Last night we went to the Cincinnati Symphony at Music Hall to hear Mahler’s 9th Symphony, conducted by Jésus López-Cobos. It was very good, of course it was good. It’s such an immediate piece of music, you can’t help but be drawn in instantly. And we are privileged to have a fine local orchestra playing it, and it seems to me that conductors who conduct it do so because they love it. Silly me, though, wondering why the hall had fewer people than usual. Why wouldn’t there be more people at a Mahler show? But I guess 20 minute movements aren’t quite everyone’s thing. Still.
So I settled in deciding that this wasn’t anyone’s date night. Everyone was there because it was Mahler’s 9th freaking symphony, and it was exciting to hear live. And there were many music students there, clearly, because we saw many more well-dressed young people than usual, all full of joy and vigor. I had an enjoyable conversation with one young man before the concert began, as he told me about attending school here. He plays french horn, so naturally, this was the show for him.
I don’t want to be all grr about older people, but they are always the disruptive ones, if disruption there is to be, which there usually is. By older I mean, older than me, of course. Let’s say, though, over 60, generally. However, people were all quiet and reverently enjoying the music, or so I thought naively, until I noticed a woman in the row in front of us, a couple seats to my left, checking Delta flight information on her iPhone. She did some textin’, some checkin’, etc. The man was with me last night, and he was seated to my left, so when he leaned forward, I could no longer see her, which I appreciated, because I just wasn’t able to be very tao about it, though I tried/not tried my best.
That was in the middle of the fourth movement, and the last six or seven (don’t quote me) minutes of the piece grow quiet, then quieter still, and with about five minutes to go, a man several rows in front of us began limping to the aisle. He sort of lurched forward and a very old man across from us grabbed him and basically hauled him to the top of the section. A minute later, the woman with him left, then a minute later, the old man came back. It was stressful, but I mean, emergency, I guess. I think he was about to throw up. It was difficult to get back into the depth of it all, which matters because right at the end, the violas hang onto the final phrase, then sloowwwwly fade out, and everyone holds their breath and the conductor freezes the action for a long time before lowering his baton, and just as this was happening, someone behind us dropped something loud.
Never have I wished so badly for floor seats instead of the gallery, mainly because even setting aside the anticlimactic deflation, it did feel more than usual like the music was just coming at me, rather than surrounding me. But overall, I had a great experience, until the man told me that woman was actually on her iPhone nearly the entire 82 minutes, which is forbidden, of course. But she thought holding her program over it made it okay. Like, this was her ineffectual Cone of Silence. So by the end, he had her Delta password memorized, and could recite this whole conversation she was having with two different people. Added to that, the woman next to him spent quite a lot of the time loudly rifling the pages of her program, and that was his good ear side. Further, the man freaking loves Mahler, like, so so much, and he loves the 9th, and so it was just exhausting and frustrating for him. I felt pretty bad about that. Usually I’m the one with the troubles, as old people tend to drop things on my head as they walk by, or start snoring next to me or etc., but not last night.
Please honor music and Mahler and me and the man and just life, I guess, and check out this 1971 documentary which is on YouTube in six parts, Leonard Bernstein's "Four Ways to Say Farewell." And then listen to Bernstein conducting it, or Claudio Abbado (I mention these two because they interpreted it quite differently, which is interesting in itself,) or another generally cherished recording if you like. You could even buy one from this same conductor and orchestra recorded some years ago! Me, I like this one conducted by Otto Klemperer. Fade the lights, put away the phone, listen to Mahler contemplate life and death and whatever the painful middle seems to be for, and don't drop anything loud at the end; you'll mourn for the silence.
Oh! Another nice thing for me was that I was wandering for a few minutes before it began, and went into the Corbett Tower room where they have meetings. There are big windows in there which face east toward what turns out to be a glorious view of the city. I'd never seen it in sunlight before. A very attractive man was looking out one window and I stood in front of the one next to him and made conversation. I hope when the renovation is finished, that's still a thing one can do.