(Young Geoffrey attended an orchestral concert;
(And you won't believe what he did there!)
So, I went Montreal the weekend before last. Yes, I drove, but for a change it wasn't work-related. Raven was my passenger, my sweety, instead of yet another flight crew.
We had gone to see a concert, the Philmarmonium Mundi de Montréal's spring production, held at the Salle de concert Oscar Peterson at Concordia University on the West Island of Montreal. The show featured work by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius, as well as a short, original composition by a local, Quebecois, composer.
I'm no connoisseur of classical music and I don't think I've been to a classical concert since my mother took my brother and I to see the Soviet Red Army Orchestra at the Sudbury Arena back when I was still in grade school. Yes, when I was in my teens and early 20s, I made some effort to enlighten myself. Beethoven's 9th Symphony was probably the gateway drug — what teenager could hear that fourth movement and not be transported by the sheer passion in the old maestro's notes? A little Ravel, some Tchaikovsky, and for a while I tried to convince myself that I heard something special in Glen Gould.
But the truth is, most of it went over my head or, at least, didn't much move me. And so I'm not going to start reviewing a classical concert now. I'll just say that, to my under-educated ear, Philharmonium Mundi sounded fine (and the young piano soloist, Jean-Michel Dubé, was a delight, clearly taking great joy in his craft).
But why, you might ask, did Raven and I journey to Montreal to take in a concert in the first place? And why a high-end amateur orchestra's concert?
Plainly-put: family. My favourite uncle, one Marcel Chojnacki, has been a First Violinist with the orchestra for a couple or more years now and I've wanted to see him play for a while. This year, we had enough warning, time and cash on hand, so I booked a car and off we went.
Uncle Marcel is a remarkable man, frankly an inspiring figure, as well as someone I, as an adult, especially, have come to like an awful lot. A Holocaust survivor (see link above) who came to Canada in his mid-teens after the War, he danced with the National Ballet, was a high-school teacher and, now, still teaches ballet, practices Flamenco with a troupe and, yes, plays violin (an instrument he started playing in his 60s) with an orchestra. He is a husband and father and also paints, makes wine, bakes bread and is a consummate and generous host.
I could go on, and on, but this isn't supposed to be about Marcel, it's supposed to be about me, and how I embarrassed Raven at the concert itself.
The show started with Rimsky-Korsakov's Overture de la Grande Pâque Russe, continued with Tchaikovsky's Concerto pour piano No. 1 en si bémol mineu (yes, folks, everything was in French), the aforementioned piano solo by Dubé, and then Sibelius' Symphonie No. 1 en mi mineur.
Nothing to do with Tchaikovsky, but don't tell me Chuck Jones didn't know funny!
As I've said, everything seemed well-played to me, but the Rimsky-Korsakov and the Sibelius left me pretty un-moved; a fort-night after the fact, I can't say much at all about either. As I said, I'm no connoisseur. But the Tchaikovsky ...?
I dunno, maybe I'm a rube, or maybe I've just been ruined by Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies, the piano concerto delighted me! I didn't cry, but I surely did laugh (much to Raven's consternation). I tried to my chuckles quiet (and, I think, mostly succeeded), but chuckle I did.
That is a pretty damned playful piece of music, with arch piano runs chasing each other one way and then the other. No wonder they used them for cartoons! And I feel certain that Tchaikovsky himself meant them to share joy, to amuse. And maybe, to make people laugh.
I know it made me laugh, no at the music but (I think; I hope!) with it.
I dunno. What do you think? Am I a musical peasant, laughing at what I don't understand, or did I actually get the joke? Any aficionados (or otherwise) want to chime in and either correct me or join in with my boorish appreciation?
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