Last night L and I had a very adult night. Not a XXX "adult" night, but a grown up adult night. We went to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with a partner at work and his wife. This was one of the most grown up nights I've ever had. The car was valeted, the dinner had a wine chosen to accompany it, and we sat in a box at the CSO. I felt like one of those old people, you know, like 35 or something.
Anyway, all was not lost. First, as we were sitting through the first part of the performance (I am resisting calling it the first half both because of the sports reference, and because the post-intermission part was 20 minutes longer than the pre-intermission), I was thinking "this sounds like cartoon music." I looked in the program and saw that it was the music from a ballet, which may well have been the cartoon of its time (although, to be frank, Swan Lake is no Tom and Jerry). Anyway, score one for the good guys. I can pay enough attention to hear a cartoon being played in front of me. Second, the flute was a major instrument in the piece, and there were a bunch of flute solos. This guy was no Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame), but he was pretty damned good.
The way these boxes work at the CSO, you sit in a little stall, not unlike the stalls used to breed veal, with eight chairs in it. The chairs are not afixed. They are also of varying heights, so when you are in the front row, you have a normal chair, and by the fourth row you are in a high chair (but nobody feeds you). Although it is tradition in boxes to rotate seats (apparently), I stayed in the third row the whole time. From there I was watching the conductor, who I will hereby refer to as Rasputin. He was Russian. He was very into the music. He was into the music in EXACTLY the same way the schizophrenic homeless guys on the el platform are into the music in their heads. EXACTLY the same way. In fact, he conducted the first piece with a tiny little twig. The second piece was barehanded. It was really something.
By the way, the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the same conductor and same pieces from the night before. Now, I knew it sounded good, but apparently the conductor, Gergiev "is a truly distinctive conductor, an outsized personality who brings an electrifying passion for music to the podium." I think I said that. He is also described as "indefatigable." I have no idea what that means, so I assume I also said that. The performance itself (and I assume Friday was the same as Thursday) was a "sophisticat[ed], shapely, highly colored performance [and] was a persuasive argument for Gergiev's vision that plunged far beyond the surface glitter of Stravinsky's ballet and Rachmaninov's symphony." OK. I didn't say that. As for the second half of the performance, the Sun-Times review says that "the fast, dance-filled second movement brought to mind elegant, self-possessed beauties rather than gushing girls, and the adagio movement's rapturous themes carried hints of quiet introspection. This was Rachmaninov at his best, lustrous and ardent, but ultimately lean and lithe." I cannot disagree with that...