I'm not a big fan of symphony music. I'm like your average Joe in that I enjoy Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Pachelbel's canon (in D!), and a few other popular pieces. I'm certainly no classical music aficionado. As I've mentioned before, I was exposed to Schubert, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and the like when I took piano lessons, but none of it moved me. In my adult years, I've tried getting into classical music by buying one of those 4-CD Greatest Classical Hits collections. I knew it was corny when I bought it, but I thought I should be able to distinguish Handel from Wagner. It didn't work.
The only classical piece I listen to with any frequency is Beethoven's Ninth. I don't know how many of you remember the short-lived CD era back in the mid '90s. After CD drives were introduced and before the internet took off, we could buy encyclopedic CDs like Bookshelf and Encarta that had loads of information. During that time, I bought a CD that explicated Beethoven's Ninth. I spent hours watching this CD.
Why am I saying this? Because last night, I we had a night at the symphony. I made dinner arrangements at a fancy downtown restaurant, bought four tickets to Beethoven's Ninth, and got a babysitter. Minette and Andy ruined my Christmas gift by sneakily nabbing the dinner check, but I managed to recover as we made our way to Benaroyal Hall. Our seats were terrible. As we watched some random Bach symphony from the 3rd tier, I was regretting not having sprung for better seats. During the intermission, Andy and Minette mentioned that they saw a row of empty seats in the middle of the tenth row, so we changed seats. We went from the worst seats in the house to the best seats in the house.
Then the Ninth started.
I experienced rapture. I experienced joy. In fact, part of the symphony was like an ode to joy. The music had me thinking only in flashing colors and whirling strokes. During those soaring moments, I was in the best place in the whole world, the envy of human kind. Experiencing the concert live is magical, especially in our perfect seats, but it's still invigorating to hear a recording. Here's my favorite part: