First time at the BSO

Mesmerizing sounds, beautiful architecture and lighting, sweet air, and comfortable seating, my first outing at Boston Symphony Orchestra was mind-blowing.

I should confess. I had absolutely no idea who was conducting or who was performing or what the performance was, when I set out to the BSO tonight. I just had one thing in mind – go to BSO, enjoy an evening of Western classical music. The season was ending and I just knew I had to attend a show this season. When I was a small kid, I had learnt to play the piano and learnt western classical music for about 6-8 years before academic pressure in high school shifted priorities. So I just had to go to the BSO.

Beautiful art and architecture at BSO
Beautiful art and architecture at BSO

I walked down from my apartment on MIT campus down to Symphony Hall on Massachusetts Avenue around 7.15pm. It was roughly 1.5 mile walk and took me around 25 minutes.  The weather was amazing – the perfect evening to take a walk through Boston. I walked absorbing the magnificent image of sun setting behind the Charles River. I knew the night was going to be awesome.

I was seated inside the Hall around 7.45 and waited for the auditorium to fill up and the show to begin. I got a booklet explaining what tonight’s show was about and the history of the musicians and compositions. I quickly absorbed the information by reading the booklet. The show started exactly at 8 pm. Bernard Haitnik was conducting and Camilla Tilling was featured guest artist. The show had two parts. The first was Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat, D.485. In western music theory, Major Scale is a diatonic scale forming an octave with 7 distinct notes with 5 full steps and 2 half steps. B-flat major is one type of Major Scale. D.485 is classification for Schubert’s work attributed to Austrian musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch. One flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, and strings were used in the score of Schubert’s symphony no. 5.

There was an intermission after part 1, and I generally roamed around the building taking in the sights. So far the experience was wonderful and I was already sold. The second half of the show just reinforced the fact that BSO was amazing.

The second half of the show was Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G major. During the intermission, the stage expanded and there were a lot more musicians on the stage now. Referring to my booklet, I realized that the score for Maher’s symphony no.4 calls for a wide variety and number of instruments including cymbal, triangle, sleigh bells and something called glockenspiel (it is a German percussion instrument). There was a solo soprano too. Mahler’s symphony no.4 was brilliant. The mixture of sounds, and the coordination of the symphony took my mind to a tranquil and peaceful state of bliss. I learnt that Symphony consists of four movements. The four movements in Mahler’s symphony no.4 were called “Deliberately. Do not hurry”, “With easygoing motion. Without haste.”, “Serene(Somewhat slow)” and “Very comfortably” translated from German. This was interesting information for me. The finale had a soprano singing “Das himmlische leben” meaning “Life in heaven”. The finale was so beautiful that I was enchanted. It felt like hypnosis. I could only feel the beautiful vibrations from the music. It was a state of absolute peace.

There was a long standing ovation after the show. I didn’t quite understand why the conductor and soprano walked in and out around 4-5 times. I just absorbed all the new information and experience.

The soprano’s last stanza meant (translated from German)

“The angelic voices
Gladden our senses,
So that all awake for joy.”

Indeed. I was full of joy. The BSO has a new fan – me. I feel invigorated. I hope to learn more about Western classical music and attend more BSO shows next season.

After the show
After the show
Standing ovation after the wonderful show
Standing ovation after the wonderful show

2 thoughts on “First time at the BSO

  1. Yes. You don’t need to know anything to enjoy music, isn’t that the beauty of music? However, I guess we need to attend the show with an open approach. If previously you know that this genre of music is not what you like, then probably the fun element will be absent.

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