If someone asked me a year ago who the heck Paul Hindemith was, I probably would have guessed astrophysicist, movie director, and congressman before discovering the guy was actually a 20th-century composer and violist from Germany. I know this now thanks to the Oregon Symphony, who kicked things off last night with Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra in their very first program of the new year. [And if this music is any indication, 2013 is gonna be a wild ride with the band… Ooh-Whee!] The incredible 12-minute work blasts off in a whirlwind of strings, and immediately seized the Schnitz like a single-wide trailer twirling helplessly inside an orchestral cyclone. At times, the eye of this ferocious twister would pass over, making space for an absolutely insane trio of violin/oboe/bassoon that offered little consolation amidst the storm. [Big beavertail salutes go out to Carin, Marty, and Concertmaster Kwak for blowing and bowing me away!] Pure, spontaneous applause broke out after the second movement, giving guest conductor Christoph König a chance to catch his breath. Built like a gymnast and dressed like a priest, Maestro CK-2 displayed fascinatingly fluid movements on the podium all night, slyly drawing out moments like Jess and Zach’s utterly magical flute-and-piccolo duet in Hindemith’s slower middle movement. [Um, Wow!] The composition ended with a powerful percussive punch right in the cochlea which left last night’s crowd a bit dazed. Conductor König eased us into an ovation, deftly inviting particular musicians to momentarily rise for the applause before finally asking the entire band to stand. This unusual conclusion (along with the clapping that peppered the piece earlier) made for the most organic and authentic audience reaction this rodent has ever witnessed, unexpected yet strangely reassuring – sorta like Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra.
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