Two world class musicians—Robert Chen, CSO 1st violin and John Sharp, CSO 1st cello, sat on the empty Symphony Center stage, with the requisite distance from each other born of pandemic times. During close-ups—views one usually wouldn’t see even with the best opera glasses from a front row seat —we could note that their matching face masks had the CSO logo. They played a sonata for violin and cello by Ravel referred to as “Vif, avec entrain— Fast, with enthusiasm” in the CSO program notes or “Lively, with enthusiasm” by Google’s polyglot algorithm.
Lively though the music may have been, it competed with the blurred background of the empty Symphony Center hall. You too might have found this emptiness a somewhat sad footnote, joining the parade of classical music, jazz and opera rock stars who had cameo spots in this Sounds of Celebration gala before this last musical performance by Chen and Sharp. From bass-baritone Eric Owens, to jazz greats Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis, to pianist Mitsuko Uchida, to violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and more — they gave voice to how much their chance to perform in Symphony Center is missed. With them were tributes by lesser-known CSO musicians who spoke from the heart about their love for the orchestra. Maestro Riccardo Muti telegraphed his pandemic-imposed sadness by referring to himself as the CSO father, now without his family. It was easy for this writer, as likely many other viewers, to channel their lust for the return of live entertainment when we return to normal.
Such poignantly sad moments were actually fleeting, as this was certainly not a requiem. The Sounds of CELEBRATION struck more light notes than somber ones, as it seemed intended to do. Yo-Yo Ma— engaging us with a long and winding monologue—shined a light both on the CSO’s work with the Civic Orchestra nurturing new generations of talent, and also the many milestones of music history made in Symphony Center.
This was capped with his performance of a short segment from Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Actor Rainn Wilson of The Office fame and author of Bassoon King vied for the real world title and paper crown with CSO Bassoonist Miles Maner. Percussionist Cynthia Yeh performed Bailey’s Two Sticks in Search of a Waltz for Xylophone , reminding us instantly why she is such a fave, as did the CSO Brass Quintet in their lively opening performance of Reynolds March from Suite for Brass Quintet.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Has Perfected Art of Filming Live Performance
If you too find yourself sorting out the wide range of cultural organizations to lists of those that get or don’t get how to harness streamed performance for living room watching, know that you can add the CSO to the roster of those mastering that challenge. This is a free ticket to remember that thrill you feel when you walk into the red carpeted lobby to queue up for the usher to scan your ticket. Expect to feel a deep thirst for live CSO performances.
About the Author:
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.