I attended a concert at the Phoenix Symphony over the weekend. Several times a year I attend either a classical or pops concert. I’m no expert on music, but I have pretty specific likes. Show tunes (from Oklahoma to Hamilton), mid-century standards (40s-70s), bluegrass, very standard jazz, and the Romantics (Mendelssohn, Chopin, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Holst, and Vaughn Williams). I also love marches and waltzes. And Adele. k.d. lang. So my tastes are specific and even a little sentimental (especially for such an extreme INTJ, but my theory is that is why . . . ).
It seemed to me that my musical dislikes–as well as those of most people–are not as passionate as musical likes. After all, music I don’t like just leaves me cold. Misogynistic rap, for instance. I just don’t care about it. B.J. Thomas. Beyoncé. [Shrugs shoulders].
But this performance at the symphony proved that I could have an almost violent aversion to certain music. If I can, maybe other people do, too?
I picked this concert because it featured Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This is a Romantic symphonic suite based on the story of A Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) where the Sultan puts each wife to death after spending one night in bed with her. Scheherazade saves her own life by telling a new story each night and ending on a cliff hanger. I can tell you that MY night ended well because it was a STUNNING concert. Teddy Abrams, the guest conductor, was marvelous, and the piece so gorgeous. Our concertmaster, Steven Moeckel (such a rock star), played the violin solos. I kept catching myself grinning like a fool throughout.
Our symphony always puts the featured piece as the second act portion of the concert. Before the intermission we heard two pieces. The first was, I dunno, something short by Stravinsky. But the larger piece featured a fabulous Israeli cellist playing Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, op .107.
As I suggested earlier, I had a violent reaction to this piece. As in I despised it. Anxiety filled my body until I was tensed so tight I couldn’t move a toe. I wanted to run out of there screaming. You think nails on a chalkboard is bad? This was that times 1000. It screeched and sawed right through me. The audience loved the piece.
At first I thought it was Shostakovich, but I didn’t remember having that reaction before. Then it hit me that although violins (and fiddles!) are my favorite instrument, my limited musical knowledge hasn’t brought me near cello solos too often. What a wicked, nasty instrument, I thought. So I checked out some Youtube videos of cello playing. Nope, it was not the cello itself. Not only were some of those solos pretty, I’m pretty sure I have heard them before.
I found this piece played by someone else on Youtube. Ick. It’s definitely the piece and what it does to that poor instrument that caused my distress.
This might be part of my Highly Sensitive Person schtick or it could be my ADHD. Both those conditions can create a sensitivity to fabrics, etc., so why not certain sounds?
It’s important that you take away that the audience went wild for the concert. I mean WILD. Phoenix symphony audiences are always smart and responsive, but they were screaming for Abrams and the symphony at the end.
I wonder if anybody else felt physically assaulted by the middle piece?