One of my favorite things about life in Europe is the access to an incredible range of classical music offerings. In ‘sophisticated’ California, symphony or opera tickets can easily break the bank account balance – but here… sigh… here… easy access!!! And access to ‘world-class’ performers, orchestras and program selections. Sometimes I feel a bit spoiled.
Feeling the need in my post-California and Italian-food daze to feed the mind instead of the stomach – I bought tickets for several concerts. This weekend was the first of those performances.
First of – the Concertgebouw (Concert Hall) in Amsterdam, is worth a walk through or visit even if you are not a classical music listener simply for the architecture. It’s a really beautiful space – with two halls (one literally called “Grote Zaal” (Big Hall) and one the “Kleine Zaal” (Small Hall) and then also a lovely cafe.) It’s one of those spaces where you can simply sit back, soak in the music and enjoy looking around.
Of course, the people watching is prime! I love that the attendees of concerts like these (on the program was Beethoven’s Symphony Number 8 and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde) are not all grey & white topped like in the US, where I would be a conspicuous standout. (It’s okay though, the grey hair has started to come in! EEK!) But here there are folks of all ages; Folks there for the music. Folks out on a date. Folks out for an evening of being all dressed up and ‘on the town.’ I love it.
(And you gotta love the Dutch habit of coughing between pieces. It will be PERFECTLY silent during the music – which I appreciate. And then bam! The musicians pause to change music, etc. and EVERYONE begins coughing and clearing their throats. It’s like you HAVE to clear your throat! LOL)
The music was really amazing – Beethoven’s Symphony Number 8 is not one that is often performed live, but is really beautiful. Music that is upbeat, full of joy and life – ‘vrolijk’ as they say in Dutch (cheerful.) Watching that army of violins and cellos moving in rapid, synchronized beats… I always have to restrain myself from jumping up and cheering!
After the break was Mahler’s Das lied von der Erde. Also not often performed live, it’s an amazing symphony. (He on purpose did not name this symphony his Ninth since there is quite a lot of superstition around Ninth Symphonies – with folks like Beethoven and Bruckner passing away soon after completing the writing of their 9ths. In fact, Mahler died shortly after composing his ‘officially named’ ninth!)
This symphony has lyrics for a tenor and mezzo soprano based on a set of Chinese poems dating from the 8th century. Between the combination of music that is reminiscent of nature (Das Lied von der Erde means “Songs of the Earth”), are these beautiful lines of joy and gratitude, celebrations of beauty. And what I loved was that the 8th century author of the poems, also understood that sometimes the ‘beauty’ of life is full of sorrow and misery and laughs and tears. It’s never simple.
It was a lovely evening. It’s a beautiful life :)
(Except for the damn fidgeter who showed up to come sit next to me after the break! I KNEW he was going to irritate me the moment I came back from the pauze – he was rubbing his female companion’s back in that irritating ‘I-rub-you-like-I’d-rub-a-dog’ way. The ENTIRE second part of the performance he was shifting in his seat, tapping his leg, sitting forward in his seat – Hey Dude, You’re blocking my view of the cello section! – and generally being a pain in the butt. Sigh. Luckily the music was dramatic and beautiful enough to help me be patient and just grind my teeth.)