The early hours of Saturday morning, in fact almost all of it, were taken up with trying to absorb the full impact of the terrorist attack at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris. Of course, we have seen it before, it regularly happens in war zones, and it will, no doubt, continue to happen for time immemorial.
However with modern communication we can hear about events within seconds and are constantly updated without pause for thought, so that you feel closer to it, following it in real time.
So it was with some trepidation that we went to the Glasgow Concert Hall last night to attend another one of the RSNO winter programme. We go regularly so never gave thought to our security and repercussions of such a large gathering of people in the ‘second city of Empire’, enjoying wonderful music….but you don’t do you?
We were really looking forward to the programme as we already knew two of the three pieces, and there is always a ‘buzz’ as the amphitheatre fills up. But last night was different. Instead of being almost full, I reckon that it was only one-third or one-quarter full. Now whether or not the poor weather, the programme content, shock, or even an understandable fear, was to blame, I have no way of knowing, but in any case there was a subdued feeling within that audience.
The bubbly, cheerful Music Director, Peter Oundjian, usually bounces onto the stage to the adulation of the audience. This time he was quieter and the applause mirrored his attitude. He very often speaks to us before and during the concert and this was to be no exception, but for a different reason……
He spoke very briefly about the events and was obviously pleased that we had all turned up on such a terrible night and under the traumatic circumstances. He then outlined what would happen to acknowledge the French tragedy……..
The opening piece was the short Langsamer Satz, by Anton Webern. An idyllic love proclamation to his beloved Wilhelmine, it reminds me of a punt gliding down a stream. Unfortunately he never heard it played as it was discovered after his death. It comes to the gentlest of closes and fades to silence over quite a period.
As the silence hung like a cloud, the lights gently dimmed to an almost-complete darkness. There was no applause, as he had requested, and we all sat with our own thoughts and fears. I have to say I felt no anger at that time, only an over-whelming peace and tremendous sadness together.
I don’t know how long it lasted but the lights came up gently, and we proceeded to the second item…but how do you follow such a poignant event? There was no way they could have known in advance about the events or changed the programme but somehow the next item was very suitable….. the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Not everyone who is reading this will enjoy Classical music or know of this wonderful piece. It has many tremendous melodies woven through it, and as it is a ‘strong’ piece requiring a lot of energy from the bow arm of the player, we usually hear it played by a man. But this evening was different…..
On to the stage came a willowy tall young lady called Vilde Frang, with a wistful, almost sad, look in her eyes. She then proceeded to play this piece in the only way a woman would….the violin almost became her child as she taught it to speak, drawing out notes and expressions that we never knew existed. We then saw this child in tears, in joy, jumping about full of the fun of life, and wonderfully happy. It was a joy to listen to, and as I said in a previous post the lachrymal glands were somewhat active!…But what the hell, I was crying tears of joy and emotion whilst others across a short stretch of water were in anguish, uncertainty, unbelief, grief and pain.
The applause seemed to be a great corporate sigh of relief, allowing us to breathe again. The final piece was the well-known Symphony No 41, by Mozart. Strangely, he wrote his three final Symphonies in the Summer of 1788, while he was in depth of despair over his finances, losing some of his children, his marriage problems and falling out of favour…..yet he managed to rise above his problems and leave us with some of the most remarkable and mind-blowing music from an uplifted troubled soul.
May we hope that those affected by the events of only a few hours ago, directly and indirectly (and I suppose we all are) see some glimmer of hope in the coming Season.