The Possibility of Orchestral Performance

Oh man, where do I start?

Kenneth Woods at the English Symphony Orchestra (check out his awesome blog) put me on to Kirill Petrenko conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker in Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 ‘Pathetique’. It was his first concert as Music Director designate. It is astonishing.

On every level it fulfils. Heart and mind, body and soul. It’s the experience I live for as a listener. It’s the experience I want to create as a performer. It is the possibility of this music made manifest.

Just when you think it cannot possibly get more intense Petrenko mines new depths and the orchestra responds in kind. Each detail speaks with the utmost character and intention, yet is so clearly part of the whole that nothing sticks out. There’s no conductor’s magnifying glass as if to say ‘look how clever I am.’ Indeed, this is true of Petrenko’s entire approach. There’s no ‘looking good’ here. He has the face of a child and the power of a God.

In this space I get the sense that the individuals in the orchestra drop any trace of self and truly pour themselves into the music, into each other, into every moment. The effect is nuclear. The emotional whirlwind of Tchaikovsky’s music – heart and soul – get an airing so free and complete that…

Well, you’ll just have to experience it for yourself. There’s a trailer below.

It’s worth at least getting the 7-day free trial, just to watch this. Any qualms I sometimes have – about the way orchestras dress, the age of the music, the format of the concert, any of this … disappears in the face of such a real-time onslaught of human expression.

This is the possibility of orchestral performance.