For the longest time, I have been wanting to go down to hear the National Symphony Orchestra in the District. I’ve heard them once before, but that was when I had just flown into Dulles from a trip to Africa and I was so stupefied by jetlag that while my two companions – the late Ernest Fleischmann, long time Executive Director of the LA Phil, and my husband – were alert, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I experienced the concert through a curtain of drooping eyelids, and can remember no more about the experience than that Anne Akiko Myers played Sibelius’s Violin Concerto and Leonard Slatkin conducted.
It may come as no surprise to you (if you have been following these blog posts) that an added incentive for me to go down to hear the NSO this particular weekend was that Emanuel Ax was the soloist in Chopin’s 2nd Piano Concerto. I was also interested to hear Hugh Wolff conduct live for the first time. We often play his recordings on WBJC, and he has an added interest to us Baltimoreans because of his having studied at Peabody for a time. For this concert, he conducted Dvořák’s 5th Symphony without a score, always a noteworthy feat, and he served as a fine accompanist to the ever wonderful Emanuel Ax.
An interesting take-away for me, apart from enjoying the concert, which I certainly did, is that we in Baltimore have every reason to be proud of our own orchestra. As long as I have lived here, I have been bemused by a kind of “second cousin” mentality that seems to prevail in our town, as if we feel like country mice when we venture into the big city. As far as our orchestra is concerned (and for many other reasons) there is certainly no need. Another observation is that, though it is fair to say Washingtonians are more stylish than Baltimoreans, while we may look as if we got dressed in the dark at a jumble sale, we don’t tend to clap between movements at a symphony concert. This really surprised me! I want as diverse an audience as possible to go along and enjoy a symphony concert, so I am the last person to be snooty and elitist about concert etiquette (as long as people aren’t talking, rustling candy wrappers or being distracting with their electronic devices), but it is unusual these days to hear an audience clap between movements, and I would not have expected it in the nation’s capital. What was lovely was how graciously both Emanuel Ax and Hugh Wolff acknowledged it.
The biggest take-away from my NSO experience this weekend, though, is how lucky we are to have not one but two major symphony orchestras in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area to enjoy. As I often say, we are spoiled for choice.Baltimore Symphony, Chopin, Dvořák, Emanuel Ax, Hugh Wolff, National Symphony Orchestra