To me, the litmus test for a symphony orchestra is how well it masters the classical music master Beethoven. Saturday night the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, in my view, definitely mastered the master.
It didn’t hurt that it had a world-class concert pianist to dazzle us. Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel’s rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 was…well… breathtaking. I didn’t know anyone could move their fingers that fast. Judging from the standing ovation he got, I would say that the audience was transported. I know I was .
Once, when rehearsing the Bob Barr Community Band, retired legendary public school music educator George Corridino, not pleased with the way the band was playing the Sousa classic Stars and Stripes Forever, told the band that it simply could not get away with not playing that song well. “Everybody in the world knows that song! They’ll know you’re not playing it right.” When it comes to Beethoven, it’s probably Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. That’s the one that its first four notes have the same rhythm as the Morse code’s “V.” The British used it to stand for “victory” during World War II. I remember that. I was 14 when World War II ended. To put it mildly, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra nailed it.
It was really good to hear CSO Executive Director Cameron Bean announce before the concert that there were 200 middle school students in the balcony. Leter, he told me a sponsor made that possible. It’s really important to expose young people to the sound of a live full symphony orchestra. I was 15 when I first heard one. The Three Arts League brought the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra to Columbus. A wealthy Columbus lady bought tickets for all members of the Jordan and Columbus High bands. We sat on the first and second rows. I have loved live symphonic music from that moment on.