in Europe and Schumann is one of the most prominent representatives of this direction in music. This composition impressed me the most, I was exited both by the beautiful melody and by the professionalism of the musicians. The symphony is extremely powerful and emotional, the sound is very bright and solemn. This composition in the anthem of life and spring as a symbol of new life. The symphony has four structural elements. It begins with the sonorous sound of fanfare that develops in the sophisticated orchestral theme. The tempo and rhythm of the melody are incredibly fast, therefore the music is very dynamic and impetuous. Strings played a great role in performing this masterpiece. The melody of violins was so light, fascinating and exquisite, that it seemed to be floating in the air, above the orchestra and the concert hall. This symphony is a creative interpretation of the composer`s feelings induced by his emotions about spring. The melody consists of plenty of contrasts, but it`s still extremely harmonic. I think that in such way the author wanted to introduce different moods of spring. For example, the fast melody of the violin describes the snow blizzard, that could happen at the beginning of spring, but some bright, positive notes create the image of the sunlight shining over the forest. The music is very dynamic, it shows how quickly nature revives after winter, some passages even resemble the singing of birds. While listening to this symphony a picture of a big forest with magnificent trees and plenty of animals and birds emerged in my imagination. The gradual development of the melody shows the awakening of nature in this forest. Trees influenced by the warm sunshine are getting bigger and greener, birds are coming back to their homes and start singing on the tree branches and flying up to the blue sky and animals bring up the young ones and walk across the forest. But the image is not that idealistic, sometimes the music expresses some negative emotions. And such passages induce a picture of a strong cold wind blowing over the forest or heavy rain dropping to the earth. Generally, this symphony is full of controversial emotions. There is a great excitement and a desire to live, but at the same time there is a sense of threat. However, without any doubts this music is extremely life-affirming and inspiring. I am sure that after this concert I will listen to this symphony again and again.
Attending this concert was a great pleasure to me. Classical music is not that popular in modern times and often its value and beauty are underestimated. This concert has reminded me once again how amazing, pure and exciting classical music is. The sound of the orchestra was so wonderful and soprano of Laura Claycomb was so fascinating that each note touched the deepest sides of my spirit and it made me feel goosebumps all over me several times during the concert. Such professionalism and dedication to music amazed me a lot. I was impressed how complicated and sophisticated classical music compositions are. During the concert I was thinking that the composers, who had created such beautiful music, had to be extremely talented and have a really holistic image of the orchestra to write parts for different instruments and then combine them into a symphony. It really seems incredible. Moreover, I was impressed that classical music can induce such amazing associations in the consciousness and provoke a lot of deep and strong emotions.
Generally speaking, the concert of San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall was truly amazing and undoubtedly worth visiting. This concert has proved once again that classical music masterpieces are still immortal even if they were created more than a century ago.