Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chicago Symphony Plays Sacher Torte

Miss Manners once wrote, in response to a reader query about pick-up lines, that the best way to invite someone out on a date was to announce with some surprise that one found oneself in possession of an extra ticket for the opera, and would madame (or monsieur) care to make use of it (in the company of the benefactor, of course)?

Well, Miss Manners never said if it worked for the symphony, but I nevertheless accepted the kind invitation from the gentleman and went.  Unfortunately for him, I'm dating someone else.  (!)

Now, I like to consider myself fairly well-informed when it comes to classical music, so I was a bit perturbed to realize, upon being informed that the concert was a performance of Bruckner's 4th Symphony, that I didn't know who Bruckner was.  To Wikipedia!  After reading a surprisingly well-written article (one keeps ones expectations of Wikipedia low as a precaution, and then is pleasantly surprised upon each visit to find that one is not the only literate person in the universe), I found out that Bruckner's first name was Anton, he was Austrian, he revised his works almost obsessively, and he was violently killed when one of his rivals smothered him beneath a gigantic Sacher torte.  (I made that last one up, but if I put it on Wikipedia, how long does it take until it becomes the Truth?)  Armed with these useful conversation starters, I hopped onto the Metra on a blustery October afternoon, rain threatening (but in the end failing) to come, and was soon deposited in downtown Chicago.

I met my friend for coffee (actually, he had tea, and I had hot chocolate, but who says "I met my friend for hot beverages"?) and was either hit on or patronized by the baristo - I still can't tell which - and then we strolled off to the symphony (2:00 performance, but it was general seating so we got there well in advance).  There was a coat check, and lots of red carpet.  And loads of middle-aged to older people.  Apparently I'm not the only youngish person who hadn't heard of Anton "Sacher Torte" Bruckner.  I snapped the picture above on my phone before I turned it off - I apologize for the blur, but it's the only one I got without peoples' heads in it.

Bruckner's 4th Symphony, as it turns out, is quite good.  There's a good balance between passionate,  plaintive, and playful, and it was quite enjoyable.  The Chicago Symphony played well too, though not well enough for me (or my companion) to give them a standing ovation, for which we received glares from some members of the audience and the first violinist (he could see us from the stage).  All in all, quite an enjoyable afternoon.

So, if Bruckner has a 4th Symphony, there must be three more, right?  It's time to give them a listen, and also time for a little audience participation, in the form of comments.  Have you, dear reader, ever heard any of Bruckner's works?  If so, what did you think of them?  If not, are you going to run off and check them out of the nearest library now that I've brought them up?  No?  Do you even like classical music?  How about Sacher torte?

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