Tuesday, November 3, 2009

in september, i saw l'orchestre de paris perform gustav mahler's symphony no. 3. at about an hour and a half, it is regarded as the longest symphony in the standard orchestra repertoire. the concert took place at la salle pleyel, ligne 2, metro ternes. smith's orchestra played mahler's 3rd at the end of last semester, so i was excited to hear it and indulge in a bit of nostalgia. naturally, as much as i love performing and being surrounded by the sound, it is wonderful to simply sit back and enjoy the music without having to worry about missing an entrance or botching up a difficult passage. (though at times i did find myself becoming nervous when i knew something particularly tricky was coming up.) during the pause after the first movement, i was amused to discover that the seemingly contagious, group release of suppressed coughs is not just an american phenomenon. (i also couldn't help but wonder if anyone was dispersing little bits of swine flu virus throughout the hall...) the completion of the finale was met with enthusiastic applause and shouts of "bravo!" (but no whistling, which is considered rude, as madame miquel informed us.) i lost track of the number of encores which were signaled by a continuous, rhythmic clapping from the audience.

i sat in a row of single chairs in the balcony, giving me a lovely view of the performers, but a very limited view of my fellow concert-goers. it was pretty isolating. when i'm not inside of the orchestra, i enjoy the simultaneously private and shared experience of being part of the audience. interestingly, la salle pleyel also offers seating behind the stage which allows the audience to face the conductor.

the different ways in which i've experienced this music made me think about how i will experience my time à paris. i hope that while immersed in my everyday life i will be able to remove myself enough to have a sense of perspective, understanding the implications of a year in a foreign country and making the most of it. granted, i didn't really need mahler to remind me of that. i've sort of been freaking out about it on a daily basis since i got here. as has, probably, every other junior abroad. so, bonne chance, everyone. and let me know how it goes.

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