WSO Concert: Transformative. Enlightening. Redemptive. Awakening

Last night I attended the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra concert featuring pianist Natasha Paremski, soprano Nathalie Paulin, and conductor Daniel Raiskin.

The concert opened with Nimrod by Edward Elgar in memory of a symphony violist who had passed away.  A yellow rose was placed on the chair where she would have played, and the piece was meant to express with music what words cannot, as she would have desired.  The tribute and moment of silence moved me to tears, as did the music, ethereal and somber, sensitive and sweet.  The violist’s symphonic family expressed their love for her through music and silence, through a rose.

Beethoven’s Overture for The Creatures of Prometheus followed in the program.  The string instruments hummed, reminiscent to me of insect wings.  This piece, new to me, was lively and invigorating.  Despite a comprehensive collection of CD’s at home, I am always delighted by the WSO program which introduces work unknown to me.

Natasha Paremski played the piano in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor next.  The opening bars transported the audience in time to another era.  The orchestra and Paremski conjured Romanticism and Chopin, as the music rang through the auditorium.  Paremski’s performance leaves me at a loss for words, the experience indescribable; Chopin lived through Paremski’s conjuring of his music, his presence palpable.  It captivated.  It enchanted.  It enthralled.  Paremski channelled the very essence of Chopin in a transformative way.

The final piece was Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 Op 36, “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” featuring soprano Nathalie Paulin.  The inspiration for the symphony was Gorecki’s experience of witnessing the horrors of Auschwitz at the end of World War II.  The music captured the horrors of the unthinkable as well as the fragile hope and beauty which might be humanity’s only redemption.  Conductor Daniel Raiskin delivered a pre-concert discussion before the symphony.  He conveyed Gorecki’s belief in spiritual beginnings and the human innocence at birth before corruption. Raiskin urged the audience to use the piece as a means of self-reflection and meditation.  He discussed the present situation where people don’t know where to go and keep running and Dostoevsky’s quote about how “beauty will save the world.”  The music was relevant both for the world stage and its players as well as for the individual, for the macrocosm as well as the microcosm.  I think as individuals we are often running as well.  Running away from the inevitable pain of being human and not knowing where to find solace.

Perhaps the answer is in the spirituality and beauty of music, a language more universal and more comprehensible than the feeble words we use to try to capture an emotion.  The night was unexpected.  It transported us not to the moon or to Mars, but to our own spiritual beginnings.  It awakened in us a hope that we, too, might be able to find the music to comfort our wounds, enlighten us, and fill us with the spirituality and meaning without which we might be empty.

Thank you to the WSO and all the performers.

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