This isn’t a blog about classical music. Furthermore, I don’t really know anything about classical music. But a few days ago I was so stunned by the concert I attended, that I feel compelled to make a few notes on that experience.
The concert was performed by the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. They played Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet; Rachmaninov’s ‘Piano Concerto No 4’; and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphony No 6 / Pathetique’ (followed by encores of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Aria and Johannes Brahms Hungarian Dance).
The music contained moments of frenzied intensity, tempo and volume; moments of melancholic gloom, reflection, and pensive stillness. There were moments of deft inertia, followed by moments of incredible energy.
Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ began with a collective bass note of amazing depth and resonance, like the latent groaning of tectonic plates. In Rachmaninov’s ‘Piano Concerto No 4’ the pianist played at once with phenomenal pace and energy – his hands blurred across the keys; and then moments later with languid grace and elegance – delicately caressing the keys.
In all of the music, but particularly in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphony No 6 / Pathetique’, there were complex tonal juxtapositions building towards a greater narrative; stillness and loudness, light and shadow, but most of all a sense of soaring beauty.
There was wonderful energy in all of the performers, and the conductor was like a puppet master. There were slight flicks in his hands, or subtle glances, followed by tangible reactions within the orchestra. The faces of the musicians showed different expressions. Clearly they were all concentrating, but while some looked extremely intense, others looked relatively relaxed. So many characters, so many notes, but it all came together flawlessly as one brilliant whole.
It was just wonderful to witness the capacity for great splendour that exists in those instruments, carved assemblies of wood and metal, when taken in to the hands of such gifted musicians. The sounds were rich and dramatic, all in different areas, but there was a fluidity to the whole thing – a kind of perpetual ebb and flow. Self-contained atmospheres were established, sometimes in tension with one another, but always in harmony – contained within a binding coherent narrative.
The result of all this was simply delightful.
While the link between this music and the subject matter I tend to tackle on this blog could feel a bit tenuous, the layers of juxtaposition that ran through the music are reminiscent of the original thesis of the Dynamic Stasis project, and all of the qualities I’ve described above can also describe the best qualities of the greatest buildings.
The analogy I’m able to draw with great architecture is in the close relationships of contradictory textures. The music played in the concert illustrated varying moments of loudness and quiet; darkness and light; chaos and serenity –it’s in the abrasive tension that is created in those relationships that delightful beauty is established – and it’s exactly the same in great architecture.
Wonderful architecture (and music) can be enhanced by the complex symbiosis of different textures or atmospheres. A few nights ago, in a performance of exquisite poise, the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra painted those textures with gobsmacking beauty!