Fairy Tales by the AASO
by James Leonard
Someday, gathered around a postapocalyptic campfire on the Huron, Ann Arbor's surviving classical music lovers will sit and reminisce about the good old days. The conversation might start when somebody recalls that the University Musical Society used to present the Emerson String Quartet regularly. Then somebody else may mention that Pioneer High School's music department used to win Grammy Awards regularly. Then somebody else may mention that the Ann Arbor Symphony used to present family concerts on Sunday afternoons and everyone will stop and sigh.
That was way back when Pfizer was still in town, the automobile industry was still in Michigan, and the big money was still in America or at least enough of it to support something as pointlessly ephemeral and as transcendentally beautiful as classical music.
After a bit, one music lover may start talking about the time in March 2007 when her dad took her to hear the Ann Arbor Symphony twice in the same weekend. From the grown-up concert (From Russia with Love) on Saturday night, she recalls hearing Arie Lipsky conduct a shining Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov, a glittering Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with soloist Anton Nel, and a searing Tchaikovsky Pathétique. She appreciates only now just how good it was, appreciates especially the Pathétique's passionately despairing tone. What she liked better then what still makes her tear up now was the family concert (Fairy Tales) on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't just that the Michigan was filled with kids her age though she did feel more relaxed not having to sit still all the time. And it wasn't the talking between pieces even then, she thought that was pretty numb. What it was, of course, was the music.
She'll recall the nimble grace of Rossini's Overture to The Thieving Magpie, the elfin energy of Mendelssohn's Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the sweeping, swaying waltzes from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty
and Prokofiev's Cinderella. She really liked it when Samuel Rast, the horn player from Pioneer High School, played the Allegro from Mozart's First Horn Concerto. And she really, really liked John Williams's Symphonic Suite from the Harry Potter movies. But she just loved the Firebird by Stravinsky, loved how the Infernal Dance made her feel really scared, the Lullaby made her feel really safe, and the Apotheosis made her feel really good.
As someone takes the first watch while the rest settle back and try to ignore the unnamable things that go bump in the night, they all remember what it was like when the sweet sound of music filled the air.
The AASO adult and family concerts are Saturday and Sunday respectively, March 10 and 11, at the Michigan Theater. Whatever happens afterward, you'll always have the memories.
[Review published March 2007]