Cleveland Orchestra in Outer Space

The one bright moment of the past weekend, with all the technological wickedness, was a trip to the Blossom Music Center to hear the Cleveland Orchestra. My friend Partho and I went, took our picnic, and sat on the broad, green, rather steep lawn. We had a view of the parabolic-shaped Blossom pavilion.

We arrived an hour and a half early, but even by then we had to park in one of the grass parking lots far away from the entrance. In my many years of going to Blossom, I’ve never parked that far away. The lawn was already full by the time we got there, but we found a place to spread out our blankets. By the time of the concert the lawn was a patchwork of every color (except green grass). It was quite a sight.

The guest conductor for the evening was Hugh Wolff, best known for being the conductor for several years of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, although he’s had several other gigs around the world. The program began with Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, known to most of the world as the theme music from Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: a Space Odyssey. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Zarathustra all the way through–unlike some of the operas and songs, I’m not a big fan of Strauss’s tone poems. It has the requisite bombast that you expect from Strauss, but ends very quietly.

The second half of the program was devoted to Gustav Holst’s chestnut The Planets, with images and animations from NASA projected on three large screens, one at the front of the Blossom pavilion, and the other two at the back of the pavilion closer to the lawn audience. Lawrence Krauss, Case Professor of Physics, was the narrator, describing the images and video and putting it into the context of the music. It was a crowd pleaser, even if a bit hokey.

The concert started at 8:30 and didn’t get done until after 10:30. By the time we made a pit stop at the restroom (where there was even a line for the Men’s Room!) and got to the car, it was pandemonium in the parking lot. Traffic was going nowhere, and we just sat in the car with the engine off for twenty minutes waiting for some movement. Finally we went another direction to get out, across an empty field. (I was praying that there was not a swamp in the middle.) By the time I dropped Partho off at home and got home myself, it was close to 1:00 AM. A pleasant, if long evening, but it took my mind off computers and web sites.

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